Gratitude: My Cancer Story Update + My Cancer-Fighting Tips

I’m sharing a positive update on my cancer story plus my top lifestyle tips for helping to reduce cancer development.

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. A rare, aggressive form of lymphoma is what they diagnosed me with on that fateful day at City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California. They told me I should be prepared for 6 months of a highly toxic chemotherapy regimen that would start right away. But before you start needlessly worrying about my health, let me tell you right now that I am healthy, strong, and have had the most fortunate outcome one could wish for on a cancer journey. 

I told you, my community, all about it on my blog and social media channels after about a month of keeping it to myself. It absolutely overwhelmed me—the hours of conducting research, finding doctors, making and going to appointments, fighting with insurance companies, and most of all, advocating for myself. At first, I had closeted myself away, but eventually I wanted to tell you all about it. I couldn’t just pretend that everything was fine as I blogged about my favorite recipes and nutrition tips; plus, I had this deep conviction that maybe something good could come out of sharing my cancer journey with my community. I thought, as a nutrition professional, that I could offer up my story and the care regimen that kept me strong, and that maybe someone out there might benefit. So, I took a deep breath and posted that first blog announcing my diagnosis. And it was, indeed, the right thing for me to do. I heard from hundreds and hundreds of you. You shared your own cancer stories—stories of bravery, sadness, and overcoming the odds. You talked about your own unique diagnoses and the care strategies that worked for you. People unburdened their secrets, and they shared and shared and shared. It boosted my darkest days, because I knew if you could do it, I could do it, too. 

At City of Hope, Duarte, California 

One thing I have learned along my cancer journey is that there is so much baggage that comes along with the diagnosis of cancer. So much fear of sharing it for those battling it (as if it’s something to be shameful about), and so much fear for your loved ones regarding how they can best show up for you. Speaking up was liberating for me during those difficult days. And I also forged a new focus on caring for myself. But before I talk about my cancer strategy, let me tell you about my amazing story that led me to today. I haven’t spoken up about it for a long time, but many of you have asked me how I’m doing. Some have even worried over me, so I thought it’s about time I shared my good news! 

At Stanford Comprehensive Cancer Center 

I’ll just give you a quick rundown of what transpired for me during the past year of my cancer journey. After being diagnosed with the aforesaid rare lymphoma, my oncologist at City of Hope asked for the slides and tissue from the original biopsy (I had two lymph nodes surgically removed and analyzed at a small local hospital) to verify the correct diagnosis had been made. Because of shoddy lab work done on the biopsy at that small hospital, City of Hope could not confirm the type of lymphoma I had. And my first PET scan done at City of Hope showed another highly active nodule on the back of the tongue. My chemo plans were put on hold, and I had surgery to remove that nodule on the back of my tongue, which City of Hope diagnosed as follicular lymphoma after they performed the pathology. With a mystery on what type of original lymphoma I had, treatment decisions now become difficult. Should they act cautiously and treat me for an aggressive cancer, even if it could not be confirmed? Or should they wait? My case was shared with NIH for review, and I took a flight to Stanford for a second opinion. The decision among the three centers was to wait. With the removal of those two cancerous regions, there was no other clear cancer activity in my body, and considering how toxic the chemo regime was, the verdict was to wait a few months and re-evaluate with another PET scan. That scan came out fine—no new cancer activity. So, the next PET scan was set for 6 months (July 2022). And it turned out fine too! My amazing oncologist (there truly is a special place for these dedicated souls) wished me a Happy New Year in advance, as he was so happy to tell me I wouldn’t be darkening his door until after the holidays, and that it appeared this cancer is very slow-growing and the opposite of aggressive. I still have underlying lymphoma, but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything destructive in my body right now. Now my next scan is set for 6 months (January 2023). 

What a turn of events! After days spent thinking the worst, now my days were filled with hope and even normalcy! However, I have a renewed sense of life as part of this experience. I can say that I am fortunate enough to know what it’s like to crave life; to fear that my days were numbered, and to value each day I have. Many of us go through life not fully appreciating the gifts of each day (I was one of those). The glorious sunrise, taste of fresh orange off the tree, fragrance of a blooming rose, peals of laughter after a joke, warm embrace from a loved one, tender blades of new growth peeking out of the soil. I spent hours thumbing through old photo albums, conjuring happy memories, and writing in my journal—I hadn’t done those things in a long time. Life gets in the way of enjoying every day, right? 

Hiking in Death Valley during my journey. 

I started thinking about living each day as if it were part of my last year on earth. Not that it any longer appears to be a possibility for me (though how do any of us know)? But, when you qualify your life in those terms, it shines the light on many things we do that just don’t measure up. Of course, we all have responsibilities in life—we must pay the bills, raise our children, care for our communities. But we also have control over much of our lives. This new way of living was liberating! 

