An apple a day keeps cancer away? What to eat when you have cancer.

October 5, 2011

roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar - yum!

Cancer bursts into our lives ripping away any illusion of  control we though we had in this world.  Suddenly, we find ourselves full of questions and vulnerable to all sorts of “curative” advice – we are willing to do anything to live.  From prayers to potions to Pilates  to what’s on our plates, we plead, Will this be what heals me?”   

Make no mistake about it, our friends and family love us and every healing suggestion they bring is brought with love.  They feel just as powerless against our cancer as we do.  How simple it would be if we could just find the right magic [sprouted, organic] bean so that our cancer would be cured.  Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.  While there is no cure for cancer, there are things we can do to fight this killer disease.  For many of us, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the first weapons of choice.  Prescription drugs soon follow.  Meanwhile, outside the walls of traditional medicine, we start to dabble with remedies of our own.  Food and supplements serve as powerful weapons in our “Kill Cancer” arsenal.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not a member of the emailing forwarding “You got cancer from drinking out of plastic water bottles” crowd.  I’m also not one to spend $99.95 (plus shipping and handling) on exotic herbal pills offered on late night t.v. infomercials. More likely than not, you can find me sipping a Diet Pepsi or sneaking a cookie instead of juicing a beet/broccoli smoothie. However, I do live in one of the health food Meccas of the United States and did consult with a local dietician post- treatment to get some diet advice. She put together a list of the some of the best anti-cancer foods.  I’m not saying if you only eat these things, you will cure your cancer. And I’m not saying that if you don’t eat these things, your cancer will spread.  What I am willing to say is that these foods are good for you and some have powerful healing properties.  Bottom line?  They can’t hurt and some of these things actually taste good too!

Food ideas from Nutri-Physique, Pam Vagnieres, Boulder, Colorado

  1. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brocco-sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, collards, Brussel sprouts, kale, turnips, radish, arugla, bok chok, rutabga, cabbage…)
  2. Green Tea (Brassica and organic powdered green, Tea Tech)
  3. Berries
  4. Citrus (use the zest)
  5. Asian Mushrooms (shiitake, maitake….)
  6. Flax seeds (fresh ground organic)
  7. Nuts and Seeds (especially Brazil nuts, organic and raw, no peanuts)
  8. Garlic (crushed and raw)
  9. Dark Leafy Greens (kale, collard, mustard greens…)
  10. Legumes
  11. Pomegranates
  12. Dark chocolate (oh yeah! 70% and greater)
  13. Miso soup (yum!)
  14. Wild fish, organic grass-fed lean beef, lamb or buffalo, organic eggs and poultry
  15. Organic veggies (lightly steamed or juiced – especially brassicas, beets and artichokes)
  16. Sea vegetables
  17. Green drinks
  18. Whey protein powders (only processed at low temp)
  19. Pineapple stem
  20. Tomatoes cooked in olive oil
  21. Umeboshi and kuzu 
  22. Organic raw Kombucha tea
  23. Olive, avocado or coconut oil (and coconut milk)
  24. Spices (garlic, lemon grass, cumin, ginger, cayenne, oregano, tumeric, citrus peels, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, black peper)
  25. No sugar of any form (you may have stevia or xylitol)

Pam concludes her list with, “Don’t forget to get some fresh air, sunshine, walk, hike, swim, bike, and lift a few light weights to stay strong.  Most importantly, do whatever it takes to lift your heart and spirits and surround yourself with love!”

As a mother with four years under my belt living with Stage 3c breast cancer, I’ll add in my own words, “Do whatever it takes to lift your heart and spirits and surround yourself with love even if it means having the occasional slice of birthday cake or celebratory glass of champagne.”  Did I say champagne?  I meant Kombucha tea! 😉 Here’s to living well – whether we have cancer or not.

Thank You Susan G. Komen

December 16, 2010

by Lorri Steer at


It was an expected doorbell ring. My daughter’s friend’s Mom was coming to pick up her daughter from our house. Happily, I opened the door. I hadn’t seen her since her wedding a few months back and I was excited to see how newlywed life was treating her. Apparently, not so good.

“I found a lump” she blurted out.

I started out my “8 out of 10” breast lumps are benign speech to encourage her. I asked some questions hoping for the answers that would push the possibility of cancer far away. But each of her answers confirmed my worst fears Her lump is fixed and in the upper outer quadrant of her left breast – the most common presentation and location for breast cancers. She smokes. Things do not look good. Tomorrow she’ll know for sure. Today she waits. I wait with her – my silent prayer a litany of “No. No. No’s.”

