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Chemotheraphy causing a change in tastebuds?

The Tickle War
Posts: 2
Joined: Mar 2011

Hi! My name is Ashley and I'm 23 years old. My mother is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation and it is doing wacky things to her tastebuds.

I can't feed her too much fruit and veggies because it causes her to have loose bowels, but I was wondering if anyone has any other recommendations for what to feed her. I tried to give her a chicken pot pie for lunch and she was just not having it because it tasted too "salty" which is the case for most foods she eats these days. She used to suck on popsicles and fudgsicles, but she hates those now too.

I love giving her chicken, but if it's not fried she tends to think it's boring and bland... but I'd hate to give her all that grease!

If anyone has any wisdom to give me... about anything, please send it my way. I had to take time off of school and work to come home and be the primary caregiver because I'm the oldest and my dad can't take off of work because we need the money. I guess... I really never assumed it would be this hard. I figured because my mom was a nurse it would be easier, but it's not at all. I'm pretty good at dealing with the insurance and her meds and her doctor's visits. I have the house cleaning down the way she likes it and I'm cooking okay, but I have to say I think I'm lacking in terms of patience.

I feel guilty because I miss school and work and I really have no help. And sometimes... I don't know what to say when I see her getting emotional because I couldn't imagine going through it myself. I tell her I love her and I try to be there, but I keep feeling like it's never enough. I feel even worse at night when I can't sleep because all I feel is... anger. I have to be the worst daughter in the world.

mswijiknyc's picture
Posts: 421
Joined: Oct 2010

I'm going to work backwards here so bear with me.

One - repeat after me: I am doing everything I can to make Mom comfortable and help her and Dad as much as I can. I am a good daughter, and Mom is just as frustrated, scared, and angry as me.

Anytime you feel down on yourself, repeat that. Hubby would get soooooooo short tempered with me, and me right back. IT'S NORMAL. You sound beyond stressed and in need of some downtime pronto. Even if it's only and hour or so, take it! Do whatever helps you to wind down, or use some excess nervous energy. Walking the dog (yours or a neighbors), reading a book, hot hot bath, a ridiculously expense cup of coffee in a snooty coffee house to people watch, you get where I'm going:)

As for the chemo and rads, I have heard they do strange things. Best advice I got was to always use plastic utensils. Have you also looked on the board for your mom's specific type of cancer? The people there can give you advice also. Patrick had head & neck cancer and the H&N board was invaluable!

We are here so you can vent, or when in need of a shoulder. We have all been there - let us know how you and your family is doing.

April - caregiver to Patrick

P.S. kudos for the great job! you took the bull by the horns and never looked back. Awesome :)

grandmafay's picture
Posts: 1639
Joined: Aug 2009

Oh, those taste buds. My husband went through chemo several different times. Each time his eating habits changed. I was willing to give him what he wanted, but it got really frustrating at times. First, be sure your mother is getting lots of liquids. That seems to help. Then, don't worry too much about what she eats. Just encourage her to eat something. The first go round my husband wanted carbs and comfort food. He ate macaroni and cheese. He hadn't eaten that in years. He even requested canned stew once. I had a prime rib roast that I ended up using for stew. It wasn't unusual for me to scrap what I planned and run to the store for whatever he decided he wanted. The second time around he wanted Mexican food. Then it was Chinese food. Sometimes he would decide what he wanted, then not feel like eating it. I guess what I'm saying is just try to go with the flow. I know it is hard not to stress over this. Just remember that you can't fix this. All you can do is the best you can do. That's so hard for us to accept. We keep thinking we should be able to do more, or do better. We can't. We can only do our best.

Now, take care of yourself, too. Ask for help. Ask friends and relatives to give you some relief. Get out for coffee with friends, take a walk, do something just for you. Come here and vent. Doing those things aren't selfish. They are necessary. You can't care for your mom if you don't care for yourself. This is a difficult time. Your plate is way too full. Ask others to carry part of the load even if it is just for an hour or so. You deserve time off.

