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How to Prepare Your Kitchen for a Person with Mesothelioma

Woman washes vegetables in a sink

Being diagnosed with cancer can have major effects on the way you live your life. As you begin treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, it can be difficult to continue living at the same speed and independence you once did.

Nobody wants to lose their independence, and in some cases, you don’t have to. Once you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, it is important to set up your home in order to maintain as much autonomy as possible.

One of the first places to start: Your kitchen.

Making Your Kitchen Cancer-Friendly

Kitchens are usually the places where we store and prepare our foods. But we often store our foods in hard-to-reach cabinets or having little workspaces to prepare our meals.

For cancer patients, especially those with mesothelioma, there are symptoms and other complications that make reaching difficult. Also, some meals must be prepared a certain way to make consuming them easier.

When someone is undergoing cancer treatments, their immune system is compromised, which makes it harder to fight off illnesses and infections. This makes food preparation even more important in order to improve nutrition and prevent food-related illnesses.

Here are some tips on how you or a loved one can prepare your kitchen to make it safer and more comfortable for anyone with a debilitating cancer such as mesothelioma.

Standing Up Can Be Tiring for Mesothelioma Patients

Chemotherapy and surgery often leave many mesothelioma patients feeling fatigue during and after treatment.

Because of that, standing up to prepare a meal can be challenging.

Try to reorganize your kitchen to create a space for sitting that still allows you or your loved one to dice and chop veggies, marinate meats or simply read a cooking book before preparing a meal. Adding a chair with a soft cushion and wheels to your kitchen workspace provides needed comfort when standing becomes too difficult.

Consider moving kitchen essentials, such as frying pans and cutlery, to an easy-to-reach location — preferably somewhere the cook can reach from the chair. Minimizing bending and reaching also can prevent exhaustion in the future.

If you find it difficult to move too many kitchen essentials to easier to reach areas, buy a light folding step ladder you can tuck away somewhere close.

Kitchen Essentials: Blender, Canned Food & Meal Replacements

Difficulty swallowing, also known as dysphagia, is a common symptom of mesothelioma and cancer treatments. That’s why it’s important that mesothelioma patients consume softer foods such as mashed potatoes or tasty, anti-oxidant rich smoothies.

These meals are easy to prepare when you have a blender or a food processor. Both appliances are generally inexpensive and widely available at department stores and sometimes even at the local grocery store.

Canned meals are an excellent source of nutrition that won’t spoil. Be sure to keep several in easily accessible areas of your pantry. Meal replacements are also good if you suffer from dysphagia. Boost and Ensure are often recommended. Always check with your doctor before buying these.

Another common symptom among mesothelioma patients is dry mouth and dehydration. It’s crucial that you keep bottled water around. Also try to consume foods low in salt (which dehydrates you) and those with high water content such as fruits, gelatin and milkshakes.

The benefit of having all these products at home now is that you won’t have to leave the comfort of your home or ask someone to buy them later.

Importance of Food Safety for Cancer Patients

Food safety is especially important for those diagnosed with cancer.

Many cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, hurt a patient’s immune system, which makes them more susceptible to other illnesses. The American Cancer Society recommends the following simple tips:

Before and after you or your loved ones create a culinary masterpiece, it is important to wash your hands. While seeming basic, you’d be surprised how many harmful microbes can be washed away.

Also, be sure to wash and scrub all fruits and vegetables you plan to use. Throughout transport, dirt and other harmful substances can build up on the outside of healthy produce. Cleaning any utensils and cutting boards prior and between each use can prevent dangerous cross-contamination especially when working with uncooked meats and poultry.

When preparing recipes with meat, poultry, eggs or fish, be sure to cook foods thoroughly to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses, and above all, pay close attention to ‘Use By’ dates listed on any foods your recipe needs. Don’t risk consuming spoiled food.

Plan for Any Help You May Need

You are not in this journey alone.

Consult with your oncologist about oncology dietitians who will help you through your cancer treatment process. They are the best resource for nutrition advice.

There may come a time when you need more help than you realized, and that’s okay. Talk to people ahead of time in order to figure out who can help you cook and clean if needed. By creating a network of resources, you can try to maintain your independence as long as possible.

Cara Tompot, Social Media Specialist at Asbestos.com

Cara is a childhood cancer survivor, daughter of a long-term breast cancer survivor, and she knows life as a caregiver. She is also a member of the American Lung Association's LUNG FORCE leadership committee, a repeat team captain for the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life and has the Social for Health Care Certification from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. Cara also frequently writes for HuffPost. Read More

  1. American Cancer Society. (2012, November 16). The Caregiver’s Kitchen: Cooking for a Person with Cancer. Retrieved from: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/news/features/the-caregivers-kitchen-cooking-for-a-person-with-cancer

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