The first time I met Christine was in Dave’s kitchen – I knew Dave thru Sue – that would be my Sue. Dave is a widower, his wife was Sue’s sister. She had succumbed to pancreatic cancer a few years earlier after a difficult year of struggle and receding hopes. Dave somehow managed thru his enormous loss while also taking on the full responsibility of raising two young women who were transitioning into adulthood. Over that period, he and Christine formed a friendship as she had her own struggles managing cancer as a single responsible parent raising two of her own nearly adult children. So when Christine and I met that day, our casual “nice to meet you” very quickly morphed into a lengthy and intense discussion of food and the art of healing thru nutrition. We probably could have talked another hour at least but not without being very rude to everyone else in the room. So we cut it short and got back to the business of socializing and I got to meet her two kids – impressive to me, very bright, relatable and easy to talk to. All well and good but after Sue and I left for home that day I couldn’t help wanting to learn more about Christine and her amazing journey.
When you hear someone say, timing is everything it typically sounds like the harbinger of something good. But not always. Long before Covid 19 upended all our lives, Christine was scheduled for surgery to have a tumor in her breast removed. That operation was scheduled for March 24. When I heard that, I winced. Could you have possibly picked a worse day to enter a hospital in a major metropolitan area on the East Coast? But then, as if she needed something else to compound the stress she was facing while everything around her was shutting down, she and Dave – acting as her principal caretaker – both were reckoning with the fact that they had kids overseas. Christine’s son was in Spain and Dave’s daughter was in Australia. It was imperative they get them both home before all air travel was suspended. Overcoming that hurdle took tremendous effort only to then realize it meant both Dave and Christine would be required to go into self quarantine for two weeks or forego surgery.
“How do you deal with that?” I asked.
Christine said. “Life can get pretty complicated.”
Preparing for cancer treatment as proscribed by modern medical protocols was something Christine shuddered to even think about. “They warn you to prepare for massive drug intervention which is bad enough but then there’s chemo,” she said. “The problem that I have with chemo is that it’s typically administered with steroids and I’m allergic to steroids.”
With chemo off the table, Christine had to hope that surgery would prove effective but she also decided to look into other, more holistic options to manage and perhaps even reverse the cancer. “My father was a holistic practitioner so I was accustomed to alternative medicines.”
She found a book that formed the basis of how she wanted to move ahead in a life with cancer.
“The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies by Dr. Nasha Winters was her go to.
The diet was strict. It forbade fruits and grains and severely limited anything with sugar. Difficult choices were ahead but Christine knew there was one line she simply couldn’t cross.
“Red wine,” she said matter of factly. “Yes, it has a lot of sugar in it but, well, there are benefits and… I’m very fond of red wine.”
Giving up grain was not a problem for Christine as she had removed all bread from her diet years ago. Prior to that adjustment, she had been a vegetarian most of her adult life but grain was okay back then. “I was what I call an ignorant vegetarian,” she explained. “I ate a of pasta and did not understand the importance of sourcing protein.” But adapting to a keto based diet was creating its own set of problems. “My kids had become alarmed at how much weight I was losing. “They wanted me to find a balance between quality of life and quantity and, you know what? I agreed.” This determination to find balance and a long-view understanding of what constitutes good food choices led her to Dr. Zach Bush, an Endochronic medical doctor who had come around to studying the human gut biome and the loss of important enzymes in our diet that he believed were directly related to how our food was sourced and manufactured. Dr. Bush has multiple videos on youtube. I’ve watched a few and he makes a great case.
Coincidently, it was around this time that Dave had introduced Christine to our flax based granola. “I loved it,” she told me. “It was low in sugar, filling and delicious so I wanted to find out more about your company and what I read impressed me. I loved your commitment to responsible sourcing.”
She and Dave then ordered our pizza crusts – grain-based pizza crusts (albeit sprouted). “So the kids loved the pizza crusts so we made it a weekly thing in our house and I found I could eat them without that feeling I always got whenever I ate anything with gluten in it.”
When I spoke to Christina, she and Dave and the kids were packing up for a getaway to the Asetegue Islands and a chance to restore their balance with nature – an important aspect of everyday life for Christine. “I meditate but I can’t sit still so I go for long walks along the PennyPack,” she said referring to a historically protected creek that stretches for miles of greenland thru Philadelphia’s northwest suburbs.
We reconnected briefly after the family outing to
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