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Cancer Journey/ HEALTH/ Healthy Eating/ How-Tos/ RECIPES

Fighting Cancer With Nutrition

I’m slowly but surely making decisions everyday about attacking this cancer from a nutritional standpoint.  There are so many suggestions and so many things one could choose to do in this area, and it could be overwhelming.  I’VE DECIDED NOT TO LET IT BE.

 This is another area that I have had to just release to God and know that He will lead me to what He wants for me.  I’ve had an open mind to those I trust the most, and through them I feel like He is guiding me. It is a calm, imperfect, slow process and I LOVE IT:P

I will share with you the different things I am embracing and why, some may sound quacky, but when you have Stage 3 Invasive breast cancer, quacky is allowed!

If you think about it, putting chemicals in your body that are so harsh that they eat up your blood veins, kill good cells along with cancer cells, and make you bald, is pretty quacky, too, but that is what we are doing along with nutrition.  Makes granola and green stuff sound a bit more normal, huh?

My husband walked out the door this morning saying, “Babe, get what you need to get.”  His support and trust in my decisions in this area means the world and made me feel so loved and cared for.

I’ll start with what I am doing so far, it is just the beginning but its is something.  I am NO EXPERT, whatever I am doing is just me stumbling along choosing to do what makes the most sense, all the while knowing it is PRAYER that heals, and whether that is healing here on this earth or my ultimate healing in heaven, only God knows what His perfect plan for me is.

I so desire to be a good steward of my body, and a good steward of information that God has sent my way.  Prayers in this area would be so appreciated!

Chemo has to be one of the most dehydrating things known to man. I have drank so much water in the last week, and not much is coming out, so obviously my body needs it!  TMI?
I use an Eco Vessel water bottle and it is by my side 24/7.  Literally!
I love it.  It holds 17 oz, fits in most cup holders, has a lid that allows ice in (very important to me), and is insulated, which keeps my ice from melting for hours.  I wake up at least 2-3 times a night very thirsty, so it stays filled and cold on my headboard.  There were days when I was very nauseous and it was a chore to make myself drink, but I did.  I feared getting dehydrated, I know so many who have to be hospitalized during their cancer fight because of dehydration, and that can be very serious.

2. Very little sugar.
We have had amazing desserts delivered and I have had bits of each of them and enjoyed them, but for the most part I enjoy seeing my girls and Todd delight in them.  Chemo has done a weird thing to my taste buds.  It makes everything taste sweet.  Not a very good, sweet, either.  For example, a glass of juice can taste like I’m drinking a glass of sweet cough syrup.  Yea, ick.  It has been a great way to steer me away from the sweets, but I am ready for normal taste buds again.  I am not off sugar, but I am very aware of how much sugar I eat, and when possible I use Sucanat (like on the oatmeal I am eating right now:)

3. Lots of fruit
This one has been easy for me because I am so spoiled.  My Grandma and Grandpa Earl signed me up for Harry and David’s fruit of the month club. SUPER GREAT GIFT.  Nectarines are the fruit of September and they have been DELISH!  I have also been able to afford lots of good fruit thanks to meals that have been delivered by friends and family.  It saves our grocery budget, so I buy fruit, veggies and supplements with the extra money.  Every meal we have received has had some sort of fruit (or veggie) with it, so that is pretty awesome.  I am trying to pick lots of different colors of fruits.  My freezer is full of different types of frozen berries that I use for smoothies, to put on my oatmeal, or just eat slightly thawed. I recently found the best black, seedless grapes! I’m trying to get creative so it doesn’t get boring. Just this morning a dear friend dropped off some treats along with organic bananas and carrots–nourishing foods are such a great gift to me!!  Thanks, Johanna!!

