Saturday 17th March 2018

Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part Two. 2018.24.

Eating After My Gum Cancer Surgery. Part Two. 2018.24.

Now where was I?

Oh yes, about my eating after cancer surgery. Part One is here.

Let me tell you this eating with only 8 teeth on the lower jaw and one tongue has called for:

  • imagination – what might that food feel like in my mouth and will it be able to break down to enable swallowing
  • care of my mouth. Yes, this mouth needs even more oral care now. So it is brushing of my teeth and rinsing with a particular mouth wash after morning and evening meals
  • shopping lists for foods I had not previously considered eating but do because of nourishment and ease of eating
  • trying to remain creative with meal choices for me while I am very restricted. It is hard and I do get frustrated but I try to remember it is not forever
  • nothing that is pre-made or take-away (boo to having to make everything from scratch) unless it is a plain cake, a scone or yoghurt.

My mouth: at least the lips seal but it remains a challenge to get any drink into it. I use a ‘squirt’ water bottle and when having a cuppa – tea of coffee – I have a serviette under my mouth. Messy Me.

As the initial months changed from me being dependent on my husband for meal-prep and shopping to me doing this for myself it did give me freer rein for creativity and independence but in some ways in was harder. My husband eats very simply but from a different meal-base to me (and it has been like that even before my cancer) so there have been few shared meals….except for that one time, before I had surgery #2 and he made a Baked Lamb Dinner…which was so soft and delicious and easy-t0-swallow the memories are fresh!



Once I learned that tiny slivers of toast do not equate with a satisfying breakfast, this long-time cereal avoider embraced weetbix and I am a two weetbix, sugar and milk girl every day.


This is mostly Morning Coffee as I go out each morning around 10.30-11 for my daily outing. See more about that here. More often than not it is just a coffee but on some occasions I can add a treat. It takes me a long time to eat some of these and I often bring part of it home.


If I have had a snack as above I will not have anything for lunch…because I will still be full and I cannot find the energy to try to decide what I will take ages to make and then ages to eat. It is true! However, I know the value of nutrition and need to give myself more credit for knowing actually what to select and eat it. The last few weeks I have found it harder as I have a 3rd surgery which has left me in some discomfort and even less room inside the mouth as a stent is in there where the implants will eventually go.

On the way home from Sydney when I saw the Professor recently my husband ate the cheese sandwich we took for him and I had a little kids’ yoghurt with the squirty-top.

Depending on how much I have eaten at lunch, this may not be anything or it might be a cup of tea with biscuits that can be dunked. Yes. Only those. I have tried a few but only these work for me: Malt biscuits, Scotch Fingers, Orange Creams. Even gave Tim Tams a go but the biscuit part was too hard for my mouth.


I have always cooked in bulk for me and for my Dad. I often made spag bol variations and beef casseroles and chicken ones too. However, I am someone who craves variety and I was O.V.E.R. anything with chicken once all of the chicken soup with vegies were done and even those with added noodles. I had low iron after surgery so determined to eat myself better (along with the iron tablets) I used red meat meals.

I made and still have in the freezer in small meal sizes for me: Beef Casserole and Veggies  along with smoothly blended mash potato & sweet potato frozen in small meal sizes to add on top. Spaghetti Bolognaise and Pasta Bake. For a change of taste, some Salmon. Cheese and Rice meals which are a comfort meal I invented ages ago. I have also cooked chicken mince with sweet and sour sauce to add to rice.


Firstly what you need to know:

I cannot bite anything.

I cannot, at the moment, completely seal my lips.

I cannot use a straw because of how my mouth has been changed.

I can put very small bite-sized pieces of suitable food into my mouth, allow them to move against my lower teeth along with some encouragement from the tongue and then when I believed they are small enough and soft enough I swallow.

I have not choked (yet) but I will always have water bottle next to me when I eat.

I use a teaspoon for eating my meals & some snacks unless it is bite-sized as above and I can use my hands.

The softer and wetter a food is, the easier it will go down.



I miss the many textures and tastes of so many foods  but I am also grateful to be able to eat after this surgery as not all of those having surgery like mine get to do that. Some have to eat permanently through their stomach or via a feeding tube. I do try to keep my whingeing to a minimum as a result.

