By Mary Anne Meyers
Much of our holiday cheer comes during celebrations with friends and family around the table. If a loved one or friend has been diagnosed with an illness such as cancer, however, that meal may pose problems because of treatment side effects. Registered dietician Sharlene Bidini says planning ahead of time can help. For example, she suggests that the host ask the guest in treatment about the best day for the celebration.
“Often, if they’re receiving chemotherapy, say on a Tuesday, they have a pattern of feeling bad Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. But maybe they might rebound and feel good on the weekend.” Bidini, who counsels cancer patients at the Oakwood Cancer Center, Dearborn, says it’s best to ask the person questions like this first, because many times only small adjustments need to be made so that everyone can enjoy the meal and a memorable holiday.
Some treatments cause a sore mouth or throat, so something cool and creamy can provide comfort, she says.“Instead of hot, crispy cherry pie right out of the oven, they might prefer pumpkin pie with whipped cream right out of the refrigerator.”
Some people might need something as simple as the croutons or tomatoes left out of their salad, or a side dish may have to be changed, Bidini says.
In general, the main dish is usually not a problem, she adds. “Whatever you choose—turkey, ham, chicken, fish—whatever your primary protein is, that’s excellent for healing.”
Bidini understands that a diagnosis of cancer can be stressful for a family, but she says by asking such questions and doing a little research, attention can return to what’s really important: “Creating memories, having fun holiday times together, not focusing in so much on how much they are eating or not eating, but just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.” For tips on coping with cancer during the holidays and holiday recipes go to www.cancer.org.