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Citrus Heights pastor starts cancer support group after personal battle with disease

Greg Kaiser is pastor of Foundation Christian Church, at 7800 Wonder St. in Citrus Heights. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
Greg Kaiser, pastor of Foundation Christian Church off Antelope Road, was diagnosed with advanced stage three colorectal cancer in July last year. Now, after a year of medical treatments and a dramatic change in diet, Kaiser is forming a support group aimed at helping others fight the disease.

“Although I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, it was good for the soul,” Kaiser told The Sentinel in an interview this month. “I spent about three weeks genuinely not knowing if I was coming up on my last Christmas.”

He said grappling with the prospect of his children growing up without him was difficult, and compared the experience with a soldier in training.

“That was good for the soul in the way that a soldier will tell you hell week was good for them.” he said.

After months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Kaiser said he began to research the role of diet in his disease. His research led him to conclude that his own habits of eating foods low in fiber and high in preservatives may have been a significant contributing factor, he said.

“The highest corollaries for colorectal cancer are a low fiber diet, high omega three, high processed foods,” Kaiser said his research found. “There are very clear correlations. And just because correlation is not causation doesn’t mean that we’re not within ten years of proving it.”

Kaiser now eats what he calls “real food,” things like organic fruit and vegetables, and grass-fed meat.

“Absolutely nothing that comes out of a box, nothing that you couldn’t pronounce,” he said.

Starting his new diet was not only a physical change, but also required an emotional shift to change his relationship with food. Working at a fast food chain when Kaiser was 16 gave him a sense of independence that he said influenced his emotional eating habits well into adulthood.

“The taste of Dr. Pepper, the smell and taste of crisscut fries, all of those were associated with freedom and having my own income and making my own choices,” he said. “I was 35 before I pieced that together with the help of a professional. And I go, ‘holy cow. Before my diagnosis, I could drive into a fast food drive-thru to feel better about myself.’”

His new lifestyle includes fasting and exercise for the pastor, who said making his own choices about what and when he eats is also a spiritual discipline.

“Now I’m going to decide whether to eat, so my stomach is no longer God,” Kaiser said. “If my stomach always gets obeyed, my stomach is God. That’s actually the issue. If your stomach always gets what it wants, you’re not in control of your life.”

With his tumor markers now at low levels, Kaiser said he is healthy enough to resume some normal activities and is starting a support group to help others in their journey after finding there were not as many support groups as he hoped.

“Having been in this journey, and still in this journey, seeing how much how much power there is to be in a room of folks that are in the same boat as you,” Kaiser said. “Nobody wants to be in a lousy boat, but being alone in a lousy boat is way worse than having others in the same boat. Empathy is feeling someone else’s pain; you can’t actually feel my pain unless you’ve been there.”

The first meeting is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 4, with subsequent meetings slated for the first, third and fifth Wednesdays of each month at Foundation Christian Church, which is located off Antelope Road at 7800 Wonder St. An announcement circulated on social media lists the start time as 7-8 p.m.

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