4. Veggies
This one was harder for me when my tummy was not well.  Now it easier.  I have lots of frozen veggies to use in soups.  I keep spinach on hand and use it in my fruit smoothies or pile it high with other veggies and make a salad.  I bought a butternut squash that I can’t wait to bake.  I’m lucky that I like vegetables, as I know many do not.  I have an aunt (Hi, Ellen!) that is sending a recipe for a cleansing soup that I’m sure will have lots of veggies in it.  My chopping board and I are ready, I think it would be great to have on hand for lunch.

5. Odwalla Superfood Green Drink
This was just a simple way for me to get some greens like wheat grass, barley grass, wheat spouts in when everything was crazy and I was too tired to think. It is high in Manganese and Potassium. I know there are other, better and cheaper ways of doing it, but while I was sick this was easiest.  I just drank a cup every morning.  It was one of the only juices that didn’t taste too sweet for me, and I drank it through a straw so I wouldn’t have to look at the crazy dark green color.  I have plans for getting my greens in other ways, I will share when I actually implement them.

6. Barlean’s Total Omega 3.6.9 Swirl
This product has fascinated me.  It was another super easy way to know I am getting my Omegas without having to think too much.  It was on sale at my health food store and the Orange Creme Swirl flavor sounded good.  It is made with Organic Flax Oil and Pure Borage Oil. There is no crazy taste, it is delish.  I take 1 Tbls a day.  It is very digestible, which was great for my sensitive stomach.  The lady that recommended it for me has no gall bladder and she said this product is the only one she can find that she is able to digest well.

7. Protein
All of the great meals we have been getting have made this one easy. I love chicken and one of my most favorite meals that was delivered was simple grilled chicken with an INCREDIBLE smoky bbq sauce.  I am working on getting more protein from non- meat sources, like lentils, beans and nuts.  In fact, today it is lentils and rice for lunch…yum!:)
 There were days when all I could get down was a protein bar, they came in handy, but are high in sugar, so not my favorite method of getting protein.
Eggs, cheese and yogurt are all high in protein.  I am a bit confused with what to do with these as my cancer type is estrogen fed and depending on what you believe, there are concerns with eggs and milk products and estrogen.  I won’t get into that because there are many different opinions out there, and I don’t want my comment section to become a debate ūüôā but it is something that I am processing…

8.  Fiber
This is pretty easy when I am eating all the fruits and vegetables that I should be.  We had some incredible flax seed rolls delivered with a meal that I am sure had a good amount of fiber in them.  I love dipping hearty breads in my soups.  I have been eating lots of oatmeal and nuts that have fiber, too.

9. Vitamins and Supplements
The only thing I have been doing so far is a multi-vitamin and 2,000 i.u of Vitamin D.  I am waiting to hear back from a blood test taken to check my Vit. D levels, I am a strong believer that Vitamin D is CRUCIAL to my healing.

I have a great plan for all my vitamins and supplements in the very near future.  I am going with the Shaklee brand, and will become a representative for them so I can get them at a good cost, and offer them to any of my blog readers if they are interested.  It was a process I was embracing before my cancer diagnosis, so it feels natural to continue on in that process. Here are the products from Shaklee that I have decided to take so far:

~Shaklee Vitalizer + Iron

 There are a few others I would love, but we will see how the budget is doing and maybe add slowly.  I will go into more detail with these products and why I am taking them sometime soon.

I  will continue to let you know what I am adding and what I feel is working for me.  I know this stuff is not for everyone, but it is through others sharing their journey that I have found some answers, so I will share mine.

***If you are a meal provider for our family in the future, I don’t want you an ANY way to feel like it has to be organic and crazy healthy.  My breakfast, lunch and snacks are extremely healthy and I know now more than ever that LIVING and enjoying gifts is so very important, so know that I will enjoy yours. This post makes it sound like I am an”all organic, won’t- eat- anything- that- is -not- good -for me” person. Not true.  I am taking a balanced approach, so please do not feel pressure to bring an out- of- this- world, healthy meal.  We are so very thankful for whatever you provide, even if it is pizza or takeout (another one of my most favorite meals that was provided was a Chinese takeout feast!:))

Today’s food:
BreakfastOatmeal with Sucanat, cinnamon & a handful of frozen rasberries; yogurt
LunchSalmon burger from my health food store +lentil rice salad
DinnerChili, Spinach salad, and bread from the bread makerSnacks-Homemade apple pie from a friend, smoothies, fruits/veggies, crackers, etc. 

