Nutrition is key to living well during and after cancer

on Tuesday, 10 July 2018.

CancerCare's new dietitian offers practical advice and support

There are many things that can make a significant difference when a person has cancer and diet is an important one.


Sarah Collins, a dietitian who joined CancerCare’s therapy team as nutritional therapist, believes it’s vital to work holistically with people who have cancer.

Sarah (pictured above), also practices reflexology and Reiki and prior to working with CancerCare, she had been volunteering with the Tara Centre at the Storey Institute in Lancaster; a centre for peace and compassion.

The Tara Centre was running drop-in sessions for asylum seekers from across the world and Sarah was offering Reiki healing and reflexology.

“It really opened my eyes to how people need support and how complementary therapies can help,” says Sarah.

“I feel privileged to have been able to offer healing and compassion to people at a time in their lives when they were looking for peace. I still help out at the Tara Centre from time to time.”

Alison Dixey, CancerCare’s Head of Therapies, met with Elham Kashefi from the Tara Centre and found out about Sarah’s nutritional work.

Alison (pictured above), then asked Sarah if she would consider working for CancerCare. Sarah said ‘yes’ and is now working in all three of CancerCare’s centres Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow.

Sarah says: “When I met with Alison it felt a complete fit with what I aim to do.

“I now work with CancerCare as a part of the holistic service. I officially started in April and have been seeing people since then.”

Nutrition is a topical and often controversial subject, as Sarah explains: “There is never a shortage of people wanting to talk about nutrition. 

 

“When people find out they have cancer, diet is one of the things that they feel they are able to influence and often want to know more about what they can do to stay healthy.

“During medical treatment people find that control can be taken away or lost. However, everyone has the choice of what they eat and drink.

“It doesn’t matter what illness you have - you can improve your condition and lifestyle through what you eat.

“People are increasingly using nutrition as part of their treatment. It’s something they can do to feel better as well as be healthy.

“I think what you can do with a healthy and nutritional diet is to bring things back into balance.

“There is also the emotional impact of how food and drink affects us.

“When you’re ill, you still have to eat daily and make food choices. I’m constantly trying to help people to make healthy food choices.”

CancerCare’s clients are referred to Sarah for many reasons during and after cancer. They can also self-refer to see Sarah.

She explains: “It could be that they are not eating and they are concerned. Their family might also be concerned.

“Someone might have put on a lot of weight during or following treatment and they want to lose weight and need advice and support.

“I can share my knowledge and understanding of what they can do about improving or changing their diet.

“I can advise on the best diet for each individual to follow as there’s so much information - and a lot of misinformation - out there.

“It’s important to talk about what suits the person best. I can support them to make the best possible choices for them.”

So what happens in a nutritional therapy session?

Sarah explains: “We sit down and talk about what has brought the person to me. We look at what has led up to them coming for an appointment.

“I would ask the person what they would like to change so it’s coming from their perspective.

"We talk about how food fits into their lifestyle and what their issues are about food and their diagnosis.

“We may also discuss how stress and emotions affect them and look at any issues surrounding food.

“It’s not a case of me saying what a person has to do. I help people to understand why they do what they do and what they can do to make a healthy change.

“I look at what support they need to improve their diet and provide people with the information and knowledge they need to eat healthily.”

Sarah says food ‘myths’ can also come into play: “People often question whether you really need to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day and things like that.

“The current evidence and advice is for everyone to follow healthy eating guidelines to include as much fruit and veg as possible. The advice is for it to be predominantly a vegetable-based diet with moderate amounts of animal and vegetable protein.

“There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that one food causes cancer but there is evidence that poor diet increases the risk of developing cancer.

“Processed foods are the most obvious factors in a poor diet as they have high fat and high sugar content. They are also lacking in fibre, which is very important.

“When you are going through cancer treatment, eating habits change. Treatment may affect appetite, practicalities of attending appointments and treatment may make it more challenging to eat well.  Lots of people face challenges and emotions also affect what we eat. Ideally, you want the person to get what they need in terms of a balanced diet.

“We may focus more on protein, fat and sugary foods, or smaller meals and snacks, so people have enough energy to get through the treatment. It depends upon the individual and how the cancer and treatment is affecting them.”

Sarah explains that dietary issues can also affect family and friends.

“It can become a strain on relationships and on the family.

“Family and friends are often doing the meal provision and they want to make sure their loved one is eating well. It can become a bit of a challenge.

“In some situations every meal that turns up may become a moment of stress. It’s not uncommon to feel this and sharing my experience of working with others is often helpful, people tell me.

