Category Archives: Life Changes

Hidden chemicals in your everyday products…Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

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images (1)Our world is filled with chemicals and ingredients that do nothing other than to make the experience of what you are currently doing more “exciting!”  We are a society of people who need “razzle dazzle” when we brush our teeth, and we don’t feel like we are clean enough, unless the soapy suds from our shampoo and body washes are three inches thick!

I am one of those women who has always felt like they were born in the wrong generation…probably the influence of my Grandmother Hazel.  She was a frugal woman who could make needed things appear out of nowhere.  As someone who lived through the depression, you never (and I mean NEVER) would have gotten up from her table and walked away with food still sitting on your plate…food was there to be eaten.  If you didn’t eat it at lunch, you can bet that it would be sitting on the same plate for you to eat at supper.  The choice was yours as to enjoying it when it was freshly made, or freshly warmed up or brought out of the fridge.  That part was kind of rough for us kids, but she had a resourcefulness about her that really resonated with me.  Everything was used, reused and then repurposed to be used in a brand new way.  If it wasn’t necessary right now, it was put on a shelf…with the intention that it would be necessary one day in the future.

I guess that is why I feel that some of the “old” ways of doing things are a little bit more healthy for my family than the stuff that we leave for scientists in large laboratories to develop.  Because we are such a particular group of people who do not like unpleasant experiences, our daily routines are filled with extra chemicals and “stuff” that are purposefully designed to make people feel really great using them.  There are many products that would curdle your stomach if you knew how they were used in your everyday life.  If you knew more about them, I wonder if you would feel the same about using them?

downloadSodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) – Sodium lauryl sulfate is a surfactant, detergent, and emulsifier that is used in thousands of cosmetic products, but can also be found in your run-of-the-mill industrial cleaners. This is the inexpensive foaming agent in dish soaps, hand and body washes, cleaning products, and even toothpaste.  We might see this as a luxury, because it would “appear” to us unknowing consumers that the thick and fluffy soap bubbles that it is producing MUST be better than those lesser bubbling products that seem to disappear in a minute. However, studies have shown that this may not be such an innocent luxury. This substance is very powerful, and it may surprise you to know that it is strong enough to scrub garage floors and degrease engines, and that it is considered to be carcinogenic over time. It is present in nearly all shampoos, scalp treatments, hair color and bleaching agents, toothpastes, body washes and cleansers, make-up foundations, liquid hand soaps, laundry detergents, and bath oils/bath salts. Although SLS originates from coconuts, the chemical is anything but natural.

So, if it is so bad, why do we find it in all these products?  Hmmm…it kind of makes you wonder!  Actually, this stuff is very cheap. What is freaking funny, if you ask me, is that this powerful degreaser can remove oil from an engine, but is supposed to be gentle on your skin???  How can it do anything other than break down your skin and remove all the essential oils that your body needs to be its own healthy, vibrant and alive self?  It has also been said that once in the body, SLS mimics the hormone estrogen, which can bring on health problems like PMS, menopausal symptoms, decreased male fertility, and increased female cancers…yikes!

A study found that in children under six, the absorption of this ingredient, on a daily basis through their scalp, prevented the proteins in their eyes from properly developing. Furthermore, it is said that the SLS in toothpaste contributes to prolonged and more frequent canker sores in the mouth, and the SLS in shampoo causes hair to become more brittle and break easier. So, not only is it a harmful additive, but it is a beauty product ingredient that is creating a not-so-beautiful situation.

We use several toothpastes in our household, from pure baking soda, to the kind that you find in tubes from the store. Immediately after reading about SLS, I went to look at my own toothpaste, which is a brand of Tom’s.  Tom’s, as you may or may not know, is supposed to be a version that is made with more healthy ingredients.  Sadly, I noticed that it was listed as number seven in the listing of ingredients…”sigh” of despair! That really bothered me, as I have been purchasing that for years, thinking that I was doing us all a favor.  I immediately when to their website, which I am sharing a link below, and learned that they do offer another product that is without SLS, called Clean & Gentle and Botanically Bright toothpastes.  I will look for this the next time that I am in the store, as toothpaste in a tube seems to be the preferential one that my family likes.  I know there are homemade products that I can make for my family, but I have not made any as of yet. I don’t feel the need to make anything more complex that baking soda, or a combination of baking soda and coconut oil, as it gets the job done for me.  My children, however, would probably prefer to grab their tube, use it, and then put it back in the drawer. I will point out that my youngest daughter is finding the out-of-the-box baking soda to be a healthy option for her, and I hope that she continues with it.

So what should you do?  Sadly, I cannot tell you what “you” need to do.  I will tell you that I found sodium lauryl sulfate listed as the second ingredient in our shampoos, which “I” found intolerable.  I guess I would feel a little bit better if it were the 9th, 15th or 30th ingredient…but number two???  I plan to check alternative products and ingredients out the next time I go to the store.  I will either find an alternate that I can live with, or I will resort to finding a recipe and making my own.  My sister made me a lovely coconut milk and rosemary shampoo last year, and it was divine!  Just for fun, I am including links to a few homemade versions that you may want to think about making, just in case you cannot find shampoos with ingredients that work for you. Please note that you can Google just about anything, and recipes will pop up and make themselves known to you.  It is not hard to do!

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate is just one of the many ingredients that are in all kinds of products that we use daily.  I am a busy woman, so I do not have time to research every single thing that is hidden in the ingredients of my family’s health and beauty aids. I need to start with one thing, so I can become familiar with the word, what it is “supposed” to do in the products, and then I can learn how I can find it in my home.  Once armed with that, I am better prepared to find alternatives that “I” can live with, because knowledge is power for me!  Be warned, because these chemicals are everywhere.  Be prepared to have to make decisions about all kinds of things, if that is what you decide you need to do. You may not be able to fix everything, so you may have to decide which products are acceptable, and which products are intolerable.

I encourage you to go to the EWG.org, which is a website that educates you on all the products available for purchase. You can enter your own products into their program, just to see what the scores actually are.  The best products have scores that are low. Find your brands and see if they are fine, or figure out which brands would make better alternates. Either way, you will be more knowledgeable about what you have in your house than you were before.

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IF YOU WISH TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE, PLEASE CHECK THE LINKS TO THESE SITES:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/13/sodium-lauryl-sulfate.aspx

Ingredients you don’t want in your toothpaste:  http://www.rodalenews.com/toothpaste-chemicals

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate:  http://www.nutopia.cc/the-collective-co-op/open-door-wisdom-blogs/shedding-light-upon-the-darkness-blog/item/common-household-product-sodium-lauryl-sulfate

Info on Tom’s toothpaste:  http://www.tomsofmaine.com/ingredients/overlay/sodium-lauryl-sulfate

EWG facts on toothpaste:  http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/search.php?query=toothpaste&search_group=everything&&showmore=everything&start=0

What the chemical companies don’t want you to know: http://www.ewg.org/research/what-chemical-industry-doesnt-want-you-know

Make your own shampoo:  http://wellnessmama.com/3701/natural-shampoo/, and at http://www.eatgood4life.com/home-made-coconut-shampoo/

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Dealing with Stress and Anxiety…

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Why do I feel so anxious?  Anxiety often accompanies the diagnosis of cancer, so recognizing that this is a normal feeling might make you feel a little bit better.  Some levels of anxiety are temporary, causing you to be distracted with thoughts, or occasionally awakens you during the night, so you can think non-stop about stuff that you cannot control. Unlike the fear of diabetes, depression, heart disease, or even influenza, which are all bad conditions, there is often that horrific realization that a good many people will eventually die from cancer.  Sure, there is a chance that they might die from those other disease conditions, but this cancer business seems a little too sinister, and it has everybody completely freaked out about it! I don’t know of a single person who felt “okay” about hearing that diagnosis; so take heart…you are not alone!

