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Cancer Patients: Eating properly can help your recovery

Cancer Patients: Eating properly can help your recoveryCancer treatments are bad news for your body. So what you eat is key to a healthy recovery. The local Heimerdinger Foundation runs an amazing ‘Meals 4 Health and Healing’ program to help cancer survivors get better, quicker. Katharine Ray, the Foundation’s Executive Director, explains how it works and how it helped one local Cancer survivor.

The Heimerdinger Foundation’s Meals 4 Health and Healing program not only dishes up nutrient-rich foods each week for its clients, but also tucks in a lot of love for the cancer journey. Breast cancer survivor, Leslie Cole, knows firsthand the healing power of this program, now in its 5th year of serving patients from Davidson and Williamson County who are in treatment – and their caregivers.

Leslie says, “My breast cancer was diagnosed in January this year. In February, I had a mastectomy and in March started chemotherapy. It was, of course, a huge shock to me and my husband. Volunteers from The Heimerdinger Foundation delivered meals to my front door from March through the end of my most difficult chemo in late July. What a relief it was to have healthy foods!”

Each week, volunteer teens and adults prepare eight dishes per person for up to 60 individuals. A typical food bag includes two to three healthy organic proteins such as chicken, cod, or salmon; grain proteins such as quinoa and millet; lentils and organic vegetables; rich leafy greens; and nutritious soups – all anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting foods endorsed by the American Institute for Cancer Research for people seeking anti-cancer foods. The program’s signature weekly dish is a golden mineral broth made from cooked, organic root vegetables.

“At times during chemo, I couldn’t chew and only wanted liquids. The mineral broth was delicious and helped me, especially when I was nauseated or had sores in my mouth,” says Leslie.

Leslie says her oncologist asked her to eat a plant-based diet with occasional organic chicken or fish and to avoid dairy, which was a huge transition for her. “Through Meals 4 Health and Healing, there were so many new things like nut cheeses, fish dishes, and veggie dishes that were tasty. My favorite foods from the program were the organic black bean soup, the vegetarian moussaka, and the zucchini pancakes. These food deliveries helped me and my husband because neither of us was prepared to make new recipes, cook new food, or figure out dairy alternatives. I was not even up for cooking much at all!”

In addition to their “food as medicine” approach, Meals 4 Health and Healing wraps a caring community around participants in its program. Weekly greeting cards in food bags, calls from a volunteer Client Liaison, and weekly deliveries of nourishing and flavorful food by a Delivery Angel add a personal touch. While the program is free of charge for the first 12 weeks, the value of participation in the program is inestimable and the intangible gifts are priceless.

“I felt so loved and supported by the people working with The Heimerdinger Foundation. Each week I got a thoughtful card tucked in the food bag. I also got a weekly text asking if I had received the food and if everything was okay. And the lovely woman who delivered the food was very kind. She would leave the food in a cooler when I felt too bad to come to the door. I appreciated deliveries or texts where I didn’t always have to socialize. I just felt too tired.”

As Leslie says, “Cancer is such a surprise – a total life changer. Not only was the chemo incapacitating, but also the surgery made it difficult to use my arms to lift and carry things. The sudden incapacity is the hardest thing….suddenly needing so much help. And needing kindness. The Heimerdinger Foundation gave me help and kindness.”

Executive Director, Katharine Ray, notes that while the program’s primary focus is to provide nutrient-rich food to people during treatment, one of the hardest times of their lives, an additional priority is to educate about healthy eating for life. “We like to think this program supports cancer patients during the acute phase of their diagnosis, but it can change someone’s perspective for life and make a vital difference in their survivorship too.”

“I have now changed my diet. I cook a lot more beans, lentils, whole grains, and veggies. I have my strength back to cook and to try new recipes. Five fruits and veggies a day is actually happening in our house. I am so appreciative of the help I received from The Heimerdinger Foundation,” says Leslie.

To learn more about Meals 4 Health and Healing, visit hfmeals.org or call 615-730-5632.
This unique, “home-grown” nonprofit provides organic, nutrient-rich (as well as immune-boosting and
anti-inflammatory) meals free of charge to families facing cancer. Since 2013, The Heimerdinger Foundation has served over 45,000 meals to hundreds of clients and their caregivers in the Nashville community. It has also educated hundreds of teens and adults about proper, healing nutrition for life through their Meals 4 Health and Healing organic garden, kitchen, and meal delivery program.

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