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Published on October 05, 2017

When you need to make a 3,000-calorie dish of mac and cheeseWhen you need to make a 3,000-calorie dish of mac and cheese

As a two-time cancer survivor, I have experienced the often debilitating effects of cancer treatment that can include a lack of appetite, change in taste buds and nausea. When I did have short bouts of strength to research healthy foods, I was still faced with the overwhelming task of getting to the grocery store to shop.

I often wished I could have spoken with a dietician to ask questions and have resources available at my fingertips.

Beginning next year, cancer patients going through treatment at the Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center at Cape Cod Hospital and the Clark Cancer Center at Falmouth Hospital will have access to a dietician and resources to support and guide them through the challenges of those side effects.

“I am very excited that we will finally have this nutrition program for our patients,” said Rebecca Robke, executive director of Oncology and Urgent Care Services at Cape Cod Healthcare. “It will be a vital service for them and their families.”

The American Cancer Society Inc.  gave the $80,000, one-time, grant to Cape Cod Healthcare last month.

“We’re thrilled to support Cape Cod Healthcare in its work to identify and respond to the needs of the community,” said Theresa Freeman, director of communications, Northeast Region, American Cancer Society, Inc.  “The American Cancer Society is giving a grant to Cape Cod Healthcare to help cancer patients and caregivers reduce barriers to receiving access to cancer treatment and supportive services. This grant is made possible through the fundraising efforts from the Compass of Hope Gala on Cape Cod with next one set for October 14.”

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Robke has already set plans in motion for the program.

“I’m hoping to have the nutritional program started by the New Year and my goal is to have a nutritionist on-site at the Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center, four-days-a-week in the first year,” she said.

The program will begin at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth patients will be referred to Cape Cod Hospital for nutritional services, according to Robke. She will re-evaluate that plan once the impact on patient care and overall need for nutritional services is known.

Enlisting The Community

One of the more exciting aspects of the program will be personalized shopping. Rory Eames, president of Organic Markets Cape Cod, has offered her stores’ services to help patients or patients’ family members pick out foods that are nutritional and appropriate for the patient, said Robke.

“If our dietician gives patients or family members some dietary information, they may not quite understand or need help with purchasing certain foods, and they will be able to contact Eames to make an appointment for assistance,” she said.

Organic Markets, with stores in Mashpee Commons, Dennis Port and Chatham, will also offer a discount or special incentives to patients to help make nutritious foods affordable.

While this is the first store she has approached, Robke is looking forward to collaborating with other retailers in the area.

“Our theme is Cape Codders caring for Cape Codders, which is why I am approaching local markets, first,” she said.

While the program won’t necessarily be part of all patients’ treatment plans, there will be many who will benefit from this program.

“We had about 1,500 cancer patients last year and not all of them needed nutritional services,” said Robke. What we do know is that 15-20 percent of cancer patients experience malnutrition and that number actually increases to 80 to 90 percent for patients with advanced disease. This program will be very important for our patients with head and neck cancer. Our goal is to introduce nutrition early on in the treatment.”