raw approach to recovery
Provo - Shelley Abegg turned to a raw food diet after being
diagnosed with cancer. At right is a biophotonic scanner that she uses to measure the
levels of a person's antioxidant defense. She is running the test on a reporter. (Trent
Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune)
The day Shelley Abegg was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago,
she started planning her funeral.
The first priority for the single mother from Provo was making
arrangements for her then 9-year-old son, Taylor.
"I was shell shocked," Abegg, 47, said. "It was an
emotional roller coaster. I had to stop planning my funeral and crying, and come up with a
That plan would eventually turn her life upside down.
Frightened by the harsh side effects of chemotherapy, Abegg decided to
go against her doctor's recommendations to undergo the drug regimen after her lumpectomy.
"Chemotherapy obliterates your immune system," she said.
"It's like playing Russian roulette."
After much prayer and research, Abegg traveled to the Optimum Health
Institute in San Diego to detoxify her body. During her three-week retreat, she discovered
the importance of eating only raw foods to cleanse and nourish the body. The institute
stresses a raw-food diet -- which has since become popular with Hollywood celebrities such
as Demi Moore -- nutrition education, spiritual reawakening and positive mental exercises.
When Abegg returned, she simplified her hectic life, working less at
her mortgage business in favor of spending more time on herself and with Taylor. She
focused on nutrition, prayer and a positive attitude.
But she faced much criticism.
"Here I was this capable, successful businesswoman and everyone
was questioning my decision not to undergo chemo," she said. "Several people
asked me if I was doing the right thing."
Despite the speculation, Abegg pushed on in her quest to heal herself.
She sought out everything she could get her hands on about raw food diets. But at the
time, that lifestyle wasn't as trendy as it is today, so Abegg had few resources -- mostly
books and Internet sites -- at her fingertips.
A food aficionado, Abegg experimented with different fruits,
vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains, and made wheat grass juice a staple of her diet.
As the raw-food diet gained more attention, Abegg met fellow raw
fooders and they exchanged recipes and held potluck luncheons.
"We are not hippies or whackos," Abegg said. "We're
normal, everyday people who believe you are what you eat."
After a year on strictly raw foods, Abegg said she feels more energetic
than ever and is mistaken for being much younger than she is.
"People look at me and think I'm in my late 20s or 30s," said
the former Miss Utah runner-up.
After two normal mammograms, Abegg said she no longer worries that the
cancer will return, because her body has been cleansed and is now getting the nutrients it
She plans to get a mammogram once a year, although some doctors
recommend breast cancer patients get mammograms every six months for two years following
Although going raw takes immense dedication and is challenging, Abegg
said the hassle is well worth it.
"I was addicted to cooked food," she said. "I was eating
so much because the food wasn't nourishing me. The food was dead. Now I eat and can go six
to eight hours. What's really exciting is the change in my moods. I feel so