I am so very grateful to the team who has brought me to this point. From Friday 23 February my trips to Sydney will be to Westmead Oral Restorative Services where my upper jaw implants are being planned. Currently the most recent surgery saw a large stent/mouthguard put over the area where the implants will go and it has made my mouth quite painful. Eating has been even harder.

I am over 9 months into my cancer journey and am hopeful that all that needs to be done will have occurred by the time May comes…my first year anniversary. We shall see! Meanwhile, I will be doing some more ‘out for coffee’ visits and eating as safely and nutritiously as I can.

Sunday Night Dinner: my invention…taco in a bowl!

And me on Sunday 18 February. Check out my top lip! My mouth above is swollen because of recent surgery to add more skin to my top lip (thank you) and added in there is the stent pushing the top jaw forward. Uncomfy, yes. Worth it. Hell Yes.

I hope that you have found reading both parts of my story of Eating After Gum Cancer Surgery of interest. My operations took place here at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse and the Team headed by Professor Jonathan Clark performed all three of my surgeries. I follow Head and Neck Cancer Support Australia on Facebook and Beyond Five

On Friday 23 February I visited Westmead Oral Health Services and the two men who are part of my surgical team as well, determined that I could do without the stent for the next 4 weeks and so this was good news. My photo updating the one above is here:


Unfortunately my relief was short-lived as when my surgeon saw the pictures of my gums on Monday 26 Feb he wanted the stent returned on my  visit on Thursday 1 March. At the time of publishing this post I will be two days away from having the uncomfortable hard plastic stent removed and first impressions made…..which mean teeth will take months from then but my prosthodontist says “we have to get it perfect, Denyse.” Sigh.


Linking with Kylie Purtell for I Blog on Tuesdays here, with Leanne here for Lovin’ Life Link up for Thursday’s Lovin Life Linky  and on Wednesday, with Sue here for her link up.



  1. But once it is perfect, then you’ll be set! As frustrating as it is, hang in there!!!

    • Thanks for your encouragement Lydia. This situation certainly has increased my creativity even if it is quite lengthy. I trust that the professionals looking after the reconstruction are doing the best jobs they can but that bodies are imperfect in their healing. I suspect I will be making the trek to Westmead more than I thought over the next months. Denyse x

  2. I’m pretty impressed with the range you’ve managed to find for yourself to eat. I remember being unable to use a straw as a kid when I had a fall – it’s bizarre in a way.

    • Thank you. Blessed with a creative mind I guess it part of it. I have found walking around the supermarket has helped me come up with ideas too. Today I have made a version of Pork San Bok Choy using the meat, the seasoning and blended veges (the slaw vegies, cooked and pulverised) and some 2 minute noodles. As my iron has dropped back a bit again, my GP wants me back on the tablets but I am also getting back into cooking…mince (beef) too is the only way I can get meat.
      As for the straws, in hospital I was offered a straw when I was recovering and yep, gave it a go…then told the nurse, hey I can’t use a straw. As a kid it must have felt strange too!
      Denyse x

  3. You’re incredibly inventive with your food Denyse! I know it’s frustrating but thank goodness it won’t be a permanent situation. Perhaps you could put all your inventions and discoveries together into a cookbook for others going through a similar surgery/experience? You’re very brave – one step at a time and soon you will have your wonderful smile back and be eating a wonderful assortment of different textured foods! 🙂 xo

  4. Thanks so much Min. I have to have variety and nutritious food so I literally have made some of these dishes up. Yes, that might be a point to share what I have done. I am still a work-in-progress for some months yet and I think even with the first set of teeth (the real implants won’t be straight away) that is going to take some getting used to. I “may” know more after tomorrow’s visit to the prosthodontist at Westmead Oral Services. Denyse x

  5. What a journey. I love the way you tell it, honestly and with some humour. Good luck to you and I hope you continue to progress.
    Do you have a Crock Pot? If not, get one! It an easy way to make home cooked meals, and the meat comes out very, very tender. It may make eating a little more joyful, and less work?.

