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Diet questions and frustration

Akroger's picture
Akroger
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

This post is for my mother, who has stage IV colon cancer, with mets to the lungs and liver. She has severe diarrhea issues, and the location of her tumor (8 cm) gives her constant pain, because it's at the very end of the descending colon. She started taking the Fentanyl patch recently, which has brought her significant relief (at least now she can sleep fairly peacefully).

She used to not eat barely at all, like less than a banana a day. She is eating a lot better now, at least in terms of quantity. Because her potassium levels dropped a lot, we've focused on stuff like potatoes and bananas, though she also really likes oranges because they're refreshing. We avoid dairy because the doctors told her that would exacerbate the diarrhea more, and no foods with a lot of bulk and fiber. Sometimes she's able to eat a little meat. The doctors even recommended potato chips, because of both the salt and potassium.

Before we were desperate for her to eat anything, so if she ate a piece of chocolate, or a bite of bagel, we were ecstatic. Now that she's able to handle more food though, I'm concerned because I'm not satisfied with mere calories. My dad is still in the old mindset of giving her anything that will get her to eat though, and she's pretty stubborn and won't listen to me. This morning she insisted on an egg and cheese bagel from McDonald's. I wanted to scream, what do you think got you to where you are in the first place?! (I restrained myself) But I mean, don't I have a legitimate point? Maybe she can't eat a whole lot of things, and bananas and potatoes aren't what one would normally consider a healthy diet, but can't eating healthier assist her recovery? Stuff like McDonald's bagels, can that really be helpful in any kind of way? I mean, she has tumors in her liver, surely eating healthier than that should be a priority?

jen2012
Posts: 1607
Joined: Aug 2012

I feel your frustration, but don't think there is much you can do.  My mom got really sick about 30 yrs ago...when I was a teenager.   Not cancer, but an auto immune disease which caused her kidneys to fail, and other problems.  She's been on dialysis, 3 times a week, since 1986!   She eats crap, smokes and gets no exercise.   My sister and I have gently discussed lifestyle with her.  My kids have asked her to quit smoking.   She's going to do what she wants to do.   She sees nothing wrong with McDonalds...or smoking for that matter.  If she doesn't feel like eating dinner and there are donuts in the house - she'll eat a donut for dinner.  What can I say, the doctor gave her months to live 30 yrs ago and she's still here doing what she wants to do.   She's actually pretty defensive about it all and I think she feels this is something she can control and no one is going to tell her what she should or should not do!!!    In addition, my father went through chemo for lymphoma several years ago and has had diarrhea issues since - he also eats crap.   Will get McDonalds and then be frustrated when he gets diarrhea - ugh!

My suggestion would be to encourage her to go for walks with you, cook healthy things for her if you can...but don't stress out about it.  She's the mommy and she's probably not going to do what you want her to do!

I know it's really hard to watch a loved one not care for themselves like you want them to, but try to let it go and help her be happy.

mom_2_3
Posts: 962
Joined: Nov 2008

You describe your mom as having severe pain and you begrudge her an egg and bagel from McDonalds?   Seriously?   Reminds me of my mother who refused to allow my dad to have a cigarette a the end of his life whe he was actively dying from lung cancer.  Why deprive him of something he loved so much that he would allow it to kill him?  He smoked from 14 until s death at 67.   Those last cigarettes weren't really going to do any more harm.  Let your mom have what she wants.  She is a grown woman and can make her own decisions and live with the consequences.

And I am not sure of your mom's history but the statement that she got cancer because of McDonaldssay or may not be accurapeople any people get the diseasedire to genetics and food had nothing to with it.  

manwithnoname
Posts: 404
Joined: Jun 2012

is more controversial than diet (maybe supplements) diet can affect genes; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18559852

but I agree, at this stage let your mother eat what she wants, she has to take responsability.

thxmiker's picture
thxmiker
Posts: 1282
Joined: Oct 2010

Bananas helped me feel better with the diarrhea.  Oatmeal will help slow down the bowels. It is also a good meal. I add fresh fruit and maple sugar to the morning oatmeal.   Ginger cookies helped me with the nausea.

 

She needs to eat anything she desires.    Always better to eat healthier then not, sometimes callories is more important then anything else.

 

Best Always,  mike

lilacbrroller's picture
lilacbrroller
Posts: 412
Joined: Jun 2012

I'm with your dad.  Let her eat what she wants, unless it's vodka and gummi bears  - she probably needs protein, and both eggs and cheese are good sources.  Grated apple is good for diharrea - grate some apple, let it turn a bit brown.  I was told to eat fiber, but in manageable amounts so as not to cause a blockage.

