Life on Repeat

I haven’t written for a bit. Sometimes you just feel like there is nothing new to say, or nothing good to say. Life is a strict routine of juice, wheatgrass shots, and vegetarian meals, interspersed with what feels like a million other natural treatments, all keeping Nige alive. The day is over before it begins as you put the CD back on and press “repeat”.

The last few weeks have been a bit rough. There hasn’t been a lot of sleeping being done on my side of the bed. I spend my days researching cures, and my nights listening to fears run around inside my head, analysing every cough, snuffle and fart coming from the other side of the sheets. Then I force myself to meditate and remember I should practise what I preach! Not always easy to do what’s best for you is it?

Nige ran out of his main natural treatment, and we were unable to source more straight away. I don’t know if it was mind over matter or what, but Nige seemed to decline before our eyes. Not to a terrifying degree thankfully, but it just looked as though he had slipped slightly backwards. And when cancer is in the house, that’s enough to turn your world to turmoil. There was anger, fear, and tears. We try to fight the anxiety everyday, as it sits waiting in the lining of our stomachs, simmering endlessly, waiting for its chance to boil over. And, because we are human, sometimes it does.

Now if you know me well you will know I am an expert silver lining hunter, so I can put a positive spin on things now that we have Nige back on his winning routine. And here it is.

The desperate drive to keep him stable led me find out yet more ways we can attempt to heal Nige, and I do wonder that if he hadn’t slipped ever so slightly backward for a short time, would I have pushed as hard to unearth these things? I mean one of these treatments COULD save his life. And I might never have discovered it, or could have found it at the wrong time. We have also adjusted the way and frequency with which we treat him, would I have know do to this if I hadn’t reached out to others during my periods of intense fear? So yes, in a way, I am thankful for everything we go through, no matter how tough.

Which brings me on to my NEW (to me) discoveries.

The Vagus nerve (Google it), the huge importance of breathing, acupressure and acupuncture (thank-you Kirsty Healey) and how they relate to cancer, and the actual scientific evidence that back these things up! Along the way I have dipped into the uterus of female hormones. Of interest to me because my mother, sister and I have all struggled with hormone imbalance, and now a friend is too. This led me to research other hormones and how important these are in relation to disease and a healthy body. Bacteria and the huge role they play in your body. Hormones, the Vagus nerve, Chinese body channels, acupuncture, acupressure, Chakra meditation. It all lines up in such a fascinating way. I will continue to attempt to mesh it all together, in a way that makes sense for us. As we are all unique, and the answer is not always found in one place, or by one group of people.

I have also discovered the joy of helping others with their journey, whether it be one of cancer, or just daily life. As we all have our trials and tribulations, and they are all important, no matter how big or small we or others think they are. It is all relative to your time in space or space in time at this moment. Reaching out to others living with cancer, and their loved ones, never fails to humble me. As always there are many people suffering more than us, people whose children have cancer, people who have just lost someone to cancer, people with no hope. Yet all so willing to help.

So I do see us as lucky. We have everything we need to give this our best shot, thanks partly to “luck” or whatever you want to call you, but thanks mostly to the amazing fibres of our world that hold everything together for us – our people. And every slip backwards compels us to putter forward again, in new and different ways. Broadening our minds, are experiences, our beliefs.

So fear not, we are still here, still living, breathing, fighting, juicing and bouncing, as I hope some of you are too. We embrace the fear because we have to, and take something from it because we need to. Facing the dark night, and finding that yes we do awake in the sunlight, and there is another day of repetition and hope to live through. As it is for all of us.

A Day in the Life

One thing that has struck me since I quit working last year to take care of Nige, is how much we deny ourselves the basics of life because of our bad habits and time limits. Animals don’t do this. Their lives are all about the basics. They instinctively know what to do to survive. We are the most intelligent beings on the planet (perhaps debatable), yet we sometimes forget to allow ourselves even the most basic requirements for survival.

A person’s day should probably really go something like this:

Awake naturally shortly after the sun – positive affirmations and visualisations for the day

Get up – couple of short stretches

Drink of herbal tea/water with lemon to get digestive system going

Light exercise in sunshine and fresh air – in nature if possible

Healthy filling breakfast with all food groups – healthy fats and oils, whole grains, fruit/veg, calcium

Into the day

Vege juice

Lunch of cooked or raw veg, wholegrains and protein

2pm more light to moderate exercise in nature if possible, sunshine, fresh air

3pm herbal tea/water with lemon and small snack

6-7pm dinner of cooked or raw veg (which ever you didn’t have at lunch), protein, wholegrains if you didn’t have at lunch

Vege juice

Lots of water throughout the day, snack on low GI fruit, nuts, chickpeas, veg etc

Walk barefoot when possible, hug the occasional tree

Occasional glass of wine before bed or with dinner

Bed – meditate, listen to healing music, fall asleep

How it used to go for me:

Awake to sound of alarm

Feel cross that I had to get up, start thinking about today’s “to do” list

Grab a coffee

Rush around getting ready, zoom out the door to work/school – stressed to the max

More coffee and food, usually dairy based

Lunch – protein, very rarely wholegrains, very rarely veg, never fruit

2pm more coffee

3pm struggle not to eat unhealthy snack, feel really tired

6pm get home, stress about dinner, settle for something easy and vaguely healthy – one veg, lots of meat, some carbs (not wholegrain)

7pm snack on high carb, high sugar foods

Sometimes take dog for a walk or go to exercise class

8pm alcohol

Bed – think about what went wrong today, to do list for tomorrow, beat self up a bit for how little achieved, how badly I dealt with people/kids/partner

Meditate because can’t sleep, eventually fall asleep

Spent most of day inside, wearing restrictive clothing and shoes, away from sunshine, fresh air and nature

No time to create healthy food, forgot to drink water.

