O P I N I O N
It feels great to be back in my element! Writing about food for Manchester Ink Link. It’s been a while and my foodie proclivities aren’t what they used to be. They’re far better. And that is what my new column is all about. The transformative – if not lifesaving, always healthier – nutritional opportunities for well-being and longevity.
Yeah, it’s different. Yeah, it takes some getting used to. A new mindset isn’t built in a day. But we’re talking food that tastes good and makes you look and feel good ‘cause Lord knows so many of us are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
‘Well, Carolyn,’ some of you may be asking, ‘since when did you become a guru on such matters?’
- Advanced Hurthle Cell Thyroid Cancer Diagnosis – October 1, 2022
- Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate Program T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutritional Studies and eCornell – May 10, 2023
FYI: This ain’t my first cancer rodeo.
For those unfamiliar with my nonprofit work locally and internationally on behalf of breast cancer, I celebrated my 20th year of survivorship from stage 3b estrogen-positive breast cancer on April 17 of this year. River of Life was my most memorable fundraiser. In 2017, at the age of 59, my daughter, Sydney, and I kayaked 300-miles from New Hampshire to Baltimore Inner Harbor raising close to $60K for the University of Maryland School of Medicine in my home state.
It meant a lot to me to do so. It was there that the late Dr. Angela Brodie, whom I befriended around 2013, first synthesized the drug that saved my life and the lives of millions of women – and men – around the world. Aromatase inhibitors. A drug that, in essence, neutralizes estrogen so as to reduce estrogen-driven breast cancer recurrence. Replacing tamoxifen as the gold standard of treatment and without the risk of uterine cancer. Now known in many iterations, I took Arimidex for five years after diagnosis and participated in an additional five-year trial through Norris Cotton Cancer Center in Lebanon.
Still, my triumph over the disease was as narrow as that kayak trip was harrowing. Despite regular mammograms after 40, my own intuition kept nagging. I told the doc that the areola of my right breast seemed strange; that the texture had become thick and leathery and very itchy while the left areola was perfectly subtle to the touch. Another mammogram and ultrasound found nothing. Frustrated but not ready to give up – you cannot give up on your gut – I said, “What diagnostic test can you possibly give me that you haven’t given me yet?”
Think about that for a minute. How many of you press your provider for maximum care? Even if it ruffles feathers? How many of you waste precious time with a wait-and-see approach? How many of you shrink from additional testing even if it could save your life? According to a survey by PatientPoint in 2022 with over 2000 participants, 51% of Americans said they are too afraid to ask about their health condition or symptoms. There is something painfully wrong with this picture. (Pun unintended.)
Let me assure you: I am the biggest scaredy cat in the room. I am the queen of panic attacks. The denizen of diazepam.
But I was also a mother of two young daughters at the time. I was in the prime of life. Working full-time and in the middle of graduate school. I hadn’t even been to Italy yet. (My husband promised to take me for our 25th anniversary.) Give me every bloody test ya got because I am not giving up so easily! I will fight tooth and nail; will do whatever it takes, no matter how hard to win this crap shoot.
Surely, I am not alone in recounting all the reasons worth the pain and anxiety of medical testing. The love of family and friends, chief among them. After all, we know deep down inside that one answer to the age-old question, what’s the worst that can happen? – is the worst can happen. But there’s another possibility. Treatment. Better yet? Cure. You’ll never know unless you ask.
A punch biopsy in her office that day – OUCH! – led to the discovery of a golf ball-sized tumor so embedded in my chest wall it really is a miracle I survived. Mastectomies in 2003 and 2012 without reconstruction. Chemotherapy. Radiation. Adjuvant therapy 5 – years with Arimidex.
I finally got back to that graduate degree studying the great epics of Western civilization. Odyssey, Beowulf, Inferno. Let me tell you, those who endure today’s medical treatments are the real-life heroes and she-roes of our time, whose battles with the evils of disease are Herculean. As well as the scientists whose life’s work is to sustain ours. Their perseverance and endurance is far more inspirational and, yet, the research is clear. So many diseases – cancer, diabetes, coronary artery disease, autoimmune disease – could be avoided with a plant-based diet. Who’s with me?
I changed a lot about my life when diagnosed with breast cancer – including diet and exercise – from a high-calorie, high animal protein diet to an organic-based diet with more fruits and vegetables and high-intensity exercise 6-days a week to reduce recurrence. However improved, I now see the many weaknesses in that nutritional protocol. Advice I look forward to sharing with you through Chews Life Now!
I count myself lucky. Lucky to have seen my daughters graduate college when I feared I wouldn’t see them graduate high school. Lucky the same tenacity of spirit that got me through breast cancer awakened a bold curiosity that, yet again, is challenging an assumed prognosis for a new trajectory through advance thyroid cancer all these years later.
This path to optimum health? It’s one available to all of us for the taking. A new paradigm that is shaping the lives of thousands around the world every day. People are embracing a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet and rejecting the wholesale, industrialized Standard American Diet (SAD). One foisted on us from birth to death with 24/7 advertised, processed foods and animal-based products whose stewardship is not only destroying us but our planet when all our bodies really want – and need – are the amazingly complex phytonutrients inherent in vegetables, nuts, fruits, and grains.
Are you ready to feel better? To reduce disease onset? To lose weight in the process?
Start this very week and add 30 – you read that right – 30 colorful, fruits and vegetables, plus whole grains and nuts (preferably organic) to your diet this week. Any/all combinations welcome! Here’s my list from last week and as you can see, I didn’t quite make it. I’ll try harder next round!
- Brazil Nuts
- Green Tea
- Kidney Beans
- Peanut Butter (Unsweetened/Salt-Free)
- Peppermint Tea
- Red Cabbage
- Red Mango
- Red Onion
- Red Pepper
- Red Potato
- Whole Wheat Bread/Spaghetti
Footnote: My husband has promised to take me back to Italy for our 40th. I can’t wait! In the meantime, I’ll enjoy introducing you to the fabulous and unfathomable world of whole food plant-based nutrition, whose ultimate destination is optimum health.
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.