Marvin, how long have you been Steppin?
Wassup T. Pratt! I wanna thank you for the opportunity to reach out to one of my most endearing and loved group of family and friends! I’ve been Steppin 29 years, ever since I was about 27 years old. I felt I was getting too old to keep “Housing” it up, and the lady I was dating at the time was into Steppin so I started going out with her, and eventually got tired of watching, and asked her to teach me how.
I’m not sure if people remember, but you used to compete some years ago didn’t you?
[Laughing] Yeah, I was “quiet” on the set back then being new. I can’t remember the actual year, but I think my first WLSC was probably around ’97. There was no Beginners Category back then, just Old Skool Original. I remember being on the stage with George Macaroni (Rest In Heaven). That’s probably why nobody’ll remember me. [Laughing] Since then I’ve been in some contests in and out of state. I’ve never placed in the WLSC, but I won 2nd one year at the Chicago’s Largest Contest, 1st in LA’s King Dream Contest, and 3rd place in Rockford’s contest and some 2nd and 3rd places in several smaller contests around town.
It seems like a few years back now that you were diagnosed with cancer. What type of cancer was it?
The official name is Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Oropharynx, or simply throat cancer. I was diagnosed at Stage IV, which is the highest stage, meaning that it was found in multiple places. More than 90% of cancers that occur in the oral cavity (inside your mouth, tonsils and tongue) and oropharynx (down the back of your throat, lymph nodes and esophagus) are squamous cell carcinoma. Your throat and mouth are lined with these flat odd shaped cells that are called squamous cells. Squamous cell carcinoma (Throat Cancer) happens when these cells become affected, mutate and then become abnormal. From the CAT scans, it was discovered that I had cancer on the back of my tongue, my lymph nodes, and my voice box (larynx).
There are several known causes, from cigarette/cigar/chewing tobacco use, to excessive alcohol use. There is a very small percentage of cases from HPV, or Human Papillomavirus. HPV is an infection that is sexually transmitted. ANYONE who is sexually active can get HPV, it doesn’t matter how many partners you’ve had (1 or many). HPV is so common that nearly ALL sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. For the majority of us, HPV has no signs or symptoms … you don’t/won’t even know you have it. It’s a virus, like a cold or flu. Your immune system deals with it and it’s gone with you never even knowing what you had. Also, just like a cold or flu, this is the time it can be passed (Yes, that means kissing or any type of sexual oral contact. If you kiss someone with a cold most likely you will become sick too). There are some of us that could get a strain that can become resistant and develop symptoms YEARS after you have come in contact with someone who is infected.
How did you discover you had it?
I discovered a small barely detectable lump on the right side of my neck one day while showering. Days past and the lump became larger, growing, but still barely detectable. At first I wasn’t alarmed, but after going to the doctor for a routine checkup, I asked about the lump on my neck. The doctor examined it, and scheduled a MRI, which then lead to a CAT scan, which then lead to a biopsy. It was then I learned the results of the biopsy and was told I had Throat Cancer.
What is that moment like immediately after you first learned that you had cancer?
Wow! There were a flood of emotions that came over me the moment that doctor told me the “news.” I was mad, upset, angry, hurt, scared, and confused. The first of emotions came because I was feeling, “How can this happen to me?” I never was a drinker, or a smoker at any time in my life. And I didn’t know anything about HPV at the time. I asked the doctors how could this happen to a non-smoker, and they said at the time that it was probably HPV related. Then he told me the nature of this specific cancer. That this is a slightly aggressive cancer. That’s when the hurt, scared, and confusion came into play. I got the “news” on a Tuesday, and the doctor was trying to pressure me into surgery immediately. He wanted to put together his “team” and have me sign consent forms the next day, to be ready for surgery that Friday!! At first, I was like, “ok,” but after he told me what that surgery entailed, I was mad, scared and confused all over again. He told me that they would have to take out (remove) my tongue, all the lymph nodes in my neck, and my voice box (larynx). I would never eat food again through my mouth, would have to eat through a feeding tube for the rest of my life and I would never be able to speak again. They also wanted to remove ALL of my teeth. Just sign and we can have everything ready by Friday.
Whoa! I can’t imagine being told something like that.
