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How do I get my dad to ingest food and liquids?

Posts: 3
Joined: Mar 2004

Hello,My dad was just recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The doctors have told us that the cancer is not in any of his organs or bone marrow, but is a tumor mass pressing on his stomach. He is 81 and was not eating very much for about a month before this was detected 3 weeks ago. As a result he is weak and unable to receive the heavy duty chemotherapy that the Sloan-Kettering doctors at the Denville, N.J. unit would normally recommend for him. Instead for the past two weeks they have given him two treatments of Rotuxin, in the hope that the aggressive tumor may be halted or perhaps slightly diminished in size, thus allowing my dad to eat and drink more so that he can build up his strength for the more demanding chemotherapy (which he has told the doctors he wants to receive). He has two more weeks of his Rotuxin treatment remaining. Throughout the last two weeks we have tried a variety of approaches to get my dad to eat and drink, but our efforts have produced only minimal results. My dad claims that he has a hard time swallowing (even though all examinations by the encologists and other physicians have indicated that there should be no problems in doing so). He also says that he feels he is going to vomit when he trys to eat anything, even though he has not done so when he does eat a little. Can anyone give us some suggestions as to how we can help our dad eat and drink more, so he can build up his strength and get him over what we know is just the first hurdle?

louisevruiz's picture
Posts: 14
Joined: Apr 2003


I just read this message. I know it's been a long time since this posting. My dad is 80 and is experiencing the same symptoms. It's been over three weeks since he's eaten anything. He has been complaining about feeling he needs to vomit and he doesn't. He has also been complaining that he couldn't swallow. He's also been plagued with diarrhea for two months now.

The oncologist has done very little to help with the diarrhea. Luckily his cardiologist sent him to the hospital last week. Nevertheless, we've now been told there isn't anything else to do and have sent him home. He began home hospice care today.

Anyone else reading this message SHOULD remain persistent with the doctors. When the patient complains of not being able to swallow, has gas and feels like vomiting - insist that they run tests to "see" what the obstruction is. Our dad's tumor has grown so large that the obstruction is real. I won't say they found it too late, but my advice is be persistent at ALL times. Even when the patient is a senior citizen and in a late stage of cancer, don't let anyone discourage you or ignore your loved one.

I don't want to think that we have not done everything possible. I just want to make sure he doesn't suffer anymore. My dad has been a strong man his whole life and he's still fighting.


hunpot's picture
Posts: 90
Joined: Nov 2008

your dad sounds like a strong determined man. Hopefully hospice will be able to manage his symptons much better, I know when hospice took over mom they made her more comfortable then she had been in months and they had evrything on hand instantly. you will be in my prayers keep fighting and enjoy all the good memories and spend lots of quality time now.

Posts: 4
Joined: Mar 2009

I don't know what is right, when it comes to pressuring someone to eat who does not have an appetite... I know that some literature suggests that the body quite naturally wants to take time off from eating when it has major healing work to do...

That being said, if your father wants to eat, here is a nutrient-rich recipe that my husband could eat for some time after he could not eat other things:

It's a kind of pureed soup (served warm):

Equal parts cooked frozen peas and sweet potato (no skin) pureed together with soy milk or water to get it to the right consistency; it's very sweet; you can add cinnamon, nutmeg, etc., if you like, even a bit of sugar (which is an analgesic to the stomach). This soup has both the green and orange veg. properties, in balance, that are so important. And it is much better for someone than Ensure or Balance or other sugary, lactose-packed drinks... IF they can eat it...

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