Practical advice and personal wisdom from a four-time cancer survivor.

FullSizeRender (3)I walked through the grocery stores and wanted to cry. This week was especially hard for some reason. Many days, I can handle it. I don’t think about the food I’m missing or the life I had before. I see this diet like an athlete views hardcore training. It’s about the long game, getting the body to an optimal state.

But this week sucked. I wanted to stuff EVERY-THING in my face. I usually give myself one 24-hour treat day per month – nothing that will cause immediate pain but things I normally avoid like chocolate, wheat, sugar.

Instead of a treat day in February, however, I felt a bowel obstruction brewing. I went on a clear liquid diet, then liquids, and then mashed, moist food. I recently learned this trick to stopping the constriction from getting worse. I’m grateful to have it in my back pocket but it’s made me realize how at risk I still am. And that I must persevere and be very, very careful about what I eat. 

The back story

I’ve been off raw/high-fiber foods since my surgery when I lost most of my colon, ovaries, uterus and appendix two years ago.  I started the low-inflammation, no-grain/bean diet last summer, a few weeks after the June bowel obstruction. And I’ve been on the candida diet since October, 2015.  It’s REALLY REALLY HARD and takes tons of discipline. I try to focus on the goal: feeling good, improving digestion, increasing energy, and traveling the world one day again.

Let’s start with what I’m NOT eating – and why – first:

No inflammatory foods – no dairy/sugar/grains/legumes/booze/nightshades including peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant. The less inflamed my gut, the less likely I’ll have another bowel obstruction, grow more colon polyps, or develop more cancer anywhere in my body due to Lynch Syndrome. I follow the low-inflammation diet developed by my colleague, Beve Kindblade

No raw/fibrous foods – they gather too much water and bulk up – could cause another bowel obstruction. Plus I have short tummy now and don’t relish going to the bathroom any more than I already do. 

Minimal dry foods – I realized recently I can only fudge this when I’m very hydrated. Lesson learned.

Candida-causing foods –  no nuts, chocolate, vinegar all the good stuff. I follow Dr. Humison’s candida diet which is not like typical candida diets – he believes it’s fermented foods and high-fungal crops that feed candida. I was very skeptical about this diet until Day 4 when I slept better than I had in 2 years. Immediate convert. I’ll do anything to sleep better. And it’s helping my digestion a lot.

What’s left? If you count ingredients like salt and lemon juice, my list climbs to 15 or so. But these are the Core 10 that fill my belly:

Sweet potato
Squashes
Wild salmon
Eggs
Avocado
Seeds (except hemp)
Garlic
Ginger
Coconut (all things coconut!)
Chicken broth

Safe ingredients I use frequently: lime/lemon juice, fresh herbs, salt, olive/coconut/avocado oil, minimal dried herbs (since many have fungus that feeds the candida).

My splurges are ghee and a little coconut sugar and agave. I eat goat cheese, dates, and blueberries once or twice a week. I just made pureed carrot ginger soup and tolerated it well. When my tummy is ok, over-cooked broccoli/cauliflower works well as long as I don’t devour the entire pan all at once (I love me some cruciferous vegetables). 

I eat only scratch cooking, mostly organic – I’ll be sharing recipes here soon. Occasionally I eat outside the house which is a lovely treat – maybe a couple times per month – and I savor every second of it.

Why am I eating so few foods?

Some people think this is craaaazzzzy pants. But they’re usually people that don’t know my long history with tummy problems – and that I’ve been studying how to heal the gut for 25 years. I’m still getting the hang of cancer and learning about Lynch Syndrome. But gut issues? That’s my wheelhouse. It’s how I healed a severe case of Ulcerative Colitis which I had for 9 years. Since much of the immune system resides in our gut: healthy gut = healthy body. So, I’m determined to give my digestive system – and my body – the best possible environment for healing. So I can eat (some) raw foods again. So I can travel. So I can be free.

The only way to get there, however, is to swing the pendulum way over to the opposite side of illness. Once I’ve lived there awhile, my body will tolerate a wider variety of food. For now, it’s in lock-down. Just me and my 10 foods….PLUS my treat days.

I realized this week how crucial my Treat Day is for my psychological well-being. Yesterday, when my student brought in my crack…I mean, homemade yellow cake, I stuffed a few pieces in my face. And it was DIVINE. Perfect timing, really. Of course the rush of white sugar and flour makes me feel crappy afterwards. But I felt satisfied in my mind. And that’s how I know I can get through this. Clean most days. And a little bit of fun once in awhile.

Healing is excruciatingly slow. But. I can do this. 

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher