Sunday, October 31, 2010

Taking Care of Succulents

Even when my pre-cancer brain was functioning at capacity, I wouldn't have remembered the care instructions for my succulent bowl. I'm putting them here so I can find them again and maybe someone out there will appreciate them as well.

  1. Plant in the appropriate soil. Sunshine Mix #4 or #8 or Pro Mix.
  2. Plant in a terracotta pot that has a hole in the bottom for drainage. If the pot doesn't have a hole, make one with a dremel. Terracotta is ideal because it soaks up a lot of moisture and succulents need their roots to dry out.
  3. Through spring and summer, water when the pot becomes dry - about once a week.
  4. Through spring and summer, fertilize with 20-20-20 each time you water with a ratio of 1 tsp to one watering can. Fertilize less beginning in the fall. In September and October, water once or twice without fertilizer. From November until the end of February, no fertilizer at all. On March 1, start fertilizing every time you water.
  5. If you see bugs, used "End All".
These instructions still leave me with questions, some of which were answered at the planting session at Solar Gardens. I remember bits and pieces but will have to look for more information. I do recall that in the winter, its' best to put them in the sunniest spot in the house. Of course, best to watch to make sure they're not getting too much intense sunshine, which can burn them. If that's the case, you can filter the sun a bit with some sheer fabric or set the bowl back from the window a bit. If the roots aren't drying out enough, set your succulent bowl right on top of the register for a while. I also remember something about fertilizer. I think I was told that if the purplish succulents start to turn green, it's because they're getting too much fertilizer. Or is it that they're not getting enough fertilizer? I don't trust my memory.

This garden guide to succulents reminds me that I should replant my succulents every year. I must remember to do that next spring.
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Happy Halloween!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weight Loss Progress

Here's my weight loss accountability report from Wednesday. If you recall, I didn't lose (but didn't gain) a week ago Wednesday. I held at a steady 10 pounds lost. I was okay with that. As long as I'm not gaining, I can mentally manage a holding pattern for a little while. A LITTLE while.

So I was very happy to have lost just a little over 1 pound this Wednesday. While to lose this slowly could seem discouraging, I find that visualizing helps. If I think of a pound lost as a pound of butter, that seems like quite a bit to have lost from my body. Even half a pound seems substantial. Imagine 11 pounds of butter being scraped off my body! That seems like a lot, doesn't it? Kind of gross, but a lot in 5 weeks, don't you think?

Anyway, seeing it that way helps me. I expect losing weight from now on will be a real struggle. I'm so glad I lost quickly that first week just to give me a boost of encouragement. I don't know how much is just me or how much is the Tamoxifen, which I'm told will make it "difficult to maintain my weight". For now I'm still feeling determined. I just hope I can hold on to that determination for as long as it takes to get at least modestly close to where I think I should be.
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Such a Fabulous Gift!

Look what I was gifted with today! It might not seem so unlikely to get a backpack cooler full of beer considering I was visiting the home of my teenage years where beer figured quite largely ... but it's not beer. It's SO much better than beer! It's the kind of medicine that isn't so easy to find in the fall and less so in the winter! It's the kind of medicine I've been afraid I'll run out of soon.

I saw Sandra and Melvin today in Kyle and Sandra told me she "had something for me". Very curious. I hadn't a clue what it might be. So on the way out of Kyle, Lynn and I stopped by and she brings out this cooler for me. Beer? I didn't think so. Whiskey? It being Shelley's beverage of choice ... maybe?

But here's what I saw when I peeked in the cooler! A HUGE bag of frozen wild-picked blueberries!! I am SO THRILLED! I eat about half a cup of them every day and I expect to run out of the ones Kevin brought me back from La Ronge by the end of November. These will sustain me for quite a long time and honestly, I do think of them as medicine and knowing that they're wild-picked gives me such comfort. It means no chemicals. It's not something I thought much about before I had cancer but I've learned a lot since then and I really have learned increasingly to view food as both medicine and poison and, like learning to identify mushrooms for the same reasons, I've been learning which foods are which. Blueberries are medicine. And I appreciate this surprising and generous gift so much!

Sandra told me that Bonnie, who lives in Duck Lake, got them.

And Melvin told me to keep the cooler! BONUS! Thanks so much, Hollstein family! I hope you're eating some of these every day, too.

Everybody ... eat berries, broccoli, and lots of other fruits and vegetables ... eat ground flax seeds (or chia or hemp seeds), and make sure you're taking Vitamin D. Every day!

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"You Picked A Fine Time ... "

Max has grown a lot since I last saw him! He's still a total pup, though. Darrel came by with Max last night for a visit. Darrel hasn't grown ... even though it seems like I haven't seen him for a long time either.

I spoke with Meghan, Dawson and Jack last night, too! On the phone. Dawson immediately volunteered that he had grown a lot! But he'd lost 2 pounds last week when he was sick. I had a nice long "girl chat" with Meghan where we discussed shopping, books, vampires, clothes, and the play she was in among other things.

Today Lynn and I drove to Kyle together to see Cindy and her family. Cindy's Mom, "Lucky" Lucille died quite unexpectedly last week and it was important to me that I be there today. I have so many happy memories of time spent at Cindy's place in high school and I've been so fond of Ponto and Lucille. They were so good to me. It seems to me they were always laughing about something. I say "Lucky" Lucille because she was so remarkably lucky. I think Lucille won more than the average number of draws and I'm quite sure she won much more than she ever lost at a casino. Cindy inherited some of her luck, too. Or maybe they're just really smart. That could be. Cindy's and Bev's kids spoke so touchingly of their grandma and presented such a nice slide show full of memories.

