Things Cancer has Taught Me

Hi friends!

Well it’s been a while since my last post. All is well. In going to my support groups, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since all of this began just three month ago. There are things that I’m grateful for and things that really piss me off. Today, I’ll post about the things cancer has taught me, and I’ll save my rants and raves for another post.

1. When someone you care about gets diagnosed with something (anything), it’s hard to know what to say. For me, I know I would probably cry if I talk with someone about their scary diagnosis, so I know I’ve avoided it in the past. BAD KATIE! I now know that whatever I do/say, I need to do/say something. Whether it is a call, a card, a text, an email, it doesn’t matter, just doing something to show that I care is what matters. Since my diagnosis, so many people have reached out to me (some that I’m close to, some that I’m not close to – even the checker at whole foods gave me a hug!!) and I have learned that people just want to know that others are rooting for them in their time of need. Obviously, I have the best team ever, because I am constantly reminded of this. This was lesson number one and a lesson I needed to learn.

2. Don’t take a single moment for granted. While I know that I am going to be cancer free very soon and I am going to live a long and healthy life, hearing “it’s cancer” makes you think about your mortality. After one of my first doctors appointments, I had dinner with friends and family because I wanted to spend as much time as I have with people that are important to me. I remembering telling Jim, “Life is for living” which to means that I’d like to spend as much time as I can doing the things I love and spending time with the people I love.

3. Everything is normal, until it’s not. That was on a billboard about strokes that I used to pass on my way to/from Bauman College. For the first few weeks after my diagnosis, that saying came back to me many times because it definitely suited the situation. I feel like, at times, I took my health for granted, and once I was no longer healthy I wished that I had been better to myself (eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.).

4. Get off my butt and exercise! I know that I am totally guilty of complaining about not wanting to workout or exercise after a long day of work or just because I’m feeling lazy. But now that my ability to exercise has been very limited, I wish so badly that I could go for a run, bike ride, hike, or swim. Looking into the future, when I feel like skipping out on my exercise, I’m going to remember this time and make myself do it. PLUS, exercise is super important in disease prevention/reduction of symptoms.

5. It’s okay to cry. Whenever. For whatever reason(s).

6. The people that are most important in my life are the people that have been supportive through my time of need. People that haven’t been supportive, aren’t people that I need in my life. True colors….

7. Dogs are awesome. Jax, Zoe, Izzi, and Pismo have been the BEST company to have with me each day. If you don’t have a dog, I highly recommend reconsidering that decision. 🙂

8. Being more grateful. I started my #100happydays project to help me with being more grateful for the good things in my life and the timing for the project couldn’t have been more appropriate. It has now become my #cancerbabeshappydays project and it has helped me to realize that being grateful and appreciating the good things is really valuable. (If you’re not on FB/IG, I try to post a picture of something that has made me happy each day and I include the hashtag #cancerbabeshappydays.)

9. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s also okay to be weak and vulnerable. It’s all a part of life. We’re in this together.

10. I have the best team. I know that I’ve said this before, but I really mean it, and it comes straight from the heart. You all are **AMAZING**. Thank you. I love you.

Well… that’s it. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that I’m grateful for cancer, because well, then I’d be a masochist. And I’m not a fan of the “everything happens for a reason” or the “it’s part of god’s plan” BS either (I’m agnostic). But I am grateful for the person that I’m becoming because of it. I have learned a lot and I know I will continue to do so.

XOXO

Katie

The 52 New Foods Challenge – Cherry Tomatoes

It’s no secret, I’m not a fan of raw tomatoes. I’ve never liked them. In fact, I’m the black sheep of the family in regards to my dislike of tomatoes. With that being said, I believe that one day I will love raw tomatoes [growth mindset]. I do like cooked tomatoes of all kinds (except ketchup, yuck!). I am starting to like heirloom tomatoes in a caprese salad. I think the reason I don’t really like tomatoes is because of their strong flavor – it totally changes the taste of a burger, sandwich, or salad. Jennifer Tyler Lee and I are kindred spirits in this way. 🙂 The other fact that helps me feel justified in not liking raw tomatoes is that unless it’s summer, tomatoes are either grown in greenhouses or internationally, or are grown in Florida (Florida’s “soil” is actually just sand and is void of nutrients). So unless they are garden tomatoes or farmer’s market tomatoes, they are often mealy and are picked when green. The book Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit is fascinating. Highly recommended! Anywho… Jennifer Tyler Lee recommends roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato pops! I recently made a cherry tomato chutney at a Sur la Table cooking class – it was delicious!