“My job doesn’t have insurance.” she told me. “Planned Parenthood paid for my mammogram.” Planned Parenthood’s breast health funds from Susan G. Komen may well save this woman’s life. Look at these hands – the hands of a June bride with a renewed hope. The hands of a single mother who has raised her daughter mostly alone. The hands of a daughter – the only one – with 4 brothers. The hands of a friend, a neighbor, the woman who serves you your lunch today, checks out your grocery order or cares for your grandmother at the senior center.

Look at these hands and tell me again why you boycott Susan G. Komen. It may be theory to you, but to some people, it’s real life. Or real death.

Elizabeth Edwards – Cancer Free

December 8, 2010

By Lorri Steer

Mothers With Cancer blog writers were asked to contribute our thoughts for the Today Show blog. Here’s what I wrote:

“Elizabeth Edwards died Tuesday afternoon after a six-year battle with breast cancer. She was 61.”

As a 42 year old mother with advanced stage breast cancer, I want to know more. What stage was her breast cancer when it was found? What treatment did she do? How long was her remission? What was it like living with terminal disease? Who will mother her 10 year old son? When did she know she was dying and what did that feel like? And as selfish as it sounds, it shakes me as I wonder how my own cancer will play out over time.

I wonder if she breathed a sigh of relief each time her son reached another birthday like I do. When he blew his candles, did she secretly whisper to herself, “At least he’ll be 10 when I die.” Did she look for adults who lost their mothers to breast cancer at a young age and comfort herself with the thought that they turned out to be content adults with good lives? I do.

Those without such an intimate connection to breast cancer might look at her life as a tragic story: loosing a child, a troubled and broken marriage, cancer. Within the breast cancer community though, we nod our heads knowingly as we grieve her death. We live with breast cancer’s scars that all too often come from more than just mastectomies. Broken marriages don’t surprise us. We know there is no cosmic scale that will spare us unrelated heart breaks just because we have cancer. Breast cancer takes so much more than just our breasts. Mrs. Edwards death exhorts us with chills as the pretty pink ribbons fall to the ground – breast cancer kills and there is no cure.

Some Hollywood celebrities work the talk show circuit proclaiming themselves “cancer free” a year after treatment. Doctors and websites tell us that 5 years is the magic number for remission. But The Breastless Ones know otherwise – here in this life, there is no such thing as cancer free after cancer. Ever.

Mrs. Edwards,
may your spirit now sore to the place where there is no more pain, suffering or tears.
you are truly cancer free.
May you rest in peace.

Lorri Steer is a 42 year old mother of 3 living with advanced stage breast cancer.  She writes at the blog and is a contributing author to the Mothers With Cancer website at  Currently, she has no sign of active disease.  Her youngest child is eight.

The Real Face of Breast Cancer

October 9, 2010

By Lorri Steer, reprinted from my personal blog, originally published 10/2/08

As Breast Cancer Survivors, we have a love/hate relationship with the month of October. Everywhere you turn from the grocery store to the local Mexican restaurant that is serving “Mar-Cure-ritas”, you are reminded that the color pink equals breast cancer…breast cancer that is, or a really emotional exploitation for marketing and sales purposes. Some of the more militant groups of survivors have their own slogan: “F&%# Awareness, Find a Cure.” These aren’t just vigilantes, these are mother who will not live to see their children grow up. These are woman whose marriages failed over the stress and damage of the disease. These are woman who live with the life-altering side effects of cancer treatment and metastases such as chronic pain, heart damage, and even blindness.

Some companies do what they say: raise money for breast cancer research or survivor support. Others prey on people’s sympathy for cancer and color things pink to make more sales with very little of the actual profits going toward actual cancer research or support.

I mean, I’m all for buying pink stuff…I have a pink mixing spoon, a pink rubber ducky that lights up, I had the breast cancer issue designer nail polish last year, and just yesterday, I picked up a pink-lidded jar of pickles. Those are good pickles but I really have no idea what portion of my $4.59 is going toward finding a cure.
Some of the Pink Products are oxymoronical. It is a known fact that cancer feeds off of simple sugar…that’s why you are injected with radioactive glucose before a PET scan: the cancer grabs up that fast energy and then lights up on the scan. So “Pink” products like ice cream, cookies and candy contribute to the disease they are trying to raise money to cure. See the issue? What would make sense would be for anti-cancer items – such as broccoli, real green tea and the like – to bear the pink ribbon. But I suspect it’s going to be a cold day in Hell before we see the broccoli growers of America binding their vegetables with pink satin ribbons. I did see Pink Packaged pre-cut lettuce so that’s a start, I must admit.

