I have not had a diet coke since June 3, 2011. I used to drink 3 or 4 a day. What’s better than starting your day with a cold soda for breakfast, then one at lunch of course, and a sweet little treat waiting in the fridge at the end of a long day? I’d drink them with ice and lemon if I was feeling fancy, or just warm from the case I’d keep in the trunk of my car.
I knew it wasn’t great for me, but it was diet coke – not crack – whatever – George Burns smoked 10 – 15 cigars a day and he lived to be 100 years old. My friend’s golden retrievers only ever drank water from her pool and they lived until they were 16 and 17, and that’s old for goldens.
If you asked me then I’m sure I couldn’t have thought of any way I could give up this guilty pleasure, how would I ever kick the soda habit…?
Then I got cancer and I thought – well, that would do it.
After the initial period of shock – a sunny May weekend which I ate my way through most of the Gus’s BBQ restaurant take out menu half of a Sweet Lady Jane’s Princess Cake, several plates of food at a gourmet picnic; including 3 kinds of meat, 2 types of pie, many cookies and wine, most of a cheese and chacuterie display at a wine tasting, a burger, fries and more wine, – things changed.
Because when Monday morning came – the world stopped spinning with a cold hard thud. I thought – oh my God, I have cancer (breast, these boobs are new – I’ll be fine, but if you are anything like me then you will be wondering the whole time and I am trying to tell you a story.) But at the time I didn’t know anything – what stage I was in – did it start somewhere else – was it creeoing around in my body?… So after that Bachanailian weekend of wine and denial I thought – I better make my body into a lean mean cancer fighting machine.
Right? How does that happen? I mean I’ve heard those stories about people who have cured their cancer through the power of juicing or garlic, or milk thistle or an all carrot diet, I thought it was all bunk – but what if it wasn’t? There are people that say eating anything with a face will give you cancer. Like my landlord, who wrote a vegan cookbook – she was thrilled when she found out I had cancer – she said, “that means you are going to give up meat and dairy, right?” (but she’s not exactly a Ph.D., she stopped eating animals in the 60’s after she opened a refrigerator when she was tripping and all the meat spoke to her.)
What are the rules? I stopped eating meat, dairy, wheat, sugar, anything processed and alcohol. I was afraid to eat anything that wasn’t organic. I emptied my cabinets and wondered what else was trying to kill me. I threw out my Secret deodorant and stared suspiciously at my Crest toothpaste. And my Britta filter, come on – you pour water through charcoal and that’s seriously supposed to remove anything toxic?
I was particularly afraid of the evil white sugar because of a very intense energy healer lady with big white hair who got all up into my face to say, “sugar feeds cancer!” It was just like that scary moment in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – “tell ’em large Marge sent ya'” Aghhh!!!
I went to a Chinese Wellness Center and paid a ton of money for a brown paper lunch bag of twigs and mushrooms and sticks that I could only brew in a ceramic kettle – so I found one at Sears, and made pots of tea that smelled and tasted like something that was scraped off the forest floor.
I taped the Tao’s food philosophy, a quote from Hippocrates, to my refrigerator door – “Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
No fast food, chips or cookies, not one bite of steak or cheese, bacon, butter, pizza, diet soda or Lucky Charms. Lucky Charms; the only sugar cereal I was allowed to eat as a special treat as a kid – and only on vacation – the heady pleasure of taking the time to eat an entire bowl, all the little oaty things out first, then each color marshmallow leaving only the pink hearts floating in a bowl of now warm purple grey colored milk sitting at my Grandmother’s breakfast table in the Florida morning sun.
In my adulthood, I was not above buying a box to get that high and eating around marshmallows – with the grown up addition of pouring the sugary milk into my coffee.
So – never do that again? Never, never?
