Diagnosis isn’t always black and white


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image credit: Good Search

If you’ve ever had a biopsy come back negative, and not one, but two surgeons come in the room for “the talk”—then you know sometimes a biopsy can show a negative result, but come back positive after further testing. Unfortunately, that “further testing” is often after surgery, and chopping body parts off, one by one isn’t the ideal way to become cancer-free.

For the past few months, I’ve been in the been in the process of being re-diagnosed. Borrowing from sophisticated theory: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it is a duck. The only difference in this case is, tests have come back negative. So, technically, it’s not a duck—or cancer. Most people would be doing the “happy dance”—and in the past, I would have done it, too. The only thing stopping me is my memory.

The first time I had cancer, the biopsy test came back positive. I didn’t believe it. I didn’t trust the medical field much, either. During treatment, I required another biopsy, which came back negative. The medical staff didn’t trust the test results but they gave me the option to leave the bump alone, watching it, knowing I may return someday for it to be removed. They also gave me the option to go ahead and have the second bump removed along with the originally planned surgery for the removal of the first tumor. I opted to have a two-for-one surgery. Tests run after surgery came back positive. It was cancer, but had tested negative before surgery.

Two years later, at my last appointment with the surgical oncologist who removed cancer the first time, saw a bump near my collar-bone. It tested positive. New treatment for cancer began, again.

Another two years down the road: I see bumps that look like cancer, feel like cancer, and are located in similar places, just a little higher up. But, tests have come back negative.

So, What does one do in the meantime? Here’s what I suggest: keep a (positive, strong) song in your heart, whistle a happy tune, and think, do and be kind.

—Oh, and maybe that’s what we all should do—before, during and after any type of diagnosis.

 

Dog Days of Summer and Exercise


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Think of yourself as a dog. (I mean this in a good way!)

Heal.

Sit.

Lie down.

Good boy/girl!

Want to go exercise? Let’s go!

Here’s some more water.

During cancer treatment, you’ll want to exercise but may find you lack the energy and strength. Especially if your treatment is in the dog days of summer. I was grateful my treatment was in the summer. As my iron levels dropped, I was always cold—until hot flashes kicked in, then I was back to being cold. Do what you can—even if that means a walk to the mailbox three times a day.

If you live where the temperatures are hot, you have some options for exercise: Go to an air-conditioned gym, or community center, head for a pool, or get up at zero-thirty to beat the heat for some outdoor activity. (If your treatment is in the winter, and you live where it’s cold, the gym or community center again will protect you from the elements.) No matter what you do, make sure you’re paying attention to what your body is saying.

I originally thought I’d be walking the beach during my treatment months, even if slowly. Ha. During the months of my treatment, I walked about an-eighth of the boardwalk when I did venture to the beach (usually with a guest I wanted to take to the beach.) We’d last 20 minutes maximum, then I’d need to come home. The sun was too bright, and my endurance was too low. I’d spend the next day with a cold. It was so worth it. The beach was my sanity. When my mom would visit me, she’d offer to take me to the beach for 15-20 minutes. I’d just sit in the car. She’s go to the water’s edge before coming back to the car where I was sometimes asleep, or ready to go home.

Consider going to an indoor pool and sitting on a “noodle” like a swing, pumping with your legs, one at a time. Or “stand” perpendicular in the water, holding the “noodle” in front of you, and move your legs like an egg beater. It’s not a weight-bearing activity, but it’s a great place to be if your joints are aching, or you’re building your endurance. Once you have the energy and confidence, you can swim half short laps, building up to long lane laps if that’s your desire. Water aerobic classes are plentiful and work major muscle groups.

Whatever you do, start slowly. You will hear of people who walk “The Walk” right after treatment. Do not compare yourself with anyone else. Go at your pace. Listen to your body. Respect your needs.

Scoot over. Doggie wants to rest on the couch!

 

 

Healthy Kids: ages 2-12


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This is taken from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Healthy Kids Today Toolkit. Eat powerful plant foods.

Take the cancer prevention pledge with your children and grandchildren:

I pledge to:

Help my child prepare this month’s recipe for Bean and Veggie Enchiladas. *See link for recipe.

Try one new vegetable each week.

Make a meal that contains only plant foods – vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans – and no meat.

Incorporate different colored vegetables into our daily meals and snacks.

Tell each other what our favorite vegetable is – and give two reasons why.

It’s never too early to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of cancer-fighting plant foods like vegetables for lower cancer risk. In fact, research suggests that new foods are even better accepted at ages 2 to 4 than they are at ages 4 to 8.

