Brand Center: Beat cancer, go vegan

Mechelle Hankerson
Assistant Spectrum Editor

First-year creative brand management graduate student Catherine Dailey left class and drove to the Willow Lawn Chik-Fil-A on Monday at noon, where she found herself eating anything she could.

Nothing was wrong with Dailey, except that she had just finished a month of practicing strict veganism as a way to fundraise for the American Cancer Society in an event sponsored by BrandCenter students, BeetCancer.

BeetCancer started as an idea with first-year creative brand management graduate student Amanda Lane, who has a friend, Jay McCormick, fighting a form of leukemia.

According to the BeetCancer website, McCormick was treated and was deemed to be in remission by July 2010 but relapsed in February of this year. He is currently undergoing more treatment and is scheduled for a bone-marrow transplant on May 6.

Dailey’s father, John was also affected by cancer and is also currently undergoing treatment for the skin cancer that recently metastasized to both of his lungs.

The fundraiser started with three participants: Lane, Dailey and classmate Schuyler Hunt. It quickly grew to include 14 students at the BrandCenter and 15 students from VCU.

“We started talking about different ways to do a fundraiser, and we came up with the idea of empathizing with the people going through treatment,” Lane said.

“We see the firsthand effect (treatment) has on them,” Lane said.

From watching her friend go through treatment, Lane said she has witnessed symptoms including loss of appetite, nausea and change in taste that can occur because of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Typically, most patients experience a metallic taste that can result in weight loss and acute malnutrition that makes it harder for them to fight off potential infections.

“We decided to empathize with that and go vegan for a month,” Lane said. “We’re giving up all our favorite food.”

At first, Lane and Dailey thought they could raise money by allowing people to pledge money depending on how long participants stayed vegan. It was difficult to arrange for this, so they decided that donors could donate a flat fee through their website ( and participants would dedicate themselves to a month of veganism.

Dailey, who has two vegan step-brothers, said that at first, she didn’t feel like a month would be much of a challenge.

“You actually realize how many foods have animal byproducts in them, it’s not just meat and dairy,” she said. “Every day you found some other food you weren’t allowed to have.”

Lane said she started feeling irritable and finding inexplicable bruises on her legs throughout the month.

“The biggest thing that I noticed people experienced was constant exhaustion,” Dailey said.

She added that exhaustion is something typically experienced by cancer patients undergoing treatment.

Dailey said that the month put the experience of patients like her father and McCormick in perspective for her. She said she was often irritated and resorted to eating hummus and crackers because of the hassle of figuring out what she could actually eat but knowing that she only had to endure the strict lifestyle for a month helped her get through the difficult times.

My dad and (McCormick), they’ve been going through treatments for months on end and their symptoms get worse and worse over time,” Dailey said. “I was just hungry for a month, they were losing hair, they got weak, they got sick.”

Despite the physical struggles of the month, Dailey and Lane said they both agree that the gratitude from McCormick and John Dailey kept them pushing through the month.

“Jay’s a 23-year-old man and when he found out (about the fundraiser), he started to cry,” Lane said. “He’s just so grateful and so excited that we were doing it because he’s in Durham away from all of us.”

McCormick is currently receiving treatment at the Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C. according to the BeetCancer website.

“It was almost like, if I can’t do this for a month, why should they have any motivation or inspiration to keep fighting?” Dailey said. “I think that was the whole point of this for us — to show them that we empathize what they are going through and truly appreciate how hard they have to push their body just to be treated for it.”

BeetCancer is still currently accepting donations on through their website. Half of the donations will go toward McCormick’s transplant and medical fees while the other 50 percent will go to the American Cancer Society. Neutrogena cosmetics will match any donation the group makes to the American Cancer Society by May 16.


