Out of the mouths of teens

Many posts ago, I determined that I’m not smarter than a fifth grader. You won’t be surprised to learn, then, that I have no hope against a ninth grader. I wouldn’t be saying this if I hadn’t had a rude awakening the other night.

I wouldn’t really choose to watch the news, except I like the human interest story at the end of the newscast. On Monday, this story was about a 15-year-old boy who had a deadly baseball-sized brain tumour removed a few years ago. This youngster remains cancer free, although he is long overdue for a recurrence. He and his family believe an extreme diet is keeping his cancer at bay, and his oncologist is cautiously optimistic.

This young man is on a ketogenic diet, which consists of 80% fat (that’s a lot of butter, whipping cream, and bacon drippings, I imagine), 15% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. A ketogenic diet reduces blood glucose dramatically, and cancer cells need glucose to grow. Without glucose, they’re sunk.

This diet is already used successfully with some epilepsy patients who are unresponsive to treatment, but the evidence for its use with brain cancer is limited. Also, the diet is considered a potential adjunct to existing medical interventions like chemotherapy and radiation. But this boy and his family believe in it. In fact, the boy wisely said: “Do you prefer to not eat candy or survive cancer? I prefer to do whatever it takes to stay alive.” There’s maturity for you.

My diet is far from ketogenic, as you know. What is sugar if not 100% carbohydrate? Then there are all those yummy starchy foods like bread, rice, and pasta. I’d last one hour on a low-carbohydrate diet. But if there were research confirming it could keep my cancer at bay, would I do it?

First, I’d need answers to a few critical questions, such as: 1) How many cancer cells are produced by consuming one Jelly Belly? 2) How many cancer cells are produced by eating 40 Jelly Bellies? (I guess I could figure out #2 if I had the answer to #1.) 3) Would the fat in a Jersey Milk bar counter the effects of the sugar? 4) Has anyone developed a palatable ketogenic facsimile of my delicious high-carb challah? 5) How do butter and whipping cream taste unadorned? 6) Speaking of milk products, will my lactose intolerance restrict my fat consumption to bacon drippings? 7) Is there any dispensation for gall-bladderless people like me, who cannot tolerate a high-fat diet? 8) Would I have to maintain my low-sodium diet simultaneously? 9) How about my vegetarianesque diet, as it suits me? Any ideas of how to handle that? 9) With all my current dietary restrictions in mind, could you provide me with a few tasty recipes?

I don’t mean to make excuses, but I can’t imagine a life without Jelly Bellies, chocolate, and challah. I wish I had the strength of character that this young man has. If research shows the benefits of this diet for leukemia patients, I may have to reconsider. In that case, I’ll ask this young man for help; I imagine he’ll have a lot to teach me.

In the meantime, I’m feeling an urgent need for a high-carbohydrate meal. As a concession, I’ll be sure to slather my challah with bacon drippings.

Picture of two braided egg loafs (challah), one with poppy seeds, one without

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