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Video: Mom teaches how to cook for cancer-stricken kids

  1. Closed captioning of: Mom teaches how to cook for cancer-stricken kids

    >> reporter: she is a true saint. she says the majority of the cats are adoptable. the ones that may not be will stay at the refuge forever, safe, warm and very loved.

    >> an amazing woman.

    >> she has wonderful volunteers she called her poop fairies.

    >> self-explanatory.

    >>> and apps that help erase all traces of your ex.

    >> i'm sticking around for that.

    >> first, this is "today" on nbc.

    >>> good morning, matt. daniel cook started as a volunteer at georgetown university hospital . but her unique program is having so much success, doctors say every hospital should have their own danielle . the secret to her popularity, food.

    >> reporter: at first glance, it's hard to imagine these children are sick.

    >> it's good!

    >> reporter: but each and every one is battling cancer.

    >> you want to stir?

    >> reporter: a diagnosis no parent wants to hear.

    >> the soup is almost ready.

    >> reporter: she knows from personal experience.

    >> it was a nightmare.

    >> reporter: a decade ago she learned her son, fabian, had stage three hodgkin's lymphoma.

    >> any parent whose child has to go through this, a parent would willi willingly happily trade places and do this for them but you can't.

    >> reporter: he faced surgery, chemotherapy and radiation which devastated his body.

    >> it feels like getting hit by a bus and finally standing up and when you stand up you get hit by train.

    >> reporter: keeping up his strength was battle, advice from the hospital as many calories as possible any way you can.

    >> they said let him eat mcdonald's, junk food .

    >> they said he needs the calories. if that means french fries and fast-foods, do it.

    >> you said?

    >> i said, well, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

    >> instead, danielle focused her efforts on something she could do. cook.

    >> first, you take a chicken, really where oo start it.

    >> it really is. i went back to good homemade chicken broth .

    >> it worked.

    >> it works, it did.

    >> chicken soup was just the start. danielle went back to school, got a masters in nutrition and started to experiment with ingredients and recipes. along the way, wonderful news. fabian finished his treatment.

    >> no offense to anybody in this room but she is the best mother in the world.

    >> while most people would be happy to move on, danielle decided she had to give back, which meant going back. so armed with groceries, she returned to georgetown university hospital , where her son had been treated and volunteered in the pediatric oncology clinic.

    >> you guys having fun today?

    >> ever since, she's been teaching parents about nutrition and how to cook foods that will help with treatment and recovery. including some recipes they never imagined their kids would ea eat.

    >> i can give them love and food. that was really important. when he liked the food, that was even better.

    >> being really tasty and really yummy.

    >> should every oncology program have a danielle ? absolutel absolutely.

    >> dr. shad is chief of oncology.

    >> i truly believe cancer you cannot take care of in isolation. it's critical for them to eat right.

    >> the pasta sauce --

    >> the pesto? yes.

    >> danielle wanted to do even more. what about all the other cancer patients out there? with the help of georgetown hospital , she just published this book, happily hungry, filled with recipes and chapters to guide patients through all the stages of cancer treatment.

    >> perfect.

    >> that's good.

    >> so good.

    >> starring none other than the children she's cooked with at the hospital. devon, simone, aden. if you look carefully at the cover of the book, you might just recognize 6-year-old peter.

    >> these are good.

    >> you made a delicious drink.

    >> for their parents, it's been a godsend.

    >> it made me feel like a better mom. it made me feel like i could take care of my son the way he needed.

    >> danielle , what is the most important thing you feel you're doing there?

    >> food has an amazing healing quality to it. it allows the parent to really feel like, i can do this. i can help heal my child.

    >> the need for good nutrition with cancer treatment, matt, it's just common sense , but sometimes it takes a mother to put together a program like this. now, they hope it will spread to hospitals across the country, and the great part is those recipes, they're good for all patients, really good for all people, not just children.

    >> no. it should spread to hospitals across the country, jamie. thank you. we appreciate it.

    >>> you can find a few of those recipes and in

TODAY contributor
updated 3/7/2013 10:18:24 AM ET 2013-03-07T15:18:24

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.’’

Read story: Homeless man who returned ring gets over $175K in donations

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.

Read more: Her mission: Help cancer patients rediscover joy of food

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.

Read more about "Happily Hungry" and get some recipes here!

“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.’’

'Is he breathing?' Cop saves man with CPR

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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