Five years ago today, I was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal breast cancer. I had a lumpectomy that also removed 2 lymph nodes and then chemotherapy every three weeks for three cycles. I was negative for genetic predisposition, and the cancer was triple negative for hormone therapy. After the chemo, I did six weeks of radiation treatments.
I was determined to treat this time as a blip on the radar so that we could make my son’s senior year in high school as normal as possible. He was auditioning for musical theatre colleges from November through March. I’m glad to say that it all went well. And I was very fortunate to have an easy time in my treatments.
Later in 2011, I was at a scrapbooking retreat (ClubScrap) , when I happened to talk to a woman about diet. She and her husband had been eating a whole foods, plant-based diet for several years, after he had had trouble with his health. She recommended a book by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn called “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”. I read it on my iPad on the way back from the retreat and discovered, by chance during a flight layover, that my brother had been eating this way for a few months.
I came home and cleaned out the cupboards and refrigerator to eliminate all foods not part of this way of eating. I worked really hard to be faithful to this, and about the same time, a new DVD came out called “Forks Over Knives”. Both my husband and I watched and he promptly switched to eating this way after that. It made it a lot easier on me when he did, because I knew I could make food for us both that worked. My son had left for college, so even though he didn’t change his eating, I didn’t have to make two sets of meals.
I was hoping for dramatic results in my cholesterol levels which have been high for some time. Although they came down quite a bit, they were still not as dramatically lower as I thought they would be. I did, however, lose quite a bit of weight and immediately felt my whole digestive system work more smoothly. One thing that I did notice, however, that I didn’t like, was that my joints (hip, ankles, toes) were very achy. They had not been that way before the chemotherapy and radiation. So at first, I thought it was the result of this. My oncologist said she didn’t think it was caused by that. On a whim, I eliminated wheat from my diet (not required on the Esselstyn list of foods, so long as you use whole grains), and immediately (within a day) my joint pain went away. Who knew. I don’t believe I have ever had any sensitivity to gluten before. I also cut out caffeine, which my oncologist thinks has a positive impact on my breast health.
Throughout this whole time and for many years before, I have practiced Tai Chi (more on that in another post), and have walked for exercise sporadically. I’ve never been much for gym workouts, though.
I’d like to report that I’m still the ideal weight that I want to be eating this way, but I have fallen off the wagon in my eating several times, mostly consuming too much oil, salt and sugar (mild M&M addiction) and a relapse with caffeine until recently. It is not surprising that I have gained about 20 pounds from when I felt the best at the beginning of eating this way. It’s been gradual but steady.
I admit this even though I’m not happy about it. I know that I am sabotaging myself by adding oil, salt and sugar. My husband only eats this way, partly, having added some meat, poultry and fish. I struggle with feeling good about food and not feeling deprived. Intellectually, I believe this this way of eating works for my body, yet, I miss certain favors, and give into certain foods that are not helping me.
Eating a whole foods, plant-based, no added oil diet makes it nearly impossible to eat in restaurants because of all the added fat, salt and sugar in their dishes. Plus, I also know that my lifestyle is more sedentary than the amount of calories I want to consume can bear.
On the plus side, my annual mammogram and MRI are unremarkable. My blood pressure is fine. I haven’t tested my cholesterol in awhile and should do that, but don’t expect it to have improved over this time of wandering (I, too have had some poultry, dairy in addition to the aforementioned oil, sugar and salt increases).
The point of today’s post is to mark the milestone as being significant, to document attempts to eat in a way I know makes me feel better, and hopefully to remind myself of what is at stake if my health suffers. I need to improve and maintain my health so that my quality of life remains high. Thanks for reading.


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