Post-surgery meals recovering from colon cancer surgery
September 20, 2006 8:54 AM   Subscribe

My mom was recently diagnosed with colon cancer, and is scheduled for a lower anterior resection of her colon next week. Help me plan meals for the first week post-surgery!

More details:

CT scan showed no metastasis, so we're not dealing with any chemo or radiation issues, just recovery from the surgery. She's in her early 70s and in generally good health. She is, however, pretty scared about surgery, and I expect that despite all best efforts, her spirits will be very low during those first few days when she can't move around too much.

I'm staying with my folks for a few days after she's discharged from the hospital. I live a couple of hours away, so aside from the day or two I'll be taking off late next week, I can only be there on weekends. She prepares all meals for herself and my dad -- he will not be doing anything in the way of cooking. I may be able to get him to heat up leftovers for them, though.

I'm not finding much on specific dietary recommendations post-surgery. I know that she'll be able to eat solid foods by the time she gets home. I know that she'll need to avoid fruits and vegetables while she heals from surgery. Need I avoid all foods high in fiber to minimize discomfort and complications during healing? Are beans/lentils okay? Oatmeal? Is some fruit juice okay?

Will GI-stimulating ingredients like ginger or other spices help or harm, if used in small amounts to provide some flavor? I want to make meals as flavorful as possible, and she's used to eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, so any way to get fresh flavors into food is good. I'm planning to make some infused grapeseed oil (parsley, cilantro, etc.) to use as seasoning. Already planning to pick up some good yogurt to help restore her digestion.

I would love, love, love to hear from those who have cared for someone post-resection or had this surgery.
posted by desuetude to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No first-hand experience, but check out the American Cancer Society's page on surgery and diet (scroll down to "Surgery Diet Progression"). I'll keep my fingers crossed for your mom.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:13 AM on September 20, 2006

No experience with this, just read MonkeyToes' link, looks like beans are out. If you want to make things really easy on her, you could make her lots of single-serving ready to eat tupperware dishes so she could just take one out of the fridge when she is hungry.
-cheese, deli meat, crackers
-stir fry with veggies and tofu
-hummus and carrots
-all sorts of sandwiches
-carrot and ginger soup
-veggie pasta with lemon juice
posted by rmless at 9:25 AM on September 20, 2006

I haven't had this surgery, but I know several who have. Your mom will probably be put on a soft diet for a couple weeks after the surgery -- this means low-residue (low fibre) foods, limited meat, no raw veggies, no nuts, and no beans, cabbage or other gas-inducing foods. Good foods are soups, pastas, mashed potatoes, and eggs. Well-cooked vegetables which are pureed into sauces and soups will likely be fine -- her doctor should let her know before sending her home what foods she can and can't have while recovering, and how food should be prepared.

Keep in mind that her appetite may be low after surgery, especially if she is on pain killers, but it is important that she eat small regular meals throughout the day. rmless' idea of having lots of single-servings for her in the fridge is a good one -- though she'll probably want to avoid the vegetables listed.

If you want the best advice, contact a colon cancer support group leader in your area, and ask if they can put you in touch with someone who can give you a few pointers on recovering post-resection. Also, your mom should ask if she can get a pamphlet from the hospital with dietary recommendations for post-resection patients -- many hospitals provide this information in the pre-op info package that they give their patients.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:59 AM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster: I know they give a post-surgical dietary guidelines sheet...but I have to plan ahead! I need to arrive fully armed with groceries on Thursday. Details about whether things like well-cooked-and pureed veggies will be okay is key.

This is also complicated that whenever possible, meals should be something that my dad will eat as well.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 AM on September 20, 2006

My dad had some of his colon removed due to a perforation caused by diverticulitis. After his surgery, he was on a VERY low-fiber diet.

The first couple days afterwards he could only have clear liquids (black tea, jello, broth).

The first week was mostly liquids or pureed foods (puddings, yogurts, blended soups, etc). For awhile after he could only eat vegetables or fruits if they were very well pureed into whatever he was eating. I recall him eating a lot of yogurt & omelettes.

I hope that helps, I honestly though would have your mom contact her doctor to get the specifics. My dad's surgery was for a different reason, so your mom's restrictions could vary.

Though I think it probably makes sense to definitely avoid anything that could hurt the intestinal lining, like fruit skins, nuts, seeds, popcorn, etc.
posted by tastybrains at 10:32 AM on September 20, 2006

My Mother-in-Law went through this I sent the page to her and asked what she ate. Heres her response.

"My suggestion for food is to go very, very slowly. If you can stand it, drink 4 cans of Ensure per day for awhile. The number one rule for my type of cancer was NOT to eat anything with casings – hot dogs, corn, grapes, no skin on apples, lima beans, fruit with the skin, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. These can be added in later, but not at first. Also, proteins do not create gas (discomfort), but carbohydrates do. Stay away from those for awhile. Meat proteins stay in the colon longer and putrefy, so eat sunflower seeds and nuts for a change, also avocados are high in protein and yams. Yams were my friend while I was sick. And, I got rid of chocolate and white bread from my diet. It was hard for awhile, but after 6 months, I got used to it."
posted by skrike at 11:34 AM on September 20, 2006

my mom had a colon resection, no cancer, earlier this year. tastybrains dad's experience sounds like hers. she could have nothing that would give her gas, or irritate her colon. not very much food at a time. not much spiciness. soups are great.
posted by domino at 2:04 PM on September 20, 2006

If my mom is any indication.
You would be amazed how little fiber it takes to cause problems for somebody with a shortened colon.

cellulose and fat are killers in this context.
posted by Megafly at 2:36 PM on September 20, 2006

Response by poster: In case anyone looks this up for their own research:

It wasn't as bad as expected. Lots of soup and mashed potatoes and pasta for a few days. I made her mushroom risotto, which pretty much made her year. The only real restriction was no raw roughage, and that was only for two weeks. Herbs were fine. Cooked veggies were fine. Fruit juices in moderation were fine. No permanent dietary restrictions.

However, needless to say, she was damn happy to eat a salad when she finally could. It took more than a month for her digestion to go back to normal, from the "cleansing/prep regimen", the surgery itself, and the lack of fiber for a few weeks. Even with regular doses of good yogurt, all of this is pretty upsetting to the system.
posted by desuetude at 7:36 PM on November 6, 2006

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