Social Support to Stay Strong During Cancer!

pebbleskissingbambam

By our very nature, human beings are social creatures.  We long to interact and be stimulated by others.  Human beings need other people in order to survive, it’s just that simple. Who doesn’t crave affection, love, and support?

However, although we all need a hug every so often, support is most important and beneficial when we are sick. Think back to all of the times when you felt sick as a child, besides some hot soup, one of the things that would make you feel better was a big hug from your mommy. It was like a sudden calmness and feeling of well-being would travel through your veins. I still feel like this when I am sick. Now imagine being sick with something icky and yucky like cancer. Having a strong support system during your cancer journey is extremely important. That feeling of not being alone and having people to talk to, laugh with, cry with, and connect with is vital to our overall health.

It not only makes us feel good, but there is science behind it too. Studies have shown that being with loved ones when we are sick releases many important hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin into our bloodstream which help us feel better and also help to strengthen our immune systems. These hormones also help decrease inflammation, increase oxygen and circulation, and help our bodies find and eliminate cancer cells. Receiving love and social support actually helps our bodies to heal. Sign me up!

They say that people with social connections live longer than those with fewer social connections. Studies by the American Association for Cancer Research have shown that social connections for cancer patients can actually help extend survival time. For instance, in a study entitled “Social Support and Survival in Young Women with Breast Carcinoma”, it was shown that breast cancer patients that increased their social connections and support system during their cancer journeys were able to reduce their risk of death by a whopping 70%!!! That is truly amazing!

For the cancer patient, social support can come in various forms. Some cancer patients find that the support and comfort from their friends and family is all that is needed to help them stay strong during their cancer journey.  While other cancer patients find that although they love the support from their friends and family, they still need more – these patients tend to benefit from joining cancer support groups and connecting with other cancer patients or cancer survivors. For this group of cancer patients, they feel the need to interact and connect with others who understand what they are going through on a personal level.

Cancer support groups can act as a catharsis for cancer patients and their caregivers as it allows them to release built-up emotions, as well as helps them to talk about things they normally would not feel comfortable talking about with just anybody. In these settings, they do not feel ashamed, judged, or alone. Rather, they feel deeply connected with complete strangers just on the basis of sharing similar experiences. Additionally, some cancer patients and their caregivers benefit from hearing information and advice from others, and receiving tips on how to cope during the various stages of a cancer diagnosis. I have met some wonderful and inspiring individuals (and continue to do so) on my cancer journey. I continue to share stories, advice, recipes, tips, and information with my “cancer posse”. You guys are great!

It’s important to stay connected during your cancer journey, even though there may be times when you want to be alone. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to interact with others and be sociable. Trust me, I know it can be extremely difficult at times, but the more we pull away, the worse it is for our health. You read the science, social connections help our bodies to heal and fight cancer. Although we want to retain our independence, it is okay (and very beneficial) to ask others for support and assistance along the way. Our bodies need it in order to repair themselves. So reach out and call a friend, or meet up for a coffee (or green tea), or attend a cancer support group, or yoga class. Whatever makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, do it!

It can be difficult for some cancer patients, as sometimes people tend to distance themselves from someone undergoing cancer treatments or during a cancer journey. I’ve spoken to numerous cancer patients that have had friends tend to shy away from them when they learned they had cancer. Some people cannot cope with this type of news and therefore turn away, others are ignorant and/or selfish. If this is the case, I wouldn’t worry too much about these types of individuals, I feel sorry for them, to be quite honest. Perhaps they will come around, perhaps they won’t. Don’t focus on the negative, instead focus on all of the amazing people in your life that truly care for you and want you to be well.

Personally, I am super thankful for the amazing support system that I have.  My family and friends are are truly incredible. Through every step of the way, I have always had so many people to lean on and turn to. I believe that this has had a huge impact on my previous recoveries. In my fight against cancer I have always felt loved, supported, and encouraged. And I want to take a few moments to personally thank my friends and family (you know who you are), as you have touched my life in such a profound way. I couldn’t have battled cancer without you in the past, and I wouldn’t be able to stay strong during my recent journey through metastatic cancer and the road to health. I truly adore you, from the bottom of my heart. My love goes out to all of you. xo

“To the world, you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

6 Sexy Spices to Help Fight Cancer and Keep You Healthy!

Certain spices contain phytochemicals that help keep cancer at bay. Not to mention that they can add a little pizzazz to your next meal. I like to add these six spices to pretty much everything nowadays, and they have become a staple in my journey towards health. So, go on and pass the garlic, please.

1. Tumeric: contains the powerful anti-cancer ingredient, Curcumin (which gives the spice its natural yellow colour).  Curcumin is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory agents on the market, and it has been clinically shown to inhibit the growth of various cancer cells, as well as inducing apoptosis (natural cell death) in cancer cells. Some studies have suggested that curcumin can help suppress the proliferation and transformation of cancer cells by interfering with the cell-signaling pathways involved in cancer.

