Chews Life Now! Don’t Got Milk, Don’t Want None: A Cancer Survivor’s Motto

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Carolyn Choate gives life the thumbs up by Harvard Medical School’s lion fountain after receiving a clean bill of health on October 3. “The secret to the Fountain of Youth is drinking from the Fountain of Knowledge,” she says.

“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley


Sorry I’m late posting this article.  I was a bit distracted.  As I always am preparing for the psychological and physical trauma of each 6-month cancer check-up in Boston. First, there’s the doubt that creeps in a few weeks beforehand.  That despite my best efforts, the sacrifice, the hard work I put in day after day, there remains a chance that the Emperor of all Maladies (borrowing the Pulitzer Prize-winning title of Siddhartha Mukherjee’s 2010 book) will return.  

But then reason and logic – like Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder – reassures me.  

“Carolyn, have faith. You have done your homework; incessantly studied nutritional cancer prevention and reversal from the best minds through the most reputable peer-reviewed research in the world. You care so much about life you revolutionized yours to save it.  And you will.” 

But even Jiminy is no match sometimes for the anxiety that consumes me when lying in that PET-Scan sweating like a pig from claustrophobia and what if syndrome

Such is the life of a cancer survivor.  A roller coaster from which you never fully disembark. A David and Goliath rivalry many readers will endure in their lifetimes. 

Yes! All my scans and bloodwork from October 3 said, NO EVIDENCE OF CANCER. As usual, per every successful benchmark, a major celebration in my household.  Dinner out for spicy Thai drunken noodles with tofu and, homemade chocolate, peanut butter, banana, soy milkshakes when we got home. So dang rich and creamy. (Recipe included.)

So, what does this edition of Chews Life Now! have to do with all of you?  Everything. Preventing and/or reversing cancer is no spectator sport.  It’s a chosen lifestyle for those who are in it to win it.  (Aren’t we all?) Knowing the basics, using the fundamentals, and practicing daily, you/we have a fighting chance. 

How many times do you have to hear it before it sinks in?  – early detection saves lives; before cancer reaches the progression stage. 

  • Get an annual physical with bloodwork every year and/or make an appointment to see your PCP if you’ve been feeling blah for more than 3 weeks .

(FYI: The average wait time for a PCP appointment is 20 days.)

  • Women, schedule your first mammogram at 40 or earlier if you have symptoms
  • Men, schedule your first PSA level at 55 or earlier if you have symptoms
  • Women/men schedule your first colonoscopy at 45 or earlier if you have symptoms like blood in your poop (colon cancer has declined 56% from 1970 to 2019 as the result of the advent of colonoscopy testing.)  (American Cancer Society, 2022 Report)
  • See a dentist if that sore in your mouth doesn’t go away in 3 weeks. 

Remember the factoid in my first article? 51% of Americans say they are too afraid to ask about their health condition or symptoms. (PatientPoint 2022) Whether too afraid or Uber health conscious – because neither is immune – nothing prepares you for the words, you have cancer.  

The 3 Phases of Cancer:

Initiation – the body tries to convert foreign chemicals into soluble forms to excrete them.  Often stored in fat, a small amount may become highly reactive, converting normal genes to cancer-mutated genes. 

Promotion – cells continue to multiply as years pass; they may cluster and be seen under a microscope.  Reversible in current state.

Progression – tumor growth stage; can be benign or malignant and begins invading surrounding cells and tissues.  Metastasis. 

Genetics, it turns out, plays far less a role in cancer than originally believed.  Today, many studies indicate that cancer is largely an environmental disease with important dietary links. 

Casein, for example, the main protein in dairy products, increases the production of growth hormones and elevates acids in the body, both of which promote cancer.  A highly controversial topic especially in the heavily government subsidized arena of industrialized agri-business.  (Check out James Beard Award-winning author, Marion Nestle’s book, Unsavory Truth:  How Food Companies Skew the Science of What we Eat.)

According to Dr. T. Colins Campbell, founder of the nutrition center that bears his name at Cornell University, casein is the most relevant chemical carcinogen ever identified.  “In my laboratory research conducted over a quarter of a century, funded by taxpayer dollars with findings published in the very best journals, we studied this effect in many ways at a most fundamental, cellular, and sub-cellular level as much research as for any other chemical deemed to be a carcinogen.  Science when done right means that a hypothesis should be falsifiable, meaning it should be possible to prove it wrong. Otherwise, such views are dreamlike.” 

Now, for all you milk-loving, yogurt-worshiping, cheese-and-butter groupies, please hear me out. 

