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Information and Resources from the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center
Careful Cooking: A Couple puts our dietitans' advice to workYou smell the homey comfort of soup bubbling on the stove as soon as Jane Myers opens the door. It's befitting. The home Myers has built with her husband, John Barton, is cozy, cramed with art and treasures colected during their travels abroad. The house itself is nestled in a leaf-strewn hill overloking a pond.
It's the perfect setting for a good meal. And yet, eating hasn't been so easy here. Barton was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer in early 2007. Within a month of beginning treatment, the extra pounds he'd struggled with throughout his life evaporated. He needed a feeding tube. Barton hated it; he felt confined by the tube. He is an avid fly-fisherman. And it was disappointing not to be able to eat the foods he'd always enjoyed.
"They tell you to love life," Barton said. "And I try to, but I also like a good porterhouse."
When Barton retired in 1999 from his job as a reporter for The Ann Arbor News, he started doing most of the household cooking. His shelves are lined with cookbook classics: James Beard and Julia Child sit alongside Martin Yan. And they aren't mere props. He cooked from these books, lamenting the limitations of the home kitchen.
"I love playing around with a wok," he says. "But you can't get it as hot as in the restaurants."
And then suddenly, because of the cancer, he didn't have the energy to cook anymore. After 10 months of doing well with a feeding tube, his doctor told him it might be time to remove the feeding tube. Barton was thrilled. But Myers was concerned.
"I loved the feeding tube," she says. "It was such a reassuring sound to hear the pump working. I would think, 'OK, he's getting filled with food,' but I didn't have the tube in my gut."
So the couple worked with Joan Daniels, a University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center dietitian, to develop a plan to make sure Barton gets the nutrition he needs to prevent weight loss and keep off the feeding tube. Barton's ability to eat was complicated by conditions that caused his stomach and intestinal tract not to function normally. In addition, he has trouble swallowing.
So the couple eats a lot of soft foods. Noodles are great -- in fact, today, Myers is cooking spaghetti to go along with that pot of mushroom soup on the stove. But on other nights, Myers picks up noodles from a local Chinese restaurant.
To make up extra calories, Barton drinks a special-order Carnation Instant Breakfast nutritional drink that contains 560 calories. Often, for breakfast, he'll have the nutritional drink along with some smoked salmon or Special K with whole milk.
"The homemade dishes taste good," Barton says. "I'm eating more healthy than I have in my whole life."
To make an appointment with a Cancer Center dietician, please call 734-647-8902.
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
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