One of the biggest goals in life is keeping our kids safe and healthy. We do everything in our power to make sure our kids grow and develop into happy and thriving humans. So, when we heard the words “your daughter has cancer” for the first time in February 2020, I felt helpless.
How do I keep her safe, healthy and protected when there is a beast growing inside her that I can’t control.
My daughter Olivia was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma when she just turned 2 years old. Although I am a physician who specializes in pain management for adults, pediatric cancer was foreign to me. I did not know that there were limited treatments for the type of cancer Olivia had. That only 4% of federal funding was allocated to pediatric cancer research. That through 2020 only 6 new FDA approved drugs have been specifically made for childhood cancer. That the chemotherapy regimen for her cancer was almost the same regimen used over 40 years ago, carrying with it the same high level of toxicity. That only 1 in 5 children diagnosed will survive. That the best way to treat this cancer was to have radiation on top of chemotherapy even at her tender age of 2. That she would be disfigured from the surgery to remove the cancer and had a greater than 85% chance of chronic medical conditions if she survives treatment.
And so, we dove into the treatment immediately, because it was our only option to save her. She had a softball sized tumor growing from her diaphragm and taking over her chest wall, collapsing her right lung and pushing into her heart and partially collapsing her left lung. For 65 weeks Olivia endured weekly, sometimes daily chemotherapy, and later 4 weeks straight of radiation plus a large surgery resecting part of her chest wall and lung and diaphragm. As she
endured this aggressive treatment, for the first 4 months I watched and supported her the best I could as she fought for her life, skeletal and grey and becoming increasingly weak by the day.
Chemotherapy caused her to develop severe neuropathy in her feet. It ravaged her tastebuds, made her nauseated and made her hypersensitive smells and taste. I was feeding her with the plates we had always used when she was an infant and toddler. Some plastic sippy cups with the silicone lips, silicone and bamboo plates and plastic and silicone utensils. I worked hard to create nutrient dense foods for her to eat so I could get as many calories and nutrients as possible when she did eat. But as the days went on, she started refusing more and more of the foods. One day when I was trying to feed her, I noticed she kept turning her nose away from her cup and from her spoon. I smelled it and realized a faint odor from the dish soap and from previous foods. This was repelling her from eating. I searched for a different type of dishware we could use for her. Glass would not work for us, she was a toddler, they would shatter in a second. And I needed something I could bring with us to chemotherapy as she grazed during the long hours we were there. That is when I came across Ahimsa.
The beautiful rainbow colors caught my eye first, but also the fact that they are easy to clean and sanitize, but most importantly inert and nontoxic.
Once we started using Ahimsa, Olivia started eating again. She enjoyed looking at the colors of the plates and cups and most importantly, she was getting the nutrients she needed to fight cancer. When she would develop mouth sores from chemotherapy, she tolerated the metal spoons in her mouth. It was a game changer for us. From there on, I brought Ahimsa with us everywhere. I packed the cups and trays with us to the hospital and during her chemotherapy days. Our oncologist joked that we were known as the “metal dish ware family”.
We continue to use Ahimsa and love this company for what it and Dr. Mantravadi are doing. It is important now more than ever to focus on finding healthy foods and minimizing toxin exposure for our kids. Olivia underwent genetic studies and ruled out a genetic cause for her cancer. She was born with this. A seemingly random event, but we are learning more now that environmental toxins and exposure to toxins in food, water, and even the air can potentially contribute to the development of childhood cancer.
There is now more research into a link between toxin exposure and pediatric cancer. The incidence of childhood cancer has increased 43% from 1970-2018. 1 in 285 children are diagnosed with cancer before their 20 th birthday.
This large increase alone is an indication this is not just random or just genetics. We want to optimize Olivia’s life to the best of our abilities, and that means feeding her healthy, nutrient dense foods and eliminating toxin exposure as much as we can with a goal of continuing to help her thrive, not just survive. So, thank you Ahimsa, for all that you create, do, and stand for. You have been our game changer.
Christine Anderson, MD