The room was painted in blue. Toys not yet played with sat expectantly on the shelf. The tiny little clothes were all washed and waiting in drawers. The Howard family happily anticipated new and exciting changes.
About two weeks before our third son was due, we sat hand in hand in the doctor’s office. Only this wasn’t one of those very frequent routine visits to the obstetrician. Our friend, an ear, nose, and throat doctor, come into the room and delivered a pronouncement we simply weren’t expecting: “It’s cancer.”
While we celebrated the tiny mass of cells forming a precious and beloved life inside me, my 31-year-old athletic husband had a tiny mass of cells forming a malignant and dreadful adversary inside him.
Ten days after we joyfully welcomed our third son, my husband Brian, the cornerstone of our young family of five, underwent surgery to remove the cancer that began in his thyroid and had spread throughout his neck. The days that followed were filled with tests and uncertainty, indescribable and sometimes irrational pain, and fear.
After months of tests and soul-numbing descriptions of all possible scenarios, we came to rest on the reality that my husband’s cancer, while menacing, was, for the time being, slow-growing and not aggressive. The doctors explained that medullary thyroid cancer is resistant to radiation and chemotherapy and the only way to be rid of it was through surgery. The chances of removing all of it, however, were and still are extremely slim. A simple blood test determined that cancer still remained.
Once we settled into the reality that the cancer, while still in his body, would not pose an immediate threat, we began to adjust to the shift in perspective that a cancer diagnosis inevitably renders. We were so grateful to be dealing with a less threatening cancer, but the reality of the disease and its management daily occupied our minds. We felt acutely powerless and vulnerable.
To me, taking control of our diet was the most obvious means I could use to feel less defeated by cancer, and to keep it from becoming the crisis we feared during those first months. I began to research cancer-fighting foods and nutrition in general. My first strategy was to switch to organics. The blood test that indicates Brian’s cancer showed a disappointing increase. Then, in addition to organics, I tried to be sure our diet incorporated as many whole foods as possible. Brian’s numbers crept up just a little more. Next, we embarked upon a month-long vegan experiment after which I was certain the numbers would go down, but the lab work showed yet another gradual increase.
During our vegan experiment, a friend introduced me to green smoothies. I tried to make smoothies in my food processor, but we ended up chewing rather than drinking them! The amount of whole, raw, cancer fighting foods I was able to blend into one smoothie far surpassed the amount of fruits and vegetables that we had ever eaten in a normal day. I was compelled to pursue a way to make them more drinkable!
I decided to buy the VitaMix and anxiously awaited its arrival. Now, our VitaMix occupies a prominent spot on our kitchen counter and I have used it every day to make smoothies with green tea, kale, fresh fruit, frozen berries, and dried seaweed.
Interestingly, the smoothies are also a favorite of our youngest son, the one whose birthday reminds us annually of those scary first months and of the countless blessings we’ve been granted time to protect.
During our last visit to the doctor, the first one since we bought the VitaMix, the lab results showed a decrease in Brian’s numbers, the first decrease since the diagnosis. The doctors call it a normal fluctuation, but for us, it’s very hard to separate the coincidence that in two and a half years, the only decrease we’ve ever seen came after three months of daily smoothies made with our VitaMix 5200. That decrease has inspired us to believe that persistence and small changes, resulting in large nutritional benefits, will make a big difference for our entire family for generations to come.