Saturday, 22 June 2013

In memory of a TBC

This week one of the TBCs passed away. She fought a mighty battle right until the end. Her memory will live on.

I do not presume to know my TBC better than any other. I do not presume that I can grasp the weight so heavy on those closest to her. One thing I can be sure of is that this TBC would want others to learn more about Infammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). Out of the TBCs, she was the only one who had this particular breast cancer.

I quickly recall her telling her cancer story. For her, her battle began when she fought for doctors to acknowledge that something sinister was in her body. I recall her frustration. I recall her anger. Certainly, googling cannot replace the need for professional advice. But, surely we can all agree, that sometimes we do need to take our health into our own hands!

Don't get me wrong, I do respect our advances in medicine. But, our doctors are not perfect. Sometimes they do get it wrong. This TBC can be admired for her persistance to fight; even in the early days.

So, for her, I take this opportunity to plead with you to get to know about Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Please have a conversation with someone about it. It's important.

With that been said, there is far more to this TBC than cancer. It is with mixed emotions that I await the opportunity to say goodbye and join in celebration of her life early next week.

As I dance around the lounge with my pink and purple mates (and the blue one), I think of this Tough Beautiful Chick. It is a priviledge to be here, in this moment. In her honour, I will try my best to appreciate each and every moment.

     "Know the true value of time; snatch, seize, and enjoy every moment of it. No idleness, no delay, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today"
                                                                   - Earl of Chesterfield

Saturday, 8 June 2013

A Tribute

It was quite sometime ago that I gained the permission of my chemo buddies to write about them and include a photograph. And, while I admit that I have been totally slack in keeping you up-to-date, I have to also admit that without cancer, my life has gotten very busy again. I'm not sure if that's entirely good...but it's the truth of the matter.

What follows is how I met my cancer buddies. The Tough Bald Chicks. The TBCs.

The first TBC was a friend. When her story of having an operation hit facebook I didn't realise that it was cancer related. I certainly didn't expect to be a few steps behind her. So, via facebook, I shared my diagnosis with her. It was also her who gave me parking tips, prepared me for the large crowd of women at the Breast Clinic and who gave me the warmest of hugs on the morning I was to meet with the team who would operate to remove my cancerous tumour. I am so grateful to have had her alongside me. I even smile to myself when I think of the late night chats we had, sharing our weird and wonderful side effects, because the steroid medication would not allow us to sleep. Thank you, you are an inspiration.

It was this very same TBC, I introduced above, who shared the story of another women who was going through cancer treatment. So, one afternoon , I met her in Breast Clinic. Breast Clinic, it's the place to make friends apparently...

This tall women dressed in colours bounded up to the scales. (Have I ever mentioned that you get weighed in for each chemo session so that they can be sure that they are giving you the right amount of drugs to kill all of your healthy cells but not necessasily you?) She had laughed with the nurse and then bounded back to her seat. It's strange that I recall such detail, two years on, but the truth of the matter is she impacted me. I was amazed at her jovial banter and certainly inspired by this women who hid her bald head beneathe a scarf.  Later, she would share her fears about cancer (we all had those) and yet, her will to fight was so inspiring. Thank you, you are an inspiriation.

I first caught eye of this next TBC in the Breast Clinic. Did I already mention that Breast Clinic is where you make friends? She was beautiful. I thought cancer patients were grey and unsmiling. Well, she broke the mold that I held of cancer patients, that's for sure. She wore a strategically placed trendy hat, so as to hide her loss of hair. What stood out for me though was this woman's great big smile and her contagious laughter. She hadn't just been having a good day either. No matter her circumstances she has always shown an unrelenting desire to laugh cancer in its face. Thank you, you are an inspiration.

When I first sat in that chemo chair, I was close to another women who would later become a TBC. I certianly felt to be the drab one at the chemo lounge. Is it weird that I remember such detail...She had the best wig, very natural, and I remember admiring her boots. Again, I was overwhelemed with the couragious attitude of a cancer paitient and hoped that some of that would rub onto me. This TBC has gone to incredible lengths to promote breast cancer awareness and has sacrificed much of her time to raise funds for cancer research. Wow! Keep up the good work. Thank you, you are an inspiration.

