When people learn that I have cancer, they usually stammer, sputter, turn pale, and back away.
When people learn that I am a vegan? They get mad.
The other day I had a phone conversation with a woman who organizes an annual spa day for women with cancer. She told me that a speaker a few years ago said that there is a link between sugar and tumor growth. Then she asked if I held similar beliefs about food and cancer.
Actually, I do.
I explained to her how the tumor on my pancreas shrank on its own and how the tumors in my liver and chest have done the same, and that my doctors believe that my plant-based diet is one of the reasons for this fabulous turn of events. I told her that I am finding a growing body of research that shows an inverse relationship between plant-based diets and cancer, so I’m not taking any chances by eating meats or dairy products.
There was silence for a moment or two, and then she responded.
“You know, there are many cancer protocols that require patients to eat meat, right?” she asked.
“Yes. I’m aware,” I calmly replied.
“Well, I’m glad that what you’re doing is working for you now,” she continued, “but one day when it stops working, I hope you’ll be open-minded enough to do what the doctors tell you and eat meat.”
I get comments like this all the time. People are so passionate about their food that when they find out I don’t eat meat, they punish me with ignorant words about my cancer.
Luckily for me, I had to run out the door to take my husband to the hospital for scans of his brain tumor (yes, in our home, tumor scans are far less miserable than anti-vegan discussions) and politely excused myself from the conversation.
This morning I sat down to my computer to finally read an American Association for Cancer Research study that a friend had sent me, “Vegetarian Diets and the Incidence of Cancer in a Low-risk Population.” It has been weighing down my to-do list for weeks.
Here’s the conclusion:
“Vegetarian diets seem to confer protection against cancer.”
Well, lookie there! My confidence restored, I was rewired once again.
Researchers examined the association between dietary patterns (i.e., vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, nonvegetarian) and the overall cancer incidence among more than 69,000 participants.
During approximately four years of follow-up, the researchers found 2,939 cancer cases and saw a definite relationship between diet and cancer: “When analyzing the association of specific vegetarian dietary patterns, vegan diets showed statistically significant protection for overall cancer incidence in both genders combined and for female-specific cancers.”
So I ask you: If you were me, if you had tumors hitchhiking on your liver and in your chest, and if your doctors told you that there was no method within Western medicine to put your cancer into remission, and you read studies like these, would you eat meat?
I’m just trying to live as healthy a life as possible and be kind to a bunch of animals along the way. Why does that make people so mad?