Chemo friendly

So, my mum is once again battling breast cancer. After 13 years in remission (yep, just about long enough to make you believe that it has gone for, actually, ever) the horrid, HORRID thing is back. And mum is having her second round of chemotherapy. Which means she’s got a fairly miserable few months ahead of her.

Consequently, anything I can do to brighten her days I am one hundred, million per cent in favour of. And my favourite discovery so far is the Chemo Cookery Club books.

Chemo Cookery Club

Chemo Cookery Club’s gin and tonic ice creams

I mean, one of books (entitled Around the Kitchen Table) even includes a recipe for gin and tonic ice creams! You don’t haaave to be having chemo to make these, obviously, and while many people suffering from cancer can’t have alcohol, there can be few better ways to perk up your spirits (and soothe a sore throat and mouth) than these in the middle of a course of chemo.

I think the Chemo Cookery Club books may well become my new go to recipe books…

Around the Kitchen Table is available as a free download. Go to to find out more or to download your copy.


One thought on “Chemo friendly

  1. Hi Katy

    I am Penny’s husband, Simon, so I have to admit to some bias but you are right the books are wonderful and the perfect companion for anyone especially those undergoing treatment. I was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer in October 2009 and had an operation to remove a tumour the size of a grapefruit. I underwent some pretty heavy duty chemo in early 2010 and it was whilst I was undergoing the treatment that I met Penny in a local pub. She was a real foodie and was just embarking on a new career writing cookery books. I explained to her the difficulties I was facing and that must be faced by other cancer patients. These being that whilst there was plenty of information out there about food and nutrition, a lot of it was conflicting. Macmillan did provide me with an information sheet of do’s and don’t’s but not how to turn the do’s into food that was actually edible.

    Chemo is specifically designed to attack the fastest growing cells in your body which means that as well as the cancer it attacks your hair follicles and your nails. It also, more importantly, attacks your digestive tract and taste buds. Food becomes tasteless and bland. You also have to cope with the other side-effects like nausea and lethargy and generally feeling unwell. When I met Penny I was living alone and not being a cook, was living mainly off pasties and baked beans with lashings of HP sauce to enhance the flavours. Not good! Penny took up the challenge and set out to create a diet for me that was nutritious and that I could actually taste.

    The diet was very much everyday dishes but with a delicious twist that enhanced the flavours that cut through the metal mouth I seemed to be suffering from permanently. I fell in love with food all over again and of course with the lovely cook.

    My cancer returned with avengence in October 2010 and I was given 18 months to live, there was the outside chance of an operation but it was literally a chance in a million. The problem was that the cancer had spread to the lining of my liver, the peritoneum. So I was faced with palliative care and declining health. I started on yet another course of chemotherapy and then was referred to a surgeon who was ‘minded’ to operate but in the end said ‘no sorry you need more chemo’. So yet more chemo. This new tour resulted in me getting sepsis which is usually fatal. On three occasions Penny was told I wouldn’t make it through the night. But three times I did make it and battled on. By the time I recovered I was down to under eight stone. A walking skeleton.

    Penny set about building me up again so I was well enough to go through the chemo and be considered for an operation. I recovered my weight and fitness to a surprising degree and was told in May 2012 that I was fit enough for the surgeons to try and save my life. I had weeks to live as the cancer was now preventing one of kidneys from working and would soon be blocking my bowel.

    They had no set plan when they operated. The only plan really was to open me up do what they could and then zip me up again. There were 12 surgeons and the operation lasted 12 hours. I was under for about 20 hours or so. When I woke up the surgeons told me they had removed my right kidney, duodenum, gall bladder and half my pancreas. The surgeons were delighted with the way it had gone and told me that they had only just operated in time. Apprarently it was a world first, at the age of 56 I was finally a world record holder!

    I was out of hospital in 8 weeks and amazed the surgeons with the speed of my recovery. I would actually have been home within 3 weeks if my stomach hadn’t decide to go into sleep mode following the trauma of the op. The surgeons were adamant that without Penny’s diet and food regime I would not have been able to cope with the operation. Whilst I was in hospital, Penny would arrive at about 8.30 in the morning and stay with me until about 6. She would sit there on her laptop writing the recipes for ‘Chemo Cookery Club’ which was snapped up by a publisher and launched in April 2013.

    Today, two years after my operation I am still clear of cancer and my surgeons are optimistic but as you have found out with your mother, there are no guarantees and we take each day as it comes. Chemo Cookery Club is the best selling cancer food book and has been since its launch and it has now, after an extensive review, been added to the Macmillan core list of essential reading. It is basically the food bible for all chemo and cancer patients. Not only are the recipes delicious, I have of course tried them all many times, but each recipe has a very easy to understand nutritional ‘thumbs up’ guide which tells you the nutritional value of every dish. This simple guide has received huge compliments from everyone especially those in the medical profession.

    In 2013, Eisai the Japanese pharmaceutical company came calling. They were producing a cook book for breast cancer patients and the lady who was doing it was too unwell to finish it. They loved Chemo Cookery Club and asked Penny to write a book for their patient welfare programme which could go out free to all. Penny called in Barbara Parry the nturitionist we consulted for Chemo Cookery Club and who is one of only two registered cancer dieticians specialising in breast cancer in the whole country. The result is Around the Kitchen Table. It has been a huge success and Penny, Barbara and I spend many days travelling around the UK giving talks and demos.

    We are both so sorry to hear about your mother and are doing shinto dances for her. The main thing is to ensure that she keeps her nutritional and calorie intake as high as possible. When I was struggling Penny would serve me whatever I fancied that day even if it was just beans on toast or a bowl of chips (potatoes are surprisingly nutritious). We have a saying “an empty calorie is still a calorie”.

    The gin and tonic ice lollies are fantastic. They are delicious and as you point out they are so helpful for sore throats. They also act as an appetiser. Don’t worry about the alcohol, most of it, if not all, burns off during the cooking process. We were told about them by Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett when he was CEO of Marie Curie. Apparently their hospices have chefs working 24/7 who will provide whatever food the patients ask for. By far the most requests are for gin and tonic ice lollies!

    I am sorry for the long response but I have so much to say on the subject. Please feel free to contact Penny direct via the website with any nutrition questions you have.

    Best wishes


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