I have to admit that, it wasn't the women who would become a TBC that I noticed first, in this instance. It was her daughter. I'll admit it, I loved her beautiful, long hair and with my hair gone I was certainly having a little hair-envy.  For a couple of chemo sessions, I would see a mother with her daughter sitting by her side. It would certainly take a courageous young woman to sit by their mum in the chemo lounge. But, she did it. She is certianly a testament to her parents. And so, when I finally, officially met this next TBC, I wasn't surprised to find a kind, warm-hearted caring and certianly courageous women. She has always offerend such gentle words of encouragement. Thank you, you are an inspiration.

Then I met the funniest of the TBCs. When I sat next to this TBC, the time went by so fast that I may even go as far as to say that it was my best chemo session ever. To this TBC, thank you for the laughs. You have shown so much courage and strength. And, through it all you have maintained a postive outlook. How do you do it? Thank you, you are an inspiration.

Thank you TBCs. You are always in my heart xxxxx

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

On the edge

In the last couple of weeks, I have made some decisions with regard to my fight against cancer. I have begun oil-pulling, introduced lemon and water to my morning, am confidently sculling apple cider vinegar and water in the afternoons and drinking bone broth as often as I can. There is a method to this absolute madness. 

I guess I should begin with the strangest thing of all, oil-pulling. This is the act of swishing (oh man, this sounds even worse when I try to explain it) coconut oil in your mouth, first thing in the morning, for 10-15 mins. The first time I did it, I gagged until I had to race to the bathroom sink and spit out the chunks of coconut. I was so disappointed in myself. But then, thanks to the internet, I found myself among many others who did the same the first time they tried the practice. Many said that the gagging disappeared by the third round. And so, it was true. I was able to crunch away at the solidified oil, the third time, without gagging. I swish before anyone else, in the house, is awake. I have a shower and get a few things done in order to get my mind off what I am actually doing, pushing the oil through my teeth over and over. I do this because I want to have better teeth. Even though I have always looked after my teeth, it seems that I was doomed to have trouble. All my back teeth are filled, I've had a few root canals and even as I type this I am aware of some more work that I need done. So, not only will my teeth supposedly get whiter but I should be able to eliminate some of the nasty bacteria that hangs about and creates plaque. I had read a few articles about oil-pulling but was finally convinced when I discovered just how many women found themselves with breast cancer not long after having had root canal. I would absolutely recommend you check it out. It's crazy. I am not keen, at all, to be having any major work on my teeth now; and I figure that I should at least give this a go. As you can imagine there are some pretty skeptical people out there. But, I'm going to do it for a while and see if I notice a difference in the coming months. 

After I've rinsed my mouth from the oil-pulling, I then head straight to the kitchen to drink the juice of half a lemon in a glass of water. This is to increase my body's pH. Apparently, cancer cells cannot survive in an alkaline environment. In order to achieve this, it is recommended that one should eat less meat and more soy products. I am not interested in lowering my meat consumption because I feel convicted that I am doing the right thing there; but, soy? Considering my cancer was oestrogen respondent, I really don't like the idea of ingesting something that mimics oestrogen. So, I have found two other ways in which I can raise my pH. I've already shared the first. The second, which I drink in the afternoon, is a tablespoon of unpasturised apple cider vinegar in a glass of water. I do not sit back and relax with a glass of either of these. I take it because I believe it's good for me. And, that's that. At some point, I would like to test my pH. I just haven't got around to that yet. I will mention though that the same week that I began this that I found myself really energised. I have no idea whether this was a coincidence or not. Actually, I have been trying to convince the husband to give it a go to see if he notices anything. 

Finally, bone broth. Last time, I made bone broth I was too disgusted at the thought of drinking it by itself that I resorted to using it as a stock in my cooking. This is quite ok. But, I realise that I can do better than that. I'm also going to give this a real good go. For a few months, I am going to try and drink a cup of this stuff a day. No one will deny the amazing benefits of bone broth. This mineral-rich liquid is just darn good for you. But, I have also found a few sites that reckon it makes you look younger, that it can get rid of your cellulite(!!!!) and so much more. 

