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Choosing The Right Foods To Fit My "New Normal"

February 9th, 2016 |
Survivorship, Health & Fitness

by bellajenna | Survivor: Breast Cancer    Connect


Two-time breast cancer survivor Jennifer knew that she had to make a change in the way she selected and ate food. Her "new normal" included a new journey with diet and nutrition. Read more below.

"Sugar Causes Cancer! Alcohol Causes Cancer! Alcohol In Moderation Can Prevent Cancer! Exercising Regularly Can Prevent Cancer! Exercising Excessively Can Cause Cancer!"

Welcome to Cancertown.

Each of these statements is a sampling of what I see on my newsfeed and inbox. Most of these articles I read are contradictory, but I have to wonder- can what we ingest create toxicity and alter our DNA, allowing cells to go rogue and cause cancer?

When I was first diagnosed I had a diet typical to the average American: more processed food than I should be eating and fewer fruits and veggies. It wasn't until after my treatment ended that I really began paying attention to what I was eating and feeding my family. The rolls of flab from steroids had lumped on my body. I went from feeling very empowered to very unhappy. I hated the way I looked in pictures. I hated the way my clothes bunched on my new body. The fashionista was in dire straights. So I began really focusing on me.

What made me feel good? Less sugar, fresh veggies, and no more processed junk food. I made changes. I lost weight. I got myself whipped up into great shape. Then cancer barged back into my life and my body didn't know what hit it.

Double mastectomy. DIEP flap reconstruction. Weeks of bed rest and a short, fierce chemo regimen that kicked my ass. When all this was wrapping up I was taking Tamoxifen and supplements. No biggie, right? Wrong.

It is a big deal. Since becoming a Tamoxi-babe I've come to understand the wide scope of the side effects and how crappy it can make you feel. Now I understand why the majority of women that begin the regimen do not finish. They stop taking it because they feel so awful.

My doctor mentioned going to an 80% plant- based diet. What the whaaaat? Does he know nothing about me after seven years? But, when you consistently feel like crap you'll try anything. So I did it. I walked out of his office and drove to Whole Foods where I stocked up. An uncompassionate vegan? Perhaps that's how I should identify myself now. I'm not vegan because I believe in the politics of PETA--I mean, I love my dog to the ends of the earth but if I find a mouse in my house Mickey's ass is grass.

We have little control over the hormones that are pumped into our food supply and it's hard to gauge their long-term effects on our health. Here's the most amazing thing: when I changed my diet away from animal proteins and dairy I felt good- almost immediately. The hot flashes still come but I barely notice them,. I call them "warm waves" now. The joint pain it still present but diminished. My mental clarity is once again sharp. My energy level has significantly increased and I dropped the steroid weight effortlessly.

Overall, I have to say I was intimidated and thought it would be really hard to stick to, but when you see and feel the difference, each day gets easier to make the better choice. For a notorious foodie like myself, stepping into these uncharted waters has been weird but also liberating. I'm enjoying trying new plant-based meals. It's a challenge and I don't walk away from a challenge.

I believe that going through chemo twice completely changed my body chemistry. I do not think I metabolize food the way I used to and I continue to question, as we all should, the GMOs and unnecessary additives that seem to be in everything.

One night for dinner it was just easy to grab a pizza from a local spot; somewhere I've eaten at many times. Afterwards, I began to feel a little warm and built up sweat. I ignored it and went to bed...and then for the first time in months I was up all night with the sweats. Seriously...what the hell is in our food?

The American Diet has been overrun by Frankenfoods. We've been asleep at the wheel for a generation and now we are paying the price. Obesity, diabetes, and cancer diagnoses have exploded. What do these added sugars, antibiotics, and hormones do to a person? Moreover, what do they do to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, or to someone with a hormone-driven cancer? When chemo breaks down your body, how do these Frankenfoods affect a compromised immune system?

Think about it - if Tamoxifen is given to block the hormone receptors in the tumor, then wouldn't it make sense that someone on a Tamoxifen regimen who is ingesting hormone-filled foods would constantly suffer from the drug's side effects? Why am I the one figuring this out? Why aren't oncologists telling patients with hormone receptor positive cancer to eliminate animal proteins or eat strictly organic and hormone-free? And don't even get me started on the sugar. A sweet treat now and then is fine, but why in the world is high fructose corn syrup in bread? Bread is the most basic food on the planet. So why, when I pick up a loaf at my local grocery, does it have a list of twenty-something ingredients, most of which I've never heard of nor can pronounce? Get the syrup out of my bread!

The last thing I want to be is a dining dictator. I'm just trying to give a little food for thought based on what I've learned from my own body. Organic food can be pricey but it does last longer. If you cannot afford to eat organically then maybe you should try to eliminate some animal-based items from your diet as I did. See how you feel. Be flexible. See what works and most importantly, talk to your doctors.

Find the balance. Listen to your body. Experiment. Read labels. Make the best choice you can afford to make.

You are what you eat, after all.

What diet and nutrition tips helped you during your "new normal"? Share yours in the comments below!

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Jennifer Lukowiak is a two-time breast cancer survivor, indie author, blogger, fashionista, tattooed rock and roll mama, Jenn dishes the nitty-gritty details doctors leave out in her first book, “Does This Outfit Make Me Look Bald? How a Fashionista Fought Breast Cancer with Style,” a witty and okay-to-laugh-out loud journey through the unmentionables of breast cancer. She continues the dialogue on her website, TheFashionistaFights.com as a current, ongoing blog. You can find her on IHC under the username bellajenna.

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