A Dietitian's Cancer Story Newsletter: Spring/Summer 2007

Greetings from Diana Dyer, MS, RD, Author of A Dietitian's Cancer Story

After much soul-searching, I have made the decision to have this short edition of my newsletter be the final one, at least for the foreseeable future. In addition, I have made the commitment to myself to take a much needed break from the extensive traveling, speaking, and presentation preparation I have done for the past 10+ years educating the oncology community about the multiple benefits of including proactive and individualized nutritional care as a component of true comprehensive cancer care.

My decision was both difficult and easy. Difficult because I am passionate about what I have been doing. I love meeting people who are eager to learn this information, and I love learning how people in different areas of the country (health care practitioners and cancer survivors alike) are also making a difference by implementing innovative programs or services that are improving cancer care. Indeed, I meet inspirational people and make new friends everywhere I travel, and I will miss that!

However, the decision was also easy. My heart finally told me it is time to assess the progress that has been made since that day in 1995 when I asked my oncologist what I could do to help myself now that my cancer treatments were completed (his answer was a prolonged silence...). The cancer survivorship movement was small in 1995, but now it is a nationally visible movement commanding attention and respect both in Washington, DC and large oncology meetings. In fact, cancer centers that are not actively figuring out what programs and services they need to provide in order to help cancer patients live an optimal life medically, socially, emotionally, and spiritually both during and after cancer are “behind the times.”

More and more cancer centers (large and small) now have a Registered Dietitian (RD) on staff to help patients with their nutritional intake during and after cancer therapy in order to optimize response to treatments, minimize side effects, improve overall health, wellness, quality of life, and reduce the risk of recurrence. I actually know of one major cancer center where grass roots (i.e., patient) efforts led to both hiring their first RD and also increasing the number of hours she was available to see patients.

Registered Dietitians who work primarily with cancer patients will soon have the opportunity to become Certified Specialists in Oncology (CSO), similar to certification obtained by the many dedicated physicians, nurses, and social workers specializing in oncology. It has been meaningful to be a member of the national committees that have worked on the multiple steps leading to the approval and development of this certification (The American Dietetic Association’s Oncology Nutrition Dietetics Practice Group).

In addition, it has been meaningful and heart-warming to recently learn of the large number of cancer centers already offering or planning nutrition programs for cancer survivors. Again, cancer centers that have not yet hired a Registered Dietitian (or expanded the hours of the RD(s) already on staff) are at risk of being “behind the times”.

My past 10+ years advocating for an expanded practice of cancer care by including nutrition have been both challenging and enjoyable. In some ways I have felt like a national version of our Midwestern Johnny Appleseed, planting seeds of information, amending the soil with a small amount of inspiration, while hoping that my path will touch others who will then tend and nurture the ideas into caring services for current and future cancer patients. I sincerely thank all of you who have been nurturing one of the seeds I planted during this past decade plus those of you who may be doing so in the future.

Rest assured that I am fortunate to still be cancer-free at this point. In addition, I am not “going away”, just taking an open-ended break to enjoy other areas of my life. My web site will still be available; I’ll only update the many FAQ’s if new research substantially changes my current answers . I am not accepting any additional speaking engagements for the remainder of 2007 and 2008, but I will consider inquiries for events scheduled in 2009. My books will continue to be available although I will be transitioning (i.e., simplifying) so that AICR will be the primary source with ordering still possible through Amazon.com and Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan (www.nicolasbooks.com for autographed copies), but not other bookstores.

In addition, I have started a blog at www.dianadyer.blogspot.com where I will post information and thoughts about what I am reading and doing (I am currently reading the books Plenty by Alisa Smith and JB Mackinnon plus Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver). I invite you to stop in to visit my blog once in a while and offer comments (please note: while I will enjoy reading all comments, I will not be responding to individual inquiries or questions). I make no promises about how often I will post, but I envision it to be a more frequent way of sharing my thoughts than I have been able to do with my newsletter. I expect my posts will be more of “snippets” than extensive essays or professionally referenced articles.

My husband and I were recently watching some old Mary Tyler Moore Show re-runs and wondered whatever happened to Valerie Harper who played Rhoda. Well, a recent issue of the AARP Magazine has a little blurb about Valerie’s latest activities. Among other activities, she has channeled much time and effort to The Hunger Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating hunger, in part by empowering women. I want to share Valerie’s comments about her efforts with this important organization.

“Activism springs from optimism. I believe I make
a difference. I think we all do.
I’m no special person.
And you know what? When you take action,
you meet fabulous people!”
(AARP – The Magazine, Jan/Feb 2007)

Oh, wow…. Her words brought tears to my eyes the first time I read them and still do today while I am writing this. I also am no special person. I hope I have made a difference for other cancer patients during this past decade (and those still to come) by finding the courage to speak up about the need for change, being optimistic that change would happen, identifying barriers (real or perceived), and then helping to change both attitudes and systems so that the day will arrive when true comprehensive cancer care will include proactive nutritional care that is individualized by Registered Dietitians, Certified Specialist in Oncology, for each and every patient who hears those chilling words, “I’m sorry to tell you that you have cancer”. I am optimistic that the day is near, very near. <Smile>

Like Valerie Harper, I have also met fabulous people with my activism for you (either in person or in spirit), and I continue to send all of you my very best wishes for health, healing, and hope!

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

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Book Ordering Information

Both A Dietitian's Cancer Story and the Spanish edition Historia De Cáncer De Una Dietista can be ordered from Amazon.com, and directly from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by calling 1-800-843-8114 or going to AICR's web site.

Discounts for orders of 10 or more copies are available for both editions by calling AICR at 1-800-843-8114 - asking to speak to Candis Navarrete. Many cancer centers, health care professional offices, and places of worship have ordered books in larger quantities to have available to give as educational and support information or to resell.

In addition, personally autographed copies of A Dietitian's Cancer Story are now readily available through Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It's easy to order the book directly from this full service independent bookstore at their web site, www.nicolasbooks.com , which has a space to indicate how you would like the book inscribed. They will happily mail the book anywhere in the world and have already sent copies with personalized autographs as far away as Australia and England.

Diana Grant Dyer, MS, RD - Author
A Dietitian's Cancer Story (English and Spanish translation)
Website: http://www.CancerRD.com
Blog: http://www.dianadyer.blogspot.com

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