One of the first changes I made after discovering I had breast cancer was to my diet. At first I was blown away with the amount of information, not just on the internet, but in well-intended emails which arrived in my inbox. If I only ate more celery, carrots, flax seed, avocados, broccoli…..the list went on….I would be cured. I probably would have done the same thing had it been a friend of mine, thinking I was helping, but I actually had to tell people to stop. I was so stressed by the whole diagnosis, trying to get my head around what was about to happen, I couldn’t cope with the ‘quick fix’ solutions which were being offered.
I wanted my liver to be in good shape, in preparation for all the toxins which were about to be put into my body – general anaesthetic, chemo and radiotherapy. I thought I ate pretty well, but everything I read stressed the importance of cutting out dairy, sugar, meat and alcohol. At the beginning I think I went a bit overboard. I even tried only eating alkaline foods – the theory is, cancer cannot survive in an alkaline-only environment – but saying no to fresh in-season organic tomatoes seemed crazy.
I lost weight very quickly, but the nurses at the hospital stressed the importance of having some protein to keep me strong in terms of energy and in building muscle mass. In the end, after a slightly extreme beginning, I made a no sugar, dairy, meat and alcohol rule in the house but I could eat anything (within reason) out of the house. My daily diet usually included porridge (with lots of seeds, nuts and fruit) in the morning, and then vegetable soup for lunch, then something with beans or pulses for dinner. The other thing which happens of course with chemotherapy was my appetite was pretty low, but I would make an effort to eat regular small meals to keep my strength up.
According to my friend Andrea, an expert in Chinese medicine and healing foods, chemotherapy makes the body cold, so you should only hot foods. Conversely, radiotherapy heats up the body, so it’s important to eat cold or cooling foods, to create balance in the body. This is one rule I stuck to throughout the treatment.
There is tons of advice out there about miracle cures, as well as the properties of various foods, but I found it too difficult to make extreme changes to my diet – mainly I just didn’t have the head space for it. For me, cutting out meat, sugar, dairy and alcohol made it much easier on my liver to process all the other toxins my body it was having to deal with. I drank loads of water too, of course, and following the hot/cold rule made a lot of sense.
On a final note, I find it interesting that French hospitals take nutrition very seriously, whereas friends of mine in the UK had no nutritional advice – quite the opposite – the rule was, ‘carry on as normal’. More worryingly, a friend’s mother in the US was told that she should absolutely not make changes to her diet during her treatment. It’s almost as if the Anglo-American conventional medical culture is positively hostile to any form of natural healing.