Related Links:

Bean and Veggie Enchilada recipe

*Benefits and tips for cooking with your child ages 2-12

 

Fatigue and Cancer


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Image Credit: Good Search

So, You have, or have had cancer. What do you do to overcome fatigue? Do you go for a walk? Head for the couch? Are you tired because you’re depressed? Or are you exhausted because you’ve been through the ringer with treatment after treatment?

No matter why you’re tired or what you do about it, recognize the progress you’ve made, and continue to make—even if it’s mico-progress. If you get down about being tired or having to take naps, look at where you are now compared to where you were a few months ago. I had to quit working four hours a day, because by Wednesday, I got sick from over-extending myself, and having a less than optimal immune system. Instead, I started working three hours a day, and by doing so, I was able to work five days a week. I still rushed home for a nap, and slept a full night—and still do.

Go through your calendar and look for things you did and crawled home after, or things you couldn’t do—that you’re doing now. Maybe you’re sleeping the same amount of hours, but doing more now. There may be a phase where your sleep requirement goes up—notice if your activity level is increasing, too. Without doing this, you may get down on yourself only seeing how much you want to do—and can’t.

Here are some ideas that may help retrieve your energy and get you back on schedule:

  • Go to bed at a reasonable and at a consistent time every night.
  • Don’t fall asleep watching TV; your sleep won’t be quality, your subconscious hears even when you don’t.
  • Set your alarm for a consistent time the morning if you find you’re sleeping too long.
  • Exercise during the day, not at night or you might be up all night, throwing off your schedule.
  • Eat at least a few hours before bedtime. Give your body time to digest food before sleeping.
  • If you do take a nap in the day, take it early enough not to disrupt your bedtime.
  • If you have lots of junk around, clear it out. Clutter can be overwhelming.
  • Do one-two chores a day instead of trying to do five like your “used to.”
  • Don’t eat sugary foods as a “pick-me-up”. Maintain a light food-flow throughout the day.

 

Carbs and Protein Together Help the Healing Process


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Whether you’ve had an injury or surgery, your body needs to heal. You may need to stop exercising, or at least modify what you do for a while. The choices you make for food are important in the healing process. During your recovery or rehabilitation, while you’re unable to exercise, you can still avoid gaining weight and heal quickly.

It comes down to conscious decisions for healthy eating. It’s not just a matter of watching fat and caloric intake. Along with self-control, nutrients help your body heal. Obviously, the habit of healthy eating is better to have in place before the injury or surgery. When I was first diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, I laughed when I was told, “You’re extremely healthy—with cancer.” I felt it was the ultimate booby prize. I soon understood the blessing of having a high health baseline. I never missed a chemo treatment, and when I was midway through treatment I had a few people (including a doctor in the oncology clinic) question when I’d begin chemo. I wore a scarf, not a wig, so I found this question bizarre. A friend pointed out to me that I looked healthier than others they’d seen with cancer. Whatever the reasoning, I’m sold on having a high baseline of health.

Physical activity will decrease during the recovery period leading to decreased appetite. If some adjustment to eating doesn’t happen while in recovery you may gain weight. But by negating the right nutrients and caloric intake, your body can’t heal as quickly. Some people take the “opportunity” of having an injury or surgery to eat too few calories.   That’s a huge mistake. A healthy balance is necessary.

Eat from all the food groups. They work together. Consciously graze throughout the day rather than eating only three times, but larger amounts. This is important to keep your blood sugar levels consistent and metabolism active. Also, so that when you do eat, you’re not starving—thus gulping down any and everything, especially right before you head off to bed.

When you eat carbohydrates for energy, your body will use the protein you eat to repair your muscles. If you don’t eat enough carbs, your body will burn the protein you eat for energy, and not for healing muscles. This makes it harder on your body to heal. This isn’t to say load up on carbs, especially if you’re not active. Eat smaller portions of carbs and other foods high in nutrients.

After an injury or surgery, you need extra protein to help recovery. Prior to cancer, I was a near vegetarian, eating only fish and sometimes chicken. During chemo I craved roast beef and beef hot dogs. At the end of cancer treatment my oncologist told me it was very important for me to eat more protein than before cancer, and to keep eating meat.

Fats and antioxidants contain anti-inflammation properties. After an injury or surgery, the first visible response is inflammation. While it’s not a nutrient, I’ve used arnica montana 30x strength two weeks before, and one-two weeks after each surgery (seven). Swelling and bruising was almost nil in every surgery.

Vitamin C helps reduce inflammation and encourages the body to form collagen. Collagen is a needed protein for strength, flexibility and repair of tendons, ligaments and strengthens bones. Vitamin A helps with cell development, cell growth and the immune system.

