Beating Breast Cancer

An Interview with Teoh Seok Hean and Eddie Teoh

By Kwok Yingchen

Teoh Seok Hean was diagnosed with Stage 1C breast cancer on 7th March 2012, a few days before her 44th birthday. Like everyone else, she had always thought that cancer was something that only happened to other people. Her doctor recommended three treatments - surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, all of which carried considerable risks and side effects. Seok Hean was determined not to undergo conventional treatment unless she had no other choice. Together with her husband Eddie, she extensively researched forms of alternative therapy, and learned of the health benefits of a fully vegan diet.

On 11th October 2012, seven months after her initial diagnosis, Seok Hean's biopsy came back with no malignant cells found. She had met cancer head on and emerged victorious.

(Seok Hean's journey is documented on her blog.)

So you were diagnosed with breast cancer on 7th March 2012. When did you decide to become vegetarian, and subsequently vegan?

Seok Hean: It was the very day I was diagnosed. We read up on all the alternative therapies and tried them out right away. I started on a juicing and detox using coffee enema and the Budwig Protocol diet – organic cottage cheese from grass-fed cows blended with flaxseed oil. Later on, I learnt more about the health problems caused by dairy products, and I decided to remove them from my diet after 3 months, becoming fully vegan.

Eddie: I decided that I would follow my wife. If alternative therapy is to work, I must support my partner's decision entirely. If I still ate meat, it have would been a lot more difficult for my wife to avoid it. At home, I would just eat whatever my wife was eating. A lot of salads and juice. However, I was still having business lunches outside.

At first, I did not want to tell other people that I was vegetarian. I'd try to order the vegetarian options on the menu when possible, but it can be really difficult to stick to a vegetarian diet if you don't tell other people, like when they order food for everybody at Chinese restaurants. That lasted about 2 months, after which I began to tell my business partners that I was officially vegetarian.

It's kind of natural to go from vegetarian to vegan. When you order food at vegetarian restaurants, there's usually the option to remove the eggs or cheese from the dish. It was really easy to eat vegan, and it just happened after a while.

When faced with cancer, many non-vegetarians are still reluctant to even consider alternative therapy as an option. Why do you think this is so, and what do you think made you different?

Seok Hean: We're raised in a culture of meat. People aren't ready to just turn vegetarian all of a sudden. In alternative therapy, however, vegetarianism is a must. Of the few people who are willing to undertake alternative therapy, a lot still fail because they do not stick to it all the way. They think they can get away with eating meat every now and then.

As for me, I was uncomfortable with chemotherapy and radiation therapy right from the beginning. I was afraid that I'd only hurt my body more, and I did not enjoy going to the hospital and talking to the doctors. At the very most I would consider surgery, but even that seemed like a frightening prospect. Of course, I don't claim to have known, at the time, that alternative therapy was definitely the right option. Healing yourself is a very personal journey, with a lot of help from the Divine.

I don't think anyone can ever be sure that they do not need conventional treatment to get well until they are actually well. All I can say is that I was lucky I had detected it at a relatively early stage, and I was not in immediate physical pain.

The decision would've been a lot more difficult to make if I had detected it at a later stage, or if I had been diagnosed with brain cancer or liver cancer instead, but that's not what happened and I'm really not sure if I would've done anything differently.

My brother is also a Buddhist monk, and he told me to try the Gerson therapy. It's all about eating raw, organic foods and juicing. He also helped me find various documentaries: 'Food, Inc.', 'Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead', 'Cancer Is Curable', 'A World Without Cancer'. Having more information gave me more confidence about my decision to stand by alternative therapy.

What were the reactions of your friends and family to your decision to go vegetarian/vegan?

Seok Hean: I didn't even tell my mom at first! When I initially told my friends, they were very against it, so I stopped talking about it. When I began to get better, they were happy for me, but were still reluctant to recognise the value of a vegetarian diet. We managed to convert a few friends though. They didn't go fully vegetarian, but after hearing our story, they started eating more vegetarian food, and some of them even lost a lot of weight.

Eddie: Putting ourselves in our friends' shoes, we can't blame them. If this had never happened to us, we would probably have also been like that. Thankfully, I had more luck with my business partners. When I told them that I was vegetarian, they were shocked and wanted to know why, but after I told them Seok's story they became very supportive. During future meetings they went out of the way to eat at places with vegetarian options, and ordered vegetarian meals during CNY celebrations and so forth.

Were there any times when you regretted your decision?

(Seok Hean immediately shakes her head.)

Seok Hean: Many people ask me – now that you're okay, will you go back to eating meat again? Of couse not. We don't miss meat.

Back then, I was motivated by an overwhelming feeling of necessity. I was willing to do anything to get better. A healthy diet really did wonders for me. I was quite obese, but I began to lose weight. The scans were getting better. It's hard to have any regrets when so many good things are happening. My only regret is that I didn't become vegetarian earlier. Even if we're just talking about health alone, I still very much fear that I may get cancer again. A vegan diet helps put my mind at ease. And of course, when you go vegetarian you become aware of the many other ethical and environmental reasons that are just as important.

I think the hardest part was with desserts, cakes, pastries and sweets. We used to make fantastic cakes; now our friends all complain that they don't get to eat any more of our cakes! We are learning to make eggless cakes though.

Eddie: Well, my wife had to throw away everything she'd learnt... all the pastry and baking courses and everything. Still, it helped that we don't have any kids, and we genuinely like having meals together. It made things easier.

When did you first feel signs on improvement?

Seok Hean: We did scans every 6 weeks. The first scan had no change. But the second scan 12 weeks in showed the tumour shrinking a bit. I was very surprised because we're all taught not to believe in miracles. But I think we doubt our bodies too much. Nature has a lot of things that are good for us, and our bodies fight very hard to keep us healthy, but because we don't believe that something so natural can be so effective, we become very distrusting.

Eddie: She saw a lot of improvements to her weight; lost 3kg within the first month. I lost a lot of weight as well.

Could you share some of the things you've learnt about our bodies and eating healthily?

Seok Hean: There's just so many bad things in meat nowadays that it's really difficult for meat to be part of a healthy diet. Maybe it was different in the past. Now everything is processed, and there are a lot of hormones and chemicals. When we treat the animals so badly they get sick very often, and we just give them more antibiotics to stop the sickness. The end result is just something that has so much negative energy. Of course, thanks to marketing we don't ever realise it. We see that there are some people who are able to eat meat and still remain very healthy and we think it's their choice, but not everyone is so fortunate. I never thought I would ever get cancer until I actually got it. The best thing to do is to have good health so that you won't even have to see a doctor in the first place. Might as well use that money to eat good, compassionate vegetarian food.

Eddie: In the beginning humans ate fruits and nuts and vegetables, which our bodies were accustomed to. Then we evolved and switched to a meat-based diet, and our bodies tried very hard to adapt to it. And then even before our bodies were fully adapted we switched to a diet of processed food and meats, and our bodies struggled even harder. But this seems to be the limit. That's why there are so many allergies and chronic diseases today. (Here's an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that supports what Eddie has said.)

Also, take responsibility for your own body and don't keep depending on external medicine.hinghinging berse, l of?

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