Food & Cancer

Big life events will sometimes spur you on to drastic life changes. I had my first taste of that when I had kidney stones. Not just any kidney stones-but the biggest that my Urologist had ever seen (go big or go home, right??:) ) I’ve had women that have experienced labor and kidney stones tell me that they would take labor any day over the pain of a kidney stone. Now that is saying something! My experience with the stones was intense and I knew that I didn’t want to have to ever have them again. Statistics say that over 50% of people that get kidney stones once will get them again within 6 months. That statistic made me look at making some serious changes in my diet. First change that I made was upping my water intake. I had always been a water drinker and only a water drinker however, my doctor told me to get at least 100 ounces a day or more. Done. My second change was a more serious one. In studying kidney stones I found a direct link between too much animal protein and stones. I had always been finicky about meat-not ever wanting to touch it while raw and especially not eating anything that is still on a bone. I decided to adopt of vegetarian diet for a few weeks and see what happened. It agreed with me in every way and it has now been 3 years since I have eaten any meat. This is an eating plan that I will continue on with for the rest of my life. I won’t go too much into my beliefs on meat because I know that people have really strong belief systems on eating it-both for and against. I will say if you are even the least bit curious about vegetarianism the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safram Foer is an excellent place to start. If you are like me each book that you read will lead you on to another, and after you have thoroughly researched it you will become even more resolute in your conviction.

Now, in our home you have the vegetarian and you have my husband who jokingly calls himself a meat-a-tarian. As much as I would like to convince him otherwise he will never, ever fully give up meat. When another huge life changing event happened called a cancer diagnosis that changed everything. I started researching links between cancer and meat consumption. Research is unwavering in the reality that there is a link to meat eating and cancer. For those of you that think that I am going to completely bash and be anti-meat-hang with me because that is not what I am saying. It isn’t so much of eating meat in and of itself. The 2 biggest issues with meat consumption is #1 how much of it we eat and #2 how most meat is raised and slaughtered these days. America is one of the richest countries in the world. America also has some of the highest cancer rates in the world. At one point in time meat was considered a luxury-now it is considered almost a necessity. Because of our prosperity as a nation people have come to expect meat at every meal and some even think a meal is not complete without it. But even our hand dandy food pyramid says that you should only be eating 2-3 ounces of meat a day. That is about the size of a deck of cards. Most American’s eat more than that amount of meat in one meal alone. This over-consumption of animal protein is really difficult for our body to process not to mention artery clogging. It also brings me to point #2 which is how these animals are being raised. Many people don’t care about how they treat animals on these factory farms and that is your choice. But what we should care about, at the very least, is how these animals are being raised. Our population is increasing and so is the demand for meat. Because of that our meat is being pumped full of anti-biotics and hormones in order to keep it as healthy as possible in its terrible living conditions, as well as making the animal grow as quickly as possible. All of the things that have been pumped into these animals are then what we eat when we eat the animal and none would argue that any of those things are good for us to consume. A tedious book-but highly informative none the less-is The China Study by Thomas M. Campbell. It takes a look into the American diet compared to that of the Chinese and how our disease rates are compared to theirs. It was pretty fascinating because when you look at the facts on paper you can’t deny the correlation between our health and what we eat.

Is my husband ever going to give up meat? No matter how much I beg him-even knowing what he knows-he will still not give up meat. What was our compromise? The first one was Joel only eating meat that is hormone and antiobiotic free as well as grass-fed. That was the very first change that we made shortly after he was diagnosed. An exciting thing that we did was join the Oklahoma Food Co-Op. You pay a one-time membership fee (around $50) to join and are then given access to all of the amazing farms that are in our great state. We place an order every 3rd Thursday of the month. The co-op then goes to all of the farms around the state and picks up all of the goodies that we order. They deliver to a pre-determined location 5 minutes from our house and we pick it up every 4th Thursday of the month. Some things are a little bit more expensive than your local grocery store but some are comparable. We feel like it is in investment we make to our health. The honey is amazingly sweet, the homemade whole-wheat bread is divine, the veggies are all organic-large and crunchy and (Joel says) that the meat is yummy as well. It gives me relief that if Joel is going to be eating meat he is eating it in the purest form possible and it is also wonderful to know that we aren’t eating nasty pesticide chemicals in our veggies. It is better tasting food, better for you, and we are even supporting local area farmers-it is a win win all around. For more information on the co-op here is the link:

