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Colon Cancer... Are genes my destiny? Jill's Story

When I was 20 years old, my aunt (my mom’s older sister) died of colon cancer. She was in her 60’s.

I remember when she died, rushing to my grandparent’s farm in southern MN to be with them, as they’d just lost a child; that’s just not supposed to happen, you know? As the family all came together for my aunt’s funeral, we all mourned deeply; her life had been too short. Many years later, my aunt’s daughter would battle colon cancer herself.

In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was in her 60’s. Of course my thoughts raced to my aunt, and how sick she had been, and how she had died too soon from this horrible cancer. My mom needed surgery to remove the large tumor, followed by 9 months of chemo.

If you’ve ever watched someone go through chemo, or gone through it yourself, you know firsthand that it is excruciating to go through and horrible to watch anyone face. On chemo days (and those horrible days afterward) I was overcome with worry and fear for my mom. Was she going to live through this? Would treatment work? And if it did work, what side effects would she live with for the remainder of her life? What if the cancer came back?

Thankfully, surgery was successful, and the chemo was successful. My mom is cancer free today! And I am grateful for every day she is with us.

Since then, I’ve had 3 other family members have “scares”, having pre-cancerous polyps removed, one through surgery because the polyps were so large and intrusive.

Having always struggled with digestive issues like heartburn, acid reflux and constipation, I knew I probably wasn’t set up for great success in the way of colon health.

And my doctors confirmed that (newsflash!) colon cancer seems to run in my family, and so their advice to me was that I should be diligent in getting routine screenings. That makes sense, yet this felt less than hopeful. That’s it? Wait for screenings to tell me whether I was next in line for colon cancer? Was there nothing else I could be doing to prevent this disease? Was I powerless to colon cancer?

In the summer of 2011, I happened upon a documentary called “Forks Over Knives”.

I was curious, so I watched it. I then went on to read The China Study and Whole by T. Colon Campbell. Compelling and comprehensive research shows that diet plays a crucial role in developing colon cancer. What is on my plate can literally be a decision between life and death. I was amazed. Joel and I decided to try a whole food plant-based diet for 1 month, completely eliminating animal products, including eggs, dairy, and fish, to see how we felt.

I noticed huge changes immediately. All my digestive issues disappeared. And for about a year, I did pretty well sticking to the diet.

But as time passed, I started to slip. A lot. I made excuses and exceptions. A lot of exceptions.

If I’m at a restaurant, I can cheat.

If I’m at someone else’s house for a meal, I can’t ask them to cook vegan.

If I’m on vacation, I can cheat.

If it’s chicken or fish, it’s better.

All lies.

Pretty soon, though I would eat vegan at home, I was slipping further and further away from my “why”, and I was feeling all of my digestive issues returning.

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