I went to Wikipedia, to get the definition that they list, and it is pretty accurate: The definition of anxiety is an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, often accompanied by nervous behavior. It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death.  Anxiety is not the same as fear, which is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat; whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat.    

So why do we fear it?  I think we do because there is a constant onslaught of negative cancer messages in our lives. Not a day goes by where you don’t hear about people wearing pink to “this” particular walk, or a friend is polishing up their bike for “that” particular bike ride.  It feels like a day doesn’t go by when we don’t see someone wearing a shirt for some cancer benefit, or we hear about a friend of a friend passing away suddenly.  There are notices in magazines and newspapers, along with slick advertisements on the television, and they let us know about some new cancer drug that is available, or some latest, greatest cancer hospital in America.  There are bake sales, fundraisers, bowl-a-thons, and God knows what else going on weekly…if not daily.   Even if we tried, we simply cannot get away from how it has touched the lives of the people that we know.

If you poll most people who have cancer, I suspect that they are not actually “afraid” of dying; usually, they are afraid of what their loss will do to their families.  Of course, some people are afraid of pain and disfigurement, but most of us worry about all those issues that plague us during our waking hours.

  • Why didn’t I spend more time teaching my spouse about what it is that I do?  
  • Why didn’t we get that life insurance when I was healthier?  
  • I wish I didn’t have to work when I am so sick.  I just want to heal…but everybody needs my paycheck!  
  • How am I going to find the energy to be a parent to my children right now…I am exhausted!
  • I’m afraid to see my doctor today…I think my cancer is worse!

These thoughts are just the tip of the emotional iceberg when you have cancer. The sad thing about being so ill is that you have a lot of really down “down” times, when your body is just wore out…but your mind might be stuck in a loop of total negativity. I used to call it my “dark well of despair.”  When you do not have control over things going on to you, it can be terrifying…and pretty depressing.  The way to find more peace during those difficult times is to try to find ways to lighten your load, which will help to ease your mind.  This means knowing what you can control, so you CAN focus on fixing the things can be fixed.

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Here are some suggestions for you to get control?

Recognize that your world has shifted off its axis and that you have “permission” to be freaked out!  Never think that you are unworthy of feeling scared, depressed or even down.  You may go through many highs and lows during this trying time, so love yourself enough to be honest with your feelings.  Information is out there, in the form of reading materials, support groups and from amazing sites and people on the Internet.  If you have a mind to look for ideas to help you, then you will definitely find techniques that will make you feel more empowered about what is happening. This knowledge will lead you in the direction of calming your thoughts and mind.

Do not assume that you are going to die!  Having cancer is not always a death sentence! For many people, it truly is a welcomed slap in the face that pushes them towards a healthier lifestyle.   A common thread among people who write and teach about alternative ways to fight cancer, is that most people will actually develop cancer cells in their lifetime. The thing that separates all those who get it from those who do not, is that the people with extremely healthy immune systems will actually clear the cancer out of their body.  That is because the body is designed to be healthy, so their body systems will gobble up and dispose of any cancerous cells.  Something about them is causing their entire body to work the way it was designed to do. Do they exercise, limit their exposure to unhealthy activities, eat a diet that supports their body systems, or is something completely different?  To me, it just means, that the likelihood of getting cancer is somewhat “controllable!” So if it is controllable, maybe we can do some of those things too.  Maybe we can even start to control it today.

I had cancer, even though I “thought” I was pretty healthy.  What I learned, was I was not the kind of healthy that keeps a body in optimum fighting condition.  It took me months to get the information that I am going to give you, and I don’t want anyone to have to wait months for anything.  Let this list of helpful tips be the first thing that sparks your interest.  It doesn’t matter if you decide to go in an all natural way of treating your body, or if you decide to go in a more traditional healing manner.  These are good tips that you can use for every treatment.  They are the easiest to control, and I tell them to every single person who informs me that they have cancer:

  1. Stop eating all forms of sugar, and that includes most breads, pasta, white rice, desserts, and soda.  I would also immediately start reducing fruit, especially if I were eating it in ridiculous amounts.
  2. Start juicing fruits and vegetables, with emphasis on dark leafy greens and vegetables. Fruits are okay for juicing, but they should NOT be the focus of your juices.
  3. Stop eating foods that your body has to work hard to digest.  Drinking healthy juices will go right into your digestive system, getting nutrients and enzymes exactly where they need to go, and immediately begin healing your body.  A 6 or 8-ounce porterhouse steak with fries and a sugary dessert are going to take hours and hours to digest.  Not only will it be taxing on your major organs of the body, it will also be zapping your energy stores during the entire duration.  If you are very ill, then stick to mostly juicing and eating other foods in their raw form (salads, nuts, seeds, etc.).
  4. If you are not already doing so, start taking extra vitamins and supplements to build up your immune system.
  5. If you have been dealing with stressful situations in your life, you need to learn how to reduce the stress and let go of emotional disturbances that are bothering you.
  6. Decrease your exposure to chemicals and toxins, which are EVERYWHERE!  This includes your toothpaste, body lotions, shampoos, cleaning sprays, pesticides, backyard bug spray, perfumes, etc.  They are literally filled with chemicals that your liver cannot filter out.  The goal is to be gentle on your internal organs right now, because they need to be loved and cared for, especially while they work hard to take care of you.
  7. Adequate sleep is essential.  We heal while we are sleeping, so make sure that you are getting plenty of restful sleep.
  8. You need a vision of “you” being healthy!  What’s on the other side of your cancer journey? Is it you vacationing with your family in Figi?  Is it you educating others about health and wellness?  Is it you starting to work on helping homeless people in your community?  Is it you quitting your job and deciding to babysit your grandchildren?   Or is it something else? The point is, you need to “see” yourself on the other side of this journey…happy, healthy and whole!  That vision in your head is going to tell your cells and body that you plan to recover from this minor disturbance.  It doesn’t tell your cells and body that you are withering up and fading away.     It says, “I will be here, and I have things that need to be done…so let’s work to get me there!”  

Here are some helpful tips to help you feel more in control of what is happening to you: 

How about keeping a diary to record stuff that is happening in your life?  It can be as elaborate, or as simple, as you want it to be.  A spiral notebook would be great, but an inexpensive one (think those free ones at the drug store) would be just fine too. Jot down how you mentally feel for the day, or pen a quick blurb about what cancer stuff happened (meds, appt’s, etc.).  Here is an example of how I used to record things.  I used to have chemo every other Friday.  I was usually okay until Sunday evening, when I got really sick; and that lasted through the entire next week and into Wednesday or Thursday of the following week…just in time for me to have another treatment! When I started to record things down by date, I learned which days I could “taste” foods again, and I learned that there were days where I literally was out of my “skin” from anxiety that was induced by drugs.  Patterns emerged that began to help me feel like I could control what was happening to me.  Then I could plan events on days that I knew I would feel okay.  My chemo was making me forgetful and unfocused, so walking around with a monthly calendar that identified bad symptom days, or days when I needed to do something for my kids’ school, helped me feel better.  And who knows…you may be one of those creative persons who might have a novel that is just waiting to be penned!

Don’t worry about any physical changes that you may have to undergo!  Many of us are going to have changes to deal with.  Some of us will lose bits and pieces of our bodies, and others will lose more.  Some of us will lose some of our hair, and others will lose it all.  Some of us will not be able to walk, or talk, or see the same way that we did before we got sick, and some will be worse.  We are beautiful spirits inside, walking around with “shells” of a body that we put on display for others.  Do not let cancer define you as a weak person who is unable to cope with these changes.  You know you have cancer, so embrace it as part of who you are right now. Instead of looking at the negative ways that it will affect you, start looking at the inner ways that it will enrich you instead.  People will find you absolutely stunning, no matter what you look like!