Don't take my word for it though. I absolutely encourage you to check out these three practices. Whether you have had cancer or not, you never know what good health is waiting for you.

Let me know how you go.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

I eat fermented cabbage

When we cut out dairy, sadly it also meant that the good stuff in yogurt, the intestines-friendly bacterial cultures were cut out too. This was a concern. 

I soon discovered that there was this Polish recipe, sauerkraut, that had the healthy flora that was missing from our diet. I purchased bottled sauerkraut. The whole family found it tolerable but, I knew that I would have to eventually make my own.  There is one serious drawback though. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage. Think about that for a minute or two. Do you think that you could swallow a forkfull of homemade cabbage that had fermented? I didn't mind the stuff when it came from the store. But, what would mine taste like? There were so many on-line people that pushed how easy the stuff was to make that I eventually took the plunge. 

The recipe from Balanced Bites just seemed too good to be true. I followed the directions. I placed my bottled cabbage on the kitchen bench for two weeks. I waited anxiously. Actually, I couldn't wait for the full 14 days. Today, marked day 13 and I was desperately keen to taste the fermented goods. Well, sort of keen. What was it going to taste like?

The whole family had a taste. It was pretty good. I could not stop smiling at my glass bottle of good bacteria. Anyway, tonight, I also found out that the good stuff in sauerkraut has been shown to be a wonderful preventative for breast cancer! This has made my night. Not only do we now have an easy little recipe that will see the reintroduction of healthy bacteria in our bellies, but it's another cancer fighter. It's a new way that I can actively prevent cancer recurrence for me and it ever touching my children. 

The next item on my "To do" list is bone broth. I'll keep you posted. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Do kids need dairy?

When the husband brought home the idea of us eating, "paleo", I was quickly convinced of the benefits of eating clean. That was until he mentioned that changing our foodstyle also meant eliminating all dairy. As a mother of two small children, I was very reluctant to be going down that path. The food pyramid came to mind, so did thirty-plus years of images of children drinking milk on advertisements to toughen their teeth and bones, and the thought of another food group leaving our house was all just too much. I was happy to give-up the grains, sugar, chemicals, legumes, pasta and rice, but milk was always going to have its place in my fridge.

Well, as you already know, I was eventually convinced of the evils of dairy. After reading Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution and then a search around the internet, I saw that it wasn't necessarily dairy that child one and two required, rather, they needed to be getting calcium. And, surprisingly, they could actually absorb more calcium into their little bodies if we ditched the dairy and concentrated on calcium-rich vegetables. And besides, I was interested to see the children's reaction, and mine, to dairy once we reintroduced it after going without it for 30 days. 

But before I share the reaction to dairy once it was reintroduced, I'd like to share with you three very simple arguments that convinced me to eliminate dairy for 30 days initially. First of all, it has been found that dairy actually provokes an inflammatory response in the gut when consumed; this is no good. Secondly, consuming milk spikes insulin levels; this is no good. And finally, there seemed to be enough evidence that allergies disappeared with dairy; this is good. We had nothing to lose (perhaps a lower calcium count for 30 days at the worst), so I figured it was worth doing. Oh, and there's also the argument that cow's milk is for their babies, and not for humans. That's an interesting argument too. 

When the 30 days were over (actually I think we went longer than 30 days because we all felt so amazing) we treated ourselves to ice-cream. Aside from a sore belly that night, from the sugar, it seemed like the treat was fairly well handled. The next morning however, brought some interesting news. While child two showed no side effects from the indulgence (typical), child number one could be heard sniffing and sneezing in the early hours of the morning. The husband had the same. Coincidence? Did they have a bug the night before that only presented itself the next morning? I was happy to shrug that first incident off. But, since then, time and time again, both child one and the husband suffer with "hay fever" the morning after having dairy. It's pretty unbeleiable. It's a guarantee.

So to answer the question, "Do kids need dairy?" I would have to say no way. Children definitely need calcium. And from now on, their daily calcium intake will come from sources other than dairy. And, I'm absolutely satisfied with that. 

