October is Breast Cancer Awareness month so we've invited our friend Hoda Cox to share her journey to better health and joy through her love of cooking.
Like many people, food plays an important role both in my culture and family tradition. The youngest of seven, I loved spending time watching my skilled mother create incredibly beautiful and nutritious dishes in our expansive kitchen, learning the intricacies of food preparation and enjoying meals with extended family. These tender memories are sustaining and bring me great joy.
My name is Hoda – I’m a working mom, an aunt to numerous nephews and nieces, a chef, a former café owner, and a passionate blogger about food and healing on my site called Cooking Up The Cure.
Now, many decades later, food continues to be a source of inspiration for me. For a number of years, I used my cooking skills to nurture others through my catering business. In fact, as a cancer survivor, food has not only become something to be celebrated and enjoyed, but sourced and consumed wisely, for it is a major healing force. Hippocrates did not speak metaphorically when he stated: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
During my powerful healing experience, my daughter sat me down at my computer and showed me the shell of what would become my blog site. She said, “You need to share everything you’ve learned with others. The hundreds of hours of research in healing methods and your consultations with leading practitioners could be incredibly helpful to many people.”
And so I started my blog in 2011 to inspire people with cancer as well as those who are seeking to avoid a metabolic illness, not to neglect one of the most critical aspects of healing, giving the body what it needs to repair itself. The food choices we make are a central component of wellness.
While conventional treatments can reduce symptoms, remove or reduce tumors, suppress the expression of an illness, they do nothing to address the cause, which is why the illness returns, and frequently more aggressively than before.
The key to avoiding cancer and disease is to "Create Health". We do this by giving our cells what they need to function properly and to protect them from the things that interfere with their ability to heal and repair. What if there were only one disease? And what if it is merely the location and the mechanism that determines what we call it? According to Dr. Raymond Frances, we can call that disease "Malfunctioning Cells". The two major causes of disease are 1) Deficiency and/or 2) Toxicity.
For a malfunctioning cell to repair itself it we need to provide it with the raw material it needs. That raw material comes from nutrition, and not from a synthetically produced chemical in a lab. It comes from food. So you can see why I became passionate about studying the foods that heal.
In 2010 an unexpected life event culminated in an unimaginable wealth of knowledge around what it takes to prevent and heal from disease. One day in May I took a break from my Café in Berkeley to have an acupuncture treatment.
As I lay on my tummy I noticed a little discomfort at the top of my left breast. When I got home, I pressed down on the area that had bothered me and felt a hard tiny bump, like a grain of rice. I consulted our family doctor. He recommended a biopsy. I sat in his office a week later, “I’m sorry to say the cyst is cancer.”
I willed myself to be still, and drew on my inner strength to respond calmly, “I see. Now what?” It felt like we were talking about someone else.
I knew that I wanted to actively participate in my progression to good health. I sold my Café to focus on healing
A friend of mine is a retired Doctor, and had researched Alternative treatments for some of her patients. She and I talked, and after meeting with an oncologist, I decided to seek a second opinion.
She introduced me to a renowned cancer researcher, Dr. Ralph Moss. He was extremely well informed on the latest treatments. He said something that opened my eyes,
“Doctors can only offer you what they have in their ‘toolkit’, if they don’t have access to, or knowledge of alternatives you’re not going to hear about them. There is a whole world of treatment outside the realm of traditional medicine.”.
He said since the cancer was contained, a lumpectomy and targeted nutrition would be his best advice. "Is it worth making yourself sick, and possibly triggering other cancers for a 3-4% mortality benefit? Especially since many people die from Chemo complications?".
The choice was clear.
I learned too late that biopsies spread cancer. My tiny contained tumor, once punctured, had leaked cancer cells that manifested exactly 1 year later in the same area. This time I had to opt for Chemo. Through Dr. Moss I consulted with three of the leading Integrative medical specialists in the US. I gathered my Team of Healers.
One of them is a prominent nutritional oncologist who has helped many who were given poor prognoses, heal through diet and nutrition. As a chef, I understand the power locked in foods and spices. I knew this would be part of my healing. Tailored to the drugs I was to be given, she guided me with a rotation of supplements to 1) keep my body strong, 2) counteract side-effects, and 3) afterwards a maintenance regimen I have kept ever since.
Without this team, I would not have made it through 4 months of dose-dense chemo and a month of radiation as well as I did.
I am now healthier and much wiser. I live in gratitude. This journey altered my life and that of my children and family in such a positive way. I integrate my learning into every meal I cook, and share what I know with others.
And as we head into Fall, I’d like to share a favorite:
Spicy Cauliflower Curry
This dish is packed with antioxidants from all the wonderful spices and cauliflower, and is rich in fiber.
Learn more about notable food synergies that will help you plan meals that boost your family’s health.
- 3 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp. Mustard seeds
- 1 inch fresh organic Ginger, cut into thin strips or chopped
- 1 organic White Onion, sliced
- 1 tsp. Turmeric
- 1 Tbs. ground Coriander
- 1/4 tsp. Ceylon Cinnamon (True cinnamon)
- 1 small green Serrano Chili, seeded and chopped
- 1 organic Garlic Clove, crushed
- 1 head organic Cauliflower, rinsed and cut into pieces (or 3 zucchini and 2 sweet potatoes)
- 1 c. organic Garbanzo beans, cooked or canned
- 1 tsp. Sea Salt
- Juice of ½ organic Lemon
- 1-1/2 c. Green Tea or hot Water
- 2 Tbs. organic Cilantro, chopped
- Black Sesame Seeds (opt.)
Place oil in large pot over medium heat for 1 minute, should not get very hot! Lower heat if it does. Add oil and wait 30 seconds. Add mustard seeds and turn to Med-Low. Cover and sauté for 1 minute.
Remove lid, and add ginger, onion, turmeric, coriander, cinnamon, and chili. Stir occasionally, for 2 - 3 minutes.
Stir in garlic, cauliflower, garbanzo beans and salt. Add lemon juice, tea or water, 1 Tbs. of the cilantro, and cover. Reduce heat to Low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
Transfer mixture to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining cilantro and a few black sesame seeds on Stir in garlic, cauliflower, garbanzo beans and salt. Add lemon juice, tea or water, 1 Tbs. of the cilantro, and cover. Reduce heat to Low, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
Transfer mixture to a serving dish and sprinkle remaining cilantro and a few black sesame seeds on top.
Hoda is a local to Lafayette, Calif. where ECOlunchbox is based! Learn more about Hoda's journey and find more recipes on her blog Cooking Up A Cure.