Tumeric

Besides nasty terrifying diseases like cancer, what else is tumeric good for? Well, proponents claim that tumeric can help with rheumatism, Alzheimer’s diesease, lowering cholesterol levels, as well as with digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, Colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Additionally, given its antiviral and antiseptic properties, tumeric has also been known to help with illnesses caused by toxins from parasites and bacteria.

You don’t have to just eat curry in order to add this wonderful spice to your cooking repertoire, I like to add tumeric to my salads, soups, popcorn, and sweet potatoes.

2. Oregano: a super spice that contains very high levels of antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds. One teaspoon of oregano is said to have the same antioxidant power (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) of two cups of red grapes!  Oregano contains the phytochemical Quercetin, which is known to slow cancer growth and also promote apoptosis (cancer cell death). In case that’s not enough for you, Oregano also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which is why many people like to take oregano oil when they feel the first signs of a cold or flu (I know, I do). It’s also a source of Vitamin K and iron.

oregano

Being of Italian ancestry, oregano was already a staple in my diet, as Italians use oregano on pizza, pasta sauce, meat, potatoes, and just about anything else you can think of (oregano gelato anyone?)..so I’ve just added more of it to what I eat.

3. Garlic: is a super duper anti-cancer spice. Numerous studies have shown that it can lower the risk of developing all types of cancers especially colon, stomach, intestinal, and prostate cancer.

GarlicCloves

According to the American Cancer Society, the allyl sulfur compounds in garlic are said to play a major role in fighting and preventing cancer. These compounds reportedly help the body get rid of cancer-causing chemicals and help cause cancer cells to die (there we have that word again, apoptosis).  Claims have also been made for the immune-boosting properties of garlic which may reduce cancer cell growth and help the body fight off diseases such as colds or the flu.

Garlic has strong antibacterial properties and as such has been used to help treat bacterial, yeast, fungal, and parasitic infections. Proponents also say it has properties that may help with abdominal problems, and it has also been claimed to reduce the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, and reduce blood pressure.

I love garlic. Although fresh garlic is better than it’s powdered counterpart (I like to use both), sometimes people find that fresh garlic is much stronger. I have been putting fresh garlic and garlic powder on tons of stuff! Does my breath stink afterwards? It sure does! But hey, it’s all in the name of healing…..so go for it! You just might want to lay off of it before a first date or job interview 🙂

4. Cinnamon – is probably one of my favourite spices in the whole wide world, I love it! It is an ancient spice that has been used for years. It is a natural food preservative and is a source of iron and calcium. Cinnamon has been shown to be useful in reducing tumor growth. Studies have showed that cinnamon helps to inhibit multiple pro-inflammatory pathways in cancer cells, and inflammation can lead to the spread of cancer, people!

cinnamon

There has also been word on the ability of cinnamon extracts to suppress the in vitro growth of H. pylori bacteria, which is a recognized risk factor for stomach cancer, gastric mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue lymphoma, and pancreatic cancer. Damn!

Other health benefits of cinnamon are that it helps to lower blood sugar levels (which is great news for diabetics and cancer patients alike), it’s a source of antioxidants, it can be helpful with Parkinson’s, and it is also useful as an anti-inflammatory. Plus, it’s so yummy!

Every time I have cinnamon, not only does it remind me of Fall (which is my fave season), but it also makes me feel all warm and tingly inside. It’s one of those feel-good spices and it smells delicious. I like to put cinnamon in my healthy baking, smoothies, almond milk cappuccinos’, and some savoury dishes as well. The great thing about cinnamon is that it almost mimics sweetness, even though it is not a sweet spice. Therefore, I find using cinnamon helps cut back on the need for sugar. Score! Makes you want to go and have some apple pie, doesn’t it? (Only if it’s dairy and refined sugar free!)

5. Ginger: fresh ginger contains gingerol, while dried ginger forms zingerone. Both these properties are thought to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore may be protective against cancer, especially colon and ovarian cancer. As such, both fresh and powdered ginger are excellent additions to your healthy lifestyle.

Ginger image

Besides its anti-cancer properties, ginger is also said to be effective in assisting with abdominal issues, upset stomachs, nausea, bloating, gas pains, and loss of appetite. It’s also beneficial when you have a cold or flu, as it contains immune boosting properties.

I love to use fresh ginger in my smoothies, carrot juice, green juices, as well as in teas with lemon and raw honey whenever I’m feeling a little sickish. I also use both fresh and powdered ginger in my healthy baking and desserts and stir-frys. And remember, with ginger, a little goes a long way!

6. Cayenne: contains the antioxidant, Capsaicin, which is the active compound that sets your mouth on fire. It also assists in the killing of cancer cells (that’s right, apoptosis). Woo hoo!