There may be lots of changes that you will have to deal with.  Some are more emotional than others, but things will be easier if you can be ready for these changes!

  1. Is your hair going to fall out?  Why wait to have it start spilling forth while you are showering?  There is nothing more depressing than watching your hair get stuck to your wet legs and clog up the drain. Perhaps you could have a glorious woman party some evening.  You can invite your bestie, or your sister(s) over, and plan to shave the entire thing down on your own terms.  I had my two beautiful sisters over, and we laughed, drank a little wine and made the situation memorable and fun.  I never regretted losing my hair, because I refused to define myself by my hair.  I know that I am more than hair!
  2. Do you need to get a wig?  Then make sure that you do it before your hair goes, as it is a whole lot easier to envision the right color and texture when you still have your own.  The American Cancer Society has all sorts of wigs to choose from, and there are countless wig magazines and on-line stores to order from as well.  You can order cute little “bangs” to wear under your hats, and you can order any length and color that suits your style.  Do you need to go on some kind of cancer walk or benefit? Why not show up in a Katy Perry purple or pink wig?  I am a brunette, but I had one that was a super funky ash blond…I thought I looked like a million damn bucks in that wig!
  3. Do you need to attend a wedding, graduation, or some other big function? Then put yourself together to the best of your ability and just go!   Everybody will be glad to see you, and you will enjoy having the chance to get out and see examples of “life” all around you.  You will have people asking you questions, and many of them will probably be waiting on you.  Make the best of the situation by “rocking” that party with your new wig, or your bandages, or your pic-line or port.  Having the inner confidence to boldly walk into that wedding reception, with your penciled-in eyebrows, a funky-colored wig, and a pic line dangling from your arm, is about as sexy as it gets!  And I am speaking from experience here!

Learn to say “no,” and be okay about it.  You may be having a hard time managing all the details of your life right now. Do not be shy about not volunteering to do anything!  You have cancer…you have the right to sit back and let others step forward to do extracurricular activities at your kids’ school, at work, at the daycare provider’s, for your parents, for your friends, and for whomever else has the guts to ask you to do something other than “heal!” Know what your limits are, and make sure to rest when you have had enough of something.  You cannot do it all right now, so you should not feel guilty about it.  Kris Carr, author of Crazy, Sexy Cancer has a whole spiel about it in her book (which I highly recommend you read!), where she pulls out her invisible Cancer Card for whatever situation warrants it. It’s like a “Get out of Jail” card for cancer patients.  It’s not really a card…it’s a general philosophy that you use when it is in your best interest.  For example, your (friend/lover/mother/boss) wants you to do something (good/sad/funny/whatever) but you don’t feel up to do.  You pull out that invisible card and tell them you are sorry, but you cannot do that today because your (symptoms suck/anxiety/stomach hurts/bald head is cold/diarrhea is unstoppable) are causing you to not feel like you can manage it.  Who’s gonna argue with you? You have freaking cancer!

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Learn how to express your feelings, especially when you are too tired to do it appropriately.  Sometimes people would talk to me, but I was literally too tired to listen to everything they said.  Then I wouldn’t know what was happening, or I wouldn’t remember the conversation, which just made me feel stupid.  I have this terrible Norwegian/German temper when I am feeling inadequate, so words come out sounding ten times worse than what it should have.  Being honest about my shortcomings made me feel better; because, sometimes that Cancer Card cannot take away something super-horrible that you may have spewed to your (lover/partner/best friend/sister) when they were just trying to make your life easier.  Apologize when necessary, and be sincere about it!

Know who is in your support system People will be climbing out of the woodwork to lend a hand.  Some schools and employers coordinate meal deliveries and fundraisers.  Some friends want to take you to and from appointments. Maybe you have a sibling who is offering to clean your bathroom or house once or twice a month for you. LET THEM! Unless you have a strong aversion to the loving people in your life knowing that you are “human” during this challenging time…who cares if someone sees you in a vulnerable way; or that your laundry room has laundry from one end to the other! Yeah, yeah…I get it; it’s hard to let any Tom, Dick and Stanley know what is going on in your personal sphere; but you can let in those amazing people who are your true “besties!”

For the others that want to help, I find that giving them something that they can do for you will make them feel like they are helping.  Maybe they pick your kid up from Cub Scouts every Thursday. Maybe they could bake a batch of cookies for your family, especially since you probably do not feel like baking.  How about assigning someone to pick up milk and bread on those “really bad” days, or perhaps someone could run simple errands (dry-cleaner, pet food, library, etc.). Start making a list of things that would be good for you and your family.

Necessary ideas might be:  Pick up/drop off kids somewhere; a hot meal for your family on treatment day, or another day when things are bad; take books back to the library before fines are due; laundry; household cleaning.

Nice ideas might be:  Make a batch of cookies or bars for your family to enjoy; gift cards for the family to go out and do or eat something; offers to babysit or run errands.

These are a few ideas that might work for you, but personalize them for your family.  Then when someone asks, you can be ready with an idea.  And if you still don’t feel comfortable assigning people jobs, then tell your “bestie,” mother or sister.  “They” can be the coordinator of such activities!

Simplify your life. This means restructuring your priorities, and maybe the priorities of other people in your family! Do your kids have to have organized play dates to the ice skating rink every Friday; or can they forego that for a few months? Do you need to repaint your bathroom because you are supposed to be hosting a family event this year…because you should pull that Cancer Card out and absolutely say no!  Get off of committees and fundraising obligations, and do not worry about what people think of you.  Do not feel like you have to acknowledge every single gift that people give you, but feel free to keep a list.  If you get around to sending a nice thank you some time…fine.  If not, the world will still go on.

Instead of mopping your floors every Friday and washing everybody’s bedding on Sundays (like you might do when you normally feel good), perhaps you relax your standards and do it once a month, or see if someone else can do it for you. It just comes down to priorities; so evaluate what activities are most important, and be okay with getting rid of the ones that aren’t. You need to conserve your precious energy for things that are in your best interest right now, and not to be wasting it on things that will not amount to anything in the long run.  As an added benefit, you will have more time to spend with family, friends or just being by yourself.

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Improve lifestyle habits.  Everybody can benefit from paying attention to your levels of physical activity and healthy eating, even if you are undergoing treatments and feel exhausted. I do not expect you to run a marathon, but you could walk for a while outside.  Anything that gets you out in the sun for a while (think vitamin D), so you can see the beauty of life around you will do you wonders.  If you can manage walking a couple of times a week, that would be good.  It is very important to get your oxygen moving throughout your body.  Cancer lives in spaces that are anaerobic, which means having no oxygen.  Deep breaths of fresh air, and finding ways to increase your movement will be good for you.  Now would be a good time to try some kind of meditation or yoga class; both which calm the restless mind and focuses your attention on breathing.

This is also the time to be stepping up all your healthy eating options (juicing, plenty of fresh salads, plenty of water) and cutting down the stuff that weakens your body (overloading it with chemicals and toxins, eating foods that are too difficult to digest), which could possibly reduce your chances of healing. Stop any bad habits, if you can, like smoking, drinking alcohol, doing recreational drugs, staying up late and not getting enough sleep.  Also, make sure you are not dwelling on all the negatives going on in your life right now, and make sure to stop any other obsessive habit/activity that prevents you from resting and recuperating.

If you work, find ways to reduce stress there.  It would be a good idea to sit down with someone from your Human Resources Department, or perhaps a coworker or manager. Keep them apprised of what is going on in your life, and let them know how you plan to manage problem areas that might arise (feeling sick/exhausted, reducing hours, etc.). When you are troubled by something not working out well, communicate your needs so you can get them resolved. Find out what your sick time and vacation benefits may be, and let them know if you plan to use them for treatments or recover.  Some employers have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which may offer you some help in other parts of your life.  It is advisable that you inquire if you have one, just in case you need to use it.

