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I Thought I Ate Healthy, Then I Got Breast Cancer. (How a WFPB Diet Changed Everything)

Written by Ali Donahue
I Thought I Ate Healthy, Then I Got Breast Cancer. (How a WFPB Diet Changed Everything)

Naomi Green has always been "a kind of crunchy." She gardened, ate organic food before it was cool, even had three home births. But after a shocking breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, Naomi wanted to know more about the connection between diet and health, despite her oncologist telling her no such link existed.

Today, Naomi has discovered the healing power of plants, firsthand. She's officially cancer-free and now empowers others make the switch to plant-based eating for their health. MamaSezz co-founder Meg Donahue caught up with Naomi to hear her transformation story firsthand.

What was your life like before you changed your diet? What was your life and diet like? What was your struggle?

Anybody who’s known me for a long time knows I’ve always been kind of crunchy. I've always loved to garden, always searched out organic food and cleaning products, and I am always recycling and picking up trash. I've also always been active, staying away from doctors, cooking from scratch, and proud of my health. No matter what it was, I always did things slightly against the grain. I mean, I did have three home births with a midwife!

So, in early 2014, when I felt a lump in my breast and a doctor said to me, “You have stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma,” I did not believe her. I didn’t even understand the words she said as I had never heard them before. "That's breast cancer with a capital C," she said.

It didn't matter that I had not one of the twenty or so risk factors I looked up for breast cancer. On top of that, I was embarrassed to be sick to that degree and kept it largely a secret from most of my extended family and friends. 

I plowed through that solid year of breast removal and reconstruction surgeries, nine months of chemotherapy and 35 straight days of radiation treatments, which left me really scared and scarred mentally, physically, and emotionally. Sitting there bald, pale and quivering, just waiting for the cancer they said could come back at any time.

What happened?

Since I knew about kale and acai berries, I thought maybe there was something to the idea of avoiding cancer recurrence through food.  So, I decided to ask my oncologist.  "What foods should I be eating or not eating to keep the cancer from coming back?" I asked her.

My oncologist answered matter-of-factly, "It doesn't matter what you eat. I want you to take these pills for the next 10 years, which is proven to reduce your risk of cancer recurrence."

I was furious as she repeated to me that food makes no difference. But then I realized she truly believed that because they serve cupcakes and cheese crackers in the chemo room!

Was there a defining moment that triggered change or did you have a gradual journey?

So I went home and consulted "Dr. Google." I was searching "cancer and food" and "nutrition and cancer" and came across the documentary, Forks Over Knives.

I was struck by lightning when T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., explained how his research found that eating animal protein turns cancer cells on and not eating animal protein turns cancer cells off.

In study after study for many different types of animal proteins and in every different way he and others tested it, the results were the same. In fact, he could turn on and turn off cancer cells in the lab by changing the level of animal protein exposure every 21 days. And, eating animal protein and other processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat was proven to have many other negative, serious effects in causing epidemics of chronic obesity, diabetes and heart disease, too.

The medical evidence was overwhelming  and I thought, "THIS is the answer for me!" And I ran to my fridge to get rid of all the animal products and junk foods.

How were you able to stick with such a dramatic diet change?

At about that same time, a co-worker told me about a new book called, Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly Turner, Ph.D. So, I gobbled that up, too. This book outlines nine common factors (out of the 75 factors tested) she found that can make a real difference in keeping cancer away. Including changing my diet overnight, that book gave me eight more things I could easily do in my life to keep cancer away.

This gave me so much motivation and a feeling that I did have some power over this disease and my life.

I also ordered the Forks Over Knives Cookbook and just began to cook the food and eat the food. Even though my husband was not on board, I did not much discuss it with him except to say that I did not believe in eating those animal foods anymore, for me or for him, based on what we learned in Forks Over Knives and I wasn't going to buy them or cook them anymore. He continued to grill his own meat and cook his own eggs when he wanted it and was fine with switching out the dairy and eating whatever else I cooked. 

We continued to watch documentary after documentary about the health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet, the very serious positive environmental effects of going vegan, and we made the connection that the animal foods most people eat for every meal and snack all day long every day are actually billions of sentient, live beings who fear pain and want to live. 

Aligning our behavior with our values and this new knowledge felt so good and one day, my husband said he was never going to eat animals again, either. That was after watching me lose 40 pounds without even trying, completely healed from that year of cancer treatment. 

That was also after his life-long, debilitating allergies disappeared completely, he lost 18 pounds and his cholesterol shot down 40 points well into the normal levels.

And so, as my scars faded,  I began to feel better every day. Lighter and not so scared.

What is your life like now?

Now I stand up and tell my story at every possible opportunity, as well as at big community events like VegFests.

I started teaching cooking classes and workshops at yoga studios, wellness centers and health food stores.

I develop my own whole food plant-based no oil recipes to make it easy for people to learn to cook and eat this way...deliciously!  I began to help, guide and coach people privately and in groups take back their health by going whole food vegan.

 Now I do it all online and even created a Plant Power Preppers Club monthly membership group and a free Plant-Empowered Woman Facebook Group filled with women who are overcoming obesity and taking back their health every day! They are discovering the miraculous benefits of doing so while sharing their successes, obstacles, feelings, recipes and suggestions with other members.  I write and share their vegan health success stories on my blog.

I now work with local plant-based physicians with patients and in putting on community events to educate the public. And, with my husband, we created Vegan Cooking & Adventure Retreats and take groups of people to experience the fun with other like-minded people for both weekend and week-long retreats nationwide!

I want to help anyone who wants to go vegan. Especially those who want to go vegan for their health. Those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired who want to overcome their obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Those who want to fall in love with food again and feel the best they have ever felt in their lives. 

So, I got certified as a Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator by the Mainstreet Vegan Academy, an immersion program in New York City to learn how to help people go vegan. I earned the Plant-Based Nutrition Certification from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell  and gained an in-depth understanding of the current health effects of the Standard American Diet and how a simple whole food plant-based no-oil diet can reverse many chronic health conditions quickly and deliciously.

Because I know how scary the words, “you have cancer” are and to feel you have no control over your health. Because I opened my eyes and my heart to the truth and found out how one simple change of what’s on my plate can solve not only my own health problems, but our environmental problems and the sad, tragic truth many don't want to know about what we do (and pay others to do) to the animals we eat, wear, and use every day.

Now, I am just so gratefully vegan...and I want to help you feel the same...

How did a WFPB diet impact your health and life?

If it wasn't for that breast cancer diagnosis, I don't know how or when I would have learned about profound positive effects of a whole food vegan lifestyle on almost all deadly chronic health conditions, every aspect of our degraded environment, and all the animals tragically imprisoned and killed for most American's plates more than three times a day. And this has completely changed the course of my life giving it more meaning and more joy than I could have ever imagined for myself. And this is something I can share with others and watch it spread.

Name one item on your bucket list?

I want to be THE Coach asked to present at one of the big plant-based conferences (like PCRM Nutrition in Medicine Conference) to help give the physicians some simple coaching skills, ideas, and materials they can use with patients in the short time frames they have with them to help them leave with action steps that are specific and easy.


Have Your Own Plant-Based Transformation Story to Share? 

We'd love to hear how the healing power of plants has impacted your life. Shoot the MamaSezz team an email and tell us your story!


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