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Why We Fight: Cancer

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Sometimes, I just want to stop caring about what I eat, and indulge in Pumpkin Spice Lattes and a big, fat Blackbottom Cheesecake Brownie cupcake from Crumbs. I've been in that sort of a mood lately. 

And then I got a call this morning from my friend Gloria. She's got cancer. Again.

She had an earlier bout with non-Hodgkins lymphoma 10 years ago. Lately, she and her doctors have been trying to figure out why her vision was blurry in her left eye. This morning, she found out. Results from a vitrectomy -- a sample of the vitreous gel from inside her eye -- show she's got lymphoma of the eye, a rare type of cancer.   

I asked her what stage it was, and whether it was from her earlier lymphoma or a new cancer altogether.

"I don't know, I heard 'lymphoma,' and my brain went dead," she told me.

Just last night, before going to bed, I was trolling the Internet and found a link to an intriguingly-named Web site called It's the brainchild of Kris Carr, who was diagnosed in 2003 with Stage 4 epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a rare and incurable cancer of the lining of the blood vessels in the liver and lungs. Faced with one doctor's recommendation of a triple organ transplant, Carr instead chose to watch and wait, while adopting a holistic, healthy lifestyle. 

She calls herself "the CEO of Save My A** Technologies, Inc." Her Web site is the latest offshoot of a whole "crazy sexy" business she's developed, starting with a cable TV documentary, "Crazy Sexy Cancer" that she wrote and directed for TLC. has a lot of guest bloggers on it, who write about their cancer journeys or their "wellness warrior" lifestyles. 

So much of wellness revolves around what we willingly ingest. Carr has even published a book, Crazy Sexy Diet, which outlines a low-glycemic, vegetarian eating plan and a 21-day cleanse. (Sounds familiar! I'm a fan and recent graduate of the 21-day detox offered by the Clean Program.)  

Food -- our fuel, our lifeline, our bearer of culture, our builder of community -- is also our helping healer. 

I've had cancer, too. Breast cancer, Stage Zero, called ductal carcinoma in situ. It's not invasive and is considered completely curable, with surgical removal of the offending cells and radiation of any cells that are thinking of offending. I did all that, in 2008, and am cancer-free. For now. 

That's the thing about cancer. It's like cockroaches. You have to assume that, if you find and kill one, there are others hiding in the walls.

I can't say with any certainty that doing detoxes, avoiding processed, chemically-laden food, going vegetarian, or vegan, or raw, or organic, is going to cure Kris Carr, or Gloria, or keep me cancer-free. I do know that these actions make me feel powerful and give me some sense of control. 

And, yeah, they make me feel good, too.

So, while I thought about the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the gooey cupcake, it remained a thought. What I did was have an avocado, apple and lime juice smoothie for dinner.

I stared out the window in WNYC's 8th floor cafe, and thought about Gloria. Good luck, girlfriend. Fight back with a smoothie and know there's a support group of wellness warriors online.