After being diagnosed with cancer, I scoured the internet for ways to live as long as possible and found some helpful tips and not-so-helpful “cures.”
You’ve just been told you have cancer. What’s next? If you don’t do something, you’ll feel like you’re drowning. Do you go into freak-out mode or do your best to tread water?
In the big sea of cancer confusion, your first instinct may be to jump on the internet to gain understanding of unfamiliar terms. After all, the world of cancer is full of those. Or perhaps, you feel the need to look up helpful hints and tips or possibly look at random cancer cures. As a survivor, here's some personal advice and what happened to me.
When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I couldn’t help myself. As soon as I got home from the doctor’s office, I pulled up my computer and began searching. Not only did I want to learn about my specific type of cancer, I wanted to know what my future held. I wasn’t naïve. I knew everything I read wasn’t going to pertain to my specific case, but I felt a deep desire to know everything I could about cancer. I felt the more I knew, the better equipped I’d be at fighting the disease. I was bound and determined I was going to beat cancer.
As I searched online, I felt like I was being sucked into a deep, dark hole. There was so much information and I found myself following rabbit trails. I searched about various types of cancers and their causes. I searched for treatment options. I searched and searched until I felt like my eyeballs were going to fall out, and that’s when I told myself it wasn’t healthy to keep going, so I stopped for a while.
Then, after completing treatment, I started up again but this time, I was searching for information on how to be a long-term survivor. I wanted to do everything I could to live.
The internet was filled with crazy cancer cures, and I read many of them. I did my best to glean information from legitimate sources and discard suggestions from sites that seemed unreliable. The problem was some good information was usually intertwined with some not-so-good information. At times, it was challenging to know what to believe.
Thankfully, common sense kicked in and gave me a swift kick in the pants. Though I wanted to follow the advice of survivors who’d tried various regimens, I couldn’t justify many of their restrictive programs. For instance, one article claimed drinking freshly juiced carrots was a bonafide cancer cure. It sounded pretty good to me. I like carrots and I knew they contained beta-carotene, which was supposed to be a healthy nutrient. The woman mentioned in the article was supposedly completely cured of cancer, but her last name was never mentioned. I couldn’t follow up to see if she was still living. (At the time of the article’s posting, in 2013, she was living, but a lot of time has passed since then. I’d like to know if all those carrots really did the trick.)
Curiosity led me to a more reputable source, a cancer treatment center with highly qualified medical professionals. As I read an article on their website, I found conflicting information on the benefits of beta-carotene, the antioxidant found in brightly colored veggies like those carrots the woman had been consuming. It indicated a normal intake of fruits and vegetables containing beta-carotene was healthy and beneficial, but excessive amounts of beta-carotene containing produce had been associated with cancer and heart disease. After reading that, I discounted the woman’s story.
As I perused the web, I found articles on keeping one’s body in an alkaline state to prevent cancer cells from growing, others on avoiding processed foods, and still others on eliminating sugar from the diet. On and on they went. The more I read, the more wary I became about what I was reading.
I knew diet was a very important part of one’s health and I did believe it to be a vital part of my post-cancer care, but there was no way I would spend the rest of my life juicing a specific vegetable to live longer. While I knew most people in the United States followed the Standard American Diet, (SAD), it was really just that – sad. That diet wasn’t very healthy at all. There had to be a better way.
That’s when I remembered an endocrinologist who I’d seen 20 years earlier. I visited her for help with an underactive thyroid gland, I’d asked her opinion on the healthiest diet to follow. I was concerned about growing older and wider. She was a petite woman from India and seemed to be in extremely good health. I asked if she’d mind sharing her personal dietary recommendations. Gladly, she complied.
She said the best diet anyone could follow for optimal health was the Mediterranean diet. I was unfamiliar with it and asked for details. As I listened, she told me the diet included most of the things I already enjoyed eating such as whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. She also added it was important to include a healthy fat such as olive oil to the diet and said it would be OK to enjoy a small, five-ounce, glass of red wine each evening before bed. That diet sounded very doable to me.
For the past eight years, I’ve been following the Mediterranean diet. I’ve never felt better and I’m still living with no evidence of disease. Along with that lifestyle change, I’ve included five to six cups of green tea daily after reading an article from a medical journal’s website touting the benefits of green tea. Of course, I use raw honey instead of sugar to sweeten it, just in case those articles about sugar feeding cancer are true.
The point I’m trying to make is this: take everything you read or hear about cancer cures with a grain of salt. There are both good and bad articles out there. I think Hippocrates had it right when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Our bodies need food to survive and if we’re to survive before, during or after cancer, why not do our best to give our bodies a fighting chance? I believe God created a beautiful variety of foods to nourish our bodies and keep them strong. Over the years, additives, genetic modification, and over processing have taken food away from its natural state and warped it into unrecognizable, unhealthy options.
If choosing healthy, whole foods can help a person live longer, we should all be spending more time perusing the produce aisles. But while there, we should be sure to leave a few carrots on the shelves. Too much of a good thing isn’t always wonderful, and orange-tinted skin isn’t very attractive.
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