Chemobrain and memory problems.  Depending on what your treatment plan may be, you may have issues with memory. This could be related to your chemo drugs, any meds you take for pain, anxiety, or it can be a result of simply freaking out about things!  I urge you to make notes on a calendar, and to leave notes about things that you don’t want to forget (notes on my bathroom mirror or coffee pot worked best for me).  Run plans and concerns past your spouse, partner, kids, or whomever it would be helpful to know about a specific detail.

Contact your kids’ school and extracurricular club/sports coordinators.  A quick call to your child’s teacher or guidance counselor will be a great relief to you. You can let them now what is happening, and they can alert you to problems that they may be seeing at school.  If you need assistance for your kids, such as meeting with a professional to sort out any emotional disturbances, please take advantage of it.  Most insurance policies have mental health benefits, with therapists and other professional staff who are trained to work with families. The American Cancer Society has a phone number that you can call, or that your kids can call, so they can talk to someone about what is going on at home.  It’s a great service!

Have a sense of humor. If you are moping around the house, despondent about everything that is going wrong in your life, you are not using your energy to heal yourself.  Find ways to bring humor in your everyday life, and encourage your family to work on making the household a stress-free and negative-free home.  Pull out all the funny movies that you have in the house and re-watch them, or check some out from the library.  Make a point to find some hilarious cards at the drugstore and send them to your best friends, sisters or your mother.  Connect with other survivors who you enjoy, and find ways to laugh and be normal.  Laughter is a very positive way to improve the energy around you, and it helps to boost your immune system as well.

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Take a break from the computer.  This is not the time to go on-line and view other people’s horrible cancer stories, or watch YouTube videos that only trigger those tears and fears. One time I was visiting my parents for the weekend, and I got on the computer to check my e-mail. One thing led to another, and then I was looking at websites about cancer, and then they were linking me into other sites and other stories.  Long story, short, I got myself into a site that was literally filled with death stories that were all related to my cancer.  It was horrible!  I couldn’t sleep that night, and I got into a funk that I couldn’t get out of for over a week.  Vow to only look at websites that offer positive messages, and that affirm how you can turn this challenge into a life-changing wonderful event!

Finally:  These are a few things that I thought were helpful for me.  I do not claim to know all that there is to know about you or your cancer story.  I encourage you to find whatever solutions that would work for you, and to share your story with others.  I posted a few links below, and I hope you find them useful.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anxiety

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/supportprogramsservices/app/resource-detail.aspx?resourceId=36440

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/childrenandcancer/helpingchildrenwhenafamilymemberhascancer/

http://www.oprah.com/own-super-soul-sunday/Kris-Carrs-7-Crazy-Sexy-Tips

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/living-with-cancer-kris-carr/

http://emedicinehealth.com/stress_management_when_you_have_cancer-health/article_em.htm

http://www.cancerfightingstrategies.com/stress-and-cancer.html#sthash.H5IMgiWO.dpbs

http://www.cancercenter.com/treatments/laughter-therapy/

http://www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-helps-cancer-prevention-recovery/

http://blog.dana-farber.org/insight/2013/03/five-ways-to-support-families-dealing-with-childhood-cancer/

http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/002605-pdf.pdf

Love your liver…

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LiverIs there anything quite as sexy as a healthy liver?  You may be thinking that I slipped on a banana peel in my kitchen; or perhaps I am feeling a bit “touched” right now from all the holidays, but I assure you that I am quite fine.  It’s just that the liver is such an incredibly necessary part of a healthy body system, but people just don’t give it the love that it needs.  Talking about your liver is about as goofy as telling someone you just met about the color of your poop. Um, yeah…it’s kinda weird!

The liver’s main function is to clear your blood of waste products, hormones, drugs and other toxins.  It also aids in the digestion process by releasing bile salts to break down all those different foods that we love.  It is an integral body system that is designed to work in harmony with all your other body systems. When your liver is not working correctly, it affects your health in all sorts of negative ways.  Someone with liver problems may experience varying degrees of diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, and even jaundice.  More severe problems could be non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease, hepatitis, cirrhosis, and even cancer.  The super cool thing about the liver is that it can actually regenerate itself, but that’s only if you don’t let liver troubles get too advanced.  The tipping point is when healthy liver tissue is replaced with scarred, nonfunctional tissue.  That is when any kind of regeneration will be difficult or nonexistent.

Personally, I like to think of the liver as a great big sponge.  It is constantly working for you by digesting foods, making important proteins that that are secreted into the blood, and filtering out all the bad stuff that you ate, drank or were exposed to without even knowing about it.

Care and maintenance of your liver can be difficult, especially if you live a life that includes excessive alcohol, smoking, as well as all forms of drugs. Other problems come from too much soda, chemically treated produce, and meat and dairy products that were brought up on poor quality or genetically modified foods.  We also live in a time where it is very customary to slather chemicals on our bodies, not giving a thought to what might actually be in the products that we are using. On top of that, many of us live in homes that are filled with toxic chemicals that we don’t even think about. Furniture and carpeting are made with incredible amounts of chemicals that makes them fire retardant. Every time you sit down, these chemicals puff up out of the furniture and settle in your house somewhere. These same chemicals can be found in your insulation and carpet padding as well, so you can’t help but be exposed to them. Unless you make the conscious decision to buy safe, non-toxic products, retailers are standing by, happily providing you with whatever toxic stuff their store happens to sell.

So what can a person do to keep their liver in optimum health?  It’s not too hard to make changes that affect the health of your liver, but they take a commitment from you.  The liver is an organ that works hard, so you have to think about it in terms of needing breaks throughout the day; and every now and then, you might think about giving it a day off of work.

  1. Upon rising, drink an 8-oz. glass of warm water with the juice of 1/2 to one full fresh lemon. Do it before your coffee and breakfast. This amazing concoction will help balance pH, aid in digestion and elimination, help your immune system, and it hydrate your lymph system.  It is a simple thing that will take a few minutes of your time, but it will make a huge difference in your life.
  2. Reduce your alcohol intake.   When alcohol reaches the liver, it produces a toxic enzyme called acetaldehyde, which can damage liver cells and cause permanent scarring.  It also harms the brain and stomach lining.
  3. Eat liver friendly foods like broccoli, oats, salmon, almonds, blueberries, grapefruit, lemons, kidney beans, tea, soybeans, spinach, pumpkin, and vegetable juices.
  4. Add herbs to your foods.  Milk thistle, dandelion root, burdock root, artichoke, and turmeric can all help to detox the liver assisting enzymes flush out dietary carcinogens.
  5. Drink your meals.  Give your liver a break by drinking fresh juices for a meal, or even a day.
  6. Drink 6-8 glasses of fresh water each day.
  7. Take a detox bath.  Add two cups of epsom salt and a few drops of essential oil to your very hot bath.  Soak in it for 20 minutes, while you meditate and tell you liver to “smile,” because you love it!  God bless!

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http://www.rodalenews.com/flame-retardant-furniture

http://loveyourliver.com.au/your-liver/where-it-is-and-what-it-does

http://vixi.com/content/reasons-drink-lemon-water-morning

http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/liver-cleanse-foods/

http://www.oprah.com/health/What-Does-the-Liver-Do

https://wordpress.com/post/37908178/384

http://www.uihealthcare.org/liver-disease-frequently-asked-questions/

http://www.naturalnews.com/041944_liver_function_detox_medicinal_herbs.html

http://healthylivinghowto.com/1/post/2012/01/detoxification-part-i-healing-waters.html

A Daily Protocol for Living a Healthy Life…

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images (8)If you want to work on maintaining a body that is healthy and in balance, which will reduce your chances of getting cancer, then it is advisable that you be at your best optimum health.   Here are some things that you can do to stay healthy and well.

