Cooking on Chemo: Teaching Patients How to Make Tasty, Healthy Meals
Cook For Your LIFE Offers Free Lessons at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge
March is National Nutrition Month, but Ann Ogden Gaffney of Cook For Your LIFE celebrates healthy eating year round. Once a month – every month – she packs up her herbs and spices and heads over to the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge. As she begins to set up in the main kitchen, a small crowd of roughly 20 guests, both cancer patients and caregivers, gathers around her. For the next two hours these will be her students, and she will teach them how to make a healthy, simple meal, free of charge.
For Hope Lodge guests, Ann's monthly lessons can be invaluable. It is critically important for individuals battling cancer to eat a nutritious diet, as patients must consume foods that will minimize the nutritional deficiencies and the side effects caused by cancer and its treatment. But eating well is difficult when you're healthy, let alone when you're exhausted by chemotherapy and nauseated by most smells or tastes. Ann knows this first hand, as she is a breast and kidney cancer survivor.
"My ability to cook healthy meals for myself was a major factor in my recovery. That’s why I started Cook For Your LIFE. I want to be sure that others battling cancer are equipped with these skills," says Ann, who has been cooking since she was a little girl.
Most of Ann’s recipes center around fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on fresh, organic ingredients. She avoids processed foods, cleans ingredients thoroughly to eliminate bacteria, and prepares meals using healthy cooking methods. On warm weather days, Ann takes her students to the Union Square Greenmarket to choose their ingredients themselves.
Another goal of the class is to ensure that the recipes are as simple as possible. While many patients understand the importance of healthy eating, some don't have the energy to prepare complex meals due to the fatigue caused by treatment. For this reason, Ann keeps her recipes to as few steps as possible.
"Chemo is exhausting. Patients often choose to order greasy take-out instead of cooking for themselves, and it breaks my heart," says Ann. "These recipes can be completed in very few steps. They are perfect for anyone undergoing treatment, and can be frozen for use on those days when chemo fatigue is at it's worst."
Ann's lessons are hands-on, with each student responsible for a different element of the meal based on their skill set. Recipes are developed around a monthly theme, with past themes including "healing spices", "warming soups ", and "healthy Asian ". Afterwards, students and teacher sit down together, eat the meal they've prepared and share stories.
To learn more about cancer and nutrition or to read about the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge, please visit cancer.org. If you would like to learn more about Ann and Cook For Your LIFE, please visit cookforyourlife.org.
About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.