Cancer Journey/ HEALTH

Finding Cancer

Many of you are asking how I found the lump and why it was even on my radar screen.

10 years ago I had a suspicious lump. ¬†They removed the lump and it was negative. ¬†I was told I have Fibrocystic¬†breasts, which basically means I have dense and lumpy tissue. ¬†I was instructed to get to know my lumps and be aware of any changes. ¬†Since then I have been a pretty faithful “lump checker”

(still getting used to talking about “lumps” and “breasts” in such a public manner. ¬†oh my…)

Last year I had a couple of areas on my right breast that worried me a bit.  They decided to order a mammogram and an ultrasound.  I was sent home with the diagnosis of breasts cysts, which are fluid-filled and no big deal.  Nothing showed up on my left breast.

Around Christmas, I noticed a rather distinct lump on my left breast.  After opening Christmas gifts, I made my sisters come in front of a mirror with me as I discretely showed them my concern.  They were amazed that they could see the lump just by looking at the reflection in the mirror.  Most lumps you can only feel.  Now granted, I am not the most voluptuous woman in the world, so to see it would not be as hard on me as some, but its distinctness bothered me.

I went back to my physician.  She agreed there was indeed a lump.  She sent me to get an ultrasound.  The radiologist just said it was normal tissue with a bit of scar tissue from my previous biopsy 10 years ago.

Fast forward to May, I felt the area was changing and was more distinct. ¬†I went back to my physician ¬†She sent me straight to a surgeon to have it evaluated for removal. ¬†This surgeon came highly recommended and is very well known in this area. ¬†I trusted her. ¬†She did a quick exam, and in the most confident manner said “I know what I am feeling is normal breast tissue” & ¬†“I am very confident that this is nothing.” ¬†“I do this every day and I know what I am feeling” ¬†She told me it felt distinct because of the scar tissue to the side of it from the previous biopsy, and the changes I “think” I am feeling are due to age (breasts get softer which would make the scar tissue seem more distinct) and a few pounds I had lost.¬†Her explanation made sense to me. ¬†She was the most confident doctor I have ever talked to. ¬†I believed her.

Todd happened to come with me to that appointment and really pressed her. ¬†She kept giving us her same confident answers. ¬†I sat there feeling so relieved, but¬†Todd pushed for at least another ultrasound, so we could compare it to the one I had around Christmas. ¬†She reluctantly gave in and wrote up and ultrasound order, and handed it to me flippantly and said “if you really need this for peace of mind, here you go”

We left feeling so very happy and relieved. ¬†I slipped the order into my purse and thought “maybe I should get it done before school gets out. ¬†I was in no hurry. ¬†I had never had a Dr so confidently tell me I was fine like she did. ¬†I trusted her. ¬†I should not have.

Kids got out of school for the summer, and following up on the ultrasound was in the back of my head,  but the Dr made me feel like I was wasting my time, and we all know I like to procrastinate.

Throughout the summer I would periodically look a the lump and wonder if it was growing. ¬†I also had a hard time keeping weight on and noticed that I was losing a ton of hair with each shower I took. ¬†I thought it was lack of protein so I increased my protein. ¬†Weight loss and hair loss were the only two things out of the ordinary. ¬†Both were easy to ignore during a super fun summer with my girls, and I did not connect that at all to the lump. ¬†I still don’t know if they are connected or not…

Girls go back to school, I start having some pain below my left rib, in the spleen area. ¬†It started waking me up at night, so I went to the Dr. ¬†They ordered an ultrasound for my spleen and I thought to myself “I might as well get that lump looked at since I have an order, and hit two birds with one stone”

Ultrasound showed a very healthy spleen, but not a healthy breast.
They wanted me to have a biopsy as soon as possible.

