Reel Healing – Mary Parker Forbus

 In Blog

2023 welcomes a new blog series here at Casting for Recovery! Each month, CfR will highlight a health and wellness volunteer that serves one of our many programs including, psychosocial facilitators, medical facilitators, nutritionists and more. We kick off our January feature with Mary Parker Forbus, an Oncology Nutrition Specialist, who serves Casting for Recovery Georgia. Read more below about her role at a CfR retreat and how it provides “reel” healing for breast cancer survivors and thrivers.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became involved with Casting for Recovery.

I became involved with CfR Georgia 3 years ago.  I started fly fishing with my husband about 5 years ago.  He was going to all these pretty places to fish, and I wanted to join him.  I grew up pond fishing at my grandparents’ farm, so I enjoyed fishing but quickly realized how great and challenging fly fishing is. I enjoy the fact that while out fly fishing you have to be focused on that and cannot be distracted with anything else going on.  When I found out about CfR – I thought it was the perfect service organization for me to be involved with because on my Monday-Friday I am a Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition, at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute here in Atlanta, GA.  I have been a RD/CSO for the past 9 years.  I really believe nutrition plays a role in all stages of cancer treatment from prevention to active treatment to post-treatment recurrence prevention.

As an Oncology Nutrition Specialist who volunteers at CfR retreats, why do you believe a nutrition component to the retreat is so beneficial and/or necessary?

Women undergoing breast cancer treatment, no matter the stage, have to navigate so much information that is given to them by providers, family and friends over the course of their treatment.  I believe it is helpful for those women to have access to a Registered Dietitian as part of the retreat to help answer some of the nutrition questions or concerns that they may have regarding their diagnosies.  By having an open discussion, it allows for the women to connect as many of them experience the same side effects impacting their nutrition.  I really think I make the biggest impact helping to debunk the cancer-related fad diets and myths that cause added stress and anxiety for these women.  Not everyone has access to an RD, so it is great to be able to provide more accessibility to participants who may not have that.

Mary Parker and participant

What sort of nutrition questions and topics do you find participants ask most often about during the retreat?  

I see a lot of questions on what foods should be eaten and what foods should be avoided.  I think that food should not be feared as something that could cause harm; rather, I try to focus on what are the best food groups to focus on to put the participant’s body in the best position for treatment.  I also get a lot of questions focused on cancer-related fad diets, myths and fearmongering around nutrition that unfortunately can be easily found on the Internet.  The majority of the time it’s given by individuals who are not licensed nutrition professionals.  I like to take time to ask – what are those myths/fads you’ve read, and then go through them individually to explain the science behind why those claims may not be research-based and could potentially cause more harm to the individual. 

What are some of the most transformative things based around nutrition you have witnessed with retreat participants – as a group and/or individually?

A sense of relief and comfort that the participants get knowing that they are not doing anything to harm themselves through nutrition and that nutrition and food should not be something that induces stress; rather, food should be looked at as something that should be enjoyed.  At times, these food fears may cause individuals to miss out on something that plays a positive role in their fight against cancer.

On the whole, why do you refer some of your patients/clients to CfR retreats? Why do you think the retreats are beneficial to women who have experienced breast cancer?

CfR is a great organization for women to totally disconnect and focus on themselves.  I believe these women get to put aside their daily stressors and focus on building positive experiences while at the retreats.  Everyone gets something different from the retreat – new friendships, connecting to nature or learning all about fly fishing.  I like to refer my patients to CfR because of the wide variety of experiences this organization provides for the women in a fun-filled weekend.

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