And angels exist: Volunteers help cancer patients

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Diagnosis of cancer: How people help each other at Dresden University Hospital

By Uwe Bluemel

Dresden – diagnosis of cancer. The disease kills patients and the affected are out of step, so to speak. At the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) at the University Hospital Dresden many angels make suffering more bearable: the new patient counseling is a suggestion box in need. With sports therapists, you train against physical and mental downturns. And a resourceful pastry chef even bakes special sugar-free treats for cancer patients.

Pastry of sweet ease

Pastry chef Stefan Salzer (58) from Thallwitz developed recipes as a cancer patient so that he could eat delicious cakes despite the difficulty of swallowing.  The secret behind its sweetness is xucker - table sweetener based on erythritol.

Pastry chef Stefan Salzer (58) from Thallwitz developed recipes as a cancer patient so that he could eat delicious cakes despite the difficulty of swallowing. The secret behind its sweetness is xucker – table sweetener based on erythritol. © Assembly: Ralf Seegers

If there is a tumor in the head and neck area or as a result of chemotherapy or radiation, dysphagia, a swallowing disorder, may occur.

Patients complain that they almost do not get food.

Just like Stefan Salzer (58) from Thallwitz (near Wurzen). The pastry chef had to be irradiated due to an inoperable tumor in a paranasal sinus across the palate. Side effects: dry mouth and difficulty swallowing.

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Foods with grains, fiber, crusts, seeds and shells as well as dry, crumbly, sticky foods were taboo.

“But I would not be able to do without delicious cakes,” says Salzer, remembering his art of confectionery.

Stefan Salzer is now writing a baking book

Cooking instead of baking: Here, only the chocolate biscuit base to be baked is prepared for a cooked quark cake.

Cooking instead of baking: Here, only the chocolate biscuit base to be baked is prepared for a cooked quark cake. © Ralf Seegers

Without further ado, he made recipes for goodies that were easy to swallow: “I cooked, for example, a quark cake without anything baked except the chocolate biscuit base. Instead of apples, a farmer’s cake was served with fruit pudding made from berries, which is good for cancer. Bread is good and moist if you do not use sourdough and use quark. “

And what about the sugar in the candy, because cancer patients should not eat carbohydrates?

The resourceful confectioner also experimented in the kitchen: “I discovered the sugar substitute erythritol for cookies and nut biscuits – zero carbohydrates, zero calories.” He has also refined the rather cool-sweet taste with Stevia.

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By the way, the radiation treatment destroyed his tumor. Master Salzer also got to taste the recipe ideas in the university clinic. – They were so well received that I am now writing a baking book.

The University Dental Clinic was also interested in the sugar-free sweets, because many patients suffer from acute tooth decay after chemotherapy.

Targeted destruction by bombing: Since September 2014, proton therapy has been used at Dresden University Hospital to remove tumors in sensitive body regions without a scalpel or chemotherapy.

Targeted destruction by bombing: Since September 2014, proton therapy has been used at Dresden University Hospital to remove tumors in sensitive body regions without a scalpel or chemotherapy. © Petra Hornig

The patient council is strong

Removes the fear of cancer patients and gives them the feeling that they are not alone in their fate: Karin Arndt (66) from the NCT Patient Advisory Board at Dresden University Hospital.

Removes the fear of cancer patients and gives them the feeling that they are not alone in their fate: Karin Arndt (66) from the NCT Patient Advisory Board at Dresden University Hospital. © Ove Landgraf

When a benign tumor was found on the knee 17 years ago, the educated computer scientist Karin Arndt (66), who worked as a broker at the time, was not very worried.

Not even when the orthopedist considered something malignant … It was only after the operation that it suddenly became clear: the tumor had turned out to be malignant.

– Instead of a personal conversation with the doctor, I received the new diagnosis by phone. The relationship of trust was gone, but that is the basis for successful healing, says Arndt.

The cancer had already developed lymph node metastases.