Food Facts:

  • They are technically a fruit!
  • Tomatoes belong to the nightshade family (along with potatoes, eggplant, peppers- all kinds, and some spices). Nightshades are known to be inflammatory. Nightshades are commonly removed during a 5-R Protocol to determine food intolerances.
  • There are over a THOUSAND different types of tomatoes and can be a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.cherry-tom-with-logo-1000px
  • Native to South America.
  • The leaves of the tomato are toxic. It was long believed that tomatoes were poisonous because they belong to the nightshade family which houses other poisonous plants (poisonous nightshade and black henbane).
  • Great source of vitamins B6, C, and K, carotenes (especially lycopene), beta-carotene, biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, and fiber.
  • Lycopene content is FIVE times greater in cooked tomatoes because cooking causes the cell walls to burst and “free” the lycopene. Also, the redder and riper the tomato, the more lycopene content.
  • Lycopene in particular has been shown to protect against cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate. Additionally, it has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
  • Highest levels of vitamin C can be obtained from raw tomatoes.
  • Fully ripe tomatoes cannot be shipped long distances. Therefore they are picked when underripe and then gassed with ethylene. You probably know what I’m going to say here….buy them at a local farmer’s market, CSA, or grown your own!
  • Cherry tomatoes have more lycopene per ounce and are sweeter and more flavorful than their larger counterparts. Smaller is better!

From The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipesby Jennifer Tyler Lee, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Healthby Jo Robinson, Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Tonia Reinhard, and Superfoods: The Healthiest Foods on the Planetby Michael Murray, Joseph Pizzorno, and Lara Pizzorno.

July 2014 Book of the Month – AntiCancer

July’s Clean Eating book of the the month: Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PHD. In the wake of my Breast Cancer diagnosis in 2014, I read as many books on cancer as I could get my hands on. I’m sure I’m not alone here. Anticancer was by far my favorite.  In this *five strawberry* book, Servan-SchreibScreen Shot 2016-06-24 at 5.28.40 PMer tells readers what they can do to help keep cancer at bay, keep it from coming back, or to surpass a not-so-optimistic prognosis.

Dr. Servan-Schreiber helps to bridge the gap between what the oncologists are telling patients and what they aren’t telling patients – like what cancer patients can do to help themselves. This is what people diagnosed with a disease want desperately to hear – give them some control and power when they feel like they have no control and no power over this situation. He is an MD and a PHD and a two-time brain cancer survivor– so this isn’t quackery here!

In Anticancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber details his cancer story (or stories, I should say), studies about patients, and several main recommendations. Those recommendations are: 1) eat a diet that includes lots of plants, high-quality meats, low in sugar, low in refined carbs, and low in poor-quality fats, 2) supporting a healthy state of mind through meditation, 3) avoiding the fear hamster wheel by attending support groups, and lastly 4) getting enough exercise.
Servan-Schreiber tells readers that “[c]ancer lies dormant in all of us. Like all living organisms, our bodies are making defective cells all the time. That’s how tumors are born. But our bodies are also equipped with a number of mechanisms that detect and keep such cells in check.” This quote instills a bit a fear in me, knowing that cancer can be happening to all of us, all the time, BUT it also inspires hope because it empowers each of us to know that we have the power to make changes in our bodies and our futures.

A great read for anyone working to avoid cancer in their lifetime, anyone with cancer, cancer survivors, or caregivers. Anticancer gives readers the feeling of some control and power in battling this disease. Highly recommended for everyone!

What will be Your Catalyst for Change?

Many of us want to make a change in our diet, lifestyle habits, or routines, but something holds us back. Maybe because it pushes us out of our comfort zone? Maybe because it takes work to change our habits? Maybe it is hard to fit in the budget? Whatever your barrier is, it is holding you back.

Health complications that typically develop later in life are a result of diet and lifestyle factors that have been accumulating over many years. Think of when a smoker develops lung cancer. When that person develops lung cancer, it’s highly likely that they wish they would have quit smoking earlier or never started smoking in the first place. I would venture to say that the same is true for most major health problems. Whether it is an Autoimmune condition, Cancer, Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, Fibromyalgia, or even Leaky Gut, most people’s first reactions include wishing they had made different choices in the past. The problem with this approach to change is that it is reactionary. It’s filled with wouldas, couldas, and shouldas. It’s also filled with a lot of self-blame and self-hate.