Monday, 9 April 2012

Treating cancer after treatment

Ok, so I lied. I am still somewhat under treatment. I am now six months into my five-year hormone treatment of tamoxifen. Thankfully, I have experienced only one side effect. It's a little embarrassing... My side burns are growing a little more hair than they should. It's not enough to warrant a shave or hair removal cream, but it's there. Oh well. No big deal, really. It's a good thing though because it's a sign, for me at least, that my oestrogen, which was feeding the cancer, is lower.

The tamoxifen is the official treatment. I thought I'd share though the other changes that I have made since going paleo and then going cancer-fighting-mode once discovering I had breast cancer.

This time last year, I was fighting the urge to check that my tumour hadn't gotten any bigger, I was looking into the mirror at the tumourous lump wishing that April 29 (lumpectomy date) would come quicker. I was also eating meat cooked rare, raw, organic vegetables and a diet that was high in fat and low in carbs. My very diligent husband was reading up on as much as he could about ways various individuals fought cancer naturally. Most of these people were in a position where they were not able to access medical treatment. And so, they were forced to do something on their own. For many, many people, cancer disappeared. It didn't come back either. I wasn't confident enough with all of that so I did what they did plus what the doctors recommended. Do I have regrets?

Well, I absolutely believe that I made the best decision with the information that I had at the time. I have a strong feeling though that years down the track I may have wished that I had not allowed the...mmm I have forgotten the two drugs... cyclophosphamide and taxotere into my system. I have freaked myself out a little with my googling of chemotherapy side effects; all of which I was aware of, but now they seem more real. Particularly when, I forget words, can't remember conversations that I have had, stop mid sentence because I have no idea what I was talking about, make commitments and forget about them and then just general vagueness. So, I get that this happens to the best of us. I get that this did happen to me before. But, it's a little too often. And the fact that other cancer survivors tell me that this is what they are experiencing led me to think about including foods that will help. Yep, food can help.

For the past few weeks we have deviated a little...gasp...from our paleo extremism. Our family indulged in a gluten-free pizza (it was funny to see child number two eat this because eating a triangle was a new experiene), chocolates over easter and an ice-cream or two. We even ate a gluten-free naan! Each treat tasted beautiful. But within minutes of them hitting our belly we knew it wasn't worth it. It was during such crazy behaviour that I broke a tooth! I couldn't believe it. But there it is. Another chemo side effect. Chemotherapy weakens your teeth. I don't have the best of teeth anyway, so to know that my teeth are weaker is not good.

I want to be healthy and strong. I want to be able to stop cancer with me. I want to reverse the side effects of chemotherapy. I want to turn my world upside down because ultimately, I don't know what it was in my body that allowed the growth to occur in the first place. So, what follows are some of the ways that I believe I can fight any future cancerours events. I am certainly not stopping here. But, I am making the changes slowly.

Well, you are already aware of my food lifestyle. Aside from booked in events I am gluten, sugar, legume, dairy and grain free. I prepare all of my food from scratch and spend hardly any money at the local supermarket. Rather, I make regular trips to my local butcher and organic farmer.

I have decided to slip in and out of a ketogenic diet. This is not how I eat all of the time. Every now and then I decide to do it for a few weeks. It's simply eating very low carbs. It puts your body in a ketogenic state and it has been proven to be a way in which to fight cancer. The state is not good to be in over long periods of time. For this reason, I dabble in this treatment.

I have elimiated chemicals in my laundry and now use a homemade laundry powder. It doesn't make the whites whiter or the colours brighter. It does clean them though. The pay off is that I am not wearing clothing that has chemicals sitting in the fibres. Am I a little paranoid?

This has been a tough one. Because a change in deodorant, or going without actually effects others. I was using a homemade "deodorant" but found that it wasn't cutting it. I am now going with the Moo Goo brand. It's alright. I also don't mind the edible (for real!) dedorants. They tend to need to be applied again in the day. But, again, using these products means that I am not dosing my skin with chemicals.

Our carpet was cleaned with natural products. This was a complete accident. It just happened to be the choice of the local business that we happened to employ for the job over the last two years. They did a great job with our carpets and I would definietly recommend looking for a company that will clean your carpets with completely natural products.

