Nutritionist and chef Robin McClanathan lost her mother to pancreatic cancer, and it’s that personal connection that makes her involvement at The Wellness Community “more passionate and more important.”
When her mother passed away in 2000, McClanathan knew she wanted to do something proactive. “I wanted to be an advocate for people like my mom,” she says. “With pancreatic cancer, especially, many patients die from malnutrition because the pancreas gets destroyed by the disease.”
When McClanathan heard about The Wellness Community, she knew it was the right fit. “I can’t tell you how much I love it.” she says. “I know how important it is to keep cancer patients healthy enough so that the chemo can work. Nutrition can be the most important link.”
In her role as nutritionist, McClanathan holds classes at the center at least once a month, designed to address every nutrition issue facing cancer patients. “Breast cancer patients, for instance, gain weight because of the medicine, so they want to know more about fresh and healthy recipes,” she explains. “On the other hand, lung cancer patients are worried about losing weight. With colon cancer, the type of oil they use in their diet is important, so we educate patients about options.”
McClanathan also gives special attention to caregivers. “Taking care of a loved one is so intimate and
personal,” she says. “One of the hardest classes I had to teach was for caretakers whose loved ones are in the last stages. What do you feed them when they won’t eat anymore?” One of the messages McClanathan stresses is that nutrition is positive. “Think about it: The most positive place in the home is the kitchen,” she says, “but when you’re under chemo, food becomes a negative. So we have to find ways of turning that around.”
While much of her time at The Wellness Community is spent helping other people heal, McClanathan says the experience also has been therapeutic for her. “It’s a very nurturing environment, and it helped me work through some of the issues I didn’t think I had,” she explains. Her hope is that more people discover The Wellness Community, be it as a patient or those who care for one. “Whatever you need to do to better your mental and emotional outlook, The Wellness Community gives you the coping tools,” she says.