She remembers the day so vividly.
“I was talking with a patient who hadn’t been eating well. We needed to find a way to get her to eat to gain strength to fight her cancer and be able to go home,” says Carina Braeutigam, M.D., medical director of Integrative Care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “When I asked why she wasn’t eating, she said, ‘I just don’t like your food.’”
So simple, yet so impactful.
“Nutrition in cancer care can be challenging and many patients require nutritional support,” Braeutigam says. “That conversation helped me see the situation in a new way and find a creative solution for her and other patients.”
The solution: cooking classes.
Braeutigam and her team partnered with Turner Farms to host classes, teaching participants to cook recipes ranging from a simple smoothie to a full meal with dessert. The classes are now virtual, so anyone in the Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute at Cincinnati Children’s can participate.
Proper nourishment is crucial to the physical and emotional well-being of children and young adults cared for by the cancer team at Cincinnati Children’s. Yet treatments, stress and other factors cannot only leave patients lacking nutrients but unable or unwilling to eat a healthy diet.
“Sometimes patients develop oral aversion, which is a fear or reluctance to have anything in their mouth, or physical issues like mouth sores or a metallic taste that affects what they can or will eat,” Braeutigam says.
The classes provide a fun, nonmedical environment for kids and young adults, both in active cancer care and survivors, to find recipes that fit their tastes and medical needs while enjoying the support of peers.
“Everyone’s journey through cancer is unique, just like each person is unique. The culinary program is a great example of realizing a need not being met and finding a creative way to adapt care to fit the additional and individual needs,” Braeutigam says.
The cooking classes are part of the Integrative Care program at Cincinnati Children’s, which includes nontraditional therapies to heal the whole person — mind, body and spirit — in a way that is customized to each individual.
“Integrative medicine covers a variety of activities, such as aromatherapy, counseling, art and music therapies, and nutrition, which gives our patients a better quality of care and a better quality of life,” says John Perentesis, M.D., FAAP, director of the Division of Oncology at Cincinnati Children’s. “It is essential, not an amenity.”
The Cancer and Blood Diseases Institute at Cincinnati Children’s is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and is renowned worldwide for its innovative research and outstanding clinical care. Patients come from across the globe to get specialized care for the toughest, most complex cancers.
“We have one of the largest programs for children and young adults in the country, if not the world,” says Perentesis. “We are a forward-thinking place. And we want to be disruptive in our thinking, our technology, and our holistic care for each patient.
“Everything we do combines care and research for the best patient outcomes. Integrative medicine is a big part of it.”
Visit cincinnatichildrens.org/cancer or call 513.517.CBDI (2234) to learn more about the pediatric cancer care program at Cincinnati Children’s.