Another simple change has been in our soap. Honestly, in the past, I have always simply opted for the cheap stuff. Now, I'm looking for the natural soaps. They do smell really nice too.

Ok, so I might cop a bit of flack for this one. But, I'm sticking to it. Unless, I'm going to be in the sun for an extended amount of time (the whole day) I am not wearing sunscreen! The first reason is the amount of chemicals: that's a big turn off. But the other thing that I will miss out on is the vitamin D. Every day, I look to spend, at least, a half an hour in the sun without protection. Chemotherapy lowers vitamin D levels, I need it for my bones and let's face it we all feel so much better after being outdoors.

I am finding this one difficult but I do aim to have eight hours sleep each night. This is a way in which I can limit stress; who needs any more of that?

We all know that exercise is good for us. It's great for fighting cancer too. I avoid regimes that place too much stress on the body and opt for short workouts, nothing longer than 20 minutes and certainly only one session a day. I'd like to be doing this six days a week but as I still fight some of the fatigue (yep) I sometimes do less than I would like.

But that's a key too isn't it? Being sensitive to your own body; knowing when to rest, when to say no to a workout and just having a nap. When I can, I take a nap. And, I never feel guilty or lazy about it.

As a mother of a 2 and 4 year old there are plenty of opportunies for play. This is another way that I can be treating cancer. It relieves stress, it's fun and certainly builds loving bonds.

Finally, and perhaps my lastest addition to my treating cancer after treatment is fasting. There is some serious evidence that fasting is fantastic in keeping away cancer. A few weeks ago, I was skipping breakfast. I have now progressed to skipping two meals a day. So, I know what you're thinking. I have some serious food issues. Not true. Let me finish. If I fast I have to be eating well. In fact, if my insulin levels are doing well I will actually find that I am not craving food. And this has certainly been the case. I have been quite surprised at how I have been able to skip two meals. I assure you that I am not doing this to lose weight. It is purely medicinal. The fasting state is good for your body. Currently, I fast two meals, twice a week. I would love to be able to swap one for a 24 hour fast, but my head just isn't there yet.

Today's post, was accidentally a little longer than I had planned. And, as I read over it perhaps a little disjointed. I hope that I have included all of the ways that I am fighting cancer from returning. There is no doubt room for more ways in which I can fight cancer on a daily basis. And, a year from now, I bet I'll have quite a few more items to add to my list. I don't want a reoccurrence of 2011 and I don't want my children to face cancer. We're going to do everything different. At the age of 30 my body was prime for cancer. Now, as I approach 32 (cringe), there is no room for the c-word.

Take that, cancer!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Food Diary - Day 7

The final entry for my food diary. Well, this week has not been necessarily the best one to show off. I didn't get to include lamb rissoles, coconut chicken, mayo and whole lot of other meals that make up our paleo repertoire. I hope, though, that it has provided an insight into how paleo looks for a family of four. As you will have noticed, there's quite a bit of repetition, repetition, repetition. That is the result of bulk meat purchases and keeping the kitchen time as low as is actually possible.

Aside from peach and pecan scramble our hot nutty cereal is the children's next favourite breakfast. We enjoyed that with banana and local honey on top.

Up and until now, we didn't incorporate honey into any area of our cooking. I would cringe when child one and two would have honey. It has taken a year, but I am now ok with child one and two enjoying treats made with honey, honey in their rooibos and on a spoon by itself. The only condition is that it is local honey. Mark Sisson gave me permission to do this. (Check out his link here.)

Bacon, eggs, vegetables and avocado were on our table at lunch. We filled in the time between that meal and the next one doing yard work. We've become pretty insistent that we all get at least thirty minutes of sunlight (without sunscreen) each day (for vitamin D). And, you may have to try it for yourself, but the change in nutrition has meant that our skin doesn't burn like it used to. I am serious! If you are someone who burns easily, try this diet out and see how different your skin is.

The day finished with Thai red chicken curry and raw cabbage on the dinner plate.

Anyway, that's it for the food diary. I wish I had shown a week where we ate 21 different meals. But, the paleo reality is that, for us, we eat a lot of the same things. We love it though!