Poor Nutrition – It probably will not come as a shock to you that the American diet is not as healthy as it have been several decades ago.  Due to the demands of work, caring for children, running errands on our lunches and after we get home, and other similar situations that make mealtime a problem, people rely on convenience items to make their lives easier; especially when carting one child to ballet, and another one off to flute practice!  To keep it all together, many resort to drive-thru’s, restaurants that deliver and a never ending supply of snacks that are eaten in the back seat of a mini-van.

Good nutrition is found in foods that have minimal processing and ingredients. Good food is usually in its raw and natural state (fresh produce, salads, organic chicken, healthy nuts, seeds, etc.), and has ingredients that are easily identifiable (water, chicken, eggs, salt, carrots, etc.).  It also does not come in a plastic bag, box or a can.  Raw foods are filled with healthy nutrients and enzymes that serve your body well.  Unhealthy foods are processed, prepackaged and filled with artificial colors, chemicals and additives that usually can increase your chances of cancer.  In fact, your body does not know what to “do” with these foods, once they get into your system; it only knows what to do to “real food.”  Our digestive system gets bungled up on on the extra chemicals from growing and harvesting the foods, along with the long list of preservatives and additives that were added to it to make it look and taste “great” as it sits on the shelf. It may “look” healthy (because the label has a pretty farm on it), but your body cannot absorb the nutrients that it needs to keep you in optimum health.

While we are on the topic of good nutrition, it is very important to note that “sugar feeds cancer!”  Cut down your sugar intake immediately!  If you drink sugary beverages, it is advisable that you stop.  Do you need a dessert after every single meal?  Then you may want to stop that entirely, or limit them as well.  Diets that have little or no sugar are the healthiest when you are dealing with cancer.  Skip the bakery items and eat fruit or vegetables!

Not Enough Nutrition – Even if you are eating an amazing diet that is filled with raw and minimally processed foods, almost every body is still is in need of extra nutrition. It is hard when you are healthy, but when you have cancer it is even harder.  Many people find it useful to take extra vitamins and other supplements to keep them in the best health possible.  Do some research, or talk to a naturopathic doctor to find ways to support you immune system.

Get Plenty of Exercise – Again, unless you are actually enrolled in a class or make it a habit to walk, run, bike, swim, or do something else, you most likely are not getting the right amount of exercise to help your body out. Cancer grows in places where there is no oxygen.  Get your heart pounding and you will be increasing your levels of oxygen.  Make it a point to get out and be in the fresh air, and then remember to breathe deeply.  Find something that will interest you and keep your mind busy.  Play with your kids.  Take long walks with a friend or your partner. Do whatever you can to not be sedentary.  Being physically fit is going help you find peace of mind and will reduce your size, ensuring that you do not have extra pounds on your body.  Extra pounds can wreak havoc with your hormones and can increase your chances of getting some types of cancer.

Too Much Stress – This is another problem with the American lifestyle.  Too much stress, be it work related or not, is dangerous.  Stressing about normal things like the non-stop daily commitments, budgetary worries, or relationship problems is a catastrophe waiting to fuel an unhealthy body.  Too much stress releases too much of your stress hormones; causing your body to release regulatory hormones that try to keep it in balance.  When the system is not working, these fluctuating hormones fuel each other in negative ways that increase your risk factors.

Finding ways to manage your stresses will enable you to relax and reduce your stress levels.  If you do not know where to start, you might begin by listing each individual stressor in your life.  Figure out specific ways to make them less of a challenge.  Perhaps you make it a point to enroll everybody in less activities. Maybe you balance the workload and commitments with a friend or your partner. Could you find someone to share carpool duties?  Maybe you could find a friend who will share the burden of running errands with you. Perhaps they could take the library books back one month, and then you could do it the month after.  When you start to think about ways to work things out, they start to feed on each other.  Hopefully, you will find ways to save time, feel better, and make your family time a healthy priority.

Another way to improve your life is to learn to “let go” of perfection, which is really, really hard!  This may mean that your house does not look perfect, but that can be an okay thing.  Maybe it means that you choose to not put out the usual five pots of beautiful flowers on your porch this season.  Or maybe you choose to not put in a garden this year, choosing to go to farmers markets more often. Honor “yourself” by making changes that give you more freedom to relax and reflect a healthier you.  Maybe things will calm down in the future, and then you can go gangbusters next year with the garden…or may you never go back to it at all!  The point is that you are expressing what “you” want, and not what the neighborhood “demands.”  You learn to let things go, and you learn to be okay with your decisions.  If you cannot reduce the stress in your life, then you need to learn useful ways to manage it better. Meditation, getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and taking time for “you” are very useful ways.

Emotional Trauma – People who end up having cancer can usually pinpoint a time when a serious emotional issue occurred, and usually some point in the past two years before having cancer.  It is very common to talk to somebody who remembers a particular time when they were emotionally compromised about something.  Maybe they were ill, and then something drastic happened to them at work.  Maybe they had a huge disagreement with their spouse, or a parent.  Maybe they lost a job or had someone pass away in their family.  Too often, they cannot process what has happened, so they focus on how they were wronged, or what they should have done to prevent it from happening in the first place.  They rehash the story around in their head for weeks, months, and sometimes years.  They can literally “feel” the anger and pain, and they cannot let it go.

When this happens, emotion causes stress levels to rise, which compromises our immune health and feeds unhealthy stress levels.  It is dreadfully hard, sometimes, but you really need to make it a point to let things go and let the Universe take over.  Then you can let whatever happens happen. If you know that you need to resolve something in your life; then you should do it.  If you cannot resolve something; then you should pray to have the strength to cast that emotional dirt away from you.  It is imperative that you do not harbor ill-will, bad feelings and emotional scars that could ultimately hurt you.

Reduce the chemicals in your life – Pay attention to what you are doing as it relates to chemicals.  Wherever possible, reduce and eliminate them.  They are unrecognizable things that your body cannot ingest, so they just mess up your system.  Like the excess chemicals in our foods, things that you put on your skin, hair, lips, armpits, etc., all go into your body through your skin. What you wash and dry your clothes with, eventually becomes part of who you are. This includes the sprays that you use to make your house and car smell nice; or the antibacterial products that you use to wash your hands.

When you are working in your yard, try not to use fertilizers, pesticides, weed killers, mosquito sprays, etc.  They all get ingested and become toxic sludge in your body.  The list of toxic chemicals in a house is humongous, so start thinking of what things you could eliminate easily.  Then you can try to integrate healthier items as you run out of a product and need to buy something new.  Wherever possible, try to find alternative products that are made from ingredients that will not harm you or your family.  Again, look at the ingredients and find things that you know what they are.  Healthy options are in most stores right now, and you can find all you need to know about them by searching on the Internet or by accessing your public library.

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Letting go of Ego…

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Cancer Blog PicsLately, I have been giving a lot of thought to the individual circumstances of my life. Why did I get cancer?  Why is my hair thinning? Why doesn’t my husband buy me roses on Mothers Day? Why can’t my teenage daughter say nice things at a family gathering, instead of using that scathing, condescending tone that makes me want to crawl under the buffet table?

The hair never did grow back the way it did before cancer, but I am alive.  And I really don’t care about the flowers.  He likes to give me gift cards to buy my own flowers, and I rather enjoy that.  And the cancer business?  Well, that was an eye-opening catastrophe that turned out to be one of the best life-changing things that has ever happened to me. It literally shifted me on my axis and has been molding me for six years.  I don’ want to change that, but how should I handle the biting remarks that my daughter says at a family event?  All I really want my kids to do at family events is make nice, polite small talk and smile a lot, and I do not think that is too much to ask. I think most parents want others to think their kids are spot on with every single thing they wear, utter, think, and do.  Isn’t it the same level of pressure that we put on ourselves in similar social circumstances?  Is it a crime for me to want her to say something nice about the centerpiece when the hostess walks by?  Instead, this kid will pick that exact second to announce, to nobody in particular, that the potato salad tastes like “butt!”  Aye, carumba!

