The Impact of Dysphagia on Diet: Andy's Story
In July 2018, after returning from a family holiday in Cyprus, Andy noticed a lump on his throat. When the diagnosis revealed that it was in fact throat cancer, the couple were understandably devastated. Having always cherished mealtimes together after 45 years of married life, things changed dramatically when Andy’s condition worsened after intense treatment:
“Seven weeks of chemo and radiotherapy had an awful effect on my throat, which became very sore. My jaw started to shrink, impacting how wide it could open. I’d developed a lymphedema on my neck and throat which stayed closed and led to dysphagia.”
Andy started blending his own food. This presents several challenges in itself: certain foods do not blend down well, and it can be hard to get the right texture and consistency that is safe to eat. For example, blending peas or sweet corn can leave husks in the blended meal which creates a choking risk, as well as a risk of leaving food residue in the mouth which can be dangerous for someone with dysphagia. Often blending involves adding water to food which can severely impact the nutritional content, so surviving purely on liquidised food meant that Andy wasn’t getting the sufficient calories he needed on a daily basis.
Christmas had previously been a time spent enjoying meals with the family, but that particular year they didn’t want to put grandchildren through the distressing sight of Andy struggling to eat. As a result, they kept family away and it was the worst Christmas they’d ever had. The embarrassment and social awkwardness of eating different food to everyone else can be hugely debilitating for those with dysphagia and, as a result, isolation among those with the condition increases.
Lesley explains their naivety following the impact treatment had on Andy’s diet: “We were struggling to find something different every day that he could eat, as it needed to be this really smooth consistency. We mentioned it to the hospital team, and they said to give Wiltshire Farm Foods a call, as they do all sorts.”
The range and variety of meals really impressed Andy. Having endured liquidised food for so long, returning to solid food was a revelation: “It helped tremendously to build up the calories I needed on a daily basis. I’m a curry man, I love a curry. I’m not able to eat a proper one yet, but I’ve had texture modified curry from Wiltshire Farm Foods and really enjoyed it.”
Since discovering Wiltshire Farm Foods, the couple hasn’t looked back. Their lifestyle has changed dramatically as they’re now able to have enjoy mealtimes again: Andy will put a meal in the microwave and Lesley will cook for herself so it’s all timed and they can enjoy their respective dishes together.
“As Andy’s become stronger and been able to eat more, we’ve received lots of advice from Wiltshire Farm Foods, as they’ve recommended different meals for us. We’ve been going back on a weekly basis. The food’s good, the staff are great. From my point of view, it couldn’t have been any better.”
Watch Andy's full story here
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