The Ribbon

Happy October!  Or, as we breast cancer survivors like to call it: “Pinktober”.

Yes, it is breast cancer awareness month. (Could we be any more aware?) And yes, you will see pink ribbons everywhere.

I, for one, am not a fan of the pink ribbons. And I’m sure this is shocking to some people.

While I know that all of the gifts given to me the past two years were done so with the very best of intentions and love, I thought I would scream if I got one more item with a pink ribbon on it. I didn’t want to be defined by my cancer and those little pink ribbons seemed to mock me.

Let me just say that there are many great organizations that truly support women with breast cancer, and promote research and prevention. In fact, one of my favorite charities is Ladies in Pink. Their annual event has more pink than you can possibly imagine, and a fair number of ribbons. However, they do a fabulous job of educating (through the guest speakers at their events) and supporting (through their donations to women fighting breast cancer). And I have the highest confidence in their integrity and generosity. In October, a group of my friends will don pink shirts and will attend this amazing event, and I can’t wait!

That said, the more I’ve learned over the past few years, the more I realize that all is not as “rosy” in the larger world of pink ribbons. I find that so much is about profit for these companies (surprised?), and we’ve seen little progress for all the time and money spent. The race for the cure started in 1982 and has raised hundreds of millions of dollars. And yet, we still subject women to poison and radiation as a treatment. While the quintessential pink ribbon organization indicates their mission is about “the cure”, only about 20% goes to researching said a cure.

And my biggest gripe is that there is so little attention paid to prevention. Yes, we need to look for a cure, but shouldn’t we spend at least as much effort in making sure women don’t get the disease in the first place? Have you ever seen prevention covered in any of this “awareness”?

My friend, Jennifer, shared the following link on Facebook today, and it very eloquently explains the issues many people have with the pink ribbons (including those who conceptually should benefit) that will be everywhere this month. It explains things better than I can (or have). From hypocrisy to exploitation, this article covers it all:

Think Before You Pink

The one item that really struck me in the article was the part about “obscuring the harsh realities”. As if those who die every year didn’t fight hard, or “fight like a girl”. The reality is that no matter how hard you fight, you might still die. And the cute pink ribbons seems to fly in the face of that reality.

I’m not saying don’t contribute. I’m not saying don’t race. Just know where your money is going before you do. And if you know anyone with breast cancer, please don’t buy her anything with a pink ribbon. Chances are she already has more than she needs. :)

IMDb: The Ribbon (1987)

Whoosh!

Whoosh!

That’s the sound of September flying by.

I know they say time flies when you are having fun (am I having fun?!?!) or times go faster as you get older (ok, that one is a little more plausible!), but 2014 continues to zip by at warp speed. September has been no exception. I haven’t posted since September 9th, and it actually seems further away than that.

First let me thank all of you who reached out to me during the past week or so. It was nice to be missed… I’m so glad you noticed. It made me feel great, and gave me an even greater desire to get back to writing on a more regular basis.

So, let’s see… what’s actually been happening since I last wrote…?

From a health perspective, there’s nothing exciting to report. (Thankfully. We do not like exciting.) I’ve had no appointments in September (for a change) and I’m feeling pretty good. Except for the continuing nagging pain in the roof of my mouth (sinuses?), all is well. As for that pain, I am planning to go see an ENT and assume it’s a benign issue. That doesn’t mean I don’t panic on the inside… this is life as a cancer survivor. Your irrational brain makes everything a cancer issue until proven otherwise.

We’ve been quite busy with back to school, Meet the Teachers, band practice, a flute gig, and some travel for work, which is its own level of crazy busy. Ethan is doing well with 8th grade, and Dad is still healing from his Moh’s surgery earlier in the month. My hubby is off to see a surgeon tomorrow about a hernia and is distraught that he won’t be able to work out for 6-8 weeks post-surgery. Perhaps this is a much needed rest for his body, as I am of the opinion he works out too hard and too much.

