From the New York City chef who cooks for patients with cancer to a patient with cancer being turned away due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, here’s what’s happening in the cancer landscape this week.
Courtney Kennedy had previously worked as a cook in a highly acclaimed restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, before she was let go due to the pandemic. However, instead of searching for a new restaurant job, Kennedy decided to start cooking for patients with cancer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
She now works as a cook in a kitchen of 50 people, 30 of whom prepare the food for 498 patients three times a day.
“The first shift I worked was 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and I was just like, ‘Oh wow, I have never seen this many eggs in my life,’” Kennedy told Grub Street.
Cooking for patients was a huge change for Kennedy. She explained that in restaurants, she often felt there was a “you-versus-them” mentality among cooks toward customers, and that they’re “out to get you.” Now her concern is more based in making sure patients are receiving proper nutritional needs, such as softer foods for patients with esophageal cancer.
“I’m not a dietitian, but to get someone something worth eating when they can only eat purée — we need to get fat in there — or if they want just a little bit of food, it’s hard,” she said.
Kennedy added that she only wants patients to feel cared for, and the cooks are constantly accommodating for specific requests.
“It’s soigné, but it’s a different kind of soigné — it’s hospital soigné.”
A radiation oncologist in Tampa, Florida, Dr. Nitesh Paryani, shared this week that he was forced to turn a patient with cancer away after there were no beds or rooms to treat them in.
Though typically the hospital would accept this patient – who was transferred from a nearby hospital so they could access proper treatment options – they did not have room because of the high number of patients with COVID-19 filling the hospital.
Many hospitals have reported an influx of patients in the ICU due to the Delta variant of COVID-19, as well as staff shortages which have been caused by burnout and illness, according to CNN.
"Delta is just ripping through the hospitals in ways that we couldn't have imagined and the strain it's causing on the health care system is unimaginable," Paryani said.
After a recent biopsy due to an irregular spot on his nose, Hugh Jackman posted a video on social media emphasizing the importance of taking preventative action against skin cancer.
Jackman, 52, has a history of skin cancer.
"They saw something that was a little irregular, so they took a biopsy, getting it checked," Jackman said, according to TODAY. "So if you see a shot of me with this on, do not freak out. Thank you for your concern."
He also urged people to wear sunscreen and get continuously checked for skin cancer. The actor has had several skin cancer scares throughout the years, with one in 2017 where he shared a photo of his face post-surgery, writing, “Another basal cell carcinoma. Thanks to frequent checks & amazing doctors, all's well. Looks worse (with) the dressing on then off!”
Aliyah Garcia, 6, decided to hold a lemonade stand to raise awareness for a treatment program for childhood cancer. Garcia was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in May 2020 and received radiation and chemotherapy in preparation for a bone marrow transplant – which she was matched with a donor for through the Be the Match program.
The Be the Match program creates connections between patients and donors for bone marrow transplants, and is the largest and most diverse donor registry in the world, according to WREX.
Garcia received the transplant and is now considered cancer-free as of March 2021, though she still receives post-transplant chemotherapy.
“My goal is to bring awareness about childhood cancer and the Be the Match program to Rockford,” Garcia told WREX. “I wish there were oncology services for children in the Rockford area, so I didn’t have to take long trips to Chicago for care.”
This week, she held her lemonade stand at the Burpee Museum of Natural History in Rockford, Illinois.
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