Take care, breath deeply, hug your mom and tell her you love her. Do your best. You are a wonderful daughter to care so much. As a grandmother, I am proud of you for all you are doing. Fay

DrMary's picture
Posts: 522
Joined: Nov 2010

My mother is a nurse and so was her mother - I took care of both of them at various times. . . not easy at all (but it got me ready for the big time, so I didn't kill my husband when he got so mean during his cancer treatment).

As others said, let go of the concerns about "healthy food" and settle for calories for a while. See if you can get her to drink any of the supplement drinks, like Boost Plus, or Ensure, or even Carnation Instant Breakfast (that last is fairly tasty if you mix it in a shaker or blender as it reduces the powdered milk taste and makes the texture better). I'd rather people get their nutrients from real food, but at times like these you settle for what you can get.

Is it raw fruits and vegetables that are causing her to get the runs? You might try doing the "hide it in the mashed potatoes" trick if she can tolerate cooked vegetables. I started mixing mashed squash with mashed potatoes years back to get my youngest to eat them - the family actually prefers them that way now, as they are sweeter and more complex. See if she can/will drink V-8 or Strawberry/Banana Fusion - I have very touchy guts and I can tolerate them both.

Lastly, if you want to cut down on the grease in her fried chicken - try our recipe for "Awesome Chicken" (nicknamed "Jewish Chicken" when we lived in Egypt - long story). Take boneless chicken breasts and cut them into 1/4-inch cutlets (you can often buy turkey breasts already cut this way). Dip them in beaten egg and then in matzoh ball mix (you can get this in packets or canisters) and let them dry a bit while you get the pan ready. Heat about 1/4 inch of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and then put 2-3 cutlets in at a time - fry on both sides and drain on paper towels. If I can keep my kids from eating them right away, I serve these with mashed potatoes and chicken gravy (from a can, mix or just by thickening good chicken stock with flour). If it's not a big hit, you can freeze the cutlets and use them for subs and sandwiches for yourself.

Give yourself a hug and find something (music, books, long walks) that you can do to make yourself feel better when she's difficult. It's a long road and you must pace yourself.

Cindy Bear
Posts: 570
Joined: Jul 2009

Hi. I am so sorry you have to be dealing with this and at such a young age. Your Mom and Dad are blessed to have a wonderful daughter like you. Cancer sucks as we all know. I have heard people say that using plastic utensils seems to help.. since a lot of people complain about a metallic taste in mouth after chemo, maybe regular utensils exaggerate that and plastic ware doesn't. I have also heard people say that lemon drops (hard candies) help the most with that. I agree at this point, don't worry about healthy just get to eat what she can when she can. If she wants fried chicken, let her have it. Ice cream, cheesecake, bring it on. Pasta, pancakes. I heard watermelon is good for hydration But not sure if you can get watermelon right now. Someone on another board mixes Carnation instant breakfast drink with plain or vanilla yogurt. Try that. Good luck and keep us posted

geotina's picture
Posts: 2116
Joined: Oct 2009

Ok, first, quit beating yourself up. You can only do what you can do, ok! I am the caregiver to my husand who has Stage IV colorectal. Our child is an adult who lives 5 hours away so I am here alone with hubby so I know exactly what you are doing daily to keep things going.

First things first, you say you are the oldest, so there are others? If so, they need to pitch in, like it or not. It appears all has been thrown on your shoulders.

Second, your Dad has to pitch in. You say you are doing all the cooking, cleaning, caregiving, doc appointments, etc. Once Dad comes home from work, sits down for a half hour, the job should be his. You need your down time.

I may be wrong here, and I hope I am, but coming from a fellow caregiver, it appears there are others to help and you are being taken advantage of. You gave up your life, I am assuming lovingly to help with mom, and in my book you get a big huge gold star.

As far as diet goes, at this point, whatever appeals to mom give to her.

Hugs - Tina

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