Braveheart

I mentioned yesterday that I was in Connecticut for a few days. I was actually quite privileged to have the opportunity to be part of a panel discussion on healthy eating. The panel consisted of a nutritionist, one of my colleagues who eats extremely well (and is quite passionate about the topic), and me. The nutritionist gave guidelines for a healthy diet; my colleague and shared our personal stories on what led us to our respective ways of eating, along with how we try to make it work in busy lives. There was then a question and answer period where we answered prepared questions, as well as questions from the audience.

I am proud to work for a company that supports and encourages healthy behaviors. The event was very well received, with a lot of great questions. It was great to be able to share my story and to possibly inspire people to take control of their health through a healthy diet. Even if only one person walked away and made changes, it will have been worth the trip.

*****

Also while in Connecticut I had the opportunity to meet with two amazing and strong women who are currently dealing with breast cancer. The first woman, someone I had never met before, has a second instance of breast cancer, but a different type. I have not heard of this situation before. The first cancer was ER positive and this time she is triple negative. What’s scary to me is that this lovely woman has done even more research, eaten a clean diet, and tried more alternative treatments than anyone I know. And yet, here she is, still fighting for survival a second time. Unfortunately, many of the alternative doctors reviewed in Suzanne Somers’ book, Knock Out, require quite a sum of money out of pocket, but she’s still looking into them. What a shame to have to remortgage your house and take loans from your 401(k) just to get alternative medical treatment, because insurance won’t cover it.

When I met with her, I was expecting to provide her comfort and advice, and instead, I was the one who benefited. She encouraged me to get back to juicing in a big way, to look into thermography, enzymes, ave ultra, and pectin. (I’ve got some homework to do!) She also strongly encouraged me to do the coffee enemas recommended as part of the Gerson Therapy. She swears by it, viewing this 20 minutes a day as her relaxation time. It’s supposed to help within detoxing your liver, but I don’t know if I’m quite brave enough for that. (You all will be the first to know if I do!  Although maybe TMI?) It’s been a while since I’ve been on the Gerson site, so it may be time to circle back to that. She also recommended Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

The second woman is someone I have known for several years. She is still dealing with the initial shock of her diagnosis and is trying to get a handle on the overwhelming amount of information that you have to take in. She has had a number of tests this past week and we are praying for good news that it’s early and an easy one to treat.

Both of these women called me on the same day last week and I was honored (although saddened) to be able to talk to them both. I appreciate your prayers for these brave women.

*****

Today I had the joy of another CT scan as part of my kidney follow ups. Yee haw. For the first time, I had to do oral contrast, in addition to the usual IV contrast. I wasn’t looking forward to this since my prior experience is that oral contrast is yucky and chalky. I was pleasantly surprised that the new and improved contrast is a bit like a thin milk shake. I had the enjoyment of a whopping 32 ounces (one bottle before I arrived, and another when I got there) of moccachino smoothie. The taste was good, but the bloating is not!

I tried to get some information on why my doctor requested the oral contrast, since I never had it before, but I couldn’t get an answer. Guess I’ll have to ask him when I see him next month.  I also had to stop eating 4 hours before — liquids only — so I got to eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. today.  Now I will just hold my breath until I get my results.

As a reminder — ALWAYS ask for a copy of any medical reports. a) It’s your right to know. b) You don’t have to wait for your doctor’s appointment, since it typically shows up in the mail first. c) You have a copy for your records. d) You have the opportunity to review it so you can ask questions!

IMDb: Braveheart (1995)

Time Flies

I can’t believe it’s been 43 days since I last blogged. I hate when life gets too busy to allow time for writing, as it is such a great outlet for me — and I love connecting with all of you. You all bring me such great energy! But even when I’m not physically writing, I’m still writing in my head.

The good news is that most of my busyness has been related to vacation time with family. It’s been a non-stop summer, to be sure, and I’m grateful for the opportunities we have had. The day after school ended we were offto New York City to see Billy Joel in concert at Madison Square Garden. He gave an amazing performance! While in NYC we got to see my stepdaughter for a bit, which was wonderful as well.

The following day we drove over to the NYC pier to get on the Norwegian Gem and we took a cruise to northeast: Halifax, Nova Scotia; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Portland, Maine were our ports of call. It was fun, relaxing, and even educational!

This was followed by a short work week, and the 4th of July celebrations, with a trip to western Pennsylvania to see family and friends. Then another short work week and five days in Minnesota–again to visit family.

All of the travel was great and fun…and a bit exhausting! And of course, it means I’m still digging out at work! I can’t really complain as we were blessed with great experiences and memories and time with loved ones, but now I need to get motivated again. This week had me spending two days in Connecticut for work… and I have to actually work five days in a row!  Whew! It’s been a whirlwind few months!

Speaking of busy… I now enter my busy period of medical stuff… Blood work. Chest X-ray. CT scan. Annual checkup with the dermatologist. Annual checkup with my urologist and my gynecologist. Quarterly appointment with my naturalist. And six month checkup with my oncologist. All within a few weeks. I wish they were a bit more spread out but it’s hard enough to coordinate things as it is, without trying to align things throughout the year. I will be sure to report back as I go.

