I was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after my 41st birthday almost 3 years ago. I ate what I thought was a healthy diet that consisted of a lot of organic veggies, many home grown and nearly everything made from scratch. I ate some meat, fish and eggs but was careful to make sure they were organic / wild caught / free range, etc. My mom died of cancer (actually the treatments) when I was 12, so I was very careful about diet and not exposing myself to harmful chemicals. I never had health issues previously, so the diagnosis came as big shock. I gave up all animal products upon diagnosis because I knew of the Gerson therapy and macrobiotic diets. However, every time I read something about what I should and shouldn’t eat, I would get very confused. Because depending on the source, people with cancer are told to avoid grains and beans (inflammatory), potatoes (high glycemic), tomatoes and eggplants (nightshades) and other vegetables a variety of other reasons. I took the common denominator and reduced my diet to nearly nothing fearing it would grow the cancer, and I quickly became underweight for my height.
The surgeon told me it didn’t matter what I ate as it wouldn’t make a difference, but that didn’t sit well with me at all. So I visited the dietitian at the cancer center, and she recommended that I eat the meat and eggs in addition to several servings of dairy per day for protein and bone health. That really didn’t feel right to me. I then visited a highly recommended nutritionist in town who told me “don’t be one of those vegans” and then proceeded to do a strange muscle test on me – actually on another person touching my back, since he said I was too weak to perform the test myself. He then tried to sell me a variety of supplements costing $100 for just the first dosage. I nearly ran out of there.
After several months of confusion and hunger, I found a dietitian that recommended a whole food plant based diet and mentioned Dr. Campbell’s book The China Study. As I was reading it, I felt as if it was written just for me during a time I wanted to do everything possible to regain my health. Cutting through all of the confusion, the book’s dietary recommendation was simple – eat whole plant foods. It supported my original instincts to completely eliminate meat and dairy from my diet as it outlined numerous and compelling studies that linked these foods to cancer, heart disease and other diseases prevalent in Western societies. I was no longer worried about not getting enough nutrition to sustain and actually realized I could thrive on a diet that centered on whole plant foods. And I AM thriving now 3 years later thanks to this amazing book, as well as other books including Dr. Campbell’s Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition, Dr. McDougall’s books The Starch Solution and The McDougall Program for Women, and Dr. Campbell’s online Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate I subsequently took through eCornell.
The benefits of adopting a whole food, plant-based diet have been profound. My checkups since treatment show I am in excellent health and all of the doctors said I have recovered “beautifully.” Additionally, I am able to run and bike longer and faster distances than I ever have and recovery takes no time at all. Last September, I completed 100 continuous miles on my bike and my fuel was potatoes, sweet potatoes and dates that I carried in my jersey pockets.
I am now spreading the word about this wonderful lifestyle in my community. I held my first veggie potluck party last month. I told my story and demonstrated how to make plant-based, oil-free pizza including a delicious non-dairy mozzarella cheese made from cashews and tapioca flour. It was a big success. I can’t begin to express how thankful I am that Dr. Campbell took the time and risk to share what he discovered over the course of his career by writing The China Study and that it was available when I needed this information the most.