I was mad, upset and angry all over again. I was like HELL NAW! (In my mind … Laughing) and politely told the doctor before I do something as drastic as that, I would need a second opinion. That next week, I got a second opinion, and was basically told although he thought I could possibly make it with just Chemo and Radiation, that there wasn’t any guarantee without the surgery. Again, hurt, scared, and confused, then mad, upset and angry. It was the latter that forced me to start educating myself on what was happening to me. I literally was on my computer EVERY day researching and educating myself on this disease.
You’ve had a full recovery from cancer, but when you are in the storm are you able to appreciate all of the well wishes, Facebook posts, and calls or is it all like a blur?
One thing I’ve always known is that Faith, and Prayer works. In my “storm” I wouldn’t have made it without my strong Faith, and being able to have my friends and family ask (pray) on my behalf for continued healing. Whatever your belief system is, it didn’t matter to me, we all came together and our Faith came together. THERE ARE NO WORDS FOR MY APPRECIATION AND I WILL FOREVER BE GRATEFUL FOR THIS! This is a disease that you cannot do alone! There are various times in your life that you will need the aid of the people that care and love you. I am fortunate for all the family and friends that I have … without you, I couldn’t have gotten to where I’m at. There are specifically a few that really stepped up and was there for me. I don’t know if they want their name out, but please know that I am forever grateful for all that you’ve done! From all the FB posts, to all those who donated to my gofundme, to those who personally helped me with donations and the special food and medications I needed, I will NEVER forget the level of generosity and love that I received in helping me get through this storm. And it’s not quite over yet. I had my last surgery last March, and it was a major surgery (8 hours) where they removed the last of the tumor after chemo and radiation. The biopsy from the removed tumor came back negative for cancer. What that did was put me in a category of NED (No Evidence of Disease). With cancer, there’s always a chance for it to metastasize (spread) once you’ve developed cancer. Chemo and radiation affects (weakens) your entire Immune system which is the main function of your body keeping you disease free. A cancer patient isn’t considered “cured” until he/she goes at least 5 years without a recurrence of cancer. So I still need your constant prayers, well wishes, posts, and calls. The fight continues!
I remember you saying you switched to a raw diet and you believe it actually helped save your life. Before I go into detail, tell me a little bit about the diet. Do you still follow it?
During my “education” on this disease, I came across a lot of information about natural cures. Of course you never hear anything about this, but at this point I had nothing to lose. The doctors that I had gotten second and third opinions all pretty much said the same thing … that I was suffering from a mildly aggressive cancer, and if I didn’t receive treatment, the cancer would metastasize, and it wouldn’t be curable within three to six months. I would die. It was then I was introduced to a Naturopath, and was told to “Immediately stop eating sugar” among a ton of other things. Cause and Effect. Cancer is the effect of a weakened immune system. What causes your immune system to fail can be various reasons. But the human body is an AMAZING creation. Our bodies are designed to heal. When you get cut, that cut heals … when you break a bone, properly set, that bone heals itself. Without getting real complicated, our bodies are born with stem cells, which through nature and cell programming, grows into different and various things which makes up our body. Our body is like a factory, constantly building, creating cells, which then has a lifespan, lives and dies. EVERY CELL IN OUR BODY GOES THROUGH THIS LIFECYCLE and this is why we age. Without the proper nutrients (diet), those cells are missing the proper “ingredients” necessary for proper growth. Just like in a factory, if you use “cheap” or bad materials, you’re gonna get an inferior product. Your body is your factory, you should ONLY be using the BEST materials available. Man, through nothing but greed, has altered what nature has proven to be the BEST materials. We all are as individual as a fingerprint. We have vast differences that make our ‘factories’ different. But there are a host of nature’s ingredients (Natural materials) that overall can benefit any and every one. The ingredients I used consisted of (vegetables) greens spinach, broccoli, kale, carrots, cauliflower, (fruits) strawberries, blueberries, mangos, pineapples, and bananas, (oils) castor, flax seed, and coconut, along with a host of various proteins and supplements. When you apply heat to anything, you change the characteristic of that item. Same with food. Raw spinach, while still spinach when cooked, loses a lot of the nutrients and enzymes associated with the necessities the body needs. If you have to use heat, then steaming is best. I did this diet for about six 6 months raw using nothing but my blender. No soda, no dairy, no meat, no sugar, no flour, no salt, no rice, no potatoes, no desserts or sweets of any kind, nothing but ORGANIC veggies and fruit. It has to be organic, because what’s the point of eating “right” if you’re putting pesticides and chemicals in with it.
