Cancer Survivors Share Their Eating Struggles — and Solutions — for Life After Cancer Treatment

CURE® asked its readers to share their difficulties eating after cancer, and what they did to help combat those challenges.

Cancer and its treatments can impact a patient’s eating habits in a variety of ways — from chewing and swallowing difficulties resulting from radiation or surgery to the head and neck, to nausea and vomiting from cancer drugs making food seem unappealing.

In a recent #CureConnect, CURE® asked our audience on social media about eating difficulties that they experienced after cancer. Here’s what fellow patients and survivors had to say:

“I’m one week out from radiation, three months out from chemo, and I have the smallest appetite I’ve had in all of my life! I thought by now I would have gotten it back,” said Ashley on Instagram.

However, CURE® contributor Kelly Irvin said that her issue was completely different. “I had the opposite problem. Because of the steroids, I wanted to open the refrigerator door and inhale everything in sight. I gained 30 points. Since then, I’ve lost some of it, but still struggle to stay a healthy weight.”

Multiple cancer survivors reported that their cancer treatments left them with a metallic taste in their mouth, making the usage of metal silverware a nuisance. One reader found tastes that worked for her family and stuck with it.

“I did not (have difficulties eating after cancer), but both my sister and mother did. We discovered that things seasoned with cinnamon tasted good to them, so we focused on things high in calories like Amish cinnamon breads. Things that required a fork tasted like metal,” Carol said.

For some, between taste changes and nausea, there was little to no motivation to eat, so getting nutrients required a bit of discipline.

“I scheduled meals and snacks. I ate at those times, whether I felt like it or not,” said Anne.

“I didn’t want to eat, but my family forced food on me,” said Brenda.

“There were a few times that I didn’t have an appetite. Didn’t really have trouble eating or swallowing, just no appetite. I still would make dinner so that my wife had something to eat when she got home (I had the energy to do so). I often forced myself to eat even if a little. A bit of food was often enough to stimulate my appetite. On the days when I had an appetite, but nothing sounded good, I usually just went the fast-food route. My nutritionist said that under the circumstances of cancer and nothing sounding good that fast food was ok, because at that point she said, it’s the calories that matter.”

“I ate the best I had eaten in a while on chemo on days when food sounded good. Because of this, I limited my weight loss to 10% of my body weight, which was 250 at the time,” Ryan said.

With physical limitations after a cancer procedure, readers explained the soft foods that they ate.

Read more: Eating After My Cancer Treatment Was So Painful, It Felt Like I Had Strep Throat for 1 Year

“(I) couldn’t eat for a while but started with soft baby food — the only thing that would stay down after gastric cancer,” said Stacey.

“I was nauseous most of the time, fatigued from anemia, mouth sores and had headaches. My appetite was gone. I ate yogurt, soft foods, bone broth. I remember recovering from surgery, and about four weeks later, it was as though a switch flipped, and I actually craved food. That was just the first episode of many,” Tracy said.

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