She used food to fight her cancer

Can food help fight cancer? Pam Braun, a late-stage cancer survivor, thinks so.

Ten years since her Stage 3 diagnosis of fallopian tube cancer, Braun not only survived but thrived. She credits diet and exercise as key to her fight against the disease. She shares her story at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Avid Reader at The Tower, 1600 Broadway, Sacramento.

“This is very important,” Braun said. “One out of every three women will have cancer sometime in their lifetime; one out of every two men will have cancer. Children born today have a 50-50 chance. But one-third of cancers could be avoided by diet and exercise. That’s why this is now my calling.”

Pulling from her own ordeal, Braun — a former restaurant owner and chef — wrote “The Ultimate Anti-Cancer Cookbook” (Vireo, $19.95) featuring 225 recipes and cancer-fighting food tips. At the Sacramento appearance, she’ll sign copies and discuss how healthy eating helped save her life. Joining her will be Dr. Edwin Alvarez of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, who will address early cancer warning signs and how good nutrition can help survivors.

Already in its second printing since its October release, her book has been well received, particularly within the cancer community, Braun said.

“It’s been very rewarding,” said Braun, now 62. “When I started this 10 years ago, there really was no evidence (if changes in diet) helped cancer patients. But every year, more evidence is coming out. We’ve discovered that some foods may cause (or contribute to) cancer while others help prevent it.

“I was so desperate when I started this — I was given a 15 percent chance (of survival) — I decided, I’m doing it,” she added. “What have I got to lose?”

Braun, who lives in Van Nuys in Southern California, sees herself as a typical middle-aged woman who had a typical American diet — before she got sick.

“I was like your average American,” she said. “I was 52 when I got sick, slightly overweight. I weighed 25, 30 pounds more than I do now. With middle age, my weight had crept up. I wasn’t exercising. I didn’t eat that badly but I didn’t eat that well. When I got sick, I didn’t ask, Why me? I thought, Why not me? I was a perfect candidate.

“But now there’s convincing evidence that diet matters,” she added. “To me, it seems like a no-brainer.”

The foods to avoid or consume in moderation? They’re familiar candidates: Red meat, processed food, salt and alcohol. The good guys? Fresh fruits and vegetables (five servings a day), whole grains, nuts and berries.

“Garlic is really good, too,” Braun added. “Several herbs and spices are good; you eat so little but they pack a really big punch. There are more antioxidants in oregano than blueberries. Grow some fresh oregano and add it to your salads.

“The main thing to remember: Stay away from processed foods and eat fresh,” she added. “It makes a difference.”