AND I THOUGHT I WAS PRETTY HEALTHY!

WE ALL NEED THE BASICS – SUNSHINE, NATURE, WATER, GOOD FOOD, EXERCISE, OXYGEN.

FIRE = SUN, WARMTH – FEEL, SEE

EARTH = NATURE, PRODUCE – SEE, SMELL, TASTE

WATER = SWIM, SHOWER/RAIN, DRINK – FEEL, HEAR, TASTE, SEE

AIR = EXERCISE/BREATH OXYGEN, COOL WIND – SMELL, FEEL, HEAR

Our senses are bombarded all day long by sounds, smells, sights, and tastes that we don’t always choose, and that aren’t always good for us.

DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THE POWER, YOUR BASIC RIGHTS AS A LIVING, BREATHING CREATURE BACK?

Then what we need here people is a plan. An easy to follow, realistic plan that anyone can achieve.

Plans are important for EVERYONE. Don’t wait until you’re sick. There is only one life and it’s happening now. It’s never too late to change, and anyone can do it, one baby step at a time if you have to. The important thing to remember here is that it has to make you happy, you need to enjoy the things you do during the day, so choose your version of “the plan” wisely. Here is an example:

Wake up to alarm. Don’t fool yourself that 10 more minutes of sleep is going to help. What is going to help is when you push snooze, instead of going back to sleep, thinking of one thing you are going to do today to make yourself happy. Try and make it something that is not related to food, material items, or a reward for being good. It can be as simple as “I am going to play music while I have my shower this morning and sing loudly”. Try to make it a small and achievable goal. Imagine yourself doing the thing that makes you happy and smile. Then envisage the rest of your day going just as smoothly. Don’t let those negative thoughts ruin it, acknowledge them and then wave them goodbye! Have a cup of your favourite positive affirmations sitting in the kitchen next to a lemon or a green tea box. Let that and your happy moment in the shower (!!) be your incentives for getting up. This should only take 10 mins – when the alarm goes off again you are ready to go. But wait! Sit on the side of your bed and stretch your arms up. Breath in by pushing your stomach out. Then stand and stretch your arms above your head again, bending to the left and right. Shake your legs and hands out. You are good to go.

Make your first action of the day about YOU and you alone, and make it a positive healthy action. Either jump in the shower with your music, or make a green tea/water lemon drink. Select your affirmation for the day. After you have brushed your teeth, say it in the mirror a couple of times. This will only take a few seconds!

If you are walking to work/bus-stop/school great. Just try to remember to focus on breathing and appreciating the world around you as much as possible. If you are going straight from house to car to air conditioning you need to find 2 minutes to be outside in the morning, breathing the air, letting the light hit you. Try to at least touch a tree if you don’t feel like hugging one! It has been scientifically proven that being around nature improves your health.

Drink your pre-prepared juice on the way to work https://throughthebarsoforion.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/the-joys-of-juicing/

At work the key to a great day is preparation, and it needn’t take long. Get your water sorted as soon as you walk in so it’s right there in front of you all day. You will sip it without even noticing. Breakfast can be made the night before. Bircher muesli is excellent for this, and super fast. Buy a low sugar version. Soak overnight in a container that you can take to work, I soak it in unsweetened almond milk, but you can use apple juice. Next morning stir in yoghurt, top with fruit, close the lid and off you go. Once you start the day well, it’s likely you’ll finish it well too.

Lunch should include veges and protein. Make sure it tastes good. Find a way to make it taste good to you. there are many healthy ingredients you can add to make something like a salad tastier and something to look forward to. Don’t be fooled. A large salad can fill you up easily, and it’s not that “I’m so heavy and stuffed” kind of full you get from junk food either. It’s an “I feel satiated but still light and energetic” kind of full.

At 2pm go outside for just 5 minutes. That’s all it take. If you can’t do that and you have a window, stare out the window for 5 minutes. Walk around the office. If the view is shit daydream for a bit, If anyone asks you what you are doing, say you are sorting out a work issue in your head. If you can go outside and you are by water and/or nature, fantastic. Otherwise just do the best you can, even if it’s just watching a bird, or standing near a tree. These little things may sound silly but they all add up to a much nicer day and therefore life. Because all life is, is the moments that make it up.

At 3pm break out the herbal tea/lemon water combo and some palatable food that will give you a lift – NOT coffee or crap food. Try fruit, nuts, sweet treats made from low GI sugars. They are possible to find if you know where to look, taste awesome and are practically guilt free! FINISH YOUR LAST COFFEE BY 2PM so you sleep well.

Have a vege juice if you are hungry before dinner, otherwise have it after exercise and dinner

Practise making healthy dinners in the weekend. Once you have them sussed you’ll realise it’s just as quick and easy to whip up a raw salad and some baked fish as it is any other meal. Again it’s about adding those little herbs and spices and extras that make a bland meal taste wow! Try to get prepared in the weekend so all the ingredients are there. Make lists and stick them on the fridge! DO IT TOGETHER. Usually one person cooks, the other does the dishes. Some unlucky people do both! IT IS SO MUCH MORE FUN TOGETHER! I am not a great cook. If you can’t cook, you can certainly peel or chop. Chat to each other, laugh, put music on. Do the dishes together too, anyone can dry or rinse a dish. That way it doesn’t become one person’s “job” to do a certain thing. Expectations like these can lead to resentment and boredom, the fun is gone. It works on trust, you trust that if you help cook, the other person will help clean.

Now exercise becomes a tough one here. If you don’t have much time, try the options below, whatever speaks to you. Otherwise try to get thee to a yoga/gym class or out for a walk twice a week and once in the weekends. If you can do more great, but don’t pressure yourself, you need to enjoy what you do. If you are short on time:

If the weather is fine go outside, barefoot if possible. It has been proven scientifically that walking outside barefoot is good for your health and well-being.

If you have a tramp, jump on it while listening to music. Don’t make it about how many jumps or how long, just enjoy yourself and do what you feel when you feel it. If you want to run around the tramp, do it, if you want to bounce softly, do it, of you want to see how high you can bounce, just do it! FUN is the key here. 10 minutes is fine. If you have kids it’s something you can do with them and get them knocked our before bedtime too. Did you know that bouncing might also help to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles? Sounds like much more fun than Kegel exercises! For more information on re-bounding check out my blog https://throughthebarsoforion.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/the-importance-of-movement/

If you don’t have a tramp, put your music on and dance, or run around on the grass, do handstands, skip. Whatever makes you happy, just do it for fun. DO NOT focus on how hard you are working, or how long you have been doing it for. Do it until it’s not fun anymore then stop.

10 MINUTES IS FINE IF THAT’S ALL YOU CAN MANAGE. If you are a morning person, do your exercise in the morning before breakfast.

You can manage a lot of the above inside too. If you have kids, let them join in, because you are only doing it for fun! Try to do it barefoot too – it’s still good for you if you go barefoot inside.

As bedtime nears, acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with a glass of alcohol, just choose wisely the kind and amount. A glass of wine is good, a litre of Jim Beam is not!

IF YOUR DAY DOESN’T WORK OUT PERFECTLY LET IT GO AND MOVE ON, YOU HAVE THE VERY NEXT MINUTE TO IMPROVE ON THINGS.

Just before you go to bed, write a to do list for tomorrow and put it far away from you in another room. If anything has or still is bothering you, find a way to acknowledge and release it. You might do this by writing it down, thinking about it while exercising, drawing what you feel when you think about it, meditating, talking to someone about it. It’s important to just sit quietly for a couple of minutes before bed to see what comes up. Even if you feel okay prior to bedtime, nasty thoughts can pop up the minute you turn the light out if you haven’t acknowledged and dealt with them first.

People are different when it comes to getting to sleep. Even if you’re a great sleeper you can benefit from a bit of “meditation” before nodding off. Meditation does not have to mean what you think it means. All it is is focusing on shutting up the voice in your head for a bit. YOU WILL DISCOVER THE ANSWER TO A PROBLEM FAR QUICKER IF YOU STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. The key to “meditating” is distracting yourself, and trusting that “you got this”.

Here are some examples of simple meditating:

Lying in bed, close your eyes, and imagine a big warm sun behind your head. Imagine a beam of light is coming out of it, and that you can redirect it with your mind, It starts at the tip of your toes and it very slowly works it’s way all the way to the top of your head. It touches every part of your body on it’s way.

Some people prefer music. If you like to drop off to the TV or radio this is for you. Music without words is good, or there are many online meditations you can listen to. All you have to do is lie back and listen. When you feel the time is right turn off and sleep.

Breathing: Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms relaxed by your sides. Take a deep, slow breath in through your nose by pushing your stomach out. Fill your lungs. Make a small “o” with your mouth and slowly blow the air back out. Your stomach should deflate as you exhale. Take as long as possible to. Work up to 1 minute of exhaling if you can! Repeat. Singers use this method to improve breath control. It is also very relaxing.

These are simple, small things you can inject into your everyday life to make it better. Weekends are for the big version of your day – i.e. more nature, time to create wonderful healthy foods, time to reflect, communicate to loved ones with meaning etc. There are many more things you can do, but sometimes the best part of the journey is discovering them yourself. One of the most important things to change is the way you eat. This can also be the hardest. I am going to do an entire blog about this at some stage. The emotions behind our food choices must be dealt with before anything can change permanently. But don’t delay, just change one small thing today. Because baby steps lead to a whole new, better life.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and that if you are struggling in anyway that it helped a little. Remember it doesn’t matter how many times you aren’t perfect, it only matters that you have made time for yourself today. Try to have fun. If you are taken care of by you, those around you can be taken care of, and learn to take care of themselves.

It’s only over when you say it is. It’s only too late if you give up.

References:

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/02/science-proves-hugging-trees-is-good-for-health/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/ – walking barefoot is good for your health

The Joys of Juicing

Juicing is a big trend at the moment, but is your morning glass of glory really all it’s cracked up to be?

There are many stories on the internet about the health benefits of juicing. Some people even claim juicing certain fruits and vegetables saved them from the clutches of terminal disease.

Why do you juice or want to juice? Is it for weight loss, to “cleanse” your body, to just “be healthier”, or are you trying to cure yourself of an illness? Nige and I consume a cocktail of fruit and veg once or twice a day, as we were advised that this was a great way to fight and prevent cancer.

It makes sense to me in a way, when you see the huge pile of fruit and veg you are putting in the juicer, compared to the amount of juice that actually comes out. It’s easy to consume the juice, you would never make it through the original produce! Not without severe side effects from trying to digest all the fibre! As far as I can tell from my research, the nutrients do get through, and it’s certainly easier to drink raw broccoli – a proven cancer fighting food – then it is to eat it!

But what about the whole “cleansing” craze? I’m confused.

Scientific views say there is no reason to cleanse as the body cleanses itself, your liver does it. You don’t need to do any food-based cleansing. But then they also say that if you eat clean the body will cleanse itself, and that eating clean is a diet filled with plenty of fruit and veg, water and whole grains. “The best cleansing for your body is a diet that is well-balanced, plant-based and meets your fiber and nutrient needs. Anyone will feel better after changing their diet if they’ve been eating junk, because they have fewer processed foods in their system.”

So how is this different to what advocates of fasting, juicing, and cleansing believe?

Well it seems that doctors are afraid people will take it too far and suffer malnutrition, starvation etc. Also enemas are often encouraged which most doctors frown upon. I feel that is a topic for another day though!

I think the problem is it that people are encouraged to think it will work short-term, when really it’s a long-term thing, and that they go to extremes.

As far as I can see, you can “cleanse” your body, but for the effects to be long term you need to eat well long term. Juicing and cleansing for a few days may help you initially, and I am intrigued by the psychological impact of fasting too, but over time if you are not careful you could do your body damage by not giving it what it needs to function properly. Also if you’re doing it for sustained weight loss forget it! Just like every fad diet out there, there is no quick fix!

Having said that I can see many benefits to juicing.

Juices are easy to consume – especially for a very sick or nauseous person who can’t hold food down. It’s a great way for them to build up energy and nutrients.

You are receiving a large quantity of nutrients per glass

It’s raw. This is good news for the Vitamin C component of fruit and veg, but apparently cooking increases the levels of nutrients in some vegetable for example beta-carotene in carrots. Conclusion – raw is not always healthier so do your homework. There is a link below in the references section if you are interested. Deep frying is always out due to the increase in free radicals!

Some foods like wheatgrass cannot be digested properly by humans. Juicing is a great way to take advantage of their goodness without major issues!

It makes you feel good! I personally get a burst of energy about 10 minutes after drinking it. I also feel very virtuous. Nige finds that exercising first gets you the best results – so before your morning juice go jump on your tramp for 10 minutes instead of being like me and checking Facebook! (Unless of course you’re reading my blog ;)) You can juice the night before and as long as you add lemon juice this will keep for a day or 2 quite nicely in the fridge.

Recipes for success:

Chemo Buster

During chemo Nige said it was good for his mental state to drink this, as it felt like it was protecting his body and making it strong. It may also be easier to drink food rather than eat it if you are nauseous. Very important to brush your teeth and use a salt/baking soda mouthwash afterwards during chemo though!

1 Lemon

1 Beetroot

1 Kumara

3 Carrots

1 knob Turmeric

Large handful of Kale

1/3 head of Broccoli

1/2 a Cucumber or Courgette

Sprig of Mint

1 Kiwifruit or 1 large slice of Pineapple

2 Tangelos or Oranges

2 Grapefruits

Cancer Buster

Since finishing chemo Nige has gone from 2 to 3 glasses a day, cut down on the fruit component, and seriously upped the amount of carrots in his daily juice. Broccoli and carrots have both shown promising results in scientific studies on foods that prevent/fight cancer.

Nige also has 2 x 45ml shots of wheatgrass a day. If you want to make a real difference to your health that would be the recommended dosage. Here is some more info on wheatgrass http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/stories/are-the-benefits-of-wheatgrass-overblown

1 Lemon

1 Beetroot

1kg Carrots

Large handful of Kale

1/3 head of Broccoli

1/2 a Cucumber or Courgette

Sprig of Mint

1 Kiwifruit

1 Orange

When using a juicer keep the skin on where possible, or in the case of thicker skinned fruits try to keep as much as the pith on as possible before juicing. Put through your juicer in order listed on recipe. Lemon helps to “keep” the juice for longer. It should last for a day or two in the fridge if you use lemon. Otherwise drink immediately. 

And a big thank-you to Kirsty Healey for the following juice recipes:

Mild Cleanse – daily green juice

1 head celery (organic is by far the best)

2 large cucumbers

5-8 stalks of kale

1 lemon

1 apple

Turmeric or Ginger Water Mylk

You can add these to your juices. Both turmeric and ginger have numerous health benefits – you can read about turmeric in one of my previous blogs! https://throughthebarsoforion.wordpress.com/2015/02/06/i-have-4-dirty-words-for-you/

1 cup chopped ginger or turmeric

4 cups water

Salsa Juice – may help those suffering from Candida

8 large tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup onion

1 head of cilantro (cilantro refers to the leaves and coriander is the seed of this plant)

2 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1/8 jalapeno (optional)

1 tbsp coconut oil

Cucumber-Papaya-Ginger

This sounds so yummy and could be a great chemo buster due to the anti-nausea properties of ginger and the numerous proposed health benefits of Papaya. Also should be super easy to get down!

2 cucumbers

2 cups papaya

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp ginger mylk

Check out Kirsty’s blog https://whenponiesgrowintounicorns.wordpress.com and Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/lotusinlacuna for more inspiration. 

How much should I drink?

If you’re just starting out or aren’t too serious and just want to add some health benefits, a glass a day should be fine. You may want to increase this amount to two or three glasses if embarking on a serious health kick or when fighting disease. As with everything dietary listen to your body and watch for possible side-effects as listed below. You can drink too much juice, 8-12 glasses a day is probably extreme!

Possible side effects of extreme juicing:

Hair-loss

Juicing can equal unexplained hair loss 2-3 months later if you aren’t also eating a balanced diet. “If your body isn’t getting the nutrition it needs, it powers down the processes that it considers as being not essential to life, and one of those is hair production.”

Bad teeth & Skin

Brush your teeth after drinking. Keep the fruit in juices to a minimum as fruit can be high in sugar. Yo-yo dieting and a lack of fat in your diet can lead to loss of collagen and can effect the skin barrier, exacerbating eczema.

