“You gave yourself cancer”

Now that I am both recovered from surgery and not nauseated quite as often as I was, I have started to educate myself a little more on diet and its links to cancer. I can’t control anything else that happens to me; maybe I can control this.

So tonight, my sister and I decided to watch Forks Over Knives, a new documentary which advocates for a plant-based, whole foods diet (trailer below). No meat, no dairy, just whole grains and vegetables. It’s not really anything I haven’t heard before. But this documentary was different in that it attempted to blame cancer (all cancers, presumably) on diet. Not to mention heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. And the astronomical health spending in this country (which i’m currently taking a class on). And because it’s a documentary with an agenda, it provides compelling-sounding evidence.

Not that I heard a lot of it, because the whole time it was playing, my head was playing another soundtrack. It went something like this: “You gave yourself cancer. You gave yourself cancer. You gave yourself cancer. You are the problem that the documentary is talking about. You gave yourself cancer.”

And then I compared the pictures they showed of bad foods–the usual french fries and cheeseburgers–with the foods I have eaten my whole life. Which, for the most part, are way closer to these plant-based, whole foods than a typical American diet. I have always been health conscious and pretty much always exercised regularly. I have never eaten much fast food, my family and I cut out red meat for about 10 years, I went on and off pork and shellfish several times, and on and off all meat for a few years non continuously though I’ve pretty much stayed vegetarian at home since I started living on my own. I have never understood why news reports say people eat so many potatoes. I have loved farmer’s markets and the promise of fresh produce since I was much younger and… wait. That gave me cancer?

It could be that i’m selectively remembering. Or that I believed I was eating healthier than I actually was. But my parents always said that I am the healthiest person they know. And I don’t believe that a few french fries, or slices of pizza, or glasses of milk I drank when I was young could have possibly given me cancer. And I don’t believe that not eating them can cure the cancer I have now.

A few weeks ago, prompted by a free Cancer Project cooking class my family attended, I decided I would try to be vegan. I was for a couple days, but then I wondered what was so evil about eggs. Or yogurt. I wasn’t convinced. And then I did a little more research and found that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which endorses The Cancer Project, is not really what it sounds like. According to this article, PCRM doesn’t have a lot of doctors in it. And its agenda is animal rights, so it promotes a plant-based, whole foods diet to that end. Not because it believes that it will necessarily cure or prevent cancer.

My oncologist isn’t convinced either. I asked him about his take on diet and cancer and he said, “There is no research to prove anything one way or the other.” In fact, he used to do this kind of research. But he stopped because he couldn’t prove anything. He was slightly less dismissive of antioxidants helping to minimize risk of actually getting cancer (yay blueberries and green tea), but once you already have it, he doesn’t believe diet can do much to change that. So he says, “Eat a reasonably healthy diet.” Which I have been doing all along.

And yet, Forks Over Knives would have you believe that you can treat cancer with nutrition and exercise alone. If you didn’t get surgery and went off all medications for cancer or otherwise, that you would be cured. Except they never actually say that. Or give data to that effect. They sort of imply it by talking about all of the other benefits to eating vegan, but conveniently omitting cancer. And they mention some specific cancers, but they lump the data for specific cancers in with generalizations about all types of cancer. It’s like saying that because studies show that smoking causes lung cancer, that it then must cause all types of cancer. Even the rats, who they fed dairy proteins to, still experienced some cancer growth when they weren’t eating the diary proteins–just less. But maybe, thinking back, it wasn’t actually tumors they were measuring, but precancerous cells.

The point is, I can’t believe it. I believe that whole grains are better and veggies are best. I believe that Americans eat too much meat and that its nutritional benefits are iffy and that the meat industry is so dubious anyway in the way it treats animals that it’s better not to eat it (i’m taking another class on this). I believe that too much cheese isn’t healthy and that egg-laying chickens are treated badly too. I believe in minimizing processed foods and processed sugars. I have even started making my own almond milk to use as a substitute for regular milk in my cereal, which has become homemade granola.

I just can’t believe that meat and dairy caused me to get cancer–and are causing it now to grow. Except it’s not growing, but that’s from the three different types of chemo that i’m on. And i’m vegetarian again as of a couple weeks ago. 25 years is just not long enough to trash my body to the point of giving it cancer. Now i’m going to go take my first dose of my chemo, which has actually been proven to shrink my cancer.

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2 Responses to “You gave yourself cancer”

  1. Cara says:

    I’m new to following your blog (yesterday) and it’s already struck a cord. As a fellow 25 year-old, Los Angeles based female who just started an MA program at USC, I can give you nothing but admiration and credit for all you’ve been through and the perspective you’re living by. Please know that my support and positive thoughts will continually be directed toward you!

    On another note, I work at the Prostate Cancer Foundation based in Santa Monica, CA. We talk a lot about diet, nutrition and lifestyle and its relation to prostate cancer. We have two really great cookbooks that our founder, Michael Milken, had made a few years ago. He too is vegetarian and a lot of the recipes are based on the simplest of ingredients. I would be happy to send them to you if you’re interested! You can see them here: http://www.prostatecancerstore.org/The-Taste-for-Living-WORLD-Cookbook-COOKBOOK-WORLD.htm and here: http://www.prostatecancerstore.org/The-Taste-for-Living-Cookbook-COOKBOOK.htm

    Sending my best,

  2. Rodd says:

    After watching Food inc and the downright insane things people do for profit to the meat you are forced to eat then its no wonder cancer rates have soared… our ancestors did eat meat yet that meat was not injected or fed meals containing ground down bones of other animals either….

    Then there is the smoke you cant see in the cities you live in.Those cars those millions upon millions of them polluting the air you breath.And then u have the fact that good home grown food is now impossible to grow and will soon be impossible to afford as well due to inflation and the fact that modern humans live in apartments without gardens and the majority could only dream of being able to claim a patch of land and live there and grow his own sustainble healthy unadulterated food.

    Oh and if meat does give people cancer then surely mc donalds should pay for some of the healthcare costs no? its not like they cannot afford to give a billion or two of thier billions of profits for some research? Oh wait thats right they are capitalists…. Sorry i thought for a second that somewhere just somewhere someone would have the sense and decency to confront cancer and its causes even if it did mean losing money.

    It makes me very sad indeed 😦

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