Yes, we as survivors are happy that breast cancer gets the recognition and funding that it does. You’ve probably never seen a ribbon for anal cancer, or brain cancer, or throat cancer. Pancreatic cancer has something like 6 researchers in America working on a cure while breast cancer has hundreds. Somehow our culture has a love affair with the breast and pink just wraps it up all warm and cozy like a newborn baby. We see the statistics given to the public and we think breast cancer isn’t a deadly disease. Oprah said the other day that 81% of breast cancer victims survive the disease. But it’s not that simple.

Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in women ages 15 to 54 in America. Breast cancer in young women is usually of a more fatal form than its counterpart in older women. Young African-American and Latinas have an even higher mortality rate than their Caucasian sisters. We all know that different types and stages of breast cancer have different outcomes but here are some more facts: 80% of stage 4 breast cancer patients will die in 5 years or less. There is no cure for cancer: even women whose disease is “caught early” can go on to have a recurrence or spread into other organs. Yes, many women go on after cancer treatment to live long and healthy lives but that doesn’t mean there should be a Breast Cancer Barbie with a pink ribbon over her perfect bust line like a contest winner. As one survivor of early stage disease said, “There’s no prize for being stage one.”

It’s suitable that October actually is Breast Cancer Awareness month. October is also Halloween. The stores are filled with all manner for scary, creepy ghoulish figures and masks. Yesterday, I saw a small red trollish looking devil doll. When you pressed its stomach its red eyes lit up and it made a demonic screaming sound. One kind of chemo treatment is nicknamed, “The Red Devil.” The young women on the cancer board call cancer “The Beast.” This ugly devil doll would actually be a much more suitable mascot for breast cancer. Please don’t fall for the deception of the soft pink wrappings: breast cancer is a cruel, damaging, and often fatal disease. When you are shopping and see those pink items out there, go ahead and purchase some if you want to, but remember the real face of cancer isn’t a beautiful smiling Barbie…it is a red-eyed ugly beast that has yet to be slain.

What you can do to make a difference:

Laughter is good medicine

September 17, 2010

Cancer is no laughing matter but you’ve all heard the saying, “Laughter is good medicine.” Turns out that’s actually true – laughing releases those “feel good” chemicals in our brains. When everything around you is swabbed with rubbing alcohol, when you find yourself bald and on hold with your insurance company for 97 minutes at a time…when you’re so angry that you wanted to be the room mom at your child’s school but you’re sitting in the chemo chair instead…when there is nothing but heaviness and gloom to be had – perhaps a little giggle will lighten your day!

Here’s a classic medical joke that I saw taped inside the Gamma camera machine when I had a scan in October 2007. It was funny to me even then as I faced my new life as a woman living with stage 3c breast cancer. Here it is today – September 2010 – almost 3 years later and I’m going strong. And I still think it’s funny.

Looking back on that day, I could have chosen to cry at my condition and no one would have blamed me. But I’m glad that on that day, in the middle of the unknown, I chose to laugh. Whoever taped this list inside that machine – thank you for lighting my trial. Maybe it’ll do the same for you!

(I titled it “Elvis has an Evil Twin too” as I have a twin whom I love to tease!)

It was a cruel, cruel test. “Lay still,” they said positioning me under the Gamma camera yesterday. But right above my eyes, this joke was taped to the machine. “Lay still?” I almost wet my pants!

Backwoods Medical Terms

Artery………………….The study of paintings.
Benign………………….What you be after you be eight.
Bacteria………………..Back door to cafeteria.
Barium………………….What doctors do when patients die.
Cesarean Section…………A neighborhood in Rome.
Catscan…………………Searching for Kitty.
Cauterize……………….Made eye contact with her.
Colic…………………..A sheep dog.
Coma……………………A punctuation mark.
D&C…………………….Where Washington is.
Dilate………………….To live long.
Enema…………………..Not a friend.
Fester………………….Quicker than someone else.
Fibula………………….A small lie.
Genital…………………Non-Jewish person.
G.I.Series………………World Series of military baseball.
Hangnail………………..What you hang your coat on.
Impotent………………..Distinguished, well known.
Labor Pain………………Getting hurt at work.
Medical Staff……………A Doctor’s cane.
Morbid………………….A higher offer than I bid.
Nitrates………………..Cheaper than day rates.
Node……………………I knew it.
Outpatient………………A person who has fainted.
Pap Smear……………….A derogatory common against your father.
Pelvis………………….Evil twin to Elvis.
Post Operative…………..A letter carrier.
Recovery Room……………Place to do upholstery.
Rectum………………….Darn near killed him.
Secretion……………….Hiding something
Seizure…………………Roman emperor.
Tablet………………….A small table.
Terminal Illness…………Getting sick at the airport.
Tumor…………………..More than one.
Urine…………………..Opposite of you’re out
Varicose………………..Near by