“Sometimes just talking about that and agreeing what is needed takes the pressure off families. I can also give advice and support to families and carers who are supporting a person with cancer.

“I use my experience and make suggestions. I would also say what has helped other people in similar situations.”

People coping with cancer often say they feel better emotionally after having sessions with Sarah.

“It can improve confidence,” she says. “Many people feel that good nutrition becomes part of their treatment and a new lifestyle.

“What they are eating sometimes becomes just as important as going for appointments. It helps give them control back.

“It also relieves some of the unknowns around cancer. People know they can do something about their food. They can take control of that, whereas they can’t always take control of things like chemotherapy.”

Most of the people Sarah has seen in her new role have also been having counselling with CancerCare or other therapies such as aromatherapy.

Sarah says: “It’s all connected. I have done a lot of training in counselling skills, psychotherapy and helping people make changes. I have my own mindfulness meditation practice and trained in mindfulness meditation so I know how important working with the mind is.  

“I also completely believe in the therapeutic powers of touch, massage and body work.

“I’m not just treating the body – I’m also helping people improve their emotional and physical wellbeing.

“If someone was telling me they felt extremely stressed I would refer them to CancerCare’s therapy team and I am looking forward to working as part of the therapies team.

“I’m also qualified in reflexology and Reiki so I can bring those techniques into my sessions, where appropriate.

“I can use Reiki and reflexology to help restore balance within the person I’m treating.”

Sarah trained as a dietitian at Leeds University in 1999. She is originally from Rochdale and now lives in Silverdale in Lancashire with her partner. 

Earlier in her career Sarah worked across the North West as a dietitian, mainly in the community.

She says: “I have always felt that there isn’t enough of a focus on prevention of diseases through diet.

“I did a stint of working in strategic roles thinking I would change the world. I worked across the whole of the North West doing quality improvement work.

“I have also been a trainer for a national children’s weight management project called MEND. I did that for four years. I trained leaders from across the country, as well as running my own team and groups. That felt as if I could contribute and it worked well for a few years.”

Following redundancy from the NHS in 2013, Sarah had some time out before taking on project management work in the NHS redesigning community services in East Lancashire.

“I have done a lot of work with patient groups around improving services for all sorts of long term conditions, including cancer services,” she says.

Going back to her roots as a dietitian has been a massive shift for Sarah.

“I got to the point where I felt I wanted to work one-to-one again,” she explains.

“Not many organisations are open to working as CancerCare does with people. I’m working with people and treating them as a whole.

“When I worked in the NHS I always tried to do this but it was often challenging. It’s become too big. In the NHS if someone has physical and mental health problems they often get seen by at least two different departments. 

“At CancerCare everyone works together with the individual.”

Sarah says all of the clients she has seen at CancerCare have wanted to make a follow-up appointment and she has had some great feedback.

“I feel they see the benefit of it,” she says. “Clients tell me they are relieved to be able to ask the questions they have struggled to find answers to.

“I’m open to anyone bringing me anything they have read to help them decipher where the research has come from and to look at the evidence.

“CancerCare is very open to new things. It means I can say what I think is helpful and enable people to make the decisions that are best for them.

“I think people like the fact that someone is listening to them and they are not being judged.

“I’ve spoken to people about how they didn't know which way to move forward.

“One woman told me she is now feeling so much better about herself. She’s feeling more confident about where she wants to be.  She’s making some really great changes to her lifestyle, her diet and activity and is not putting things off anymore.”  

Sarah says it’s never too late to start eating healthily and improving your wellbeing.

“It has long been my belief that individuals have the power to change and make the decision to eat and live healthily.

“It’s never too late. Even small changes can make a difference and I can help people to achieve that.”

For more information on CancerCare’s free therapeutic services please go to www.cancercare.org.uk, email the Therapy Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01524 381 820 and ask for the Therapy Coordination Team.

Ends

Notes for editors:

CancerCare is an independent charity dedicated to helping families affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions in North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Delivered by qualified and highly experienced staff, CancerCare’s wide range of free professional therapy services are designed to help individuals and their families come to terms with and manage the challenges of a serious health condition.

Therapies include counselling, hypnotherapy, the Alexander Technique, aromatherapy massage, group activities, support groups and a Children and Young People’s Service.

With 35 years of experience, CancerCare has helped more than 30,000 local people affected by cancer and other potentially life-limiting conditions. The charity has three dedicated centres based in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster.

For further information please contact Ingrid Kent, Marketing and Communications Officer, CancerCare, Slynedales, Slyne Road, Lancaster, LA2 6ST

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 01524 381 820

 

 

Date: June 2018

 

Diet is key to wellbeing during and after cancer

 

There are many things that can make a significant difference when a person has cancer and diet is an important one.

