Social Media, Diet and Cancer

October 25, 2011
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The new book is out about Steve Jobs. You may have already heard that he regretted delaying surgery for months for a type of pancreatic cancer and explored alternatives, including dietary changes. He told his biographer he later came to the conclusion that it was the wrong personal health decision.

The new book is out about Steve Jobs. You may have already heard that he regretted delaying surgery for months for a type of pancreatic cancer and explored alternatives, including dietary changes. He told his biographer he later came to the conclusion that it was the wrong personal health decision.

If you check out social media conversations about health, the value of dietary changes is always a hot topic. Can becoming a vegetarian, for example, arrest the development of cancer or prevent its recurrence?

This week I will participate in a webinar on social media and breast cancer. One other panelist helps run a patient advocacy group. The other is a respected nurse who helps run the breast center at Johns Hopkins. In a preliminary discussion they each noted that women ask all the time about special diets and herbs as something the patient themselves can do to fight their cancer.

I ask doctors who I interview all the time about this. Admittedly, these are allopathic docs. They always answer that they have not seen convincing studies about the cancer fighting effects of diet and they sometimes mention that some supplements have even been shown to boost cancer cell growth.

Here’s where I come out: When I was first diagnosed with leukemia in 1996 my dear wife, Esther, had me drinking juice from fresh fruit, mandated I stop drinking coffee (which is tough in Seattle!) and had me take some supplements. I had already been off red meat for 20 years by my own choice. It became “crazy making” for me. I ended up just doing regular exercise (studies confirm this is good for everyone, including cancer patients during treatment); no juicing, no supplements, and I resumed morning lattes and good cheer with my Starbucks buddies. My mental health improved with the return to normalcy. When I began heavy-duty chemo I even had a craving for red meat – I felt it would build healthy blood (an emotional idea, not scientific).

So here I am, in spite of what a zillion people debate in chat groups and on Facebook. I am not a vegan. I drink every once in a while. I eat some red meat. I have no sign of leukemia now post treatment (Yay!), and I feel good.

I do have friends who follow restrictive diets and they feel good too. Does any of this fight cancer? My view is a restrictive diet does not. But, again, this is a great debate and it is one that gets amplified in social media.

In the end, as we discussed in our pre-webinar call, no one online should tell you what to do. It is a very individual decision about treatment and diet. And it is one you can reflect upon and change at any time. As you will see from the Steve Jobs biography, he reflected upon it a lot.

I hope you can make the live webinar or the replay. It is sure to have meaning for people beyond those affected by breast cancer.

Wishing you and your family the best of health!

Andrew

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