Weight gain

Keep the fruit in juices to a minimum to avoid weight gain (unless you need to gain weight) – healthy sugar is still sugar.

Low energy

Due to low blood sugar. Get energy from whole grains. Include healthy fats and proteins in your diet. Fats and proteins also keep you full for longer and are good for your skin and hair. Protein is essential for a healthy immune system.

Constipation

Because most of the fibre is thrown away after juicing, make sure you get fibre from other sources.

If you are taking medication check with your doctor before juicing to check none of the ingredients effect how your medicine works.

Conclusions/Tips:

Juicing is great, but it doesn’t necessarily cleanse your body on it’s own.

Do it mostly as part of a balanced diet to avoid health and beauty issues.

Keep it high in vegetables.

Use a wide range of fruit and veg – achieve the “rainbow juice” look.

Lemon will help your juice keep longer in the fridge.

Juicing is not a quick fix – change the way you eat, and live, permanently for best results!

I am not claiming juices cure disease, only that consuming the nutrients from certain fruits and vegetables in large quantities may just help when used with other treatments and a sensible lifestyle. The psychological effects of enjoying your food while knowing you are doing something healthy for your body can’t be beat either.

Bottoms up everyone, to your good health, and ours!

References

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2168872/Juice-diet-Flaky-skin-hair-rotten-teeth-The-latest-dieting-fad-pretty-ugly-effects.html#ixzz3RVMlXinh

http://www.livescience.com/48767-juice-cleanse-myths.html

http://m.livescience.com/35561-5-experts-answer-juice-cleanse.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6248975.stm – people eating like apes

http://nourishedmagazine.com.au/blog/articles/what-can-the-diet-of-gorillas-tell-us-about-a-healthy-diet-for-humans – a history of human diet

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/raw-veggies-are-healthier/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carrot-compound-shows-pro/

http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/broccoli

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269143

Elaina Love Pure Joy Academy

Of Doctors and Gods

WARNING: EXTREME EMOTIONS AHEAD

This week it’s really hit us. We are now going it alone. This was always the plan, but it’s one thing imaging a plan and how great it will be, another living it.

When you are growing up you learn that doctors are there to save you. They are there as a security blanket, right through your childhood, teens and twenties (for most of us), ready to fix us up at a moments notice. But when something serious happens to you, you realise it’s not quite like that. Now this may be controversial, but after completing my degree in my twenties, and becoming a parent in my thirties, some thoughts started to creep in. Doctors are generally very smart. They do a truckload of study and practical application before they are even let near us. But they are still people, some just like you and I. They are set the work to do and they do it. They work through it and they get their well deserved qualifications.

But they are not gods.

You might think I’m doctor bashing, but no way, I wouldn’t do that. I know the amount of work that goes into completing just a basic degree. Doctors save lives and fix people up everyday. My point is, in my opinion anyway, that doctors are held in such reverence that we believe they can fix anything. Especially something that might kill us. And if they can’t fix us, or our parents, or our children, who can? That is the dilemma that Nige, myself, and everyone that loves him is facing.

The acceptance of a fatal disease comes in stages. Just prior to diagnosis you start to accept that yes, it could be something very bad, much worse than pneumonia or bronchitis, but it will be fixable. Then they hit you with the cancer stick. So you adjust again, well yes, it is cancer, but it will still be fixable. Then they tell you it’s inoperable. You adjust again. Okay, so they can’t cut it out, but such medical advances must have been made they will surely be able to give him some pills for it and it will go. Or a lung transplant perhaps. Of course they can do something! Then they really hit you, hard. The treatment is not going to save you, in 98-9% of cases it doesn’t. You hopefully wonder if you’re in that 1-2%. Then they soothe a little. “But cancer isn’t a death sentence like it used to be, people are living with it, the treatment can keep it at bay”. You sigh with relief, of course, there it is, the doctor has fixed things. Life will stay exactly the same, only Nige will have this tumor in his chest. We just need to sort out this pesky cough and breathlessness thing, and the treatment will help with that. No trouble.

When Nige was first diagnosed with cancer, of course one of the first things we did was discuss how he would have it treated. It shouldn’t have been a long conversation, as his only medical option was chemo. But we wove around it looking at it from all angles, climbed ladders to peer at it from above, scrambled beneath to look at it’s belly, prodded and poked and squeezed it. There was really no other option we could see. Go chemo, or go home.

Of course we said screw that and started to look for other “alternative” ways to treat Nige, but that is a story for another blog. What I want to do here, is help people to understand why we have stopped the chemo after only 2 rounds.

Doctors cannot offer Nige a cure, they can, at best, prolong his life for a few months, maybe. There are no guarantees. During this time, he was expected to take a total of 6 chemo treatments. Maybe more if the cancer showed it was reacting really well to treatment. If you read my first blog you will see we were given only a 30% chance that Nige’s cancer would react to chemo at all. So Doctor’s have said he will live 8-12 months max with treatment, and they expect him to spend a good 6 months of that being treated with chemo. So maybe he will have 2-6 months of excellent living you think? Probably not. The thing Doctor’s don’t tell you about chemo, but you can easily find out if you research, is that the effects accumulate. So that although you get through the first one okay, and even the second and third (if you are fit and healthy to start with), by the time you get to the 4th, 5th, 6th, you are a shell of your former self, and may not be fit to enjoy what time you have left. The other scary thing you read time and time again, is how the chemo puts the cancer to rest for a few months, but then it comes back, and this time your body is riddled with it. Because your immune system is what naturally fights things off, and by this stage you don’t really have much of one to speak of.

