WHAT TO EXPECT: We didn’t anticipate the magnitude of the recovery from the double whammy of a gastrectomy followed by chemo. We didn’t realize what a long, slow process it would be.
You don’t feel good, you have no energy, you can’t always keep food down. You retch, you belch, you have heartburn. You have trouble maintaining your weight, your food doesn’t taste good, you feel full even before you start eating. This is hard on you and your family.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT: That’s the bad news. The good news: It will get better! Slowly over the months, you’ll start to look back and see that things really have greatly improved. You have recovered from the effects of chemo, your new stomach has stretched, your body has adapted and rebalanced, and you have learned what works for you and what doesn’t.
For Gary, the turning point came about a year after treatment ended. He finally stopped losing weight and most meals were fairly normal. He had less and less gastric distress. And his energy was returning. The second year was even better.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Time heals; you probably haven’t “plateaued” yet: Keep the faith. As you start to feel better and the rate of improvement slows, you may start to wonder: “Is this as good as I’m going to get?” At least in our experience, the answer is no. Things will get even better. Improvement is just occurring over months instead of weeks. For Gary, improvement continued in the second and even the third year after surgery.
Listen to your body: One of the most important things we learned is that figuring out how to eat and how to avoid and/or fix GI distress seems to be mostly a trial and error process.
Everyone is different. You have to listen to your body. You’ll start figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t. And even if a particular food or way of doing things doesn’t work once, don’t give up. Try again another time because you might get different results. Especially as time goes by.
Check out suggestions for specific challenges: The “CHALLENGES” menu item of this website contains suggestions for what to do about nausea, retching, and poor appetite; gas; reflux; and low blood sugar. These are common problems, especially in the early months of recovery.
Also, check out the other menu items under the “EATING AGAIN” menu item.
A word about “avoid” lists: After your surgery, you may be given a list of foods you can eat and foods to avoid. During the early weeks after surgery it is important to follow these lists and your doctor’s instructions. Not doing so could keep your digestive system from healing properly.
However, as your body heals these lists become only guidelines. Learning what your new digestive system can handle is a trial and error process. You need to experiment with different foods, food combinations, and eating schedules. Rules for what you can and cannot eat and when you can eat it may not apply to you.
Experiment, try new things, and keep track of what does and doesn’t work. Over time you will learn how to eat in a way that ensures that your eating experience will become as satisfying as it once was.