Cancer

The Truth About Breast Cancer

Last month was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “Think Pink,” “Run For The Cure.” There are all of these different campaigns aimed at bringing awareness to breast cancer, which is not a bad thing.

We want to bring awareness to cancer. Today, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will have cancer.

But there are a lot of lies and deceptions associated with cancer. Sickness is the biggest business on earth.

My grandmother had breast cancer. I have very vivid memories of her and the one side of her clothing that always laid flat against the mastectomy she had to undergo. So naturally, I was a huge supporter of the “Pink Movement.”

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Me at 5, with my grandma and grandpa.

There was always that fear that lived inside of me that I may one day have breast cancer.

When I was 19, I had surgery on my left breast. I remember the night I found the lump like it was just yesterday. I was 18 and it was mid November and, as per my nightly routine, felt around for lumps before I went to sleep. For those of you who have had these “this could never happen to me” situations, have an idea of the emotions coursing through me when I made this discovery. Needless to say, I hardly got any sleep that night.

The doctors told me not to worry about it, that it will most likely just go away. Something didn’t feel right though and I pushed it. My mother was in the medical field and she was able to get me a second opinion with the top surgeon in the field. I made them do a biopsy. It was tiny, about the size of a nickel. It wasn’t cancerous and they wanted to leave it but you know that feeling you get sometimes? The one that taps you on the shoulder and tells you that something isn’t right? I wanted it taken out.

My surgery was scheduled 8 months later. A week before my wedding.

I woke up during my surgery. It was suppose to be a quick one, but when they cut me open they found it had grown quite large. The size of a softball. So the surgery went longer then expected and not enough anesthesia was administered. “Doctor, she’s awake… ”

I had a benign, yet aggressive fibroadenoma. I was advised to have yearly mammograms after that. I’m now 31 and still have not had one. Once I had all the facts and a better understanding of cancer and prevention, I was able to make a more well-rounded decision.

Today, 1 in 8 women will have breast cancer.

A couple of years ago, there was a lot of Hollywood hype around the BRCA gene. Angelina Jolie had this gene and she thought that they only way for prevention was to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy.

She should have been told that our genes do not control our life. You can activate genes and deactivate them. What her doctor should have told her is that the way she lives her life will alter the expression of those genes and her risk of cancer. If we deactivate our genes with our healthy lifestyle, we do not get cancer.

She removed healthy breasts. The BRCA genes are actually cancer-protective genes. They are tumor suppressive, protective genes. They help to repair DNA damage, but if it mutates, then it can cause a problem possibly. But what causes it to mutate?

So do you inherit breast cancer genes? Is it genetic?

“Well, my mother/grandmother had breast cancer so I’m probably going to have breast cancer.”

But we now know through the study of epigenetics, which is the science of looking into gene expression, and nutrigenomics, which is the study of food, we know that we can change our gene expression by what we eat, how we sleep or don’t sleep, and how we manage or don’t manage our stress.

We should not be dying of cancer. The body knows what it’s doing. Nobody believes this anymore. Our bodies are designed to thrive, if we give it half the chance.

First of all, what is cancer? We’ll dive into that next week.

A Pink Ribbon Culture: Pinkwashing

My grandmother had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy and I can still vividly see the empty space in her clothing.

I was nineteen when I had a lump removed from my breast. I remember the day I felt the hard mass. I was eighteen and it was a cool November evening. It was a daily bedtime ritual for me to check for any unusual lumps. I remember the panic rise in my throat. Any chances of a good night’s sleep were just sabotaged by the thoughts that were running through my brain.

My mom took me to the doctor that week and since she is in the medical field, I was taken to the best physician on the subject. I was checked and he concluded that it was nothing to worry about. I knew my body. I have always been very aware of it and my gut instinct told me something was not right.

