A friend reached out to me recently asking me what resources related to food and nutrition exist out there for a friend with cancer. I got that same text a few months ago from another friend whose family member was diagnosed with cancer. Sadly, it is a message that I have seen before and will continue to see.
I have the same initial response to several of these types of messages I get and I’ll share with you today what I say and gently offer.
First of all, in my experience having run group nutrition classes in the past for prostate cancer patients (much of post-cancer nutrition advice is similar across most cancer types), experience I had long ago in bone marrow transplant, and in the integrative cancer coursework I have done, the over-arching theme is that nutrition is ADJUNCT guidance especially DURING treatment phase.
It isn’t discussed or given much thought to by conventional medicine because the immediacy needed to medically treat such scary unwanted news is the high priority. Just the initial shock, the appointments, the overwhelming literature and resources out there—people are not in a place to discuss food as medicine right away and neither would I be. Naturally, it comes more into play in cancer rehab or post-acute treatment phases and I have used a protocol given to me by an integrative oncologist for this very purpose (another topic for another day).
It doesn’t mean however, that caregivers/friends don’t want to take the reign or the emotional burden of “food as medicine” for cancer. We don’t quite know much about food as medicine for current cancer states and of course this has to be at the discretion of the person’s doctor but when you as a friend or family member of someone going through this is wondering “What Can I Do?” —often the first thing that comes up is signing up for a meal train.
You may opt to give a homemade casserole for comfort food or you may opt to try for nutrient-density or you may be feeding the person’s immediate family. Whatever it may be, it is love that is in your homemade food and that is what matters above the individual ingredients in it. So don’t think too much about “the right recipe”. Just being there for our family and friends is a recipe for healing.
However if you do need ideas here is a most-excellent cookbook to cook out of by an amazing chef whose food I did have at a nutrition conference some years ago.