Women who faced cancer share what they ate during chemo

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

Thumbnail for 6987By: Susan Selasky
From: freep.com

Chemotherapy is tough in so many ways. The cancer treatment seeks to wipe out the bad cancer cells but, along the way, takes the good ones, too.

And it knocks out taste buds and makes everything taste like metal.

But a few metro Detroit women found certain foods helped get them through treatment and even trumped the nasty metal taste.

Diane Smith, 53, of Novi said she kept nausea at bay eating pieces of cheese, snacking on pretzels and drinking Smartwater during treatment.

Diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer six years ago, Smith said she made the mistake of not eating before her first chemotherapy treatment. After experiencing severe stomach upset following her first dose of chemo, she made sure she had snack bags of cheese slices and pretzels at all times.

Eating snacks during the infusion, Smith says, made all the difference.

“For some reason, having something in your stomach, wards off the nausea while you’re sitting in the La-Z-Boy for 4 hours,” Smith says.

Smith also learned to make sure she was hydrated. She said she switched from drinking Gatorade to Smartwater because of its electrolytes.

“Gatorade had too much sugar and once you have cancer … doctors say to stay away from sugar,” Smith says.

When Andrea Lewandowski, 54, of Newport (near Monroe) was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in July 2012, she started a journal.

There, she jotted down doctor appointments, personal notes and a lost of things she ate.

Now in remission, Lewandowski said she found comfort in the chicken noodle soup, sometimes homemade and sometimes from a restaurant, that her father John Cangealose Sr. and stepmother Ruby had waiting for her after every treatment.

“It’s kind of like soup when you have a cold, and it’s good for the soul,” Lewandowski says.

Vanilla was one flavor she said she could actually taste — and tolerate.

“Due to all the drugs, your taste buds are out of sync and everything taste like metal so you don’t have an appetite,” she says.

Lewandowski said she sipped on vanilla milkshakes and ate vanilla pudding and vanilla ice cream. Sometimes, vanilla ice cream with root beer was dinner.

When it came to food, Lewandowski says she followed the advice of her chemo nurse: “She told me eat whatever tastes good to you and that chemo is not a weight loss plan because your body had to keep fighting the cancer.”

In addition to consuming small portions and avoiding spicy and greasy foods, Lewandowski said she always used plastic ware when eating. Even at restaurants.

“The taste of metal from your silverware … added to that metal taste,” she says. “I kept it in my purse” or “I asked at the restaurant.”

Salty foods like cocktail peanuts, crackers and bagels helped keep nausea at bay and overpowered the metal taste for Elizabeth Martin, 54, of Troy

“It was cocktail peanuts and it had to be Planters,” Martin says. “My sister Judy still laughs about it because she remembers running out to Rite-Aid to buy them.”

In 2005, Martin was diagnosed with breast cancer, had two surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments. She is now cancer-free.

“I ate more bagels because it was easy on the stomach,” Martin says.

She also liked anything with onions, especially the Swiss Onion Soup from Peabody’s in Birmingham. Staying nourished and hydrated was hard but essential, she said.

“You had to eat to keep the pain medication down,” Martin says. “And you had to drink because if the chemo made you nauseous and you would vomit, you’d get dehydrated.”