So what would you do? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 04-02-2004, 05:00 PM
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I had originally put this in the "can't stay vegan" thread as a reply but decided that I needed to start my own topic as it really IS subject on its own - so copying over the bulk of what I said:



I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January...had surgery (double mastectomy w/immediate reconstruction) in February, now on chemo. I was aiming towards veganism when this happened and thriving...I truly think this is the way I'm MEANT to eat but....

Since the surgery and starting chemo, I've become anemic and have flat-out craved red meat. I read on bc forums that this is almost universal. Luckily, my doctor is very supportive as being veg is an ethical thing for me. (and thankfully, the hospital worked with me, too - after I sent back a few meat based meals LOL) My oncologist gave me alternative eating ideas and I'm still doing just fine. But the fact remains that high protein and some meats are recommended.

I don't know that I will do anything about this, I really doubt it as the thought of eating meat really does make me sick to my stomach...but these cravings are just horrendous and when my blood counts are low, I just feel bad. It's so weird to crave something that disgusts you.



I agree that being compassionate to oneself is important,too but prior to going veggie, I immersed myself in reading about the reasons to take this path and I cannot think differently about it now, without extreme guilt.



What would you all do if you were in a situation such as this? Again, I've continued my path fairly well though I have had to add organic eggs to the mix as I truly have higher protein needs....the cancer is estrogen positive and tofu and soy are not recommended, at least not regularly.

Karsa

PS Just an fyi - I am 40....a young 40 (that looks much younger if I do say so myself I've worked out 5 to 6 days every week for the fifteen or so years. I lived a very health oriented life (and still do). So ladies - get those mammograms!!!
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#2 Old 04-02-2004, 05:09 PM
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You're a brave lady and I've no idea what I'd do. One of my veggie girlfriends had BC and got through it ok and didn't deveg, but every one is different. One thing is certain, no one wants you to make yourself stressed over food while you're recouperating. Big hug.
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#3 Old 04-02-2004, 05:22 PM
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My mom had breast cancer a couple of years ago, and I remember how tough it was for her. Getting enough nutrients is very important, but I'd be worried about the emotional stress eating meat might put on you in addition to what cancer's already doing. I know if I ate meat (intentionally), I'd feel horribly guilty and that wouldn't help the healing process. Although I can't say for certain what I'd do, I don't think I would go back to eating meat. I'd try to pump up the suppliments instead.



Not that I would judge you if you decided to do it temporarily. These can be extenuating circumstances.
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#4 Old 04-02-2004, 05:39 PM
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I wish you a speedy recovery!



I, too, suggest a vegan supplement with iron.
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#5 Old 04-02-2004, 07:12 PM
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Thanks all! Honestly, I can't imagine that I would go back to meat eating even if the doctor wasn't so supportive. It would never be worth it to me not to mention, how do you do that when the reason you don't eat meat is because of the ethical considerations. I agree, Astarte, that the emotional impact of going against my nature may be worse than the "cure". It's just an interesting dilemma, especially if it really were making me more sick. The whole tofu/soy thing threw me as I used that as a primary source of protein and enjoy it. It sucks that it increases risk of reoccurance in my case.



One thing that I had not been focusing on that I will be now is beans...duh....

I am supplementing and eating lotsa spinach and raisins! (doc's suggestion for nutrients) Once I'm through a bit more of the chemo, I'll get rid of the eggs again and move from veggie to vegan - I was already there, darnit! I'll also look for a good vegetarian multi with iron.



I appreciate all your suggestions!

Karsa

PS Astarte, I hope your mom is fully recovered and doing well, now. It IS tough going through this right now but I know that this too, will pass
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#6 Old 04-02-2004, 07:21 PM
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You might want to go with another green instead of spinach, such as kale, spinach has oxilates(sp) in it that inhibit iron and calcium being absorbed into the blood stream. Also watermelon is a good source of iron (1 serving = 1 mg iron), and its much more tempting than greens (imo). Congratulations on everything you've managed to do, and for staying vegetarian in such a difficult situation, and I'm sure you'll come out of this stronger than you were before.
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#7 Old 04-02-2004, 08:29 PM
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I would first of all suggest seeing a nutritionist, in addition to your regular doctor. While he/she's probably giving you some good tips... A nutritionist would be trained specifically to show you how to meet nutrient needs and develop meal plans.



