Posted on March 10, 2014
Our first Food for Health course was held during 8-9 March. Read a review of the course...
I was, in fact, apprehensive about the weekend. When I had heard Sheila Dillon talking on The Food Programme about how little nutritional advice there was out there for people following a cancer diagnosis and treatment, this had struck a chord. A bit of research and a lot of luck led me to Kelly McCabe, a dietician (dieticians are registered to practice in the NHS after rigorous training) of such knowledge, compassion and lightness of touch that her weekend with us flew by in a cloud of information, laughter, good food and discussion.
Kelly brought along her colleague Veronica Mai Dick and a stack of helpfully printed out information. We were a mixed bunch of course participants, all of whom had had cancers of various different types, all of us eager to get real information. Some of us were shy and some of us were bouncy, but the group somehow gelled and everybody's different experience was respected.
The shape of the two days was that Kelly and Veronica went through a structured presentation of the nutritional and lifestyle guidelines unpicking the best ways to eat and exercise after cancer. If that sounds dry and goody goody nothing could have been further from the case. Kelly took every question seriously and explained things that we had never had the opportunity to ask during treatment. Who knew that you could take too many anti-oxidants? Who knew exactly what an anti-oxidant is? We learned about our fatigue and how to beat it, muscle composition, what to eat if your taste is altered by treatment, how to avoid the pitfalls of too much choice in the supermarket, how two Brazil nuts a day really are protective for prostate cancer and how to read food 'research' articles with an educated and sceptical eye. We walked in the school's beautiful grounds, we cooked up delicious and healthy food, we realised that you don't have to be good at science to understand the basic information about inflammatory processes, and that we can make small changes that will give us a better chance of living healthily.
This is a brilliant course for anybody post cancer; doctors, carers, friends and relations as well as the person who has had cancer. The great luxury is to have the time to think with, ask questions to and learn from such informed and responsible and practitioners.