 

Carbohydrates: whole grains, pasta, breads, fruits, veggies

Protein: lean meat, fish, beans, lentils, nuts, low-fat dairy

Fats: olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados

Antioxidants/Fruits high in vitamin C: kiwi fruit, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes

Garden Your Way to Health


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Remember planting a seed in a cup as a kid? I took an immediate liking to radishes. They grew so fast, I could see the results of my attention and effort of watering the soil and making sure it had “good light”.

Energy flows where our attention goes. As an adult, my radish success wasn’t as memorable. I’d toss the seeds on the soil, not paying much attention to how deep in the soil, or if their location in the garden was sunny enough. Water. Don’t forget to water. Even when you don’t see green leaves spout up a week later. And no matter how much you like a full-sun plant, if all you have is shade, it’s not going to grow in there. (Thus my plethora of fern!)

When I knew I was going to have chemo, I got rid of any plants that didn’t look healthy. I had no intention to have a reminder of frailty or death. I quickly learned I wouldn’t have the energy to spare on needy plants or people. If I’d had kids, I think I would’ve encouraged them to have a garden during my chemo. For the same reasons I didn’t want to tend to one, I’d promote it for kids having a parent or friend going through cancer. If they’re interested, that is. It can double as a way to teach good nutrition, cooking, and a chance to get in the dirt and play all while having an exchange of positive, life-force energy of nature.

If children around you can get excited about cherry tomatoes, they’ll eat more of them. Depending on how interested and involved your young charge gets, they can sit down with you and a seed catalog, look on-line, or make a trip to the garden center to see what seeds are in season. They may get involved with planting, weeding, and harvesting. Even a big planting pot can be their garden to tend. This may be your opportunity to have them try something new. Even if they’re picky, if it came from their garden, they just may eat it! Or, maybe it’s a garden of wonderful smells or textures.

The opportunity for kids to garden brings their focus to life—not your wilting, or drooping. Their garden may also remind you to drink more water, or to eat fruits and vegetables. Depending on their age, the garden may need little of your oversight. If they offer you some of their harvest, accept the gift of life, the gift of love. Here’s to your health and well-being.

 

Commit to lasting health


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When it comes to food, commit to lasting health. The word “diet” tends to evoke thoughts of food restriction. Almost immediately cravings and a sense of loss set in. With most diets, temporary desired results (weight loss) may be evident, but so may increased hunger and poor health habits. (What happens when you go off the chocolate brownie flavored weight loss shake?) Or, maybe you’ve sworn yourself to small plates of salads for lunch after skipping breakfast. You’re temporarily starving yourself rather than overeating. It’s a matter of time before you return to previous eating patterns. What about common sense, good-for-you eating habits?

If you’re seeing a doctor, run it by them. This is my take:

  • Dump the diet. Pick-up lifestyle changes. It’s not new information, but information seemingly put aside in favor of restaurants and processed meals. The non-diet is all about changes that’ll lead to lifelong healthy habits, and ultimately improvements.
  • Skip the scale. It’s not about the amount you need to lose. It’s about forming healthy, lasting habits. This includes eating mindfully. It doesn’t mean you have to eat rare or organic foods. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a hassle.
  • Move it. This doesn’t mean you have to run a race, or walk The Walk. If you don’t have weights at home, pick up two soup cans, or bags of flour, or potatoes. Find a weight you can lift with some challenge, and use it. Weights are good for bone health and muscle-building. Get some cardio activity in your life. Don’t have a dog? Maybe your friend or neighbor does. Go with them on a walk. Hike, bike, swim. Get your heart talking happy-talk to you. It’ll help build your endurance and lung capacity.
  • Focus on your health — not the lack of it. When you focus on healthy physical, mental and spiritual care of your body, your body feels it and responds. Think, “what can I do?” versus “what must I decrease?” or “what do I have to give up?” If you think, “I need to give up fats, sugars and alcohol” you’ll feel deprived, and it becomes a diet, not a lifestyle — and it won’t last. Instead, pay attention to adding healthy aspects into your life. Drinking more water. If you don’t like plain water, add a bit of lemon, or cucumber, or a sprig of mint. Focus on attaining five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Think of the variety of fruits and vegetables there are to eat! If you don’t like a certain food, that’s fine—find another one, or another way to prepare it. Try something new. Talk to people about easy ways to prepare it.
  • Eat slowly. Chew. Chew. Chew. Mellow out. Eating isn’t a race. Give your body a treat to experience the meal.
  • Love yourself unconditionally. Many people are overweight because they’re trying to hide an aspect of themselves. Appreciate your body! It does wildly amazing things for you. Breathing, heart beat, eyes blinking, eyelashes, nose and ear hairs to help keep dirt out. Taste buds! Glorious taste buds.

Commit to changing from diets to lasting health. Don’t try to do-it-all at once. Get good in one area, when it becomes a habit, add another aspect.