The summer is flying by and before we know it, it will be time for school to start again. I’m still struggling with the fact that Ethan will be a freshman in high school and really wish time would slow down at least a little. They say time goes by faster as you get older… I must be ancient!  :)

*****

After talking to someone the other day about not really liking kale, I actually found a new recipe that I thought I would try. My neighbor gave me a big bag of home grown kale from their garden and I made The Best Shredded Kale Salad from Oh She Glows. And….It was awesome!! It made about 8 cups and I think I ate 6 cups of it. Ethan and David enjoyed it as well. I will definitely be making this again! The only modification I made was to not include the cranberries. I didn’t miss them, but I think it would be good with them included also. The trick with kale, it seems to me, is to finely chop it, and to let it sit in the dressing a bit to soften up (as I learned with this recipe). Enjoy!

*****

IMDb: Time Flies (1912)

Bones

I finally received my DEXA scan results. The doctor’s office left me a voicemail message the other day saying, and I quote, “The results were, I guess, ok.”  Hmmm.  You guess?  The recommendation on the voicemail was to take calcium with Vitamin D, 500 mg, if I wasn’t already. I do take D3 on a daily basis (unless I know I’m going to be out in the sun). I do not take a calcium supplement and was disappointed to hear the recommendation. I pride myself on my diet and thought I was getting enough calcium.

I awaited my own copy of my results to see what “I guess ok” translated into. The DEXA scans were of my left hip/femoral neck, lumbar spine, and left forearm. Compared to my scans from 2013, my forearm was deemed “essentially stable” and in normal range, as was my lumbar spine.  The hip/femoral neck, however, was borderline normal and had a decrease of 7%. This is noted as a “slight” decrease, so I’m not really worried.

I don’t think I’m going to take the supplement. I think I’ll just up my leafy greens and take my chances there.  :)

*****

I’ve tried some new recipes the past few days that we really loved!

Grilled Romaine Lettuce with Corn and Avocado – Yes, you read that right. Grilled lettuce! This dish was fantastic! My husband said it didn’t look like much when I served it… crispy lettuce leaves? But he loved it as much as I did! My son enjoyed it as well. I think the only modification I would make is to reduce the maple syrup a bit on the dressing, but we will definitely be making this recipe again!

Best Ever Vegan Macaroni and Cheese (WFPB Version) – My best judge on recipes is whether or not my son goes for a second (or third) helping. He absolutely did with this recipe! I can’t believe that you can get “cheese” from potatoes, carrots, onions, some cashews and a few spices! This is, by far, the best vegan mac and cheese we have tried to date.  And I even have some left over for lunch tomorrow. Yea!

Homemade Orange Creamsicle Ice Cream – We are all enjoying a bowl of this as I type. It’s made with full fat coconut milk, so it’s not a treat we would eat every night. But it’s a great non-dairy substitute for those who love ice cream. It’s ok to indulge once in a while!

*****

IMDb: Bones (2010)

Free From

“Free from disease.”  No matter how many times I hear it, it will always be music to my ears.

During the year, I will have a series of appointments with a slew of doctors. Today was my annual appointment with my surgeon, just one of many physicians on my “team”, as he called it. The core team? Surgeon, oncologist, radiation oncologist, urologist, and gynecologist. (I don’t include my primary doctor here since he doesn’t really do anything for me!) The way it works out, every month or so, I am seeing one of those five special people in my life.

Dr. Surgeon did a physical exam, declared me “free from disease” (I totally understand that he meant there was no evidence of disease… it could certainly “be” there, but not visible) and made my day. He explained that, while (almost) 3 years out from my surgery may not seem like a major milestone, it actually is.  He indicated that within the first 2 years is your greatest chance for a local recurrence, so he seemed pretty pleased that we made it (almost) 3 years. And if he’s happy, I’m happy.

He asked me about reconstruction, which he promised he would ask me every year. “Have you thought about doing reconstruction?”  “Nope.”  I explained my rationale as part of our now-annual ritual — why put myself through an unnecessary surgery for no good medical reason? If I did it, it would solely be for the purpose of fitting some societal expectation. Fake breasts certainly aren’t medically necessary, and I don’t feel I need them to feel “whole”. I do not derive my self-worth from my breasts (or lack thereof).

He smiled and nodded… “The safest surgery is the one you didn’t have.”  He was in total agreement with my decision. And yet, he promised to ask me again next year — and for all eternity.  Sounds like he plans to see me beyond the usual 5 years. He explained that he will “gently encourage” annual visits for a longer time period because I am not able to have mammograms, and so physical exam is the best way to monitor. And I’m kinda ok with that.