Sarah Collins, a dietitian who joined CancerCare’s therapy team as nutritional therapist, believes it’s vital to work holistically with people who have cancer.

Sarah also practices reflexology and Reiki and prior to working with CancerCare, she had been volunteering with the Tara Centre at the Storey Institute in Lancaster; a centre for peace and compassion.

The Tara Centre was running drop-in sessions for asylum seekers from across the world and Sarah was offering Reiki healing and reflexology.

“It really opened my eyes to how people need support and how complimentary therapies can help,” says Sarah.

“I feel privileged to have been able to offer healing and compassion to people at a time in their lives when they were looking for peace. I still help out at the Tara Centre from time to time.”

Alison Dixey, CancerCare’s Head of Therapies, met with Elham Kashefi from the Tara Centre and found out about Sarah’s nutritional work.

Alison then asked Sarah if she would consider working for CancerCare. Sarah said ‘yes’ and is now working in all three of CancerCare’s centres Lancaster, Kendal and Barrow.

Sarah says: “When I met with Alison it felt a complete fit with what I aim to do.

“I now work with CancerCare as a part of the holistic service. I officially started in April and have been seeing people since then.”

Nutrition is a topical and often controversial subject, as Sarah explains: “There is never a shortage of people wanting to talk about nutrition. 

“When people find out they have cancer, diet is one of the things that they feel they are able to influence and often want to know more about what they can do to stay healthy.

“During medical treatment people find that control can be taken away or lost. However, everyone has the choice of what they eat and drink.

“It doesn’t matter what illness you have - you can improve your condition and lifestyle through what you eat.

“People are increasingly using nutrition as part of their treatment. It’s something they can do to feel better as well as be healthy.

“I think what you can do with a healthy and nutritional diet is to bring things back into balance.

“There is also the emotional impact of how food and drink affects us.

“When you’re ill, you still have to eat daily and make food choices. I’m constantly trying to help people to make healthy food choices.”

CancerCare’s clients are referred to Sarah for many reasons during and after cancer. They can also self-refer to see Sarah.

She explains: “It could be that they are not eating and they are concerned. Their family might also be concerned.

“Someone might have put on a lot of weight during or following treatment and they want to lose weight and need advice and support.

“I can share my knowledge and understanding of what they can do about improving or changing their diet.

“I can advise on the best diet for each individual to follow as there’s so much information - and a lot of misinformation - out there.

“It’s important to talk about what suits the person best. I can support them to make the best possible choices for them.”

So what happens in a nutritional therapy session?

Sarah explains: “We sit down and talk about what has brought the person to me. We look at what has led up to them coming for an appointment.

“I would ask the person what they would like to change so it’s coming from their perspective.

"We talk about how food fits into their lifestyle and what their issues are about food and their diagnosis.

“We may also discuss how stress and emotions affect them and look at any issues surrounding food.

“It’s not a case of me saying what a person has to do. I help people to understand why they do what they do and what they can do to make a healthy change.

“I look at what support they need to improve their diet and provide people with the information and knowledge they need to eat healthily.”

Sarah says food ‘myths’ can also come into play: “People often question whether you really need to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day and things like that.

“The current evidence and advice is for everyone to follow healthy eating guidelines to include as much fruit and veg as possible. The advice is for it to be predominantly a vegetable-based diet with moderate amounts of animal and vegetable protein.

“There is no conclusive evidence to suggest that one food causes cancer but there is evidence that poor diet increases the risk of developing cancer.

“Processed foods are the most obvious factors in a poor diet as they have high fat and high sugar content. They are also lacking in fibre, which is very important.

“When you are going through cancer treatment, eating habits change. Treatment may affect appetite, practicalities of attending appointments and treatment may make it more challenging to eat well.  Lots of people face challenges and emotions also affect what we eat. Ideally, you want the person to get what they need in terms of a balanced diet.

“We may focus more on protein, fat and sugary foods, or smaller meals and snacks, so people have enough energy to get through the treatment. It depends upon the individual and how the cancer and treatment is affecting them.”

Sarah explains that dietary issues can also affect family and friends.

“It can become a strain on relationships and on the family.

“Family and friends are often doing the meal provision and they want to make sure their loved one is eating well. It can become a bit of a challenge.

“In some situations every meal that turns up may become a moment of stress. It’s not uncommon to feel this and sharing my experience of working with others is often helpful, people tell me.

