John tells of cancer battle

A CANCER patient from Banbridge has spoken of his experiences during the launch of the first ever diet guidelines for cancer sufferers across Northern Ireland.

Monday, 1st March 2010, 10:16 am
Updated Monday, 1st March 2010, 12:08 pm

John McGuinness, a retired civil servant, said expert advice from a dietician during his treatment for mouth cancer helped to ensure he was eating the right food to help boost his fight against the disease.

The new guidance shows how to prevent malnutrition in cancer patients and aims to ensure that the right advice about diet is given at the right time.

Mr McGuinness said the advice was great support after he underwent surgery to treat his illness.

“When I awoke from the surgery I couldn't speak, smell, taste or eat and I would have been helpless if it hadn't been for the support of a team of dedicated people,” said the 58-year-old.

"The dietician I saw twice a week made sure that I was getting enough nutrients to get me back on the road to recovery.

"It was also reassuring to have people on hand who made sure I knew what was happening to me and who were able to answer any fears or concerns that I had.”

Author of the advice, Corrina Grimes, a community Macmillan specialist dietician in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland spoke at the special launch event in Lurgan recently.

Corrina said, "We think the guidance document will result in fewer cases of malnutrition and swifter action if someone requires support.

"Ultimately, we want to support the patient and give them some reassurance that what they are experiencing is a normal part of their illness.

"We are aiming to provide symptom relief and increase patient's enjoyment of their food and their sense of wellbeing.

"It is important not only to look at dietary advice but also the reasons for why patients are not eating and offer help and support holistically."

Patients can have problems with eating caused by cancer or its treatment including poor appetite, pain, difficulty swallowing or fatigue. Emotional and financial problems may also have an impact on patients' nutritional intake.

Angela McVeigh, Acting Director of Older People and Primary Care at the Southern Trust said, "I want to commend the efforts of all those involved in creating this booklet.

"These guidelines will really help to tackle the significant problem of malnutrition among people living with cancer and we hope it will benefit a lot of people not only in the Southern Trust region but potentially across the whole of Northern Ireland."