Now that the weather is warming up (well, sort of), barbecue season is fast approaching. And who doesn’t love themselves a good barbecue? Sizzling steaks, homemade burgers, and hot dogs all fired up on a hot grill makes your mouth water, doesn’t it? There’s also something to be said about eating outside that seems to heighten our senses, open up our appetite while also releasing endorphins (the “feel good” hormones).
I definitely enjoy me a good barbecue.
Although what I previously experienced as typical barbecue grub has over the last few months undergone a complete transformation. I was always a meat lover. A nice juicy steak was probably the closest thing to what I would consider orgasmic food. Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that I could polish off a 20 ounce steak as well as finish my side order and the free dessert that I was always offered when waiters were in complete amazement that little old me could put any man to shame. In all sincerity, I was given free desserts on multiple occasions after being challenged by waiters. It always played out something like this, “if you can eat that entire steak, dessert is on the house tonight.” And I can assure you that dessert was always on the house in those instances.
In Florence, I once ate an entire “bistecca fiorentina” (which is a heavenly steak, I might add) that was meant for two people to share. So perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising that I would later lose one of my kidneys. I guess it’s true what they say about hindsight being 20/20.
This was my former self. The pre-metastatic cancer Sabrina.
Me before my diet change.
Nowadays a barbecue for me consists of either a homemade veggie burger or a Portobello mushroom burger as well as plenty of healthy salads and sides. Over the last few months I have adopted a rather strict diet. I don’t know if I would necessarily consider putting a label on my particular dietary regime as it is not completely vegan or raw. Perhaps I am more of a “cheagan” (a cheating vegan). Essentially I am currently abstaining from meat, dairy, refined sugar, gluten, as well as anything processed. Instead I am indulging on an organic, plant based and whole foods diet. Ideally I am trying to include as much raw organic food and juices as I possibly can.
It was quite difficult at first, especially in the early stages. The first few weeks were brutal. I was having withdrawal, cravings, and in essence, I was starving. Every time I saw someone eating a steak, sausage or chicken breast, I literally felt like tearing the individual’s arm off so I could yank that piece of meat from them. Or how I dreamed of putting someone in a headlock for that chocolate cupcake or bag of chips. Don’t worry, I didn’t actually resort to any violence during these first few weeks, but the thought crossed my mind.
Things have certainly become much easier, and all of the changes implemented have formed part of my everyday living. My closest friends and family are in complete awe of how dedicated I have been with my diet. I was always a rather healthy eater, aside from the excessive amount of meat and my love of cheese, that is. Admittedly, I miss my cheese. I was never much of a milk drinker (only in lattes and cappuccinos), but cheese was my weakness. However, having said this, I have really embraced and accepted this new way of life.
I realize that cancer patients are often bombarded with so-called “anti-cancer diets.” Many cancer patients have often heard of or even attempted a paleo, ketogenic, macrobiotic, vegan, raw, Budwig, or Gerson diet. There are always fads, trends, as well as news stories surrounding the latest anti-cancer “miracle food.” With the assistance of Dr. Google, it has been rather easy to fall prey to the overwhelming amount of information out there regarding cancer and nutrition. However, there is also a great deal of informative literature that when properly assessed can be highly empowering and helpful.
The key is to make changes to your diet and your life that work for you.
Sometimes this requires trying different techniques, approaches, or diets until you find something that you are able to adhere to. It is pointless to embark on a dietary regime that is extremely prohibitive or impossible to maintain. In addition, not all dietary changes or diets are suitable for individuals with cancer especially while they are undergoing treatment. For instance, “anti-cancer diets” seem completely irrelevant for individuals going through chemotherapy or radiation as certain foods are not tolerated and must be avoided for some cancer patients while in treatment. Therefore, I cannot stress enough that in order to fully benefit from any dietary advice or lifestyle change, one must not only be fully committed, but must also choose an approach that is suitable and manageable for the person. Each and every one of us is different, and as such, there is no one size fits all approach to treatment, lifestyle, or diet.
I have been dealing with cancer (on and off) for 30 years, and I am only 33 years old. So pretty much my entire life. Reflecting on this sparked an eyebrow-raising moment for me.
Effectively, I realized that perhaps my body was just not accepting the diet and lifestyle that I had been engaging in over the course of my life thus far.
Each and every one of us has cancer cells in our bodies floating around at all times. However, these cells are typically controlled and prevented from abnormally dividing and multiplying by our immune system as well as other regulating mechanisms in our bodies. The foods we eat can tend to reduce our immunity. Our cells are put under stress from many factors such as: sugar, acidic diets, pollution, chemicals and additives, radiation, negative thoughts and emotions, low oxygen, and dehydration, to name a few. Many individuals cannot tolerate or process meat, as they cannot breakdown the excess complex protein, hormones, and chemicals. Additionally, the same can be said of processed grain products and dairy, which are very acidic and can produce allergic reactions that stress the immune system.
As with any lifestyle changes, dietary changes allow cancer patients to feel as though they have added some control back into their lives. Individuals with cancer experience a lack of control over their bodies, their illness, their treatment, and their life. Allowing myself to embark on this strict dietary regime has been working for me so far. I am not currently in treatment at the moment and therefore am able to experiment with various dietary modifications, alternative treatments, and supplements. However, this may not be suitable or tolerable to everyone. After intense reflection and research, I decided to make these changes in my life. I cannot say what impact these changes will have and whether I will remain this diligent forever. However, I can say that right now this new diet is working very well for me. I have embraced this new plant based diet, and am constantly finding new ways to transform my lifestyle and hopefully assist my body in healing. And I can say without a doubt that if the results are positive and I can help heal my body or at least keep the disease stable, I definitely will not be looking back. Sayonara steak!
So all you carnivores out there can rest assured that I will not be drop kicking you for your Angus beef burger at the next barbecue, but I may steal your organic, non-GMO corn on the cob when you are not looking 🙂
Love, health, and Portobello mushrooms!