Tag Archive | soy

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Most people, when they hear the term “AI”, automatically think of artificial intelligence. Unless, of course, you are a breast cancer survivor. Then AI means something completely different. For us, it stands for “aromatase inhibitor”.

What exactly is an AI? Susan G. Komen defines AIs as follows:

“Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers need estrogen and/or progesterone (female hormones produced in the body) to grow. (AIs) lower estrogen levels in the body by blocking aromatase, an enzyme that converts other hormones into estrogen. This slows or stops the growth of the tumor by preventing the cancer cells from getting the hormones they need to grow.”

The three aromatase inhibitors are Anastrozole (Arimidex), Letrozole (Femara), and Exemestane (Aromasin).

For those of you who have been following along here from the get-go, you remember that I took Femara/Letrozole. You also remember how very unpleasant it was for me and how, after about 6 months, I stopped taking this drug. I felt like $h*t and struggled with insomnia for several months straight. I was in pain all the time and the lack of sleep made me feel like a zombie. It was pretty nasty. I sought a second opinion at that time, reviewed a bunch of statistics, and was given permission by all my doctors to stop taking the Femara.

Fast forward to today, literally this morning, when I started a new AI. I am terrified of the side effects, but agreed to give the AIs another whirl given my recurrence. My Penn oncologist has opted for Aromasin, since it is molecularly different from the Femara and Arimidex. Since these last two closely resemble each other, it stands to reason that if I had trouble with one, I would have trouble with the other. It’s hard to believe that I would be terrified of something so tiny and unassuming:

But one glance at the side effects and it’s easy to understand the fear: hot flashes, muscle and joint pain, headache, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, osteoporosis (I have to go for a dexascan in a few weeks to baseline), heart problems, changes in mood, depression, insomnia, vaginal dryness/atrophy, and loss or thinning of hair. So your risk of dying is lower, but when I was on this previously, I felt like I was dying already.

On the plus side, my Penn oncologist thinks my side effects may not be so severe this time. She indicated that women who are thrust into menopause by chemotherapy have a harder time, as was my experience back in 2012. There was no opportunity for my body to gradually decline on hormone levels; it was more like “bam!”, you’re in menopause. So the drop in levels from the AI was significant, resulting in more severe side effects. This time it’s 7 years later, so I’ve had the chance to settle into menopause. Theoretically, the drop will not be as significant and the side effects more tolerable. Fingers crossed that is my experience.

If it turns out not to be the case, there are still other options to consider, but I need to give it at least 30 days.

I did recently learn that soy is actually an aromatase inhibitor, which might explain why those who follow standard Asian diets have lower incidence of breast cancer. If things get really bad, perhaps eating soy every day will be an option. Stay tuned.

Day one of my AI is here. Wish me luck!


IMDb: A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)


As part of my health coaching course, we’ve spent several weeks studying gut health, how to heal it, and how it impacts overall wellness. In fact, Hippocrates is credited with saying “All disease begins in the gut.”  A healthy microbiome is one of the many reasons it’s so important to maintain a healthy diet (more on this in a future post).

One of the tools to help you start healing your gut is an elimination diet and, as part of the course, it was recommended that students try it out for a few weeks to better support clients who may choose to do an elimination diet.  And so, I decided to try a three elimination diet with my family. My husband agreed to the experiment while my son kind of rolled his eyes.  He’d never be 100% anyway, considering his time in school, school functions or at his Dad’s.  But I figured he’d be 100% while at home.

The recommended elimination diet included removal of eggs, dairy, gluten, soy, sugar and corn.   The intent was to eliminate those foods and keep track of how you felt (better/worse).

So here’s how things went:

  • For me, at least, eggs, dairy and corn were easy. My hubby likes eggs for breakfast on the weekends, so that presented a challenge.  I was able to find a yummy gluten-, egg- and dairy-free recipe for pancakes and I would definitely make those again.
  • It was a bit more work than usual because I was trying my best to accommodate everyone for every meal, just to keep them “compliant”.
  • Day one Ethan indicated he was “not a fan” of the oatmeal I served him (although he loved the pear compote I made for it). But I made him stick with it and found the right blend of flavorings for him to find it agreeable. (For the record, cacao powder, goji berries and date paste as a sweetener. Interestingly, David needed it to be sweeter than Ethan did.)
  • Sugar is always tough with Ethan since he’s a sugar addict, but we made progress by freezing any leftover Christmas cookies, and just not bringing sugar into the house. I made an occasional treat, like banana peanut butter ice cream, that made up for the lack of sweets.
  • Eating out is difficult. At the end of the first week, we ended up at an Italian restaurant where David ordered a pizza. Total non-compliance. And I had gnocchi, which likely had cheese and egg in them.  (Progress not perfection…?)
  • By the first weekend, the boys were cranky. I hadn’t planned well enough for snacks and such. My crabby husband, who ate leftover pizza all weekend, was suddenly mad that the pretzels weren’t gluten free!
  • Speaking of gluten-free… this was by far the hardest part. None of us were really fans of GF bread or pasta. I didn’t care as much about the bread, but David did. Toast and tomatoes with mayo is one of his go-to breakfast meals, so he wasn’t happy with that.  I think we could get used to the pasta if we had to. After all, we got used to whole wheat pasta instead of white.
  • We did really like the GF pretzels and crackers we tried, and GF breadcrumbs were fine.  I give those with celiac and gluten insensitivity a lot of credit for sticking with that.  I always knew it would be challenging; I didn’t know how much.
  • Giving up soy was also tough.  We eat tofu or tempeh a few times a month and many recipes I make use soy sauce.
  • Doing this made me get back to healthier lunches. Mostly I ate a baked sweet potato with a veggie. I’m planning to keep going with that.
  • With some crazy schedules and David with the flu, we’ve had to abandon the remainder of the 3 week plan.  I think I’ll try it again by myself. While I was hoping there would be benefits to both David and Ethan by joining me, it was really hard carrying them along. Maybe once I’m successful with it on my own, we can have another go.

