Creative Ways to Improve a Liquid Diet for a Person with Cancer

Bowl of pureed soup

Eating is one of life’s simplest pleasures, and one I thoroughly enjoy. While there are few foods I don’t like, I have my favorites, and the mere thought of a nice juicy steak or a bowl of apricot curry chicken starts my mouth watering. Eating for me, though, is not just about the taste.

I get a great deal of pleasure from feeling the texture of different foods in my mouth and the juices that flow from them when I chew. My ability to chew and swallow any type of food is something I used to take for granted — but not anymore.

My husband, Brian, had a rough time swallowing food because of complications from mesothelioma. A tumor developed in his neck and pressed against his esophagus, narrowing the opening and making it impossible for him to swallow anything other than fluids.

Making sure that Brian was receiving the nutrition he needed was important to me. I accomplished that by providing him with a combination of pureed meat and vegetables each day.

Pureed Foods

After processing his food this way, it did not look anywhere near as appetizing as it once had, but Brian kept his sense of humor about the whole ordeal.

I remember I had cooked a big pot of ground beef and spaghetti and then pureed a portion for him. As I handed it over, I said, “Well, it’s spag bog for you tonight,” and he burst out laughing. Later, we agreed there was not much else he could have done under the circumstances, and laughing was better than crying.

Since pureed soups were more pleasing to Brian’s pallet, I took advantage of this by cooking a variety of them and freezing portions for convenience. One of his favorites was a hearty concoction of ham (off the shank), split peas, potatoes, carrots and onions. Another was a lighter, sweeter mix of chicken and corn.

While I knew these soups contained plenty of meat and vegetables, they did not include all the vitamins and minerals that Brian needed. I made sure he received these through regular intake of Ensure, a liquid meal replacement his doctor recommended.

The supplement has the consistency of a milkshake and contains important vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and necessary fat required for bodily recovery and prevention of malnutrition. It comes in chocolate and vanilla. You can blend other ingredients to vary the flavors.

Sneaking in a Taste of Solid Food

One day it occurred to me that I could help Brian to experience the pleasure of tasting and chewing his favorite foods again. After all, there was nothing actually wrong with his mouth or teeth. The problem was swallowing.

With this in mind, I cooked a piece of steak medium rare — just the way he liked it.

I asked him to take a bite, but not to swallow it. I then suggested he savor its taste and texture before chewing it. After rolling it around his mouth for a bit, he started to chew.

It was clear that he enjoyed this tasty morsel, and I tried not to worry that he might accidentally swallow it. Thankfully, he didn’t. He managed to savor the whole steak without any mishaps.

Brian later told me how good it had felt to taste and chew whole food again, and how much he had enjoyed the flavors trickling down his throat.

I was so happy he had regained this pleasure.


Lorraine Kember is the author of "Lean on Me," an inspirational personal account of her husband's courageous battle with mesothelioma. She is an accomplished public speaker in Australia and is passionate about sharing her journey with cancer. Her website can be found at www.lean-on-me.net

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