For breast cancer survivor Katie Thorp, nutritious eating has become an important path to recovery.
Thorp was 27 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy, radiation, and chemotherapy. When the cancer came back in the same breast, her treatment included a mastectomy and five years of hormone therapy.
“My recurrence in 1997 prompted me to do a lot of research on cancer, the immune system and natural healing theories,” explained the Bellbrook woman, who decided to adopt a vegetarian diet as a result. She wanted to feel empowered and make lifestyle choices that would strengthen her immune system and supplement what her doctors were doing to fight her disease.
In December of 2008, Katie learned that the cancer had metastasized to her bones.
“I went through more radiation, surgery, and hormone therapy,” she said. “And it was at that time that my oncologist — Dr. Mark Romer — told me about Noble Circle. I joined in the spring of 2009.”
The grassroots organization offers women throughout the Southwest Ohio region free weekend retreats and ongoing support.
“I was thrilled to have found a group of women who could give me up-to-date information on nutritional choices to help fight my cancer and also to learn about complimentary energy techniques and peer support,” said Thorp, who in 2010 started volunteering to help with the Noble Circle’s nutrition and cooking demonstrations for new members and alumnae.
“I particularly enjoy going to the new sister retreats and introducing the women the Noble Circle philosophy of using whole foods nutrition and a plant-based diet to strengthen the immune system during treatments and for thriving beyond a cancer diagnosis.”
What early memories do you have of food or cooking?
Food was always a big part of our family life growing up, although I have to admit that my mother was a busy working woman and we mostly ate pre-packaged and easy-to-prepare meals. I was required to cook one meal a week as a kid, but that generally consisted of something like Hamburger Helper.
Who taught you to cook? How did you become interested in cooking?
I am a self-taught cook. I got more interested in cooking when I decided to become a vegetarian and mostly learned through reading books. When I joined Noble Circle, I was amazed at what little I knew. Noble Circle taught me most of what I know today about roasting vegetables, making quick and satisfying salad meals and ingredients like quinoa and tempeh. My love of beets comes from learning how easy they are to cook at a Noble Circle demonstration.
Can you explain the Noble Circle philosophy and the part food plays in it?
Each of our events involves shared whole foods meals, fellowship and exposure to energy modalities, such as reiki, reflexology, massage, qi gong, guided visualizations or healing touch. Learning to prepare and share healthy meals is a big part of the program. We share information about the importance of whole foods and eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, beans and other plant-based foods.
Our nutrition program was developed by Shelly Knupp, a Noble Circle sister and registered dietitian.
When/how did you become involved in teaching at the retreats?
I got involved in teaching nutrition at Noble Circle functions shortly after I finished the 10-week program following the retreat. Noble Circle is run by volunteers consisting of women who have gone through the program before. Working with the other volunteers and meeting the new women is a true blessing. A cancer diagnosis is a scary thing. Being able to sit across the table from somebody who shares your experience and fears is a powerful thing. Serving at the Noble Circle events helps me to learn, share and heal.
What are some of your favorite ingredients?
Beets are one of my favorite foods. Before Noble Circle, I only thought that they were eaten pickled from a can. Noble Circle taught me how to easily roast them, and now they are something that I really enjoy. At Noble Circle we talk about “eating the rainbow” and how the deep colors of some vegetables are an indication of the nutritional value that they contain. The deep color of beets are a great example.
What kinds of foods and eating are thought to help in cancer prevention?
Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is limited in many plant nutrients. As a result, most Americans don’t receive a balanced supply of many of these important nutrients which can serve as antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic agents — or general sources of healthy vitamins and minerals. Eating more vegetables and fruit is the key. It is not that meat is bad, just that most people eating the SAD are not getting enough of the important nutrients found in vegetables and fruit, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
When someone is going through cancer treatment, how does their taste and eating change during chemo or radiation?
The sense of taste can be impacted by chemo and radiation in a variety of ways. Often foods taste totally different than prior to treatment and can leave an unpleasant metal-like flavor. Treatment can have the effect of causing a person to feel nauseous and turned off from eating and can also cause problems with digestion and even painful mouth soars.
If someone wants to cook for someone going through cancer treatment, what kinds of things are best to cook for them?
If you want to cook for somebody going through treatments, it is best to ask them if they have dietary restrictions or preferences. Cooking easy-to-preserve and reheat meals can be helpful — even if they don’t feel like eating it right away, it can make for a convenient meal later when they are feeling better. Also, remember that cancer impacts an entire family. Even if the sick person cannot eat the meal, something that makes life easier for the family will help lighten the load for the person struggling with treatments. Gift certificates to restaurants are another good idea.
What kinds of gifts would be appropriate for someone who is going through treatment? Are fresh fruit baskets or candy a good idea?
Often the best gift that you can give somebody dealing with a cancer diagnosis is a simple note letting them know that you are thinking about them and praying for them. People with a compromised immune system from treatments might need to be careful about handling raw fruits or vegetables, so fruit basket may not be the best choice for a gift.
In addition, the changes in the way foods taste and smell make turn a favorite treat into something less enjoyable. A simple note letting the person know that you are available to help might be the best gift. Assistance with shopping or cleaning can be very beneficial. In addition, a gift basket of books, videos, bath salts, might give the person a way to relax from the stress of dealing with doctors and treatments.
How does someone learn more about Noble Circle?
Those interested can check out our web site: www.noblecircle.org. You can learn more about the organization at the annual fund-raiser and fashion show —A’Wear Affair — that will be held on Feb. 22. The next free retreat will be held in March 2014.
OUR GOOD COOKS
We spotlight at-home cooks or professional chefs throughout Southwest Ohio and ask them to share their favorite recipes, cooking tips and family traditions. If you know of someone we should spotlight, send an email to Meredith.Moss@CoxInc.com
1 large (8-ounce) beet, roasted
1 cup drained canned garbanzo beans (chickpeas; from 15 1/2-ounce can)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for chips
1/4 cup slivered almonds
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) red wine vinegar
Place ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar, if desired. Transfer dip to medium bowl. Can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Serve with carrots, broccoli, pita chips, crackers or bread.
VIDEO: Breast cancer survivor Katie Thorp talks about nutritious foods that empower at MyDaytonDailyNews.com