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6 Years

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Today I mark 6 years of being cancer free.

August 31, 2012 was the date of my double mastectomy – the day I consider myself to be cancer free, even though I would still need 3+ months of chemo and 8 weeks of radiation. I documented my mastectomy adventures in this blog post.

In reviewing that post this morning, I am transported back to that day. I didn’t know how many years, or months, or days I would have left (do we ever?) and I am grateful for every day since my breast cancer diagnosis.

Some random thoughts this morning, as I reflect on these six years…

  • I spent a lot of time waiting on the day of my surgery. We had to be there so early, to sit around and do nothing. I have wasted so much time just waiting in doctor’s offices in the ensuing years.  Some doctors are better than others, but in addition to waiting the morning of my surgery, I also waited 90 minutes on my first day of chemo. These are pretty nerve-racking events and I’m just not sure that all doctors understand what they are doing to patients’ mental states by having us just sit there — waiting to have parts removed or poison injected into our bodies.  I think there needs to be more awareness on the emotional toll that is taken on cancer patients.
  • When I re-read my description of the sentinel node biopsy that day, I laugh. It seems so tame compared to my actual experience. There are truly no words to describe exactly how painful that experience was. It hurt like HELL! Not even childbirth ranked as high in my books. I always say if men had to have that done, they would a) numb the area and/or b) knock us out! Radioactive bee stings in your nipple. Yep. Good times!
  • I still have no regrets on not reconstructing, although I do wish I had emphatically stated “flat”, so that what remained was not lop-sided, bumpy and dog-eared. But doctors always assume that you will change your mind and will eventually see clear to get implants. My logical brain could not wrap itself around implanting foreign substances into my body, putting it through more surgeries and pain and inconvenience, risking infection, and more… just to satisfy a social norm. And especially considering this was my second cancer. I know it’s a very personal choice and I’m not criticizing those who make that decision. We all have our reasons for our choices and those are mine.
  • I still live with the daily reminders — scars, hearing loss, memory loss, thinning hair, fear — of cancer. But those reminders encourage me to try to make the most of each day. To not worry so much. To take care of myself so I’m here for the long-haul (however “long haul” gets defined). To eat right and get enough sleep. To focus on what’s truly important, and not get caught up in petty worries. To forgive and forget. To keep away from physical and emotional toxins. To help influence others to be healthier. To be grateful for every. single. day.

And here I am, six years later. Appreciative. Healthy. Imperfect. Doing the best I can every day. Content.

Grateful. Here’s to the next six!

IMDb: 6 Years (2015)

 

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The Skin I Live In

blur-body-care-161608Every so often I like to remind my readers to take care of their skin. Since I went for my annual full body scan this morning, today seemed like a good day for that reminder!

Several years ago, a group of women I worked with and I decided that we needed to go for a skin exam. We had seen an advertisement for free exams at a facility about 30 minutes or so from work and we all signed up. During that exam, an “atypical” mole was identified and it was suggested that I see a dermatologist for follow up. The suspect mole was ultimately removed without any issue, and thus began my commitment to annual full body scan. I never miss it.

Let’s face it, we’ve all done some stupid stuff — hot sun, no hat, no sunscreen, or worse yet, application of baby oil. I’ve had some super painful burns in my past and, given my cancer history, I think it’s prudent to get checked regularly. Even if you don’t have a history of cancer, it’s a smart move.

We all know that we should have our skin checked if we see a change in size, shape or color of a mole. But there are many parts we can’t see by ourselves! My problem mole was on the lower middle of my back; I would never have seen it on my own. And just because you may have burned your scalp, as an example, it doesn’t mean that’s where skin cancer would appear. It can show up anywhere. I have have peace of mind knowing that I was checked by a professional who knows what she’s looking for.

Today I learned that I should look at my toenails before reapplying polish. Not for the discoloration that may come from applying nail polish too often and without break, but to look for any spots that might show up under the nail! I would never have thought to look there. So next time you go for that pedi… take a look!

Another great suggestion I had heard previously (but have yet to implement…my bad…) is to have your spouse, best friend, significant other, mother… someone… take a picture of your back every six months and compare to the prior for any changes that might need a closer look.

If you don’t have insurance or don’t want to pay a co-payment, you can look for free screenings like my co-workers and I did all those years ago. Check out: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/programs/screenings/find-a-screening

In the meantime, take care of your skin! It’s the only one you have to live in.

IMDb: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Worthy

A common sentiment with many of my female clients, friends and family is this:

“I take care of everyone else, but I never make time to take care of myself.”  

I am surprised at just how often I hear this; it’s not 100% of the time, but it’s close. So on this Mother’s Day, I thought it might be helpful to write an affirmation for all the women out there who struggle to make themselves a priority. Read this. Say this. Embrace this. Live this.

I am worthy.
I am worthy and deserving of self-care.
I will make my own well-being a priority.
I will nourish my body with good food, movement, water and sleep.
I will nourish my mind with meditation, good books and stimulating conversation.
I will nourish my soul with nature, laughter, and letting go.
I will find time for me. Without guilt.
Taking care of myself is the best thing I can do to take care of others.
I will make my own well-being a priority.
I am worthy and deserving of self-care.
I am worthy.

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IMDb: Worthy (2017)

 

Bread and Roses

Who doesn’t love bread? Warm, soft, airy bread with gobs of melted butter…?

Since adopting a whole food plant based no oil diet in 2012, bread has been a challenge for me. Most breads are made with oil, and the ones that aren’t tend to be dense and/or dry. I’ve tried a number of different breads and I’m not really a fan (nor is my family) of most of the “healthy” breads; perhaps I have just not found the right one…

I don’t have the time or energy to read the ingredients on every single loaf of bread at Wegmans. And it’s not just the oil, but eggs, “natural flavors” and all sorts of other questionable ingredients. (Remember the “yoga mat” stuff?)