I had a needle core biopsy -which was one of the most painful tests I have ever had!  The stupid area would not numb during the procedure.  Grr.  I was not a happy girl leaving the clinic that day.  Pain makes me MAD!

2 days later, the same surgeon that told me she was so very confident that what she was feeling was normal breast tissue, called my home and told me “I’m sorry, you have breast cancer.”

I froze. I knew I was in trouble because this lump has been around awhile. I started to hyperventilate, but then remembered I was home alone with my girls and 2 very rowdy neighbor kids. ¬†I pulled myself together in time to hear the doctor say “I’d like to set up a time for you to meet with me.”

I calmly but coldly reminded her that she was the doctor that told me I had nothing to worry about months ago, said I had no interest in seeing her again, then I hung up.  I blame the shock for my rudeness.

How I feel about that doctor is something I think I still need to work through.  I know she is human.  I know she has done a lot of good for many other women in my situation.  I just wish she were not so confident, her confidence kept me from feeling the urgency to get the ultrasound back in June.  I need to forgive her and I think I have, but my emotions toward her are confusing.

I called my husband, he rushed home.  The girls had Bible Club that night, so we had 3 hours alone, together.  It was so surreal.  We just kept looking at each other in disbelief.  I started making phone calls, Todd took to the treadmill to walk it off.

I felt very lost without a doctor and had no idea where to start. ¬†I have so many good friends and family members who went to work right away trying to get names and recommendations. ¬†Even that process took some faith, as one person would highly recommend a doctor, then the next person would give me a list but say “do not go to so-and-so” which would be the very name I was just told to go to! ¬†We heard numerous times the best surgeon in town was the very doctor I hung up on. ¬†It was overwhelming, but even in the midst of it all, I knew God had the perfect doctor out there for me.

My sister -in -law’s sister, is married to a doctor here in town. ¬†They were on their way out of the country when my sister- in- law, Wendy, called them and asked what we should do, where we should go. ¬†He not only gave a recommendation but called the Oncologist and told her my story. ¬†It is only because of God working through that phone call that I was able to be seen by Thursday, two days before a long labor day weekend. ¬†I now know that was a huge blessing, as it is not easy to get into an oncologist so quickly, especially a good one. ¬†I got a lot of testing out of the way Thursday and Friday, which gave us a good jump start on the slew of tests that it takes, to stage and grade cancer.

I am so very thankful for my Oncologist and love her already. ¬†She is so very smart, kind, and tough. ¬†She is straightforward, but will also make jokes at appropriate times. ¬†For example, she is Indian and while listening to my heart, she says in her soft Indian accent “Oh, my. Your heart is going like a train. ¬†We must find a way to calm you” ¬†ūüôā ¬†It made me laugh which calmed me instantly.

As of now, here is what we know:
~I have breast cancer
~The tumor is 4 cm 6 cm!
~There is a suspicious, swollen lymph node under left arm pit.
~CAT scan is negative-Praise God!
~Bone scan is negative-Praise God!

*Tomorrow I will have an MRI and meet my surgeon for the first time

*Thursday I will have PET scan and have a big meeting with my Oncologist, in which she will tell us the grade and stage of the cancer and our battle plan.

*Friday-I will have surgery to place a port. ¬†More than likely, I will receive chemotherapy first, to shrink the size of my tumor, then surgery. ¬†The port is placed so the drugs can go directly to a main artery and so I won’t have to be poked a thousand times.

I sigh and smile (and pout) as I read this.  I am supposed to be on a plane to Chicago to enjoy a week away at a conference with my husband.  How quickly life can change.

I will do my best on this new journey, thanks for coming with me.