FOOD FOR HEALTH, life lessons from cancer

Almost 2 weeks ago, I was invited by the Internation Student Church of Delft to talk about my life experience and the role that a radical change in diet and life style has had – and still has – in my battle agains breast cancer.
I found it still pretty difficult to open myself to a group of unknown persons, also because the story I was telling still is pretty “fresh”. At the same time I was happy to be able to bring a message to the young generations. Surely they went home with some detailed information! It is a pity that in the end the discussion took a quite technical direction, and this is definitely my fault: I really should learn to “contain” myself :-)!! A pity because, actually, I would have really liked to ask my audience: “and, what do YOU think… can we really influence our destiny?”.
Since I did not get the chance 2 weeks ago, I do it now. What is your opinion?

My testimony on june 11th 2015

“If you ask me who I am, I’ll tell you:
I am Fabiana, I have a wonderful family that fills my life 24 hours a day, I cook, but mainly I live. I probably look like 40 but I am actually only 2 years old.

If you would have asked me 3 years ago I would have probably answered that I was an architect and a mother and that life was difficult. I found it very difficult to combine working and being a mother at the same time, especially when working a lot doesn’t mean earning a lot as I always thought. I had always been a good student, a very good one actually, so I was pretty sure life would have smiled at me. But moving to another country and trying to settle down there was not so easy as I thought. I couldn’t accept that all my efforts in elevating my economical condition were basically useless, that living abroad did not mean having a dream job thanks to which I could earn lots of money and could come home every time I felt like. And I did not see all the beautiful things surrounding me because I was focusing so much on what I did NOT have, instead of what I already had. I knew something was not good, and I felt literally like a flower that was withering, but I did not know how to react and make a change.

Then cancer came. 2,5 years ago approximately I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and not a “normal” one (if you can talk about “normal cancer”): I had IBC (inflammatory breast cancer), the most rare and most aggressive form of breast cancer.

This changed my life totally. Of course I had to start a long and difficult journey: first chemotherapy, then total modified mastectomy, herceptin, radiotherapy, hormon theraphy…
Incredibly this journey was not heavy at all, at least so I experienced it. For the first time in my life I had not only the right to think about myself, but the duty to concentrate totally on my well being! I had to overcome this illness, for myself but also for my husband and my two little children. I had lots of people surrounding me and supporting me, helping me in such a difficult period. I felt very much loved and finally I also felt how much love was inside me!
Finally I could STOP and THINK.

I could have complained asking myself WHY? Why me? Why so young? Why such a huge proof I had to face?

I like to think there is a reason for everything. I don’t know if it is God that is setting out the path for you, but several times in my life I had the feeling things, experiences were coming together.
When I started chemotherapy, the side effects (and forgive me if I call it for what they are: “bloody anal fissures”! ) forced me to adopt a strict diet: no meat, and above all no salami or sausages (!), no products made out of white flour such as pasta and bread, no white rice, cheese, especially when fatty. From the beginning, I felt the need to eat soups. ” … and yet… I have never been crazy about them before! Luckily my mom was there for me, because she is able to transform any boring food in something very tasty! Through lots of vegetables, we started to eliminate even industrial stock…
The change in my eating habits that my body imposed me – and I found this out later – fits in very well with most of the principles that underlie different theories about food claiming to be able to help fighting cancer. It was as if my body asked for a natural purification period.
But it was only after the end of the chemotherapy, when I started to have some more energy, that I seriously started to look into the subject food/cancer. That’s how I found “Cascina Rosa”, an institution linked to the Italian Cancer Institute of Milan, and Doctor Franco Berrino, its spokesman. Since 25 years they are following woman who had breast cancer. They started a project called DIANA with the purpose to help woman in changing their lifestyle (healthy diet/less stress/more movement) and they have been able to demonstrate that woman who make this chance have a smaller relapse chance. This was enough to motivate me, also because I am surely not a person that likes to stand still and wait.
So I started to follow the advices of Cascina Rosa for cancer prevention. This meant removing from my diet: sugar (in all its forms except the natural one), refined flours (especially white wheat), meat (in particular red), conserved meat of all types, eggs and dairy. Basically nowadays I eat mainly vegetables, in minor quantity fruit (fresh or dried), legumes and whole grains, nuts and only once in a while fish. Anyway I try to VARIATE and cook as NATURAL as I can, containing the amount of sugars (even if natural) and proteins in general. I used the word “mainly” because when I cannot avoid it or when I really feel the need of it, I grant myself an exception to the rule! 🙂

Now, 2,5 years later (and 25 kilo’s ago!), I can say that the path I decided to follow is not an easy one. Eating healthy – and with this I mean REALLY healthy – means going upstream, means choosing not to depend from industry anymore, means making an effort. Of course, from my point of view, it is worth it. By eating healthy I have the feeling of contributing every day to an eventual total remission of my illness. Every time I eat something that is totally “clean” I feel good, and strong, and, if it’s also very tasty, I feel of course also very proud :-).

But sometimes I ask myself if it’s everything a bubble. Is it true that we CAN influence our destiny, or is our story already defined? And of course I know that a healthy diet cannot guarantee life long health but I believe it can surely lower the chance to get sick again. But what is that really makers the difference? Is it again… a chance or is it meant to be?

Again: I like to believe there is a reason. How beautiful would it be if I had to get sick to save myself from unhappiness so that I could help people that had to face a similar path? Or inspire people that want to make a change? It would be so great if all I went through was meant to give me an active and positive role in this society. If I think about it, it really makes sense.

I started by changing the way I eat, but changing lifestyle means much more. To stay healthy it is very important to eat healthy, but doing exercise and be present to yourself (by meditation for example) is just as important.
> finding a peaceful state of mind, I would say;
> accepting yourself and life for what they are, with their “goods and bads”;
> taking the good things as a gift and the difficult ones as opportunities (“… to elevate our state of conscience” to quote Doctor Franco Berrino).

In the end it is all about BALANCE, between inside and outside, body and mind, in my case between “tasty and healthy” :-). It is balance we should be looking for, not a restrictive diet that might keep us healthy, I hope you will understand this tonight. Nevertheless, I believe eating healthy can support us in this quest. At least it was for me an open door towards a much deeper world inside and outside of me that I am just starting to explore. “


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