Lynn and I stopped at Mom's when we got to Kyle and then went to the memorial with Mom and Darrel. There were so many people there! They had to bring in extra seats. Jam packed! Aside from family, I really hadn't seen hardly anyone from home since before I had this little cancer set back. I was a little nervous about seeing so many people and under such circumstances when I'm likely to be extra emotional. I can still be a veritable water-fountain of tears when I see people I haven't seen for a long time and throw in my sadness for Ponto and Cindy and Bev and their families, well ... I was feeling a little iffy. But the cool thing about going back to the place that you still consider "home" and where you spent your formative years, the minute you walk back into the community, you feel the warm embrace of that whole community and the care they extend even when you haven't seen many of them for years and years. It reminds me yet again how lucky I am to have grown up in rural Saskatchewan. It's always home. It always will be. I was only nervous for a brief moment when I cried a little more than I would have liked, but after that I was fine. And it's okay to shed a few tears among friends. Where safer to feel a little vulnerable? And really, I felt as strong and as like myself as I've felt for a long time. While I'm still a little self conscious about the visible signs of having had cancer ... such as my freakin' hair ... I'm pretty much over it. As I said to Stan and Scott, I have a lot less hair than when I last saw them ... but then so do they! This past couple of months, I feel life slowly seeping back into my veins and some physical confidence returning as my joints improve, my shoulder thaws, and my weight is starting to drop, even though I still feel cognitively compromised. I was so glad to be there today to see Cindy and her family and to see a whole lot of people from my home ... school friends and their parents, neighbours, former teachers ... so many good people who make me feel welcome, secure, and cared for just the same as when I was a kid. I'm so blessed.

The road trip was nice with Lynn. We had about 5 hours to catch up, do a little speculating and planning ... always fun to get our creative juices flowing. I can't wait until we spring our ideas on Darrel and Kevin.

And now I'm exhausted. It's been a full and emotionally draining day.
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More Halloween Costume Ideas


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inspire Health - Vitamins and Supplements

At the Inspire Health workshop, we were told that on top of an excellent diet for those on a "cancer journey" (which includes those hoping to prevent a recurrence), vitamins and supplements can help. Precise requirements will, of course, depend on individual circumstances but there are some general recommendations.  What I'm putting here is what I learned.  I think their recommendations are covered in their booklet (available at the bottom right of their website - Inspire Health).

The physicians at Inspire Health have developed a pair of basic supplements especially for people with cancer. They worked with the company, SISU, to create them. The supplements include (among other things):
  • Beta-carotene: Promotes immune response
  • Vitamin A: Supports vision and immunity
  • Vitamin C: For immunity, tissue repair, healing, anti-stress
  • Vitamin E: For cell membranes and nerve tissue
  • Selenium: For antibodies and white blood cells. For reduced risk of prostate, blader, colon, lung, breast, and esophagus cancers
  • Zinc: For immune function, T cells, and mucous membranes
  • Co-Enzyme Q10: For mitochondria, energy, heart, immune system, and to counter the toxicity of chemotherapy
  • Calcium: Best along with Magnesium. Prevents osteoporosis and colon cancer.
In addition to the above type of multi-vitamin, there are other supplements and vitamins one should be taking.

There was a lot of talk about the importance of Vitamin D and the research that has been done into it recently. I follow the research on Vitamin D quite closely myself after learning about how important it is and how deficient most of us are. My Vitamin D levels were low but I wouldn't have known if not for my Naturopath who had me request the test from my doctor. Neither my own doctor nor anyone at the cancer centre tested my Vitamin D levels. I find that shocking considering the correlation between it and cancer.  What I have also learned is that some doctors - the more progressive ones - are now including a Vitamin D test as a part of standard tests during people's annual physicals. Some doctors don't and some won't even if you request the test. The doctor from Inspire Health said that if your doctor won't do the test, you should get another doctor. If you've had your Vitamin D tested, you will probably recall that all of your other test results came back quickly while your Vitamin D test results took 3 or 4 weeks. This is because we have to get the test done somewhere far away and each test costs about $90. This is probably why doctors are discouraged from making this a standard test. Just sayin ...

Get your Vitamin D levels tested! Then, if it's less than optimal (which is almost surely the case), supplement as instructed and then, after about 3 months, get it tested again to see how much it's improved. It might take a few tests to get your level of supplementation figured out. As we age, our bodies don't create Vitamin D as well as when we were young.

Someone asked about getting too much Vitamin D and the doctor said that it's very unlikely. Some people are taking 20,000 international units per day and are still not getting too much. If you recall, after my test results came back low, I took 20,000 IU per day for a week and then 10,000 per day for 3 weeks. Now I take 4,000 per day. The general recommendation for everyone (though it is widely felt to be on the low side) is 2,000 IU per day.

