9 March 2020: I am convinced that a healthy anti-cancer diet improves my chances of keeping cancer at bay. My cousin Conner Middelmann is an expert on anti-cancer diet – how lucky is that?! As I begin to pick up the pieces after my radical prostatectomy surgery, I want to do as much as I can to stop cancer from growing or returning.

Conner is one of the first people I turn to. Her first response by email is “There’s a bunch of stuff you can do to create an inhospitable environment to cancer cells.” She has established a great coaching methodology to help with this, and today we had our first call.

Immune system health

While we don’t know exactly why I got cancer, we do know that my body’s immune system is designed to “mop up” and eliminate cancer cells. My cancer diagnosis tells me that my immune system failed to do that in my prostate. Instead, the colony of cancer cells was growing quite steadily in my prostate until the surgeon cut it out two weeks ago. I still don’t know how many such cells are left behind in my body. I have to wait till the 6-week mark before any reliable data can be gathered.

Conner explains that cancer cells occur fairly randomly in a small percentage of the cell reproduction that is essential to all life. Cancer develops when our body fails to eliminate them naturally. We don’t have any single sure cure for cancer, but it is helpful to boost our immune system’s capability to eliminate these “rogue” cells naturally. Here are some of her first tips from our call today.

Continue eating real food – and enjoy the process

Her #1 tip is Eat real food – not processed food, not junk food, but food made from scratch with natural ingredients. Fortunately, she gave us a copy of her book Zest for Life way back when the first edition was first published in 2010. We have wholeheartedly adopted her advice and attitude since then. She makes it fun to cook healthy food, and is 100% committed to every meal both being healthy and tasting like a feast

Website recipes for disaster

even if you are cooking on the run or under fire. She points me to her fabulously practical website Recipes for Disaster as well as inviting me to follow her on Instagram and Facebook. So many cool recipes and new ones all the time!

Increase food variety

On the call we work through her standard nutrition coaching intake process, including analysing what I eat from day to day. My wife and I get some kudos for our already healthy eating. The main new advice she offers is to add more variety. As we talk, I realise how we have found meals we like and then simply “rinse, repeat.” Conner reminds me that each different colour of fruit, vegetable, herb and spice has different micro-nutrients, and every different natural food adds something to my body.

Variety of herbs and spices in kitchen garden

She gives examples of specific anti-cancer nutrients, such as lycopene – the bright red one that’s in tomatoes and particularly good for prostate cancer. There are many more that I no longer remember by name, but I get the point about expanding horizons and variety – even when I don’t know all the technical details.

This connects well with my sense that cancer is beyond my complete understanding. I can still take a healthy direction and feel better about that without any guaranteed “cure.”

Gut health including fermented foods

Another area Conner points me to is variety in ways of preparing food. In addition to those 30+ different plants in our diet per week, we need to input all kinds of healthy bacteria and enzymes to our overall intestinal flora. Fermented foods help, and she’s not talking alcohol. I go out looking for kimchi and find it nicer than I thought, and add some tangy Kefir to our breakfast mix alongside homemade yoghurt.

Taking action against cancer where I can

So much of this cancer stuff is beyond my control. It feels good to have something positive I can do. I am privileged enough to be able to afford to eat well, and throwing my energy into a healthy anti-cancer diet improves my chances of keeping cancer at bay.