In the search for a healthy bread, I just opt for doing the best I can. Whole wheat. Wheat. Multi-grain. Organic. Close enough. And sometimes, you just need a crusty loaf of white Italian bread or some kind of bun that’s totally processed. Bread is just one of those areas that I have conceded we’ll never be perfect.

I’ve considered making my own (see prior comment on time and energy…) but that also entails digging out the bread maker and finding space for one more kitchen gadget.  Then I found this recipe for a 5 ingredient bread… no bread machine, no kneading, no oil, no artificial ingredients. (I’m sure you’re also thinking “no taste”.)  It only took an hour to make (20 minutes for rising; 40 minutes to bake).  We ate it warm with a smidge of butter, and it was pretty good. Depending on what you are serving it with, you may not need the butter, but I felt like it needed a sauce or something. It was still a little dense, but it had a nice crust, was warm, and (best of all) healthy. There wasn’t a bite left, so I think it passed the family inspection. I think I’m going to try to tweak the recipe a bit…playing with the salt and maple syrup, and also trying some additional seasonings for a more savory flavor.

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As for the roses… Just wanted to wish all of the Moms out there a Happy Mother’s Day weekend!  I hope you are spoiled by your loved ones and get to relax a bit. I’m hoping to sleep in and go to see Avengers: Infinity War.  🙂

p.s. Your history lesson:
As my followers know, I always use the name of a movie as my blog post titles (to align with the “lights cancer action” theme). When I was searching for an image, I found that Bread and Roses was actually a political slogan after being referenced in a speech in 1911 by Rose Schneiderman, and is most associated with a textile strike where women were appealing for both fair wages and dignified conditions.

“The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too.”

IMDb: Bread and Roses (2000)

Unleashed

Around this time five years ago, I winding down on my treatments. I had completed chemotherapy in January 2013 and finished radiation in March 2013. Since that time, I have continued with a pretty rigorous schedule of doctors’ appointments. Seeing my radiologist and oncologist twice a year; my surgeon, urologist, and gynecologist once a year or more.  Throw in all the testing that was required and I felt like I was always on my way to some medical appointment.

During my last appointment with my surgeon in 2017, he gave me the option to not see him anymore — an offer I jumped on.  In the fall, my radiologist switched me to one time per year. And today, my oncologist also unleashed me from her schedule, moving me to a once a year schedule also!  Yea!

I am so encouraged by this news, as it’s a final confirmation that I’m doing ok. Actually, better than ok… I’m thriving! Cancer is no longer a daily thought for me (although it does rear it’s ugly head in my subconscious from time to time). And now I don’t have to worry about always running to a doctor.  Schedule is freed up, I’m saving money in co-payments, and I have a clean bill of health from all my docs. AND my oncologist is interested in learning more about my health coaching business! (She took my business card and talked about how I might be able to integrate into some of their existing programs!)

Life is good.

*****

It’s been a while since I’ve shared any recipes. I continue to add recipes to my new webpage: http://metamorphosismindbodyspirit.com/apps/recipe/

Last week I added several, and the goal is to add some every week.

I am continuing to work my way through Dr. Greger’s How Not to Die Cookbook, which I love! I highly recommend it, as we have enjoyed everything I made from the book. It’s completely “WFPBNO”… Whole Food Plant Based No Oil… so no modifications are needed.

Peace!

IMDb: Unleashed (2005)

Chloe

Winter Storm Stella has us all home bound (25-28″ at last measure) so I thought I’d crank out a blog post as I recover from extreme shoveling.  (Yes, I will be sore tomorrow!)

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A few weeks ago I attended a class “Demystifying Tofu” (a topic for another day) at which I met a woman who recommend a new cookbook: “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli. My new friend, Lisa, raved about the recipes so, on the spot, I ordered the book from Amazon.  I have since been trying out a slew of recipes from it ever since and we have all absolutely loved them! Isa is still my favorite by a teensy bit, but this book is a very close second.

Tonight I tried Green Curry Crepes – my first attempt at crepes of any kind. I did some homework on the internet before braving this task to ensure I was aware of any and all handy-dandy cooking tips. One article said the first 1-2 are “experimental” and will give you the hang of it and, truly, I felt like a pro by the time I was done. There was not a crepe left in the dish!  Ethan loves crepes so I’ll have to look for some new recipes now that I’m comfortable making them.

Here’s a photo of one of the crepes.  I intended to take a photo of a plated crepe (the delicious filling has potato, onion, carrot, chickpeas, coconut milk, and seasonings), but I couldn’t wait to try them and then I forgot. IMG_1189

The next fabulous recipe was her Falafel Sliders with Avocado Hummus. Her secret ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes in the falafel, and the avocado hummus was to die for! I doubled the recipe so we had a few leftover. I eliminated the oil in the sliders and added a tablespoon instead of 1/4 cup to the hummus.  I’m thinking I could eliminate it there, too.  These truly were fantastic, and not as difficult to make as I expected, given that there are 3 separate pieces.   Definitely toast the buns!

Drunken Noodles in Cashew-Shiitake Broth: I have loved trying so many different types of noodles on this way of eating. Soba, Rice, Lo Mein, Ramen, Somen… and this recipe called for Udon noodles. They cook quickly – typically 4 minutes – and hold up in stir fries and soups. I doubled this recipe, as well, and good thing!  Ethan had 4 bowls!  It’s such a great soup for strengthening the immune system: garlic, freshly grated ginger, cayenne… Great stuff!  And I actually remembered to take a photo!

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I have tried several more and will try to get those shared with you soon!

IMDb: Chloe (2009)