Now, about Vitamin D ...
  • It acts as a hormone and gene regulator. It stabilizes cells and prevents tumour initiation and progression. It effects immunity, the nervous system, bone and calcium metabolism.
  • Supplementation reduces all cancer risk by 60%; 78% if continued for more than 1 year.
  • Inspire Health doctors recommend aiming for a blood level of 125 to 175 nMol/L. They recently raised this recommendation from 150.  Inspire Health doctors believe that supplementation with Vitamin D should be part of standard cancer treatment recommended by traditional oncologists and expect it will be quite soon.
Two recent studies (breast cancer and colon cancer) have found that Vitamin D blood level at the time of a cancer diagnosis is highly correlated with survival. Patients in whom Vitamin D levels were high were half as likely to have a recurrence or to die from their disease.

Now, on to "Super Foods".
  • Ground Flax seeds: Its fibre lignans have anti-cancer effects in breast, prostate and other cancers.  (I asked about the possibility of using chia seeds instead and was told that yes, chia seeds and hemp seeds are also "super foods" and are good alternatives). While ground flax seed is something you should take (2 Tablespoons per day - sprinkled on cereal, salads, yogurt, in smoothies), flax seed OIL should be avoided until more research is done. There was an explanation for this -- something about research that was done -- but I don't remember. I have a nut and seed grinder that I use to grind my flax seed (you have to grind it to get the lignans) and it works really slick. But now I'm enjoying using chia seeds which don't have to be ground and they don't need to be refrigerated (as flax seeds do). 
  • Fish oil omega-3 fatty acids (EPA+DHA): are anti-inflammatory and benefit the brain and cardiovascular system as well as help healing from cancer and improving response to chemotherapy. 1,000 mg EPA-DHA per day is recommended. This is equivalent to approximately a third of a serving of salmon. It is especially important to use a good brand of fish oil. Two that were recommended are Nordic Naturals and Nutra Sea. They are guaranteed toxin-free.  I've been taking 1,000 mg for the past year.
  • Garlic: shown to inhibit most cancer cell lines. It also supports cardiovascular health, the liver, digestion and the immune system. It is anti-bacterial, viral and fungal.
  • Lycopene: It is a dietary carotene found in tomatoes and is particularly rich in processed tomatoes. A Mediteranian Diet is high in lycopene. It helps with prostate and other cancers. Some men hoping to prevent cancer take a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce every day.
  • Curcumin: from tumeric (the yellow colour in curry). It is an antioxicant and an anti-inflammatory. It inhibits cancer initiation, progression and metastases. I've been taking a daily curcumin supplement and I asked if I still needed to be taking it now that my chemo is done. I was told that I could quit taking the supplement provided I add a bit of tumeric to my food 3 times per week. Easy to do. I add it to eggs, rice, stir fries.  If one has metastatic cancer, the doctor recommended taking 500 mg 3 times per day, which is what I was taking during radiation and after (since I didn't visit a Naturopathic doctor until after my chemo was done --- silly girl!).
  • Green Tea: It helps prevent many cancers and cancer recurrence. The effect of green tea on cancer cells was called "dramatic".  When asked how much to drink, she said, "as much as you can" and then she said 5 to 6 small cups per day would be ideal. If you're not drinking that much, she recommends a green tea extract, which is what she takes every day because she's so busy she often forgets to drink her tea. That's what I'm going to start doing for the same reason. I find it hard to remember to drink tea during the day. It doesn't come naturally to me - a non-coffee and previously non-tea drinker.
  • Milk Thistle: For liver support, detoxification and regeneration. I've been taking it every day for a year.  
  • Plant Polyphenols: Includes flavenoids, catechins, and anthocyanins, which includes green tea catechins, ellageic adic in pomegranates, resveratrol in red wine, and antifungal pigments in berries. When asked about the wisdom of drinking alcohol, the doctor said that if you are going to have a drink, make it organic red wine because it's the only alcoholic beverage that has resveratrol and organic wines have higher levels of resveratrol. Resveratrol, a cancer suppressant, can also be taken as a supplement. Drinking or eating pomegranate every day is also recommended along with eating berries every day.
  • Melatonin: is a natural antioxidant hormone produced by our pineal gland. It promotes sleep induction and length and depth of sleep. It maintains natural body and hormone rhythms. It increases physiological resilience and increases survival in advanced cancer. It help chemotherapy work better (potentiates chemotherapy). Melatonin has been especially well researched in Italy. It can double survival rate when taken with chemotherapy.  
The goal overall is to strive for an anti-inflammatory state with healthy diet, supplements and vitamins.  Our typical American diet is an "inflammatory diet". It's no coincidence that Asian, East Indian, and Mediterranean cultures have much less incidence of cancer. Once people from those cultures adapt a North American diet, their risk of cancer increases considerably.

When it was time for questions, of course several people wanted to know about using supplements during chemo and radiation. Several people at the presentation, including myself, had been told by our oncologists to please NOT take any supplements or vitamins and to just eat a "normal healthy diet".  The doctor's answer to this question was to say that hundreds of clinical studies have shown benefit in the use of supplements during cancer treatment. There are a couple that should be avoided (beta carotene for smokers with lung cancer, and Vitamin E in head and neck cancer). The outcomes of hundreds of studies have almost always found that the effect was either neutral or enhanced. Many of the studies indicated that antioxidant supplementation resulted in either increased survival times, increased tumour responses, or both, as well as few toxicities.

And there you have it ... all I learned about supplements and vitamins as they pertain to cancer.

