Thursday, September 22, 2011
IDAHO SOL SURVIVORS
A couple of other melanoma warriors/survivors in the Boise area and I are forming a melanoma support group, called the Idaho Sol Survivors. It is the first step in forming our foundation, that we felt needed to happen soon. With no real support here locally for melanoma patients and survivors (and their caregivers), as well as no melanoma specialists, we felt that there was a huge need. Plus, with the alarmingly growing rate of melanoma in Idaho and Boise (one of the fastest in the country), it seemed necessary to put this group together now.
We plan to meet every month and are working on getting the word out through various channels. Specifically with our doctors who diagnose and treat melanoma here like dermatologists and oncologists. They are probably the most critical to spreading the word and getting a good, solid group together here. Various topics we will discuss in our monthly meetings are treatment options (locally and nationally), doctors who specialize in those treatments, awareness/education, health and nutrition, caregiver support, the list goes on...
Our next step, once we have established a foundation (early next year) is to start promoting awareness in schools locally. We hope to be given the opportunity to talk to students (and their parents) about melanoma prevention and detection. In the future, we would like to conduct fundraisers in various forms to help raise money for different foundations that do research for melanoma treatments (like MRF), as well as help support patients that have limited resources to seek out the best care.
Friday, September 16, 2011
Ok, I'm going to get on my soap box for a minute or two here...The other day I was talking to a man at the gym (that knew about my struggle with cancer) and he told me that in his opinion, "95% of cancers could be avoided if people just paid attention to their nutrition and didn't eat crap!" So, what are you saying here Mister? That I got cancer because I ate badly? I think not! Sure, I don't eat perfectly, but I guarantee that I have always eaten better than the majority of the American population! On top of that, I have always been super healthy--no major sickness other than the occasional cold, never been overweight, always perfect blood pressure and cholesterol, etc.
You're probably wondering what I said to him? Well, first I told him that I didn't agree with his statement whole-heartedly. I informed him that I got my melanoma from all the sun exposure and damage that I had growing up as a lifeguard and such, laying out, and all the outdoor sports and activities that I engaged in. I then asked him, "So, you attribute poor nutrition being the cause of cancer in young babies that have only ingested breast milk?" Lets just say that after that, he didn't really have a good response... :)
Ok, so here's the thing--do I think that poor nutrition can eventually cause cancer? Of course I do! I think that the rise of cancer in our country--the epidemic we are facing--is largely due to lifestyle and environmental causes like poor nutrition, toxins in the air and water, stress, smoking, sedentary activity, etc. With that said though, there are a lot of other factors that influence our risk of cancer like genetics and our bodies are complex! But then again, cancer isn't a respector of persons. Lots of very healthy people get cancer all the time and many unhealthy people don't. Sometimes there is just no rhyme or reason.
The bottom line is that there are things we can do to HELP prevent cancer, but there is NO 100% guarantee that we won't get it either. Even if we ate perfectly, had perfect genes, and lived in a bubble, there is no way to predict with full certainty that we will get cancer or not. And anybody that thinks differently is ignorant in my opinion. We can't fear cancer though. We just have to live our lives the best we can, doing all that we can to prevent it (as well as other diseases), but most importantly trusting in God. And if we do get cancer, it doesn't mean our lives are going to end! Lots of people beat the odds and survive and I will be one of those!
And there you go. That is my soap box and I feel better now. ;)
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Well, I did it again. I kicked some major #$@ in my second race this year, called the Viking Man. It wasn't without it's set-backs though. I had a rough morning to start with not getting enough sleep the night before, then problems getting my wet suit to zip up, a timing chip that didn't work, a tough headwind to ride against on the bike, and lastly getting the wrong directions from a cop (who was directing traffic) which led me down the wrong course and added an extra 7 minutes onto my bike time. OH well, things like that happen sometimes though, and I really can't complain because I still managed to place 1st in my age division and 2nd in overall females (I would've gotten 1st overall if it weren't for getting off course). It was a tough race, but a lot of fun and I'm just glad I had my husband and kids there supporting me!
Thursday, September 8, 2011
As though I wasn't already healthy enough, I still continue to research and find other good nutritional habits to adopt into my family's life. I have always been pretty good at incorporating whole foods into our family's diet--Eric and I were never the frozen pizza-packaged dinner-kind-of-family,nor do we eat out often. We have always made things from scratch too. Whole grains are integral-whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc as well as lean meats or animal proteins, lots of vegetables and fruits, and small amounts of dairy, sugar, and processed foods. The thing is though--nobody is perfect and upon reading more about nutrition, specifically how it affects cancer prevention or growth--I want to do more.
