This summer, I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and I am still undergoing treatment. Before I started treatment, I got as healthy as I could, so I think I am handling chemotherapy better than most. At the same time, aggressive cancer treatments have changed my body – and my taste buds – in ways I never anticipated.
For example, many chemotherapy and radiation patients lose their sense of taste for certain flavors … for me, it was salt. I soon realized that the food I was eating was totally salty, I just couldn’t taste it. I can’t very well just pour more and more salt onto my food just because I can’t taste it, but I can make things that have tons of flavor packed into it, but minimal added salt.
I was lucky enough to be given a copy of “The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen” by Rebecca Katz, which is a really amazing cookbook with fantastic tips for staying nourished while going through cancer treatment. I can see why it’s won so many awards.All of the recipes are simple and healthy, but also offer a few extras for cancer patients, that others might not consider. For example, I have a friend who had to go through intense radiation treatments on her head and face, so her mouth, nose, eyes, sinuses, and throat were sore and raw. Eating anything that wasn’t pureed or freezing cold was too painful. This cookbook has great recipes for simple soups and broths, as well as smoothies and granitas, so that even if you can barely swallow, you can at least get some vitamins and nourishment.
So far, my favorite recipe from this book is the Bone Broth — which is extremely simple and very recommended for anyone, regardless of your health, to keep around — and Curried Hummus and Vegetable Pinwheels. These were a lot of fun to make.
The hummus recipe, like most hummus, is really simple, and shredding the veggies makes it easy on the cancer patient’s mouth and stomach, while still getting in the flavor, the nutrients, and some crunch. I used some really good, fresh, soft wheat tortillas, which made it perfect for me. I plan to experiment with this recipe again using other hummus flavors, and probably some other vegetable fillings as well. I think this would be great with some watercress, or maybe even some lightly-seared portabello mushrooms.
I noticed that in addition to making me unable to taste certain flavors, like salt, chemotherapy also made me really sensitive to spice — and of course, I didn’t notice this little glitch until I was deep into a bowl of Thai curry. It was painful! Since then, I’ve kept something soft and cool – pudding, ice cream, yogurt – on hand, just in case I accidentally eat something too spicy and need to put out the fire in my mouth.
Luckily, my friend who gifted me the book also made me the Cantaloupe Granita with Mint, which was amazing! I basically have a tub of this in my freezer, to shave off a bowl full of cool relief whenever I need it.
I can’t wait until my treatment is over, if for no other reason than to be able to eat spicy food again.
So far, the recipes from this book and the helpful advice it offers has been a great help to me. Stay tuned for more posts with recipes from this book in the next few months.