The Doctors can’t offer us life, only an extension of life, and not a great one at that. It’s not me being dramatic, it’s a fact. They think he will die, and soon. But as long as I am here that shit isn’t going to happen, not like this. We are not going to try and “kill” his cancer, and therefore him. He is going to enjoy the life he has, we are not going to conform, because that is not extraordinary. And if you have done the same amount of research I have, you’ll see he’s doing the best thing he can for himself, his kids, and everyone that loves him, by stopping chemo. Maybe he’ll go back to it, maybe he won’t, time will tell. But at some point the Doctors will tell us there is nothing more they can do. And I don’t want to reach that point. As far as I’m concerned they have already told us that. The Doctors weren’t happy when we told them Nige was stopping chemo, you could tell they thought we were crazy. Maybe you all do too. But it doesn’t matter. Because I get it. You never know what you will do in a situation like this until you face it.

So now we are going it alone, away from the safety web of Doctors. They are there if we need them, but they are no longer actively trying to save Nige’s life. Our decision. A big one. Possibly the biggest we’ll ever make.

We have not stopped fighting, we have only just begun.

I Have 4 Dirty Words For You

And here they are – Turmeric, Anxiety, Cancer, & Diet. Haha got ya!

I’ve been wanting to write about diet for a while. But it is such a huge subject to be honest I got a little scared. Plus even the word “diet” strikes fear into the hearts of most of us. How could I write without putting you all off before you finished reading the title? (Hence a little modification that area :))

I believe the key to an improved diet is sneaking up on yourself one snack at a time, and before you know it, it’s no longer a diet but a lifestyle, and you just feel so darn good! So that’s what I’m going to do here, sneak up on all of you one idea at a time. In a way that’s not to creepy. I hope.

My diet has changed drastically. I know I don’t have cancer, but as a sign of support for Nige, and to help prevent myself from getting cancer at a later date, I have embraced the idea. It is not supposed to be a “fad” but a complete alteration of our way of eating. Every morning now starts with a cup of green tea. I used to HATE green tea, but it’s amazing what you get used to. B.C (Before Cancer) I would launch each morning with a cup of coffee, then on my way to or at work guzzle down a large Up’n’Go for breakfast, followed by a diet Coke. Now it’s Bircher muesli with almond milk, organic coconut yoghurt, and blueberries. (At around this point the coffee also sneaks in – can’t deny myself all the joys of life!)

I used to drink loads of diet coke. The stuff is poison. I eventually managed to wean myself off it by learning to love coffee. Then I got addicted to coffee, duh! Now I manage to keep it down to a cup or two of coffee a day, and have come to actually look forward to a green tea in the afternoon around that 3pm slump time. It’s amazing what you can trick yourself into if you sneak up on yourself a bit at a time! I find it’s also really important to try and associate positive thoughts to your dietary changes. If you resent your poor cup of green tea it’s never going to work. You have to look at is as a reward for your body, a virtuous healthy step. As an added bonus I find it instantly clears up my hay-fever symptoms! It’s been a very sneezy summer!

So today I have been asked to talk about Turmeric (Curcumin) that strange, ugly looking, mysterious knobbly herb that looks a bit like a stick. Yummy!

Ok so Wikipedia may have said it better: “Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native in southeast India. You probably know turmeric as the main spice in curry. It has a warm, bitter taste and is frequently used to flavour or colour curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. But the root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine”.

Interestingly, there are studies which show that Turmeric can be used to help treat anxiety and depression. Continued anxiety can lead to depression so treating both makes sense to me. I can only imagine that in most households dealing with cancer that anxiety and depression are issues. In fact, they are probably issues in all households at one time or another.

Turmeric is also believed to fight and prevent cancer!

GENERAL:

Turmeric is used for a number of ailments, including arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, liver and kidney problems, cancer, acne and depression just to name a few!

ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION:

Studies using humans have shown that curcumin, a compound of turmeric, is well tolerated by those who take it, and could be used as an effective and safe treatment for patients with major depressive disorder. Curcumin can help heal the damaged regions of the brain associated with depression, much in the same way that exercise, environmental enrichment and learning can. Therefore, curcumin can reduce depression, anxiety and stress. Curcumin can also increase levels of Serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter which plays a role in the regulation of mood, sleep, memory, learning, and sexual behaviour. In addition, curcumin increases the level of dopamine in the brain! By enhancing serotonin, dopamine and healing in the brain, the curcumin in turmeric has antidepressant activity, comparable to any antidepressant on the market. Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory, thereby helping to reduce brain inflammation, which in turn reduces mental symptoms such as anxiety. A study in 60 depressed patients showed that curcumin was as effective as Prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression.

CANCER:

Several studies have focused on turmeric, particularly its primary component, curcumin. There are many different forms of cancer, but they do have several things in common, some of which appear to be affected by curcumin. Therefore turmeric may help prevent (and perhaps even treat) cancer. Curcumin can affect cancer growth, development and spread at the molecular level. Studies have shown that it can reduce the growth of new blood vessels in tumors and the spread of cancer, as well as contributing to the death of cancerous cells. Chronic inflammation is known to be a contributor to many common Western diseases, including cancer. Curcumin can inhibit many molecules known to play major roles in inflammation. Oxidative damage is believed to be one of the mechanisms behind ageing and many diseases, such as cancer. It involves free radicals. Free radicals tend to react with important organic substances, such as fatty acids, proteins or DNA. The main reason antioxidants are so beneficial, is that they protect our bodies from free radicals. Curcumin has powerful antioxidant effects. It neutralizes free radicals on its own, then stimulates the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Whether high-dose curcumin (preferably with an absorption enhancer like pepper) can help treat cancer in humans has yet to be tested properly. However, there is some evidence that it may help prevent cancer from occurring in the first place, especially cancers of the digestive system (like colorectal cancer).

