What I'm [Not] Eating
“Can you call ahead for me to the dinner restaurant,” I texted my amazing assistant from the freezing conference room, “there has literally been nothing here I can eat.”
I met the first really difficult challenges with food at a conference a few weeks ago. I had no refrigerator in my hotel room, limiting what I could bring with me, but I had assumed I would at least be able to find something to keep me fed during my time there.
You know what happens when you assume, right?
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I am still trying to get my head around everything that happened in Sedona, along with how best to share it with all of you. So hang on a little longer – its coming. Pinky promise.
In the meantime, I’ve had a lot of questions about my diet in the last few weeks, so I thought we’d review that for a few minutes.
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I don’t think I have ever really been a terrible eater. My mom raised us to be pretty healthy when it comes to food, and that carried over into my adult life pretty easily. But I wasn’t ever fantastic. I cleaned things up pretty well about five years ago, but cheese still played a major role in my life, and I often used my “long runs” as an excuse to eat all the fried food I wanted over the weekend.
Dr. Bush put a pretty big emphasis on what goes into the body early on in my work with him, but because of side effects from chemo it wasn’t possible to make many changes until recently. I tried in the beginning, but had so much trouble keeping healthy food down that I rapidly lost more than thirty pounds. My team was more worried about the rapid weight loss than the foods I was eating so we decided to pause the diet changes until my nausea had faded.
This probably worked in my favor. All the things I ate during chemo turn my stomach now – do not even get near me with a french fry or a slurpee – so in some ways the transition was made extra easy because I have no interest in most of my favorite junk foods anymore.
Little miracles. I’ll take them.
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So, I am working with five different “diets”, but am not required to super-strictly adhere to any of them. I am trying to listen to my body and eat within the limits it seems to be giving me.
In an ideal world, I would be able to maintain a diet that is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar free, that is also balanced toward alkalinity. As you can imagine, this is difficult to manage. I also need to ensure that I am getting enough calcium, seeing as I am now menopausal (which – I will state for the record – I still believe to be the cruelest trick of this whole little thing).
The only thing Dr. Bush really insists I be off of close to 100% of the time is dairy. Our dairy supply is so contaminated with hormones that there is no real safe way for me to incorporate them into my diet. I don’t miss it as much as I feared, and I’ll cop to sneaking ice cream twice in the last three months and two times I gave in to cheese. But my body hated me after, so I think that part-time dairy experiment is over.
Meat is next on the list of things to avoid – again, because of the hormones in our supply. I also don’t miss this like I feared (with the exception of fish). Certainly not enough to go out of my way to make sure I am sourcing my meat from a reputable place.
Gluten, soy, and sugar have all been linked to cancer, and Dr. Bush has recommended limiting those as opposed to limiting them all together, but when I listen to my body its telling me that gluten and soy aren’t doing it any favors. I’ve still eaten gluten here and there, but its greatly reduced from where it was a year ago and when I do have it, its generally in the form of sprouted grains.
Dr. Bush doesn’t buy sugar’s link to cancer (its said that cancer feeds on sugar), but it has such a negative impact on the body in other ways that he wants added sugar very reduced as well.
The alkaline piece of this whole thing is the hardest, and is a part that Dr. Bush feels pretty serious about. Cancer prefers acidic environments. So the idea is to balance my body the other way. I have a chart Dr. Bush made that lists many, many common foods and where they fall on the scale between acid and alkaline. It feels a bit like chemistry class all over again. (And chemistry was never my jam.)
If I am honest, this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I am back to cooking more than I had been, and once I came up with a few pretty easy go-to options, I fell into the habit pretty well. It has made eating out difficult, so I find I either skip meals out or eat ahead of time and just have some tea and catch up with others during the meal. Its really fine with me.
For the most part, my body feels much better on this diet than it ever has. It’s a bit tricky to know for sure – my digestive track is still so messed up from the chemotherapy that I have issues that could be from the diet change but are most likely still tied to chemo. Dr. Bush says it takes about a year after the last dose of chemo for issues like that to resolve.
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Unrelatedly – or so I thought – I have been reading a bit about Buddhism lately. While I admittedly hopped on the vegan train for personal – somewhat selfish – reasons, a lot of what I have been reading about kindness and how we treat animals has really resonated with me. I’m not going to go into all that here – its not for me to convince anyone of anything – but I will say that this reading has made me take the vegan portion of my new diet more seriously. Maybe its having Hope in my world, or maybe it’s the trauma that my own body has been through in recent months, but I have no desire to contribute to pain for any other living thing. If I can make some moves in that direction thanks to giving up cheese, I’ll do it.
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The folks at dinner that night were amazing. They were so helpful in making sure I could eat and – at that point – I was so hungry I think they could have fed me gluten free cardboard and I would have been okay.
A few people have asked me why I don’t deviate from these rules more often if Dr. Bush isn’t holding me super-strictly to them. As with most of the steps I’ve taken in the last several months, its because my intuition is telling me this is something I need. I think for me, diet and determining what works for my body is part of my personal cure. This might not be true for everyone, but for me it is.
Now, that doesn’t mean I might not have some pie on Thanksgiving.
I won’t pinky promise to that.