Posts Tagged ‘Diet’

Breast cancer genetics

May 8, 2010

Thinking about daughters and genetics on Mother’s Day –

I read about this conference as a result of a link on Twitter:

The conference in Toronto sounds interesting, but I have alarm bells going off when I hear about women facing a “daily conflict” about telling daughters of their risk for breast cancer.

Daily conflicts are not healthy – if we pile more daily conflicts on top of all the other concerns we have when living with breast cancer, they will further damage our health.

I say learn about genetics if you can handle it, but not if it creates emotional pain which may affect your health and well being.

I think it’s important to remember that genetics are responsible for only 15% of cancers.

Some lifestyle choices – which we can control – are responsible for many more cancers than genetics. Taking charge of our lifestyle choices is empowering!

Women are disempowered when they think they have no control over their prognosis because of their genetic makeup.

Women need to be empowered in order to overcome breast cancer.

Women can protect their daughters by encouraging them to eat healthy food, be physically active, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage their stress. Healthy habits make a difference!

I know because I had Stage II breast cancer in 1986. I’ve been cancer free since 1987 and I’ve done that by changing my lifestyle once treatment was over. I eat a low fat high fiber diet, walk every day, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage my stress level. This is simple stuff, and if I can do it so can many others.

Cancer institutions tell us that 30 to 50% of cancers can be prevented. I believe you get what you focus on and this is what we need to focus on if we’re going to reduce the cancer rate in the next generation.

Peace of mind helps us to survive cancer. I believe that negative emotions and daily conflicts can ruin our health, so it’s important to work through them and move towards a healthier state of mind.

In the words of an old Chinese doctor: Happiness is the key to good health!


Cancer survivor becomes wellness coach

March 10, 2010

Here is an article by Joanne Shuttleworth which appeared on the front page of the Guelph Mercury on March 9th 2010 – my 65th birthday.
I celebrated the publicity for my cancer prevention program called Start Here and Go Forward. I also celebrated the fact that I’m still alive and cancer free 23 years after having 3 types of cancer in 1987.

GUELPH -Lynn Roodbol was 41 when she learned she had breast cancer. Six months later she was also diagnosed with colon cancer and then skin cancer. All this a year after her husband had lost his job.

It was a devastating period and Roodbol said she felt helpless and hopeless as she became a pincushion for chemotherapy, at the beck and call of her doctors, and faced with the very real spectre of her death.

“I had myself in a pine box,” Roodbol said quietly. “I really thought I was going to die. But my husband coached me through it and I had a huge support system. And somewhere along the way something changed.

“The light went on for me and I stopped that downward spiral. I wanted to do anything I could to live again.”

Roodbol turns 65 next week — a number she never expected to reach in those dark days. She’s also a certified wellness coach in part from gratitude for the extra 20-plus years she’s been given. And part to help people who may be feeling as powerless as she had. Roodbol is leading a five-week workshop called Start Here and Go Forward, a program based on wellness coaching that will discuss healthy lifestyle choices, which help prevent cancer and reduce the risk of its recurrence.

It runs from Hospice Wellington’s temporary location on Woodlawn Road on Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. from March 22 to April 19. Cost is free, but registration is required.

The methods she recommends are neither a surprise nor complicated and they can prevent other diseases besides cancer — eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and relaxation and learn to manage your stress.

“I’m not an expert, so if I can do it, anyone can,” she said. “But sometimes it’s difficult to see that on your own. A wellness coach will grab your hand and work beside you as you realize your goals.”

Roodbol said she was weighed down by negativity when she was diagnosed with all her cancers, and even when she began to recover she still didn’t feel well. She started to visit a therapist who helped her to leave negative feelings behind and focus on the positive.

“Therapy taught me to let go of anger and guilt. After all, I was an X-ray tech and I didn’t have a mammogram. I blamed myself. I was full of guilt. I had to learn to let it go,” she said.

It’s not as superficial as it may sound. Sometimes it takes a seminal event to put life in perspective. Sometimes an attitude adjustment is in order.

“Once you hear the ‘cancer’ word, you often don’t hear anything else,” said Erin McInnis, client services supervisor with Hospice Wellington. “And it’s easy to get lost in all the information. But life is about living, it’s about wellness. Lynn will challenge and inspire participants.