“Even worse than the diagnosis, however, was the dismissal from my employer shortly afterwards,” reports the Dresden native.

Cancer diagnosis came on the phone

She researched on the internet and finally found a specialist for the rare soft tissue sarcoma that does not respond to cytotoxic drugs and radiation.

She drove to Düsseldorf and had surgery in Essen – a total of six times!

– First I asked myself if they take me seriously there at all – as an Ossi and AOK patient?

In order to save other patients from similar bad experiences, she was elected to the newly established patient counseling council of NCT at Dresden University Hospital.

Patient advice at NCT

“Cancer patients should not have to question therapies and doctors. Talking to each other always helps.”

She and her colleagues on the advisory board are the contact persons for this – by the way, they are all cancer patients themselves:

“We keep in touch with self-help groups and recommend, based on our own experience, to seek psycho-oncological help.”

Arndt is sure: “Cancer patients need research to improve treatment quality and prognosis. But they also need care.”

  • www.krebscentrum.de
  • www.nct-trained.de
  • Phone 0351/4583371

Exercise doctor: Fewer chemotherapy side effects during exercise

"The cycle begins": Cancer patient Jan Goldenbogen (38) with sports researcher Nadine Giesemann (29) under therapeutic sports support.

“Circulation begins”: Cancer patient Jan Goldenbogen (38) with sports researcher Nadine Giesemann (29) under therapeutic sports support. © Amac Sheaf

Cancer patients need to take it easy, just do not exert themselves. Is that correct? “No, it is outdated knowledge,” says Dr. Sandra Weigmann-Faßbender (33), co-director of the sports therapy center at Dresden University Hospital.

“More than 700 international studies, mainly on breast, prostate and colon cancer, confirm that regular physical activity can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.”

Like Jan Goldenbogen (38), who was diagnosed with lymph node cancer in March and is currently on chemotherapy: “At first I was tired and lethargic, I did not dare to move. But thanks to the training, the chemotherapy is now almost free of side effects. In everyday life I feel relatively fit. ”

The athlete can even take his three children to and from kindergarten and school on a regular basis.

Charity-driven FortSCHRITT against cancer in Storhagen

Can participate in coordination and strength training courses up to three times a week at the sports therapy center during his outpatient cancer treatment: strength athlete Jan Goldenbogen (38) also runs in the charity race in Storhagen.  Left: Center leader Dr. Sandra Weigmann-Fassbender (33).

Can participate in coordination and strength training courses up to three times a week at the sports therapy center during his outpatient cancer treatment: strength athlete Jan Goldenbogen (38) also runs in the charity race in Storhagen. Left: Center leader Dr. Sandra Weigmann-Fassbender (33). © NCT / UCC 2021, Amac Garbe

Dr. Weigmann-Faßbender recommends moderate endurance training three times a week for 30 minutes, strength exercises twice a week and, if possible, stretching the main muscles every day. “It’s about strengthening the large muscle groups in the arm, leg and core.”

The three sports researchers and two physiotherapists have cable runs, a bicycle ergometer and an apparatus for training balance skills at their disposal. “This is used in patients with polyneuropathy – sensory disturbances in the hands and feet, which often occur as a side effect of chemotherapy – for coordinative training with balance exercises.”

The sports therapy center has existed since September 2021 and is funded by donations. – We now want to expand the area for individual full body training with leg presses, pull-down machines and another ergometer, says the co-director. However, the specially certified sports equipment costs from 10,000 euros each. Money for the new acquisitions will be collected on July 1 at the FortSCHRITT cancer charity race in the Great Garden.

Everyone can donate an optional amount for each round completed. Start: 17.00 at Torwirtschaft. The cancer patient Goldenbogen also runs: “I want to do four kilometers”. Every step counts. Information and registration: www.nct-dresden.de/lauf

Cover photo: Montage: Ove Landgraf, Petra Hornig, Ralf Seegers

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