We started a weight loss challenge at work and are currently on week 3. Personally, I’m only at a 1.79% loss so far, but I’m determined. And, a loss is a loss. I’d love to lose 10 pounds during this 10 week challenge. It’s doable, but I need to remain focused. I’m eating all great foods, but still need to watch oils and (yes) cheese… which is still a big temptation for me. I don’t eat a lot of it, but I really need to eat “none” of it!

We tried some new recipes in September…

Vegan Taco Soup – This link is not the exact recipe I used, but it’s pretty close. This was pretty easy to make, everything in one pot, and I served it over brown rice.

Tuscan Bean with Basil Pesto and Mushrooms – I found this recipe in the Wegman’s magazine. It was one of the few recipes I thought I would make. I did eliminate the oil (saute’ in broth or water instead). I really enjoyed this one and it was only 150 calories per serving!

Forks Over Knives Lentil Soup with Cauliflower, Potatoes and Spinach – We liked but didn’t love this one. I can always tell by whether or not a) there are leftovers and b) how long those leftovers last. These sat in the fridge for a few days, so no one was rushing to finish it up.  Including me.

There are a few more new ones coming up this week (if I can get to Wegman’s to get some of the odd ingredients I need). Stay tuned!

IMDb: Whoosh! (short – 2009)

 

Executive Action

I am very excited and honored to report that I am now officially the “executive sponsor” of my company’s health and wellness committees! This means, working with our Corporate Health & Wellness organization, I have oversight of the committees in each of four sites that coordinate activities (health expos, exercise groups, recipe-sharing, etc.) for improving employee health. I couldn’t be more honored to have been selected, since I have been an active member in our local group, and because I’m so passionate about this particular mission. I hope I can use everything I’ve learned these past two years to make a difference.

My first task is helping to oversee our upcoming weight management challenge in the PA facility. I’ll be part of a team myself, having been “stuck” at my present weight for months and months….and months. The weight management challenge is a 10-week contest, based on total percentage of weight lost by teams. I’m looking forward to the sharing of information and the team support to finally get that scale moving again (in the right direction, of course!).

You may think that what I eat, and seemingly how little I eat, that those pounds would be melting off. But since that’s not happening, I thought I would start tracking to see where I might be going astray. I went back to “MyFitnessPal.com” which I had used many years ago. I was pleased to see a lot of improvements to the site, and love the expanded database. I was able to find lots of vegan foods, including Forks Over Knives and Isa recipes! Saves me the effort of manually inputting the recipe information.

Speaking of recipes, we found a new one to add to the regular rotation. Everyone LOVED this one, and I think next time I will need to make a double batch: Isa Does It Cheddary Broccoli Soup. It really was cheddary… with NO cheese!!! OMG, sooooo good! And it’s super healthy with broccoli (cruciferous veggies are great anti-cancer agents) and turmeric (a good anti-inflammatory, also beneficial for warding off cancer). I was hoping to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, but alas, there is not a single drop left.

*****

IMDb: Executive Action (1973)

Dead Meat

Dr. Michael Greger is one of the impressive people I got to hear speak at the McDougall conference back in February. He was entertaining and extremely informative!  Dr. Greger launched and runs the non-profit organization “NutritionFacts.org”. I watched the replay of Dr. Greger’s presentation from the conference about five times, as there was SO much information in it.  And I continue to watch his videos on specific topics they he posts on a regular basis. As he likes to say, “he reads the research so you don’t have to”.

There are about 120 videos on his site just related to breast cancer. The latest is this one that talks about the cooked meat carcinogen “PhIP” (2-Amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine)  and how it not only triggers cancer and promotes tumor growth, but it also increases its metastatic potential.  I posted this on Facebook with the comment “Reason #1001 why I avoid meats in my diet”. I recommend watching it, particularly if you are a breast cancer survivor.

For the record, PhIP is found in cooked beef, pork, chicken, and fish products, although Dr. Greger specifically calls out bacon, fish and chicken.

