Loraine Pavich, founder of Well With IN and a cancer survivor
Loraine Pavich was a panelist at the Center’s inaugural Food as Medicine Summit on November 30th, 2017. She chose to share her journey battling cancer through healing foods with those who attended the summit and in the interview below.
Your diagnosis and treatment timeline: On June 18th, 2016, I was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Pancoast tumor. Prior to my diagnosis, I was a Photo/Model Editor and Photo Producer in NYC working for various fashion and celebrity news entertainment magazines.
My symptoms began in September of 2015 with sharp back pain that came and went. Over time, I developed other symptoms as well but brushed them off as a variety of other factors, such as menopause and anxiety. The last few months before the diagnosis, I was fatigued, depressed and in severe pain. After chemotherapy and radiation that summer, I had a 7-hour lung surgery on November 10, 2016, to remove the upper right lobe of the lung and over 27 lymph nodes. In January of 2017, cancer spread to my brain. On February 8th, I had surgery to remove one larger tumor and on March 7th had a Gamma Knife procedure to shrink the second tumor. In April of 2017, I suffered a mild stroke. In May of 2017, I had another growth on my trachea. I firmly chose not to do any more chemotherapy or radiation. Instead, I chose to focus on healing myself through food, my mind, and immune therapy.
For many years before my diagnosis, I was leading a high-stress life. My job was in the publishing industry working as Photo Editor/Producer. I had done it for over 25 years. I am grateful due to having the opportunity to meet many talented, creative and amazing people. However, the pressure and major deadlines put a severe toll on me. I was not taking care of myself properly. This lead to my burnout, anxiety, depression, and I believe ultimately to cancer. I knew that I had to make some drastic changes. I sought the help of healers, doctors, and practiced developing inner peace and self-compassion.
In the beginning of my journey in June of 2016, I had a 10-30 percent chance to live past six months. I wanted to share my story with others and chose to become my own health advocate and research how both the healing power of foods and the mind can help you live a longer, and better, life. My approach to healing is through nutrition, managing emotions and understanding the complexities of life. I have accepted my cancer and current remission and now focus on my life, health and helping others.
Where you grew up: Astoria and NYC
Where you live now: Astoria, NY
Background and education: High school, some college followed by some business school
Food policy/food as medicine hero: Fred Bisci and Jane Brody
One word to describe our food system: A disgrace
One word to describe our healthcare system: An even worse disgrace
Your favorite food: Peaches
Your breakfast this morning: Fresh Carrot Juice with Ginger, Arugula Salad with Quinoa and Avocado drizzled with Olive Oil and topped with raw watermelon seeds.
Your last meal on earth: Linguine Vongole prior to diagnosis…and now Oven Baked Sweet Potato French Fries, a glass of a really good Bordeaux followed by a homemade apple tart Tatin.
Must-have healing food/ingredient: Garlic
Food policy, health, food as medicine book, website(s) social media/blog must-follow/read: The Chalkboard Mag and Dr. Axe; Social Media: HB FIT and Juice Press; Book: The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen and A New Way of Eating
Your elevator pitch for food as medicine? Not everyone has a compromised immune system that turns into cancer and life-threatening disease. Each human being and even cancer has a unique profile. However, everyone has cells that can over time and with poor eating habits combined with today’s environment “turn” on them. With this, I am now very aware and cautious of what I put into my body now more than I ever was. I was given a 10-30 percent chance to live past November of 2016. The main thing is to eat as organic simple, clean and as balanced as possible. If you can’t find organic, it is important to eat as clean and natural as one can. If you do eat animal protein meat make sure it is grass fed and truly organic. My produce and vitamins are organic and natural. I fuel my body and soul as natural and organic as I can. I have more energy than ever had in my life and wake up feeling alive and grateful each day. I truly believe in the healing powers of food. It has helped build my immune system back up and gave me vitality and strength. Above all, respect and honor your meals and the choice of others. We are all individuals and should not judge each other’s palates. Spread awareness of eating real foods and the harm processed, fast food and certain animal proteins and dairy can wreak havoc on your body and mind.
Which widespread nutritional misconceptions worry you the most? Protein Powders and Power Bars as meal replacements.
What do you see as the next step for food as medicine? A return to the minimalism. Less is more. The fewer ingredients a product or meal has the better.
Photo credit: Bico Stupakoff
All views expressed herein are those of the Loraine Pavich and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the City Council, Hunter College or the City University of New York.