After his cancer diagnosis Joel and I have delved into a lot of research about food and how it affects your body. 2 documentaries were extremely illuminating to us-Food Inc. and Food Matters. Each of these documentaries investigates the link between what goes inside our bodies to cancer and other disease. I highly recommend both of these if you are interested in making some changes in your eating. It is astounding to me with all of the doctor’s we have met with this year-not one of them has ever mentioned nutrition in relation to our health yet if you think about it-it just makes sense.

Another compromise that Joel has made is he now tries to go vegetarian for at least 2 days a week. Whenever I cook dinner (hopefully 3 nights a week-ha ha) I only cook vegetarian. There are lots of meals you can make without meat that are still extremely yummy-black bean quesadillas, veggie chili, home-made veggie pizzas, and whole-wheat spaghetti with marinara to name a few. A wonderful movement that started recently called Meatless Monday aims not to make the whole world go vegetarian-but more so striving to consume less meat in our lives-started with giving up meat every Monday. One day a week is doable for most and there are health benefits for giving up meat for just that one day. They have a website with easy and delicious meal ideas-here is the link:

There is a life-changing book that I read in regards to cancer and nutrition called Crazy, Sexy, Cancer by Kris Carr. Kris was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Instead of going home and waiting to die she decided to fight back-with nutrition. It is now several years later and her cancer has completely stopped growing and stabilized. This isn’t because of any medicines she took but rather in changing her nutrition. Her eating ideas are rather radical and not for everyone-as she recommends going totally vegan-but there are a lot of interested things regarding nutrition that she challenges you on. Another thing she talks about is eating more raw foods as well as fruits and veggies. An idea that she mentions in the book, which I now do regularly, is juicing. I start my morning every morning with a huge bottle of organic fruits and veggie juice.

In one week I consume a 1 pound bag of spinach, 5 cucumbers, 7 pears, 7 apples 21 stalks of celery, 21 large carrots, and 7 broccoli stalks-all organic. I am a huge fan of this drink and I drink it every single morning. The juicer that I bought is a Breville and it was $80 on Amazon. If I can’t find the veggies in season at my co-op I buy fresh organic veggies, in bulk no less, at Sam’s Club. Another thing I have become a fan of is wheatgrass and spirulina. I get both of these in powder form and drink it in a small cup of organic apple juice every morning. They help to boost energy your immune system as well as having anti-aging and a plethora of other health benefits. I normally get sick once or twice a year but this year with Joel doing chemo and having low blood counts, it was especially crucial for me to stay healthy. I took my vitamins and wheat grass religiously this year and never once encountered any type of major sickness.

Of course everyone also knows how important it is to stay away from processed foods-eat 100% whole wheat as much as possible-and Ezekiel Bread is even better! Also-cancer feeds on sugar so that is something we are both trying to cut out as much as possible. Anything from the earth, as in fruits and veggies, are the best things that you can be eating.

And lastly, I never realized how much of an emotional eater I was until this year. I use food as a comfort far too often and there were many instances this year where I used it to comfort myself. A new book out called Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst really made me take a second look into how I was responding to times of desperation by using food in ways that I shouldn’t. I am STILL trying to work off the extra weight from this year. If emotional eating is an issue that you deal with I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough.

I know this was a long one and thank you for reading! I don’t claim to be an expert-just a dork who reads a lot and all of the research has brought me to the same conclusion. Cancer was a life-changing event for us both and really made us look at food in a new way. Its purpose is to fuel our body. Abuse food and we are abusing our health plain and simple. If you have ever had cancer you want to do everything in your power to make sure you never have it again. For us a big step in that direction has been changing our food habits. Knowledge is power so I invite you to check this stuff out for yourself. And of course if you have any questions, let me know. I’d love to tell you more :)

Have a great rest of the week all!