Eat Healthy to Stay Healthy

Written by Head for the Cure Ambassador and brain tumor survivor, Angela Merckle.

Eat healthy to stay healthy are the infamous words of wisdom, however, for me they were questionable. I was always an athletic person who found joy in running and maintaining a healthy diet with an occasional  ‘cheat day’. I aced medical exams and blood work which never revealed cause for concern, however, out of nowhere, I got hit with the “you have a brain tumor” line. I remember waiting for test results and seeing the doctor enter the room shaking her head with the words, “This is not good sweetheart”. My life changed forever that day 7 years ago and I was thrown into unknown territory with a desire to increase my odds of outliving a diagnosis of 3-5 years as I was told that day.

Finding the Best Foods

I began researching what is good for the body and what is bad and realized sugar was the biggest culprit to help grow cancer. I immediately excluded sugar from my daily intake (outside of natural sugars). I purchased a juicer and began to experiment with wheatgrass and kombucha along with aloe vera and other miscellaneous products advertised as the best for health. An inspiring man with a GBM taught me why he chooses to exclude bananas at all costs. The delicious fruit I was eating on toast or in smoothies rates the highest in sugar on the glycemic index. I immediately stopped eating excess bananas and instead ate half of one and limited the days I ate the half. He was outliving his GBM and I wanted to have the same success.

The second largest culprit was processed food. I eliminated lunchmeat subs and canned soups amongst many other things. I read labels at the grocery store and if the ingredients consisted of a paragraph, I wasn’t eating it. I was shocked at how long I had been eating things, not knowing the ‘crap’ that was in it. I was frustrated at how little was available with minimal additives. I found ways to make fresh fruits and vegetables exciting. It was very challenging in the beginning, but I was determined to try anything that could positively influence my circumstance.

Surprising Tumor Growth

Surprisingly, during my juicing phase and experiments with wheatgrass and aloe vera juice, my MRI scan revealed my tumors grew. Because of the rapid growth, radiation was suggested, and needed, in an attempt to reducing the size of the tumor. How could this be? I was following everything strictly. After radiation was complete, I decided to neglect the wheatgrass and latest craze items and stick to a simple rule of no processed food and minimal added sugars. This now included giving up meat, chicken, and dairy. I saw articles on the negativity of soy products and decided to switch from soymilk to almond milk. My next MRI showed shrinkage. With the excitement of seeing the tumors shrink, I decided to stick to this new plan. I tried to revisit that cheat day and enjoy a sweet treat in celebration, and it made me so sick. I had to lay down due to nausea, lightheadedness, and weakness. My own body was rejecting junk food after converting to this new way since diagnosis.

Angela (center) at the Head for the Cure 5K – Orlando

Finding What Works Best For You

 I am constantly seeking new ways to create healthy eating habits. I made it a part of my life and like anything else, once you get on a schedule it becomes routine. When I don’t eat well my body definitely tells me it is not happy with the choices I made. When I eat well, I feel well. The biggest challenge post radiation is finding ways to feel energized without 5 cups of coffee and an energy drink. Outside of that, with one tumor being gone and the other remaining stable, I choose to stick to the plan that seems to work for me. It’s truly simple. Outside of things found in the produce section, I am strict on no-low sugar content and minimal ingredients in all other things. This is what has worked for me to serves my body, and I encourage everyone to find their own routine and what works best for them. Remember every ‘body’ is different and no two scenarios are alike.

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