Monday, 30 December 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Diet and Breast Cancer; Nov 22, 2019.

"So, have you introduced more greens in your diet, since diagnosis?"

This week our interactive discussion focused on perceptions of how diet may or may not be related to breast cancer. How our diets may have influenced our likelihood for diagnosis, and whether feeling that we have control over our diet post diagnosis can help us stay healthier and lower fear of recurrence and metastatic diagnosis.

The sad truth is that breast cancer takes away a lot of control over how we can build for a better quality of life. Diet is one of the very few ways we can feel like we are taking control back. It is therefore a hot topic: many books are written, many blogs and cancer sites are produced to showcase the potential for so many different diets: low or high in, sugar, fat, protein, and greens, to pave their way through our lives.

The story however isn’t that simple. Many of us talked about how ‘fit’ and ‘healthy’ they were PRIOR to dx. Some were vegan, some never drank alcohol, some were super fit climbing mountains, running marathons, and there were others who believed they did eat and drink in ‘moderation’.

It is puzzling therefore to try and sketch a direct relationship between diet and breast cancer. This in itself has caused many of us much distress as well as confusion over what we should or should not include in our diet post diagnosis. Thoughts of ‘could’ve, ‘should’ve’, run through our heads and sometimes the stress of feeling that we are not including the ‘right’ thing, or not eating enough ‘broccoli’ is too much to bear.

Many of us reported how feelings of guilt weigh heavy, that it was somehow our fault. Now, if we do have a slice of cake, or chocolate, we are eating too much sugar. If we do have a glass of wine we feel guilty; if we have red meat we can feel guilty, if we aren’t eating enough greens… and the list continues. Feelings of guilt and self-blame are key risk factors for depression, which many of us suffer from. It gets worse of course when others question us on whether we are keeping an eye over what we eat and drink.

Breast cancer is a multifactorial disease, and one of the most complex cancers. Whilst many risk factors are identified, no cause and effect has been established. There are many genetic factors that interact with environmental influences that may or may not involve diet. A ‘healthy’ diet we agreed involves eating and drinking in moderation. A healthy diet yes is key for building psychological and physical well-being. It is not healthy however to stress over what we eat and drink.

Diet is about self-compassion too, nourishing ourselves and yes, if we want to, have some delicious chocolate.

If you are a woman with a breast cancer diagnosis in the UK and wish to join our private support group send us a message here and we will get back to you.

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