October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In its honor, I would like to share with you the story of one brave, dedicated survivor-turned-activist, who I originally wrote about in my book Making Kind Choices. I hope that you enjoy it and remember all the other brave women out there who are fighting cancer.
Elaine Keeve-Sloane is one of the “short straw gals”—the one in every nine women in the U.S. who are diagnosed with breast cancer. A busy advertising agency executive who lives in Manhattan, Elaine was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. She had resolved to go to a breast doctor every six months when, one day, she reports: “I’d made an appointment for a routine mammogram at lunchtime. When the radiologist came in and said, ‘I think there’s something there,’ I felt absolutely sick and frightened beyond belief!”
Elaine underwent a radical mastectomy and radiation therapy. She found the radiation therapy easy to get through.
Elaine is an activist. She works to convince breast cancer charities to spend their funds on human-need programs and prevention and to persuade them to move away from old-fashioned reliance on animal tests. She has learned a lot in the course of her cancer experiences and has ridden the rollercoaster of emotions that follows the first detection of an abnormality, moving from disbelief to shock to panic to having to make life and death decisions.
Elaine wanted to know how she could have reduced the odds and was surprised to learn that fatty foods contribute significantly to risk. She read about a study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, of more than 90,000 premenopausal women that found that consuming the animal fats in red meat and dairy dramatically increased a woman’s chance of breast cancer. On the other hand, vegetable fats, such as olive oil, do not increase this risk, according to the study. The Harvard School of Public Health concluded in 1996, after distilling virtually the entire body of research into cancer’s causes, that nearly 70 percent of cancers can be attributed to smoking, eating, and drinking habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Only two percent are traceable to environmental pollution and 10 percent to genetics.
According to Dr. John McDougall, who runs the Center for Wellness, “the Harvard report is an antidote to the fatalistic feeling people have that ‘everything causes cancer.’ Because there are no drawbacks or side effects from improving your diet and lifestyle, these changes should be made immediately, and to the greatest degree.”
Dr. McDougall says: “Breast cancer serves as an enlightening example of how, with the right information, we can change our future health. The risk of breast cancer varies worldwide among populations of people who live and eat differently. The strongest contact we have with our environment is our food-we take in one to five pounds of it a day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Women living in Japan, eating a diet based on rice, have one-sixth the risk of cancer as women in the U.S. Women who change their diet to rich foods while living in Japan, or move to the U.S. and make that change, increase their risk of breast cancer dramatically. In the U.S. the highest rates of breast cancer are among affluent women, with a lifetime risk of one in seven.”
Elaine believes strongly in lowering the odds by educating women not to eat fatty foods that unbalance the body’s natural hormones, impair immunity, and accelerate cancer cell growth; and she advocates dealing with menopause naturally too, partly by eating soy-epidemiologists believe that the reason there is no Japanese word for “hot flashes” is because of all the soy in the low-fat Japanese diet-as well as yams and herbs rather than taking hormone replacement therapy, which she considers dangerous …. She also takes Vitamins C and E and selenium to boost her immune system, and she gets rid of excess estrogen with a fibrous diet that includes beans and grains. Elaine’s dog helps her get vigorous “lopes” through the park.
Elaine has come to treasure her life since her brush with cancer and believes that all living beings should be permitted to enjoy their lives too, rather than be ground up in breast cancer experiments. When Elaine heard that a university near her home was using mice in cancer research, she was livid. “They should be doing human epidemiological studies,” she says. . . .
Elaine works both independently and with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Cancer Project to promote good health and to get cancer research funds channeled into women’s health projects and away from animal tests. She is also indebted to support groups like SHARE, the Self Help for Women with Breast and Ovarian Cancer [organization]. Through SHARE women pool their experiences with others who are in, or have been in, the same boat. …
As Elaine says, shared experiences are more than information exchanges: “When I meet women who’ve had breast cancer, I feel a certain connection. We know where we’ve been. There’s an instant bond.”
So women unite: … Elaine [has] shown that cancer can be overcome with a positive and truly healthy approach to life!