“At times like that, people are looking for things they can do to help themselves. Lynn will show them how.”

“If you spend your energy on wellness, it’s energy you don’t have to spend on being sick. And believe me, it’s so much more pleasant being healthy,” Roodbol said.

If you go:

WHAT: Start Here and Go Forward, a workshop based on wellness coaching that will discuss healthy lifestyle choices, which help people to prevent cancer and reduce the risk of recurrence of cancer.

WHEN: Monday evenings, 7 to 8:30 p.m. from Mar. 22 to April 19

WHERE: Hospice Wellington, 107 Woodlawn Rd. W.

COST: Free

This program is now full and I’m registering people for a new program starting on April 26 2010. Thank you for your interest!

Soy foods for breast cancer survivors

December 9, 2009

Many breast cancer survivors wonder about the connection between breast cancer and soy products, and whether soy is safe to eat once we have a diagnosis.

Soy is in many of the foods we eat whether we like it or not, and the quantity of soy consumed is an issue in itself. Another issue is the fact that soy is genetically modified.

So the jury is still out, but this article from the Globe and Mail provides you with Leslie Beck’s Food For Thought:

Breast cancer survivors shouldn’t shun soy foods

In the past several years, soy foods have been showing up regularly on grocery store shelves. And it’s not just tofu. Packages of soy nuts, burgers, drinks, cereals, yogurt and desserts as well as edamame have become mainstream grocery items.

At the same time, there’s been controversy about the use of soy, especially for breast cancer survivors. The concern is that isoflavones, compounds that occur naturally in soy, could increase the risk of the cancer returning.

But according to a study published in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, enjoying a soy latte or soy burger causes no harm – and can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Foods made from soy beans are high in protein and contain isoflavones, phytochemicals that compete for the same place on breast cells that estrogen does. By acting like weak forms of the body’s own estrogen, some experts have worried that soy isoflavones could possibly promote cancer growth.

That’s because certain risk factors for breast cancer, such as beginning your menstrual period before age 12 or starting menopause after 55, are related to the length of time breast cells are exposed to the body’s own circulating estrogen. It’s thought that estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells.

Women taking tamoxifen, a drug used to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, are often advised to avoid soy foods because soy isoflavones can bind to estrogen receptors on breast cells just like the medication does. The fear is that soy may reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen. (Tamoxifen works by blocking estrogen in the body from attaching to estrogen receptors on breast cancer cells, slowing the growth of tumours and killing tumour cells.)

In the new study, the largest conducted to date on breast cancer survival, researchers examined the safety of soy food consumption among 5,042 breast cancer survivors, aged 20 to 75, in China. Women were recruited into the research effort – known as the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study – six months after breast cancer diagnosis

After four years, women with the highest soy consumption – measured as soy protein intake – had a 29 per cent lower risk of death and were 32 per cent less likely to have breast cancer recur compared with women with the lowest intake.

The protective effect of soy was observed for women with either early or late stage breast cancer and in women with estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and ER negative breast cancer. (Doctors test breast cancer cells to determine whether they have hormone receptors. If breast cancer cells have estrogen receptors, the cancer is said to be ER positive. If they do not, it is called ER-negative.)

Soy food consumption was associated with improved survival regardless of tamoxifen use. Among women who consumed the most soy, both users and non users were 35 per cent less likely to have breast cancer recur.

Women who consumed the most soy and did not take tamoxifen had a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death than tamoxifen users with low soy intakes. This suggests that high soy intake and tamoxifen use may have a comparable effect on breast cancer survival.

A daily intake of 11 grams of soy protein offered the most benefit, an amount found in about 11/2 cups of soy beverage, one soy burger, 1/2 cup of edamame (young green soy beans) or 1/2 cup of tofu. Higher intakes did not offer greater protection.

Only one previous study has explored soy intake and the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study, published in November, followed 1,954 northern California early stage breast cancer survivors for six years and found that postmenopausal women with a high soy isoflavone intake – compared with none – had a lower risk of their cancer returning.

Findings from the LACE study also revealed that among postmenopausal women treated with tamoxifen, those who consumed the most soy were 60 per cent less likely to have their breast cancer recur compared with women with the lowest intakes.

