This website uses cookies to measure and enhance the website's performance. More information on cookies, how they are used and Nutricia's cookies policy can be found here. By clicking 'Proceed' you are confirming you have read this statement.

  • Keith's Story

  • "When I was diagnosed with cancer, nutrition was the last thing on my mind"

    Keith, 45, faced throat cancer.

  • Keith and Sam have been married for 21 years.

    Keith found out he had cancer in 2009. He had been to the doctors about a lump in his neck but was told it was probably just a sore throat, despite presenting with the same symptoms for nearly 6 months. It wasn’t until he bumped into a friend who is a consultant that he finally got to see a hospital specialist. Within two weeks he was told he had throat, tongue and tonsil cancer. 

    The diagnosis came as a real shock and from day one it meant immediate changes to their lifestyle. They planned for the worst. Keith went into organising mode, getting all their finances and bills in order, because he knew his health would go downhill very quickly once treatment started.

    Sam remembers that the cancer itself didn’t make Keith ill; he seemed to be in good health. It was the treatment that really hit him. Watching Keith's health decline was terrible for her.

    Best chance possible

    They were informed by their dietitian about nutritional support from the word go, even though they had previously not thought to consider it. They just didn’t realise they would need it.

  • When you’re diagnosed, it’s the last thing on your mind. But by the end of it, you realise that the hospital based stuff – radiotherapy, chemotherapy, it’s important treatment …but without nutrition you can go down so quickly.

  • Keith in particular never thought that he wouldn’t be able to eat and fully planned to continue as normal. However, it wasn’t long before he woke up one morning and could no longer swallow. It was a real shock for Keith, and he was quickly fitted with a feeding tube.

    The feeding tube stayed in for 6 months.

  • “After 6 months of tube feeding, my body lost the ability to swallow – everything wanted to go down my windpipe. You have to retrain yourself to swallow – and you start with liquids.”

  • Fighting back

  • “There were three parts to my treatment: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and nutrition.”

  • Sam and Keith kitchen crop

    When it was time to start back on food, he was given a nutritional programme to follow, which involved nutritional supplements.

  • “My dietitian said I had to have approximately 3,500 calories a day to increase my body weight – that maintaining my weight would give my body the best chance.”

  • “I was trying to live on soups and custard but my dietitian said that there wasn’t enough nourishment in those things – you can’t survive on that.”

  • “I started taking [nutritional supplements], and gradually started swallowing more easily”

  • Keith and Sam with bikes

    Sam implemented a routine whereby she got up in the morning, brought Keith his nutritional supplement and made sure he drank it. It was a struggle at first because of his swallowing difficulties.

  • “When you don’t swallow for 3, 6 months, your body forgets how to do it. I found it very difficult. But in the end I found I really liked the taste of it and it went down very well.”

  • Hope for the future

    Keith started using nutritional supplements for several months after he began a normal diet, and phased them out once he felt confident they had done their job; once he and his dietitian felt that he could eat sufficiently to get the right nutrition and enough calories to sustain a healthy weight. Afterwards, he used his remaining bottles as a top-up if he ever felt he needed it, for example on days when his appetite wasn’t great.

    Keith and Sam in garden

    Keith and Sam believe people should never underestimate the importance of nutrition in cancer.

  • “When I chat with [other cancer sufferers], the first thing I say is “watch your weight”.