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?

Read about Tracy Krulik.

1 Comment

  • Holly Scott, MBA, MS, LPC
    Posted September 7, 2013 7:07 pm 0Likes

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, and best wishes for continued good health. Sorry you have had to deal with angry attacks from others. Of course it makes sense for you to continue to avoid meat.
    I experienced a similar situation to yours when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42. My whole adult life I had maintained a healthy weight, consumed lots of fruits & veggies, avoided meat, exercised almost daily, and took multiple vitamins. When friends found out about my cancer diagnosis, some actually responded with anger! It took me a while to figure out their automatic response was coming from a thought of “If Holly can get cancer with all her healthy habits, what about me?!.” People would quiz me with rapid-fire questions on breast cancer risk factors. “Did your mom have breast cancer?” No. “Do you have the BRCA gene?” No. “Did you take hormones?” No.
    For each “No” answer, their anxiety and/or anger would increase. I finally realized people where looking for a way to calm themselves by finding a REASON I had cancer. They wanted to hear there was something about me that was different from them. They were looking for a way to explain my cancer that did not apply to them.
    Once I realized the reason for their emotional responses, I was able to protect myself by ending any conversations when the rapid-fire questioning began.
    Cancer patients, survivors, and their caregivers already have to deal with so many difficult situations. If you learn of a friend or a loved one’s cancer diagnosis, please respond with words of support and kindness.
    I have been cancer-free for 11 years now and am grateful for every day.

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