Why am I telling you this, you may be wondering?  Because it was MY reaction to the whole ordeal that really bothered me.  Immediately, my heart rate accelerated and I began cautiously looking around, terrified to know if my relative heard her scathing words.  So far, one of my biggest goals in life is to have people like my children, just like I truly want people to like me. So why am I so worried about being judged by the actions of my children?

Truthfully, I have no room to complain about this…I have done it myself!  If I heard my sister’s kid talking that way, or my friend’s, I probably would have formed an opinion about the kid right on the spot.  Maybe he is too opinionated, or she is too vulgar, or maybe she should have worn a sweater over that revealing shirt!  And the sad thing is, I am “judging” people all the time!  I would love to not admit that in writing, but I know it to be true.  Bad, bad, awful bad Carrie!

Unfortunately, we all live in this egocentric world that makes us feel like we are all the main act in this big top circus of a life.  Why do we feel the need to walk around evaluating what the other is wearing, saying, doing, and thinking?  A good friend of mine has a quote that seems appropriate for this weird ego-style of thinking, and I think I’ll use it here.  Do we really think we are “all that and a bag of chips?”  Individually and collectively, are we really that narcissistic of a society to think we can judge others?  Is everybody else sitting on the edge of their seats, just waiting to critique, criticize, condemn, or complain about what it is that I am doing right and wrong in the world on any given day?  It sounds pretty lame when you say it, doesn’t it?

I am 50 years old.  I am old enough to have made plenty of mistakes, and to know plenty of regrets. It is the half-way point between zero and 100, so it probably should be time for me to know what it is that I want out of life. In the past, I have been consumed with fear about what people thought about me, or about my family.  Frankly, what I really, really think I want is to not give a damn anymore!  I want to shed the negativity of my thoughts and past deeds, so I can live a more freeing life that is based on what makes me happy. I want people to like me for me, and not judge me because the towel in guest bathroom looks dirty.  I want to be thought of has having a great capacity for inclusion and acceptance of people, even when they say or do something I do not agree with.  I want to know that I am judged on the validity of the way that I connect with others, and not because my child is wearing something that looks as if it were pulled out of the bottom of a damp hamper.  I want to know that my words cause someone to smile, cry or emote whatever honest feeling that is required for the moment.  I don’t want anyone dwelling on the fact that my hair is thinning and that my roots are showing, or that I am still wearing my 14-year-old winter coat.  I want to live in a world where I am not judged about stuff that does not conform to other people’s views of what is and what is not acceptable to them.  I am finally learning to be okay with me, and I want others to be okay with me too!

My life is messy, but I don’t want to “explain” it anymore.  I am a 6-year-survivor with a blue-collar husband, four completely cool kids, a hearing-impaired cat that breaks anything made of glass daily, and 7 chickens that run wild in my yard.  Nothing matches in my house, and there is usually some kind of crud on the floor.  I am proud of who I am and what I have become, and I don’t want to feel pressure to be something perfect all the time.  My children say things that make me cringe at times, but they are individuals who are on a path that will undoubtedly self correct.  Instead of feeling bad, uncomfortable, scared, nervous, tense, angry, scared, and all those lower energies that only bring me down, I am choosing to elevate myself into a higher frequency; one that is intrinsically spiritual and intimately personal.  But before I can do that, I first have to let go of my “ego.”

The ego is that niggling voice in your head that causes you to doubt yourself. It is the voice that compares you to your friends, your boss’s spouse, your kids’ friends’ moms, or to your own family members.  It is viciously correct with its judgement of you, if you really listen to it, and it is just as cruel to those around you.  For most of my life, my ego has caused me nothing but conflict and pain, so why would I have any knowledge about how to tame it?

First of all, if we could see the inside our head when we were in the midst of an ego-centered crisis, it would probably look like a cluttered mess of negative words, clouded perspectives of ourselves and others, and there would be an undercurrent of fear permeating throughout everything.  These are all lower energies that make us feel depressed, anxious and doubtful about ourselves. Nothing good comes from these lower energies, so we need to change our way of thinking.  We need to focus all that outward negativity into something that brings the focus back on peace and oneness within ourselves.  The easiest way that I have learned how to do that is through focused breathing. Breathing is life, and each breath brings new energy into the physical body. The act of focusing your attention on your breathing will force your heart to calm down, which forces your thoughts to focus on the task at hand. The very process of inhalation and exhalation, and the physical feelings associated with breath coming in and going out of your body, forces you to close out everything around you.  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.  When you feel a sense of chaos in your life, be it big, little or imagined, you can immediately start to refocus everything with the mere act of your breath.  It is easy to do this anywhere; in the car, watching television with your kids, at work, and even the playground.

To some people, this is the act of meditation.  They may do it each morning for 10 minutes, or maybe for a full hour. There are websites, books and lots of interesting tools that you can use to learn about the formal process of meditation, and yet, some people will still have reasons to not do it.  They may worry about not having the time, or the right kind of clothes to wear.  Some of them will have houses filled with chaos, so where would they find a special “quiet” room?  I am here to tell you that focusing on breathing can be done anywhere.  It grounds you in the here and “now,” and it focuses your attention away from the “ego” that can be inside and all around you.  Once you begin to bring that into your life, you will learn that it can be very spiritual; returning you to the beautiful life source that is a road map to inner peace.

All this negative ego is not good for a body, so it will not serve you in any positive way at all. Instead, it segregates you from others. It causes you to compare yourself to your friend, or your sibling. It limits your potential by pitting you against everything that could be good and amazing in your world.  The act of comparing yourself to another person means you are putting yourself above or below someone else, or some thing.  Think about all the times that you may have thought about someone like this in your past.  Then think about how some of us can do this hundreds and thousands of times a month.  Just imagine being summed up by someone you just met, just by the sheer madness of being seen wearing sweat pants and having a bad hair day in the grocery store. Sounds pretty crass, doesn’t it?

We can use this training to calm the negative thoughts that scare us about cancer.  Will it come back this year?  Does my spouse think differently of me after surgery?  What is that pain in my back?  It’s terrifying being a survivor! This focusing on our breath will help us to focus on the quietness that is within each one of us.  When we focus on this quietness, we are focusing on the oneness that we have with the “divine.”  This communion with the divine is what nurtures and enlightens us.  It gives us clarity about how beautiful and amazing the world around us is, and shines a light on how amazing we are. We do not have to change a thing!  We do not need to compare ourselves with anybody, or with anything.  We just call the breath in, and we let the breath go. This may be a peaceful way to begin and end your day, and it could be a peaceful thing to do when you start to feel the stress rising.  When you feel like you are about to judge and compare the acts of others, or when you are worried that someone is about to judge and compare you, center yourself with some calming breaths.  In this calming breath, remember that we are all beautiful creatures of light and love, and each one of us deserves complete and total love, compassion and forgiveness.

Namaste

New Year Resolution…or a New “You Revolution?”

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imagesIn my opinion, the “Chris Beat Cancer” movement is one of the biggest game-changers for people who are learning about cancer.  Cancer is scary, and we get overwhelmed with worry and confusion about what to do, who to trust, and how much will it cost. The cool thing about Chris is that he breaks everything down into a simple and easy message of health and wellness.  He isn’t spouting anything that is not shared by many in the mainstream and alternative health fields or cancer-writing authors, and that really comes down to having some common sense about your body.  The big “mystery” of living a long and fulfilling life is to adopt the practices of trying to reduce your stress, reduce your chemical consumption, exercise more, and eat a diet of healthy foods that look like they did when they were picked off the tree, bush or out of the ground.