*****

Speaking of cancer, I wanted to share this “Go Fund Me” initiative to help my high school classmate pay for treatment for ovarian cancer. 6 cm and 8 cm tumors were found and she needs a complete hysterectomy. Because she has limited insurance, they are advising her to do this as a cash payment, and it sounds like they are waiting until she can pay for it before proceeding (which just seems so unethical to me). Any help you can provide would be appreciated, even if it’s just a dollar. Prayers are also welcome. Thank you!

*****

From the kitchen: I’m still loving my spiralizer and tried making spiral potatoes over the weekend. I even “fried” them without any oil. With the teensiest bit of sour cream and bit of salt, they tasted like potato pancakes! Without the sour cream, they tasted like French fries.

Cooking without oil (and, in fact, without adding anything to the pan) seems to be successful if you use the right kind of pan. I am using a non-stick pan that my mom had received as a gift. I borrowed it from my dad since I know he’s not using it, and it worked great!

*****

In my quest to limit oil in my diet, I tried this oil-free hummus recipe tonight. I added spinach to mine, as the optional ingredient, so it came green. It was a bit lemony, but otherwise tasted pretty good. I plan on having some for lunch for a few days.

*****

IMDb: Dead Meat (2004)

Face/Off

Yesterday my Dad had a procedure to address skin cancer on his nose. He’s been an outdoors guy since birth, growing up on a farm and working as a laborer his whole adult life. He is happiest riding around on a tractor. Unfortunately, he almost never used/uses sunscreen. After he was first diagnosed with skin cancer in 2006, my Mom would nag him to wear it along with a hat, but his compliance was short lived.

A few months ago, I went back to nagging him (somebody had to pick up where Mom left off) about a sore on his nose that kept reappearing, in the same spot. He kept brushing it off but I made an appointment with the dermatologist and, sure enough, it was skin cancer again. Luckily, it is basal cell carcinoma which rarely metastasizes. They did still plan the procedure (a Mohs Micrographic surgery) where the doctor plays the role of surgeon, pathologist, and plastic surgeon. They remove the cancer, using a microscope to locate the cancer cells, and do some reconstruction. In Dad’s case, he said they pulled some skin down over the removal spot and stitched it up. He’s quite bandaged up as a result, and he looks like he’s been through 10 rounds with Rocky… left eye is swollen shut and hugely purple. Right eye is just a little purple, and at least he can see out of that one.

Today I got to wondering: if basal cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes, why do they do surgery? (Of course, it’s probably a question I should have thought of earlier!) According to this one article I found, it’s largely due to impact on appearance, both if they continue to grow , or if you need a large portion of your face (or other body part) removed if you wait too long. And, of course, “rarely” metastasizes doesn’t mean “never”.

In the end, Dad is managing well, taking it all in stride, and it’s probably best that we did t.

*****

I finally got around to trying to make carrot dogs at our Labor Day cook out. There are many recipes, but this is the one most referenced in the sites I follow. They were pretty simple: cook until soft, but not mushy, marinate for 24 hours or more, and then just heat up in a frying pan with a bit of the marinade. I thought they were tasty, but a bit salty for me. I think next time, I will use low sodium soy sauce instead of the Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. My brother-in-law and my stepdaughter’s boyfriend both tried them and thought they were pretty good, so I view that as success. I would definitely make them again.

Ethan skipped the carrot dogs and created his very own pescatarian-ovo-vegetarian burger: Portabello Mushroom, topped with a crab cake and some cheese (he used a slice each of provolone and Swiss). Sounds odd, but it was actually pretty good (I had to try it!). He came up with this a few weeks ago, so I had to get all the ingredients for him. He said he’d like to patent it!  :)  Perhaps a future chef in the making…?

*****

IMDb: Face/Off (1997)

Soul Food

August presents a host of anniversaries related to my health. August 13th was the 6th anniversary of my partial nephrectomy to remove a portion of my right kidney and a small tumor. Renal cell carcinoma. My first cancer.