Sunday Show and Tell

I was so sad to see the flowers I got from my law firm pals fade but the eucalyptus from the arrangement dried so nicely and I love the way it looks in this vase that Kevin got me many moons ago. It's a nice reminder of good friends. The photo doesn't do the colour justice. The green is actually a beautiful grayed bluish-green. So pretty!

Isn't this a curious photo? A tissue box and a necklace? Well, as you might have guessed upon seeing them together, the necklace is made from beads rolled from strips of this tissue box! I love them! Mom made them. She's been making beads from paper for several years. I'm sure everyone in the community has one! Mostly she has been using the church bulletins and rolling them into beads and then sells them to raise money for the church and charities. One day not long ago I sent her a photo I'd seen online of beads made from cereal boxes. They were bigger, chunkier beads - more to my personal taste. Church bulletins make daintier necklaces. Since I don't have a large investment in real gold and gemstones, what I have is "quite delicate" (haha). With that in mind, I prefer my non-gold and non gem-stone bling to be a little bolder. These chunkier paper beads are my preference. So now I'm saving attractive cardboard pieces for Mom. What a great way to upcycle paper and cardboard! I wonder if Mom has counted how many paper bead necklaces she's made? It would be lots!

After I had admired this particular necklace, Mom gave it to me. And then she hesitated for a moment and thought that perhaps she should remove one bead - the last one on the string. Just by chance, the tiny word "cancer" shows on that bead. It wasn't planned that way but it's interesting that it was the one word from the box, which had a breast cancer foundation promo on it, that actually showed after rolling the beads. I chose to have her leave the bead there.

When Kathy came back from working on the cruise ship this summer, she brought with her a gift from Ricardo! He sent us a few of these beers and some better hot sauce. He said these beers are the kind that you drink on a really HOT day. Since we weren't getting too many hot days this summer, these beers have had to wait. The hot sauce, Ricardo said, is not just hot (like the Tabasco we use) but has flavour, too, as Ricardo describes it. We have been enjoying it! The especially happy news is that Ricardo is going to be visiting Kathy here in Saskatoon again for a couple of weeks in November! Very soon! We'll have to stoke up the fireplace and get the living room nice and hot so we can crack those beer while he's here!

Kevin has been bringing me some gifts from his travels. He brought me Rider loonies from his trip to Foam Lake and he brought me two big bags of frozen wild picked blueberries from La Ronge! I finished up my own frozen blueberries a few weeks ago and was using frozen ones from the store but they were so less appealing than the ones I'd frozen myself. The ones from the store immediately colour my oatmeal and the milk purple. Mine didn't. I was SO HAPPY when Kevin showed up with these ones from La Ronge! They are great. They don't turn my oatmeal purple and it's nice to know they're locally picked. I hope there's some left in the store when Kevin goes back in December because I will need more.

I'm so happy to have this quiet Sunday to recoupe!
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Feeling Productive

Today was the day at home that I needed. Today is the kind of day I need more of. I was able to sleep in. I was able to get all my exercising done in the morning. In the afternoon I ran out to do some errands and get groceries and then did some much-needed housework while I watched that awful Rider game! I got some phone calls in. I took a little break to take some photos outside because it was so gorgeous out. Tonight I got some more work done. Tomorrow will be one more day to make progress on the home front and ... if I have time ... to start toying with a little craft project I've been thinking about.

We are under attack by fruit flies! ICK! I have been slaughtering as many as I can catch. Sorry, Nora. I feel utterly heartless toward them.

Sadly, two of my friends lost a parent each over the past few days. No matter how old we are, we are still children when it comes to our parents. It's a heart-breaking loss. I know.

It's now been one full year since all my joint/bone/tendon problems started and, mostly starting about a month ago, I am feeling so much more human. This is silly, but sometimes I catch myself starting to limp before I realize I don't need to! It's so ingrained that I still can't believe I can move as well as I can! It's not entirely better. But it's a LOT better. I hope there will be more improvements but, if that doesn't happen, I can live pretty much normally with this. And no morphine! Bonus! My shoulders are slowly improving, too. My range of motion is slowly increasing. Now that my shoulders are starting to thaw, I think the exercise is really helping. Previously, my shoulders were so locked, I couldn't see any difference after exercising them.

Now to bed with my book.

Oh, by the way, look at the right panel of my blog at the Halloween countdown thingie. Isn't it neat?
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Accepting Suggestions ...

... for my Halloween costume. Already under consideration are:

1. Larry from the Three Stooges - no costume required except, perhaps, a suit. Hair and and dumb look already in place.

2. A poodle. Got the hair but don't know if I can pull off that much dignity.

3. Richard Simmons. Lord, help me!

4. A brillo pot scrubber.

5. And then there's this. THIS is what I'm afraid might be my next year's look even when it's not Halloween if my hair keeps growing and if these curls don't settle down! EEK!!

I'm looking for even better ideas. Fire away!
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Fat Cell Mutiny

There are still some things in our garden that are thriving. It's nice to see.