There were three words that left me speechless and petrified. “Katie, I’m sorry to have to IMG_0521tell you this, but it’s cancer.” In the days, weeks, and months following my diagnosis, I asked myself what I could have, should have, and would have done differently. The list was endless: I would have been very strict about my monthly self-exams, I wouldn’t have taken the HRT (hormone replacement therapy) to help combat my cycle-driven migraines, I would have pushed my doctors to get that mammogram at age 30 that I had told myself I would get because I have a strong family history of breast cancer, I would not have taken countless rounds of antibiotics for acne as well as for sinus infections, I would have found ways to manage my stress levels more appropriately, and I would not have taken bottles and bottles of NSAIDs to deal with my headaches. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. (I’m definitely not encouraging people to blame themselves, but to wonder what we could have done differently is only natural.)

The problem with this reactionary approach is that while we can make changes going forward, often times, the damage has been done. However, the bigger problem to this approach is that there are usually warning signs that something is “off” and we ignore those signs. Acid reflux/ heartburn, also called GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) is common and is therefore thought of as “normal”. It is not normal. It is a sign of a bigger issue. Most people just pop a few antacids (a Band-Aid) and continue on with their lives, never stopping to get to the root of the problem. It starts to become “your new normal” and then just normal. And since so many people have it, the root cause is rarely questioned. The same could be said for headaches, stomach-aches (actually, they usually are pains in the small intestine or large intestine, so the term gutache would be more accurate), skin rashes, acne, and other so-called normal problems. These are warming signs that our diets and lifestyles need an overhaul.

Allow me to digress. While reading, The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber I came across the section about sustainable organic farming practices. The farmer that Barber interviews discusses his approach to weed management. Soil is living and filled with microorganisms. Good farming practices ensure the health and fertility of the soil. Soil is also full of micronutrients, when it has the appropriate micronutrient levels, there are no weeds. However, when there are micronutrients missing, weeds begin to appear. Each weed indicates a specific deficiency and when that deficiency is addressed, that type of weed disappears. The overarching idea is that these weeds are indicators of larger systemic problem that can be addressed by adding back the missing micronutrients. Now I realize we aren’t the soil, but let me continue to digress just a bit more. If you extrapolate that idea to humans, it might play out like this: minor health problems (the weeds) are a sign of a systemic problem (nutrient deficiency, lifestyle factors, environmental factors, gut issues, etc.), so to address the minor health problems you need to address the systemic problem and circumvent any larger health problems down the road (a garden overtaken by weeds). Thanks for allowing me to digress. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

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You can stop this cycle. You don’t have to have a frightening diagnosis. You can return to health. I bet you have even identified the “normal problem” that you’ve been mostly ignoring.

Start with that nagging problem. Start a journal to find patterns and trends. See if you can tie your headaches/heartburn/breakout/etc. to a food, habit, or environmental factor (like cleaners and body products). A basic daily journal would include the following:

Breakfast – foods and liquids: _________________________

Snack – foods and liquids: ____________________________

Lunch – foods and liquids: ____________________________

Dinner – foods and liquids: ___________________________

Additional liquids: _________________________________

Supplements (dose and time):_________________________

Medication(dose and time):___________________________

Exercise: _________________________________________

Sleep: ___________________________________________

Relaxation: _______________________________________

Mood/Emotions: ___________________________________

Nagging Problem? Time? Duration? ______________________

After a 3-4 weeks, it’s likely that you’ll see a trend, which can then lead you to a hypothesis. With the hypothesis, you can then seek additional help from Dr. Google, books, your doctor, a chiropractor, a physical therapist, a Nutrition Consultant (ME!), or a naturopath. By choosing to gain control of the nagging issue, you can remove yourself from the path to the bigger and scarier health concern that was down the road.

Obviously I cannot guarantee that because you have a minor common health problem that you are going to get a larger, scarier health concern. No one knows that. But what I can say is that even the minor health concern is negatively impacting your life. Why not make a change and a commitment to feel the best that you possibly can?

What will be your catalyst for change? What are you waiting for? Will you wait for things to get worse? Or will you heed the warning signs that your body is giving you?

Hugs & Health <3,

Katie

DISCLAIMER 

References:

Barber, D. (2015). The Third Plate: Field Notes from the Future of Food. New York, NY: Penguin Books.