I am not sure where to begin. Perhaps it would be the frantic phone call from my friend last Thanksgiving, "My best friend's daughter was just diagnosed with cancer and she's seven weeks old." I could literally feel my blood begin to move more rapidly through my veins. He continued, "I didn't know who else to call. I know you work with people with cancer and my friend and his wife want to do anything and everything they can—from chemo to diet. They are just not sure where to begin. Will you speak with them?"
Not ten minutes after that call did I get on the phone with Tracy, little Whitney's mom. Two weeks prior, the newborn was diagnosed with a malignant rhabdoid tumor in one kidney. An aggressive cancer, surgery quickly followed her diagnosis. Now Tracy and her husband Paul were left with a world of uncertainty and decisions to make that could make or break Whitney's fate—she was only given a 20% chance of survival.
I am not a clinician, nor would I consider myself a cancer expert. But, I do know how to navigate illness pretty darn well. So, first things first—I introduced Tracy to some of my peeps. First off, clinical dietitian, MaryBeth Augustine, RD, CDN (and cancer survivor). MaryBeth and I have been partnering on patient care for almost twelve years now. And when dealing with clinical cases, such as Whitney's, collaboration among practitioners is critical. In fact, collaboration among practitioners for any patient care is important! MaryBeth offered a concrete "medical" nutritional healing plan and I worked with Tracy to implement this plan into her newly chaotic life. Central to the plan: (1) Tracy would breast feed ONLY; (2) She would adopt a vegan diet with some fish; (3) She would green juice daily (using specific anti-cancer vegetables such as dark leafy greens); (4) She would avoid sugar and alcohol; (5) She would try to eat organic close to 100% of the time; (6) She would take supplementation as prescribed by MaryBeth.
I must preface this by saying the Tracy subscribed to the "semi-unconscious" way of living. She admits it herself. Not too much thought went into what she put in her body, what she put on her body and what impact her decisions had not only on her health but on the health of others or the planet. Thus, the learning curve was HUGE. But Tracy was deeply committed. I cleaned out her pantry, took her shopping to teach her about healthier alternatives from food to cleaning products, offered culinary and menu guidance, introduced her to some other amazing people in the healing space, namely acupuncturist extraordinaire Aaron Teich, LAc, taught her how to make cancer fighting baby food and have been right by her side to answer questions and offer support.
So diet, combined with energy work, acupuncture, chiropractic care and chemo have been Whitney’s army of support. And miraculously, they have helped her go from sickness to wellness. While the doctor’s can’t grasp how this baby has undergone chemotherapy without frequent hospital admissions, drowsiness, vomiting and hair loss, Tracy is clear that food, body and energy work have played a central role in keeping Whitney as healthy as she can be.
I have tremendous respect for Tracy. She took an impossible situation and created possibilities. Through the darkness she stayed focused on the light. I am honored to be a part of this very personal journey. Please let this be a message of inspiration and do know that the food we choose truly does make a difference!
Tracy will be a guest on Chew on This in July—Fighting Cancer with Food: An Infant’s Story. Stay tuned for details.