Yesterday was weekly weigh-in day. Odd as it might seem, I'm HAPPY to report that I didn't gain any weight! In fact, I stayed exactly ... down to the decimal ... the same. The reason I'm happy about it is because I rather thought I might have gained a little and so not to have gained leaves me still mentally strong. I stayed true to my diet all last week except for going a little off last Saturday night. What's happened, I think, is that all my fat cells have circled fat city with their arms linked and are totally on the defensive. They are determined to not lose another fat city citizen while I, on the other hand, am feeling ruthless and fully intend to decimate the city. They're strong little buggers!! I think I really need to up the exercise quotient. Barb tells me that intervals will boost my metabolism. That means doing 30 seconds of whatever cardio I'm doing at top speed, then 4.5 minutes bringing my heart rate back down and then taking it back up again and so forth for ... well, working up to 30 minutes of intervals. I'll see what I can manage. Mostly thanks to my joints feeling quite a bit better, I can tell that my walking speed has improved. I feel stronger when I'm walking, too. I don't tire as quickly. Initially in September I found it tiring to walk from the parking lot to the office every day but I'm doing much better now. I do have a long way to go, though. But at least I'm on my way.

I'm pretty much exhausted tonight. I felt tired all day and I've felt it building all week. While in general perhaps my fatigue is improving, it still hits me like a truck pretty regularly and is pretty annoying because it means I can't do a lot of the things I want to do during the week ... things I feel I need to do. It doesn't allow me to be the friend I want to be. People have given me so much support during this past year and a half of grief and I really want to be able to be there for others, too.

I was sad to read about Lisa Rendell's set back in the paper this morning. I'd been thinking about her a lot all week and had been meaning to check her blog to get an update. I'd checked it in September and was aware that she was having some issues. Last night while I was awake for a bit, I reminded myself to check her blog in the morning and so it was kind of freaky, given that I was just thinking about her like that, to see the article in the paper. It's not a real surprise to see her name at this time of year ... during the c95 Breast Cancer Marathon which started 10 years ago when she was first diagnosed. I'm sending lots of prayers for Lisa and Will. I met Lisa at last year's Breast Cancer Marathon. We only spoke briefly but we've emailed occasionally ... just words of encouragement and inquiries. She's been so kind and caring. She really is an inspiration to so many.

At some point I'll post more about what I learned at last Friday's InspireHealth presentation. Right now I'm too sleepy. But, in the meantime, this might be of interest to some of you. I found the booklet that we received available online as a pdf from the InspireHealth website. I would really encourage anyone interested in improving their health and resistance to disease, including cancer, to take a look at it and decide what changes you can make in your life to improve your own health. Even if we're living quite healthy lives already, there is always room for improvement.

Oh, and another thing I did that I'm glad I did. I signed up for the weekly email from InspireHealth. It's right there on their website - right column near the top. I got my first email from them today and it was a nice sounding recipe for soup: Lisa Marie's Gingered Apple and Carrot Soup. Even better is that it's nutritional value isn't just calculated, it's explained. I find that kind of information very useful.  The email also led me to this blog by Lisa Marie, which has some excellent nutritional information: Eating it Real.Lisa Marie is an ...
R.H.N. Registered Holistic Nutritionist hoping to inspire people to simplify their lives and eat whole, clean, local food...(at least most of the time).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

InspireHealth - Nutritional Tips for Optimal Health

  • Eat more vegetables and fruits. Ideally, 8 to 10 servings daily.  Choose fresh, local, organic (when possible) and eat a variety of bright colours. For those living with cancer or trying to prevent it from returning, eat something from the broccoli family every day. Eat a pomegranate or drink some pomegranate juice every day. 
    • Eat more Omega-3 fats and less of the other fats, while eliminating trans and hydrogenated fats. Read food labels to know what you're getting.
    • Avoid refined sugars. That would be white, brown, corn syrup, glucose and fructose. Avoid artificial sweeteners.  Instead eat sweet foods like whole fruit, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Try stevia, raw honey, and maple syrup. A little bit of dark chocolate (70% - 90%) is good to have every day.  
    • Eliminate chemical / toxic ingredients. Avoid food with ingredients you can't pronounce - those ones that sound scientific. Avoid processed, packaged foods. Avoid non-stick (teflon) and aluminum cookware. Limit plastics in the kitchen and NEVER microwave in plastics or add hot foods to plastics.  Use glass, ceramic, enamel, cast iron, and stainless steel cookware. Only use microwaves for reheating - not for cooking. 
    • Replace white with brown, such as brown rice and pasta instead of white. Brown basmati rice was recommended for making the adjustment from white to brown. Add grains such as quinoa and other ancient grains that are nutritionally dense. Eat 100% whole wheat breads and try sprouted breads. Avoid most commercial baked "treats".
    • Cook beans and lentils.  Cook large batches and freeze. Soak beans and lentils for 12 hours, bring to a boil, skim off foam, and simmer until soft. Limit soy consumption to tofu, tempeh and miso. These are non-processed soy foods. Avoid processed soy foods, including soy milk and meat/cheese substitutes. Use organic tamari instead of soya sauce.
    • Eat clean animal foods. Use free-range, omega-3, and organic eggs. Choose wild over farmed salmon. Choose organic and grass-fed, non-medicated dairy and meats. Limit cows' milk consumption and avoid processed cheeses. Milk has growth factors intended for babies, not adults. Use almond milk on cereal instead of regular milk. A calcium supplement is recommended. Eat non-homogonized, organic yogurt, which has anti-cancer benefits.
    • Add cancer-and-other-disease fighting superfoods. Drink green tea, eat blueberries (and other berries - they're all very good for us), ground flax seeds (2 Tbsp per day), try shitake muschrooms. Use green superfoods like chlorella, spirulina, wheatgrass, or greens powders. Try bee pollen, royal jelly, and adaptogenic superfoods (I don't remember what "adaptogenic" means - I'll have to look it up).
    • Drink and cook with quality, filtered water. Drink adequate amounts of filtered water. Don't drink chlorinated water. Store water in glass or stainless steel, not plastic. The research on wine is conflicting but generally, if you're going to indulge, choose organic red wines because it's the only wine with reversitol, which is a cancer suppressant.  
    • Drink green tea everyday.  Drink it often.  It is a known cancer suppressant. 
    • Be happy and practice the 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time and don't beat yourself about the other 20%. If you intake enough of the good, safe, health-promoting nutrients, it should counter any effects of the occasional less-nutritious indulgences. 
    At the InspireHealth session, several people asked about taking supplements and vitamins during chemo and radiation. Most of us have been told not to take anything. I was told not to eat too many blueberries, not to drink green tea - to just eat "normally" with no supplements or vitamins. This is contrary to the research that proves that many supplements and vitamins not only help chemo do it's job better but can also provide some protection for your body ... your immune system and organs ... while reducing the severity of side effects. I wish I'd had the help of these doctors when I was going through my treatments. The doctor cited the study, "Impact of antioxidant supplementation on chemotherapeutic efficacy: a systematic review of the evidence from randomized controlled trials", by Block, Koch, Mead, Tothy, Newman, Gyllenhaal (Cancer Treat Rev. 2007 Aug;33(5):407-18). PDF.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    InspireHealth - Fats and Oils

