A damned fine year

hallway4

I’ve been rolling a thought around in my mind ever since a conversation I had yesterday with my pal Christi.

Christi was kind enough to go with me to the doctor’s office to hear the results of my latest endoscopy. This is always a difficult moment for me, made more difficult by the fact that my doctor told us a week ago that there were “irregularities” that he needed to biopsy.

I spent a week convinced that my cancer was worse. After the first time around when I “had no cancer”, and then it returned, I’ve tried to hope for the best yet expect the worst. What could it be this time? This thought weighed pretty heavily on my mind for the past week.

“Sock it to me,” I said, the second my gastrointestinal doctor entered the exam room.

“No sign of lymphoma,” he said in his totally deadpan voice. I was expecting such bad news that I made him repeat it.

“I no longer see the signs of growing lymphoma that I saw four months ago.”

How can I describe the feeling I had then? It’s as though someone took me to the top of a mountain with a box on my head, and then suddenly removed the box. I felt like I could see for miles, into the future and the past, and I was light as a feather.

This diagnosis means that the treatment works! I’m going to keep up the Rituximab therapy, just in case any lingering “lazy” cancer cells haven’t woken up yet (Rituximab only kills dividing cells). I’ll continue to get chemotherapy every few months for a year-ish, but I know that when I do, it’s doing good things!

After the doctor, Christi and I went to get lunch at a diner. We dug into eggs, and I said, “If I’ve had cancer for a reason, it’s to kick my ass into doing all the things I want to do, because I’m a lazy procrastinator.”

“I’d rather not think of illness as ‘for a reason,'” Christi said, “Because then I get into the habit of thinking that if I do certain things, illness will go away. Illness can’t be controlled like that.”

This thought was interesting, because I cannot count the number of people who asked me how I figured out that I had cancer, along with the next question, “Do you know how you got it?” In the case of lung cancer, the victim blaming can be immediate: “Ah, it’s because they smoked.” In my case, it’s much harder to figure out how cancer snuck down into that one little section of my body. Believe me, the “how the hell did that happen?” has been on my mind too.

This blog has sometimes been about my search for natural means to help my body combat cancer. Much like Kris Carr (whom I critiqued a little in this article I wrote for XOJane), I believe that it’s a good idea to live healthily and avoid animal proteins as much as possible because they feed cancer cells. But cancer is not a tame disease. One excellent critique of the “be as healthy as possible” method comes from a woman named Abigale. She has a variation of Kris Carr’s cancer, and essentially says, this technique is great but it doesn’t actually combat cancer. In fact, she began to blame herself when it didn’t work for her, thinking she wasn’t strict enough or good enough with her diet, right up until she realized that Kris Carr’s cancer was a rare type that metastasizes more slowly than hers.

I was discouraged too when I realized that my cancer returned. The first time through, I did it the healthy way (without even knowing about Kris Carr). I avoided meat, meditated, and exercised hard, and the cancer STILL returned. The second time, I kept to my normal routine. I didn’t avoid meat or animal protein (in the form of my Starbucks addiction), I skated but didn’t increase my weekly amount of yoga, and I took my scheduled Rituximab. The cancer was equally treated.

What does this prove? That we don’t know much of anything yet about cancer. It’s great to be healthy for the sake of being healthy, but there are no miracle cures, and even keeping to the strictest of exercise, diet, and meditation regimes might or might not be useful to combat cancer (although strengthening the body is never bad).

I think it comes back to the idea that I’d somehow “earned” or “deserved” cancer, or that I had it “for a reason.” If all of these are true and it came back, then surely I was still “on the wrong path” and needed to be on the right one.

I reject all of this now. Cancer is just cancer, and I’ll deal with it in whatever way necessary, but (thanks to the words from Christi) I no longer feel the need to blame myself for it, or think, “If only I did __, I wouldn’t have cancer.”

The sad thing about our world is that we’re making it more cancerous every day. Perhaps in the end, the only true way to eliminate cancer is to help the world be toxin free, in whatever ways we can.

But after I got back to work from my meeting with the doctor, I felt so good that I didn’t wanna stay. The weather was beautiful and with my boss’s approval (thanks!) I was soon speeding down the highway, singing at the top of my lungs.

I was feeling sick, I was losing my mind
I heard about these treatments from a good friend of mine
He was always happy, smile on his face
He said he had a great time at the place…

Peace and love is here to stay and now I can wake up and face the day
Happy happy happy all the time, shock treatment, I’m doing fine

Gimme gimme shock treatment, Gimme gimme shock treatment
Gimme gimme shock treatment, I wanna, wanna shock treatment

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Five alternatives to a latte: No caffeine, no milk, no sugar, no problem

My world is sadly Starbucks-free right now, and as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been missing Starbucks like mad. I think I attained addiction-levels with mochas, because even though I knew they contained everything that is the worst for my particular stomach, I still drank them!