In terms of the meat thing - I have a saying, "a dead vegan doesn't help the cause." That is, if you're KILLING YOURSELF, harming your health, by sticking to this diet... You might as well do what you need to take care of yourself. It's actually detremental to 'veganism' as a whole if others perceive "vegans" as sickly.



That said... I would not exactly recommend jumping back to a meat-eating diet. I've tried to help others on this board (specifically those underweight) with vegan ways to get back to health before considering other 'options.'



If you're just *craving* red meat because you need that level of protein in your diet... Maybe it would be worthwhile to invest in some of the supplements while you recover. After all, red meat is expensive too... So the cost isn't too much the issue. I am thinking of things like Gardenburger Riblets and Vegan Burgers. It's worth a shot, to see if it will help you stick to your ethics.



Good luck, you have my, and I'm sure every VBer's support.
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#8 Old 04-02-2004, 10:33 PM
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#9 Old 04-03-2004, 01:50 AM
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I always said if it meant my life, I would eat meat. That being said, I don't actually think I could do it unless I was literally on a desert island with nothing else. I don't think anyone would think any less of you if it was important to your health to eat meat, but as for what I would do, I think it would be really really really difficult to eat meat even if I felt like I needed it.

http://megatarian.blogspot.com
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#10 Old 04-03-2004, 02:27 AM
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Try eating/taking supplements of vitamin C, that increases the absorption of iron You could also try taking prenatal vitamins, they contain large doses of iron. Oh and buy some cast iron pans to cook with, they put iron into your food!
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#11 Old 04-03-2004, 09:37 AM
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My mom got breast cancer last year, had surgery and chemo, and she's perfectly happy and healthy now, but it was really hard for her. Seeing a nutritionist sounds like a really good idea. And I'm sure that, if you had to go back to eating dairy or even meat, no one would hold it against you. You're in a tough situation.
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#12 Old 04-03-2004, 10:11 AM
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Thanks, Karsa My mom's actually doing very well. It was a low-grade cancer and is quite unlikely to recurr. I hope things work similarly for you!
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#13 Old 04-03-2004, 11:02 AM
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You are all just wonderful! Maybe I shouldn't have titled this thread "what would you do" but more along the lines of give me a bunch of great suggestions! LOL Because...in my heart, I always knew what I'd do. Between the food suggestions here and in another forum, I have some grocery shopping to do! I'm reeeeaally excited about the watermelon suggestion LOL



I also will talk to the oncologist about a referral to a nutritionist. I read so much on the nutrition/fitness topic (before this even came up) that sometimes I think I'm an armchair expert but...this is different times and I probably could really use the advice of someone who is a real expert in the field.



I'm so glad I brought this up here because this has really been helpful and I feel good to have all the support.

Thanks!

Karsa
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#14 Old 04-03-2004, 11:03 PM
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I have been reading The McDougall Program for Women, by John McDougall, M.D., The author includes several chapters dealing specifically with breast cancer and gives lots of information about the benefits of an animal-free diet. McDougall is a serious proponent of helping the body use its own resources to heal wherever possible, and you might find some of the information encouraging.



I would also encourage you to NOT count on spinach (or chard, etc.) to meet your iron needs, since they contain oxalates that bind with the iron and greately reduce its ability to be absorbed. A dietician who is savvy about veg nutrition should be able to give you good advice, and a great quick reference for stuff like that is Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina.



I hope this is helpful and that your recovery and healing are rapid and complete!
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#15 Old 04-03-2004, 11:11 PM
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my boyfriend's mom was just diagnosed with breast cancer too, she's not a vegetarian or vegan but she's laid off meats lately which i think will be good for her.



I wish you luck and i hope you make good progress and i hope you do better!
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#16 Old 04-04-2004, 04:53 PM
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If you really want that "meaty" taste, you might try seitan. I find it to have a much chewier, "meaty" texture than soy anyway, and you would haven't to worry about the estrogen issue.

The ones I pity are the ones who never stick out their neck for something they believe, never know the taste of moral struggle, and never have the thrill of victory. - Jonathan Kozol
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