I insisted on a biopsy. It was benign, thank goodness, but I still wanted it removed; solely for my peace of mind. My surgery was scheduled a month after the biopsy. It was supposed to be a quick procedure and they were not expecting to find what they found when they opened me up. It had grown from the size of the tip of my thumb to the size of a softball. I had an aggressive fibroadenoma. Needless to say, I wasn’t administered the correct amount of anesthesia and I woke up in the middle of the surgery.

“Doctor, she’s awake… ” …and fade back to black. That was not a pleasant experience.

Yearly mammograms were expected of me post surgery especially because I had a family history. I haven’t had one yet for reasons that I will talk about in another post, but fear being the main culprit. Fear of them finding something.

All of that being said, I was a big Pink Ribbon supporter. Emphasis on the WAS. When an opportunity presented itself, I contributed to the breast cancer advocacy movement. That was up until I met my friend Angela. She is the mother of three young, beautiful girls, an Emmy award winning makeup artist and a two-time breast cancer survivor. Our conversations at work lifted the “pink haze” that clouded my view and gave me an authentic perspective. I have seen the scars on her body, a daily reminder of the worst year of her life. But you would never guess that she had this ugly disease. She is a ray of sunshine and I always find it a pleasure to bask in her strength and endurance.

Angela and I

Angela and I

Coming soon to the blog – she will share her experience with us and the monstrous face of breast cancer. Her view of all this Pink Ribbon “awareness” will make you reevaluate your standpoint on the matter. What also fueled many of our conversations was her decision to opt out of chemotherapy and choose a natural approach to treatment. Using food as medicine was a common thread between us.

We are all aware of this cancer but do we really know what it is? I think it is also important for us to see the faces of those who have or have had this cancer. We should not only be aware but we need to know WHAT it is.

Pink heralds that October is here. Pink ribbons everywhere, football players wearing pink garb, hundreds of people coming together to Walk or Run For a Cure, people sporting bracelets with the slogan “I (heart) Boobies.” I noticed though that Breast Cancer Awareness Month has extended itself to more than just October, making it more of a Breast Cancer Awareness season. And as of late, I feel like the Pink Ribbon has become more of a brand, just like the swoosh of Nike or McDonald’s golden arches.

If given a choice, people would rather give their money to a good cause. But have you ever thought about where the money actually goes and how much goes to the actual research? There have been campaigns from big corporations whose contribution was a penny for every purchase. A penny? Really? Wouldn’t it be easier to just write a check or donate directly to the organization?

I started to dig deeper into this thing called “pinkwashing”. There is a great documentary on YouTube called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” that I highly recommend.

Also, as people are becoming more aware of what is happening to our food supply, companies are using marketing strategies that tug at our heart strings to help increase sales on the very products that cause cancer. So they make the product pink or they slap a Pink Ribbon on the packaging. There is a great article about this on the Huffington Post called “Think Before You Pink: Stop the Distraction.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karuna-jaggar/think-before-you-pink-sto_b_5910696.html

In the 1940s, a woman’s lifetime risk of breast cancer was 1 in 22. In 2011, it is 1 in 8. The risk factor? Being a woman. But this disease does not discriminate. We have yet to find a cure because we have yet been able to pinpoint the cause. There are so many factors that contribute to this disease. So what is the best course of action? Because I believe we need to start DOING MORE THAN JUST THINKING PINK.

Your thoughts?

‘We the People’ not ‘We the Corporations’

Before I had kids, I had the worst diet imaginable. I just didn’t really think much about it. As long as it tasted good, it was fast and it was convenient, I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I was clueless about nutrition and the powerful effect food has on us and I didn’t know the ugly truth about the food industry.

The birth of my first child, however, inspired an urgency in me because I now had to make decisions on his behalf. And if you are a parent, I am sure you can understand where I am coming from. One of my jobs is to provide him with the very best and to protect him from anything that could possibly harm him.

On top of that, I wanted to have the energy and vitality to keep up with him. I wanted to be my healthiest and live as long as I could to be there for him through this difficult life and to live long enough to see my grandkids.

