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Recs for meals for friend with cancer

My friend is undergoing surgery and chemo for breast cancer and we are providing dinners for her and her family. I've done some reading and know to avoid raw meat/fish/eggs and that ginger and lemon help with nausea and dry mouth and that calories shouldn't be a main concern but does anyone have any recs for a couple of great dinners that travel and reheat well? Amid all of the casseroles and soups and lasagnas they will be getting, what would be a welcome dish?

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  1. I finished treatment for bc over a year ago. You are correct that our doctors prefer us to stay away from raw foods. Other than that, I would go with whatever your friend prefers.

    1. My friend also going through treament now, tells me how nothing tastes good. The radiation and meds have killed his taste buds, and the nausea gets worse as time goes on. One day last week, we had Pad See Ewe (Thai flat noodles stirfried with veges) and he loved it, a few days later, he had to throw it all away 'cuz he had his head in the toilet. I also had for him very flavorful chicken soup with veges. That seemed to work. Check w/your friend exp in the 3/4th weeks of treatment. It's a tough call. Dr's usually say to eat whatever tastes good at the moment and will stay down. Good Luck. :)KQ

      1. I dropped off manicotti on the weekend to my friend undergoing chemo and he loved it. It was filling, but no strong flavours or smells to put him off.

        1. My mom passed away from cancer recently - I tried my best to get her to eat anything! One of the only things she would consistently eat was rice pudding. I think this was because it was something her mother would make for her as a child - but also, it's fairly bland and easy enough to keep down. One thing she couldn't stand was a lot of food on her plate. I found that making something (once even a roast turkey dinner!) and freezing it in small portions really came in handy. Helped us all to have something quick and wholesome to grab from the freezer for her. With regards to the rest of the family - anything was welcome and much appreciated.
          You're a great friend for doing this.

          1 Reply
          1. re: tochipotle

            how about rice congee? it is the ultimate asian comfort food, and if it does unfortunately come back up, it isn't painful.

          2. I went thru treatment (including chemo) for breast cancer 5 years ago. What your friend will like really depends on her taste and how the treatment is affecting her - can you talk to her or a close family member w/o intruding too much? You don't want to "burden" them w/decisions on what to bring, but then it'd be nice to bring stuff that appeals.

            My ultimate favorite was a homemade mac-n-cheese casserole that a friend's mom made - complete w/breadcrumb topping. I was not at all interested in fresh veggies or dishes that were veggie-oriented. Baked goods always tasted good to me. Lots of people say that carbs appeal more than other things . . . perhaps b/c of upset stomach issues. Some things that had been favorites smelled terrible to me while on chemo. When in doubt, go w/more traditional comfort foods unless you get direct input from her or the fam. You NEVER know what'll appeal - I had a wicked gyro craving right after chemo one day . . . it was like a religious experience - so good!

            FWIW, many women never get sick b/c the anti-nausea drugs are so good - and remember, you're cooking for the family too - whatever you bring will be SO appreciated. You are doing something that this friend and her family will never forget.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gansu girl

              Agree about the carb appeal. My husband especially enjoys potatoes now but no stomach upset issue is involved, just craves them. Sense of smell is for some reason heightened while taste is dulled, so it drives him crazy to smell food cooking but not be able to taste it. If they like spicy food at all, this is the time to crank up the spices and flavors. My husband misses flavor so much and adds cayenne pepper to everything.

            2. AS noted above, many people can't tolerate strong flavours when getting chemo so stick to mild, easy to digest comfort foods. I think mac'n'cheese, Shepard's pie, chicken soup, simple casseroles etc will be the easiest things to prepare and most likely to be OK.

              1. Slippery elm food is noted for being tolerated by those who can't keep anything else down.

                1. Just remembered something. To combat nausea, my mom liked hard candies (though she never really was a fan before). Werther's and mints were a favorite. Might be something good to include?

