Meet This Grateful Neighbor: Colleen
Diagnosed with breast cancer at 51, Colleen Dunn Bates vowed she wouldn’t be “one of those people who says cancer turned out to be a blessing.” But, she says, “I was overwhelmed by the outpouring. So many people offered to help. I really felt loved.”
The five months of meals she received via friends and family during her chemotherapy treatment were an enormous help for Colleen, a wife and mom of two teenagers. She’s also a food journalist and the busy publisher of Prospect Park Media, a company in Pasadena, California, that publishes beautiful guidebooks, including the popular Eat L.A.
“Having food magically appear in your house was amazing in so many ways, including financially,” says Colleen. Below are Colleen’s tips for bringing meals to a chemo patient. And here we’ve posted the recipe for Soothing Carrot Ginger Soup, one her favorites.
Best treats for a chemo patient: Homemade ice cream, smoothies and popsicles are fabulous for anybody who’s in chemo. Chemo kills all the bacteria in your mouth, good and bad, so your mouth gets dry and it almost feels like you’ve burned your tongue. So anything cold is soothing. Plus, you lose your taste buds — I couldn’t even taste chocolate, and salty foods didn’t register — but what you can still taste is citrus. Anything lemon, orange or lime was fabulous. A lemon popsicle on chemo mouth is the best!
What not to bring: Hearty, fiber-rich soups — at least during the first week of the standard, three-week chemo cycle. You usually have one bad week, one medium week and one good week. During the bad week, I had to have superbland, easily digestible foods with no fiber because digestive system didn’t adjust well to chemo. So a light, simple soup and whole-grain bread is a great thingOne day a friend brought a really simple pureed vegetarian broth and a really good quality fresh bread, and that was plenty for meal.
Delivery etiquette: Emailing first and then leaving food at the front door is really a nice thing. I’m a social person, but there are times you just can’t deal with making conversation.
What else to consider: The person in chemo has different needs from the rest of the family, so it’s nice to ask whether, say, anyone in the family is a vegetarian or what their favorite dishes are. When you eat other people’s food for any length of food for any length of time, you’re really grateful, but you start to miss your own food.
Ways to help without cooking: We got a couple of gift cards for restaurants, like CPK and a great Thai restaurant with takeout. It was greatly appreciated for those times when you crave your favorite “out” food. And bring a bottle of wine for the beleaguered spouse!
Are you a grateful recipient of homemade food, or do you know someone who is? Click here for details on how to suggest folks for our regular Meet This Grateful Neighbor feature!