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This spice is also used to aid with weight loss, burn calories, stimulate your metabolism and immune system, stimulate the digestive tract, relieve aches and pains, promote detoxification (as it helps you get your sweat on), and  can help lower blood pressure.

I try to add a bit of cayenne to my cooking to help boost my immunity, but for me, I can’t overdo it with this spice as too much can irritate my stomach and give me heartburn (not fun to deal with). Everyone is different, so see what works for you, and adjust your level of spiciness accordingly.

Hopefully, you will now all go perusing through your cupboards and pantries and grab some of these spices and start adding them to your foods. Go on, get sexy with spices!

“To be organic, or not to be organic”: That is the question.

So as promised in an earlier post, below I have provided a link to the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists as comprised by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2015. (To make life easier, you can keep this list with you in your wallet when grocery shopping.)

2015EWGPesticideGuide

The EWG is an American, non-profit environmental research organization. One of its functions is that it works diligently to provide us with a list of produce with the highest pesticide loads.

Each of the foods on the Dirty Dozen list tested positive for a number of different pesticide residues and showed higher concentrations of pesticides than other produce items. The EWG suggests that pesticides found on the produce mentioned in the Dirty Dozen list remained on these fruits and vegetables tested by the USDA even when they were washed, and, in some cases, even peeled. Yuck! And in case you are wondering, pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems including hormone disruption, brain toxicity, and yup, you guessed it…cancer!

Additionally, the EWG recognizes that even though many individuals may want to reduce their toxic overload and pesticide exposure, they may not be able to afford a completely organic diet. As result, the EWG has also produced the Clean Fifteen list in order to help individuals purchase fruits and vegetables that tested low for pesticide residues. Essentially, it’s wise to ensure that you choose to go organic when purchasing the fruits and vegetables that are listed on the Dirty Dozen list, especially if there are items that you or your family consumes a lot of (and this is a MUST if juicing any of these items regularly). Alternatively, you can opt for non-organic choices when it comes to the produce on the Clean Fifteen list. This makes things a little less painful on the wallets, right?

Also, not to add any additional stress, but although this information is beneficial to everyone that is concerned about limiting their pesticide exposure in general, this is extremely important for individuals fighting cancer and other immune compromising illnesses. The last thing we want to do is to further strain an already strained immune system. Cancer itself and cancer therapies (especially conventional ones) tax our bodies and immune systems. Whether you have already undergone or are currently undergoing chemotherapy, radiation, or alternative therapies, you definitely want to keep your immune system as strong as you possibly can. Remember, our immune system is our “bff” when fighting the “Big C”, so the last thing we want to do is piss it off by loading it with toxins, thereby suppressing our immune responses against infection and disease.

It’s also important (and sad) to note that the Dirty Dozen list has expanded over the years, now being referred to as the “Dirty Dozen Plus.” Basically, there are two types of food items that contain trace levels of highly hazardous pesticides: leafy greens such as kale and collard greens (make sure these are organic if you are juicing them), as well as hot peppers.

Although it’s based on American information, theses lists are very relevant to Canadians (and comprise the guidelines we should use when grocery shopping), given that roughly 80 per cent of our produce is imported, the majority of it from the U.S. Not to mention that Canadian standards seem to be a little weaker than our American and European counterparts. I think Canada needs to get a little tougher, EH?

Oh, and a handy little tip that has proved beneficial for me is to download the list to your cell phone, this way you will always have it on hand when you are grocery shopping. Ahh, technology!

Enjoy your clean fruits and veggies!

Rebounding for Cancer and Overall Health…Get your bounce on!

This is probably the very best exercise for our immune system, and despite the fancy name of “rebounding”; all it refers to is the gentle up and down bouncing on a mini trampoline (also called a rebounder). Lymphatic fluids travel through our lymphatic system and with each up and down jump on the rebounder/mini trampoline, we are moving the lymph fluids along through our system about 15-30 times much more effectively than if we were standing still. Makes you want to get moving, doesn’t it?

Our lymphatic system is so essential to our immune system as it carries nutrients to our cells and carries waste products, dead cells and toxins away from our healthy tissue. Our bodies eliminate these waste products when we sweat or produce mucus, urine and liver bile (that’s carried out in our poo poo).

Lymphatic System

Lymph vessels are like blood vessels only that they consist of clear lymphatic fluid, which carries white blood cells throughout our bodies so that they can attack foreign invaders and detect and eliminate infected cells. Rebounding can induce a state called “neutrophillia”, which is the increase in the number of “neutrophils” – a type of white blood cell responsible for destroying cancer cells. Our bodies are truly amazing if you think about it.

