As soon as I was diagnosed with breast cancer I felt totally out of control. At the beginning it was a torturous game of waiting! I felt there was nothing I could do to stop the ticking time bomb inside of me.
But as I read and researched I realised that I could help my body even more by eating healthily and exercising. It also helped my mind to feel I was giving myself the best chance possible to deal with this. There is a lot of information on the internet regarding ‘clean eating’. Good old cooking from scratch with healthy options!
A lot of people have asked my advice on food. I am not a nutritionist – I didn’t even do cookery at school. But I do have an interest in treating the whole body, not just the symptoms. As an holistic therapist and reflexologist I believe that if we look after our bodies and give them the fuel they need then it gives us the best chance to heal.
When I was first diagnosed my eldest son, Nathan found it annoying that I was the one who was sick when I exercised regularly and ate pretty well already! This is a difficult one to answer but I feel it was also to do with environmental, hereditary make-up, stress and worry – I’ve always been a worrier and this is still working progress!
Work life (good for the finances and mind) + family time + me time and exercise + healthy food = perfect balance!
I think everything is all about BALANCE – from the food we eat to everything we do in life. Too much of a good thing is just as bad as too much of a bad thing!
In some people something triggers the cancer cells to grow and mutate out of control and our immune system can’t cope and deal with them – everyone is different – it’s the million dollar question of WHY do some people get cancer and some don’t? All I know is that I wanted to feel I was actually helping myself and I did this by looking at the food I ate, exercising and trying to reduce outside stresses.
So at first, when the cancer tumours had to be left in me, I excluded all processed foods, white processed foods: flour, rice, bread, sugar. I avoided red meats and dairy. I literally went cold turkey with any sugar at all. I had to do it properly. I added extra whole grains, fish, pulses and eggs to my meals to make sure I was getting every nutrient I needed – I couldn’t afford to actually loose weight as I needed all the reserves to get through treatment. So good fats were really important for me and I increased the amount of meals and smoothies I was eating.
Unfortunately with antibiotics and terrible side effects with chemotherapy I did loose weight and plummeted to 6 1/2 stone – not a good look. Curves = reserves! But on recovery I upped my meals and smoothies to boost my calories and I was back to normal within a few months.
My FEC chemotherapy was stopped after just 2 treatments and I was rushed to surgery as it hit my body so hard. The brilliant thing is that after just 2 treatments, although it had hit my good cells, it had most importantly hit the cancer cells too. In fact it had blown them to pieces! There was no cancer left from the 2 tumours in my breast. Unfortunately there was still cancer in 5 out of 16 of my lymph nodes but these were removed so hopefully stopped in their tracks. My oncologist, Dr Loo, couldn’t believe the results. I am proof that eating well made the chemotherapy much stronger and potent. It was good that the cancer reacted so well in my case.
While I was in hospital recovering from neutropenic sepsis (our white blood cells that give us immunity are hit hard with chemotherapy) I ate plates of spinach and kale and drank beetroot juice! The medical and kitchen staff thought I was mad! Needs must and all that! But as I was having my bloods taken every day the doctors couldn’t believe the results as my blood counts rose rapidly (they rise quickly anyway but in my case it was even better). It was great for me as it proved that I was doing the right thing to help my body.
After my surgery, when the cancerous tumours had been removed I relaxed how strict I was. If I want to eat a chocolate croissant or cake then I do. Just not every day and I am very conscious of what I eat still. I mostly substitute good sugars and fats – like coconut oil and maple syrup into recipes, I eat dark chocolate if I feel the need.
But most of all it’s all about balance and making everything count that you eat and drink to feed your body!
An example daily menu would be:
Hot water or green tea with lemon.
- Spinach/Kale, Coconut water, banana, mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, strawberries etc) – all good for cancer fighting! Sometimes I add natural yoghurt (with good bacterias), with flaxseeds (omega 3),
- Homemade banana and egg pancakes with mixed berries, maybe a little honey or maple syrup – mmmmm! We have these at the weekends. Add in some oats or dark chocolate too!
TIP: If you peel and freeze bananas when they are too ripe they are brilliant in the nutribullet. My favourite is frozen bananas with soya/coconut milk to make a delicious banana smoothie.
Also great to add berries – blackcurrants are especially high in vitamin C (more than oranges!) to help that immune system and brilliant for fighting cancer!
- Granary bread with tuna, watercress/spinach, cucumber, tomato
- Salad (dark green leaves, red peppers, tomatoes etc) with homemade vegetable quiche
- Poached/scrambled egg (add in some turmeric and black pepper too), spinach, tomatoes on brown toast
- Homemade flapjack (lots of oats, dried fruits, seeds etc)
I make these most weeks – I put some (about half a cup) butter/coconut oil in a saucepan, with dark chocolate or cocoa nibs, and a glug of maple syrup/honey – melt together.
Note: If you want to add fresh banana or apples add a squeeze of lemon juice and you won’t need so much oil or syrup to stick everything together!
Then add some porridge oats, seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, linseeds, flaxseeds, (you could add nuts too but I am allergic), Dried fruits: apricots, cranberries, dates, raisins, dried apple etc etc – basically anything in the cupboards and whatever combination you like. Mix all together to a thick consistency that holds together, pat onto a baking tray and bake on 180 degrees for about 30 minutes or until toasted. These are packed full of nutrients and only have natural sugars! enjoy!
Lots of vegetables! 3/4 of my plate will be vegetables! I can tweak every meal to fit in with the family. The rest will be a small portion of meat (turkey/chicken), fish, pasta, eggs etc to bring flavour and nutrients. e.g:
- Fresh Salmon with lemon, roasted sweet potato, courgette, tomatoes, asparagus, red onions. Homemade garlic bread
- chicken or vegetable lasagne or homemade tomato garlic basil sauce with pasta – all with lots of green vegetables or salad
I basically have what the family are having but I have a LOT of extra green and red vegetables.
I use my nutribullet loads to whip up a pasta sauce or pizza base – simply a tin of tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil – perfect!
I also make sure I drink a lot of water (hot or cold with lemon) and herbal teas – peppermint, green, camomile, or sometimes I pick some fennel or mint from the garden! I rarely drink anything else. No fizzy drinks and no alcohol.
Throughout my ongoing treatment I have also tweaked my foods, depending on what my body has needed for healing. For example I ate more sweet potatoes and carrots while I was having radiotherapy to help with skin healing. Check out my Favourite Recipes page.
I’ve also been experimenting with making my own natural beauty products. LUSH and FOREVER LIVING do amazing products but they are expensive and I can’t afford them regularly. But there is loads of information on the internet for homemade beauty – and as Freya and I love baking, it makes sense to give it a try. So check out my Homemade Beauty page for our favourites!
Recommended Recipe books:
Jason Vale – Juice Master Juices and Smoothies – totally brilliant for information and combinations – I use this but don’t juice anymore – the nutribullet is so much easier!
The Royal Marsden Cancer Cookbook – absolutely brilliant book – anyone going through cancer really must have! Has loads of info on nutrition and cancer fighting foods etc.
Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Cook Book – a beautiful cookbook put together by the lovely Clare – find her on Facebook and order her book – it’s brilliant and so easy!
Clare’s blog and website is great:
I quite often tweak Clare’s easy recipes to suit the family or myself. For example her Banana, Date and Walnut cake bread recipe:
I substituted wholemeal flour instead of the white
dark chocolate chips instead of the nuts (I’m allergic!)
coconut oil instead of butter
a dash of maple syrup instead of the sugar
and I added a bit of cinnamon! perfect!