If you're concerned about the hazards of fast foods, if someone has the time, make her healthier homemade versions of what she likes.  Poached egg with cheese on a bagel, toasted in the oven (sneak in a tomato!)  French fries? cut up potato into strips, season and bake; sneak in some cut up sweet potatoes.  frozen fries are ok if baked. 

 

geotina's picture
geotina
Posts: 2117
Joined: Oct 2009

First, your mom is very lucky you are looking out for her well being but I would very gently like to say, well, maybe you should back off just a little.  Your mom has advanced disease like my husband had.   There are many days that the diarrhea can be so severe that although they would like to eat, they don't because of it and also for lack of appetite.  A McDonald's is not going to make your mom any worse.   If she is feeling well enough to ask for it, let her have it and please, don't make her feel guilty, or start yelling or rolling eyes and stuff.  Her prior diet may or may not have caused the colon cancer and enjoying a simple pleasure at this stage of the game is, well, ok. 

As an aside when I consulted with a dietician at the hospital regarding a diet for severe diarrhea they did recommend: no fresh vegetables, only well cooked.  No tomato based stuff.  Potatoes are good, just so they are fresh potatoes, no frozen or processed.  Go very easy on salads and stuff like that.  No foods "rich in fiber".  I don't know if it really helped or not but thought I would throw that out there.  Bananas, applesauce, rice and toast (known as the BRAT diet) does help.  If she is up for it try some oatmeal with applesauce, toast and yogurt in the morning.  It does help bind things up sometimes. 

Take care - Tina

Akroger's picture
Akroger
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

Thank you all for the honesty. Two weeks ago I would have been thrilled for her to ask for a Big Mac, but now that she's able to eat more, even if still not a lot, I guess I wanted her to eat only good things that might help her.

Jen2012, you're absolutely right. I begged my mom for years to take better care of herself, to eat better, go to the doctor, etc. She's obese, but I never made it about that - it's not the weight, I told her, it's your blood sugar, blood pressure, the diabetes, your bad knees leading to knee replacement surgery, etc. She didn't listen then either. I'm not sure if I should regret that I didn't push harder - would it have helped? Would it have hurt our relationship more? These are the questions I'll spend the rest of my life asking myself.

Mom_2_3, my mom wasn't a McDonald's regular or anything, but more generally that was the point of her bad eating habits. While genetics have something to do with cancer, colon cancer is considered an obesity-related disease, which is why I made that connection. The problem with your statement that she will live with the consequences is that she won't, not past 2 years max according to the doctors. I'm the one who will live with the consequences of her health mistakes.

lilacbrroller, I've asked her to let me make stuff for her at home, but she insists on certain tastes that she remembers (even though each time she discovers that chemo has changed everything). Yesterday she had the same style sandwich from a bagel store, so theoretically that was better, but today she insisted on the McDonald's version.

Thank you all for the food advice as well as the sympathy. It is likely that in the coming weeks, my mom will get a colostomy, which I hope will be able to reduce nearly all the pain, especially in combination with her pain meds.

John23's picture
John23
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

 

Re:

colon cancer is considered an obesity-related disease” 

 

Say what? Since when?

 

Seriously, that is totally unfounded; trust me.

 

Aside from everything that’s been said, to allow mom to eat, drink and be merry as being the best way to keep mom in good spirits (I agree totally), I have a question……

 

Why hasn’t mom had that colon tumor removed? Why are they allowing that tumor to disrupt her life and cause pain? I would think that removing that tumor would take priority, not left in to cause more damage.

 

Have you talked to mom about getting a second opinion, or a third, fourth, etc? A colorectal surgeon should be consulted that isn’t a member of the same group or organization as your present one. Mom needs other opinions regarding her treatments, surgery or otherwise. It’s really important to get other opinions!!

 

My best wishes for you and mom.

 

John

 

coloCan
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009

here's just one indication i had close to hand,tho from 4/11 

www.medicalnewstoday.com/printerfriendlynews.php?newsid=223354

and from "Colon Cancer" booklet from AICR:last on list of risk factors on pg 4

 

John23's picture
John23
Posts: 2140
Joined: Jan 2007

 

Re:

last on list of risk factors on pg 4

 

I think there’s a reason for it being “last on the list”…..

 

By the way, there are more “causes” for cancer in California, than in New Jersey (or anyplace else, for that matter).

 

As I said on another thread:

“I wish they would spend more time searching for a cure, than searching for a cause”.

 

Best wishes,

 

John

PhillieG's picture
PhillieG
Posts: 4884
Joined: May 2005

People don't want to be called fat?

