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I Have Officially Become A Vegan Missionary. Ew.

According to UK psychologist Cliff Arnall, Monday was the most depressing day of the year. I tend to agree with him. His reasons include soupy weather, holiday debt, and New Year’s resolutions that have failed before February. For me, Monday was the day my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Before you feel so bad you stop reading, her prognosis (so far) is quite good. They caught it early, and it doesn’t appear to have spread. But I’ve already lost one parent to cancer, and I’m not ready to be Orphan Andy just yet. So I did what I could do: I gave her a copy of Forks Over Knives, dropped a bill or two at Whole Foods, and While You Were Out-ted her kitchen into a vegan one.

Ordinarily, I would never ever do this. To anyone. Ever. I’m happy to share my beliefs (exhibit A: this blog post), but I have never been a proselytizer, nor have I ever judged anyone else’s eating habits. Actually, that’s not true– I make fun of my boyfriend all the time, but that’s because he exists on a steady diet of jerky, Oreos and soda and he’s not twelve. But I digress. People have to come to these sort of life-changing decisions for themselves, or else they won’t stick. But I know my Barbara (your mom’s name is Barbara, too?) and sometimes she needs help to get going (exhibit 1: she’s been on Nutri-System for years). I should also note that she has always been super supportive of me and my eating habits, loves her veggies, and has expressed interest in becoming a vegetarian before, so it wasn’t 100% crazy, only 97%. That’s a percentage I can work with.

So, if you or someone you know needs a vegan starter-kit, here’s what I got:

whole foods bounty

In addition, I also made her my favorite veggie pâtè (let me know in the comments if you want the recipe), some homemade pesto (her fav! Let me know in the comments if you want this recipe, too), and shared some ground flax seed.

Then I confiscated everything I could find that does not adhere to a plant-based diet:

contraband

  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Kakuana Port Wine Cheese Spread
  • Kraft Cheddar Slices
  • A gross of String Cheese

When she walked in the door, the surprise greeted her in aromatic form; the smell of dinner cooking– a pesto lasagne with a filling of Tofurky Italian Sausages, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, and green beans, topped with a generous dollop of hummus (did you know pesto and hummus are amazing together?) and a sprinkling of arugula. It was pretty darn tasty, evenifIsaysomyself, and there were lots of leftovers for her.

So, how’s she doing? It’s only been a couple of days, so she still has cancer (it’s veganism, not magic).

But, “Us vegans be doin gooder!” she says.

Yes we be, Barb. Yes we be.

11 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Stacy De-Lin

    on #

    What a lovely post! Your mom will be in my thoughts.

  2. Comment by

    saniel

    on #

    you need to stay away from the soy intake and increase dark leafy greens and a rawfood lifestyle. look into vitamin C iv’s, meditation and deep breathing exercises. have her go get a check up at holistic doctor and green smoothies and juicing. while you are watching movies take time to watch Sick, fat and nearly dead and gerson and eating movies. hope this help. keep up the positive encouragement

  3. Comment by

    saniel

    on #

    cut out the dairy and check into healen 951.

  4. Comment by

    Dina A.

    on #

    Please be careful with the soy products! People with certain types of breast cancers shouldn’t eat any soy at all…please find out if soy is ok for your mom’s type!!!

  5. Comment by

    jay

    on #

    I’m afraid that table is filled with far too many processed foods. That is mostly vegan junk food:( Just because it doesnt contain meat or dairy doesnt make it healthy. Stick to the whole food basics: greens, beans,grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, fungus, spices. There is a world of tasty eating based on those ingredients.

  6. Comment by

    Sabina

    on #

    Hi Andrea,
    I love me some vegan proselytizing! But if I were helping someone go vegan for health reasons, I wouldn’t include all those processed foods, though I totally understand wanting to ease the transition. Have you read Dr Joel Fuhrman’s books, Eat to Live or Super Immunity? They’re about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Amazing information. But it’s very strict in terms of no processed foods, oils, sugar, or salt, just lots and lots of veggies, fruits, legumes, and a little whole grain. I think it could be helpful for your mom. Hope everything goes well for her.
    Best,
    Sabina

  7. Comment by

    Ian

    on #

    Good luck to your mother, Andrea, and kudos to you for having the gumption to do this. Maybe I can unsolicitedly de-solicit the unsolicited advice! Cold turkey from mainstream diet to high raw, high veg/fruit, no processed food diet without interior motivation at a time of stress is unlikely to succeed. Plus – your choices of brands for “processed” foods are great – gardein and tofurky and your plant-milk choices are not full of nasty ingredients, definitely the better brands. Soy and breast cancer? Dubious connection and only possibly for a subset of breast cancer types. Plus, some studies suggest that soy is protective against breast cancer recurrence – the picture is muddy at best. Maybe your mother can check with her oncologist.
    I’m not disputing the ultimate greatness of a diet of whole foods, minimally processed as the baseline for a healthy diet. But only you know where your mother is right now and for what it’s worth I think you’re being a great daughter. Good luck.

  8. Comment by

    emma green

    on #

    what a lovely post. order yourself a copy of “Crazy Sexy Life” asap. Written by a lady who used a raw/vegan diet to heal from cancer….it’s excellent and has fab recipes :-) sending your mum healing vibes xx

  9. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    I have something important to say about this: The best flavor of Amande yogurt is raspberry and they don’t sell that flavor at Whole Foods anymore but you can still get it at the Co-opportunity in Santa Monica. Also, I’m a heterosexual man who’s already married but now I want to marry Ian.

  10. Comment by

    Jen

    on #

    Thank you for sharing your story! There are some really fun and informative Cancer Project cooking classes being held around the country. They were designed by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and address the power of (whole, plant-based) food to prevent and fight cancer. You can find out more at fflclasses.org. All the best to you!

  11. Comment by

    Karen

    on #

    Good for you!

    I was disturbed by the comments on processed foods and soya intake, and here’s why:

    1. Yes, there’s a lot of processed food there. This is often how people transition: they need to see that it’s not all about slaving over a hot stove, and that they can make a huge switch with minimum fuss. I didn’t do it this way only because there just weren’t the options when I went vegan. Things have changed a great deal over the past 15 years. Also, the processed foods there are still a lot healthier than their equivalents.

    2. And this is the really important one:

    All the scares about soya and cancer were based on a couple of rat studies many years ago in which rats were given many times their own body weight in soya isolates.

    They were not based on human studies.

    Let’s think about that for a moment before considering the wonderful news that between 2010 and 2012, the ONLY three human studies were publisheded. They were large scale, including thousands of women with breast cancer, and they covered long periods. The result:

    SOYA IS IN NO WAY HARMFUL TO HUMANS WITH CANCER. IT DOES NOT INTERFERE WITH TAMOXIFEN. HIGHER INTAKES OF SOYA PRODUCTS CORRELATES EXTREMELY STRONGLY WITH LOWER RECURRENCES OF BREAST CANCER, AND WITH CANCER PREVENTION.

    Yes, you read that right. It is worth putting in caps because what “everyone knows” is hard to dislodge with mere facts. However, you can get the background, including information on the studies and the journals they were published in here:

    http://nutritionfacts.org/2012/04/26/breast-cancer-survival-and-soy/ and http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/08/29/soy-and-breast-cancer-an-update/

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