Today marks the first day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I am a 7.5 year survivor of the earliest stages of breast cancer. Though I live with the daily reminders of having had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction that is starting to show some negative side effects, I consider myself lucky. I also worry about reoccurrences and spend a lot of time researching and applying my knowledge to my daily life so as to try to prevent that from happening.
After 5 years of walking in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, I have heard many stories of those who we lost to this disease and those of survivors. What shocked me was the number of survivors who went through more than one battle with this disease. It made me realize that I will always be at risk for a reoccurrence and I may not catch it as early the next time.
What I have learned in my education and research is that there are many factors that may have caused my breast cancer, but there is also a lot of conflicting information. The following is what makes sense to me.
I have learned that I carry the KRAS genetic mutation which, according to Joanne Weidhass’ research, puts me at a greater risk for developing both breast and ovarian cancer. I have learned that I was likely in an estrogen dominant state that may have contributed to my development of breast cancer. I have learned that eating soy, which I ate a lot of as a vegetarian thinking it was a healthy form of protein, likely put me into an estrogen dominant state. (There are arguments being made that eating soy can actually protect your risks of breast cancer but that is a separate debate for me to tackle in another post). I have learned that eating sugar of any kind, in excess, can create a positive environment for the cancer cells to grow and thrive. I have also learned that eating sugar can put a person into an inflammatory state so that the immune system is weakened thereby allowing the cancer cells to grow. I have also learned that eating any foods that a person may have a personal sensitivity to can put the body into this same inflammatory state and thereby compromising the immune system.
My personal conclusion is that there had to be a flurry of circumstances, all coming together at the right time, to have allowed my preexisting cancer cells to express themselves. Due to my KRAS variant, I had existing cancer cells, but it was my lifestyle that caused their expression. I believe that eating soy, sugar, and white carbs all worked together to put my body into both an inflammatory state and estrogen dominant state. I have since learned that I have Celiac Disease which means that every time I ate gluten, I damaged my GI system, inflamed it, and thereby weakened my immune system so it could not fight off the cancer cells that should have died through apoptosis but instead were thriving because I was feeding them. It was my epigenetics brought on by my dietary lifestyle that I believe caused me to develop early stage breast cancer, and it was my self-advocacy that helped me discover at its earliest stages.
As I mentioned earlier, I still consider myself lucky. I caught it early, I went extreme with surgery and radiation, and I am 7.5 years out. But I know the risks of reoccurrence are real so I work every day to try not to replicate that host of circumstances that led to its original growth. I have learned which foods are inflammatory for me and have removed them from my diet. I have significantly reduced the amount of sugar I eat, well below the recommended 6tsp a day. Most days I don’t have any added sugar but there are days that I eat out or I am in the mood for a little sweetness, but I still stay under the recommended amount. I avoid soy at all costs. I drink my recommended amount of water daily. I try to eat as well as possible for my diet, including as many veggies, proteins, and good fats that I can. I supplement my diet with chemical, gluten, soy, sugar, and food dye free vitamins based on my personal needs, to fill in the nutritional gaps I have. I exercise 5 days a week and I try to handle my stress as much as I can when in a house of 5 children and multiple pets. I also make every effort to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, not always successfully, but I try. These are all actions I can take to ensure that I am doing everything I can to prevent a reoccurrence.
I share this because I truly feel that these actions will help me thrive and I believe it can help others as well. Learning which foods may be putting you into an inflammatory state and then removing them from your diet can be one of the best actions you can take for your body. Removing added sugar is another actionable item anyone can take. Eating foods that are anti-inflammatory, and filled with healthy macro and micronutrients, is key to building up a healthy microbiome and strengthened immune system. Adding vitamins to fill in those nutritional gaps that we all have for one reason or another will help provide a complete diet plan. Learning how to reduce stress and increase sleep also helps balance your hormones to keep you out of a state of inflammation. Getting enough sleep will put all your actions into effect.
Want to learn more on how you can help protect your health? Please feel free to reach out to me and we can talk more.