Between chemotherapy, hospital visits and the hundreds of other things on a cancer patient's mind, nutrition isn't always a top priority. But eating right can make a world of difference for those in treatment - if they have the energy to eat at all.
A new study by the Cancer Nutrition Consortium shows there's a strong need for better nutrition among cancer patients. It also found eating better can increase a patient's quality of life while they undergo treatment.
The Consortium, comprising seven cancer centers worldwide – including La Crosse’s Mayo Health Clinic - is now pushing to provide nutritional information and recipes that are easier for cancer patients to tackle. That push includes a website that La Crosse native Kathy Bakalars uses daily to browse for lunch ideas.
“It’s just a wealth of knowledge,” Bakalars said of the site.
She was diagnosed with colon cancer in late August. As an avid cook, Bakalars naturally turned to food for comfort – but not the typical comfort carbs.
"I kind of put my battle plan together,” she said, remembering the day of her diagnosis. "You want to attack this thing from every different angle."
Today, she's attacking from her kitchen, with weapons like pots and pans, and tomatoes and peppers – her favorite, she says, because of their vibrant colors. Back in August, Bakalars met with a dietician to learn how best to approach nutrition during cancer treatments. Now, she checks back frequently, and in between, she uses the consortium’s website.
"The biggest thing for cancer patients is the fatigue, and the fact we can't stand there for a really long time and cook,” she said as she puts together a skewer of peppers and meat in her kitchen. “So elaborate meals are not something that we do."
According to research done by the Cancer Nutrition Consortium, fatigue is a top concern among cancer patients when it comes to eating right. The website offers meal options that are simple and quick, the perfect answer for someone who tires easily.
“The recipes are really focusing on symptoms patients experience, so we’re looking at recipes that are easy to prepare, are nutrient-dense, things that don’t produce as much odor,” said Kathy Oslund, dietetic supervisor at Mayo.
They’re helping to make a difference in Bakalars’ road to recovery.
"I feel so good,” she said. “It makes me feel good that I’m doing everything I possibly can, including putting healthy things in my body. It makes me feel like I'm doing everything I can do to beat this thing."
The recipe website is just the beginning of the consortium’s nutrition work for patients. Find out more about the resources it offers at cancernutritionconsortium.org.