Tag Archives: food

Survive and Advance

Avid college basketball fans anticipate the advent of March like a five-year-old waits in expectation for Christmas. The entire month is filled with compelling match-ups and exciting games but the opening days of the NCAA Tournament truly are the most wonderful time of the year.  For myself and long-time friends Joel and Dave the dawning of the month of March ushers in the continuation of the March Madness Marathon tradition. Joel converts his living room into a tournament shrine where TV’s and food abound, Dave flies in from Florida, and for four glorious days we cheer on the underdogs as they play for an upsets and curse the teams who ruin our predictions. As I write this Joel and Dave are updating their brackets based on the latest game’s outcome and I’m sipping on a glass of carrot juice. 

Despite my cancer diagnosis the tradition carries on. The weekend does, however, look quite a bit different for me than in years past. There are no days off when working to heal the body with nutrition. When a person’s life is on the line, each day of survival is an upset.  The nutritional cancer protocols don’t take a vacation just because I’m enjoying a few days with college friends. In fact, being out of my normal routine requires serious preparation in order to keep going. Watching basketball, these days is a lot of work. Here is a list of things this plant-based cancer survivor needs for a weekend of basketball watching (in alphabetical order):

  • Almond Milk
  • Apples
  • Avocados
  • Barely Grass
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Braggs Aminos
  • Carrots
  • Carrots
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Clothes
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cucumbers
  • Flax Seed Oil
  • Hummus
  • Juicer
  • Kale
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Mason Jars
  • Nutritional Yeast
  • Parsley
  • Raspberries
  • Red Cabbage
  • Sea Salt
  • Shaker Bottle
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Swimsuit
  • The Zip
  • Walnuts
  • Wheatgrass
  • Winning Tournament Bracket


It has been seventeen months since I sat in an oncologist’s office and was told I wouldn’t survive more than a year. That prognosis casts a dark shadow over last year’s tournament and I wondered if I would live to see another March Madness. A year of survival and thriving health has replaced fear and uncertainty with joy and hope. So I, like teams that win a close game to move onto the next round of the tournament, continue to “survive and advance.”

Operation Hummus

“Sir, is this your bag?”


“I’m going to have to search it.”

The Transportation Security Administration agent stood over my carry-on, an insulated food storage apparatus, and unzipped its compartments.  His thorough inspection uncovered ice packs, apples and paper towels, none of which posed any danger. While suspect, his scrutiny of the broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber and red pepper revealed no security breaches. In the final pocket, however, he uncovered a serious threat to airline security: an unopened container of hummus.

He spun the devious substance slowly in his gloved fingers and analyzed with a foreboding glare. A look of grave concern crossed his face as he read the list of ingredients.

“I’m not certain I can let you through with this,” he said.

“It’s hummus,” I said, hoping the simple description of the contents would quickly resolve the confusion. His expression didn’t change so I added, “It’s not a liquid.”

“But in the form of a paste it is classified with gels like toothpaste.”

“I’m not going to use it to brush my teeth, I’m going to eat it with the vegetables in that bag.”

“We can’t allow gels through security,” he said, unfazed by my impeccable logic. “Peanut butter is similar and we can’t let it through either. If it were frozen it wouldn’t be a problem,” he rapped the lid with his knuckles, “but since it’s not, we’re going to have to confiscate it.”

“He has specific dietary restrictions and we’re not able to buy food from just anywhere. That’s why we had to pack up all our food and bring it with us,” my wife said. She was fired up and ready to fight for our right to bear hummus.

He looked me up and down as if to determine the veracity of the statement. “Let me see what my supervisor says.”

The supervisor was beckoned and with him arrived two other TSA agents, interested to witness the capture of a dreaded hummus smuggler. The container was passed to the supervisor who imitated the inspection of the first agent then declared this highly suspicious mixture of organic garbanzo beans, olive oil and garlic unable to pass the security checkpoint into the sanctuary of the airport.

“He has a medical condition that requires he eat a special diet that we’re not able to buy inside the airport or on the plane.” My wife was on a roll now.

The supervisor looked at me and asked, “Do you have a doctor’s note for this hummus?”

“A doctor’s note? For hummus?”

* * * * *

Besides being irresistibly cute, my wife has an abundance of strengths that complete my weaknesses. The retort to the TSA agent is an example of how her mind whirls at amazing speeds during a confrontation and promulgates rapid and rational responses when a personal injustice is being perpetuated. In the midst of stressful situations it’s her, not me, you want to help dig you out of it quickly. I only bring a couple of assets to the marriage and fast thinking when confronted by an authority figure isn’t one of them.

Her tenacity is also powering our fight for life. Even before I left the hospital she spent hours researching the best ways to confront my situation. The investigation revealed cancer is a symptom, a warning light indicating my immune system was no longer working correctly. The healthiest way to repair what is broken, not merely destroy tumors but fix the underlying problem, is to overdose on nutrition.

Human physiology is majestically designed and, given the right fuel, can fight off an array of illnesses. Research has shown the best source of nutrition needed for the body to repair itself comes from plants. Chlorophyll, found in green vegetables, possesses a cellular structure nearly identical to that of blood. Filling my diet with kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts (to name a few) provides nutrients and enzymes that can be readily used.

Plants are also highly alkaline, meaning they raise my pH levels. My body is in constant battle for neutrality. Testing pH is like a seventh-grade science experiment (yes, my dad, the retired seventh-grade science teacher, is proud).  Each day I use litmus paper to measure how diet impacts my alkalinity. The results serve as a kind of thermometer for how my body responds to what I put in my stomach.  Red coloring on the litmus paper designates acidity and a dark green tint indicates I’m neutral. If I don’t eat food that will preserve balance my body becomes acidic and pulls the nutrients it needs from reserves found in bones, organs, muscles and tissues to make up the difference. A vegetable rich diet provides the right ingredients to maintain a neutral level which in turn empowers my immune system to fight off the cancer.

Healing the body of cancer is a long process but eleven months after my diagnosis I feel great and energy abounds. Nutrition is saving my life. While I am thankful to be doing so well, each day brings moments when a peculiar sensation, news story or conversation reminds me of the stakes and the uncertainty of the future. It is the continued encouragement poured out from family and friends through emails, phone calls, cards in the mail and prayers that serve to buttress me and my family as we continue to rebuild my health.

* * * * *

“A doctor’s note? For hummus?” she asked.

“Yes.” He was taking his job seriously.

“No, he doesn’t, but his treatments require organic food which isn’t available in the airport.”

“What’s your condition?” he asked me.

“I have cancer.”

The supervisor’s eyes bulged at the mention of cancer. There was a legitimate and serious reason for my hummus and he suddenly wanted to escape. He realized he wasn’t merely dealing with a problematic traveler who wants security to look the other way while they slip their contraband by their checkpoint. One final time he shook the container of hummus then handed it back to the original TSA agent.

“Test it,” he said. “If it’s negative let it through.”

The lid and freshness seal were pried off. A strip of paper over the gelatinous paste and drops of a chemical applied to the paper before it was inserted into testing machine which would determine the fate of our vegetable dip.  After a few tense seconds the machine beeped and gave the results: negative. The hummus was safe.

Having safely escorted the hummus through the security line the next stop was the pat down where, I hoped, they wouldn’t find the zucchini hidden beneath my shirt.