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Survivors Cancer’s impact on work and strategies Other challenges to nutrition and feeding

Other challenges to nutrition and feeding

Dr. Christine Maheu, RN, PhD

Dr. Christine Maheu is an Associate Professor in the Ingram School of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University. Dr. Maheu is also an Affiliate Scientist at the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. At McGill University, she teaches research methods, supervises graduate students (masters, doctoral, post-doctoral), mentors practicing nurses and students in research, and conducts research in English and French. She has held research awards with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. These awards funded her research in psychosocial oncology, which focuses on developing and testing psychosocial interventions or measurements tools for various cancer populations. Additionally, in partnership with Ipsos Canada and funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, she is co-leading a nationwide survey of the needs of cancer patients for transition care from the end of their treatment to three years after their diagnosis. Dr. Maheu received awards for excellence in nursing research (2013, 2015, 2016) from Ovarian Cancer Canada, the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology, and the Quebec Association of Nurses in Oncology.

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Ms. Rosemary Cashman

Ms. Rosemary Cashman is a nurse practitioner at the BC Cancer Agency and an Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Her professional experience includes the care of lymphoma, lung cancer and brain cancer patients. She co-chairs the Patient and Family Advisory Council, which guides the brain tumour care program at the BC Cancer Agency. She has authored book chapters and articles related to the care of brain tumour patients and their families. Ms. Cashman was involved in developing and implementing a rapid-access radiotherapy clinic for the palliative treatment of lung cancer and she continues to work in this clinic.

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Kyla Johnson, Occupational Therapist, Segal Cancer Centre, Jewish General Hospital

Ms. Kyla Johnson, M.Sc.A., originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Kyla Johnson works as an Occupational Therapist at the Segal Cancer Center of the Jewish General Hospital. She holds a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from McGill University. Her goal as a rehabilitation professional in Oncology is to enable people with cancer to be able to do what they want and need to do, in all stages of their cancer experience. Kyla helps develop strategies and accommodations to facilitate a return to meaningful life roles, including work. She is specialized in cancer-related cognitive dysfunction and runs a weekly group teaching strategies to improve daily cognitive functioning. Kyla also leads a volunteer yoga class for young adults with cancer. She lives in Montreal, Quebec.

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Ms. Maureen Parkinson, Vocational Rehabilitation Counsellor, M.Ed. C.C.R.C, BC Cancer

Ms. Maureen Parkinson is the province-wide vocational rehabilitation counsellor at the BC Cancer Agency. She has also been vocational rehabilitation counsellor at a public rehabilitation hospital and vocational rehabilitation consultant to insurance companies and the court system. She has instructed and facilitated Service-Canada-funded programs on job searching and career exploration. Ms. Parkinson has a Masters in Counselling Psychology, is a Canadian Certified Rehabilitation Counsellor, and completed the Certified Return to Work Coordinator Program through the National Institute for Disability Management and Research. She has developed return-to-work and job-search seminars for cancer patients and created the guidebook “Cancer and Returning to Work: A Practical Guide for Cancer Patients” as well as on-line articles about returning to work and school. She also co-authored a paper commissioned by the Canadian Association of Psychosocial Oncology, “Cancer and Work: A Canadian Perspective”.

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In addition to nausea and vomiting, there are a number of other potential problems related to cancer or cancer treatment that can affect your eating and meeting nutritional needs to maintain weight.

Your healthcare team can advise you about preventing or limiting the effects of these. The team may include oncologists, surgeons, nurses, dentists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists and dietitians. Some of the concerns they can address include:

  • poor appetite
  • swallowing difficulties1
  • changes in taste2
  • dry mouth
  • mouth sores and pain
  • removal of teeth before cancer treatment

Vocational implications

Nutritional and eating challenges may cause weight loss, which in turn may cause fatigue, and if accompanied by muscle loss, a decreased ability to do physically demanding jobs. Eating may be painful or take a longer amount of time. You may need to maintain your calorie intake by eating often, meaning you may need to eat often and regularly at your worksite. Removal of teeth may cause a change in appearance, which may affect confidence when working with the public.

Other web sources offering advice and recipes on eating healthy and cancer are:

  • ELLICSR Kitchen Program (Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network)
  • “Welcome to Nourish” website – A first of its kind in Canada. This website is designed to help you play a more active role in your cancer treatment. Nourish wants to help you take care of yourself by eating well, and by managing some of the common side effects of cancer and its treatment.
  • Eating Well When You Have Cancer booklet (PDF; Canadian Cancer Society)
  • Eat Right Ontario – This service provides easy-to-use nutrition information to help you make healthier food choices.

Work accommodations

Modify your work tasks and how you work:

  • Ask for flexible and/or extended break times to accommodate your nutrition and feeding needs.
  • Ask if you can drink (nutritional supplements) at your workstation throughout the day to meet nutritional requirements.

Modify your work environment:

  • Request a quiet, private area to eat if you are uncomfortable doing so in front of co-workers.
  • Request storage space for any extra materials or supplies that are required to meet your nutrition needs.



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