    • Thanks Cherie, I do make an effort to tell the truth but with a reality check and a bit of fun too! We only just recently made a batch of beef casserole/stew in the slow cooker and I have a pile of these ready in the freezer for both me and my husband. With the iron deficiency being found again I have had a bit of cook up these past few days and I have 4 different meals in bulk in the freezer for me to defrost and eat.
      Denyse x

  6. Denyse you are doing amazingly well – you’ve been through so much and you handle it all with absolute grace. After my couple of hospital visits and ops recently I am very aware of how tired and out of sorts it has made me – you are such a great example of how to cope and to do it with a smile (the best one you can manage with your stent in!)
    Thanks for linking up with us at #MLSTL and I’ve shared this on my SM xx

    • Thanks Leanne, and I hope you can feel better soon too. Being unwell & into hospital a couple of times is a shock to the system emotionally and physically so wishing you a good recovery.
      Tomorrow I am to the prosthodontiist in Westmead Sydney & have my audible books ready to listen to as it is very boring lying in the chair for a long time while intricate stuff is happening in my mouth. Even though it is unlikely to hurt, it is boring and with two people and instruments inside my mouth I would rather close my eyes and listen to be distracted!
      Denyse x

  7. I think we don’t realize the importance of food in our lives until something happens to disrupt our eating. Eating not only nourishes us but it is a social activity. Bless your heart this has to be a hard time in the process. Prayers for your continued recovery.

    • Thank you so much Victoria. I guess the thing about the ‘human condition’ is that with some thought and time we can make adaptations to your lives. In terms of this food and nutrition issue of mine, I “know” there will be an outcome where I will again have all the teeth I need and not all post-cancer treatment patients have this.

      So, I am, for a not-that-patient person doing what I can to care for myself whilst also understanding this process takes time for my body to heal and be ready for the wonderful people who are making the ‘mouth inside’ that I need to eat with!

      Denyse x

  8. Frustrating Denyse, but I’m sure you’re working with your team to get things right for the long term. On the subject of food though, you seem to be doing really well and keeping things really varied. Your diet looks healthy and interesting. I’m so glad you go out for an ‘outing’ each day. You’re an inspiration on so many counts – I must try to get away from this computer more!

    • Thanks so much Jo. I was getting ‘lonely’ and needing something MORE in my life once my initial physical recovery (from the major 11 hour surgery in July) was complete. I “had” to care for myself again and started to enjoy the going to the shops that I had not for over 3 years. It is quite a long story but essentially ‘to have something to dress well for, to go out and to have a coffee with or without treat’ has been of great benefit to my emotional health.

      Your comments are wonderfully supportive! Happy 60th again too! I remember mine well…it was in 2009!

      Denyse x

  9. When you do get your perfect new teeth you will so appreciate them and never take them for granted like a lot of other people would!


    I also just want to let you know Denyse that I really find it inspiring the way you are handling your cancer and treatment. I think the medical teams should be sharing your blog with other patients starting similar cancer journeys. You really seem like an amazing woman!

    • So true Ingrid and after the 2.5 hours I spent in the chair at Westmead Oral Services this morning I understand even more how this needs to be right. I have at least another 3 visits over this month and next and the goal will be to have ‘false teeth implanted’ but not the ones what will be my permanent ones. I think more time has to elapse as the mouth is continuing to change inside.

      Your comments are very kind. My Professor and his nurse who is part of my surgical team already know about the blog and Cate, the nurse, has read all of the posts which I have put as links in the header on my page. They have both recommended that their organisation called Beyond Five take my experiences and share them on their pages. I shall wait and see what comes of that too.

      I have been taking photos of each person who has helped me professionally since May 2017 and one day there will be a post of appreciation too!

      Denyse x

  10. Wow you seem to have worked out a real variety of food you can eat. Thank you for sharing your experience with us all, I am sure you will help others in a similar situation.

    • Thanks Anne, when I look at it here I can see I am probably feeding myself better than before! Amazing how the body tells us ‘protein now, please’ …well mine is doing that! But I cannot just go and buy something, I have to make it and have it be edible for me at this stage.

