Stories from survivors, families and friends

Cancer Stories

This digital story was produced in a training workshop by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska Comprehensive Cancer Partnership in March 2014:

The Power of a Healthy Diet and Physical Activity

By: Elize Rumley, RD, CDE

My interest in nutrition and cancer started at a young age.  I grew up on a farm, without electricity, running water or phone.  We ate what the land served up.  The concept of artificial food was foreign to me.  I knew that people could not survive without food, but it didn’t ever occur to me that eating too much would one day become such a health problem in our society.

While working in a hospital as a dietitian, I encountered many critically ill patients at the end of their lives. It was too late for me to improve their quantity of life, much less their quality of life.  I noticed that most patients with cancer could not keep up with their nutrition. Their weight would drop and inevitably, they would die in pain.   When I learned that not all cancers are of genetic origin and that many can be prevented through choice of a healthy lifestyle, I decided to change my career.  I knew in my heart that my passion was in prevention.  I wanted to help people avoid preventable disease.  I wanted to teach them the power of a healthy diet and physical activity.

I started practicing these lifestyle changes with my own family in Alaska.  I thought about the way my Brazilian family ate when I was a little girl.  Our foods were whole.  We grew, we harvested, we cooked and we ate together as a family.  How could I incorporate this into our modern lifestyle?  I don’t live on a farm anymore, but I knew that there were improvements I could make even in small steps.  We started removing processed foods from our diet.  We stopped drinking soda.  We have always cooked most of our meals at home.  We became more physically active as a family. And it is fun!

If I can pass these thoughts to people around me and, in turn, if each one of them can also pass the information along, I believe that we can at least reduce the number of people diagnosed with cancer and other chronic conditions.  A long march begins with a single step.