Soy foods may protect from breast cancer in a number of ways. Isoflavones may decrease circulating estrogen levels and increase its removal from the body. Soy also contains folate, calcium, fibre, protein and many phytochemicals that, individually or together, may help combat cancer.

While it appears that moderate soy consumption is probably safe for breast cancer patients and survivors, keep in mind these findings are confined to soy foods, not soy supplements.

In fact, research suggests the effects of soy foods and supplements differ. In one study, soy milk reduced circulating estrogen levels but isoflavone supplements had no effect. And we don’t have data on the long-term safety of these supplements.

In addition to adding soy to your diet, the following strategies may also help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Soy protein in foods The study published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association found that consuming 11 grams of soy protein per day reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death. Higher intakes did not confer extra protection. Soy beans, canned, ½ cup 14 grams Edamame, ½ cup 11 grams Soy nuts, roasted, unsalted, ¼ cup 11 grams Soy beverage, unflavoured, 1 cup 8 -9 grams Soy yogurt, 1 cup 5 grams Soy nut butter, 2 tbsp. 7 grams Tofu, firm, ½ cup (125 g) 20 grams Tofu, regular, ½ cup (125 g) 10 grams Soy ground round, 1/3 cup 10 grams Soy burger, 1 patty (14 g) 14 grams Soy hot dog, 1 (46 g) 10 grams Soy frozen dessert, ¾ cup 1 grams

Eat more vegetables and fruit

Strive for at least seven servings a day. Studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower) and leafy greens are especially protective from breast cancer.

Reduce fat

Research suggests it’s prudent to reduce your intake of dietary fat, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with ER-negative breast cancer. Choose lean meats, poultry breast, legumes and non-fat dairy products. Use high-fat spreads and salad dressings sparingly.

Control your weight

Breast cancer survivors who are overweight or obese are more likely to have cancer recur compared with leaner survivors. Women are advised to keep their body mass index (BMI) in the range of 21 to 23 and limit weight gain and increases in waist circumference.

Be active

Moderate to vigorous exercise has been shown to improve breast cancer survival; the evidence is strongest for women with ER-positive tumours and those diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Regular exercise helps reduce breast cancer recurrence by preventing weight gain and reducing levels of circulating hormones.

Breast cancer survivors are advised to get at least 150 minutes (21/2 hours) a week of moderate intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise (running, elliptical trainer, cardio machines).

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is

Cancer prevention is a reality

October 7, 2009

The Go Public cancer forum in Ottawa had many high powered, interesting speakers; most of them talked about the prevention of cancer as well as cancer control.

I’ve attended many cancer conferences, and I’ve never heard so much talk about cancer prevention. The figures are amazing; in general they range from 30% to 50%, with someone saying that 95% of cancer is preventable.

Why are so many people dying if we know that cancer can be prevented? Cancer rates are rising not falling – if we continue as we are, then 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will have cancer by 2050. Today most people know someone who has cancer and we are all affected by this; imagine what it will be like when the rates are so much higher. Our thinking has to change if we’re serious about preventing cancer and reducing cancer deaths by half in the next generation.

It’s amazing we haven’t figured this out yet with all the money that goes in to research, but I know the fact that we’re human beings is a big part of the problem. For example, we all know about the foods that are bad for us; but as Dr. Andrew Weil said on the Larry King show, people eat what’s cheap and accessible. It’s easy to expect the health care system to fix the problems we bring on ourselves by over eating bad chemicals in food, and being a nation of people who love the taste of fats, oils, salt and sugar.

Changing habits can be difficult if we’re not committed. I know – I faced my mortality in 1987 with breast, colon and skin cancer. I would be dead by now if I hadn’t made a commitment to get well, and worked hard at improving my diet, exercise, relaxation, and stress levels.

I think one key factor is that I had a coach to help me. I wanted to change, but I didn’t believe I could do it, and I know many people who struggle with the same issue. If people are serious about wanting to change, and they partner with a coach, either a professional or a friend, they can achieve so much more than they can achieve alone.

Preventing cancer involves making healthy choices for what we eat, how we exercise, how long we sleep, and how well we manage our stress levels. These are the main factors, but many other issues are involved. I believe it’s important to let go of what gets in the way of us living a healthy life; the past is over and cannot be undone. We can all start now – right here – right now and go forward to a healthy future where we love ourselves enough to take good care of the mind, body and spirit we were blessed with when we were born.