“Sometimes just talking about that and agreeing what is needed takes the pressure off families. I can also give advice and support to families and carers who are supporting a person with cancer.

“I use my experience and make suggestions. I would also say what has helped other people in similar situations.”

People coping with cancer often say they feel better emotionally after having sessions with Sarah.

“It can improve confidence,” she says. “Many people feel that good nutrition becomes part of their treatment and a new lifestyle.

“What they are eating sometimes becomes just as important as going for appointments. It helps give them control back.

“It also relieves some of the unknowns around cancer. People know they can do something about their food. They can take control of that, whereas they can’t always take control of things like chemotherapy.”

Most of the people Sarah has seen in her new role have also been having counselling with CancerCare or other therapies such as aromatherapy.

Sarah says: “It’s all connected. I have done a lot of training in counselling skills, psychotherapy and helping people make changes. I have my own mindfulness meditation practice and trained in mindfulness meditation so I know how important working with the mind is.  

“I also completely believe in the therapeutic powers of touch, massage and body work.

“I’m not just treating the body – I’m also helping people improve their emotional and physical wellbeing.

“If someone was telling me they felt extremely stressed I would refer them to CancerCare’s therapy team and I am looking forward to working as part of the therapies team.

“I’m also qualified in reflexology and Reiki so I can bring those techniques into my sessions, where appropriate.

“I can use Reiki and reflexology to help restore balance within the person I’m treating.”

Sarah trained as a dietitian at Leeds University in 1999. She is originally from Rochdale and now lives in Silverdale in Lancashire with her partner. 

Earlier in her career Sarah worked across the North West as a dietitian, mainly in the community.

She says: “I have always felt that there isn’t enough of a focus on prevention of diseases through diet.

“I did a stint of working in strategic roles thinking I would change the world. I worked across the whole of the North West doing quality improvement work.

“I have also been a trainer for a national children’s weight management project called MEND. I did that for four years. I trained leaders from across the country, as well as running my own team and groups. That felt as if I could contribute and it worked well for a few years.”

Following redundancy from the NHS in 2013, Sarah had some time out before taking on project management work in the NHS redesigning community services in East Lancashire.

“I have done a lot of work with patient groups around improving services for all sorts of long term conditions, including cancer services,” she says.

Going back to her roots as a dietitian has been a massive shift for Sarah.

“I got to the point where I felt I wanted to work one-to-one again,” she explains.

“Not many organisations are open to working as CancerCare does with people. I’m working with people and treating them as a whole.

“When I worked in the NHS I always tried to do this but it was often challenging. It’s become too big. In the NHS if someone has physical and mental health problems they often get seen by at least two different departments. 

“At CancerCare everyone works together with the individual.”

Sarah says all of the clients she has seen at CancerCare have wanted to make a follow-up appointment and she has had some great feedback.

“I feel they see the benefit of it,” she says. “Clients tell me they are relieved to be able to ask the questions they have struggled to find answers to.

“I’m open to anyone bringing me anything they have read to help them decipher where the research has come from and to look at the evidence.

“CancerCare is very open to new things. It means I can say what I think is helpful and enable people to make the decisions that are best for them.

“I think people like the fact that someone is listening to them and they are not being judged.

“I’ve spoken to people about how they didn't know which way to move forward.

“One woman told me she is now feeling so much better about herself. She’s feeling more confident about where she wants to be.  She’s making some really great changes to her lifestyle, her diet and activity and is not putting things off anymore.”  

Sarah says it’s never too late to start eating healthily and improving your wellbeing.

“It has long been my belief that individuals have the power to change and make the decision to eat and live healthily.

“It’s never too late. Even small changes can make a difference and I can help people to achieve that.”

For more information on CancerCare’s free therapeutic services please go to www.cancercare.org.uk, email the Therapy Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 01524 381 820 and ask for the Therapy Coordination Team.

 

Ends

Notes for editors:

CancerCare is an independent charity dedicated to helping families affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions in North Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Delivered by qualified and highly experienced staff, CancerCare’s wide range of free professional therapy services are designed to help individuals and their families come to terms with and manage the challenges of a serious health condition.

Therapies include counselling, hypnotherapy, the Alexander Technique, aromatherapy massage, group activities, support groups and a Children and Young People’s Service.

With 35 years of experience, CancerCare has helped more than 30,000 local people affected by cancer and other potentially life-limiting conditions. The charity has three dedicated centres based in Kendal, Barrow and Lancaster.

 

For further information please contact Ingrid Kent, Marketing and Communications Officer, CancerCare, Slynedales, Slyne Road, Lancaster, LA2 6ST

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tel: 01524 381 820