Deprivation is really just an opportunity, though, right? There are a lot of things to drink that don’t involve sugar, milk or caffeine. I’ve complied a list so that I can return here and look at it for inspiration when I crave things.

1. WATER.

I’ve talked about the health benefits of water before, but I have another story to add. The other week I totally had an episode of gout (it’s a common side-effect of chemotherapy). Yeah, THAT gout, the one that should only happen in England in the mid-18th century because water wasn’t potable. At any rate, the best cure for gout is to drink more water. I started paying close attention to the 40 ounces a day rule, and I haven’t had gout since. (Thank god, gout sucks!)

Price: Water is awesome and (for the most part) free.

2. TEA.

Black and green teas are antioxidants, which is why I stayed away from these during chemotherapy (I wanted the drug to hang out in my body for as long as possible). Now that cancer is gone, I have a cup of these every now and again to help my body metabolize any harmful chemicals that might be hanging out. This article talks about studies that prove that rats who drink tea tend to have less cancer. I try not to overdo it, though, due to the caffeine. Caffeinated teas are also dehydrants!

Herbal teas/infusions/tisanes are my favorite thing to drink. They fill the need for something warm and nurturing, and I like the meditation involved in boiling the water and steeping the tea. I’m not a tea snob — I don’t have looseleaf herbs and a tea ball — but I do like certain brands of bagged teas better than others. My favorite supermarket tea brand is Twinings. They spend little on packaging, but the herbs are very fresh, and they’ve made a few killer blends that I quite like. My favorite is pure peppermint, which apparently helps to relieve nausea and muscle spasms, and chamomile, which helps to relieve indigestion, insomnia, and cold symptoms. More information about the health benefits of various teas is here.

Kate adds: “Try yerba mate, which I loooooove with a little vanilla non-dairy milk of your choosing, and brewed with a packet or two of ginger tea.” Thanks, Kate! It isn’t technically tea, but actually a variety of holly, and I’m planning to read more about it

I’d add a bit about iced tea here, but I haven’t really gotten into making it. Anyone have a good recipe to share?

Price: Modest. Unless you buy the good stuff.

3. JUICE.

This is a good article about how to pick fruit juice that has few additives, no sugar, and 100% juice.

The most important bit of advice is to read the label, of course, and make sure it doesn’t have any of the following wording:

If you see the words “drink,” “cocktail,” “beverage,” or (in the United States) “nectar” anywhere on the label, this is code meaning that it could contain as little as 1% fruit juice. According to FDA regulations, anything that contains more than 0% fruit juice can be called “fruit juice,” but must also be labeled “drink,” “cocktail,” “beverage,” or “nectar.”

The only problem is that this stuff is EXPENSIVE. There is a very realistic discussion going on about how buying “health” food is something that only the upper-middle-class can really afford to do. But what’s the solution? Perhaps it’s to compromise and buy the least-crappy product at the most reasonable price for one’s budget.

Of course, given a bit of time, there’s always the option of making one’s own juice! These recipe ideas from A Beautiful Mess have sugar, but they also look awesome for summer…

Price: Modest. Unless you buy the good stuff.


(Image from Threemanycooks)

4. SMOOTHIES.

The way my husband makes smoothies turns them into something that’s not technically a drink — they’re more like a healthy glass of pre-digested salad. OK, I admit that this that isn’t selling it, but it’s a perfect way to get nutrients. My husband’s “Chunky” smoothie recipe goes like this:

Use a blender! Put in two bananas, a handful of spinach, a cup of plain lowfat organic yogurt (optional for those avoiding dairy), a few teaspoons of bran, a few pieces of ice, and some other seasonal fruit (like strawberries, right now). Then he starts to blend, adding orange juice until it’s all smooth. The final color is a fabulous shade of chlorophyll green.

This magic drink kept my iron levels up through pregnancy as well as during chemotherapy.

Christi adds: “For smoothies, frozen fruit can be cheaper than fresh fruit, and I don’t know that the difference is that noticeable in a smoothie.” Good point!

Smoothieweb seems to have a plethora of recipe ideas.

Price: Seasonal fruit is cheaper!


(Image from Making This Home)

5. CIDER.

Mmmmm, hot apple cider. I saved this for last because I just realized that it’s not on a disallowed list. This might even replace lattes as my go-to indulgence for those days when I need something awesome to drink. I like that this recipe uses maple syrup, but I like this recipe even better because it uses ginger and no sweetener at all.