DOSAGE:

Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. However, the curcumin content of turmeric is not that high. Most of the studies on this herb are using turmeric extracts that contain mostly curcumin itself, with dosages usually exceeding 1 gram per day. It would be very difficult to reach these levels just using the turmeric spice in your foods. If you want to experience the full effects, then you need to take an extract that contains significant amounts of curcumin. Also curcumin is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to consume black pepper with it, which contains piperine (also known as bioperine) – a natural substance that enhances the absorption of curcumin. Curcumin is also fat soluble, so it may be a good idea to take it with a fatty meal. Olive all is also suggested as a good thing to take with curcumin. If you want to stick with turmeric as it comes, you could try juicing it along with other fruits and veg, but it has also been noted that turmeric cooked with olive oil and black pepper should bring about better results than consuming it raw.

Roast Veges with turmeric:

Chop into approx. equal cubes beetroot, pumpkin, kumara, onion, garlic, carrot (or veges of your choice).

Grate turmeric over the top and season well with sea salt and cayenne or black pepper.

Apply a generous covering of olive oil then toss to coat veges.

Roast in the oven at 180 degrees for 15-20 minutes, turning regularly.

You can add chopped zucchini in the last 10 minutes if you want some greens.

DON’T FORGET TO MOVE:

Please also note I support a holistic treatment plan, in that I don’t believe diet alone is sufficient in treating problems. Exercise as a form of treatment for symptoms of anxiety and cancer can be very effective. There are multiple studies showing that exercise and yoga are effective in reducing anxiety, and some of these studies show that they can be as good as mainstream treatments and are consistently better than a placebo. Exercise and yoga have also been tested as alternatives to standard treatment approaches, such as pharmacy drugs and psychotherapy. There is limited but positive data that yoga and exercise can be successfully used at the least as complementary treatments. There is strong evidence that physical activity is associated with reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast. Several studies have also reported links between physical activity and reduced risk of endometrial (lining of the uterus), lung, and prostate cancers.

IMPORTANT: Please note that as with all treatments care should be taken when taking turmeric, especially in large quantities. Please follow the link below to find out possible side effects and whether they may relate to you. The most interesting to me was the possibility that turmeric inhibits iron absorption (although some studies believe chilli, not turmeric does this so maybe avoid both if you are anaemic). Turmeric may also slow blood clotting. Taking turmeric along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662&activeingredientname=turmeric

If you think you might be suffering from anxiety or depression, there are some more helpful tips below. I am not a qualified health practitioner – please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Signs to look for (symptoms) – mentalhealth.org.nz

The symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can vary between individuals and, over time, within an individual. You may notice better and worse times of the day. And while stress doesn’t cause generalised anxiety disorder, it can make the symptoms worse. People with GAD will usually:

  • expect the worst
  • worry excessively about money, health, family or work, when there are no signs of trouble
  • be unable to relax, enjoy quiet time, or be by themselves
  • avoid situations that make them anxious
  • be irritable
  • have constant worries running through their head
  • have difficulty concentrating or focusing on things
  • feel edgy, restless or jumpy
  • suffer from stomach problems, nausea, diarrhea
  • suffer from poor sleep
  • need to know what’s going to happen in the future

Tips for dealing with Anxiety – Anxiety and Depression Society of America

  • Take a time-out.Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
  • Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
  • Get enough sleep.When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
  • Exercise dailyto help you feel good and maintain your health
  • Take deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly.
  • Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
  • Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
  • Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
  • Welcome humor. A good laugh goes a long way.
  • Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
  • Get involved.Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
  • Learn what triggers your anxiety.Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.

Also refer to my blogs “what is wrong with this moment” and “the importance of movement”, you may find these helpful. You may also want to see your doctor and get some blood tests to rule out any medical condition that may be causing your anxiety. Peace of mind is important.

References: www.medicalnewstoday.com http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23832433 http://www.herbalbeast.com/does-turmeric-curcumin-help-with-anxiety/ http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=1571 http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-662-turmeric.aspx?activeingredientid=662&activeingredientname=turmeric http://authoritynutrition.com/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric/ http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/turmeric-tasty-in-curry-questionable-as-medicine/ http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/prevention/physicalactivity

What is wrong with this moment?

Yesterday was a rough day. Stuff went wrong.

But you get that with cancer, everything is okay and then it’s not. Fears and doubts creep in to shake your faith. Energy levels wax and wane, the constant struggle between what is healthy and what is appealing bounces to and fro. What was delicious yesterday is unpalatable today. And so on.

Yesterday Nige and I tried to go for a bike ride. Nige loves riding his bike so was really looking forward to it. However we were having a cancer free day laced with denial, so he pushed himself too hard, and he got knackered. I got a fish hook stuck in the tyre of my brand new bike and couldn’t ride at all, but that is a weird story for another day! It was a stark reminder that yes indeed, he did have cancer, and that he couldn’t do all the things he used to do. His appetite was also shit. We have become obsessed with everything that passes Nige’s lips, is it organic, does it fight cancer, does it feed cancer? Are we making any difference at all? Hey, don’t even think about eating that non-organic, sugar laden food Mister, you’re not allowed that anymore! You can see how it gets boring for him. We try to get to the bottom of this appetite problem, but it really isn’t clear. Could be the diet, could be the cancer, could be lingering effects of the chemo, could be because he exercised too much and got tired. We throw our hands in the air – it’s all so confusing at times.

