Community Catalyst: Nadia El-Hachoum and Wael El Sayed

It is a key ingredient for a healthy life. But, chemotherapy and other treatment options for cancer can make quite an impact on a patient’s dietary and nutrition needs. And, while the Georgia Cancer Center does offer a team of dietitians to help navigate changes in eating habits, a husband and wife team who call Columbia County home are helping with special meal bags to make sure cancer patients get the nutrients they need. 

“For the last five years, my husband and I have been helping with a weekend meal program for students at Euchee Creek Elementary School and Westmont Elementary School,” said Nadia El-Hachoum. “So, we wanted to build a similar program that could help cancer patients.” 

El-Hachoum came up with the idea after a meeting with Dr. Nagla Abdel Karim. Karim, who is a thoracic medical oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center, shared information about how surgery and other treatment options for lung cancer, as well as throat cancer, can causes changes in the kinds and quantities of food patients can consume. To get the program started, El-Hachoum’s husband, Wael El Sayed, who owns the Evans Kia auto dealership, made a donation to the Cancer Center’s Defeat Lung Cancer Fund. 

“Our gift is all about supporting the cancer patients during what can be a very challenging time in their lives,” El Sayed said. “My employees and I want to see them stay strong. And, being able to help them worry a little less on the diet and nutrition aspect of their care means they can focus on beating their cancer.” 

Social workers at the Georgia Cancer Center can use the meal bags from El Sayed and his wife to give to cancer patients meeting certain criteria depending on the type of treatment they undergo. The couple says they have enjoyed learning about the Cancer Center, its doctors, nurses and various support staff. 

“We like that Dr. Karim and all of the people we have met are so invested in the care of this cancer patients,” El-Hachoum said. “Getting diagnosed with cancer is something no one wants to experience. And, it’s not just the treatment for that cancer that can impact a person’s life. There’s the medical bills, the emotional toll and other barriers like food and nutrition support. So, it’s wonderful to know that our gift can be of benefit to these patients.” 

Being involved with Karim in this venture has led El-Hachoum to pursue a medical degree. She has been working on her pre-requisite classes before applying for medical school. 

“I have enjoyed my time learning about being a doctor and the sorts of things they deal with during their workday,” she said. “It’s been an inspiration to me and I hope that if I am able to get into medical school, I’ll be able to share that same passion with the patients I meet.” 

While she’s not sure she wants to pursue a cancer-related medical specialty, El-Hachoum said she does know she wants to work with pediatric patients. 

If you would like to learn more about the Defeat Lung Cancer Fund and how you can support meal bags for cancer patients, email Jane Barrett, associate director for major gifts at the Georgia Cancer Center. 

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