I practiced self-care on a whole other level. I started somatic therapy—the art of connecting the mind and body to center oneself to deal with trauma. Meditation was a huge part of this practice, which allowed my body to let go of the constant stress and anxiety I was feeling during my journey. Stress is so destructive, especially in cancer management. In fact, a recent study of US health and nutrition data from 1988 to 2019 found individuals with lifelong chronic stress had a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer. The study, published in the journal SSM-Population Health, showed the risk of cancer death was 2.4 times greater among people with high allostatic load levels, compared with those who had low allostatic loads. Other studies have documented that depression and anxiety are related to higher cancer death rates and poor survival. It’s no wonder, as anxiety has been linked with higher inflammation levels, and inflammation is absolutely linked with cancer development. Reducing anxiety became a matter of life and death for me—literally. But that’s not all I did to reduce stress and care for myself. I took up a renewed lifestyle. Sure, I have always honored a healthy plant-based way of living, that included exercise, diet, and time spent in nature. But it wasn’t enough. I could do more! You see, I have lymphoma, and I need to live a lifestyle that keeps cancer at bay; that depresses it from its slow-burning growth, and keeps me strong and healthy for years to come. 

What am I doing to stave off cancer? I recently shared my story of how I’m living with cancer and fighting it every day with the American Institute for Cancer Research here. You can also discover my evidence-based take on the best odds diet approach to fight cancer here. And check out my self-care strategies to fight cancer here. 

And there’s more. Here’s my full list of lifestyle strategies I’m focusing on each day as I fight cancer in its tracks. While I’m not promising that these steps are the “cure” for cancer, they have evidence-based cancer fighting potential, and help create a best odds approach for preventing cancer development. 

My Lifestyle Approaches to Help Fight Cancer

Plant-based organic foods from my local food system. 

1. Plant-Based Diet Focusing on Whole Plants 

Research supports that a plant-based eating style is cancer-protective. But I also focus on including a range of diverse, unprocessed plant foods for maximum nutrient and phytochemical diversity and density. I have reduced my alcohol intake, trimmed my added sugar intake to enjoy it only at special occasions, and focus on quality of foods at each meal. Learn more about a healthy plant-based diet here

I drink my Antioxidant Smoothie each day! 

2. Daily Antioxidant Smoothie

My daily smoothie habit makes sure I fit in some special foods and nutrients I’m aiming for, such as omega-3 fatty acids in the flax seeds, anti-inflammatory action in ginger and turmeric + black pepper, and bioactive compounds in mushrooms, green tea, berries and kale. I make up a big batch of this recipe every week, portion it into Mason jars, and refrigerate them so I can grab a smoothie each morning

Planning movement that is joyful, such as walks on the beach with Peter and the dogs, is a priority. 

3. Joyful Physical Movement 

I am enjoying mindful exercise which boosts my immune system and strengthens my cardiovascular system, but also reduces stress and anxiety. This includes an early morning walk with my dogs Teddy and Violet, hiking, gardening, walks on the beach, stretching and muscle strengthening at home, and Pilates at a local studio.  

Practicing mediation can support mental health. 

4. Mental Health Support 

I engage regular assistance from a mental health professional, and I incorporate meditation in my daily life. I spend time with friends and family, and we talk and support each other. I pet my dogs each day, which reduces my stress (it’s proven!). I spend time outdoors each day, even if it’s my morning walk or to go outside and watch the sunset for a few moments. 

5. Self Kindness

I seek to be kinder and gentler with myself; not setting up harsh goals and expectations, but listening to my body when I am tired and need a break. I allow myself to do nothing—to daydream and stare out the window while I sip my tea. I carve out time for myself, and try not to put so many demands on myself. 

A trip to my local farmers market is a happy activity! 

6. Stress Reduction

Daily affirmations of stress reduction, such as meditation, spending time during the day in a pleasant activity (I love cooking, gardening, going to the farmers market, crocheting and books on tape!), and cuddling with my dogs and partner are now part of my stress reduction plan. 

7. Healthy Weight 

Maintaining a healthy weight is fraught with concern when you face cancer. When you are undergoing treatments and recovery, you may not be able to eat what you’d normally choose (who wants salads and veggies then?), and keeping your weight in a healthy range may be the last thing on your mind (rightfully so). Some people even gain weight during cancer treatment. I was one of those individuals. While not beating myself up, I am striving to keep my weight within a healthful range in order to increase my odds of fighting cancer.

Prioritize organic foods to reduce pesticide residues.

8. Low Toxin Environment

Increasing research documents how environmental toxins—pesticides, chemicals in body care products and foods, and pollution—can increase one’s risk of cancer. While this is something I’ve always cared about, I became more diligent after my diagnosis. I conducted an “audit” of my household and personal care products to check for ingredients of concern (learn more about this here), and found new sources and products—including hair color, deodorant, makeup, and cleaning supplies—that were free of these chemicals of concern. I also doubled up my efforts to choose only organic foods grown without the application of most synthetic chemicals. 

Each person has their own journey. We all react differently when we are faced with a terrifying health diagnosis, such as cancer. This is my story. And this is what has worked for me. I would love to hear from you regarding your own health or cancer journey by sharing in the comment section. Let’s continue to share our stories, support each other, and stay strong together. Thank you all for your support through my journey!

Eat and Live Well,



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