Inge is a stage IV rectal cancer survivor (cancer free since June 2011), writer, motivational speaker, healthy food advocate/activist, vegan, practicing Buddhist, ostomate, and well-being coach. I discovered her blog back in April of 2014 and I’ve been a fan ever since; I love her positive attitude and holistic approach to health.
Tell us how you came to have an ostomy.
I have had intestinal problems most of my adult life. It got much worse 2 years before I was diagnosed with Stage IV rectal cancer in 2010. I fluctuated between constipation and diarrhea. Started seeing blood in the toilet 6 months before diagnosis. I was told by a doctor it was only hemorrhoids and not to worry. I went to ER Dec 26th, 2010 with shortness of breath and my legs felt so heavy I could barely walk. A few hours later I was admitted to hospital for emergency blood transfusion. I had lost so much blood, I could have stroked out at any minute.
After a million tests, I was diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer that spread to my liver. I decided on chemo/radiation/surgery as my treatment… AND I changed my diet over night to vegan (I called myself a vegetarian before that but I forgot to eat fresh veggies!)… I got back to meditating, practice modified yoga, and basically “chill out!” from negative thinking. My life transformed. I am healthier in body and mind than ever before.
When did you become vegan? What prompted you to finally make that decision?
I have been vegan since Feb 2011, starting with making green juices… to green smoothies… to fresh veggies … eating 60% raw and the rest steamed or stir-fry… the rest is grains, healthy fats and nuts. I was always interested in alternative/holistic treatments so soon as I was well enough to surf the Internet, I looked for Stage IV cancer survivors. They ALL changed their diets to vegan or mostly vegan. I knew I could do that and never looked back.
Did you have any concerns about eating this way with an ostomy or with your history of cancer?
I never had any problems with my colostomy bag. My body seems to like my new diet and if I eat something processed, like a donut, I feel sick to my stomach, so I stay away from regular processed foods and snacks.
My doctor is happy with my progress (over 3 years now cancer free!) He won’t openly acknowledge my diet is the reason, but he is open to the possibility.
What was your biggest challenge when becoming vegan?
My biggest challenge is eating in a restaurant. Not only am I vegan, I stay away from processed foods, conventional foods and foods that may be genetically modified. There are still a lot of people who don’t know what I’m talking about and restaurant workers have no idea what is in their food either, so it’s better for me to eat at home.
I have always loved animals and feel a deep connection so living vegan is normal for me, but hard because vegan products are expensive. I have to be creative and budget conscious.
Have you noticed any health benefits since starting a vegan diet?
Yes! No more constipation. No more diarrhea. No more boils or hemorrhoids. I have more energy. I feel healthy.
How did your family/friends react to your decision to go vegan? Have their attitudes changed over the years?
My diet change didn’t affect my husband. He did change his diet too after being diagnosed with Type II diabetes. He didn’t want all the meds his doctor prescribed so he eats fresh foods, which is mostly vegetarian. He does eat wild salmon though.
What do you eat in a typical day? Do you take supplements?
This is a typical meal I have throughout the day. I am a grazer. I eat several small meals throughout the day.
1 cup of organic coffee with a tsp. sucanat, organic soy milk
1 slice Ezekiel raisin toast with raw almond or peanut butter
Handful organic Medjool dates or 1 banana or handful raw trail mix or, Seasonal fruit, apple dipped in nut butter (peanut or almond)
I switch to sautéing or steaming: veggies (broccoli, sweet onions, red peppers, yams, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas) I don’t cook all those ingredients for one meal. I rotate them, maybe using four types of veggies at a time. If I sauté, I cook them on medium high heat for five minutes, turn off the heat and let them sit covered for another ten. In order to get the most nutritional benefit from your veggies, they should have a slight crunch when you eat them. I also use either olive oil or coconut oil to cook them in. Sometimes, I put the veggies over brown rice and drizzle organic soy sauce over them. If I have humus left over, I dip my veggies in it.
Late snacks are similar to what I eat during the day. If its cold outside, I make myself a small bowl of oatmeal with soy milk and raisins.
I make a green smoothie ever day and a green juice several times a week ( the juice is usually cucumber with apple and carrot). My green smoothies have kale, spinach, parsley, or all of them. I like to change them up. I throw in a banana, use whatever fruits are in season, with ground flax seed and 6 tbsp of organic olive oil and spring water. I use a regular blender. Can’t afford the fancier ones but my blender does the job. I make it right after breakfast and drink it throughout the day, along with my eight glasses of spring water.
Supplements: Finding vegan supplements was challenging but I did it. I buy them online. I take 1,000 mg Vitamin d3, 500mg calcium/magnesium and get a B12 shot monthly (to make my oncologist happy). That’s it, except if I feel a cold coming on then I use herbs. I did take Milk Thistle tincture when I was going through treatment to heal my liver from the toxic meds.
Do you have any advice for other ostomates or cancer survivors who might be interested in transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?
Change slowly if you aren’t sure and let your body tell you what it does and doesn’t like to eat. I’m an anomaly, I went vegan overnight because I wanted to beat cancer and never get it again. I was willing to do anything to do that.
Do you have any advice for someone living with an ostomy?
Have a sense of humor. My bag is called whoopee cushion. It goes off at inconvenient times. I laugh about it now. When adjusting to a new ostomy be patient. Learning new things takes time. Ask for help when things don’t look right. If you feel depressed find a support group or have your doctor hook you up with another ostomate that has one for the same reason you do. For example, I help ostomates who had cancer, but I don’t know what its like for someone with Crohn’s Disease. I don’t know about their diet issues.
Tell us a bit about your advocacy work and blog.
I have a blog called Rectal Cancer My Ass, and I share stories about my life as a cancer survivor, some of it’s political, spiritual, cancer related information, healthy food advice and just being human.
I also volunteer at the infusion center where people get all kinds of infusion but mostly chemo. I’ve been there 3 years and my goal is to give patients hope by telling my story. I tell them everything, including living vegan.
What ostomy products are you using?
Hollister is my brand. Their products are the only ones that fit me correctly.
Do you have any hobbies?
Hanging out with my critters and writing.
You can follow Inge on the following social media sites: