Last time I went through cancer treatments, I had a PEG tube. A PEG tube is an external feeding tube that connects directly to your stomach. You put liquid food through it, and the food is digested in a normal way. My throat got too sore to swallow very quickly so I used the PEG tube right off and didn’t have the “what am I able to eat” journey.
I’m certainly on that path now.
The esophagitis (irritation and radiation burns in my esophagus) is kicking in big time. Sometimes when I swallow (even just water), it feels like it turns into acid just under my collarbone. It burns its way further down until it feels like it hits a knot in the center of my chest, producing a sharp, stabbing pain. After a few breathless seconds, it burns the rest of the way into my stomach. As of this morning, the knot’s pain has started to feel constant rather than only when I swallow.
This creates some immediate dietary restrictions: to avoid acidic or spicy foods, and to focus on foods that are soft and fairly bland. Even that isn’t foolproof though: I’ve been unable to eat many different foods that fit that criteria, like mashed potatoes and meatloaf. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it.
It’s a strange problem: not knowing from one meal to the next what you’ll be able to tolerate. Some foods immediately trigger the burning sensation and I give up right away, like last night’s Swedish meatballs. Some foods seem like they should be problematic but they’re actually just fine, like Italian wedding soup. Some of it may be specific spices, and some of it may be my own tolerance changing on a day-to-day basis.
It becomes a matter of figuring out what works and then sticking with it, even if it gets repetitive or I don’t enjoy it. Protein shakes are a good example. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but most protein shakes are sweet. When I’m too low on calories, though, I don’t have much of a choice. Before I got a supply of different protein supplements, I had days where I was below 600 calories… and I can’t afford to continue doing that. Dehydration and lack of nutrition are the two factors that make every cancer patient even more sick than he/she already was.
I’m not planning to end every blog post with this but it’s appropriate again here: This too shall pass.