WHAT TO EXPECT: In the aftermath of stomach cancer treatment, one of the things you quickly realize is how much eating is a social activity. That can lead to some challenges for your social life early on.

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: Not to worry, this will only be a problem early on. Over time only very minor adjustments will be needed and your social life will return to normal.


Early social-life challenges: In the very early months, we found it helpful to invite people over for a mid-afternoon snack and visit. Gary was less tired than in the evening hours, and there wasn’t the issue of eating too close to bedtime. We generally served cheese, crackers, and maybe apple slices from the coffee table so Gary could eat as much or as little as he wanted without it being socially awkward.

Later, we had people over for dinner but served buffet style. It also worked well when we were invited to events that were served buffet style.

Sit-down meals were more of a challenge. Gary wasn’t always able to eat much of what he was served and sometimes needed to excuse himself from the table. Our friends understood. After all, they had been there through treatment with us.

Let friends know your needs: It came as a surprise to us when friends asked us over for dinner and wanted to know what Gary could eat. Our potential hosts seemed downright intimidated. This probably isn’t too surprising. Most people don’t know anyone else without a stomach. We explained Gary could eat anything, just in smaller quantities. We are far easier to entertain than our gluten-free or vegan friends!

What we did need to do was let people know that we needed to eat on the earlier side. Fortunately since we are older, this tends to be when our friends eat anyway. We also had to let people know we needed a little break before the dessert course.

Eating out: We’ve found it easier than you might think to ask to split a meal. At one breakfast place we go, the waitress who knew Gary’s situation helped us figure out that if Gary ordered the steak breakfast and Anne ordered a side of eggs, we could split the hash browns and Anne could eat Gary’s toast.

We found most places will happily split a lunch. At dinner, we are more likely just to plan on taking home leftovers. They make a great lunch the next day.