Hosting or attending a huge meal may not be high on your to-do list in the midst of cancer treatment. You may be varying degrees of nauseous, self-conscious, and exhausted, and also have the added pleasure of hot flashes, mouth sores, and less-than-appealing changes in tastes or smells.
Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, spending time with loved ones, and eating delicious food. So for starters, it’s important to know what types of food may trigger unwelcome symptoms. Say no to spicy foods and fried foods to reduce the chance of stomach upset, avoid citrus-y foods to avoid pain from mouth sores, and resist the urge to munch on raw veggies to reduce the chance of food-borne illnesses.
There are several other ways to make the day easier on yourself and your loved ones — and the bulk of it is being prepared. Read on!
1. Split the work
If you’re hosting: Cooking all morning while battling nausea and exhaustion won’t do anyone any favors. Designate certain dishes to friends or relatives and focus on dishes that you can make ahead, and that you know you’ll be able to eat without feeling nauseous.
If you’re attending: Offer to make something if you feel up for it, but don’t feel required to offer.
2. Determine The Menu With Preferences In Mind
If you’re hosting: Certain smells and tastes may trigger your nausea. Plus, making several dishes that you’re not sure your guests will like may just result in wasted food. Ask guests what they want to bring, what they like, and what they hate. This can help you avoid any unnecessary food prep and also help lower your chances of coming into contact with food you can’t stomach. Unfortunately, you may not know what upsets your stomach until you’re in line in front of your aunt’s oyster stuffing that you devoured last year and realize the smell is… unpleasant. Make sure you have an alternative option at the ready that you know you’ll be able to eat.
If you’re attending: If you know that a mere whiff of a particular dish will make your stomach churn, ask your host to place it at the end of the line, or furthest away from you at the table. Stash a shake or container of food in their fridge in case worst comes to worst and nothing looks good.
3. Cook Up Something With Ginger In It
If you’re hosting: Start dinner off on a soothing note with ginger chicken soup — or use the leftover turkey to create ginger turkey soup later that weekend!
If you’re attending: Have tea bags on hand to make a quick cup of ginger (or peppermint!) tea to soothe your stomach.
4. Make a timeline
If you’re hosting: If your guests come over at 10:00 AM to help cook and plan to stay till 10:00 PM, you may have a problem. You can handle this several different ways, but the easiest one is to make a timeline. For example, tell guests dinner will start at 1:00 (and tell your always-late brother that it will start promptly at noon so he actually gets there on time), that dessert is an eat-when-you-want affair, and that the festivities will end around 4:00.
If you’re attending: Get a timeline from the host about what time dinner will start, and when they think dessert will be served. Let them know that you can only stay for a limited amount of time. Hopefully this will lessen the chance of a drawn-out, unorganized dinner.
5. Be Smart About Seating Arrangements
If you’re hosting: Park yourself at the end of the table and farthest from the platters of food to avoid food smells.
If you’re attending: Simply ask your host if you can have a spot at the end for the same reasons above.
6. Ditch the metal silverware
If you’re hosting: Chemo and radiation can damage taste buds and leave a metallic taste in your mouth. Invest in some sturdy plastic cutlery for yourself, and let your guests enjoy grandma’s old polished silver.
If you’re attending: Bring your own cutlery along.
7. Look Out For Your Health
If you’re hosting: You’re at an increased risk of falling ill because your immune system has been battered by treatments. Make sure to let your guests know how crucial it is for you to steer clear of sick friends and relatives. If someone is sick and can’t attend, arrange for someone in the group to deliver them a container loaded with their favorites after dinner.
If you’re attending: You can ask your host to check with their guests about illness before they arrive. If someone who is sick arrives anyway, don’t feel bad packing a plate to go and excusing yourself.
8. Dress For Comfort
If you’re hosting: Combine a hot kitchen with hot flashes, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Keep an eye on the thermostat and crack a window if need be. If you know you’re prone to overheating, warn your guests so that they dress accordingly!
If you’re attending: Wear layers so you can easily peel off any excess clothing if you get too hot.
9. Eat For pleasure
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If you’re hosting or attending: Take a little bit of everything that looks good — we mean, little. That way, if you take a bite of green bean casserole and the onion-y flavor tastes like goop in your mouth, you won’t feel bad about not finishing the pile you didn’t heap on your plate. Then go back up for seconds and get bigger portions of what you like, like cheesy sweet corn and broccoli casserole (yum!).
10. Plan Ahead For Post-Dinner Activities
If you’re hosting: Designate people to pack up and clean so you aren’t left alone in the kitchen while everyone else plays touch football outside. Have guests bring their own tupperware (or grab some cheap disposable ones) for leftovers so you’re not scrounging in the pantry or rifling through cupboards to find more.
If you’re attending: Pack your meds with you, even if you are planning on taking them before you arrive and once you get home. A freak snowstorm, a jaw-dropping football game, or culinary disasters may mean your schedule doesn’t go as planned.
11. Retreat to a quiet spot
If you’re hosting: Let your guests know if you’re willing to linger over dessert and watch football all day, or if you need some rest (and if you’d like them to leave so you can have some peace and quiet). If you don’t mind people hanging out all day, make sure you have a quiet room to retreat to in case you need a nap or some downtime.
If you’re attending: Ask your host ahead of time if they have a room you can retreat to if necessary, and let them know that you may leave earlier than planned depending on your level of fatigue.
12. Avoid Black Friday shopping
If you’re hosting or attending: Wait for Cyber Monday and hit up online sales from your home. The scores of potentially sick people who will be bumping into your tender and fatigued self and the long winding lines at the checkouts are totally not worth it. Instead, wait for Cyber Monday and shop with us!
What are your tips? Share with us in the comments!