Cancer or not, are you looking for inspiration to healthy-up your life? Here's my recommended reading list, click the book images for more info:
Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
I read this years ago and never quite forgot it (though for a while there, I forgot the title and couldn't find the book again, much to my dismay). Dr. Fuhrman is plain-spoken, inspiring, and undeniable. His orientation is primarily toward weight loss, and his plan makes it easy. But it's not just about how you look. Dr Fuhrman cites so much compelling evidence that this is the healthiest way to live. Like I said, it's inspiring. It's his book that got me started reading the books that follow. I highly recommend this as a good place to start.
The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.
I learned about this book from the previous author, and couldn't put it down. Not only does this book lay out the findings of major worldwide studies on the connection between diet and disease, but it also details the not always stellar politics of governmental health organizations where the author held advisory positions. If you pick no other book from this list, I recommend this one.
Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Editionby David Servan-Schreiber.
This book picks up where T. Colin Campbell leaves off. Written by a doctor and cancer survivor, this book goes deep into the most recent evidence for the connection between diet, lifestyle and disease and how our bodies specifically benefit from what we normally identify intuitively as simple, healthy choices.
Crazy Sexy Diet: Eat Your Veggies, Ignite Your Spark, and Live Like You Mean It!by Kris Carr.
Yup, I'm recommending it. This is the book that takes you by the hand and leads you down the scary path of letting go of the bad habits and introducing the good. My copy just arrived a few days ago. I'm happy that I bought it.
Do you know about Kris Carr? Perhaps you've picked up on a little of the complicated feelings I have about the "Crazy Sexy Life" movement she spearheaded beginning with her 2003 documentary, "Crazy Sexy Cancer." The healthy and active life choices she promotes, including a largely raw foods, vegan, sugarless diet, were exactly the choices I was passionately embracing when I received my cancer diagnosis. It's not the lifestyle that bothers me.
Nor is it the philosophy. Life is crazy, in all the positive and the negative connotations of the word. And at its innermost vibrant core, the energy of life is also sexy. Life begets life. For our species anyway, sex is how it's done.
And yes, I think it's good to recognize that people with cancer are still fully human. We don't want to be relegated to pedestals of tragic passive ethereal delicacy. We don't want to be regarded as saints or heroes. We don't want our struggle to be glossed over or glamorized. We just want to live.
So where's the problem? It's not Kris Carr herself. Though she is accused of it by those who don't read beneath the surface of her titles, I do not believe she glamorizes cancer. Although I'm jealous of the fact, it's not that, for her, a "wait and watch" regimen of healthy living bolstered by daily wheat grass shots and regular colonics (aka "high enemas") were a reasonable, oncologist-sanctioned treatment plan. (Just to clarify, my jealousy does not extend to the colonics. I have never had a colonic and the idea of one most definitely freaks me out.)
The thing that gets me is, it worked. Her tumors shrank.
Which means I can't bring myself to walk away from the ideas. Which makes me notice that lately, I kind of want to.
There is so much in the media right now about how to prevent cancer with diet and exercise that it makes having cancer feel like a giant humiliation of bad lifestyle choices. I know it's not so simple. I know it's not my fault. But I hate feeling like the world might see it that way. I understand the temptation. I've been on the other side of this scary fence hoping to stay there, wanting to believe it was under my control. Even today I was lectured about what kind of cleaning products I should be using from a well-meaning loved one theorizing about the sources of breast cancer. Never mind that all I use is vinegar and water. Never mind the sexist implications of this theory. Never mind that the lecturer was a smoker.
We as a society have so little attention for addiction. I feel for folks with lung cancer. Do they receive the compassion they deserve?
But I digress...
It's very easy to get caught up in thinking that every non-impeccable choice I'm making, dietary and otherwise, is paving the way to my own demise. It doesn't help that chemo has rendered my mouth hypersensitive to texture and desensitized to flavor. Therefore, meat, fat, starch, and sweets have become much more appealing. Salad, previously a twice-daily pleasure, has become a challenge.
But here it is, the bottom line: I'm done whining about it. I'm done wallowing in self-pity and frozen treats. Temptations will always be there, cancer or not. I can refuse to blame myself for my disease without denying that my choices impact my health. I'll be gentle with myself of course. But I'm done holding back from my most vibrant life.