The Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis

When I was diagnosed with the big C, I began to fully realize that what I put in to my body affects my health and well being. We’ve all heard “You are what you eat,” but it wasn’t until my diagnosis that I really bought in to that statement. Our family has made a lot of changes in how we eat and the products we use to try to minimize our future cancer risk. As a mom, I want to do everything I can to keep my sweet babies from having to go through any health issues that may (or may not) be preventable.

During my first appointment with my oncologist I asked what I thought was a logical question: “What causes thyroid cancer?” He basically laughed in my face and said that if he knew that he would win a Nobel Prize and be wildly famous. So, I followed up with “You are the expert here, what do YOU think causes thyroid cancer?” He explained that his research isn’t complete, but based on his expert knowledge he would attribute a few factors to the sharp increase in thyroid cancer. The main factor he believes causes thyroid cancer is perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Below I list the Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis, including why you should eliminate PFOA’s from your home.

The Top 6 Things We’ve Changed Since My Cancer Diagnosis

1. Eliminate PFOA’s

PFOA is a chemical originally made by 3M and is linked to thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and a whole host of other health problems. According to the EPA’s website, in 2006 the government agency asked the top eight companies producing or using PFOA’s in their products “to work towards elimination of these sources of new exposure to PFOA by the year 2015”. Well, thanks EPA! You obviously know that this chemical is hazardous to human health and you ask for to be eliminated over the next 9 years. Did PFOA’s cause my thyroid cancer? I will never know. However, I did use products daily that included this chemical. PFOA’s can be found in Teflon coated non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn and stain proof carpets and upholstery. One of the first major changes we made was to toss out our beloved Pampered Chef Non-stick cookware. We now use good old cast iron pans and All-Clad pots. I was hesitant at first to make the switch because I loved the easy clean up and convenience of old cookware. However, a smart gentleman at Williams-Sonoma taught me how to change the way I cook to make nearly every pan be non-stick. He told me this saying that keeps food from sticking to the pan: “warm pan, cold oil”. Simply heat up your pan, then add cold (or room temperature oil) to make your pan less likely to stick.

2. No Soda.

This one is hard. HARD I tell you! I knew the day I was diagnosed that I needed to quit soda. However, I was addicted. I wasn’t the crazy gal who chugged a two liter a day, but I felt like I needed soda several times a week, maybe even daily. I looked forward to drinking it and craved it often. As soon I was diagnosed I scaled my soda habit to once a week and boy was it a long seven days waiting in between. But a funny thing happened, after a few months I would forget to drink a soda a week and the week turned in to 10 or 12 days. Soon I realized that I didn’t crave it any more. I’m happy to say that the last time I drank soda was October 2013. It took 9 months, but I kicked that habit to the curb. Now, I have had a sip here and there just to taste it, and you know what? It’s gross! I don’t think I would be able to drink a can of Coke right now if I tried. I know that is crazy talk to some of you (it was to me at first), but I promise it’s true. If you quit drinking it, you’ll quit craving it and eventually it will not even taste good. Plus, have you seen what soda does to your body? One last note on soda: several types of soda, including Mt. Dew and Dr. Pepper have an ingredient called brominated vegetable oil (BVO). This ingredient blocks iodine absorption in your thyroid and can be toxic. Just don’t drink it!

3. No Parabens.

Parabens are chemicals that are used as a preservative and is mainly used in cosmetics. Since I have thyroid cancer, my risk of other cancers including breast cancer has nearly doubled. My doctor informed me that there is a link between parabens and breast cancer, so for that reason alone, I have stopped buying products with parabens in them. Check the ingredient labels on your bathroom counter and in your make-up bag. If you see these words on the label, I suggest that you throw it out: methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, and butylparaben. Now, if you google parabens you will find studies that say they are completely safe. However, I’m going to go with my doc on this one and play it safe.

4. No Fake Sugar (aka: artificial sweetner).

Honestly, I can’t believe people are still eating fake sugar. I get it, it’s calorie free and seems like a great alternative to regular sugar. My friends, that couldn’t be more far from the truth. There are LOTS of health products out there that tout health and wellness and “safe” weightloss and include these nasty chemicals that go by the names of sucralose, aspertame and sacchrin. These three ingredients are NOT food, they are chemicals. In fact, sucralose alone, which goes by the name Splenda, can cause a whole slew of health problems. The craziest thing about “foods” with a diet label is that they all contain fake sugar, which increases obesity. Have you ever seen a super healthy, fit person who chugs diet soda? Nope, they are all drinking water!

5. Minimize Real Sugar.

This is a tough one also. You know we love to party, and a party without cake is just a meeting. So… we eat cake, but we eat it sparingly. We have minimized our sugar intake by minimizing the times per week that we indulge in dessert. We used to have dessert 4-5 times per week. Now, we try to get that number to one day a week. It takes some planning and a whole lot of will power, but it’s doable. Sugar causes inflammation, which in turn can lead to cancer. Also, fat gets a bad rap for making us fat and clogging our arteries. The real truth is fat is good – our bodies need fat to operate. What our bodies do not need is sugar! Fat doesn’t make us fat; sugar makes us fat.

6. Eat REAL Food and More Local and Organic Foods.

Our motto is simple. If you can grow it or kill it: eat it. We try to shop at local stores that grow local meats and veggies. When we shop at big box stores we try to shop the perimeter and limit the items we buy in the actual aisles. Sure it takes more time and effort to cook whole foods, but your health is worth it! I promise! We recently purchased a farm and will be living on it full time in the next few years. One of my life goals is to grow our own food. I can’t wait to raise chickens and cows and have a big garden. That way I will know exactly where the food we eat is coming from and what it contains. Thankfully, for now there are great organic options at the grocery store that will do for now!

Obviously, I’m not a doctor and have no medical training, so please don’t take anything I say as medical advice. However, I have done LOTS of research on my health and wanted to share what we have changed in the last two years.