"Let medicine be thy food, and food be thy medicine."
I don't want my cancer to come back. It is a common fear among those of us who have dealt with the big "C." After nearly a year of doctors appointments, lab appointments, surgeries, chemotherapy sessions, radiation sessions I was told that I was done. I'm taking Tamoxifen for at least 2 years, but I can't help but fell like there is a shoe waiting to drop on my head. Yeah, Dr. P said I was considered "in remission." But with a stage 3 cancer, I have more chances of it coming back than people with less advanced disease. I'm slowly starting to think of myself as someone who has "had" cancer, rather than "has." But still.....
Throughout my treatment, I've been learning about the effect of various foods on cancer. I read "The Cancer Fighting Kitchen" by Rebecca Katz and make recipes from it often. I also read most of a book called "The China Study," by Dr. T. Colin Campbell which advocates a vegan diet to treat and avoid cancer. It goes into some fascinating epidemiological studies on the connection between diet and disease and is worth the read. I got lost a bit towards the latter half when he goes into a lot of detail about how the scientific community and the government went to great lengths to suppress the results of a mountain of research in favor of the financial big pockets of big pharma and the food industry. I don't dispute it, but it got a little tedious. There just isn't money to be made by telling people to eat vegetables, no prescriptions to fill, and it threatens well entrenched interests that contribute to politicians in power.
Now I'm reading a book now that is pulling it all together. I highly recommend this book for everyone, whether they have had cancer or not. The information inside this book can help prevent cancer from taking over one's body. It is called "Anticancer: A New Way of Life" by Dr. David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD. I haven't finished the book yet, but am so excited that I can't help but blog about it. The only downside is that I have to put my Kindle down in order to write this post!
Dr. Servan-Schrieber was a scientist and doctor who was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 30. His own experience and desire of trying to find out what else he could do, in addition to the typical treatments of surgery and chemotherapy, to help prevent his cancer from coming back a third time. His oncologist and colleagues basically told him his diet didn't matter, but Dr. S-S intuitively knew better. He goes through his own experience with disease and diet, as well as the basic biology of cancer. By the way, I hate the word "diet." It has a connotation of being something temporary, whereas like the subtitle of the book rightly points out it should be a "new way of living." That applies to weight loss and maintenance too. There are no magic bullets, pills or potions. But I digress...
Many of the "anticancer" foods I already use: green tea; cruciferous vegetables; berries; olive oil; eating less meat and when I do, make it organic; etc. This book explains the science behind why these things (among others) are good in cancer prevention. It is thrilling, actually, to read about how compounds in foods and spices can actually cut off the blood vessels that feed tumors, or even make cancer cells commit "suicide." I want to shout it from the rooftops! What we put into our bodies each day can either help us or hurt us.
One thing I really like about this book is that the lifestyle suggestions are intended to compliment traditional treatment. Other things I have read both in book and online have made me feel bad, even guilty, for having subjected my body to surgery, chemotherapy poison, and harmful radiation. Not so with this book. In fact, he points out how some foods can actually assist with the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation. I also like the fact that he does not categorically rule out meat. Its just that if you do eat meat, its better to eat less and make it organic. Why? Cows fed the conventional feed of corn/soy rather than grass (as nature intended) have a higher proportion of omega 6 fatty acids. When we eat that meat, we in turn ingest the high proportion of omega 6's. Our bodies need a little bit, but not in the massive amounts in conventional meat and eggs. Too much omega 6 can encourage inflammation in the body, which fuels cancer. There are better sources of protein that have a better ratio of omega 6 to omega 3. It's all really fascinating, and its not an all or nothing approach. This is just one example of how it has helped me understand the why behind the what.
Don't let the title turn you off. This is a very important book for everyone who eats. You don't have to be a health nut or a cancer patient. In the end, you may be able to eat refined grains, sugar and meat with every meal and not be diagnosed with cancer. But I've found that changing my approach to food, to think of it as medicine, has not only made me feel better physically, but has also given me more confidence that I am doing everything I can do to prevent that cancer from coming back. Using what God gave us in its most natural form is the best thing for us.