    Here's what I've learned about fats and oils.
    • Eliminate trans/hydrogenated fats. They promote inflammation, which is not healthy and they have been "implicated in the cancer process as well as in many other diseases". These types of fats are best avoided altogether. These include vegetable shortening, most margerines (including 'heart healthy' varieties, which are processed using a refining, bleaching, and deodorizing process involving many toxic chemicals and high heats), and many commercial foods. I've learned through my reading prior to this workshop that inflammation (internal - where you don't even know it's happening) can be a contributing factor in a lot of illnesses, cancer included. Reducing inflammation is one of the goals of a healthy diet because inflammation leads to disease. The recommendation is to strictly limit deep fried foods and commercial snack foods like chips, as well as pie crusts, mayonnaise, commercial muffins, donuts, cookies and baked goods as they typically include highly processed and/or high levels of omega-6 fats. *sniff sniff*  :-(
    • Decrease Omega-6 fats, which have been identified as "promoting the cancer process". We don't want that. Omega-6 fats include common vegetable oils, margerines, and commercial salad dressing - even ones that claim to be "organic" or "healthy". Apparently, in general, we now eat 10 to 20 times more Omega-6 fats in our diets as compared to the previous century. Who knew??!! To avoid these fats, eat out less often, avoid fast-food, and make your own healthy salad dressing. Someone asked about canola oil and here's what we were told -  Organic, cold-pressed canola oil is good but most, if not all, of the canola oils you see on the shelf at the grocery store are over-processed to get that clear, golden colour and to eliminate the actual taste of the canola. And if the canola used to make the oil isn't organic, it's likely to be genetically altered, which is something to be avoided as well.
    I must say, this is where I get a little confused. I'm not sure I know the difference between a trans/hydrogenated fat and an Omega-6 fat. I should look that up because I'm not quite getting it. While they're both not great, the trans/hydrogenated fats are, apparently, worse than the Omega-6 fats. I'm just not sure how to tell the difference entirely. I'll look that up and see if I can sort it out for both you and me. Then again, if this is something you grasp, please explain it to me. Okay, on to what I understand better ...

