My Wake-Up Call
My life took an abrupt and shocking turn in 2007, barely a month after a clean bill of health from my gynecologist, I was diagnosed with late-stage ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer often is diagnosed at an advanced stage because of the subtleness of symptoms and lack of reliable screening tests. I was especially stunned because I considered myself to be in excellent health: I ate a low-fat diet (which included lots of dairy products, eggs, poultry), exercised regularly, maintained a healthy weight, and followed through with recommended health care check-ups and screenings. Immediately I had surgery, followed by months of chemotherapy.
The Ticking Time Bomb
As a person facing a dire health forecast, I was determined to do whatever I could, and do it with dignity and grace (my daughters were 14 and 17). Chemotherapy treatments were 3 weeks apart; then, doctor’s visits every 3 months. (Ovarian cancer is notorious for stubbornly recurring.) Before each visit, knowing that I would receive test results, my anxiety would spiral upward, dissipating only after receiving a report of normal blood work. Ahh – the joyous feeling of getting one’s life back (at least for another few months)! BUT, aware of the wickedness of the disease, I was ever-vigilant about the return of cancer, feeling like a ticking time bomb!
Remission and Beyond
In 2008, I was officially in remission (though still receiving treatment). Not long after, I read an interview with David Servan-Schreiber, a doctor and neuroscientist who discovered that he had a brain tumor at age 31. In his book, Anticancer: A New Way of Life, he detailed the roles that nutrition, along with environmental toxins, physical activity, and emotional health, has in fighting cancer. This book opened my eyes to the relationship between food choices and health: “Every day at every meal we can choose food that will defend our bodies against the invasion of cancer.”
I began reading more and more about food and disease, as well as attending educational conferences and seminars. I soon realized that the food I consumed on a daily basis was a key tool to help me fight off cancer recurrence – what a strong feeling of personal confidence and empowerment!
Educating Myself and Others
In 2013, I earned a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies. I highly recommend this program to other people – the curriculum was informative, practical and well-rounded. As an educator, I can attest that the program integrated solid educational practices. Plus, after completion of this program, I’ve developed into a full-fledged plant-based food advocate, including writing letters to editors, doing speaking engagements, teaching classes, and more!
Overall, the more knowledge I have gained about plant-based nutrition, the more impassioned and confident I become about the importance of day-to-day food choices in warding off chronic disease and maintaining well-being. As a result, in May 2015 I took an early retirement from my long-time job as a Professor of Education at a state university in order to work more diligently to educate others others about how they, too, can use food as a powerful tool in their journey toward healing and long-term health.
A Different View of Food – What I’ve Learned
- Foods consumed on a daily basis have an immediate and lasting impact on your health and wellbeing.
- What you do eat is as important as what you don’t eat.
- Plant foods can prevent and even reverse disease.
- Plant-based eating has a positive effect on physical and mental health.
- Plant-based eating changes taste buds and food desires.
- Plant-based eating can be simple and inexpensive.
- Food choices can have a profound impact. I now think of food as tasteful, delicious, nourishing, multi-colored medicine for my body.
Gratitude Plus More
Currently, there is a 20% survival rate for women diagnosed with advanced-stage ovarian cancer with fewer than 50% surviving past 5 years. I am one of the fortunate survivors – almost 9 years after diagnosis I have not had a recurrence and remain cancer-free. I am convinced that a lifestyle centered on a whole, plant-based diet, along with yoga, loving family and friends, and lots of gratitude keeps me healthy.