Guest blogger Laura Duralija Rocca is currently studying to become a registered holistic nutritionist. She shares her favourite recipes on her blog, veganhootenanny.com, which focuses upon holistic vegan and chemo-friendly foods.
Two years ago, I made the switch from vegetarian, to strict, whole-foods-eating vegan. My partner and I left our convenient downtown Toronto condo and busy lifestyles for a small trailer on five acres of raw land in the West Kootenays of British Columbia, where we are building an eco house and I am studying to become a registered holistic nutritionist.
I made the decision to embark on the study of holistic nutrition two years ago, concurrent with all of these lifestyle changes. A five-time rare cancer patient, I was in the throes of a very aggressive chemotherapy regimen. I was severely anemic and immuno-compromised. My weight was down to 42 kg’rather thin for my height‘and, as it is for many patients undergoing chemo, eating became an almost insurmountable challenge.
I ate horribly during chemo. It is common for patients undergoing chemotherapy to lose their appetites almost entirely. Because of mouth ulcers and oral thrush, it often becomes difficult to chew or swallow, and the mouth becomes very sensitive to acidic and spicy foods. Nausea abounds. For these reasons, patients often eat a lot of very bland foods during treatment and many find it difficult to stomach vegetables. This aptly describes my diet during chemotherapy: bland, starchy, and carby. Very little appealed. When I could eat during treatment, and wasn’t forced to wince down a bottle of Boost, I rotated about three dishes: white rice, white bread with jam, and mac ‘n fake cheese (easy on the fake cheese).
I constantly clashed with doctors and the in-hospital dietitian. They could not accept that I had chosen to maintain my vegan diet during chemo. They wanted me to eat ice cream, butter all of my food, and consume more calories. But no one ever addressed my vitamin and mineral deficiencies, the actual quality of my food, or how I could eat foods that appealed, while also eating foods that were good for me. Worst of all was the fact that hospital food, so unappealing and devoid of nutrients, does nothing to support the appetite-suppressed, nutrient-needing hospital patient.
After I had finished my final course of chemo, I was, as many patients are, excited and relieved’but also nutritionally deficient. It took me a long time to bounce back and get my vitamin and mineral levels back up. It struck me that this was a bit of a problem.
I realized that I could not expect my oncologist to help me heal after chemo, or prevent my cancer from recurring a sixth time. The focus of Western oncology is to rid the patient of known malignancies. My oncologist was in the business of eradicating cancer once it was there; he was not in the business of preventing it. Preventative medicine was up to me…
Check back next week for part two of Laura’s story. In the meantime, try her recipe for a healthy, soy-free, dairy-free Macaroni and “Cheeze.” It is easy to make, and will appeal to limited and unlimited palates and appetites alike.
What’s your favourite vegan recipe? Feel free to share in the comments below.