Price: I prefer to buy the cider that is cloudy instead of clear, and organic. That makes this an indulgence! But it’s still cheaper than a daily mocha.

~

Got any more alternatives to a cup of dairy with sugar and caffeine? I wanna hear ’em!

In a hole in the ground…

I was wondering to myself what my perfect house might look like. I went through many images before I realized that when I imagined a house, I was actually imagining a garden. And many more images before I realized that the house and garden were really the same to me. In short, I kind of want to grow up and live in a Hobbit hole.

Who doesn’t, though?

Gardening is in my blood. My mother’s family all has green thumbs (my aunt ran a plant nursery for years), and my father’s family are all farmers from a country that is the spitting image of The Shire. So far I haven’t been able to keep a house plant alive for more than a few months, but my child seems to be surviving ok, so maybe I have a chance with the plants. (I think it’s the plants’ fault. They aren’t nearly as vocal when they’re hungry.)

It’s taken me my whole life to get to a place where I could even consider investing in a garden. I mean, house. I grew up in tiny apartments, and the closest I came to a house was my mother’s townhouse in New Jersey. That didn’t have much of a garden, although my Grandma Renee did use the back patio to grow a few potted things — tomatoes, basil. I remember her complaining about the damned rabbits chewing up her lettuce, the rural invading the urban. I’ve never really thought about nailing my feet down before. Buying a house implies growing roots instead of wings. But I really want a garden…

I mean, house.

Ok, I suppose I should care about the INSIDE of the house too. As long as all the doors and windows are round, I think I’ll be happy.

Today’s music is Dondante by My Morning Jacket (such a pretty guitar solo), and today’s lunchtime websurfing is from Yolo Color House.  The top image is a painting by Alan Lee, and the bottom image came from hunting around the internet.

Dreamtime (greening the Oscars, armchair traveling, recycling socks)

I’m not used to thinking of the Oscars as a particularly green event, no matter how cool it is to go green nowadays. But Livia Firth (wife of Mr. Darcy) managed to convince a few people to wear dresses made from recycled fabrics and synthetics. Notably, Oscar Winner Meryl Streep’s dress is made from “eco-certified fabric.” I wonder what this means? Still, I’m happy to see this trend and hope she can keep the buzz going! (Read more)

Dreamtime (follow some links):

  • Awesome recycling project: Torn socks become java sleeves, not that I can drink coffee, sniffle! It’s in Swedish, but the photos convey the concept pretty well.
  • Got uterine fibroids? Shrinking Fibroids is an awesome blog that tracks research and articles on the topic.

Feedback: More reusing tips

Justine made a great point. The three Rs are reduce, reuse, recycle — and although my family tries hard at the last one, we need to work on the first two. Today Monkey and I headed to the art supply store and got washi tape for some toilet paper tube upcycling projects (photo above). Are we creating art, or making more clutter? Hmmmmm…

Here are a few more great comments to the last post:

From Mel:

I’d like to add a tip – wrappers, fabrics and even old clothes can be shredded and stuffed into pillows made of upholstery fabrics for a long lasting household item. Cat bed, kid pillow, couch pillow, neck pillow. We have one that was made 10 years ago and it is still going strong.

From Nora:

My box to put recycling in is a cardboard box that an air filter came in. I dressed it in one of my skirts to make it “pretty”. I also like to cut rectangular boxes and use them to hold paper or mail. I have used them to hold cords as well, since we always have a bunch near outlets. So see, you can actually clean up clutter with clutter.

From Roxanne:

Thanks for the list… a friend told me the other day that I was “hoarding” because I have two cabinets dedicated to glass jars, styrofoam trays, toilet paper rolls and plastic bottles. I know I can make us of them. But her comment made me think I need to have a more specific plan. I am going to make a Pinterest board and start with pinning these blogs you listed! Thank you.

From Justine:

The one thing we have a lot of is paper from I.’s school. And we recycle it, but we tend not to re-use it. I do feel pretty good about our waste, though. Usually we have one kitchen-sized bag of trash per week. And for clothes: I went to a clothing swap recently and it was awesome! And anything that didn’t get picked up was donated to a local women’s group.

From Jill:

I store tons of things in glass jars- nuts, epsom salts for baths, cat treats, toiletries… the list goes on and on. I save my egg cartons for my mom, who has a flock of chickens and always needs more cartons. I make clothes that are not fit to donate into rags for cleaning my hardwood floors. I use the large bags the cat food comes in for garbage bags. I use toilet paper rolls to corral cords. I try to re-use paper, but I could be much better about this. Oh! One of my favorites– I use the cute crates/boxes that clementines come in for storage in my pantry- they are great for holding spice jars, boxes of tea bags, etc.