In 2007, Geraldine Adams, RN, of Greenbelt, Md., was a 40-something full-time nurse and mom busy attending her son’s track meets and other teenage commitments when she received disturbing news.
A routine screening mammogram detected a tumor. “The tumor was shocking, but when they told me that I had three tumors in my breast, that was most shocking of all,” Adams said.
Adams had aggressive surgical treatment and started taking Tamoxifen, a hormone therapy used to help treat breast cancer. About 18 months into her treatment for breast cancer, she received another startling diagnosis, endometrial cancer.
“That’s when I really took a step back and thought, ‘What am I doing? How am I contributing to this? Why is my body making all of this cancer?” Adams explained. As a registered nurse, she had received some basic nutrition education. “At that time of life, though, I did not pay a lot of attention to diet,” she said. “I ate what was quick and available, for convenience, and that included drive thrus and lots of take-out meals.”
The endometrial cancer was the wake-up call that led to Adams’ evaluation of her lifestyle habits and her journey to discover how she could prevent getting another cancer and become as healthy as she could be.
“When I was doing my research into what I could do to prevent a recurrence of cancer, I kept finding nutrition, that was the common denominator,” Adams said. “It became clear to me that I had to do an honest assessment of where I am and where I wanted to be, and that’s when I found the Food for Life program, which was then called the Cancer Project.”
That was 14 years ago, when she drove all around the Washington, D.C., beltway attending several classes over a series of weeks and months. Adams adopted a whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet with the help of the classes and has been doing well since then without a recurrence of cancer.
Over the last decade, it has become easier to follow a WFPB diet, with the availability of educational resources like the Food for Life program, the prevalence of vegan options in grocery stores and restaurants, and the better understanding by many people of its health benefits.
“I highly recommend the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart to anyone who is considering eating this way,” Adams said. “If you really want to give yourself a good chance of success, it is almost as if your body goes through a detoxification process, and you will notice a dramatic difference.” The Vegan Kickstart is a free program that provides recipes, a meal plan, and other support and information.
It is advice like this that Adams has given for decades to her patients, when she was a nurse advising them about avoiding or reversing chronic disease, and to friends and family curious about her new way of eating. Today, Adams continues to practice nursing but is no longer working in that field full-time, which has allowed her to train and become a licensed Food for Life instructor. She completed her training four years ago, a process she described as, “a natural progression.”
To mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Let’s Beat Breast Cancer Campaign, Adams volunteered to conduct a free five-class Food for Life series in the community where she lives, Greenbelt, Md., in partnership with Three Sisters Gardens at three different locations in order to make the classes as easy as possible to attend for people in different neighborhoods. People may attend as few or as many classes as they would like.
“I absolutely love doing the Food for Life classes, having been an attendee, I am grateful to the program because it made a huge difference for me,” she says. “I like that the classes are based in research, and that they are informal and friendly.
“People sometimes say, ‘I could not do that. It is too restrictive.’ But the reality is that you soon realize that there is a whole world out there of delicious food and recipes, and that your palate will change to no longer craving high fat, high sugar foods to enjoying oranges, warmed apples with cinnamon, delicious roasted vegetables, soups, seasonal fruits and vegetables. If you are serious, give it an honest try with the[21-Day] Vegan Kickstart, and you will be amazed.”
To find out more or register for a class, visit the Food for Life Program.