NCC Students Reach out to Cancer Patients and Survivors

by Myra Saturen
January 30, 2012

Stacy BeatyWhat could be more rewarding than using your knowledge to help people? NCC medical billing students and Stacy Beaty, a biological science major, have experienced that fulfillment by doing service learning projects at the Cancer Support Center (CSC) in Bethlehem. The CSC is an international, non-profit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. 

"Nutrition is the body's first line of defense for a strong immune system," says Beaty . "You give your body the best chance by being careful about what you put into it."

Beaty put her learning to great use last semester, chopping greens and sharing information about nutrient-dense foods as a service learning student/volunteer at the Cancer Support Community -Greater Lehigh Valley (CSC), part of an international non-profit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. At the end of the class, she surveyed participants' beliefs in the link between diet and cancer and the dietary changes class members had made. "Investigating the Relationship between Diet and Cancer Survivor Mentality" showed that a majority of respondents reported positively.

While Beaty and the CSC point out that there is no definitive cancer diet, and that foods cannot prevent cancer or its recurrence, the CSC reports that eating the right kinds of foods before, during, and after treatment helps people feel better and stay stronger.

In the monthly Healthy Cooking class, participants prepared recipes provided by instructors, often trying lesser-known vegetables, fruits and grains. What are some of these beneficial foods?

"The most healthful foods are a rainbow of colored vegetables," Beaty says. "Kale is versatile and nutrient-dense -- more so than spinach. The grain quinoa is high in protein, and blueberries are rich in anti-oxidants."

Mexican pita pizza, made in class, brims with flavorful and nutritious ingredients. Thin-sliced tomatoes, mashed beans, seasonings, garlic, salsa or guacamole top a whole grain pita. Roasted vegetables also work well in this recipe. Trout, oven-steamed in parchment, offers protein in a lean, tasty form. Dinners made by the class are often vegetarian, with dairy products included, if at all, in non- or low-fat varieties.

Technique is just as important as ingredients, Beaty says. "You''d be surprised at how much fat oil adds to a dish. Instead, use vegetable broth, tomato juice or water to cook food. This method is called steam frying or water sautéing."

Dessert did not go neglected in class. Pineapple ice cream or berry crisp ended some meals on a sweet and wholesome note.

In addition to nutritional know-how, the class gave students an emotional boost. "When you take charge of healthful lifestyle changes," Beaty says, "you feel empowered and more in control of your well-being. You reduce your stress."

Beaty learned about the Cancer Support Community's Healthy Cooking Class while a student in Associate Professor Sharon Lee-Bond's Biology I class. Before enrolling at NCC, she had trained at Second Helpings, a non-profit culinary school and community kitchen in Indianapolis, and worked in food service for five years. At NCC, she founded the Vegetarian Club and initiated Meatless Mondays in the College cafeteria, and has been accepted into the Student Leadership Class. She still volunteers at the CSC, doing data entry and other activities, since her schedule does not accommodate the cooking class at present.

She is excited about doing another project at CSC next fall. Through a focus group, she will explore how activities such as the cooking class encouraged participants to make healthful lifestyle changes and gain a better sense of control over their lives.

Medical billing majors are helping the Cancer Support Center fill an urgent need for handy informational literature for their clients. Inspired by The Morning Call's annual Be an Angel campaign, which matches schools and civic organizations with donors and volunteers, Adjunct Professor of Office Administration Sue Manella saw a wonderful chance for service learning for her medical billing students.

For several semesters, Manella's students have been modifying and formatting CSC educational materials to be easier to understand, similar to a glossary. About the ongoing project, Manella says, "the students are learning empathy for those affected by cancer, proper grammar, readability levels of the average population, research techniques, and most importantly -- medical terms!"

The student's ultimate goal is to create a handbook in publishable form. Moreover, they have become involved with other volunteer activities at the center, even as their initial project picks up momentum.

Volunteering at the CSC has been rewarding and enjoyable for NCC students.

"I learned that I could make a difference in people's lives. You only know the impact of your participation when you get involved," says Stacy Beaty.

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