Eating and Acceptance


Oh to be able to pick up a bit of food and eat it. To bite, to chew, to swallow, to enjoy savoury things.

I used to love to eat, not eat to live, and my waistline paid the price. But like a sizable chunk of head and neckers,  I am not able to do any of these things apart from the softest, mushiest “chewing”. I’ve remained overweight – but not obese like the old days – by the frequent consumption of yogurt, ice cream, custard, and cream … plus pumpkin soup.

These are the only foods I truly enjoy – mainly at home when making a mess is not a problem.

I used to love going out for coffee and cake, now it’s just the coffee, although I can eat cheesecake which these days is FAR TOO SWEET.

Funnily enough,  a reasonably sweet taste is my best taste post radiation but excessive sweetness is as revolting as excessive saltiness.

So far the sentiment in this post seems negative but to my surprise I accepted this eating disability from the start (mostly) and have noticed others doing the same. It’s the price of curative treatment – a chance of life. I can walk past a table groaning with food at an event and feel a sort of sour grapes reaction because there is never anything I can eat. Instead of regret, I can almost summon up a feeling of disgust. It’s like losing all taste during radiation. The food is the same but your attitude to it is negative. Food is disgusting when you can’t taste it.

Even so I have periods of frustration – even meltdowns – when people who know me well offer me food they should know I can’t eat! Sometimes I pass a bakery and think, wouldn’t it be lovely to have some fresh bread and butter. Of all foods I miss toast the most. Fruits and veges I can blend so I’m okay with them but I can’t believe that once upon a time I could bite into a crisp new season’s apple. That seems like a superhuman feat to me now. How can anyone do it?

I think I accept it because I move in a head and neck cancer support universe where there are people much worse off than me.

There is a big price to pay though. That is the social price. I’m no dinner companion. I’m no fun at Christmas. Social eating is well nigh impossible – something that head and neckers often write down as one of the long term effects of head and neck cancer and its treatment. This is why I love cafes so much. I can enjoy a flat white or a latte as long as I have a cloth to wipe my leaky mouth. I can have coffee with friends. Occasionally if I’m brave a soup.

I know it’s wicked but I like McDonald’s and Carls Jnr for their thickshakes which go down very well although I can’t suck through a straw comfortably and I make a wee bit of a mess. I usually dine there alone when taking a break from my public transport trips through the city. Of course I can buy smoothies at regular cafes but they are ridiculously expensive.

Helping me a lot is my fitness. I might not be able to eat solid food but I’ve kept fit and active which gives me a good quality of life. I feel grateful for that every day.

3 thoughts on “Eating and Acceptance”

  1. I am a recent Complete Laryngectomee, after 12.5 hours Operation which took place in Monklands Hospital Airdrey Scotland, I must admit, there were others in the ward with me voice box removed they were able to eat a nice soft bread sandwich, Maureen doesn’t mention the continual coughing up Mucus, any comments on this ? does the Mucus get any less through time ?

  2. Hi Frank. It’s so hard having a laryngectomy. I have had tongue and buccal mucosa cancer so my voice is intact but trouble with my jaw, teeth and tongue prevents me from eating solid food. My friends in the head and neck cancer community who have had their larynx removed have awful trouble with mucous. It seems to be something you have to learn to cope with – just like me with my saliva. We have a Facebook group, HNCSupport.Aotearoa. You can search for it on Facebook.

  3. 29 January 2017 I had my total laryngectomy and my mucus is still a problem every day’s different mornings r the worst for me some mornings can take 2 hours nebbing before I even dare to attempt to leave house .I totally agree with the food and eating problems with taste an then there’s the reflux after .some days I’m reliant on the ensure plus drinks as I just don’t have an appetite my taste buds are ok now but I put that down to the canabis oil I have been taking .dry mouths also a problem when eating ,chicken and meats just chew to string takes me half an hour to eat beans on toast ,it’s been an hard 3 years for me and the way I look at it is well goof it’s better than being dead and there’s always someone somewhere that’s worse than me and I’m very gratefull for all the hard work Barnsley general as done for me and continue to do also

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.