Mom Teaches Kids With Cancer How To Cook Immune-System-Healing Meals

by Rebecca Landman
Rebecca is a writer living the Los Angeles dream. She loves hiking, music, and crocheting on her couch to the background lull of Netflix. She believes our world is complex. By sharing and listening to each other’s stories, we unpack that complexity layer by layer, learning more about who we are and how we want to live our lives. She writes to keep learning.

Sometimes in life, our deepest struggles birth beautiful new beginnings.

When Danielle Cook’s 11-year-old son was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a great sadness overwhelmed her entire family.

The cancer was attacking her son’s immune system, and, along with rounds of treatment, had left him feeling physically weak and mentally depressed.

So, as any devoted mother would, Cook began doing all she could to care for and nourish her son’s struggling immune system.

She, at the time, worked doing cooking demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and began using her talents in the kitchen to create holistic, healthy meals — carefully orchestrated to provide her son’s body all the nutrients it needed to rebuild.

After months of eating his mother’s healthy recipes, this weak boy transformed back into the healthy adolescent he’d once been.

Fascinated by his son’s recovery, Cook launched Happily Hungry — a program by which she teaches other children braving cancer and chronic illness, and their families, how to cook healthy, immune-system-strengthening recipes.

Keep scrolling through our gallery to learn more about this mom’s mission to help teach kids suffering illness how to heal themselves with healthy recipes.

[H/T: Good News Network]

Courtesy of Danielle Cook

When Danielle Cook’s son was 11 years old, he was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Feeling saddened and powerless in the face of her son’s illness, but determined to help him as best she could, she turned to her strengths for direction.

She got into the kitchen, and began cooking and healing her son’s immune system with healthy recipes.

son with cancer
Courtesy of Danielle Cook

In just a few months, her holistic, nutrient-rich recipes visibly strengthened her weakened, depressed son back into a healthy adolescent.

Inspired by this transformation, and confident that her holistic recipes could help other children struggling to overcome similar challenges, Cook founded Happily Hungry — a nutrition program she developed for children affected by cancer and other chronic illnesses.

Through this program, she teaches children and parents braving pediatric cancers and illnesses how to cook the healthy recipes their immune systems need to heal.

son with cancer
Courtesy of Danielle Cook

Of starting Happily Hungry, Cook told Little Things: “My objective was, and still is, to educate on the importance of a whole foods diet and why nutrition matters during cancer treatment and after, for life as a cancer survivor.

“Many of the challenges I faced in trying to find foods that my son would eat were compounded by the side effects of treatment. Those side effects included nausea, pain, mouth sores, appetite loss, change in taste buds, and general digestive distress.

“The HH program addresses all of those issues with creative delicious recipes and ideas of using foods that may help mitigate the side effects.”

son with cancer
Courtesy of Danielle Cook

“Once treatment is done,” she continued, “it can take a long time for the patient to regain their energy, appetite, mood, and stamina. The program addresses this as well — rebuilding the patient as a cancer survivor — and preparing them for healthier food choices for life ahead.”

Now, Cook travels from hospital to hospital teaching kids and their families how to cook her carefully written recipes, empowering these folks with the skills they need to make themselves feel better.

Reflecting on her most memorable moments thus far since founding Happily Hungry, Cook told LittleThings: “On many occasions, there are patients and their families who are quite skeptical about trying a recipe we prepare together, but once they do, their faces light up.

“I had one little girl who was extremely timid and shy, and it took many attempts to encourage her to participate in the cooking program.

“Eventually — over weeks and months — her confidence grew as we cooked together and as the year came to an end, she proudly told me that Santa Claus had brought her a kitchen for Christmas.”

mom cooks for kids with illness

“Proper nutrition during treatment correlates positively with better treatment outcomes including less toxicity to treatment, shorter hospitalizations, fewer infections and complications,” Cook explained.

“Happily Hungry is a program that grew from my own experience as a mom of a child with cancer. It’s a program that answers the food and nutrition questions that I had during our time with cancer treatment, and after the treatment was over.

“In some ways, rebuilding his health after the treatment was an even bigger challenge because the effects the toxins from chemotherapy and radiations took a long time to clear out.”

book cover
Courtesy of Danielle Cook

Along with her program, Cook has also published a Happily Hungry cookbook full of kid-friendly recipes, photos, and nutritional tips. It is a beautiful road map for how to help kids make healthy eating choices while braving cancer.

“To borrow an adage from my mother,” Cook began, reflecting on what she’s learned since founding Happily Healthy, “I would say the most important lesson I’ve learned is ‘Less is more.’

“Simple nutrient-dense recipes, appealing to kids’ tastes, easy-to-follow recipe directions, accessible ingredients — those are some of the cornerstones to making the nutrition program work effectively.”

mom cooks for kids with cancer

This mother helped rebuild her son’s immune system with hearty, healthy food, and continues sharing her methods for thoughtful healing with countless other families.

What do you think of this woman’s mission? Have you, or a loved one, been touched by pediatric cancer? Let us know in the comments.

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