    Note: I did a little more looking and, while there's a lot more to the discussion of types and sub-types of fats, basically a bit of Omega-6 is good, though we already typically get much more than we need in our diet so it should be cut back. Trans and hydrogenated fats are "man-made fats" and are VERY bad for us.  They should be eliminated. There are efforts being made to have them legally banned altogether. They have such a bad rap and, anticipating that they will be banned in the future, many commercial food companies are eliminating them already.  It's very important to read food labels of commercial foods to know what kinds of fats you're getting.  Here's a little plain language talk about fats that works for me.
    •  Increase Omega-3 fats. Considerable research suggests that Omega-3 fats have anti-cancer effects for many types of cancers, though for prostate cancer sticking to fish sources may be most effective and safest. I don't recall why that is but I think it came up in the course and I just don't remember. It's worth researching on the internet for anyone who is concerned about that. The general recommendation is to eat wild salmon (emphasis on WILD SALMON - not farmed salmon) 2-3 times per week and cook it well below 350 degrees to protect the fragile fat. For those who don't eat salmon, take a fish oil supplement. That's my choice. Use 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds daily - in oatmeal, smoothies, on salads, or other foods. Store flax in a dark container in a fridge or freeze to protect the Omega-3s. I had recently read that chia seeds are as good or better than flax seeds. I asked the doctor about that and she said that yes, they, like flax and hemp seeds, are "super foods" and can be used interchangeably.  I was very glad to hear that because I like using the chia seeds - they're just that much easier to incorporate in my daily diet than flax seeds (they don't need to be ground, don't stick in my teeth, stir easily into my oatmeal, and I can't even taste them). I am, admittedly, food lazy most of the time. I haven't tried hemp seeds but might do that when my chia seeds are gone.
    • Use extra-virgin olive oil for low-heat cooking and for salad dressings. Avoid lower grades of olive oil such as those labeled 'pure', "extra pure', or 'pomace'. Use coconut oil and butter for cooking, particularly high heat cooking. Coconut oil can withstand high heats. Someone brought up the concern raised some years ago about the coconut oil that was used in theatres to make popcorn but the doctor said that studies since that time have proved coconut oil to be a healthy oil. So there! When using butter, the ideal is half butter and half olive oil. It can be stirred together and then refrigerated to use as needed.
    • Eat moderate amounts of healthy fats at each meal (1 to 2 tsp per person per meal). We needs fats to help our bodies absorb the good nutrients in the food we're eating. Several supplements and vitamins are to be taken with oils (so, ideally, at mealtime) as well. I remember being told that I should take my Vitamin D with oil. I take it at the same time as I take my fish oil capsule (1000 mg), which I take because I don't like eating salmon or any kind of fish much. Someone asked if 1000 mg wasn't a big dose of fish oil but the doctor told us that even though it sounds like a lot, it equals about a third of a serving of a piece of salmon.
    • Only cook with olive oil if using nothing more than medium temperature on the stove top and 300 degrees F in the oven. That's the temperature that prevents it from smoking and breaking down.
    • Unsalted, organic butter is a good fat for cooking and eating, in moderation. 
    And that's all I have in my head and notes about fats and oils! Feel free to enlighten, correct or question me. As a disclaimer, I encourage everyone who is interested in this information to take this and then do a little research on your own just to be sure.
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    I really like this little homemade Halloween decoration I saw in a window on my way home from Broadyway on Saturday.

    After a busy week, I had quite a busy weekend, too. Friday night, Kevin and I joined the other Kevin for dinner at Kaos downtown. Saturday, I had brunch with Carol and Pat at the Broadway Cafe and then I did a little Christmas shopping at the Western Development Museum's craft sale. I hadn't been to that sale for years and was surprised at how much it's grown! I found a couple of nice Christmas gifts. Kevin and I went to Kelly and Chantelle's for a lovely party Saturday night. Chantelle had cooked up a storm, I tell you! And not one but TWO flavours of cupcakes! I was very strong and only tried one even though I really wanted to try both. I left the chocoate (I can't believe it myself) and tried the pumpkin flavoured one, which was sooooo good! On Sunday ... yesterday ... I just felt plain old crappy. I felt a little sick to my stomach and was ALMOST sick to my stomach twice but caught myself before it became a full-force tossing of the cookies. I stayed in my pajamas all day ... right through that gloomy Rider game that I watched from the sofa under a blanket ... until 5:00 after which I started to feel better. I think I had just overdone things and needed the day to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. We had invited friends over to watch the game and to stay for dinner but we had to uninvite.

    In general, though, I can feel my energy levels improving, my joints have definitely improved a lot, I have a little more bounce in my walk, my shoulders are slowly feeling better, and though it might be too soon to say for sure, I think the numbness in my toes and feet might even be lifting a little bit! I'm quite excited about that and am reluctant to get too excited just in case I'm only imagining it. I had given up on any improvements in that department having read that if the feeling hasn't come back within the year, the nerve damage is quite possibly permanent. We'll see!

    I need to take a picture of my hair so that those of you who don't see me regularly can see the progress, if we can call it progress. My hair is certainly getting "bigger". It's still curly as can be, though. Really tight perm-like curls. Aggravating! Even though I still think I look like someone who's had chemo, people who don't know what I've been through are starting to think this is the just how I choose to wear my hair! EEK! I don't know which is worse!!
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    I was fortunate to be able to attend a day long session last Friday put on by InspireHealth, who were brought in by Breast Friends. Thanks, Breast Friends!  There were mostly women attending and some men. Attendees were at various stages in their "cancer journey" -- some just diagnosed, some in the midst of treatment, some post-treatment and trying to prevent a recurrence or deal with side effects. I think most people there were dealing with breast cancer but there were several dealing with various other nasty cancers at various stages.  The information we were given was SO HELPFUL. It was presented by a doctor who had a general practice for many years before becoming ill herself and, with shock, discovered that she knew lots about disease, diagnosis, procedures, and pharmaceuticals but she didn't know how to "make herself well". She didn't know about good health. This realization changed her life and the difference for her, personally, has been phenomenal.
    Located in Vancouver, InspireHealth is Canada's foremost integrated cancer care centre, leading the way through research and innovative cancer care programs integrated with conventional cancer treatment. Since 1997, InspireHealth's medical doctors have helped guide more than 5,500 patients to integrate research-informed natural approaches to health into their cancer treatment and recovery. There is growing evidence that these natural approaches to supporting health and immune system function can significantly decrease the risk of cancer recurrence and increase survival.
    All weekend I've been trying to blog about all I learned, but it's been overwhelming. There's so much.  I need to get it down in a searchable format for my own compromised memory and, while I'm at it, perhaps someone reading this might find it useful as well.  It's too much to write down all at once so I'll just have to write bits at a time.