  1. I cannot tell you how offended I am by this article! You are comparing the choice of an ethical lifestyle to the feeling of having cancer and chemo!? Do you know that a vegan diet and even a vegetarian diet lowers your risk of countless cancers? While I am in no way against ethical fund raising, I found this very offensive. This person must not have been eating right to have bruises and exhaustion. I have been vegetarian and then vegan for 15 years and I feel better than I ever have before and am much healthier than my meat and dairy eating family and co-workers. There are also countless food options for vegans health food and even regular grocery stores, restaurants and so on. Ellwood Thompson even has vegan fried “chicken”!! If you want to prevent cancer stop eating at Chick-Fil-A!!

  2. I’m all for raising money to beat cancer, but to compare veganism with cancer symptoms is extremely ridiculous. I have been vegan for 3 years and have never felt better. I have so much energy, I am eating 0 cholesterol, and I have significantly lowered my risk for cancer, diabetese, obesity, and heart attack. Veganism is the healthier diet by far. Who wants to consumer all the antibiotics, hormones, cholesterol, and chemicals packed into meat? If you bruised easily and felt irritable on a vegan diet, is is because you weren’t doing it right – with any diet you need to make sure you get essential vitamins and nutrients. With veganism, it’s easy – there are tons of faux meats to give you protein, as well as beans, veggies, fruits… any dish can be made vegan! I love curried veggies and tofu, mock pepperoni pizza with Daiya cheese, vegan “chicken” sandwiches with vegan mayonnaise…the list goes on and on! You just need to be creative!

  3. Are you comparing veganism to chemo? While I completely respect the fight of these cancer patients, and think that the empathy part is a great idea, I believe you are making a healthy lifestyle sound like the struggle to overcome cancer which is not even comparable. People choose a vegan lifestyle for the health benefits- one major one being disease prevention. The American Cancer Society itself recommends a plant based diet to lower your risk of cancers- specifically colon cancer. There is also no shortage of vegan foods on the market, or in restaurants, or recipe sights. You can be an unhealthy vegan just like you can be an unhealthy meat-eater. A well rounded and nutritionally balanced diet would have not resulted in exhaustion, bruising or irritability.

  4. I too am incredibly offended by this article. I’ve been following a vegan diet for nearly three years now and the difference in how I feel is like night and day. My energy level shot through the roof. I have none of the ailments I did before when I was eating meat and dairy. I’ve also taken up distance running during my time as a vegan and have completed two half marathons and one full marathon. What the hell were these people eating? French fries and Oreos? Yeah there is such thing as a bad vegan. Gotta eat leafy greens, fruits, veggies, legumes nuts and seeds. This article reminds me of the person who asked me why I torture myself when I told her I stopped eating meat and dairy. Silly humans. Please check out the power plate at A high fiber plant based diet is where it’s at!

    • Slug, I was wondering if I could get some advice from you.

      Last year, the point was for nutritionally-uneducated, busy grad students to give up all of their favorite foods in order to empathize with the fact that our friends and family members going through chemo lost their appetites and struggled to find things that they could eat. So yes, we were literally eating french fries and Oreos! We were 100% BAD vegans. So, naturally, it made us sick. But we have done loads of research on veganism since last year – it has changed the way we look at our own diets.

      We are doing BeetCancer again this year, but changing the concept entirely. Participants will spend one month as vegans to encourage dietary exploration. We want to focus on the benefits of a diet filled with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. There will be lots of discussion about the decreased risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. However we need to make sure we have a lot of resources for our participants to ensure they are eating right – therefore avoiding the exhaustion, irritability, etc. Do you have any more resources that you would recommend? Thanks so much!

  5. I’m trying to become a Vegan (or at least a vegetarian myself) and have lots of friends that are Vegans.
    I also am a cancer patient who had been through chemo etc.
    I am in no way offended by this article. I totally see where they are coming from. It’s kind of like lent & giving up 1 thing you love etc etc.
    Eating Vegan for 1 month is terribly difficult. And they raised money for good causes.
    I highly doubt they were trying to put down a vegan diet.
    I can’t do it for a month myself and when I finally do, I’m sure I’ll be complaining too!
    Give them some credit, it’s a learning experience.

    Please someone say something positive.
    These comments are going to make people think going Vegan makes you crabby & negative and will deter them from doing so.

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