August 24th, as I mentioned, was the second anniversary of my blog.  And today is my 2 year anniversary being free of breast cancer.  At this time on August 31, 2012, my double mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy were complete and I was resting comfortably. The surgery was the easy part of my treatment, and, while I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, I was pain free. I remained in the hospital only 3 days and had my drain tubes out before I left.

I got a whopping two weeks off from work, but I spent it all doing my research.  I watched Forks Over Knives and Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I read Crazy, Sexy Cancer. I made hummus for the first time, tried a sugar fast, built my repertoire for juicing, measured my pH balance daily, started my vegetarian quest, and Googled everything I could think of related to healthy eating for cancer prevention. It was two short weeks but I made the most of it. And I felt fantastic! Chemo and radiation would follow, so the euphoria and high energy levels would be short-lived, but I took advantage of the time to educate myself.

So I mark this anniversary by thinking about how very much I have learned about cancer prevention and healing. To quote one of my favorite doctors, Dr. John McDougall, I truly believe “it’s the food”. And, quite frankly, this isn’t just about cancer. It holds true for any chronic disease. What we eat is the biggest factor to health. Certainly stress, inactivity, and environmental factors contribute to poor health, but it’s important that we nourish our bodies to fight what may come our way. Everything I have read and watched… every testimonial I have heard… and even my own experiences… all point to the food. Nourish your body; nourish your soul!

*****

IMDb: Soul Food (1997)

Renal Dealings

Ok, so yes, there is a movie title “Renal Dealings”… a mockumentary about black market kidneys!  Too funny!

As you probably guessed, the subject of today’s blog is my kidneys. Today was my follow up appointment with my urologist and, after all my tests and his review of the disk from my ER CT scan, he pronounced my kidneys… “beautiful”. Yes, beautiful. Even more beautiful than his own, he said. He can’t even tell which kidney had the surgery (which he says every time I see him.)

My 24-hour urine collection yielded a healthy volume (yes, I did cram for the test by drinking lots of what the day of and the day before the test!), a health pH, and normal levels for pretty much everything. Whew.  So why the ER visit? He can only surmise that I was dehydrated, with high levels of uric acid, and possibly a stone. But, in general, he thought I was doing great.

I love it when I get good news, but dislike having a definitive answer on the pain / ER visit.

*****

At any rate, yesterday was also my quarterly visit with my naturalist and my kidneys were one of the highlights of the discussion there as well.

The biofeedback scan actually showed only one organ out of whack: my pineal gland. This is not surprising since I have been struggling with sleep for a few months now and have trouble getting out of bed most mornings. My pineal gland is just pooped. Melatonin hasn’t worked for in the past, so I’m going to try 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), which helps regulate appetite, mood and sleep, and helps the body adapt to stress. I purchased this a while ago but never took it for some reason. Time to give it a whirl. I may also try “Herbal Sleep”.

And the other thing that showed up was (surprise!) my kidneys. So for that, I will try a “urinary maintenance” blend (key ingredients: asparagus stem and hydrangea root). The hydrangea helps rid your body of uric acid. (I did mention this to my urologist and he totally rolled his eyes, which I expected. I like to see how open my docs are to such stuff…)

Anyway, I will continue to take all my herbals for hormone support, as well as heavy metal detox and lymphatic support. Interestingly, lead came up as my heavy metal this time. We suspect it has to do with inhaling gas fumes while pumping gas the other day, when the fumes were particularly strong for some reason. So be careful when you are pumping gas, keep your head turned away from the gas nozzle to protect yourself from these toxins.

*****

New recipe: Isa’s Phyllo Pot Pie
I couldn’t find a link to Isa’s recipe, but here’s one that’s similar.  Although it took a bit more work than most recipes I look for, I think it was worth it. I didn’t use the seitan (wheat gluten) because it just seems like fake meat. I used chick peas instead.  Ethan called it “chick pea pot pie”!

*****

IMDb: Renal Dealings (2005)