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.

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.


June 5, 2010

edited to add: I first learned about this spray in the hospital after giving birth to Olivia. New Mamas: this is the spray for you after you give birth. It’s Heaven in a bottle!

I was packing at the cancer center today…packing a spray can full of “Dermoplast” that is. Here’s a great little secret for those who are dealing with cancer or anything else that requires lots of blood draws and/or shots – bring your own numbing spray to apply before the procedures.

As you know, my blood draws from my ankles and feet are tricky and numbing the skin before hand makes it so much more tolerable. Moms, you might think of getting a can to bring to your child’s next shots too.

So, recapping: BYOS…Bring your own spray!

The Iceburg of Cancer

May 1, 2010

By Lorri Steer

Monday our local paper ran a cover story about a play that the local community college is presenting this week. It’s called “At Wit’s Start” and was written by a young doctor who found herself battling stage 4 ovarian cancer. It’s based on her Pulitzer Prize winning book. I can’t wait to see the show but I had issue with how part of the article was portrayed. My letter follows.

This is for all the women who are currently going through chemo and dealing with hair loss. I know your pain.

Thank you for your cover article on the upcoming Front Range Community College play “At Wit’s Start.” As a young women living with advanced stage cancer myself, I very much look forward to attending the show.

While Mr. Rochat’s article is well written, I take issue with one point. The caption on the “If You Go” photo reads: “Stephanie Roscoe has to shave her head every other day for the role of Dr. Vivien Wit.” (italics mine.) She chooses to shave her hair to add an authentic feel to character. A sacrifice for art? Perhaps. The same unwilling “has to” hair loss chemotherapy patients endure? Not at all.

I’m bothered by the implication that there is any kind of likeness in choosing to shave one’s head for a play and loosing one’s hair (including eyebrows, eyelashes and all bodily hair) in a medical gamble to save one’s life from a killer disease.

Please don’t draw parallels between the baldness a cancer patient endures and the shaved head of an actress. Cancer’s suffering runs deep and a bald head is just the tip of the ice burg.

The Cap

April 27, 2010

By Lorri  Steer

blogger at Terrible and Beautiful (currently private)

I never liked hats before cancer. Somehow like Elaine on Seinfeld, I thought I had an unusually large head and hats wouldn’t fit me so I never fancied the thought of wearing one. Cancer changed that of course. Hats became the banal bread and butter of my existence for a while anyway. I had sun hats and hand knit hats and scarves of course. But there was one type of cap that had the potential to make me look like a really cool Soccer Mom – the feminine baseball cap.

You know what I’m talking about – not one of those authentic, synthetic baseball hats with a logo on the front and a plastic mesh back that you’d see on an old retired trucker. Not those. The hat I coveted was more of a cap – a softer canvas crown with the front bill curved just so to cast a flattering shadow on one’s un-makeup-ed face. The caps that make the women in line at King Sooper look like as soon as they drop off those orange slices for the team they will run their training route for the next local marathon. Those caps looked divine to me but it wasn’t the cap so much as the thick, lustrous ponytail pulled through the back opening. Those bouncy tails looked so sassy and fresh. Perhaps it was the air of youth or femininity but without its addition, the cap was more of hat than a crown.

I wore the caps after treatment even without the pony. It was a necessary transition as my hair came back. A bejeweled pink cap covered my ultra-short hair like a billboard advertising, “Just breast cancer folks. Nothing to fear.” It kept me from a sunburn that first summer and made me look healthier than a cancer turban or telltale ACS hat. But it still lacked the bouncy hair bound tightly with elastic. After a while, I gave most all my head coverings away except several favorites tucked high on my closet shelf. Time passed.

Months turned to years and hair came back. Ponytails – albeit more like pig tails really – returned. I forgot about the baseball cap and went about my life until this morning when unruly locks needed confinement. With negative 3 minutes left on the get the girls to school clock the mess of hair was combed up and secured. I raced into the closet to grab some shoes. A hurried glance in the mirror told me that I’d done better hairstyles in my life but time trumped vanity and I inwardly sighed, “Oh well.”

I spied it on my way out – the beige cotton cap from Disney World. Vintage Mickey seems to say in his squeaky Mickey voice, “Try me!” Tentatively I reached for the cap wondering if it might work – would the ponytail be long enough to pull through? Could I look more like a cool Soccer Mom than a Post Cancer Mom? Would the cap cause nauseous flashbacks like the theme song to “Let Us Sleep On It” on HGTV,the thought of the Spicy Pickle restaurant, or the smell of watermelon Soft Soap at the cancer center? Truthfully, there was no time to wonder – something had to be done and had to be done 3 minutes ago.

One hand grabbed the ponytail and one hand lifted the cap by the bill. With the quick flick of my wrist, the ponytail went through the back opening and the cap came down over my forehead. It worked. I ran down the stairs – late but smiling – with my ponytail prancing behind me. I think this either means it’s time to start training for a marathon or time to get a haircut.