Nutritional Care - A Matter of Taste and Survival
Nutritional care is yet another part of the comprehensive range of services at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.
Holly Gardner, RD
Holly Gardner, a registered and licensed dietitian at the center, said food and nutrition are key components in the fight against cancer. That’s why she reviews the needs and case of every patient treated at the center.
“Nutrition plays a vital role in tolerance, maintaining weight, and if a patient loses too much weight, they have to adjust their chemotherapy regimen,” Gardner said. “I tell patients, ‘Food is medicine.’ We consider food pleasurable, something we eat with family and friends, but when you’re feeling bad, it goes to the wayside. They don’t feel well, they’re overwhelmed and they have a lot of anxiety. It’s a downward spiral.”
Gardner helps then them find solutions to food-related issues they experience during their treatment.
"As part of our screening, we monitor their weight trend, their intake, estimate of their nutritional needs, if they're losing weight, how to help them read their protein and calorie goals," Gardner said.
For patients having trouble swallowing, she offers resources such as homemade shake and smoothie recipes, or nutritional-supplement drinks. Owensboro Health Foundation further supports her work by paying some of the cost related to supplement drinks and other items. If patients experience changes in how they taste foods (a common side effect of chemotherapy), she has charts and other resources that can offer patients alternative ways to flavor foods so they can still enjoy what they eat.
“We have a food-first approach. We want you to eat your normal diet for as long as possible,” Gardner said.
Along with all of the other ingredients and capabilities, the center has a recipe for comprehensive cancer treatment, she said.
“I’m extremely grateful. I enjoy working with these patients. I feel like this group, they’re so willing to learn and absorb everything you have to give them because of their situation,” Gardner said.
“Bringing nutritional care services here to the cancer center, to the patients, helps them realize the importance of nutrition and provides complete care.”