By Josh Akeman
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so Piedmont Fayette recently hosted a cooking demonstration for a colorectal cancer support group. Chef Nancy Waldeck treated the group of around thirty patients, survivors, and care givers to a delicious and healthy meal, while offering them tips on preparing a cancer-friendly meal.
The colorectal cancer support group was started by Fayetteville resident Beth Phillips, and meets monthly at Piedmont's Cancer Wellness Center. Phillips has a harrowing story of her own, from a diagnosis of stage IV colorectal cancer through a series of chemotherapy treatments and major surgeries to remove portions of her colon, liver, bladder, and kidney. Today Beth is cancer free, and she runs the support group to bring together the people that are going through the same fight she had.
Bryan Gray was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in March of last year at the age of 54.
"It was a shock," Gray says, "I felt really down. Then I came here, at that time, and I talked to people like Beth and I heard other people tell their story. They had been through the same thing and they were doing fine. It just changed everything immediately."
Bryan went through ten rounds of chemotherapy, with the hope that the spots on his liver would shrink enough to allow doctors to remove them surgically. That didn't work out, as the spots grew. Doctors then put him through another twelve rounds of different chemotherapy treatment. Bryan says by the end of those twelve rounds, the spots were no longer visible on a scan.
"It's a miracle. I feel like it is," Bryan says.
For his wife Lynn, the support group at the Piedmont Cancer Wellness Center was just as helpful as it was for Bryan. While she can't always get him to eat the healthy foods she cooks, she has relied on the advice of nutritionist Taryn Tennyson, whose services are free to any cancer patient, just as all the services at the Cancer Wellness Center are.
"We have visited the nutritionist and that's very important," Lynn says. "In the beginning he had lost a lot of weight so we thought what can he eat to gain weight? And then he had the surgery and you think, okay what can he eat to stay healthy?"
Lynn also agreed emphatically that coming to a support group meeting changed Bryan's outlook for the better.
"Absolutely. In the very beginning he wanted to kind of throw the towel in, and when he came here it completely changed him, completely changed him. This is really important, I think anybody that's been diagnosed should come to at least one meeting, I really do," Lynn says.
Not every meeting may provide as impressive a meal offering as this one did, but it could provide that perspective shift that Bryan needed.
The Cancer Wellness Center offers a range of regular activities that are free for cancer patients and survivors, whether or not they are being treated at Piedmont Fayette. Those offerings include art classes, exercise groups, nutrition workshops, stress reduction courses, and individual consultations. More information about programs and services can be found at piedmont.org/cancerwellness.
Chef Waldeck's healthy recipes are great for those that are already dealing with cancer, but we would all do well to eat healthier to reduce our cancer risk. Her recipes and healthy cooking tips can be found at www.tasteandsavor.com.
Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer (excluding skin cancer) and March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. For anyone affected by cancer, the Cancer Wellness Center offers what could be incredibly valuable resources.