Even if you are found to have a genetic predisposition to cancer, the relatively recent field of epigenetics – that humans have the ability to influence their genetic destiny through proactive means – is bursting with new findings every day. One discovery is that phytochemicals in plants have the ability to turn off genes that are inherently programmed to stimulate cancer which is flipping amazing! 

What is a phytochemical?  It’s the biologically active compounds/chemicals found in a plant.  Many have the power to kill cancer cells. 

But here’s the catch.  Let’s say you add a cup of blueberries to your yogurt because you know blueberries are one of the best anticancer foods there is and you’ve loved yogurt since you were in kindergarten.  Studies show casein in dairy products prevents the maximum absorption of blueberry’s cancer-killing phytochemicals. (Antioxidant activity of blueberry fruit is impaired by association with milk; Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 2009)

What’s the big deal, you ask, it’s just a cup of blueberries. It’s more than blueberries.  Researchers don’t know how many phytochemicals are affected by casein, but the list keeps growing.  For me or those like me, diagnosed in the promotion phase of cancer, or for those wanting to prevent cancer from ever forming, imagine that the unique, powerful chemicals in plants are like heat-seeking missiles aimed at cancer cells wherever they are in the body. You want a constant stream of defense in your bloodstream. An optimal source not weakened by outside forces. For me, I’m either all in or what’s the point.  

How I got here . . . 

In April, 2022, I was diagnosed with advanced Hurthle Cell thyroid cancer and doctors at Brigham & Women’s Hospital said I had profound vascular involvement – meaning my bloodstream was loaded with cancer cells.  The restless and searching health geek in me happened upon a 2011 University of Alabama paper by researchers Tabitha Hardy PhD and Trygve Tollefsbol PhD about the benefits of an epigenetic diet: Epigentic diet:  impact on the epigenome and cancer

The opening paragraph was a religious experience: 

A number of bioactive dietary components are of particular interest in the field of epigenetics.  Many of these compounds display anticancer properties and may play a role in cancer prevention. Numerous studies suggest that a number of nutritional compounds have epigenetic targets in cancer cells.  Importantly, emerging evidence strongly suggests that consumption of dietary agents can alter normal epigenetic states as well as reverse abnormal gene activation or silencing.  

That night I was reborn with hope, and I’ve never looked back. (Or had a drop or dollop or slice or pat of dairy since.) 

Do yourself a flavor.  Consume whole food, plant-based options at each and every meal – plus snacks – from the epigenetic categories cited in the research paper to prevent or fight cancer cell proliferation.  And dump dairy. Just so you know, you don’t have to be a scientist to read and/or appreciate a research paper. There may be terms you don’t understand but you can still gain incredible insight into a topic with research findings you can adopt for yourself and lifestyle. FYI: I never rely on third party sources for research findings – magazine/newspaper articles, blogs, etc. Always search the original source and citing for verification and/or clarification and, if possible, ascertain who financially supported the research. If the Dairy Association underwrites a study on osteoporosis, why would anyone find the research credible?

 Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you . . . “ 

Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Banana, Soy Milkshake

Makes 1 big, creamy, delicious, healthy treat.

  • 1 cup cold organic/non-GMO soymilk (Belongs to Genistein family of phytochemicals not found in any other plant.) 
  • 1 really ripe organic banana (Belongs to many phytochemical groups including Catechin, Epicatechin, and Gallic Acid.) 
  • 1 heaping TBS smooth, unsweetened peanut butter (Belongs to many phytochemical groups including carotenoids, phenols, and phytosterols.) 
  • 1 heaping TBA unsweetened, organic cocoa powder (Belongs to many phytochemical groups including catechins, epicatechins, anthocyanins, and procyanidins.)
  • ½ cup ice chips

Blend until smooth and enjoy!  325 calories/11 grams protein

Eat to live; don’t live to eat! 

Note: The writer’s experiences and observations are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide medical advice about the avoidance, diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Medical advice should be sought from a qualified healthcare professional.

About this Author

Carolyn R. Choate

Carolyn overcame stage 3 breast cancer in 2003 because she thought she knew a lot about health and food. Turns out she didn’t know beans about health food. But all that changed on March 2, 2022 - the day after she was diagnosed with advanced Hurthle Cell thyroid cancer - when she joined the epigenetic diet revolution. Using phytochemicals found in nature’s astonishing bounty of plants, she reclaimed her life and earned her certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Campbell Colin Center for Nutritional Studies through eCornell to help herself and others suffering from chronic disease. Carolyn is passionate about sharing all the life-affirming reasons to be vegan.