I'm delighted to join Macmillan's Online Community; my work as a nutritionist has been devoted to helping those with cancer, and other serious health conditions, to find the confidence and skills to nourish their bodies through the food they eat.Jane

My great aunt adored cooking and was my food mentor. As children, my sister and I loved staying the night with her, as we would wake up to wafts of homemade bread and Chelsea buns tempting us down for breakfast. She showed me that so much love, affection and care can be communicated through food. At the same time, my dad gave me a love of chemistry. Together, these wonderful people inspired me to combine my passion for cooking with my curiosity about how foods impact our body, and how our health impacts our ability to eat.

I studied dietetics, swiftly followed by corden bleu training to reignite my passion for cooking. When I was studying, I couldn't understand why there seemed to be such a lack of passion and knowledge around ingredients and delicious foods, so I couldn't wait to don my apron and get back into the kitchen. I set up my own practice 25 years ago and soon became known as the food-loving nutritionist (I am a state-registered dietitian but prefer to call myself a nutritionist as it's a far more descriptive and motivating word, and doesn't imply that I give out diet sheets, which would be far from the truth).

I wanted to do something different from the norm for my patients; I wanted to inspire and turn them on to eating, especially those struggling with the side effects of cancer treatments and difficulties around living with the disease. I couldn't bear to suggest what we were taught at university for someone with a swallowing difficulty, which was to take meat, potatoes, and vegetables, bung them in a liquidiser and serve the Sunday roast as a soup. I found this patronising and degrading and I didn't want any of my patients served mush.

Instead, I love to find beautiful-tasting, easy-to-swallow dishes that anyone would love to eat, whether they are poorly or not - like a soufflé, a crème caramel, or a light fish mousse. I might suggest a wonderful soup made with roasted vegetables, which softens them and intensifies the flavours, drizzled with a dollop of crème fraiche, or another soup, simply made from stock, frozen peas and gently fried smoked bacon and garlic, which can be whizzed up in 10 minutes then kept in the fridge for a few days, ready for when you need something nourishing. Fancy something sweet? What about a small hot chocolate, made by melting a square or two of chocolate in warm milk, served as a little aperitif to get the taste buds going.

I spend long weekends cooking at home, where I'm lucky enough to grow most of our vegetables. Maya, my beautiful 14-year-old daughter, knows me either as the crazy woman who is out in her pyjamas in the vegetable garden as soon as daylight breaks, or as she described me in a poem she wrote, aged six, 'My Mum the Salad Hoover'! I try to eat seasonally as much as possible, but I know this isn't always easy and I never want to make it a rule, as life is complicated enough without having hard rules. This is especially true when you or someone close to you is living with cancer, be this in the thick of treatments or coping with the physical challenges that cancer can make us face, such as dealing with an ileostomy or colostomy, problems swallowing, or lack of appetite.

The food you eat can support you during often difficult treatments and keep you as strong as possible. So I want to hear from you, to understand what you're struggling with, and hopefully provide recipes, tips and ideas to help you gain the confidence and skills to help you nourish your body. I'm very much looking forward to becoming part of your Community.


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