Meals Help Nine-Year Cancer Survivor Remain Independent

Roberta Olson doesn’t want to be a burden to her two adult children. But, as a 53-year-old living with stage 4 cancer, she finds herself in the unexpected position of relying on them for almost everything.

That’s one of the reasons the medically tailored meals delivered to her door by Project Angel Heart volunteers mean so much to her. “[The meals] help me feel a little bit independent,” she said. “I don’t have to rely on my kids for this. It’s one less thing they have to do.”

Roberta was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2008. Four years later, her cancer had progressed to stage 4 and moved into her bones, weakening them and making it difficult for her to walk. “I couldn’t even stand in the kitchen long enough to cook,” said Roberta.

Unable to work any longer, she left her job with Texas Child Protective Services and moved to Colorado Springs. She now lives with her children, who juggle their own work schedules and activities to help with Roberta’s medical appointments and other aspects of day-to-day life.

Last fall, a social worker suggested that Project Angel Heart might be able to assist with meals. Soon after, Roberta began receiving weekly meal deliveries. Her meals are customized—prepared mild and with no added sauces or seasonings—to help Roberta deal with mouth and throat sores related to cancer treatments.

“I love the meals,” said Roberta. “I feel like I’m eating healthy. If I was left to my own devices, I wouldn’t be eating like this.” The meals also help with nutrition needs related to Roberta’s treatments. “I had to increase my vitamin D and protein, so this has really helped,” Roberta said.

Despite the challenges she has faced, Roberta tries to stay positive. She attends cancer support groups and recently participated in a program that help women manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatments.

“I can’t complain,” Roberta said. “At one point, they said I had two-and-a-half years left. I’ve been around eight, and I plan to be around a lot longer!”

In her career as a child abuse investigator, Roberta loved establishing a rapport with children and families and connecting them with resources. Today, her love of connecting with people is also helping Roberta cope with her diagnosis. “Being around people is the best thing,” said Roberta. “It’s knowing that you’re not alone in this.”

Photos: katie marie seniors