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Holidays, Not Eating Yet, Depression

MLC53's picture
Posts: 109
Joined: Sep 2007

I just wanted to ask some questions to any of you who are ahead of me. I'm now 5 mos post radiation for tonsillar cancer. I am still on my feeding tube and my saliva is still not flowing normally. I find myself getting very depressed because I cannot eat like I used to and the Holidays make my depression even worse. I guess I just need reassurance from someone that my saliva will get better and that I really will be able to eat again so I won't be tied to this ball and chain (feeding tube). Even though I am thankful for having the tube, I feel that the recovery is so very slow and is just dragging on and on. Did any of you experience these type of feelings? Did things get better for you?

Posts: 19
Joined: Sep 2007

Every case is different, but things should get better. I fibbed a little, saying I was able to eat a little and had my PEG removed 3 months to the day after my last radiation. At that time I was able to choke down a small amount of food, but most of my nutrition came from Ensure. It hurts and it's scary, but you have to keep trying.

One thing that helped me was going to therapy. I had x-rays taken while I tried to swallow different things. They told me what I needed to work on and sent me to a speech therapist.

Hang in there.

Everyone, don't be afraid to eat in front of people or go out to eat. Order soup or something. It helps to make you feel normal again.

Posts: 288
Joined: May 2003

Hi MLC53,

It's been so long since I had trouble swallowing that I do not remember much about it. I didn't have a feeding tube. I used Boost and Ensure a lot and little by little I started eating soft things, soup, etc. Soups can be put in blender so it is easier to swallow.

A friend of mine had a feeding tube and trouble swallowing. There is some sort of therapy, can't remember the name, but it teaches you exercises for swallowing that you can practice at home with water. Check with your doctor about this.

There is a book: "Eating Hints - Recipes and Tips for Better Nutrition During Cancer Treatment" that not only has good advice but also provides some recipes. You can order it from the National Cancer Institute and it is Publication No. 90-2079. Office of Cancer Communications - National Cancer Institute - Building 31, Room 10 A 24 - Bethesda, Maryland 20892 - Tel: 1-800-4-CANCER. The book is either free or very cheap.

By the way, for severe dryness, there is an artificial saliva that can be prescribed by your doctor.

Treatment and healing are not easy so it is normal to feel depressed. If you thing you are getting too depressed, seek the help of a therapist. Many oncology and radiation depts. have social workers on call that may be able to help you.

Even though everybody is different, I think things are going to get better for you. It just takes time. Be patient and don't lose hope.

Like 3_Putt says, Hang in there and try not to be bothered about eating in front of other people. Not only will it help you feel normal but it will probably help with depression.

Exercise such as walking can help with depression too.

All the best,

Posts: 1
Joined: Oct 2007

I had radiation Oct.2006 for larynx recurred Oct.2007 had neck dissection . I have a trach and feeding tube and yes it is depressinfg for me. I hope to get trach out tomorrow but I don't know about feeding tube I can swallow small sips of water and smoothies. I am going to therapy starting tomorrow . We just have to keep on pushing everybody says it will get better.

Posts: 10
Joined: Apr 2007

Hi, MLC53! I second everything TereB wrote. Hang in there. The holidays make things hard. I think it helps to be in friendly competition with yourself with regard to eating. But, do know that your experience is not unusual, and you are not alone.

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

All of the given advice is great, MLC53, but I would like to express at least a mild bit of caution with respect to one idea. It is not always in your best interest, depending on the extent of your current physical makeup, to eat without trepidation in front of others, if at all. As previous advisors have indicated, we are individuals, as are our cancers and our treatments to at least some degree, so it is hard for me to encourage you to eat in front of others at any particular point in your progress.

If you feel you are not ready for that, and, believe me, I understand that feeling, I suggest this instead, very strongly: do NOT simply avoid holiday festivities because of this.

It IS painful not to be able to eat with your loved ones and friends, and even physically painful to smell the aromas, to hear the sounds (the clinking of glasses, the clang of forks, the murmuring of voices, the shouts of laughter), to see the foods, all that surround the wonderful act of eating, especially at festive occasions. It can be overwhelming, I know, and that is to say nothing of the emotional aspect, the feeling of exclusion.

Let me just say this: as a cancer survivor, you now know better than most how important time is. Your loved ones WANT you to be part of the festivities even if you do not participate in eating the meal. The idea of soup or whatever, is great if you are up for it, but if not, do not hesitate to simply join at the table to participate in what is, after all, the most important part of the function: being with one another and sharing our experiences and love and friendship, the socializing.

You will never get these times back, and your family and friends are as aware of this as you are.

Good luck with this, and remember to approach it all with hope and humor.

Posts: 6
Joined: Dec 2006

I just replied under tonsil cancer & wanted to add that this is a Very Slow recovery process but you Will get better! I had a real issue with mucus also. Thank God for the peg tube & when it is time you will have it out, but 5 mos. is really nothing when you realize I have been 2 years out & just starting to eat now - I have been making high power nutrition drinks that have kept me healthy & taste good. Keep the faith as you will improve each day!!

BugHunter's picture
Posts: 152
Joined: Oct 2007

Hi Marie!
I haven't been around here in a while (since I had my gall bladder removed, and another month off work, four months off this year, yet a vacation I DONT want to take again! LOL) Sounds like your doing some better than the last time we spoke. I think if you look back a couple of months you will see progress, and in a couple more months the same will hold true. I had the same problem over Thanksgiving. I was not sure if I was "ready" to eat in public but realized the people I would be with know me and what I have been through and would understand if I had a "problem" while eating.
BTW, how did the lymphadema treatments work for you??


MLC53's picture
Posts: 109
Joined: Sep 2007

Hi Bill, thanks for the response. Sounds like you're doing better as well. I will try to take your comments into consideration and keep the faith that it will get better. It's just taking so doggone long though! I guess I'm just getting impatient. The PT for the lymphadema in my neck seems to be helping quite a bit. Thanks for the tip!!!! :-)

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