As far as looking for the cause goes, sometimes it's good to know what the target is before you open fire... Even with TCM they don't just say "take whatever you want". In order to defeat something it's usually good to know what you're going after.

coloCan
Posts: 1956
Joined: Oct 2009

www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/242991.php

and at times, finding a cure can be based on a cause......don't wanna get burnt-stay away from heat

As for original concern: perhaps you can get your mother to try a nutritiion drink like Ensure Plus or Boost Plus,etc in addition to whatever else she can eat

 

 

Akroger's picture
Akroger
Posts: 88
Joined: Mar 2013

than "cause" as far as obesity and colon cancer, at least as far as I've read. It certainly makes sense for my mom, she's been fighting a losing battle with her weight for the past 20-25 years, and as far as BMI was considered "morbidly obese" before her recent cancer-related weight loss. I know, BMI isn't the most accurate or comprehensive indicator, but imperfect as it is, it does tell something. She had actually gotten lap band surgery in 2010 as a last desperate attempt to lose weight. It drives me insane that they don't make it obligatory to get tests and evaluations for every part of the digestive system before going through such a procedure! If they did, I'm positive we would have caught this three years ago Frown They recommended it, but we see how far that went with my mom.

My mom hasn't had the tumor removed because the doctors told her early on it was inoperable. Not only is it pretty big (8cm), but it's metastasized to her liver (pretty significantly) and to her lungs (less strong, but still). I honestly don't understand why they don't operate to relieve her of the pain - could there be more risks associated with trying to get rid of it? The current plan is that she will be getting a colostomy soon after her cat-scan on Monday. I keep trying to comfort her by reminding her of that when she moans and cries out in pain, and says she can't take it anymore. 

As far as other opinions, I don't think my mom would be open to that. She really trusts her doctors. People, other patients and friends of cancer patients, say it's "the best." Is it? I really don't know. My instinct would be to tell her to go to Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York-Presbyterian, JUST in case. But she's not in a condition to be able to shop around the opinions at different hospitals now, and besides that, she's as stubborn as she's ever been. US News and World Report puts NYU below Sloan Kettering and Presbyterian, but given my college and grad school experiences, I have little faith in their rankings. So I don't know to advise her better myself, and even if I tried, it might not matter right now anyway.

John, thank you for the comments. Everyone on this website has been really helpful to me so far. My mother's illness is the single worst thing that ever has, or ever will, happen to me. This, now, and what comes after...every day I sit by her side and wish I could do more.

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6116
Joined: Feb 2009

At this point where you describe that your mother was barely eating a banana, if she wanted three milk shakes and hamburger I'd let her have it.  Sounds like she has been through a lot, hence her body has also.  Let her eat what sounds good to her right now.  It might be that eating that bagel sounds good to her and maybe something in it her body is craving.  Let her have her fill, I'm sure it will even make her feel better. 

Kim

Annabelle41415's picture
Annabelle41415
Posts: 6116
Joined: Feb 2009

Double post sorry.

 

annalexandria's picture
annalexandria
Posts: 2573
Joined: Oct 2011

and I can understand your frustration.  My dad was diabetic and overweight, and kept a big jar of jelly beans on his table that he ate from non-stop during the day.  Drove me a little crazy. But if I can just be very frank with you, probably the most important thing you can offer your mom right now is love and non-judgemental support.  I lost my mom last November, and my dad a couple of years before that.  When I look back on those experiences, I am so glad that I was mostly able to be a supportive daughter...and I kick myself for the times I was too critical and had expectations of them that made them feel bad and really weren't helpful in the long run anyway.  Those jelly beans weren't the make or break thing for my dad's health.  I hope that *I* don't come across as judgemental myself, because I truly don't mean to be, I just think it's important when dealing with an advanced cancer situation that thinking in terms of making positive memories is an important part of the caregiving process.  Hugs to y'all~Ann Alexandria

jen2012
Posts: 1607
Joined: Aug 2012

You should never have regret. Im sure your mom knows that an apple is better than a big mac. Im sure the docs have told her to lose weight etc. Ann gives good advice. Just be supportive and loving. Enjoy life with her. I know you are scared of losing your mom...but you cant change her.
Hang in there.

Deena11
Posts: 196
Joined: Nov 2012

I had some terrible problems eating anything while I was going through treatment.  The clinical dietician at my cancer center recommended that I drink Ensure Pluse or Boost Plus to get enough calories since I was refusing to eat.  If she drinks 4 bottles a day, she will be getting all the nutrients she needs for the day. There is also a protein powder she suggested called Injury (on line).  I was able to add that to milk and was able to get that down.  These are not ideal sources of nutrition but those were the only things I would accept while in treatment.

Good luck.

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