Not only are those some of the things that propelled me down this path of health and wellness, but what also triggered it is that many people that I loved and cared about have been taken too soon from disease or cancer, or suffering from it. It got me thinking and I started to question what was causing this rampant plague that was ravaging people all over the country.

Is it fate – our genes? Is it what comes with age? I needed to know.

All directions kept pointing me towards our diet and lifestyle.

When it comes to the food that we eat, it is very important that we know where it comes from, who grows it and what the ingredients are. I know I sound like a broken record but I just can’t stress it enough!

Food is a very powerful thing!

The food that we eat becomes us.. literally! It becomes the substance of our muscles, our skin, our hair, our bones – basically every cell of our body. We gain the qualities of the food. Not to mention that our brain, which is a very hungry organ, absorbs around 60% of the food that we eat – and, yes, you’re connecting the dots here – there is a food/mood connection as well.

Our lifestyle and the foods that we eat, have the ability to turn genes on or off. Genetics load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.

As I mentioned in my post The Junk Food Generation, there are 600,000 food items in America today.

Last week, General Mills announced they were buying Annie’s for 820 million dollars. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Annie’s, it is a natural and organic food company who is best known for their macaroni and cheese line.

As people are becoming more and more conscientious of their health, the organic and natural foods industry is steadily growing and going mainstream. We live in a world in which food companies are extraordinarily competitive with each other. Their job is to sell more product; and if they are a publicly traded company, they have shareholders to please. And organic is profitable.

Most of the iconic organic brands today have been bought and are now owned and controlled by the titans of the junk food industry.

Coca-Cola owns:
• Honest Tea
• Odwalla
• Zico Coconut Water
General Mills owns:
• Cascadian Farms
• Muir Glen
Pepsi owns:
• Naked Juice
Colgate now owns:
• Toms of Maine, the toothpaste company

Some say that it is a good thing that the natural foods industry is growing. Others say it is in danger of losing its very soul.

What goes through your mind when you see corporate America taking over the natural and organic food business?

These corporations like Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola and Monsanto and others poured 22 million dollars into fighting the GMO labeling battle. How does that make you feel that the profits that they are earning from the organic brands they now own are being used to fight our access to information?

Why are they fighting tooth and nail to keep this information from us?

We don’t all need to reach the same conclusions but there are beliefs that we all share. There are certain decencies that matter to all of us.

Do we choose to close our eyes and ears to it? Or do we choose to engage in it? These are not radical positions. They are not Democratic or Republican positions. They are not old or young or urban or rural positions. They are fundamental human concerns.

I have strong opinions and I hope that my kids will share my opinions but I wouldn’t insist on it. I am not trying to create an ethical replica of me and it is not to create somebody who acts on my beliefs. It is to help somebody to become an adult who can act on his beliefs. I want my kids to be aware of the choices that are in front of them, be aware of their ability to makes choices and to be confident when making choices that are outside of societal norms.

The extent to which there is corporate control of our food policy and of our food supply has massive implications to the health of the people. What bothers me the most is the enormous effort that food companies are doing to try and sell their products, regardless of the effects of their products on health.

I just want to say, though, that they are not out to poison the world. They will sell whatever sells.

Food choices – how we eat, what we eat and what we buy is a form of activism. When people buy organic, more farmers will produce organics. When people complained that tomato pickers weren’t getting paid enough money, Walmart raised their wage to a penny more per pound.

Think about women’s rights or even slavery. Slavery didn’t end because people started buying sugar-free foods. It happened because people advocated to make it unacceptable and to end it legally.

Anthony Gucciardi said, “There’s a reason that mega corporations like Monsanto are afraid of you, the activist. They know that despite their billions, despite their deception, that you as a consumer ultimately control their fate. Because by changing a single purchase at the grocery store, you change the world.”

So eat well. Be well. Vote with your fork!

