Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen

Kendall Scott

Kendall Scott

This is what Kendall Scott did when, at the age of 27, she found out that she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “I cried. I laughed. I drank a beer and ordered a pizza.”

As she finished her beer and pizza she says, “I felt this ball of fortitude begin to form deep in my gut (and it wasn’t just my dinner).

Kendall went through seven months of chemotherapy. “I won’t lie,” she says. “Chemo was tough. By my third treatment, I was dreading the drive to the treatment center. After a couple more, I wanted to quit. I didn’t think I could do it anymore. It was during this time that I truly learned the meaning of ‘living in the moment’ or being ‘mindful of the present.’”

Annette Ramke

Annette Ramke

Annette Ramke was 36 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her reaction: “Suddenly life stood still and, between bouts of silence and sobbing, apathy and anger, I resolved to do all I could to kick this disease and hopefully see my daughter grow up.”

After a year and a half of breast cancer treatments and surgery, Annette learned that she had cancer in her ovaries and fallopian tubes. “As I listened to the surgeon’s words on the telephone,” she says, “I fell into a deep state of shock and disbelief. As my husband looked on, I began shaking my head No, uncontrollably. I couldn’t do this again. I wouldn’t do this again. Then my ten-year-old daughter walked over to me, had me make a tough, fighter face and pump up a muscle with my arm. She reminded me that I am strong and would fight this cancer just like I did the first one.”

Kendall and Annette didn’t know each other at the time. In fact, they live in different states — Kendall in Durham, Maine and Annette just outside Philadelphia. What ultimately brought the two women together is their shared outlook on healing. Each wanted to find out what else she could do to help fight the cancer. Kendall began making changes in her diet with the help of an aunt who is a health coach. “I was eating more leafy greens and whole grains and cutting back on the processed foods and refined sugars,” she says. “And, lo and behold, my recovery time between treatments shortened. I seemed to get my strength back sooner and wasn’t quite as tired. My food gave me energy and it felt good knowing I was doing something to help my body. I even felt happier and more capable of handling my treatments.”

After a lumpectomy to remove her breast cancer, Annette started an aggressive course of chemotherapy that lasted more than a year. It was then that she began to build her “holistic cancer-kicking toolbox,” which included nutrition. “I moved my body nearly every day, spent time in silence, accepted the support of friends, and filled my plate with cancer-kicking foods,” she says. “And at my own amazement and the amazement of everyone around me, I started feeling better, looking brighter and enjoying life more than I ever had before — while in the Cancer World!”

When Annette got her second cancer diagnosis, she kept trying to improve her diet and work on personal growth issues. “I spent the long winter months of treatment curled up on my red couch for hours each day,” she describes, “often feeling lonely and weak but also experiencing peace and wondering what other lessons this journey had in store.”

Their individual journeys led Kendall and Annette to the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York City, which they both attended and is where they met. They became good friends and ultimately, co-authored the book Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend’s Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer. “It contains over 100 plant-based cancer-fighting recipes, our stories, cancer and food support and more,” Kendall recently told me. “It’s the book we wish we had had after our diagnoses.”

Kendall and Annette

Kendall and Annette

In the book, which was published in October 2012, the women share their cancer experiences from getting the diagnosis(es) to going through surgery and treatments and all their side effects to life after cancer. They each have a hair story to share about having long hair and how they coped with going bald. The second half of the book is all about food. With each recipe is a list of specific benefits: immune boosting, fatigue fighting, mood balancing …

A recipe from the book:

Protein Powerhouse Smoothie

blood boosting | dehydration defending | detoxifying | fatigue fighting and adrenal support | immune boosting | mouth sore friendly | vegetarian

If you’re feeling tired and week, which is a common side effect of cancer treatment, you may need to up your protein intake. This protein-packed smoothie is loaded with foods that will help keep your energy up during chemo, radiation, after surgery or any time you may need that extra boost.

Yield: makes 24 ounces

1 tablespoon flax seeds
2 cups Sunny Hemp Mylk (recipe in the book or can buy)
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/2 avocado, pit removed
1 banana
1 tablespoon Spirulina powder
1 tablespoon honey
3 ice cubes

Grind flax seeds in blender or coffee-bean grinder. Add all ingredients to a blender and mix at low-speed for thirty seconds, then medium speed for another minute until smooth.

Annette’s tasty tip: Spirulina is a micro saltwater plant that is three to four times higher in protein than beef or fish. It can be purchased in powder form in health food stores and is a wonderful addition to a plant-based diet for the protein, B vitamins and minerals phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and iron.

An update
After I copied the above recipe, I decided to browse Kendall and Annette’s website The Kicking Kitchen and came across a recent blog post from Kendall that contained some sad news. Annette’s ovarian cancer has come back. In her post, Kendall tries to answer this question: “What does it mean if Annette, someone who promotes eating well to fight cancer and is so healthy herself, gets cancer again? Perhaps others wonder this as well.”

You can read Kendall’s entire post on their website, but in a nutshell, she says she doesn’t have an answer, at least not a simple one, but that neither she nor Annette had changed their minds and decided to forget about eating healthy foods. “Ok, I’ll be honest, “she admits, “there have been moments that we’ve considered this. I even joked with Annette that our next book should be Screw the Kitchen. But that was also in response to some of the difficulties she’s had with eating anything with this recurrence. Cancer sucks. It makes us angry. But we also need to find some humor in things, don’t you think?

While neither one of us has made our diets so strict that we can’t enjoy ourselves – and we’ve always allowed guilty pleasures without the guilt! – we still know that we feel our best and that our bodies thrive much more when eating well. With cancer or without. And if food is what builds and supports our bodies, and eating well makes us feel good, why would we have it any other way?”

In response, a Facebook follower wrote: “This is an excellent blog post. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. What I think it comes down to is the difference between giving yourself the best chance and guarantees. We can give ourselves our best chance by eating the best foods we can but we cannot ever give ourselves guarantees because there are none to give. So, with that…I raise my glass of green juice to you both.”

I don’t know Kendall and Annette personally, but I’ve decided they’re both pretty amazing. The introduction to their book says it offers support and love from “two chicks who have been there and know a lot about learning to love themselves, food and life, even with cancer.”

I would like to offer them love and support, especially Annette.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.