In 1982, at the age of 47, Ruth Heidrich got the shock of her life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, she considered herself healthy and fit. After all, she ran marathons and ate what was considered a healthy diet. After a modified radical mastectomy to remove the tumor, she was told by not 1 but 5 different doctors that her tumor was life threatening and there was nothing they knew to do to strengthen her immune system. As she would later discover, the cancer had spread to her bones and one lung.
Fortunately for Heidrich, she was an avid reader and researcher, and found that Dr. John McDougall was doing a study on the effects of diet on breast cancer. She paid him a visit, and was told “If you want to save your life, change your diet.” On the spot, she decided she’d rather change her diet than undergo chemotherapy and radiation, joined Dr. McDougall’s study and adopted a vegan, low-fat diet.
She states “In two hours I went directly from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to a low-fat, whole food vegan diet.”
In an interview with Vegetarians in Paradise, Heidrich said, “I’m convinced that a vegan diet saved my life. By the time the breast cancer was diagnosed, it had become advanced and spread to my bones and left lung. I’d had the surgery to remove the primary tumor, so I was depending on my immune system to handle the remaining cancer. My diet of 100% whole plant foods allowed my immune system to function more efficiently.
Fortunately for her, Heidrich didn’t believe her oncologist and all the other doctors she consulted when they told her that diet had nothing to do with cancer. Shortly after starting on the vegan diet, Heidrich began training for the Ironman Triathlon, determined to be the first cancer patient to complete it.
After 18 years as a cooked vegan, Heidrich decided to see if there were additional benefits to being a raw vegan. She’d heard lectures that cooking food denatured protein and destroyed vitamins, so she gave it a 30-day trial, but forgot and didn’t notice when the 30 days were up. She told Vegetarians in Paradise that she has never been tempted to go back to cooking.
Her current diet is all raw except for condiments such as salsa and mustard, popcorn for the “munchies,” and an occasional non raw meal as a special occasion when she’s invited over to a friend’s home or a restaurant.
After her surgery, Heidrich entered every race she could find. Her fitness improved dramatically on the new diet. She was winning gold medals. Since her cancer diagnosis, Heidrich has completed 6 iron man triathlons, 67 marathons and won close to 1,000 first place medals. Her record so far is 62 races in one year.
Here’s a typical day in the life of Ruth Heinrich: “ A typical day starts with an hour on the bike, an hour’s run, and alternating between either a mile swim or a weight training session. Then breakfast consists of a large bowl filled with greens, a carrot, celery, a banana, a mango, nutritional yeast with B-12, and a little blackstrap molasses. Midday snacks consist of carrots, apples, and other fruit in season. Supper is more greens, carrot, tomato, bell pepper, cabbage, other vegetables in season, and salsa/mustard/ground flaxseed dressing. Dessert consists of blueberries, strawberries, and walnuts for my omega 3 fatty acids.”
Had Ruth Heidrich followed conventional medical approaches to her cancer when she was diagnosed almost 30 years ago, she would most likely no longer be with us. Instead, she decided to look for alternatives, change her diet and increase her fitness level. Her outcome is that 28 years late, she’s fitter and healthier than ever, and cancer free. At 75 years old her latest endeavor is a run around the world trip. A video of her stops is at http://lanternbooks.com/blog/entry.php?id=869
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