After cancer, my eating habits changed drastically and maintaining a clean, nutrient-rich diet became one of my top daily priorities.
This shift didn’t happen overnight — during treatment, for example, I ate everything from McDonald’s to Chinese food as doctors directed me to worry more about gaining calories and maintaining my strength than eating healthy and avoiding acidic and inflammatory foods.
But the more I research about health and wellness, the more I know, and I attribute the modifications I made in diet and nutrition as a pivotal factor in my overall improvement after doctors gave me a survival rate of less than 10% for metastatic osteosarcoma (bone cancer).
I’m not saying that diet alone is a silver bullet for cancer treatment, but pretty much we are what we eat. Throughout my search for wellness, my strategy became to create an indoor environment through food, supplements, and a detox regiment that empowered my immune system and imposed the challenging conditions for disease growth.
I currently maintain a mostly vegan diet—although I’ll have wild salmon and organic cage-free eggs—which is full of vegetables, healthy nuts and a few daily servings of fruit. I keep everything organic to the best of my ability. I like to start my day with celery juice and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Throughout the day, I also like to throw in apple cider vinegar shots and glasses of hot lemon water.
What I include in my diet is probably just as important as what I do my best to avoid. Nutrition labels have become my best friend, which I comb well now that I’m more literate. These days, I exclude artificial flavors, preservatives, pretty much all processed foods, unhealthy fats and oils as well as added sugar (which is different from the natural sugars you’ll find in apples for example). The carbs are shorter than quinoa, beans, lentils, and mainly Ezekiel bread, which are rich in nutrients and low on the glycemic index (it affects how your body processes sugar). For dessert, I stick with a few squares of Lindt 95% Cocoa which tastes like cardboard to most people, but for my modified taste buds, they’re great. Popcorn with light olive oil (a healthy fat) is another personal favorite.
Regarding the practicality of this diet, fortunately, the world is moving towards adopting a healthy and healthy diet, but until a few years ago it was difficult to go out with friends or order takeout or eat in restaurants. Every event requires planning ahead of time. I’ll bring Tupperware with prepackaged meals along with packaged nuts and special detox bars that are free of artificial chemicals. I’m not great in the kitchen so this used up more energy than it should have, at least at first. In the end, I found my groove.
My friends and family have always been very supportive throughout my cancer journey so sticking to such a strict diet around them has never been so annoying, they get it. However, eating out can be embarrassing at times – I’ve had to bring my own meals at restaurants if they don’t have anything I can work with, although most people were sympathetic once I explained the situation or it showed them at the worst Cases medical note.
Over time, I’ve become more flexible, too, allowing myself to cheat at times—especially since the added stress of being too rigid counteracts the benefits, which I learned the hard way a few years ago. I was driving myself crazy trying to reach nutritional perfection (I thought my life depended on it) and eventually experienced another recurrence. Then, my medical team explained that I was generally doing such a great job with my diet that getting my feet off a little gas wouldn’t be the end of the world, and they reiterated the importance of leaving room for moments of joy.
So, I calmed down a bit, but during the height of my fight against cancer, I remained completely disciplined. The way I saw it, nutrition was one of the few areas I had control over. And even with some hiccups in finding the right balance of strength along the way, I’m so grateful for making these changes (and seeing the benefits).
I hope to be healthier in the long run, and if you appreciate the sarcasm, I think I have cancer to thank him for that.
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