RALEIGH — How many times did your mother tell you to eat your fruits and vegetables? It probably never sounded good when you heard her say it, but it was advice that could save your life.
"I don't think there could be anything more devastating," said Raleigh's Greta Schiffman about the day her doctor declared she had breast cancer.
"I was 43 years old. I had young children, and my first thought was, oh my God. I'm going to die," said Schiffman.
Schiffman fought through the fear, though, and declared war.
"I began to act immediately because I wanted this thing out as fast as possible. I wanted it out yesterday," she said.
Doctors responded with surgery and chemotherapy. Schiffman responded with a whole new approach to life.
Schiffman has been cancer-free for 15 years, but her war against the disease continues. She is determined to do everything possible to reduce her cancer risk, including proper diet, plenty of exercise and taking time to relax and enjoy the things around her.
"The important thing to do (to prevent cancer) is probably what your mother told you to do (like eat your fruits and vegetables)," said Colette Skinner of Duke University.
"You want to eat lots of different-colored vegetables, and the deeper the color the better," said Skinner.
Broccoli, for example, is a cancer fighter. And doctors say we need to pick the right kind of fat to consume. Olive oil is beneficial, and so is the oil found in salmon and other fish. Doctors also recommend two cups of tea a day, and be sure to get enough calcium and folic acid. And if you're a smoker, by all means, find a strategy to quit.
"Work with your physician (to quit smoking). Get your doctor involved and set a quit date and learn from the research that's been done. Don't try to just do it on your own," said Skinner
Add regular exercise to all this, and the American Institute for Cancer Research says you can lower your odds of getting cancer by as much as 40 percent. Schiffman, a cancer survivor for a decade and a half, says that is something worth celebrating.
"Every day I wake up and say thank you for letting me be here! That's how I have lived my life since then," said Schiffman. She calls this her second life, and in many ways, it is richer and deeper than the first.