Take action now so that you and your loved ones will not be surprised with a diagnosis of cancer. Start from here to go forward and find your own way to build a healthy life. The time to act is now!

What will I be?

June 24, 2009

If we are what we eat, then I would rather be an apple or a stem of broccoli than a scoop of ice cream or a pile of French fries. Don’t get me wrong, I love ice cream and French fries, but they don’t add much in the way of helping my body to feel energetic and healthy.

I treat myself to a serving of ice cream and French fries on occasion because they taste so good, but I find I’m left feeling sluggish and heavy with a blob of fat in my stomach. I wonder if it’s worth it – probably not. I think the solution for me is to have a child size ice cream cone or a couple of fries off someone else’s plate if they’re willing to share.

I know that when I eat an apple, it’s going to give me some much needed energy and it’s a great thing to eat at the end of a work day when I have to go home and make dinner.

I also know that broccoli is going to give me the nutrients I need to help my body to prevent cancer cells from growing. There are many other power house foods which help me to stay well and have the energy to take my dog for a walk or play with my grandchildren.

I’m grateful that I live in a country where there are so many choices about what to eat, and fresh fruits and vegetables are available all year round. Nothing has more eye appeal to me than a fresh fruit salad or a plate full of colorful veggies.

If you want to raise your energy level today, try eating an apple in place of another snack and see if you can tell the difference too.

Is this good for my health?

June 15, 2009

Long ago, when I was in cancer recovery stage, I decided to make my health the number one priority in my life.

This means every time I make a decision on a lifestyle issue, I ask myself “Is this good for my health?” before making the decision. Over the years, I’ve slipped off the path many times, but in general I’ve maintained this habit.

Not everyone makes the same choice. I know people who have cancer who say “If I’m going to die soon, I’m going to live the rest of my time as I want” which means drinking, smoking, partying etc.

My point is that they’re making a choice to put their health behind having fun on their list of priorities.

We’re all going to die; but when I was diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t ready to die, and I was fortunate enough that my cancer was diagnosed early enough to give me the choice to get well.

Many people are diagnosed too late and don’t have too many choices. However, many people are diagnosed, like me, in time to reverse the process of cancer. This gives them the choice to make lifestyle changes which promote good health, and they can recover from cancer to live many more years than they might think.

I’ve worked really hard to stay well, and it’s been such a pleasure to watch my kids grow up and now spend time with my grandchildren. It has been worth every sacrifice I’ve ever made to raise my quality of life, and as a result extend my life way longer than I thought I could when my cancer was diagnosed.

Reality check on swine flu

May 1, 2009

WHO’s afraid of the big, bad pig? This headline in the Globe and Mail today made me laugh, but there is too much fear being produced right now.

At a Wellness Fair yesterday I spoke to many other wellness providers; the general consensus was that fear is being marketed to the hilt when it’s more important for us to keep calm and think.

Fear of swine flu does get attention and hopefully it will make people take action, but it can also paralyze people and create more stress.

Stress is one of the worst things to affect the immune system in a negative way and when faced with a possible pandemic, nothing will protect each of us more than a strong immune system.

So it would be of great benefit to the world if those of us who can, would choose to boost our immune systems. You can do this by getting good nutrition, regular exercise, lots of sleep, deep relaxation, and managing your stress. You can choose to eat lots of fruit and vegetables so you get lots of vitamins, drink water, go for walks, make sure you get adequate rest, and wash your hands often. Change in lifestyle habits is not always easy, but it will make a difference if you do your part to stay healthy.

All of these immune boosters are cheap, easy, and accessible to most of us.

The best defense is an offense as they say in the sports world. If you want to boost your immune system, I’m sure you know how; for your sake and everyone else’s, please just do it!

Take good care of yourself – the world will thank you!

Great news re cancer treatment!

April 28, 2009

Research at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto by Dr. Pamela Ohashi and Dr. Tak Mak has produced a technique which may eliminate the need for chemotherapy. In essence they “combined a vaccine with a naturally occurring substance in the body called interleukin-7 (IL-7), a protein that helps white blood cells ward off disease.”

