My Food Choice Journey After Cancer

I am always trying to think about my food choices regarding my small lymphocytic lymphoma. I’ve been dealing with this for 14 years now and I still struggle with my eating habits. I know I am not an exceptionally healthy eater. I like my carbs and sweets! So, that’s always an issue for me.

Lately, I have been listening to and reading the latest research regarding food and cancer. Some things I have been struggling with are not proven scientifically. According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, “Research shows that there’s no one diet or food that can cure cancer.” I was not surprised to read this; however, I decided to look into what I’ve heard for 14 years: sugar feeds cancer. According to two registered dieticians from the University of Chicago, Luz Chavez, and Suzanne Massarani, there is no real proof of this. They recommend making sure to have a healthy daily portion. I live by maintaining a healthy weight because I feel it is important for my entire wellbeing: for my heart, colon, etc., as well as my cancer, and I feel better. I do try to pay attention to the difference between natural sugar in foods, as opposed to added sugar.

When I was first diagnosed, I read all about how bad sugar was and decided I needed to totally eliminate it. I felt deprived and couldn’t believe how important sugar was to me. It didn’t last too long. I was miserable. No sugar was not sustainable for me. Then, every time I put anything with sugar in my mouth, I felt guilty. Was I choosing to make my cancer worse by doing this? This new information has relieved me of this. I know there has to be a balance in life with everything and sugar is no different. Now, I allow myself desserts and make sure I don’t overdo it so that I can still do my best to maintain a healthy weight. It feels good to have the guilt gone!

When I began writing this blog, I wrote, “Are We What We Eat?” I knew I was not giving my body enough of the nutrients from fruit and vegetables that I needed. I decided years ago that I needed to try to force myself to eat better and I still feel that way. I read that there is a link between eating a plant-based diet and reducing the risk of cancer. Since I am not looking to acquire any new cancers, I know I need to heed this advice. I have read the goal is to fill your plate with three-quarters of plant-based foods and one-quarter lean protein. A Mediterranean diet is suggested. I’m trying to do my best, but still not always successful. I read that it doesn’t have to be organic, but if your budget allows for it, it’s fine, of course. Organic MIGHT have a higher antioxidant level, but there is no definitive link. I was reminded that what’s most important is to wash fruits and vegetables well to be sure to rid them of any pesticide residues.

I also read that processed foods like hotdogs, bacon, etc., if eaten in extreme amounts, could increase cancer risks. This I already knew, but it does seem to be a problem to have it once in a while. Consumption of alcohol shows a link to increasing your risk of cancer, as well. The recommendation from the American Institute for Cancer Research is one drink a day for women and two for men. Like sugar, it might be hard to give up completely!

So, 14 years later, I still struggle with maintaining a healthy diet. Unfortunately, I am not always disciplined enough to make the best choices with a total Mediterranean diet and no alcohol, but I do try to remind myself to think about my cancer when making my food choices, and to at least try my best!

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