Tamera Anderson-Hanna is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and became a Registered Yoga Teacher while coping with breast cancer in 2015. She owns Wellness, Therapy, & Yoga in Florida where she provides personal wellness services and coaching and she is a public speaker on wellness-related topics. You can connect with her at www.wellnesstherapyyoga.com.
In December of 2017, I shared my journey of finding the gift of wellness. Following an annual physical and learning the results of my blood tests, I decided I could improve upon my health. My target goals were to reduce sugars and improve upon healthy cholesterol levels. I am presently cancer-free, not diabetic and not of cholesterol medications, but my goal in seeing a registered dietician was to keep things this way. In sharing my experience, I want to encourage others to strive to make further positive changes in their health, whether cancer-free or still fighting to get there.
I belong to a couple of private Facebook support groups, and I have been pleased to learn that others are catching on to the importance of diet along when undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments. My local hospital has a new cancer institute and they offer free cooking demonstrations as well as recommendations and consultations with a dietician to aid in the recovery and healing process. Cancer often brings on fatigue and feelings of anxiety and depression. Having a supportive diet can help to address these issues and reinforce our learning not to use food for emotional comfort, but rather to supply the energy we need for our bodies to function.
In just two and a half months, I have benefitted by seeing a registered dietician. First, I learned my insurance would cover my visits 100 percent. But the co-pay did not really matter to me, as I figure that anything I do to improve my health costs less than any medication or diminished quality of health as result of failing to actively manage my diet. The most significant changes I have made include using grapeseed oil if cooking, using plain unsweetened almond milk in my coffee and doing a little more baking, but not giving up on grilling. I was given feedback on avoiding mass-produced granola or trail mix. These often include dried fruits as an ingredient, which can spike sugar levels. My solution has been to purchase unsalted nuts and mix them along with a healthy, plain granola. For my own version of a trail mix, I add to an unsweetened Greek yogurt. I also got back to eating steel cut oats with fresh wild or organic blueberries every weekday morning. I take a break sometimes on the weekend for a more traditional brunch, but I have already seen some positive results in my most recent blood test. Another plus has been discovering different meats I enjoy, like bison. Bison has less fat than chicken or turkey, and I it's fun to find ways to include it as a staple to some of my recipes. I have never been someone who drinks soda or enjoys fried foods, so most of my changes have felt very comfortable. Yes, I have kept the dark chocolate and use it sparingly with my yogurt granola mix at times.
A healthy diet can last a lifetime. When we do not manage our diet, we can end up complicating our diagnosis further should we develop high cholesterol or diabetes. I have found that the improved diet, alongside yoga, walking or other exercise, helps me easily maintain my ideal weight. I don't feel like I'm in any way starving myself, and it is a good feeling when I look into my refrigerator to find a rainbow of healthy fruits and vegetables. The positive change has also influenced my youngest child to ask for her own appointment to make changes in her life. We worry about our children being at risk for cancer due to genetics, but a healthy diet supportive of recovery for us might have the potential to help our children who might be a greater risk of developing cancer.
Maybe the next time you are making that appointment for chemotherapy, radiation or a follow up with your oncologist, ask for a referral or prescription to see a registered dietician. It has been explained to me that eating habits, which can lead to high cholesterol and diabetes, can also contribute to cancer. Consider what you can do to decrease your risks for recurrence and find ways to embrace more cancer fighting foods and spices.