I follow a slightly different version of it now. Following chemo and radiation, the inside of my throat, as well as the outside of my skin was severely burned. That’s what radiation does, targets and completely destroys the cancer cells and some of the surrounding healthy ones as well. The rawness of my throat did not allow me to eat anything solid. Chemo and radiation also completely wiped away my taste buds and saliva glands. Over time, a small portion have returned, but right after treatment I wasn’t able to taste anything. Either I couldn’t taste it at all, or it taste disgustingly horrible. To get the necessary nutrients to heal, I had to drink a nutritional drink (Ensure). For several months that was all I was able to ingest. Now, after about six months, I have about 60 percent of my taste back, and I’ve begun making the transition back to solid foods and the diet I’m accustomed too.
I’ve finally worked up the nerve to make a major diet change. I wanted to go raw but the first thing I realized was 1) I didn’t like vegetables all that much and 2) I had no clue where to start. What challenges did you have activating this diet and how did you overcome them?
[Laughing] It’s funny you should say that. I was exactly like you. I hated anything that resembled a vegetable. As a kid I remembered various punishments I received because I wouldn’t eat my veggies. I vowed as a kid that once I got old enough to eat what I wanted, I would never eat any veggies. [Laughing] Well, as an adult, I pretty much did that. Because of my career choice, I was in the streets all day every day. I was a “Fast Food Junkie” with my diet basically consisting of McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Popeyes. Every now and then I would visit some cafeteria style restaurant for a ‘sit down meal’ or a steak and potato. [Laughing] I drank roughly about 2-3 liters of soda a day, along with other liquids like coffee and various Juices.
When I was diagnosed, and after the choices I was given for treatment, I felt I had no choice, and nothing to lose. A doctor tells me that I might have only 3-6 months to live, I was determined to prove him wrong. The first couple of months was very hard … quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life. To go from eating anything you wanted to only eating NOTHING but raw veggies and fruit cold turkey, literally overnight, was extremely challenging. But, I was determined! In my mind my life depended on it. It took an extremely strong will to overcome all the distractions, cravings and withdrawals that I faced. I imagined myself marooned on an island, and the only thing I had to eat to survive was what I ate … veggies. [Laughing] Funny as it seems, that was how I was able to eat the same thing every day for six months. As far as I was concerned, I had no choice. Doing this was crucial to my survival.
You shared something profound with me. You said that food is like a drug, and some people can’t change their diet even if it means saving their life. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Two common components in junk food are sugar and wheat, the two things that seem to be at the forefront of providing us with the plethora of modern Western diseases. There is actual research evidence that these “foods” can cause changes in brain chemistry, specifically involving dopamine and opiate receptors. This leads to a food addiction similar to illegal drugs.
Three different studies (listed below … and there’s tons of research out there) that basically finds the same thing that EVERYONE agrees on…that the sugar in our foods make foods addictive. The “powers that be” know this fact. Research and find out that in the last 20 years, the amount of sugar in our foods has increased exponentially! You will find sugar in just about anything you buy off the shelf. This increase in sugar, and the genetic modification of foods is all for the profit of this country at the cost of your health. Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and a host of other diseases (along with being genetic) are said to be food related illnesses. There should never be anyone dying from these types of illnesses. But the addiction to food is so great that unless you treat this as an addition, you will most likely fail in your attempt to eat the right foods necessary to beat your affliction.
Your battle with cancer has made you somewhat of an expert on the relationship between diet and cancer. I can’t help but think that Black folk set themselves up for health complications that could have been be avoided with a better diet. Flammin Hots and friend chicken can’t be good for our health. What else can you tell us about the relationship between diet and disease?
The battle between diet and disease is a never ending vicious cycle perpetuated by a small group of “elites” aimed at keeping you sick and profiting off that sickness. Is it just me, or have we as Black folks become desensitized to our growing weight problem. Where obesity has become accepted (he/she is thick) in our community? When you eat you are basically ingesting loads of sugar and chemicals that have been proven detrimental to our bodies. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, red, or yellow, each culture has its own genetic ailments that are perpetuated by some form of diet. For some Black folks, a diet of Flamin Hots and fried chicken or just good ol plain “soul food” may pose a problem for today’s less active lifestyle. Exercise is VERY important along with diet for complete overall Health. Most soul foods depend on heavy spices and seasonings (sugar, salt, and lots of butter or fat) for their flavor. Just simply changing up the recipes, exercising and decreasing portion sizes, Black folks can reduce their weight and the diseases that accompany it.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to live like a rabbit. [Laughing] Even sugar is okay if done in moderation. The key word here is MODERATION. Most of us don’t know how much of what we’re supposed to eat. Like I stated earlier, every one of us is as different as a fingerprint, and if you listen to the general consensus of USDA food portions, then you will fall to the same ills as the consensus. RESEARCH and find out what’s good for YOUR body, and with experimentation, you can fine tune and give your body exactly what it needs to be in the best shape you can be. The folks (elites I call them) that make a profit from all of this count on us not being proactive.