    I should first say that I would encourage anyone with cancer to make the trip to Vancouver and see one of the physicians at InspireHealth. From my own research, supported by what I learned at this workshop, using an integrated approach to fighting or living with cancer offers the best possibilities. Anyone can call InspireHealth and make an appointment, which usually takes a couple of weeks to get in. There is no charge for someone from Saskatchewan to be treated by one of their physicians. It's covered by our health care.  Your first appointment will be an hour and a half. After that first visit, future consultations and follow-ups can all be done over the phone.  One woman at the session had first visited Inspire Health in 2007 and hadn't been back to Vancouver since but remains under the care of the physician there, who will send her instructions for the bloodwork she's to get done, which will be sent to him/her for review. She's been SO happy with the care she's received, as were other people who were at the session.

    That's the background and the links.  Next I will share some of what I learned.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    I Have Much to Share ... Later

    These flowers are from the bouquet that Sylvia delivered for my breakfast table on the day of the Run for the Cure earlier this month. The roses have faded but the carnations still look lovely!

    I've had a very busy couple of days. Thursday was difficult. I attended the memorial for my friend Alanna's husband, Ron. The whole thing was a truly lovely tribute to the man and true to he and Alanna and their boys. People were asked to wear sport jerseys -- very fitting for such an athlete. My heart aches for Alanna and the boys.

    When I was reading the paper Thursday morning, an article about an "Inspired Health" workshop caught my eye. The article described a full day session right here in Saskatoon about nutrition, supplements, vitamins, exercise and alternative therapies for people living with cancer. It sounded exactly like what I'd been expecting/hoping would have been provided by our Cancer Centre (but wasn't, of course ... not even a little bit). I picked up the phone immediately and dialed the 1-800 number that was provided. I didn't realize that the workshop was TODAY until I got a return call saying as much. I felt it was so important to attend, I jumped at the chance and so I spent my day at Queen's House instead of at work. It was worth it. It was VERY worth it. I so wish I'd had an opportunity to acquire all of this information earlier in my "cancer journey" (as it seems to be called). Even with all of the research I've done, I still have so many questions, doubts, and confusion about many things. This answered so much of that. Over the next while, as I go through the rest of the materials that were provided and that I haven't looked at yet, I'll share some of what I learned. Somebody, at least, might be interested to know some of the ways we can improve our chances of avoiding cancer or preventing it's recurrence.

    Right now, though, I'm exhausted!!
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    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Weight Loss Report

    The plan is working! I hadn't expected to show any loss on the scale tonight taking into account that I indulged in a full turkey dinner where I elected not to choose between potatoes and stuffing and I threw in a little bit of wine and a regular size piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. And then there was my Rider adventure with Carol on Saturday, which included a few non-program items which I chose to enjoy. And still, I lost 1.5 pounds for an exact total of 10 pounds lost in three weeks! YEAH!! It was 10 pounds down to the decimal! I'm very happy! I feel confident that I'll exceed my goal of a 15 pound weight loss by Christmas. I think I'll bump my goal up to 20 pounds. That would be FABULOUS ... and yet only a beginning. I hope I can sustain this, though the only real challenge has been a few minor changes in habit more than anything. Picking up my physical activity level will help a bit, too, I hope.

    Perhaps I lost the weight in my brain first. Man, my memory is screwing me around! I had been SO looking forward to lunch with Berny this week and even though she has reminded me twice (because I keep getting it muddled) about the date, I still got it wrong. Thursday got stuck in my head and I couldn't shake it ... it being a word and not a number. The number 13 just didn't stick! I was some surprised when Berny showed up at my office around 2:00. I knew she was coming in for appointments the day before we were to meet for lunch so I thought this was the day before and that she'd happily surprised me at work. Not so. I had missed our lunch date. She had tried to phone me at home but didn't have my work number, otherwise I would have buzzed over. What an idiot I feel! I'm so relieved that Berny had had the temerity to invite another friend to make it a threesome for lunch so at least she wasn't left there alone. I did that to Lou one day during my chemo phase and I felt pretty rotten about that! So, much to my disappointment, I missed my lunch date. And I'd been so looking forward to it! Jeez!

    This photo is of the stuffed peppers I made this week. I bought a big bag of multi-coloured peppers and so we've had two stuffed pepper dinners and I've had them for lunch, too. I'll be having them again tomorrow and/or the next day, too. Good thing I don't mind eating the same thing more than two days in a row. They're very good and maybe they're as good as the ones I used to make ... which I can't remember how to make ... and I can't remember what recipe I used to use ... even though I looked through all my cook books ... and could only find recipes for stuffed peppers that I knew WEREN'T the ones I used to make. This brain of mine causes me much grief, you see. So I pulled together something using about three different recipes. They were good the first night but I think they were better the 2nd night ... maybe as good as the ones I used to make. I don't care much for peppers most of the time and yet I love eating the whole thing when they're stuffed and cooked. Go figure. And they're an excellent diet meal! If I can remember how I made them (ha!!), I'll post the recipe!
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    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Thanksgiving. Much to Give Thanks For.

    Here is the Acton family gathering after the dishes have been cleared away. No photos when our mouths are full for a change. I sure miss having Hannah and Luke here with us.

    Isn't this a cute floral arrangement?! In a little pumpkin?! So pretty! Created by the incomparable Norma McKercher and left as a little surprise on Don and Syl's doorstep.

    Alexa got new point shoes!

    And she knows how to use 'em!

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