Since being diagnosed with cancer, I have become EVEN MORE aware of the foods our family eats. For instance, eating more organic vegetables and fruits, especially the Dirty Dozen (which contains the most pesticides). Also, we try to buy grass-fed meat and range-free chicken as much as possible to reduce the hormones that are often in meats. Lately though, I have been researching raw food diets. There is a lot of science that backs up the idea of eating a mostly raw whole foods diet. Basically the premise behind it is that when we cook our food, we are taking out the enzymes that our body needs to properly digest and absorb all the nutrients. Especially vegetables and fruits, which are best consumed when ripe and raw (or uncooked). The majority of produce that we eat is raw fortunately, but we could do better. Like for example, I juice and make green smoothies. I generally juice everything from carrots, beets, apples, oranges, lemons, wheatgrass, cucumbers, grapefruit, and celery. Having all those nutrients condensed into a 16 oz glass is so nutrient-dense and combined yields 5-8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day! I also make green smoothies almost daily as well, which yields another 8+ servings. Those are more centered around leafy greens, which are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. I use fruit in those too, to make them taste good. I usually put 2 fresh fruits (for example, a banana and a pear) mixed with a few large handfuls of greens--spinach, chard, kale, and collard greens are my stapes--and then I add 1 cup of frozen fruit like berries, some ground flax seed, and sometimes a scoop of protein powder. That is often my lunch and I usually drink a quart.
So, I already feel like I'm doing a lot of really good things. BUT after doing more research on eating raw, I would like to gradually increase the amount of raw foods that I eat a day (right now it's probably around 60%) to 80% a day. I also want to decrease the amount of animal proteins and dairy that I eat. Because I'm not ready to be vegetarian yet (mostly for the sake of my family and not cooking 2 meals), my husband and I have compromised on having 2 vegetarian meals/week with other plant proteins like beans, lentils, brown rice, or quinoa. The other days we will most likely cook chicken, but also do fish once a week, and a lean, organic red meat once a week too. The reason I want to cut down on animal proteins is because it is highly acidic when it digests in the body thereby creating a more acidic environment, for which cancer and other diseases can grow and thrive. The same goes for dairy. Luckily for me, cutting back on dairy isn't that difficult because I really only eat cheese and yogurt occasionally. For milk, I do almond milk.
As for other highly acidic foods-- like soda, refined sugar, and processed foods, I don't eat those often or at all. on. Now, that's not to say that I won't have the occasional treat or dessert from time to time, but I have cut out sweets from my diet for the most part and to be honest, I feel better not eating them anyways. Soda and most other processed foods aren't a problem for me.
The book above, 12 Steps to Whole Foods, is a great resource to incorporating more raw and whole foods to your diet and has amazing, easy, and delicious recipes in it. I am learning how to sprout foods, like nuts and beans, which makes them "live" and aids in better digestion. In the future, I want to get a wheat grinder so I can first sprout my wheat, and then grind it to make my own whole wheat bread (as well as quinoa and almond flour). I also want a food dehyrator to make snacks like crackers, fruit leathers, dried fruit, toasted nuts, etc.
It can be a bit overwhelming to do all of this, but I have decided that it is best to pick one good habit to adopt at a time, like making green smoothies everyday, and then move onto another habit. It makes it more do-able long-term. I am a firm believer in this principle, especially when it comes to nutrition. You have to make small steps and make it lifestyle change in order to be successful in the long run!
Sunday, September 4, 2011
This subject is a hard one for me to talk about sometimes, but one that I feel is important for me to open up and write about. My husband and I will not be having any more children of our own. Now I say this, but I also know that you "never say never". And I do believe that miracles happen! So, let's just say that we would not CHOOSE for me to get pregnant again... ;)
When I found out that my cancer came back in Jan 2010, we went to several doctors, oncologists that specialized in melanoma, to get opinions on treatments and next steps. It was a grueling process in itself. Upon learning my medical history and original diagnosis with melanoma when I was 7 1/2 months pregnant with #2, every doctor pretty much told us that I SHOULD NOT get pregnant again. Why? Well, for one, when you're pregnant your hormones are all over the place and two, your immune system is suppressed. Because melanoma is directly influenced by the immune response, there is reason to believe that getting pregnant AGAIN for me would mean that the cancer would most likely return. This should especially be considered when you are late-Stage and your risk of recurrence is already very high. This would obviously be a very bad and frightening scenario, hence the reason we have chosen against any more pregnancies.
At the time we were dealing with the painful news of not having any more children, we were also amidst figuring out treatment options, which made it even more emotional for me. This news was very difficult to grasp because we had wanted and planned for more children in our family. When everyone around me was telling me, "Well, at least you have two children", I was thinking differently--that this beautiful experience, righteous desire, and miracle of life was being taken away from me. Sure I was grateful for my 2 boys, but the fact is, I didn't feel or plan to be "done". Funny how plans often don't work out how we want them to!
I have now moved forward and accepted this fact, but sometimes it is still hard. Being in my early 30's, it seems like everyone around me is pregnant and having babies. Of course, I am happy for them and delighted that they are blessed with that opportunity! But there are times when I yearn for that myself too, and when I think about never experiencing pregnancy again, it still brings back those raw emotions...
My goal now is to someday adopt. My husband is open to this too, but wants our focus right now to be on keeping me healthy (and in remission) and taking care of our family. And I fully agree. If we adopt, it won't be for a long time, but I can't help but sometimes think about it and wish for it. I think it is healthy for me to think and plan for this in the future, because it makes me think that I will still be here! In the meantime, I am putting the majority of my thoughts into being here now and being the mother of Austin and Carson because they are what matter most.