FIRST DISCLAIMER: This can be a very charged subject matter. Everything I am sharing here is my opinion, based on my experience, and is no substitute for medical and expert advice. (Much more research is needed to understand the relationship between sugar in the diet and cancer, IMO.) That being said, I am happy to share what I have gone through for anyone who may benefit.
When I was diagnosed, I immediately went all-out on the research front. That included all things – chemo, radiation, statistics, alternative medicine, supplemental treatments, acupuncture, diet, herbs, mental health, reiki, and on and on. I was almost immediately introduced to the idea of juicing for the health benefits, and quickly went down a rabbit hole of testimonials, information, recipes, and diets I should try to “starve” my cancer. Having such an aggressive and rare diagnosis, coupled with the fact that I had two young children (a newly minted 3-year old and a 7-month old), I was willing to do anything. And I mean ANYTHING.
Enter: intense diet changes. I cut out almost everything except for vegetables and certain proteins and fats. No sugar, except for those naturally occurring in fruit – and even then, very limited. No processed food. No alcohol. Nothing that could be considered troublesome by any stretch of the imagination. Despite my oncologist telling me (after I had asked about exactly how cancer actually kills you), that many patients end up dying from starvation, due to the inability to eat or process food, I couldn’t help but try to exert some control in this way. I had been instructed not to lose weight, and to eat whatever I needed to keep weight on during the process… but I just couldn’t.
SECOND DISCLAIMER: I do NOT recommend this. It ended up adding even more stress to an already awful time. We borrowed a juicer from my parents after realizing the exorbitant cost of buying fresh-pressed juices, and began composing a very specific cocktail for me to drink each and every day. My husband did this methodically, wearing gloves so as to not introduce anything that could make me sick, and the process was intense. I also completely stopped enjoying food. Between the anxiety I had caused myself around what I “should” or “should not” consume, nothing even sounded good. That is, until after my first chemo.
After that first chemo, I couldn’t stomach anything. Certainly not the blended-up salads, beet/carrot/celery/ginger juice, and butter coffee I had been consuming almost exclusively. All I could think about tolerating was a bagel. A plain bagel from Panera, to be specific. I hemmed and hawed, my friends pushing me to eat ANYTHING, and my brain telling me it would somehow make me sicker. Finally, I gave in. I was so weak and exhausted, and I wanted nothing more than to have enough energy to play with my babies.
So… I got one. And I ate most of it. I almost enjoyed it. Then, I began bawling, wondering if I had just eaten something that was going to “feed” my horrific Stage 3 cancer. If I had just put another nail in my coffin. Why would I do this to myself? I hold no judgment toward myself or anyone else in that situation, but wow, if I would have only known.
Long story short, I slowly eased into eating more foods, until the point that I was eating a lot of things, albeit still in a more restricted manner. And it helped. It helped me feel better, keep weight on (until my high dose chemo/stem cell transplant process, but more on that later), and helped my mental health immensely. I kept all of the good stuff. But I stopped restricting what I saw as “bad.”
THIRD DISCLAIMER: There are no “good” and “bad” foods!!
What’s the point? Well, sometimes those doctors know what they’re talking about, and it is okay to eat! I may have selected a less-processed, organic version of the shake they recommended to me in the hospital, I may have eaten only grass-fed beef, I may have continued juicing through the entire thing, but did it matter? I’ll never really know. What I do know is that I needed food. I needed it for strength, and I needed it for normalcy. If I was going to manage through the worst time of my life, I deserved to have a hamburger or muffin now and then! I was also incredibly privileged to be able to alter my eating habits so severely and so quickly. Food is not cheap, and not a day goes by that I’m unaware of those who couldn’t choose the same.
Like any other cell in our body, sugar “feeds” cancer. But it isn’t causing it or making it worse. Period.
So, like Becky will tell you, eat what feels good. Don’t be bound by some regimen that you found online, or anything else for that matter. This is your life, your experience, and you will find your way through it. I love the benefits of my daily green juice habit. But do I still have ice cream many nights a week? HELL YES.
What else are we doing this all for?!? Find your joy. For me, it includes eating delicious meals with the ones I love, without stress and hesitation.
You’ve got this. And we’ve got you.
***For more on this subject, check out: