When she got the diagnosis eight years ago, McRae, a preacher’s wife, stood up for her own health and put her faith in “God’s food.”
“When I was 38, I found a small lump in my breast and I went to the doctor,” McRae said. “She said ‘Lisa, don’t worry about it, go home, you don’t have a history of it in your family, I’m sure it’ll go away.’”
Three months later, McRae said the lump grew and she went back to the doctor. After having a mammogram, again, doctors told her not to worry, that it didn’t look like cancer to them.
It was about a week before Christmas in 2005, and McRae insisted on having a biopsy of the lump — she wanted to know for sure if she had cancer or not. Two days after Christmas, McRae was given bad news.
“It went from, ‘Oh, this doesn’t look like you have cancer,’ to ‘Oh my, gosh, you have six months to live, get your affairs in order,’” McRae said. “People put 100 percent faith in their doctors, and you know, they’re humans, they are doing what they know. Sometimes they’re doing their best job, sometimes they aren’t. They’re humans, too. You have to stand up for yourself.”
When she was diagnosed with breast cancer, McRae said she was told to have a mastectomy and “hopefully you’ll live for two years.”
After researching doctors, she found one who agreed to let her fight cancer her own way, while also being treated with chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy.
“I had a lumpectomy,” McRae said. “By having the chemo first, it shrunk the tumor, the tumor was shrunk from like, the size of a gumball, to the size of an M&M.”
McRae had chemotherapy every other week for four months, and 36
rounds of radiation and despite having a “horrible” reaction, she said her new doctor helped her manage the reaction.
“I had a horribly violent reaction (to chemotherapy),” McRae said. “It was amazing what that man did. I got a sentinel (lymph) node biopsy … they took out like 23 nodes, and they found cancer in three of them. So my diagnosis went from six months to two years, to ‘Oh my, gosh, this girl is going to be dead anytime.’”
McRae said when the new diagnosis came back, she started to study more about the effects food could have on the body, and she came up with what she called her “anti-cancer soup.”
“You really have to decide what you believe and what you don’t believe, and what’s good for you and not good for you, and I believe you have to be proactive with your health,” she said. “That’s my No. 1 message.”
McRae said despite cheating sometimes, she stayed away from sugar, dairy, yeast and red meat, which her research had shown were the biggest factors in making cancer cells multiply.
“I went to the store every day, and I put in a big pot with water, sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, fresh garlic. They say, when you combine as many foods together, it has a compounding effect like math does,” McRae said. “So, I put all of this in a (big) pot, and I boiled it, and I did this every day for a year. When the vegetables were all soft, I put the whole mixture into my blender, once it had cooled off a bit, and then I pureed it to the consistency of butternut squash soup. And then I sipped on it all day for a year. I feel like people need to put more value in God’s food, instead of everything that’s packaged. I was getting back to basics, back to God’s food.”
McRae’s husband is a pastor, and they move every few years, depending on where they are needed, she said. Now, her husband is the senior pastor at Canton First United Methodist Church.
The house they were living in when she got her diagnosis gave her a bad feeling, McRae said. They lived in that house for three years, and it was moist, full of mold and mildew, she said. She was constantly sick, and McRae said a woman who had lived there before her had been diagnosed with cancer, too.
“I was miserable the entire three years,” McRae said. “Ironically, my dog, a black lab, was also diagnosed with cancer on the same day that I got my diagnosis.”
A few days after the diagnosis, McRae’s husband was selected to move to another church and they left the house for good.
“We moved into what is now called my healing home,” McRae said. “It had tons of sunshine pouring in, tons of walls with glass sliding doors for ventilation, big open rooms. It wasn’t an expensive house, but it had great energy.”
Within about a week of living in the new house, McRae said she started to feel better after three years of constant sickness.
“I could breathe, I stopped sneezing, I stopped coughing, I stopped hacking, and I could sleep all the way through (the night) for the first time in years,” McRae said. “It was an enormous change.”
Her healing began at the new house, and her fight against cancer did, too. McRae said she was lucky to get to travel to hear seminars on wellness.
“I feel like I was blessed because I had traveled around the world to several seminars, and a lot of times they would have doctors come in and educate us about their perspectives, versus mainstream medicine’s perspective,” McRae said. “I was able to take the information I had learned at all these seminars, and I applied it to my diagnosis. I started doing raw juicing of fruits and vegetables, and I started rebounding on a mini trampoline, which oxygenates every cell in your body. And they say that cancer cannot thrive in an oxygenated environment, and the way you create that is through your diet and exercise.”
McRae said three minutes jumping on a mini trampoline, also called a rebounder, helps to oxygenate the body.
“If you’re in crisis mode, and you’re too weak to jump, if someone puts a chair on the mini trampoline and you sit in it and they bounce you for three minutes, it gives you the same effect, supposedly,” she said.
McRae said in Cherokee, “we have gobs of cancer,” and she wants to start making her anti-cancer soup for people at her church who are struggling with the disease.
“I am very concerned about the community as a whole, and I’m very concerned about the quality of food that they are eating,” McRae said. “What I’ve asked my husband (to help start), is to have a seminar or a meeting where we just share the power and information about what’s worked for all of us (who have survived). About cancer, and how to strengthen your immune system through food, that sort of thing … We want to share the awareness.”
The Budwig diet is a big focus for McRae, she said, because it helped to strengthen her immune system. The diet was developed by a German biochemist who claimed it helped people with cancer to get better.
“When you’ve been given a death sentence, and you’ve beaten it, and you see other people dying around you, you feel a responsibility to do everything you can to help empower people with knowledge, anything that could save their lives,” McRae said.
McRae said she and her husband want children, but they want to wait at least five years after her last chemo treatment to be sure the cancer wouldn’t come back.
They are still trying to decide if adopting is right for them, McRae said. She always wanted five children, and so far they have none.
“I didn’t want to adopt and then leave a child without a mom,” McRae said. “So we’re still trying to figure out if adopting is right for us.”
McRae became cancer-free about two years ago, and said that she doesn’t just feel lucky, she feels empowered.
“I was given a clean bill of health at the end of 2011, beginning of 2012,” McRae said. “I have an extremely high recurrence rate. They say if my cancer comes back, forget about it. I was lucky the first time, they say. Well, maybe I was lucky, but it was also because I was doing all these things to give my body a fighting chance.”