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  1. My lung cancer diagnosis came as quite a shock to my family, my doctors, and me as I’ve always maintained a healthy lifestyle. I exercised regularly, ate healthily, never smoked, and enjoyed a variety of outdoor sports and other activities with my husband and our three children. I worked as a learning specialist for children ages K-8 and loved my job. Everyone I was close to commented that I was “the healthiest person they know.” But in March 2011, after worsening back pain, I visited my physiatrist who ordered an MRI. I figured I had a disc issue with my back or created an injury from too much sitting during work. When I saw my doctor for the results, she was speechless; she told me my upper body was "riddled with lesions." I said there must be some mistake, that the scan was someone else’s. As the doctor insisted there was no mix-up and this was truly me, I felt as if the floor had given way under me, a feeling that never seemed to fade from my day-to-day experience. I was 54 years old. A few days later, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Since I was an otherwise healthy, active, never-smoker, the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center predicted I would have the EGFR mutation, and the biopsy results proved they were right. The targeted therapy, Tarceva, shrunk my tumors, and with tolerable side effects, allowed me to continue leading a relatively normal life. I even took up sculling, a sport that I had always aspired to learn. However, I was disappointed when only after 9 months my cancer figured out a “way around” the Tarceva, which is expected for targeted therapies (referred to as acquired resistance). Thus, began my participation in a series of clinical trials and chemotherapy, all with mixed results and, at times, difficult side effects, which forced me to retire from my work which I truly loved and still miss a lot. One bright period during these trials was a 14-month durable response from a trial combining Tarceva and the immunotherapy drug called Nivolumab, also known as Opdivo. Unfortunately, after 14 months I had to be quickly removed from this trial due to adrenal failure and colitis. In addition, I have been taking blood thinners since the diagnosis because of a DVT that was found at that time, and a couple of years ago I had a brain tumor surgically removed. My latest battle is with Leptomeningeal Disease, against which I hope to beat the odds once again. Throughout my treatment, I’ve taken advantage of different integrative health services to help manage symptoms and side effects, such as acupuncture, counseling, support groups, and meditation. I can’t say these endeavors were always helpful, but it was important for me to try to find alternate ways to manage symptoms, both physical and emotional. However, over time my stamina began to wane, and my sense of self efficacy began to diminish. It became increasingly frustrating not to be able to do the things I always enjoyed. The treatments and their side effects can wear you down. Initially, I struggled to find camaraderie with other survivors who have the same mutation as mine. Social media has been particularly helpful, especially in the beginning when I was trying to learn about different treatments and find a community. LUNGevity, Cancer Grace, and Inspire, and Lung Care Alliance were all useful sources of information and support. My husband has been a great support and care giver. Initially, he dug into the research to learn what treatments were in development, so we knew what was in the pipeline. Moreover, my children have also been there for me. Even though they’ve grown up and don’t live at home anymore, they still come to visit me as often as they can. It has been difficult for me to accept not being able to participate in their activities and lives the way I was able to when I was healthy. It has been a continuing effort for me to feel “a part of the game.” If I could share my experience with someone newly diagnosed, I would recommend getting as much information as you can from credible sources and not being afraid to get second opinions. It’s best to be treated at a major cancer center even if it means traveling because the research experience, depth of knowledge, and specialists they provide are cutting-edge. I would also recommend participating in clinical trials if they’re an option, as well as trying to find people to connect with who are going through similar situations. Since my diagnosis, life has been a roller-coaster ride of living with uncertainty and trying to function amidst toxic side effects. I try to appreciate the good days and keep active. This spring will be my seventh-year anniversary living with Stage IV lung cancer. I am grateful for those who are raising awareness of lung cancer as a growing epidemic in non-smoking women and am excited to share my story to help other patients. I am especially interested in helping to erase the stigma that lung cancer is only a smoker’s disease, and hopefully increase research funding to the level it should be.
  2. Let's talk about lung cancer and nutrition with the experts from Savor Health! Join LUNGevity for a special Twitter chat on Wednesday, March 7, at 8:00 PM ET. Use #LCCaregiver to follow or join the conversation. All are welcome!
  3. What are your thoughts on food in relation to cancer and health in general? Do you think altering your diet effects your cancer or the prevention of future cancer or recurrence? The Link Between Food Ingredients and Cancer As research continues to explore the factors that may contribute to cancer, many are looking to the foods you eat to have a better understanding of how some ingredients may be at the root of it. The following are the top ingredients in your diet linked to cancer. Reducing your consumption of these can lessen your risks of cancer and improve your body’s overall health and well-being. 1. Processed Sugar
 Processed sugars such as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and others contribute to high levels of insulin secretion by the body. This can have lasting impacts on your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar while potentially contributing to the growth of cancer cells. PET scans, in fact, are used in hospitals and cancer centres to detect hidden cancer by identifying which cells or tissues are consuming more sugar. Healthy alternatives include coconut sugar or high-quality organic honey. 2. Soft Drinks Soft drinks typically contain HFCS, artificial chemicals, and colourings. Also, sodas have no nutritional value in your diet and can displace healthier foods that you might otherwise consume. 

Diet sodas contain aspartame, which has long been suspected through scientific studies for its potential links to cancer specifically colon and brain cancers. Some studies observed rats who had higher rates of lymphomas when fed aspartame. 
 Although there is still some debate on these findings, you’re better off avoiding soft drinks if you want to keep your body healthy. 

3. Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated oils are produced through the extraction and treatment of vegetable oils. The processing of oils requires chemicals to alter their taste and smell. 

Also, you need to consider the high levels of omega-6 fatty acids that are contained in these oils, which have been shown to affect cell membranes throughout your body which can interfere with how your body tissues function. 

Because these fats have a higher melting point, they’re typically used for frying foods and have an extended shelf life. This makes them useful for commercial food products. Hydrogenated oils have been linked to chronic inflammation as well as prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. 4. White Flour
 Like sodas and many other processed foods, white flour lacks nutritional value. Like sugar, it causes sharp increases in insulin levels due to its high sugar content. 

White flour is a refined carbohydrate, which can fuel the growth of cancer cells and cause more damage to your long-term health via other effects such as obesity and diabetes. 
5. Food Packaging 
Food packaging is an overlooked component when looking at the ingredients in foods. But many chemicals and carcinogens can make their way from your food’s packages and into your body’s system. 

Bags used to package microwave popcorn often contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This has been linked to increased risks of cancer of the pancreas, kidneys, liver, and bladder. 

Chemicals used in the canning process may also present a risk to your health. Bisphenol-A (BPA) may increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer along with affecting fertility and metabolism. BPA can leach into foods from the lining of cans, putting you at risk for these and other health issues. 

Knowing these top ingredients in your diet that are linked to cancer gives you the awareness you need to improve your health. By increasing the resilience of your body, you can better tolerate the treatments related to cancer and improve their effectiveness in restoring lasting wellness and vitality.
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