See the article “Study finds way to boost immune response to cancer” by Hayley Mick in the Globe and Mail April 27, 2009 or ”the findings, published online yesterday in the journal Nature Medicine”.

When I was being treated for 3 types of cancer in 1986 and 1987, I was encouraged to use guided imagery and visualization to boost my immune system, and to help my body get rid of cancer cells. I attended groups, read books, and visualized my white cells killing cancer cells several times a day.

All through the course in chemotherapy my white cell count was high; at one point I had to be tested for leukemia because the white count was so high. I have continued to use this visualization and have remained cancer free for 22 years.

I don’t think visualization alone has kept me healthy, but it has helped. I’ve improved my lifestyle with regard to diet, exercise, sleep, relaxation, and stress management; all of these factors affect the immune system.

I believe that a strong immune system is the key to good health. The research to discover an immune booster for cancer patients is welcome news for sure!

Do you love yourself enough to eat healthy?

March 27, 2009

In the days when I was a junk food addict, or a chocoholic, I have to say I didn’t care enough about myself to see that I was making myself sick. I would just eat to make myself feel better, but then I’d feel worse because I knew the stuff I was eating was bad for me.

I was more concerned with taking care of other people than I was about taking care of myself. What I didn’t realize is that I could take better care of other people if I was healthy. If this sounds confusing, it fits, because I used to be confused about this issue.

I used to think that if I looked after my self first, I was being selfish. Now I know that if I take good care of myself, I am able to take better care of others.

Having a healthy diet means that I eat healthy food at least 80% of the time and control my weight to stay in the healthy range of the BMI guidelines. I even get to eat chocolate every day, but I limit it to one wafer of good quality Belgian chocolate. I buy the dark chocolate that people use for melting since it comes in wafers and it’s easy to stop at one wafer; if I buy a chocolate bar I feel obligated to eat the whole thing.

If you think your diet could be healthier, the important part is to figure out what will work for you. Think about how you can make simple changes which will be easy to maintain, and make a commitment to yourself to follow through.

Having someone beside you, to coach you, to be accountable to, can help you stay on track and make all the difference in being able to enjoy eating a healthy diet.

The simplest path to weight control is in your head.

March 26, 2009

It was a learning curve for me, but now I think that weight control can be a simple matter(not easy, but simple): I decide what weight I want to be, and I make a commitment to follow through with that decision. If I can do this, so can you – that’s if you want to, but you have to really want to do it or it doesn’t work.

Having cancer 22 years ago taught me to start taking better care of my eating habits. Before cancer I had a high fat – low fiber diet; this made me feel crappy for the most part, pun intended.

Since cancer had a way of making me wake up enough to want to change my lifestyle, I decided to make good health my number one priority in life. I learned to filter all my eating decisions through the question “Is this good for my health?” I have to be very honest with myself and if the answer is yes, then I can go ahead and eat whatever I want to eat. If the answer is no, then I have to ask myself if I’m cheating. Once I realize that I am only cheating myself, it’s very easy to back up and filter everything through the question again.

I just read a great article by Judith Beck in the January 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest, a Canadian magazine. The article is called “Think Like a Thin Person” and it’s adapted from Dr. Beck’s book called “The Complete Beck Diet for Life”.

The philosophy in the article is the same as mine, and my summary of Dr. Beck’s 7 key principles is:

1. Change your thinking – be aware of the thoughts you have before you eat and flex the resistance muscle more than you flex the “giving in” muscle

2. Eliminate emotional eating – face the emotions that make you eat when you’re not hungry, and distract yourself so you’re not tempted to eat

3. Dare to be hungry – recognize when you’re truly hungry and talk yourself out of eating when all you have is a desire to eat

4. Get real about your intake – pay attention to what you’re eating and instead of thinking it doesn’t count, remember that it does

5. Forget fairness – if you envy someone who is thin, remember thin people consciously choose to eat less so they control their weight

6. Eat sitting down – this is key, as it helps you to see everything you’re eating so you’re more satisfied visually and psychologically

7. Believe you can do it – keep up your motivation and confidence in yourself -rather than beating yourself up if you fall off the rails, talk to yourself in a positive way so you can quickly get back on track.

If you want to make a change, remember to do something every day to be kind to yourself; something small will do, but it helps you to feel nurtured so you won’t crave the comfort food and you’ll feel great.