You do not have to spend your life savings to be healthy, or a fitness trainer and expensive classes.  You do not need a personal chef to keep your foods nutritious and filled with special cancer fighting ingredients that only they can assemble. We live in an amazing time and space where “we” can do anything, find anything and order anything to create our own personal health and wellness routine.

Some of us like to be more physically active than others, while others may be interested in the number of servings of fruits and veggies they eat.  Some of us meditate in structured classes that have like-minded people in them, while others mediate in the bathtub. Sometimes, the most challenging thing that we face about starting something new is the mental wall that we put up in front of us, as we think that doing anything is more complicated than doing nothing at all. This message is about as negative as it can get!  Doing anything is going to get you healthier than you were the day before.

If you have the desire to be healthy and whole, then these practical and easy steps can ensure that you will be heading in the right direction.  Make a resolution to do one or two of them, if you currently are not.  And if you are already taking steps to be better, then make a “You Revolution” to do more. While we are upright and taking breath we are living, which means that we have work to accomplish on this planet.  Life is not something that you endure until you die; it is a remarkable journey that enables you to touch the lives of others, and also lets you express yourself in umpteen different ways.  While you are alive you are making a difference in your life, or the lives of those around you, or the lives of people yet to come.  So while you are here, make the effort to love yourself by doing things to keep your physical and mental body happy, healthy and whole.

  1. Drink Lemon Water Each MorningUpon rising in the morning, make a point to drink one cup of warm water with 1/2 of a fresh squeezed lemon in it. If you do not have fresh lemons in the house, then use one of those bottles of already-squeezed lemon juice.   Drink plenty of water throughout the day, but make a point to pick up some real lemons the next time that you go to the store.
  2. Eat More Fruit and Vegetables than Protein, Grains and Dairy Plan to have a minimum of 10 fruits and/or vegetables each day…and not ones from a can! Do not walk out the door without having consumed a healthy portion of those fruits and vegetables in a smoothie that sets you up for the day.  Then make sure that you take the rest of it with you so that you can drink more later on.  If you have a juicer, use it!  If you don’t have a juicer but have a blender, use it!  If you don’t have either one of those, buy one!  If you cannot afford a new one, get one from a garage sale or second-hand store, or trade one of your unused appliance for someone else’s.  It is critical to your health and wellness that you consume “living” foods, the kind found in the produce section of your store, or from your store’s freezer section. If you are eating one, eat two.  If you are eating four, eat five.  If you are eating 10, eat more.
  3. Eat a salad for lunch and/or dinner – Again, we are talking about “live” food and not “dead” food like burgers, pastas and strange shakes that came out of a packet or container. Make a salad of your favorite items and enjoy it! Buy a healthy dressing or make one of your own.  If you do not have the ingredients on hand, buy some the next time you go to the store.  If you do not have the time to get them, buy a pre-made salad at a reputable restaurant or fast food drive-thru. The key is “healthy” salad, filled with vegetables, and is light on all the extras like bacon, heavy cheeses and meats.  I would rather you bought a salad in a drive-thru than cook a frozen “diet meal” that contains pasta, heavy sauces and one or two pieces of tired-looking broccoli in it.
  4. Reduce the amount of gluten you eat daily – Most of the American diet relies on a variety of cheap glutenous products to flavor unnatural foods and help fill us up when we eat.  We are used to two pieces of bread in a sandwich and lots of crunchy coating on our deep-fried fish, chicken nuggets and cheese curds.   It is even more confusing when people are marketing breads as having 100% wheat.  It is hard to give this up…I totally get that! We have a problem in my own household, where my husband things gluten-free is a code word for “disgusting!” If you are unsure about how to incorporate this into your life, start small. Buy a gluten-free bread from your grocery store.  They usually are in the freezer section because they do not have preservatives in them.  You can buy ones that look and taste like the soft bread that you may be comfortable with, but you can also find them filled with lots of nuts and seeds as well.  Keep them in your fridge or freezer, as they will deteriorate quicker if left in your normal bread box/drawer.  Perhaps you start with easy things your family might encounter at breakfast, like a quick go-to cereal that you can all enjoy.  Or you learn how to make gluten-free pancakes, or use your new gluten-free bread for your French toast.  Maybe you decide that you will stop using croutons on your salad, or you only buy unbreaded chicken from now on.  If you are too busy to “think” about it, then start frequenting drive-thru’s that provide gluten-free options to bread, like “lettuce” wraps…which is my new favorite go-to when I am in a hurry.  You can easily adapt this into your lifestyle, with minimal discomfort.
  5. Add healthy fats into your everyday life – Adding healthy fats in your diet is as easy as throwing avocado into your salad or smoothie, or throwing delicious nuts on your cereal, smoothie or yogurt parfait.  Raw nuts and seeds are best, but don’t get hung up on the fact that it has to be raw.  It is all about incorporating healthy changes to make you a better you! So when you make cookies for the family, throw in some walnuts. When you make a salad, there is nothing tastier than a handful of toasted pecans or almonds to give it a delicious “crunch.” At a minimum, add a healthy oil like coconut or olive oil to your pantry, even though it costs you more money.  Do not be confused by claims that all those amazing “vegetable” oils are heart smart and healthy. They are cheaper products because they are made of bad ingredients that are chemically altered to last forever, and do not serve your body well.  Move towards eliminating all bad oils and replacing them with good oils, but don’t worry if you are not 100% there yet…we’re taking baby steps to a better you!
  6. Take supplements and vitamins daily – Almost everybody is seriously lacking in nutrition, even if they are eating a healthy diet.  If you are facing cancer or other health crisis, you are going to need to take extra vitamins and supplements to help your body get healthy.  It is best to seek help from a Naturopath who can test your blood for some of these needs, but you can easily add extra nutrition into your life, in the form of pills and capsules, IV supplements, or through adding extra herbs into foods each day.  Many people take additional items that are over and above their normal “daily” vitamin, such as extra Vitamin B, C and D, curcumin, selenium, resveratrol, garlic, fish oil, as well as whole and green food supplements.  Do whatever you can to improve your immune system and keep yourself healthy.  Find a good book or website that gives you a clear understanding of what would be healthy for your particular needs, or make a point to seek a professional opinion.
  7. Get out and get some kind of exercise  – Walking, riding a bike, cross-country skiing, or even playing ball with your kids at the playground is good.  Whether you like the quiet times of stretching at home or the noisy sounds of a room full of people in synchronized movement, there is something to be found for everybody.  Incorporate extra ways to get move, like walking up the flight of stairs at work.  Park your car farther away than normal, so you have to walk to your destination at the mall, doctor or hair stylist.  Take a walk during your lunch or break. Make it a point to walk around and see people and nature, and really appreciate it! Jumping on a trampoline with your kids, or on a small in-house one that you keep in the basement are great!  Do you like the idea of going outside and looking at the rising sun during a morning yoga routine, or are you more inclined to do simple yoga stretches and poses in your living room?  Maybe you could sign up for a class?  Could you meet friends to walk throughout your town? How about more sex? Get one of those pedometers that you attach to your pants and that tracks your mileage.  Do something that causes you to feel your heart pumping a little more than normal.  And if you can do more, do it!
  8. Find ways to reduce stress – Almost every person who has cancer can pinpoint a time in their life when they were overwhelmed with stress. Perhaps it was a problem at work, or a prolonged fight with a sibling, parent or spouse. Maybe you are wore down from non-stop caring for an elderly parent, or your child is unwell or dying.  Prolonged stress can shut down your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to illness, disease and eventual death. Find easy ways for you to clear your mind of stress.  Perhaps you would like meditating, reading poetry, listening to classical music, laying in a hammock, taking a calming bath, thinking positive thoughts, watching funny movies, expressing yourself through art, writing, photography, or whatever else trips your personal joy trigger. Stress is a killer, so you must find ways to let it go, and you definitely have to forgive those who have done things that have hurt you…they fester and grow into cancers!