You had a successful limousine and transportation company. How challenging is it putting your life back together after dedicating so much of your fighting a disease?
It’s gonna be very challenging, especially financially. Because of the route I took to healing, the majority of things I needed were not considered “conventional” and not covered by insurance. I haven’t been able to work for approximately two years, and covering the cost of healing and trying to live day to day without being able to work has been very stressful. I am now in the process of healing. I had some major stuff done when I went through my surgery in March. I had a pectoral muscle relocated to my neck, which has its challenges and causing me to go through some major physical therapy and rehabilitation. I still have my company, and through some successful business ventures, and contracts in the past, I have maintained a very great relationship with my prior business family. It will be hard, and I’ll have to start from the ground up, but I’m determined to get right back to business as usual as soon as I’m physically ready.
Is there a parting message would you like to leave with the Steppin community?
Absolutely. Several well-known quotes come to mind that literally sum up everything we need to understand about the relationship between diet and health: You ARE what you eat, Let food be thy medicine, and lastly, Don’t Live to Eat, rather Eat to Live. Those of you that have access to Netflix, you owe it to yourself to watch the documentary “Forks Over Knives.” It will definitely open your eyes and give you some great insight on diet and health. Also, become proactive in your own health. Don’t wait ‘til something happens and then have to deal with it, be preventive. We only have one body and one life. Before I got sick, I had got up to 290 pounds, and slightly hypertensive (blood pressure just slightly high enough to be monitored). I didn’t consider myself overweight, I was just thick. I blamed it on society’s unfamiliarity with black folks and they didn’t understand our “thickness, muscle tone and bone structure.” [Laughing] That’s just how we’re made up. Nobody could’ve told me that, because of my diet and weight, I was severely unhealthy, obese, and a walking time bomb. It’s up to you to take care of yourselves … Not the government, not the doctors, not the insurance companies … You. I don’t want to see any of my family or friends DYING FROM SOMETHING THAT I KNOW COULD’VE BEEN AVOIDED SIMPLY BY ADJUSTING YOUR DIET AND MAINTAINING A BASIC EXERCISE ROUTINE. I know it’s hard, believe me, I know it’s easier said than done, but trust me … YOU CAN DO IT! If I (who as a kid, swore to never to eat vegetables in my life) DID IT, I KNOW YOU CAN!!
Lastly, let me add this … When I said that last statement (Dying from something that could’ve been avoided) that is by NO MEANS saying to defer from what a doctor or physician is telling you to do. They have the medical training, the tools, and the resources necessary to help you in any medical situation. What I’m saying is that it’s YOUR job to maintain your health so you won’t even have to see the doctor for anything other than your checkup. Know your body. Keep and monitor your blood pressure, eat right, and exercise, especially if you’re genetically prone to hypertension. Monitor your glucose levels if diabetes runs in your family. Monitor and watch your cholesterol levels if heart disease is prevalent in your family. If you smoke, STOP. If you drink excessively, STOP. There is nothing like going to your physician and getting that “CLEAN” bill of health. And, there’s nothing that can prepare you when you get some BAD news, especially something that could end your life. That’s a rollercoaster ride I promise you don’t wanna be on.
Here are few studies Marvin suggests we check out to look at the relationship be sugar and the brain.
Further, brain scans revealed those who drank the high-glycemic milkshakes had an intense response in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain crucial in pleasure and reward response. This is the same area of the brain that has displayed similar activation patterns with the consumption of heroin and cocaine.
Schaub noticed her daughter missed fewer days of school when they went off sugar, her energy levels soared, and many health problems her and her family had suffered magically disappeared.
It is no wonder that quitting sugar had such a profound effect on Eve’s family. Eating sugar makes you crave more sugar, and experts have described the addiction to sugar as no less debilitating than an addiction to crack cocaine – the brain even processes the desire to eat sugar in the same way!