The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation
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How can I get him to eat post lobectomy?

My husband had a lobectomy last Wednesday by keyhole surgery. He is now cancer free so, very lucky, however, he is 77 and had lost around 2 stone in weight prior to the surgery due to nausea. He'd been prescribed meds that worked for his nausea a short time before his admission and I had been serving him what he fancied whenever he wanted to eat but, being in hospital now, he has to eat at designated times and only what they serve. Unfortunately, they changed his meds and he got the nausea back. I think he's eaten very little since then and he gets annoyed if I nag him to eat, or drink his nourishing drinks. Today they finally gave him his normal meds but he is still nauseous and I've just heard that he may need to go back to theatre as the drain isn't working on his collapsed lung! I'm so worried that he isn't getting enough nourishment and will suffer from malnutrition. ( a neighbour recently died in hospital after refusing to eat.) He has swollen up from his collapsed lung so doesn't look skinny any more and there are so many different nursing staff I doubt they notice anyway. His surgeon is brilliant but will he know, before he does the surgery that my husband is so malnourished? My husband hates me making a fuss. I don't know if I should try to talk to someone about it...I am so worried!

Sorry for such a long post!

16 Replies
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What a terrible situation to be in. If you can't speak to the nurse in charge does he have a Macmillan nurse? If he does need another anaesthetic he should be weighed first.

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Have you tried fruit smoothies or milkshakes with full fat milk. It's some thing until he feels brighter. You could ask your cns to swap anticymatics. They may not be right ones .

Good luck

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I am not in hospital, and am trying to work at restablishing my eating pattern on my own at home with very little help. I have recently had another chest infection that has set me back, now that the antibiotics are kicking on I am resuming an attempt at eating little and often, I start the day with Complan, sonething you may like to consdier for your dear husband; when my father was in hospital he disliked the food so I took in what he requested. If you bring in a selection of tasty things for him you will not be making a fuss.

Ask if you can speak to a dietician for advice when he returns home, there is no reason why you cannot start on any tips s/he may provide for your husband immediatly.

With very good wish

Yorkiiejo

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My grandfather was prescribed a anti depressant to increase his appetite and it did work..there is also a tonic you can buy in chemist and there are high calorie drinks the g.p can prescribex

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I was prescribed Freubin energy / protein drinks when I was in hospital. They picked me up very quickly. Ask the sister in charge. You van get them in the chemists but are pretty expensive per bottle. Alternative is have a word with your doctor.

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Thanks for taking the time to reply. He has been told today that they think the drain is at last working for him so, at the moment the surgeon isn't going in again, thank goodness! Over the past year he has tried everything (he doesn't like Complan or Fortisip for example) I have taken him his Aymes Complete drinks that were prescribed by the GP and that he likes, also some treats that he usually likes but, short of physically forcing them down his throat, that's all I can do. A day ago he was happily drinking his Aymes but when he feels nauseous he can't face anything and he jumps down my throat if I even remind him they are there! He is also on an anti depressant that seemed to increase his appetite at home but isn't having the same effect now. I think the Morphine he had a couple of days ago may still be affecting his appetite and I know he is at least attempting to eat so, all I can do is hope that they send him home soon and I can tempt him with home made meals once again.

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There are other difficulties with eating after lung surgery - one is breathlessness means that we often consider whether something is worth the effort of swallowing and adding to the immediate breathlessness post surgery so if it's not appealing in look, that can add to the reluctance to eat it and most hospital food is not that appetising. I found that I really wanted something to cut through the medication/metallic taste without much effort and found those pots of tropical fruit (pineapple, mango, grapefruit type stuff) really useful as they were small enough not to overwhelm but tasty and refreshing to my mouth. Personally I don't like the shake type drinks often foisted on patients (although less likely to be available through GP due to the cost) and don't like overloading on dairy stuff due to increasing mucous production that I experience when I do. However a small bowl of porridge (made with milk rather than water) was always welcome and soups can be nutritious, tasty and easy to eat without lots of chewing that can add to the unwanted air swallowed due to the breathlessness. Greek natural yoghurt is also a good source of protein so if doctor suggests dairy, this is better for you than cream, custard and similar products. It can be very stressful to watch your relatives not eat (I had the same with my dad for most of last year who was in and out of hospital with bowel cancer and went down to 7 stones) but found that offering hot/warm food rather than cold, stuff that looked and tasted nice and could be eaten in small portions went down best. That included casseroles (so meat was tender) and could be served and reheated for later. hope this helps. good luck.

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He hasn't been very breathless funnily enough but he did have a numb throat from the breathing tube and that didn't help but it's the nausea when he starts eating that's the main problem. He phoned today and told me that he drank one of his Aymes drinks and had a whole bowl of soup without feeling sick so that's an improvement. I'm taking him in a slice of apple pie (his favourite) and a pot of custard tomorrow.

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That sounds encouraging - soup always good and lots of varied flavours. something that he likes anyway like apple pie sounds good to me. good luck.

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Hello sylviesinc,

it is always a worry when someone has lost their appitite, others here have given you some very good advice on how to manage this. As his condition improves hopefullty so will his appetite, often just eating little and often and tempting him with his favourite foods can help.

If you would like to speak with someone you can give us a call on our nurse led helpline freephone 08000 358 7200

Kind regards

Roy Castle Helpline

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You were a great help when he was first diagnosed and we phoned you, so thank you for that. I daren't tie the phone up now though as he phones me whenever he feels like talking....he was getting quite angry with the physiotherapist on the phone to me just now, saying she is pushing him too hard!!!

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Knew that feeling but it's their job to try to get us to work our lungs stronger to rebuild them as well as muscles (to stop them wasting). Little and slowly I'd encourage him to get up and walk - they'll need him to walk up stairs before discharging him so they'll be pushing towards achieving that. He should be given a little spirometer toy to ensure he keeps up his exercises and breathing when home and encourage him to keep at that, however hard it is at first, it will get easier. best wishes

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He just phoned as he's swelled up bigger and now can't see properly. They replaced his electric drain with a water drain but they're talking about switching it back but have called the consultant...I'm expecting more phone calls! Thanks for everyone's help!

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I'm guessing he's on meds including steroids which may cause the swelling and the blurred vision can also be meds side effects as I had both when admitted earlier this year for a chest infection. hope they stabilise him soon.

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Sorry to hear about your husband's condition. I also had a right upper lobectomy in March followed by adjuvent chemotherapy in Jun to Aug as. I lost a lot of weight Feb to Apr as I had a right hemi-colectomy first but once I was on the chemo regime with steroids my appetite and tastes changed dramatically and I started eating whatever I preferred, frequently fruit, with the result that I my appetite improved and I started putting on weight again. Eating what you like is very important: I was not terribly impressed with the food served in hospital so while I would not recommend not eating on the ward I would recommend getting out as soon as possible and then living on a diet of whatever you enjoy for the coming months. I went from 117 kg in Jan to 108 in Jun to 123 in Oct and back to 115 now that I have started immunotherapy in Dec

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Hi I think you should speak to his consultant or the senior nurse who is in charge of the ward he is in..Hope all goes well for your husband

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