Guest Author - Emma Scott-Olubamise
I’m going to throw some serious shade on one of our favorite plants, the soy bean. It is everywhere. If you drive through any rural area you’ll see fields full of soy beans. Look in your cabinets. I promise, it won’t take a minute. Who knew soy is in calorie free, water flavoring or instant pudding? Or cream of mushroom soup? And chocolate?
Does it matter? Well, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I sucked in as much information as rationally and clearly as I could. I was attentive, which anyone knows me is not my style. I’d been inquisitive, deferential yet assertive. I digested statistics, which, is definitely not my bailiwick. I explored every treatment option, chemotherapy, radiation and nutritional interventions. I kept my wit and my wits about me. I joked that this would finally be my chance at a free “boob job”. I released my righteous indignation at the mention that I might want to drop a few more pounds, even though I had just lost 20 pounds. Apparently, statistics show that diet (among everything from soup to nuts) has some anecdotal relation to all types of cancers.
Ready to “fight like a girl”, I chose my options and as I stood and brushed the wrinkles out of my dress, I said, “Let’s get this party started. I’ve got to pick up some items before chemo that were on the “list”. “Oh, one more thing”, my oncologist noted as I reached for my purse, “you might want to stay away from soy”. My head leaned to the side like a dog who didn’t understand a command. “Excuse me”? The decibel level of my voice rose to an unfamiliar pitch. That year I had been adding soy protein to my daily weight loss routine. I was well on my way to losing weight; eating right, running and using soy as a dietary supplement. And now, I’m, asking my partner in saving my life, who now is standing there wide-eyed, watching me demand, “What’s soy got to do with it?”
Back to the cabinet. Soy is filler, an emulsifier, a cheap source of oil, it’s cheap to grow. It is also a very rich source of protein. I read it is even being tested for use to make wearable fibers. Since we are frightened by the conversation surrounding animal products, hormones and antibiotics, we gravitate towards the protein in that versatile, little super plant. But is it? Not for estrogen positive breast cancer patients (and no one can know that beforehand, can we?). The soy bean isoflavones and proteins produce phytoestrogens. Simply put, soy appears to helps estrogen positive cancer cells to grow. Why don’t we know that? The research is “unclear”. With all of the money being raised towards cancer research, where is the soy research “unclear”? And why, for the love of God, since it is in everything, don’t doctors tell women to watch their soy intake during our breast exams instead of while we are deciding whether to be poisoned and mutilated? My pink ribbon sister survivors and I want to know. And so do the families of the ones who didn’t make it.