Then there are the symptoms. Some days you barely notice them (especially me as I don’t have cancer). Other days we peer at every micro symptom through our fearful microscope. Was it like this before? Is it worse? Comparisons over tiny and probably insignificant incidences. Every cough you make, every breath you take, I’ll be watching you………

The trouble is that now we have had Nige’s tumor shrink by 50%, we are half way there. There are really only two ways this thing can go. Up or down. We are not out of the gnarled cancer woods yet! I vote for more shrinkage, that way we have some leeway. Going backwards, well you know where you can shove that. I guess we would be okay to a degree if things stayed the same for a while, but is that the true nature of cancer? Can there be a perfect equilibrium between treatment and growth? Also staying the same gives us no margin to work with.

Tonight after the kids were in bed, as we often do, we made juice together. It had the following ingredients: Lemon, beetroot, kumara, zucchini, cucumber, broccoli, kale, mint, carrots, kiwifruit, oranges, grapefruit, turmeric. The fruit, veg, and herbs piled up on the kitchen bench top like a crazy produce mountain. This huge quantity of goodness juiced down to a little over 1 litre of liquid. Enough for a couple of days max.

It is one kick-arse juice. It’s brown, it’s grainy, and it smells citrusy and interesting. We have convinced ourselves, it’s not bad! We don’t know if it works, but screw it, why not. What have we got to lose. Will it help cure him? I don’t know. But it feels good, and that can’t be bad. All those fruit and veg can’t be bad. I know our eyes are whiter (just the white bits – don’t worry), our skin better, and I get a burst of energy 10 minutes after drinking the juice that doesn’t end up with a nasty crash later. Sometimes I think the act of making the juice together is as healthy as the juice itself. Unity, a common goal of survival. Because we all want to survive.

So yesterday was rough, but we made it through. Today it all begins again. But as long as Nige is here, and we can find joy in simple things like making juice together, we will not only make it through but enjoy each day, even if we don’t enjoy all day. For ask yourself, what is wrong with this moment right now?

Bottoms up everyone – to your good health, and ours.

Deny Deny Deny!

Last night I said to myself that I wasn’t going to write anything today, I had already written 2 entries in 1 week, that was enough for goodness sake. Then I was inspired by something and I realised once again how much I have to say, and that, in fact, I did want to write today. Then a had a bad moment and thought, well now I’m really not in the mood. Then I had a read and communicated with some friends and felt that, yes, I was going to write today…. and so it went on!

What it all boiled down to, what I really wanted to say to you all, is that Nige and I are okay, some days/hours/minutes more than others, but we are okay. We are in denial, and there is where we want to stay. But before you think uh-oh, crazy people, let me explain.

Nige said to me last night “Let’s have a cancer free day tomorrow”. He was emotionally exhausted and just plain sick of all the planning, discussion, and endless to do lists relating to the “cure cancer campaign” we had going on. We talk about it all day everyday, every conversation leads to it, every action revolves around it. For those who are parents it’s like when you first have a baby and you finally get a night out by yourselves, only to find that all you talk about is the baby! I get what he is saying, but it is going to be hard to keep up my end of the bargain as I like to talk, and I feel a compelling urge to keep the pressure on and do everything we can to propel Nige towards a better prognosis. This leads to cancer conversation. But I am going to try, for him. It’s only one day right?! And he didn’t say I couldn’t talk to you about cancer 😉

Thinking about all this led me to remember all the good that cancer has brought into our lives. I know, easy for me to say as I am not walking around with a tumor in my chest, but bear with me. The first thing we felt after the initial shock wore off was the love and support of all those around us. We really did not realise how many and how much people cared, it was incredibly humbling. Offers of help tumbled upon us from everywhere, we were enveloped with love and caring, like a bit warm white fluffy blanket.

We felt a huge appreciation for what we did have right then and there – the unconditional love of all those people.

We felt the desire to live an extraordinary life – before it was too late

We remembered that in the words of John Lennon “All You Need Is Love”, connections and people are everything

We were given the chance to live in this strange state where we had virtually no responsibilities except to ourselves and Nige’s health

We then slipped very easily into a life where we had everything we ever wanted, the only thing to worry about was ridding Nige of this pesky cancer thing. And I was positive he would beat it, no matter what the doctors had said about Stage IV blah, blah, 4-8 months etc etc.

I knew I was in denial, but I figured I had nothing to lose! If he got sicker and died, I could freak out and cry and beat my chest then, but for now, I was going to enjoy my time with this man and our children.

Being in denial for us doesn’t mean making unproductive choices, like avoiding treatment or not changing our lives. It means living within the limitations we have, but as though Nige is going to survive. It means creating a normal environment for the kids, with splashes of the extraordinary thrown in so that Nige can live out some of his dreams. Nige spends very little time in bed, even at his lowest. He fights each day to believe and have the conviction that he is going to heal and live. He reminds himself what he has to live for, and hangs on to hope. I am so impressed by all he has achieved. I have found it surprisingly easy to remain upbeat within my cocoon of denial, and I am grateful for that. I realise that this is not a possibility for everyone, but this is how we deal with things. And if we are wrong, what does it matter? I am not going to look back and say “I was such an idiot, how embarrassing that we got it wrong”. I will hopefully look back with a smile at all the fun things we did, and all the connections we made. Because we are doing everything we can do coax this cancer back into hiding, and I won’t rest until I have tried everything safe to try and help Nige.

I believe there is nothing wrong with denial as long as you don’t deny yourself what you need to live with or beat cancer.

So if you have cancer or know someone who has cancer, and you feel like having a cancer-free day laced with denial, I fully understand.

And who knows, it may even help.