I ended my day with a DEXA scan that my oncologist ordered back in January. They just scheduled it about a month ago. I had actually forgotten all about it until I got a letter in the mail. I was thinking I didn’t really need it, since I believe it’s for women who are taking those God-forsaken drugs that destroy all your hormones, thus putting you at higher risk for osteoporosis. But I didn’t put up a fight on this one and figured it wouldn’t hurt to have it checked. Dr. Surgeon said he thought it was a good idea because I am post-menopausal and that put me at risk.  I think I’ll be just fine, since I get loads of calcium in my plant-based diet!  :)

*****

I tried udon noodles for the first time tonight.  Ingredients? Organic Wheat Flour and Sea Salt!  Last time I tried a different kind of noodle, it got all mushy.  These came out pretty good.  I made an Asian soup to pour over the top: Lemon Miso Soup with Udon Noodles.  I’ve been checking out more of the recipes on Klunker’s Kitchen, where this recipe is from.  The boys enjoyed it and it was easy to make.  I did, of course, eliminate the tofu.

IMDb: Free From (2014)

Boot Camp

I have returned safely from “boot camp”, as it was often referred to by many of my co-workers. Last I wrote, I was on my way to Boston to attend a very intensive, week-long training course. I was dreading it completely because of the horror stories of too much food, too much caffeine and sugar, too-long days, and too little sleep. In addition to being called “boot camp”, it was likened by one co-worker to childbirth… “you have to experience it to fully appreciate it”.

Coming out the other side of this class, I have to say it really wasn’t so bad. Yes, the food was plentiful, but there were so many healthy options… hummus, guacamole, lots of fruits… I did partake of some of the less healthy options (yes, I had too much caffeine and a bit too much sugar…), but I tried to keep it to a minimum. Dinner had mostly meat-based options, but the hotel was great in accommodating my diet. Not always vegan, but certainly vegetarian. I even got some quinoa and roasted veggies on the last night! I’m proud to say that I only gained 1.5 pounds!

Yes, the days were long. But at least they weren’t as long as I was led to believe. We started class most days at 8:00 a.m. and we worked until about midnight or so. No group sessions until 3:00 a.m. as I feared.

And yes, there was too little sleep. Other than night #1, I slept, on average, 3-4 hours a night. The challenge was, after attending class from about 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and then doing homework from 7:30 until “whenever it was done”, it was hard to turn your brain off. We all actually dreamt about numbers and rehashed all the decisions we made in regards to our fictional company. It was so hard to just go to sleep! So I checked work emails and played games on my phone until about 3:00 a.m. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any trouble getting through the subsequent days.

It was tough sitting all day, and breaks weren’t really long enough to go for a walk, but when we could, we did a lap around the building, or stood during break out sessions, to try to get some movement. The learning environment was intense, and not necessarily conducive to good health, but it is an MIT graduate class that they cram into five days! What would you expect?

Despite the less than ideal conditions, I am actually glad I finally took this class — I got so much out of it! The hardest part for me was actually dealing with some of the group dynamics. Our group was better than some of the others in terms of cohesion (the others had some language barriers with attendees from Brazil, Taiwan, and Korea), but any time you have a mix of people with differing opinions, it’s bound to be challenging!

The boys survived the week and seemed to have some fun times.  Mini-golf, ice cream, and a baseball game kept them occupied in my absence.  My thanks to my hubby for holding down the fort, taking great care of Ethan, and getting ready for Ethan’s birthday party on Saturday. I would never have been ready to have the party without the help of David and my Aunt (who did most of the cooking). It was a great way to end a stressful week!

*****

IMDb: Boot Camp (2008)

Mental Wealth

What a great work week!  I worked Monday… and Friday.  Who doesn’t love a two-day work week?

In between, I had a nice three day mental health break. For those who have been following along, I’ve been feeling somewhat stressed of late and needed some time to myself. I know you are imaging a nice quiet couple of days reading books and taking bubble baths, but that wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

I actually spent three full days painting and cleaning. My dining room has been in need of a fresh coat of paint…  And since the dining room flows into the front foyer… which flows up the stairs and into the second floor balcony… Once you start, you need to do it all!  And, of course, as you paint, you must move furniture, and clean everything in sight! It was a lot of work (and I’m still not done), but it made me happy.

So maybe house work isn’t your idea of a mental health break, but I loved it!  Physical activity, solitude, and a beautiful finished product… and let’s not forget some rockin’ 70’s music! I took the opportunity to blast some of my favorite albums from my high school years: Kansas’ Leftoverture, Queen’s A Night at the Opera, multiple Styx albums, some ELO and, yes, even a little Barry Manilow.  :) I got to sing and dance to my heart’s content while I worked — and I slept like a baby at night.

I spent a lot of time thinking of my mom, too. I remembered her teaching me how to paint, how to hang curtain rods and pictures. I imagined her telling me, as I emptied that dining room hutch, that everything needed to be washed. And so I washed every last piece of crystal and china. I thought of all the times we worked on projects together — at her home and mine — and realized just how many things she taught me over the years. I really felt like she was with me, and it was comforting.

Next week will definitely be a long week, chock full of stress for lots of different reasons. But for today, I am still savoring the peace, the serenity, and the feeling of accomplishment. We’ll worry about the stress next week.

*****

IMDb: Mental Wealth (2015)