      Denyse x

  11. thank you for sharing your journey on your blog. Your food looks delicious. I’m sure you get millions of suggestions but I’ll add mine here. My favourite food at the moment is overnight oats with chia seeds, yogurt and mashed banana. It’s nutritious and delicious.
    There’s also an Indian go-to dish of rice and pulses – all boiled together into a mush – it’s called khichri – you may enjoy that too. Good luck and I love your attitude – that it isn’t forever.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words and your ideas. I would love to try some things with oats etc but I need to be very cautious at this point as little pieces can play havoc with my ability to swallow. Yes I do make some all in one rice dishes with tinned salmon, cream cheese (for the smoothness) and well grated cheese and I enjoy that.

      Denyse x

  12. Gosh Denyse what a tumultuous 9 month journey you’ve been on. I can imagine your frustration with food. I couldn’t chew or bite anything for a few months after I had my dental implants placed, but at least I had back teeth to help out. Hopefully at the end of your surgeries you will once again be able to chew food and have a lot more variety back in your diet. You have made remarkable progress. #TeamLovinLife

    • Thanks so much Kathy. Your story about your implants makes me wonder how gradual my return to eating and chewing will need to be. I am sure there will be lots of guidance. I am having a lower denture made to clip onto my 8 lower teeth so that might help. The first ‘teeth’ I get will be a temporary prosthesis which the prosthodontist will attach to my abutments. I am getting better at waiting to see how it all pans out so am not buying the chips just yet …LOL! Denyse x

  13. Gosh, So many lifestyle changes. Personally, I love TACO IN A BOWL! In fact, it’s my taco of choice. Can’t wait to hear what your first “normal” meal will be though. Make sure you PM me a photo please! #teamlovinlife

    • Indeed there have been and they have all come back to me to make the decisions about nutrition and enjoyment of food. However, in hospital the dietitian visited me three times (as they do at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse) and discussed options for when I returned home. I was given a lot of helpful literature and some samples of protein drinks. Unfortunately back home, my gut could not cope with those drinks and it was at my GP’s suggestion that I eat what I can and like. THAT was a turning point.

      However, it does put all the onus on me. I don’t mind cooking but there are days when a takeaway or ready to eat meal would go down well.

      I am low in iron again, hence a meat meal (mince of high quality) most days. I am back on iron tablets.

      The words I do recall the dietitian saying when she agreed I could ‘eat cake’ was to add some nutritional value too such as yoghurt or custard. I do that at times.

      They don’t want a head and neck cancer patient to lose weight…because eating and drinking is problematic for more reasons than mine…so for the first time in my life I can eat more of the cream and pikelets/scones with jam as I can get it down. I “don’t” want to put on more weight, so now, almost 10 months since diagnosis, the fitbit is back on and I am getting in a min of 5K steps a day.

      My first meal…is likely to be crunchy toast with butter and marmalade with a cup of tea!!

      Denyse x

  14. Heavy sighs indeed at the update. Looking back through your posts you’ve made remarkable progress, but I can only imagine just how much you want to really taste something again. I look forward to seeing the pic of that meal!

    • A little more light is appearing at the end of the tunnel after another long time in the prosthodontist chair today. He took impressions for the beginning of the first set of prosthetic teeth for the top. Because my mouth is still somewhat swollen and still moving about a bit, this takes time. I will be down to Westmead 3 more times till almost the end of April.

      Now that I am driving myself (too much for B to sit and wait for my treatment and I no longer need the support I did) to Westmead I listen to podcasts and audiobooks and it’s OK.

      My first meal, as I said to Leanne is likely to be crunchy toast with butter and marmalade! I miss breakfasts like that.

      Denyse x

  15. Shane about the Tim Tams but hey… Lemon Meringue Pie! I love that final photo of you at Westmead. You’re looking strong, vital and so happy!

    SSG xxx

    • I know! In fact I have been searching for pre-made flans that I got from Coles…none and then Woolies had some so I intend to make 3 (yes 3!) pies this weekend as I already know I can freeze slices of the pie and it’s good. I love that pic too..pity I did have to return to have the stent put back but I can see the confidence in that pic that I thought I had lost! Denyse x

Denyse values & reads every comment written, thank you. There is always a reply.