When Danielle Cook Navidi’s son was undergoing cancer treatment a decade ago, she said doctors told her to let him eat junk food and because he needed the calories.
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“I said, ‘That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,’’’ Navidi told NBC’s Jamie Gangel in an interview on TODAY Thursday.
Feeling powerless in the face of her son’s diagnosis and skeptical of the merits of feeding him fast food, Navidi focused her efforts on what she knew how to do best — cook.
“I went back to the basics,’’ she said. “I went back to good homemade chicken broth.’’
Cooking healthy meals for her son Fabien motivated her to go back to school to get a master’s degree in nutrition. After Fabien completed his treatment and made a recovery from stage 3 Hodgkins lymphoma, she returned to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital where he was treated and volunteered in the pediatric oncology clinic.
She has since become a fixture at the clinic, teaching parents of children with cancer about nutrition and how to prepare foods that will aid in treatment and recovery. With the help of the hospital, she also has just published a book, “Happily Hungry,’’ filled with recipes and charts to guide any family through the stages of cancer treatment.
“Food has an amazing quality to it,’’ Navidi said. “It allows parents to feel like, ‘I can really do this. I can help heal my child.’’’
“I truly believe that cancer, you cannot take care of in isolation,’’ said Dr. Aziza Shad, chief of pediatric oncology at the hospital. “It’s critical for them to eat right.’’
Learning from Navidi has helped parents whose children are being treated for cancer at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital feel empowered.
“It made me feel like a better mom,” said Amy Kress, whose six-year-old son Peter has been treated at the clinic. “It made me feel like I could take care of my son when he needed me.”
“I can give him love, I can give him food, and that was really important,’’ said Dermot Tatlow, whose son Devon has been treated at the clinic. “Then when he liked the food, that was even better.’’
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