Having visited eight countries over the past five years, Pat Kidder could be categorized as something of a world traveler.
“I like to cover as much ground as I can,” Kidder, 75, said.
In the summer of 2017, however, those travels came to an abrupt halt.
Doctors diagnosed her with gastric malt lymphoma, a type of cancer in the stomach.
Leading up to the diagnosis, her family suspected something had been wrong.
“My daughter came over and we went for a walk,” Kidder recalled. “We went about three blocks and I was out of breath, gasping for air. My daughter said, ‘You’re going to the doctor.’”
A trip to the family physician and a series of tests soon revealed the problem.
“It was like an elevator drop,” Kidder said. “My stomach went right to the floor. You hear about other people getting cancer, but you don’t think about it happening to you. It took the wind right out of my sails.”
Joys of juicing
Almost from the get-go, Kidder experienced a loss of appetite. The foods she once loved just seemed to lose their appeal.
For a world traveler who thrived on enjoying a wide variety of cuisines, home and abroad, the loss of appetite proved devastating.
“I’d never heard of pineapple fried rice before I went to Thailand,” Kidder said. “I have had wonderful dishes in other counties. The food is part of the experience.”
She learned that the cancer had inflamed the lining in her stomach, to about four times its normal size. The inflammation was one of the reasons her appetite disappeared. Another? She couldn’t digest solid food quite as efficiently.
“I wasn’t hungry,” she said. “I would get to the end of the day and think, ‘Gee, I haven’t eaten anything all day.'”
In September 2017, before starting radiation treatments at the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center at Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital, Kidder began juicing fruits and vegetables.
She quickly discovered that juicing could be an effective way to consume what her body needed, even when the juices sometimes tasted unappetizing.
Kidder had always been accustomed to a relatively healthy lifestyle, and she’d long had a taste for fresh fruits and vegetables.
But never having juiced before, she’d been blindly adding in the fruits and veggies—until she discovered the wellness library at the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center.
It gave her a roadmap.
A center of knowledge
“I found a book that gave you 50 essential things to do when you have cancer, and it talked about juicing,” she said. “I ended up stumbling through much of the stuff before I read the book, but I would have loved to have had that book from the very beginning. I liked the book so well that I ordered one for myself.”
The library at the Susan P. Wheatlake Regional Cancer Center became especially helpful. The books, iPads and limitless resources help cancer patients like Kidder research their diagnosis and find best practices to help manage their symptoms. The patients also meet regularly with the cancer center’s staff.
“I had no idea that they had such a marvelous center,” Kidder said. “I only live 7 miles south of there, but I didn’t really have a reason to get to Reed City. It’s not a place you realize is here until you need it—but when you need it you are so glad to have it close by.”
After reading some key books and talking to a registered dietitian at the cancer center, Kidder learned to make juices that provided just the right nutrients during her cancer treatment.
“I refined my juicing,” she said. “I was throwing all sorts of fruits and vegetables in my juices and it tasted … interesting. After reading books, I learned to put in the essentials. The dietitian was concerned that I wasn’t getting enough protein, so I added whey protein to my juices—and that helped.”
Hunger through therapy
Armed with a newfound way of getting the nutrition her body sorely needed, Kidder continued juicing throughout her 15 radiation treatments. The regimen lasted until Nov. 10. She hoped her appetite would return after treatment.
And yet, she found herself without an appetite.
That’s when she decided to take advantage of another service the cancer center offers: free therapeutic massage and acupressure services.
Acupressure is a holistic medicine method in which pressure is applied to certain acupuncture points.
The goal? Send a signal through the body to aid in healing.
After a few sessions of acupressure, Kidder’s appetite returned to normal. She said it almost felt like someone turned on a switch during the acupressure session.
“They have these wonderful cookies on the stand in the waiting room at the cancer center and I had not touched a single one in all the appointments I had come to,” Kidder said. “But after the acupressure that day, I grabbed a cookie and munched it down. It was delicious!”
While she can’t quite explain what clicked that day, she remains grateful the cancer center offers wellness services such as acupressure to aid patients in their healing journey.
“I know some don’t understand what a difference the holistic services can make, and it is so hard to explain,” Kidder said. “But I would encourage any cancer patient to give it a try. I have been very impressed with this center. They offer everything. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and helpful. I have had an excellent experience.”
With her appetite back, Kidder is enjoying normal foods again.
Just as importantly, she’s looking forward to resuming her beloved travels.
“I’m eating food, I’m walking, and I’m getting exercise,” Kidder said. “I’m blessed, I truly am.
“And now Portugal seems to be calling me.”