Everything good was ruined – meatloaf was replaced by “neatloaf” a “meat textured bake made with oatmeal, organic catsup and barley. Butter with palm fruit oil spread, mayonnaise with Vegenaise, ice cream made from nuts, “burgers” made from sprouts and nuts…
I barely survived Thanksgiving, – rescuing a few green beans before they were casseroled and funioned, watching everyone slather soft butter on white flour fluffy rolls and scooping up bourbon laced sweet potatoes topped with crispy browned white sugar marshmallows. I missed out on dessert because newsflash – no matter what Vegan Girl says on her Vegan Yum Yum website – you really can’t make pumpkin pie that tastes “even better than the real thing everyone will rave” with tofu. It doesn’t! It’s like you said about the “delectable chocolate mousse” made with “a rich avocado base” – you know what that tastes like Vegan Girl? Avocado with chocolate. Chocolate guacamole! And yes, it’s disgusting, – it tasted like burp! The pie. Not the mousse. Come to think of it – the mousse too.
I would bake authentic white flour, white sugar, butter and vanilla chocolate chip cookies tor my favorite nurses and doctors, because several attempts at vegan cookie favorites like “grapefruit icebox cookies” and “magical nut chews” proved there was no replacement for the simple perfection of the original Toll House recipe. And when I would get to my favorite part – that just mixed soft dough stage where it took Herculean effort not to stick my finger into the bowl, I resisted.
I did it.
And I felt strong – like I was doing something, you know -with every bite of blueberry pomegranate seeds and quinoia salad and sip of disgusting tea – I imagined that the superfoods were soldiers kicking ass in my system.
The mutant cells were being starved into oblivion without their hearty diet of acesulfame K, benzly isobutyrate, methyl benzonate and hydroxphenyl-2-butanone.
I ate my weight in broccoli.
My friend who is now the head of surgical oncology at a major hospital, but back when she was only a fellow at an internationally renowned cancer program, would just laugh at me. Sitting at the bar Delancey’s eating fancy pizza one night, I ordered mine without cheese or sauce (yes, crust with mushrooms), and she said, “you know it really doesn’t matter.”
Of course it matters, if it doesn’t then there is nothing I can do – I have no control, I can’t stop it, the cancer from coming back, what if I eat all the crap again and I get cancer again later – what if it’s because some tiny little mutant cell behaving badly was just about to die a death of starvation – when along comes an ethyl methylphenylglycidate on a digesting marshmallow bit and it hitches a ride and grows an multiplies – only because I wasn’t strong enough to resist magically delicious breakfast cereal?
But I did cave.
It was Christmas cookies. But I’m sure you could tell that was coming by the way I wanted to FF chocolate chip cookie dough… Then it was Christmas dinner.
And then I caved and I caved – delicious bleu cheese, butter, pizza, and the meat from heaven – smokey crispy bacon and wine – lots of wine.
And everything was delicious.
Because what about twinkly eyed George Burns and those happy golden retrievers and every centurian on The Today Show who say it’s about “not sweating the small stuff,” and “having a sense of humor.” Like Jeralean Kurtz – 114 years and 148 days who told Willard her favorite foods include potato salad, honey buns, and McDonald’s chicken nuggets!
They’re right, right?
I thought my control freak diet made me feel stronger – but now I think maybe I was just punishing myself. Because I was angry. At life. No comfort in comfort food.
Does it matter what you put in your piehole if you are living your right life?
A woman named Anita Moorjani is the hot spiritual expert on cancer at the moment because get this – she was admitted to the hospital after 3 years of cancer and given only hours to live because her organs were shutting down, but get this – she didn’t die. She had a near death experience, woke up completely healed – doctors can’t find a trace of cancer in her body and they can’t explain it.
In her book she says, “If I ever had to create a set of tenets for a spiritual path to healing, number one on my list would be to make sure to laugh as often as possible throughout every single day – and preferably laugh at myself. This would be hands down over and above any form of prayer, meditation, chanting or diet reform.”
“The only universal solution I have is to love yourself unconditionally and be yourself fearlessly! Add a box of good chocolates into the mix, and we’ve really got a winning formula!”
I still don’t eat fast food, rarely processed food, and to this day not one sweet sweet refreshing diet coke. I have sitting in my cabinet a single package of Lucky Charms I was given as a gift. One day I will feel safe enough to eat it.