Growing up, Margaret Martin loved tennis. As a shrewd competitor, she noticed early on that what she ate had an impact on how she performed on the court. She began to understand how simple nutritional changes could positively affect how she felt. It was a lesson that she would learn again and again – especially while both her parents and her sister battled lung cancer.
When her parents were sick, Margaret says her family “discovered that we could make a real difference in our parents’ strength and health with simple food modifications and more effective approaches to offering nourishment.” Margaret saw how incorporating a good diet into her family’s treatments gave them renewed life, and it made an impression on her.
Margaret was inspired to work in public health after her family’s experiences and she earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in nutrition science. Now, she’s a registered dietitian and works for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) in its PearlPoint Nutrition Services® program helping patients learn about the importance of a well-balanced diet and lifestyle.
This program relies on AICR for additional nutrition information to support its approach to nutrition and fitness. Increasingly, Margaret says, people are receiving ‘misinformation’ about how diet can affect cancer and it’s part of her role as an educator to share scienced-based information with her patients to help improve their health.
Q: Can you tell us about your work at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) and how LLS serves the cancer community?
A: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is a global leader in the fight against cancer. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research, provides free information and support services to blood cancer patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers. Through PearlPoint Nutrition Services®, a program of LLS, I provide free one-on-one consultations to people who have been diagnosed with any type of cancer and their caregivers. The purpose of our consultations is to educate people about the overall importance of nutrition, personalized strategies to be well nourished, food safety guidelines and management of side effects with a cancer diagnosis. I also contribute nutritional expertise to LLS’s educational materials, blog posts, webinars and other educational resources. One example is LLS’s Nutrition Handbook: Feeding your family from meal planning to mealtime. This handbook includes recipes from AICR!
Q: How did you discover AICR and our resources/research?
A: When I started working with LLS, AICR was one of the resources I shared often with people with cancer. AICR’s steps to reduce the risk of cancer and cancer recurrence, and information dispelling nutritional myths were two powerful areas of research that I discovered right off the bat. This information helped answer questions I am often asked by people with cancer.
Q: How do you and/or LLS utilize AICR’s resources?
A: When patients reach out to LLS, we often refer them to AICR for additional nutrition information and we reference AICR Recommendations in our publications and on our website. We also share AICR recipes in our recipe collection. When people are looking for a meal plan and for lifestyle guidance after cancer treatment, I refer them to AICR’s New American Plate and iThrive program, which are engaging and available online.
Q: How do the cancer patients and survivors that you work with benefit from AICR’s resources?
A: Making good food choices is something patients can do to help improve their health and wellbeing throughout cancer treatment and into long-term survivorship. There is a lot of misinformation out there about nutrition and especially as it relates to cancer. AICR helps dispel these myths and educate people on nutrition in an easy-to-understand way. (And provides tasty recipes!)
Q: Is there any story in particular that you can share about AICR’s work helping a member of your community?
A: Through LLS’ PearlPoint Nutrition Services program, I worked with a caregiver whose husband had a cancer diagnosis. Without the approval of his oncologist, he had restricted his diet to a point that it was damaging his health. He was trying to eat only foods that were paleo, keto, gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free, and unintentionally lost over 80 pounds from these self-imposed dietary restrictions. As a result, he was hungry and lethargic and had to take breaks from treatment. These breaks may have been compromising his treatment outcomes.
I directed his caregiver to AICR’s website, specifically the Food Facts and Hot Topics pages, which have evidence-based information about what decreases and increases the risk of cancer. The caregiver was surprised by this information, as she thought she was helping her husband by restricting his diet. After reviewing the science behind AICR’s dietary recommendations, she was able to serve meals that were more inclusive of the nutrients, calories and phytochemicals that her husband needed.
Q: Have you seen AICR’s resources impact the community outside your organization? If so, how?
A: AICR’s cancer prevention information and Cancer Health Check tool are vital in helping people understand how to reduce the risk of future cancers and cancer recurrence. With so much misinformation about the role of nutrition in cancer formation, these two resources on the AICR website are eye-opening for people and their families. One question I am asked often is, “What can I do to help prevent cancer from returning in the future?” Although there is no miracle prevention method, people can help manage their risks by improving their lifestyle using scientific guidelines, such as the recommendations that AICR provides.
Q: How do LLS/PearlPoint Nutrition Services’ staff benefit from using AICR’s resources?
A: AICR is a trusted source for evidence-based guidelines, which the LLS staff uses in client education. The AICR recipes are shared often in our endeavors to increase interest in food and nutrition. The Cancer Health Check helps staff assess their personal cancer risk from their lifestyle choice.
Q: How do AICR’s resources help LLS and PearlPoint Nutrition Services fulfill its mission?
A: Part of LLS’s mission is to “improve the quality of life of patients and their families.” AICR’s resources are instrumental in providing a better understanding of how to make good food choices which can greatly impact cancer patients’ quality of life and treatment outcomes by helping to manage side effects and decrease the risk of malnutrition. AICR makes their website, interactive tools and recipes inviting and easy to understand.
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If you share our passion for cancer prevention and quality survivorship, we would love to hear from you. Whatever your experience has been — whether you are a patient, caregiver, or loved one — AICR would be happy to add your story to this tapestry.