Xo, Kristine

Killing Me Sweetly – Breaking My Sugar Addiction

About eleven years ago, when I was in college in Memphis, Tennessee, I did a speech in my Communications class that I endearingly titled, “Chocoholic”. It was about my addiction to chocolate – to sweets.

Sugar is my vice.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to keep chocolates in these plastic containers on the kitchen counter. I would sneak into the kitchen when no one was in there and eat most, if not all, of the chocolate. One time, I ate almost a whole bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and made myself so sick – fever and everything – my mom had to take me to the doctor. Ever since that doomed visit, chocolate was kept carefully hidden away. My addiction was so strong, however, that no matter how good a hiding spot my mom thought she had, I would search until I found my gold.

It has been a struggle. Especially today – sugar is in EVERYTHING. I cannot even have the tiniest taste without it turning into a full blown binge.

I now understand why.

The refinement of sugar cane was invented in India in 1300. When refined sugar was first sent to Europe in the 1600s it was considered an extremely potent drug. It was handled under lock and key only by the apothecaries, who were the druggist of the time.

In France, it was known as crack.

It became apparent that as soon as enough people were exposed to it, that it had the one characteristic that is the most appealing to businessmen – it was addictive. It was so marvelously addictive that they knew that if they could just get enough of it that their fortunes would be made many times over.

So they figured out how to produce it locally – the only way they could figure out how to do it locally was to start the slave trade. The slave trade was exclusively a sugar production mechanism.

And now we are the ones paying the price – we are the ones enslaved.

When did we start paying this price? In the U.S., where we didn’t have access to much sugar initially (it wasn’t a big industry), we had no heart disease until the 1930s. The first textbook written on heart disease was in 1933 by Dudley White, president Eisenhower’s doctor. Eisenhower was one of the first Americans to get heart disease.

What we have now are the diseases of malnutrition and toxicity, the degenerative diseases, in the diet.

Our weights remained quite ideal through the 60’s, but gradually our health started to deteriorate at the same time sugar consumption increased.

In 2000, the World Health Organization realized the damage that sugar was causing – there was a radical increase in ALL degenerative diseases, particularly diabetes, heart disease and cancer. After five years, they gathered the press from all over the world and made an announcement. They had ONE recommendation to make and it was, “Cut all sweetened foods below 10% of calories.” They were proposing a limit – no more than 250 calories of sugar a day.

This statement was on the front page of every major newspaper in Europe and the rest of the world. Except the U.S., and I think you can figure out why.

Researchers are now showing that, actually, sugar is four times more addictive than cocaine. It also affects the same area of the brain that heroine does.

Sugar is more toxic than alcohol – it kills 35 million people a year. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer – all associated with sugar consumption.

Let’s take tobacco, the bigger killer than alcohol, 5 million a year – this is worldwide.

In the case of sugar, United States’ citizens have been studied and our relapse rate is 97%, which makes it four times more additive than drugs or alcohol.

Sugar gets us high by raising glucose levels. Literally, a glucose high is a high, it feels good. When it plunges down afterward, that feels really bad and then we have to have more sugar. That is one of the addictive properties.

Chocolate – even without sugar – is an opiate, it is a stimulant. It is a very complex substance that is highly addictive in spite of the fact that it is a high source of magnesium and contains amino acids. I still eat chocolate but I choose high quality, organic dark chocolate with real cacao that is fair-traded and I limit myself to a one ounce serving a day. It is really important that if we choose to eat chocolate or meat or eggs or drink dairy that we eat or drink only the highest quality of these foods and it is something I will expand upon in another post.

So when I did my speech eleven years ago about being a chocoholic… chocolate junkie is not a joke. It is a literal fact!

Sugar is in practically EVERYTHING and I combat this addiction by staying away from processed foods and sticking to a whole foods diet. It is the only sure way of knowing what I am eating!

I hope this has helped you understand the addictive nature of sugar and how the food industry has cleverly created that “bliss point” when we eat their “foods” and keeps us coming back for more.

Eat well. Be well. Vote with your fork!

Xo, Kristine