eat. It took a while, but Robin’s mouth has gotten progressively more and more tender over the past several weeks, from the radiation treatments she’s receiving for her throat cancer.
At first she didn’t detect any change from the radiation, but about two weeks into the treatment she noticed that certain foods were becoming hard to chew. Dry things, in particular, were starting to hurt because of sores that were forming under her tongue. (The last piece of bread she ate was at the HD live-stream of Die Walküre on May 14, when we brought sandwiches to the movie theater to eat during intermission.)
It was time to make the switch to soft foods. One night Robin asked for rice, beans, and avocado. I added lots of hot sauce to mine:
But Robin mushed hers all together:
Soon thereafter, however, even rice was too much for her. I decided it was time to move on to soups. The first one I tried was a broccoli-potato purée. Unfortunately, however, there is something in broccoli that made her mouth sting. Who knew? (Luckily, I love broccoli soup, so I was happy to finish it off.)
“How about really soupy mashed potatoes?” Robin suggested (she loves potatoes). No problem, I said, and whipped up a big pot-full, adding lots of butter and milk, since keeping up the calories is important for her. This, I am glad to report, she was able to eat, as long as I diluted it to the point where no chewing was required.
Robin wanted to try eggs, but unfortunately runny yolks—the only way she likes them—are on the no-no list right now, since yolks must be fully-cooked to ensure that any salmonella lurking therein is killed. (Chemotherapy significantly lowers one’s white-blood cell count, making the body less able to combat illness of any kind.) Robin’s never liked scrambled eggs, but volunteered to try some, with the mashed potatoes, for breakfast. I grated some Irish cheddar cheese and gave her butter to add, and she declared the concoction to be quite edible:
Another of Robin’s favorite foods—a hold-over from when she was a kid—is what she calls “mushy peas,” i.e., canned peas. So I decided to see if pea soup might be something she could eat. I dumped a can of peas into a pot, added chicken stock, and simmered it for about a half and hour:
Next I put the soup through a sieve to separate out the skins, which I knew she wouldn’t be able to eat. (I saved the skins and ate them myself, doused with hot Thai chili sauce and S&P—quite good!) I didn’t add any seasoning to the soup, as Robin’s supposed to limit her salt intake, and things like black pepper, garlic, and other spices hurt her mouth.
That same day she suggested that I try making fish, which gave me quite a shock as she’s never been a fan of cooked fish (sushi she adores, but that’s a big no-no right now). I had made a batch of chicken stock the day before, so I tried poaching some pangasius—a mild, almost tasteless (to my mind) fish that our friend Nancy H. had left in the freezer—in some of the stock, and served this with the pea soup:
The pea soup hurt a tiny bit, but I gather not too terribly much. Amazingly, however, Robin said the fish was “not bad; we could do this again.” Wow. So I did. A few nights later, after poaching the fish in more stock, I removed it with a slotted spoon and then mixed some peanut butter and coconut milk into the poaching liquid, and served this over the fish, with a side of soupy mashed potatoes:
Robin declared that to be even better. Mine I had with more of the Thai hot sauce:
Another soups I tried was bean (made with refries) with chicken stock, topped with yogurt:
This did not hurt Robin’s mouth. (I poured mine over baby spinach and added grated cheese and hot sauce.)
Butternut squash soup with brown butter, with yogurt stirred in at the last minute, hurt a little, but was “doable,” Robin declared. (I’ve since nixed vegetable soups altogether, as they tend to hurt more than others. Interesting.)
And miso soup with chunks of silken tofu, as long as it’s pretty diluted, seems to work okay so far, so this has become one of her staples:
During the day, Robin keeps hydrated with a variety of beverages: lots and lots of water; the fruit and vegetable juice I make for her; prune juice mixed with Gatorade; and here she is with a strawberry milkshake doctored with protein powder:
“But what about cocktail hour?” you may well ask. I admit to still indulging in a glass or two of Jim Beam most evenings, but although she’s off alcohol these days, Robin does try to join me with her current favorite drink: a watermelon, papaya and coconut milk smoothie. Served in a Martini glass, naturally!
And lest you think she’s become a complete invalid, banish the thought. Here’s Robin during her daily training session with Ziggy (this is “crawl”):