Moral of the story: Elimination diets have a lot of benefits, but they do take some extra planning and extra work!

IMDb: Elimination (2010)

Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest

Just to get things started: a reminder.  Given the “lights cancer action” theme of my blog, every blog title is an actual movie term or title.  So, yes, this is actually a movie.  🙂

And, as you can guess, our topic is tofu!

I have indicated several times in the past that I have completely avoided soy since forever, but even more so since my diagnosis. There was so much debate as to whether tofu was healthy for a breast cancer survivor of an estrogen positive tumor, it wasn’t worth the risk. I changed my mind after reading Dr. Greger’s “How Not To Die”. The chapter on breast cancer, and his supporting research, convinced me that soy is actual beneficial.

I read that book months and months ago, but, despite giving myself the green light, I remained intimidated by tofu.  That is until this week!  I finally braved purchasing and cooking with it.

I have my Scranton Beets group to thank for getting me over my hurdle.  I tried this yummy dessert two weekends ago and loved it SO much that I made it for a party I attended this past weekend.

Pina Colada Banana Coupe’

1 pound can of pineapple chunks (drained)
1/3 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
2 T. of a sweetener (I used brown rice syrup; other options: honey, agave, etc.)
1/2 cup silken tofu
1-2 small, ripe bananas

Put all ingredients (except the bananas) in your food processor and blend until very smooth.  Layer the banana slices with the pudding and chill it before serving.  (For a bigger group, double the recipe.)

Inquiring minds might want to know: It’s called a coupe’ because the original recipe instructions suggested that this dessert be served in stemmed wineglasses or some other individual serving cup.  I had to Google coupe’, which means “a shallow glass or glass dish, typically with a stem, in which desserts or champagne are served.”

The dessert was a hit at the party for vegans and non-vegans alike!

After this, I was feeling quite brave and moved on to a dish with firm tofu. Purchasing the tofu wasn’t as overwhelming as I thought it would be. It was in a refrigerator in the health food section and was clearly labeled “silken” and “firm”.  🙂

Tonight’s recipe was, again, from my go-to book “Isa Does It”: Shroomy Hot & Sour Soup. It was pretty easy to make and was absolutely delicious!  The fact that my 15-year-old ate FOUR bowls will give you some indication of just how good it was.  The tofu was tasty and the texture didn’t freak me out.

I plan to continue experimenting with more tofu recipes and, in fact, will be attending a “tofu 101” class offered by our Scranton Beets leader, Jean Hayes.  If any local peeps are interested in attending, you can check out the Scranton Beets Facebook page and sign up for Tofu Demystified on Sunday, February 26th, 2-4:00 pm.

Hope to see you there!

IMDb: Tofu the Vegan Zombie in Zombie Dearest (2007)

“Soy”lent Green

Let’s face it, soy is very controversial.   Consider first that most of soy (90-98%, depending on what source you reference) is genetically modified.  Consider, too, that this GMO bean, or some semblance of it, is hidden in tons of processed foods, not unlike HFCS.  Many people have soy allergies, and tofu gets a bad rap.

But for so-called “breast cancer survivors”, soy rages even more of a debate.

When I first told my oncologist that I see a naturalist and take a variety of supplements, she paused for a moment and then said “that’s fine, just stay away from soy”.  Soy has phytoestrogens which make some people very nervous, particularly if you have (had) an estrogen receptive tumor.  After all, as part of breast cancer treatment for hormone receptive tumors, women are placed on one of several drugs of choice:  Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Femara, etc.  These drugs are intended to reduce estrogen and block it from being consumed by any rogue cancer cells.

But soy is a plant.  Phytoestrogens aren’t quite the same as the “bad” estrogens, aka xenoestrogens, that you might consume through pharmaceuticals (i.e., birth control pills), plastics, perfume, and a host of other environmental sources.  So it begs the question, is soy really bad for you, since it comes from a plant?  Is it really bad for breast cancer?

I was having a conversation on soy with a coworker this morning as we traveled to another office for meetings.  Ironically, when I checked my personal emails, Kris Carr featured this very topic, including a guest blog titled “Hey, Soy — Let’s Be Breast Friends Again!”  I found this guest blog to be quite thought provoking and wanted to share it.  The link to Kris Carr’s blog is also below.


If you search “soy myths”, there are numerous articles on this very topic if you want to read more.

So, to my fellow breast cancer warriors… to soy or not to soy?