Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Living on liquids

Recently I've been trying to remember the last meal I ate.

Actually ate, I mean. With the silverware and the plate and the chewing. But I can't.

There are vague memories: juicy steak frites at Saloon; a ricotta-and-raspberry jam crêpe from Mr. Crêpe; take-out pizza from Eat at Jumbo's. The latter I remember because the sausage was too spicy for my tongue, already tenderized by the double-punch of chemo and radiation.

At some point there will have been a meal that I couldn't finish, because moving anything around my mouth was too painful to handle. And then I switched to a liquid diet.

That was, let's see ... six weeks ago? Hard to pinpoint, but certainly it was at least three or four weeks into radiation, and I had my last treatment a month ago last week. So maybe more than that.

These days, a typical menu looks like this:

Fresh-fruit shake with protein powder
Smoothie of oatmeal or Weetabix, yogurt, ice cream, coffee. No, I mean all at once. In the smoothie.

Breakfast smoothie ingredients

This isn't too bad, actually; I add spices (cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon), which helps. The yogurt is for extra protein, and the ice cream boosts calories.

The Sardini (with apologies to Dr. Zoidberg)


This is pretty much exactly like a Martini, except you use cucumber instead of vermouth and a whole can of skinless, boneless sardines in olive oil instead of gin. And you add Greek yogurt. Huge protein punch.

Soup, probably


You'd think there'd be endless variety here, but no: I still need to keep things fairly bland. I can't do anything spicy or acidic — tomatoes are painful, as is a surfeit of leeks or peppers. Smooth is better than lumpy, as anything fibrous is difficult (corn; beans that shed their outer layers). This basically leaves me with root veggies (sometimes roasted), well-cooked greens, cheese sauces.

Now and again I go bigger. There have been fish chowders and slow-cooked beef short ribs. Tonight is a chicken and eggplant stew, vaguely North African but without the spice, of course. Cooked long enough, puréed well enough, they make a nice change from squash soup, though they're still harder to eat.

The whole thing is becoming tedious.

Plus, it's changing my attitude toward food in general. I can still see it and smell it, of course, but the taste aspect — and that includes the anticipatory pleasure, looking forward to the taste — isn't there any more. So now I regard a beautifully plated charcuterie selection in much the same way as a flower arrangement: Yes, it looks lovely, and smells wonderful. And that's as far as it goes.

What's more, I no longer distinguish between types of food. I have as much use/need for a lemon meringue pie as for a plate of raw pink chicken breasts. I've never liked mushrooms, but right now they're no different than a fresh orange or a bowl of pistachios or a bar of chocolate.

I know I shouldn't complain. There are people who have been through worse than this; people who have lost all ability to eat, who will spend the rest of their lives getting nutrition through a tube in their stomachs. My condition is temporary, and should clear up in a few more weeks.


I have visions of the first proper food I want to eat. A cheese sandwich: good white bread, lots of butter, a salty Cheddar. When I described it to my dad, he said, "You mean where you take a bite and there are teeth marks in the bread and the butter and the cheese?"

Yes. That. Exactly that. I dream about it.

I guess I haven't given up on food completely.

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Blogger Saul Wisnia said...

Hang in there, Carolyn. Great food awaits you. And the Bruins are winning...the Red Sox not so much (lately)

4:59 AM  
Anonymous Wedding sarees said...

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1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are a beautiful girl.
A apologize for the people that have hurt you unnecessarily. The surgeon,the chef.I fed my husband through a tube for awhile.When he could swallow again it was peach tea that rocked his world. There is a place in heaven for you both.Today I will begin petitioning St Padre Pio on your behalf.God is good.

2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carolyn : My father battled the same cancer in the same fashion and had a similar point of view. My most positive thoughts going your way, and you and your husband are an inspiration to all of us.

2:35 PM  

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