Fighting cancer through nutrition

April 7, 2012

Cancer has been in my life since 1986 when I first understood what it was and what it meant. My grandmother died of lung cancer and she was my first experience with death. I remember watching her endure her chemotherapy treatments and become weak and frail and eventually succumb to it. She was a strong and powerful woman, who smoked like a chimney and ate baked goods all day. Thin as a rail, to the outside eye she was seen as just fine.Back then thin = healthy didn’t it?

She grabbed my arm one day as she lay in that hospital bed and make me promise I would never smoke. I never did.

From then until now cancer has wreaked havoc on my life six ways from Sunday in ways I won’t even talk about. You see ….. cancer and I have a special sort of relationship. It f*cks with me in some form and I say f*ck you right back to it. It’s stolen a lot from me and believe me…… I am not alone. It’s hit you the same damn way. None of us are immune.

One of my family members was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and his choices were: chemotherapy, surgery, or treat it with diet and exercise.

Wait…. what….. treat prostate cancer with diet and exercise?

He chose that route, adopted a healthier diet and began working out. He’s doing incredibly well.

But here I was, a nurse…. and I was surprised that was his treatment.  Quite honestly it intrigued me. What role does fitness and nutrition (I hate the phrase diet and exercise) have on cancer? Does it have a role? It launched me into asking questions of the oncology docs I worked with, inspired my obsession with Pub-Med and sparked research of my own into exactly what this all meant.

I dont’ have actual number and facts and percentages. But through my own research and my questioning those who actually know where money goes and what statistics are and all that….. here is what I learned:

The time and money we are spending on Cancer prevention and the prevention of reoccurrence is where we are making the biggest progress.

Now please don’t read that to mean that all cancer can be prevented through fitness and nutrition. How would that explain the 4-year-old diagnosed with neuroblastoma? Obviously there are much deeper layers than what I am able to come up with. But there is a role. There is a role of fitness and nutrition in cancer, in some way.

The yoga studio I teach at, Breathe is owned by a Registered Dietician (among many other hats she wears). Her passion is whole food nutrition and at our studio we offer cooking classes, whole food nutrition and nutrition services. Cyndi has taught me a lot over the years and it’s taken me many years to absorb her teachings. I have always had to weigh my athletics in the balance and always felt pulled in certain directions and at the same time lost in where I was nutritionally.

My work with QT2 systems and The Core Diet brought together a lot of that in teaching me exactly how to fuel a healthy lifestyle. Qt2 and Cyndi don’t know each other but it’s like they do in the way that their teachings complement one another.

Because of how cancer has touched my life… my interest in the prevention aspect of nutrition has really piqued my interest. Because of the work I do with Teens Living With Cancer and understanding that these kids are at a high risk of developing secondary cancer I need to understand how we can use fitness and nutrition to improve their chances and their statistics.

I bought a cook book at Breathe a few months ago….. it’s called The Cancer Fighting Kitchen. In it the author describes how ingredients in foods may play a role in the alleviating of symptoms and in prevention. Click here for those examples.

I get teased all the time about my nutrition…. oh don’t eat that in front of Mary she’s in the core….. or there goes Mary eating Paleo again……

That’s fine. Statements like that come form a deep insecurity about oneself, not about me.

I am interested in my health. It doesn’t mean I won’t grab a handful of Sprees every now and then, it doesn’t mean that I skip those oh-s-awesome brownies at Breathe….. but I take a pretty close look at my own health and what kind of example I am. Especially as a fitness consultant, and a coach, and a yoga teacher and a nurse. I I embody what I teach? Am I leading by example?

It’s important to me that I am.

Cancer is all around me, it’s all around all of us. Are there ways we can work to improve and strengthen our own health and improve our odds? Are there ways we can help our teens improve their odds in terms of developing secondary cancers?

If it’s through food, and making good food taste great…… why not?




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