                  1. I've had two friends with cancer. I bought them each a blender to make soups and smoothies. Both used the blender a lot. Here are some recipes:

                    1. I was part of a food chain several years ago for a friend with cancer. At the time, she had two school age children, so we cooked for the whole family - and even if she was unable to tolerate the meals, it was particularly appreicated that her family was fed - made the usual stews, lasagna, chicken breasts. Although it seemed unbelievably cliched, during one rough week I sent over homemade chicken soup with veggies and matzo balls, and it was much appreciated.

                      1. It's not quite a meal, but if they might enjoy a treat- consider dropping off a few pints of gourmet gelato/sorbet (find out first if sugar and dairy is okay). I would bring this to a friend of mine who was undergoing treatment and it really picked her up.

                        1. I have nursed a few family members through chemotherapy and radiation. I have a couple of general comments about preparing food for a person undergoing chemo and radiation and for the larger family as well.

                          First, don't send more than one meal's worth of food. Think small. While it will be tempting to prepare a huge casserole dish of something, in many cases, some of it will be eaten on the first day, and then it will go into the refrigerator. Then someone else will bring another meal, and the first will be shoved to the back of the refrigerator. Then in a couple of days, it will be someone's task to clear out the refrigerator of foods that no one feels like eating. It just makes the sick person and their family feel even more out of control. It is demoralizing. If you do prepare a large amount of food to send over, then YOU be the one who packages the extra portions into small portions into freezer-safe, disposable containers.

                          In general, think about sending something high in protein content rather than desserts, even though desserts are wonderful. While protein based food item will nourish the patient, it will also be important for those acting as caregivers. If you are a caregiver of a sick person, you may have about 15 minutes to run to the kitchen and make yourself a quick, nourishing meal, and something substantial in the refrigerator trumps a dessert everytime. Send a pint of chicken salad rather than a pint of ice cream. Send a platter of deviled eggs rather than a platter of cookies. Better yet, send them both!

                          Finally, when you prepare a plate of food for the sick person, again think small and think beautiful. Use a small, salad size plate. Put only a bite or two of several things on the plate. Vary textures and flavors. You never know what will appeal. Two bites of roasted chicken, a small scoop of pasta with Parmesan cheese, something sharp and astringent like some cold grapefruit sections or a couple of pickled beet slices. From day to day, what they can eat may change.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: martmurt

                            As a current chemo patient for bc, my friends and family made me many dishes that I could freeze and pull out when needed. The first few days after chemo are rough so I would defrost one or two dishes the day before chemo. Even if I only ate a little, it really helped with two school-age children and my husband knowing they had something to eat (I also felt like I was keeping up with my "normal' routine without too much effort!

                          2. I just wanted to say how kind it is that you are cooking for your friend. I wish her a good and speedy recovery. I was going to suggest that you have a couple of containers of soup for their freezer, too.

                            1. I have to add that whatever you decide to make, put it in smaller freezer containers, so portions can be removed and prepared. Agree with the poster who said it should be pre-portioned on arrival, rather than larger casseroles.

                              Restaurant supply houses are great for finding all manner of freezer containers. I like the pressed foil ones with a foil-backed cardboard lid. They can be baked in the oven or toaster oven or defrosted and heated in a pan (soups). Cornbread baked in these pans is easily reheated and makes a good companion to all the soups and stews that will come.

                              Clearly mark all dishes with ingredients so they'll know what to expect. No "Chicken Surprise" surprises.

                              It might be wise to inquire if there are any dietary exclusions and favorite comfort foods.

                              1. Best wishes to your friend. My dad is currently undergoing treatment for lung cancer. I agree with the suggestions about comfort food. Even when my dad doesn't feel like eating much, a trip to Charlie Brown's (a local steak place) is appealing to him. He also likes to have grits (having grown up in NC).

                                Also, someone suggested to me for my dad that lemon sorbet helps "wake up" the taste buds that are dulled by the chemo. It seemed to help him quite a bit.