I must admit I have become a bit obsessed with food these days. With very little else to do to take control over my recovery, I have turned to my diet. This is not to say that my diet was every unhealthy – but I am learning that what I thought was healthy may have just turned out to be one of the contributors to my cancer. At least – this is a line that I am pursing.
My mother taught me to cook. My brother and I were absolutely spoiled by her cooking. I never realized that, of course, until I became an adult. Everything my mother cooked was from scratch. She was relentless. When Kraft Dinner was introduced, I wanted nothing to do with Mom’s home-cooked macaroni and cheese. There was no way, however, that any of that “garbage” (sorry Kraft!) would enter our home. “Stacey, it is full of junk that is not good for you. Why would you want that artificial stuff when mine is so much better?” she would ask. I was part of that generation turned on by the “sexy” commercials that promised me more fun and happiness if I ate the product the companies were trying to sell.
When McDonald’s came to Barrie, again all I wanted to do was to try a Big Mac! Who didn’t? How cool was it that you could get a burger and fries in under 3 minutes! My mother wanted no part of that. “How can you get a healthy burger in that amount of time? It is full of “garbage” (sorry McDonald’s!) and I will not support that. Why would you not prefer a good home-cooked burger grilled over an open flame of maple wood your dad chopped in our very own bush?” she queried again. But everyone ate at McDonald’s. That was cool. I went to school with the owners of the first McDonald’s in Barrie and they were cool. The daughter even had a Big Mac clock. Very cool. And look at the clown – Ronald was cool. And then – there was the line-up of cool characters: the Hamburgler, the big purple thing (can’t remember it’s name) the French Fry bushes (don’t remember their names either). How could food that was so cool be bad? After- all, it had to pass through Health Canada, right?
My mom was relentless in her cooking. Guests raved over her meals of roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, home-made soups made with home-made broth, oven-roasted free range chicken from Brown’s farm, farm-fresh eggs from farmers in Craighurst. “Why do you not just get your food from the grocery store, Mom?” I would often ask.
“Stacey, there is nothing like farm-fresh food.” she would explain simply and furtively.
It turns out – she was right. Okay, so there is cancer in my family, but my Mom lived until she was 83 and my Dad lived until the ripe old age of 92. They developed cancer well into their 80s and 90s – not until then. So, why do I have such extensive cancer at the age of 51? I thought I was healthy in that I exercised and ate well (or so I thought) and had fantastic support networks that helped me with any emotional trauma that came my way. The difference between my Mom and I was that she relied on farm-fresh and I relied on “on sale and imported” foods.
Here is what I have learned. This is not to say that the following is the Gospel truth, but it has given me “food for thought”. I know it is going to be really astounding in its simplicity. It is almost a “no brainer”. You are what you eat – and furthermore, you are what your food eats. What? The extra lean ground beef I was eating was eating weird things that cows are not supposed to eat. The chickens I was eating were not exercising in their cooped up darkened stalls – eating weird things that chickens are not supposed to eat. Could the stress of their environments be passed through their bodies to “nourish” mine? I have read studies that would offer a resounding yes! The consequence of eating beef that is not grass-fed is a product that is not conducive to good health. Modern methods of farming and raising animals have changed since World War II and the green revolution. This change is not our friend – it seems critical to return to the food-growing methods of our parents or even grand-parents. It seems our cows and chickens are eating junk-food and, consequently, so are we. It also seems that this junk-food has altered the balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These two essential fats cannot be produced by our bodies and so, therefore, must be consumed. Obviously it is our diet that sets the balance or alters the balance.
So? Dr. David Schreiber outlines in his book, Anti-cancer a new way of life, that “omega-3’s and omega- 6s compete to control our body functions. Omega 6s help stock fats and promote rigidity in cells as well as coagulation and inflammation in response to outside aggression. They stimulate the production of fatty cells from birth onward. Omega-3s are involved in developing the nervous system, making cell membranes more flexible , and reducing inflammation. The also limit the production of adipose cells. This balance has changed the most in the last 50 years as a result of the foods that are available for us to eat. Again, so what? Dr. Schreiber also outlines of studies that suggest cancer cells, that are created all the time, thrive in environments where there is inflammation. There is a lot more detail about that – but that was enough for my little brain to comprehend at this time. So – connect the dots and you will find that eating junk-food junkie cows and chickens (so then, milk, cheese, butter, and eggs) offer a diet higher in Omega-6s.. an inflammatory promoter.
I thought I was doing well by cooking from scratch for my family. Now I can’t help but think about the diet of the animal – or plant for that matter. Is it possible that eating free-range and grass-fed meat can help me to combat cancer? I don’t know. To me – it makes sense. What have we done even to our farm-lands though pollutions and toxins that precipitate on these lands anyhow? What can we do to avoid them? I don’t know. All I know is I am hunting for good food and it seems this is more of an awakening than anything. Did you know that table salt contains other substances in it (including sugar???) than just salt? Course salt is 100% salt. Just thought you may want to know.
I thought I was a conscious consumer before – turns out I’m not. I take my food for granted. Garlic powder, curry powder… butter… you name it and I just assumed it was as advertised.
Mom’s home-cooking was best. She knew best. But even my Mom’s recipes are not good enough. Not only do I need to cook from scratch, but I need to know about the “scratch” too. It is almost like I’m waking up to food – becoming more aware. I’m not sure I like having more information – but how can I bury my head and continue to consume the same way I consumed before now knowing more?
I am more obsessed with food these days as it makes sense that food can help me to help my recovery by creating conditions that are better for my immune system and worse for the rogue cancer cells. It’s the very least I can do for myself and my family to go good-food hunting.