March 10, 2016

Breast cancer, Chemo, Keto and Paleo. A Runner's Journey.

This brave and moving account of going through diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from breast cancer is by Leslie Blood.  You can follow her on Instagram @leslie.blood

My name is Leslie. I am a 38-year-old journalism professor with a passion for nutrition and health research. I was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer one year ago. As an ultra running super vegan, the diagnosis took me, and everyone who knew me, by surprise.

I found out early on that I would need chemotherapy, surgery and most likely radiation. This was devastating for a number of reasons, but I knew I had to do whatever I could to get better so I could continue to be there for my family. I have an amazing husband and two little boys who have been along for my journey into the Paleo lifestyle.

Chemotherapy was incredibly hard. I opted out of steroids, so while I felt like myself, I also felt pretty terrible. By the third round of chemo, (I would need six) I was incredibly anemic. I was still running almost every day and I knew if I wanted to continue I had to change my diet.

Enter Paleo. I had done a fair amount of research on the ketogenic approach to treating certain forms of cancer and decided that the Paleo diet seemed like a reasonable place to begin. I even remember my first Paleo dinner, a ground bison taco salad! 

Ground Bison Taco Salad, yum!

I hated to admit it to myself, but it was the most delicious meal I had eaten in years. It took two weeks of adding in the protein while reducing the grains, but I began to feel more energetic and I was even able to start some light weight training.

None of my doctors could believe I was still able to run and lift. My medical team did not have any definitive nutritional advice for me, so I continued to research as much as I could on my own. I was incredibly confused by the nutritionist’s “everything in moderation” approach since I was pretty sure by this point that cutting out refined carbohydrates had helped lessen my fatigue and bowel inflammation.

No one likes a comeback story more than me. I love seeing people rise up better than before and I just did my best to picture this for my future. I would sleep in my running shoes and workout clothes so that I could roll out of bed and go seize the day before I had time to register how scared I was.

Sleeping in running shoes

After completing six rounds of chemotherapy, I had a double mastectomy without reconstruction in September of 2015. I knew if I took good care of myself through exercise and diet there was a chance I may even come out of this nightmare a new and improved version of myself.

Slowly but surely I started following Paleo Instagram feeds. I was so inspired by all the body positivity and cool recipe ideas. I was disappointed when my medical team recommended radiation, but I knew with my new diet the time it took me to heal would be minimal. I was right.

I know that there is no one solution for every one. I also know I am still new to this way of life and so there are many aspects of how and why Paleo works that I am still in discovering.

I am my own research subject in this case though, and I cannot deny how much my health has improved after going Paleo. I run less than I did before, lift more than I did before, and even without breasts, feel more confident in my body than I did before.

I think that is the most meaningful part of my journey. I have more respect for myself and my body now. I do not want to run myself into the ground and eat things that hurt my health. I want to honor what works and let go of all the things that no longer serve me.

I do not know what the future holds. I know I am going to do whatever I can to keep the cancer from coming back. I am starting to feel like myself again and I know I have significant diet and exercise changes to thank for that.

I am so grateful to the amazing Paleo community that has provided me with hope. I cannot say “thank you” enough for all the inspiration I have found online and been able to apply to my life.

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Leslie Blood


Paleo mama Leslie B is a regular contributor to the Paleo Treats blog. She is a recipe wizard and has two full time testers ready to taste everything she makes. Leslie lives in Colorado and in between raising her testers (aka little boys) and work manages to find time to run in the mountains and write down her best recipes.

Too much reading...
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Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?



June 24, 2018

Leslie, glad you found this. Check out Dom D’Agostino as a starting point, as treating cancer with keto is his focus. Cheers, Nik


June 24, 2018

I also was diagnosed at 38, and while I’m no marathon runner, I am active and love cycling, hiking, etc. As a fellow breast cancer survivor, I’ve been doing online research and watching documentaries about what I thought was the way to move forward (Vegetarian/Vegan) and over the last 2 years have been moving towards that goal. But, my new doctor just blew my mind, stating that Paleo/low carb is the way forward. What?!? How can this be? And so, more research is continuing, which is how I ended up here. Any recommendations for beginners?

Wendy Holmes
Wendy Holmes

June 18, 2018

Thank you for sharing your story. Would love to hear how you’re doing now.


February 07, 2017

Such an amazing story. I’ve been Paleo for several years now and just recently started moving more toward a Keto approach. I lost my Dad to cancer 2 years ago and I’m a firm believer he could have had more time if he would have just embraced Paleo…but he was from a different generation so keep telling your story…it might just reach someone who needs it and is willing to listen.

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