This list does not include every single thing that others will find useful, but it does promote a theme of health and wellness that you can do yourself.  We are unique and individual people, with free will and a bright future ahead of us. Making decisions that honor our beautiful bodies is going to honor us in the long run, and we are so worth honoring!

Chemobrain…my secret shame

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chemobrainI suffer from chemobrain!  Gasp… I said it out loud.  I sort of hinted that I have some memory issues with my closest friends, but I have never gotten on a computer and typed those words out for the whole world to see.  My goal, I guess, is to try to reach other people who may be suffering in silence.  Many of us are embarrassed to explain it fully to their bosses, or their spouse, or even their kids.  You may not know this, but everybody is not as understanding of memory issues as you would think.  I ask everybody not to judge those who are doing their best to: fill out necessary paperwork for their kids school; who are taking too long to make change for a cup of coffee; who leave burners on; who can’t find their hat, library card, or the gas bill that they had in their hand two minutes ago;  or who can no longer follow the directions on a can of soup.

I have been cancer free for six years, and I can tell you that I am a whole lot better than when I first started chemotherapy.  Back then, I saw the pamphlets in the clinic; all neatly lining the literature rack in the waiting room.  I thought I was an intelligent woman, so I ravenously checked every one of them out with the eye of a woman who had managed million dollar budgets and a large staff.  Worried about this new thing called “Chemobrain,” I discussed my concerns with my husband.  He dismissed the whole thing as one of those 300 risks that could possibly happen to when when you take arthritis medicine…or one of those erectile dysfunction pills.  In my actual appointment with the doctor, I was too freaked out about everything, so I never brought it up.  Later, I took all my nice pamphlets of nutrition, chemobrain, radiation therapy, and everything else back home, where I neatly filed them in a binder.

Things started out fine, but then got really strange around month three of my six-month chemo course.  Two horrible mom things stood out, causing me to freak out and worry.  Horrible thing number one was when my teenage daughter went to a friend’s cottage for the weekend, along with six other girls from school. The cottage was four hours away, and she was always a bit nervous about long visits.  I know myself enough to know that we would have talked about her concerns.  I probably would have said, “Don’t worry…Daddy can pick you up if it doesn’t work out!”  She’s smart enough to pack an appropriately filled suitcase, and I know my husband gave her money, because they had an expensive weekend filled with water parks, teenage dining and plenty of shopping.  Would you believe that child left on a Friday, came home on Sunday evening, and I didn’t recall that she had gone anywhere; until a month or two went by and another mom asked me if my daughter had fun! Holy crap…I totally blacked that entire weekend out!  Had the mother never ask me, it would have never entered my mind!

Horrible thing number two was when my husband suggested I join him and the kids in a board game that he invented.  We loved playing that game!  There was a board, dice and fun cards that had exciting pictures on them.  At one point in the game, you look at the picture on a card and you make a move based on whatever it was.  Long story short, I could look at the picture (let’s just say it was a cat), put the card down one second later, and then not remember that there was a cat on the card.  Holy crap, crap, crap!  That is freaking scary! What other things was I not remembering?  Thank God my husband picked up the slack, and just let me do whatever it was that I thought I could manage.  I couldn’t follow a recipe anymore.  I couldn’t balance a checkbook.  I couldn’t be responsible for signing the Friday Folders from my kids’ schools.  Thankfully, I had four kids at that time.  I had jumped off the corporate track and was working part-time as a Lunch Lady in my kids’ school; thankfully, with not a whole lot of responsibility.

The thing is, even when things are going amazing, stress can make us have memory issues.  Cancer just puts a whole wicked twist to our forgetfulness, so we may never even know what we completely lost.  I’m not saying that everybody will suffer from chemobrain, like I did, but there are quite a few people out there who are suffering in silence. People forget their kids at the library.  They forget what they came into the store to buy. Many cannot remember names, or recall relevant information that would have been easy to recall before. Sometimes it is embarrassing, and sometimes you just want to cry…or stay home.  It is sad, depressing and sometimes the people around you get really sick of the this constant problem.

I am going to tell you what worked for me, but I am sure that you can look up many different treatment options that would better fit your lifestyle.  Everyone is different, so every person’s chemofog is going to be different. If you are not suffering, then congratulations…but don’t judge anybody else!  Also, I am not a doctor.  I do not endorse any products, nor do I expect you to follow what I have done.  If you have questions, check with your own physician.

  1. Somewhere in one of my weird health books, I read that a natural doctor had good things to say about Resveratrol and Turmeric as a memory booster.  I really think that combo worked well for me, so I have been taking them ever since.
  2. Gingko Biloba.  This is widely recognized as a memory enhancer.
  3. Vitamin E, Fish Oil and all the good fats from nuts, seeds, and healthy oils (olive, coconut).  The brain needs to be lubricated to have all wiring working good, so this is not the time to be on a low-fat/bad-fat diet.
  4. Read books, magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, or whatever…and reread them if you have to.  Keep your mind fluid by reading words, looking at pictures, reading comics, wellness books, cookbooks, or anything else you can find.  Read to your kids.  I spent a lot of time doing detox baths, so I read for long periods of time in the tub.
  5. Do puzzle games like word finds, crossword puzzles and sudoku.
  6. Play games that make you sort and remember things.  My favorites are Euchre, Go Fish, Scene It, Old Maid, Spoons, Chess, Checkers, and so many more.  You might suck at it for a while, but keep with it.  It will help you out.
  7. Play games that make you be creative.  My favorites were Pictionary, Scattegories and Scrabble.
  8. Play video games that help you with hand and eye coordination.  We played Mario Kart, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Wii games of all sorts.
  9. Learn a completely new thing that you never did before.  I looked at it as though the pathways and connections were not working; almost as if it was an electrical current that didn’t connect.  The trick was to find new pathways and connections in another part of your brain.  You can learn a new language, learn how to paint or draw, or learn how to play an instrument.  You can take up writing poetry or making jewelry.  You can play video games by yourself or with your kids.
  10. Get outside and walk, think, observe the beauty of life and nature, and to find quiet gratitude time.

I attribute my mental recovery of doing all the things that I mentioned above.  Also, I personally learned the new language and technical skill of playing Guitar Hero with my children.  I started off simple, with singing vocals and watching the kids play the instruments.  The drums were too confusing to me, so I never really learned how to do them at all.  Eventually, I found my groove by playing the guitar, which became my new life saver.  I started playing on an easy level, but I worked my way up to an advanced category that even impressed my kids.  Somewhere over the next few weeks and months, my fingers and brain began coordinating together, and I suddenly didn’t have to “think” about what I was doing.  It became so natural for me to play all these great songs, even though they were not on my playlist (lots of super hard-rock stuff that my son liked!). Somewhere in my journey, I became good.  As my skills improved in everything, my memory started to become more reliable.

What’s the moral of my story?  Like all survivors, it is a personal journey for everyone.  There are parts that suck, and there are parts that suck even more!  I still take lots of vitamins and supplements to keep my brain lubed up.  I write blogs for other survivors, and that forces me to think hard.  I read and learn as much as I can about health and wellness, especially natural healing.  I write poetry, children’s stories and I love to make homemade greeting cards.  I couldn’t follow a recipe for almost year and a half, but now I am back in the groove of cooking and making up recipes for delicious foods.  I still play kick-ass guitar in my basement, and it always makes me so happy to have something fun to do with my kids.  Games are fun for me again.  Things feel mostly “normal” for me.  In fact, my oldest daughter was studying intelligence in college.  She wanted to do a session with me, which determined intelligence and processing time.  I got every single question right, but it took me a lot longer than the average person would have taken to get to the answer.  I may never be as quick to process as I was before cancer, but I know I will eventually get there.  I cut myself slack and remember that I am alive.  As of today, I still plan to do everything I can to keep my brain and mind loose as a goose and ready to learn.