Happily Hungry: Kids with Cancer Cook!

September 10, 2013

It’s my new favorite soup, Mom. It tastes like someone is taking care of me.

We were sitting around the dinner table like many other families. But we weren’t like any other family because a few months prior, we received the devastating diagnosis that Fabien, our 11-year-old, had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Stage III.

Fabien’s words, simple and sweet, took on a new meaning for me. Having survived the ravages of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, he was left more ill as a result of the cancer treatment than when he was diagnosed. My motherly instincts did the best they could to feed him during the treatment but those instincts worked even harder after it ended. The treatment stopped the disease, but in its wake began the healing process—physical and psychological. I navigated this by feeding my young cancer survivor homemade broths, soups, vegetables, dishes from ancient times and modern times, all in an effort to rebuild his tired, worn and depressed body. That challenging period of our lives is now nine years behind us. Today, Fabien is a college graduate and I went back to school to earn a masters degree in holistic nutrition. I’ve developed a unique program at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, where he was treated, that focuses on helping pediatric cancer patients and their families make better nutrition choices. Now a grant-funded program, “Cooking for Cancer” combines fun, interactive cooking demonstrations with counseling and educating about healthy eating during and after cancer treatment. From this effort, a book was created, Happily Hungry: Smart Recipes for Kids with Cancer, which I published last fall. These kid-friendly, nutrient-dense recipes have been kid-tested and approved by our clinic patients and blessed by Pediatric Hematology Oncology director Dr. Aziza Shad. I have found great comfort and satisfaction in transferring our experience into a program that has such a positive impact on families facing their own crisis. A child’s cancer diagnosis is a nightmare, leaving parents feeling powerless and with little control of the situation. Cooking for your child enables some control and helps channel positive energy. Flavor, smell, color, texture and the hidden gems of optimal nutrition must come together and begin the magical powers of healing.

We’re extremely proud of Danielle’s remarkable healing work — and not just because she is a Food As Medicine graduate! To learn more about her book, visit www.happilyhungry.com and watch Danielle’s Today Show interview to learn more about her work and her story.