However, lymph fluid needs movement in order to function properly. The lymph fluid moves through channels called “vessels” that are filled with one-way valves. This lymph fluid is then transported to lymph nodes that act as “filtering stations” in the body. In the lymph nodes, cells from the body’s natural defense system, called lymphocytes, help fight bacteria and viruses. The main lymph vessels run up the legs, the arms, the torso, and down from the face into the neck. This is why the vertical up and down movement of rebounding is so effective to pump the lymph. The more we move our sexy bodies, the more we get our lymphatic fluid moving. How hot is that?

And something interesting to note for metastatic cancer patients or those individuals who want to try to avoid a metastatic diagnosis is that metastatic cancer can travel through our bodies via two pathways, our blood and our lymphatic system. It’s that simple. So, it would be a no-brainer to work our lymphatic system as much as we possibly can so that yucky, nasty little cancer cells cannot infiltrate. Plus, our bodies are overburdened with toxins either through our environment, our food, our water, our cosmetics, and our household products, thus making detoxification very crucial. If we block our detoxification system, toxins will build up in our bodies and disease can strike.

So how do we effectively practice rebounding, you might ask? …. Well, essentially, with what’s known as the “health bounce”, your feet don’t even leave the mat! It’s that simple people! Of course, once you build some tolerance or are able to push yourself a little harder, you can begin to jump higher than that, which is something that you will want to work towards for sure. Then you can always do aerobic exercises as well, like jumping jacks, I personally like to dance and do all sorts of crazy moves. I like to get my funky on, did I just say that? Ultimately if you can push yourself to breaking out into a sweat at least once a day when using your rebounder, that would be very beneficial. And it’s really fun too! You can also jog or run in place. Unlike jogging on hard surfaces, which puts extreme stress on certain joints, rebounding affects every joint and cell in the body equally and is very low impact, as well as the fact that it allows us to do jumping and aerobic exercises for much longer intervals than we would be able to do on solid ground /hard surfaces without tiring out or creating harmful oxidative and adrenal stress. Score!

I try to go on my rebounder/mini trampoline about 2-3 times per day. Oh, and if it’s sunny outside (which for those of us in Canada, might mean June-ish), it’s so much better to do the rebounder/mini trampoline outside with the fresh air and Vitamin D! So, as soon as you can, bring that rebounder/mini trampoline outside and start taking some very deep breaths in, hold for a few seconds and then exhale…so amazing! Trust me, you will be addicted. I can’t wait for cottage time!

Cancer as my epiphany?..Who would have thunk it?

IMG_0396Where do I begin…let’s begin by reflecting on the past for a while (which I know from my meditation classes is something you need to let go of), but for now, let’s consider it. Let’s reflect on how my “career in cancer” has developed over the years.  I think I may be the President and CEO of Cancer Corp. right now!

Looking back, cancer has taken so much from me. It took my health, my hair, my energy levels, chunks of my body, one of my perfectly functioning kidneys, my reproductive organ, my thyroid, sometimes even my sanity, and it left me scarred both physically and emotionally. (No, I’m not bitter at all.) Not to mention how many countless times I have had to put my life on hold to deal with this dreadful illness and the destruction it leaves behind. I had to skip Junior Kindergarten, which seems like no biggie right, but really I should have been having play-time like a normal child as opposed to being stuck in a hospital for two years. Although I had my fun moments at the hospital too, I must say…they had an awesome game room! (I adore the Hospital For Sick Children to this day.) Cancer also interrupted highschool, University, Law School, my articling and call to the Bar, as well as the planning of my wedding. Cancer was always there, never missing a beat. It was always there to try and slow me down or make me lose hope, but it never succeeded. So there!

Now, fast forward to my current diagnosis – one that has come years after my previous tumultuous journey. Just when I thought everything was going so peachy keen in my life; I was dating the man of my dreams; I had finished law school and landed a great articling gig, so naturally, I kept thinking “what about if something bad happens, like I get cancer again”…”that would be so crappy”. And then, I got the news at 31 years of age, when my life was just starting. Cancer was back in my life and this time with a vengeance. I have stage four cancer! And there’s no stage five people (so you get the point).

The oncologists keep telling me to “try and live a normal life” and “enjoy the time I have”….seriously?! How the hell am I supposed to do that? With all these little tumors infiltrating my lungs and waiting to kill me, how could I not think about dying every day? I am 33 years old!! This totally sucks that I have to be facing my own mortality, I have so much to live for and so much more to accomplish in life. Heck, I feel like I just started living, how can I be dying? How can I plan for the future; do I even have a future? This is unfair on so many levels. Part of me wanted to just crawl under a rock and wallow in my misery, but with metastatic cancer at my door, this was not an option. Time is not on your side with cancer metastases, so you have to act fast and make those tough choices.

So, being the research nerd that I am, I put away the law books for a while and dove in head first into everything and all things cancer. As if I didn’t know enough about the disease already (as most doctors I come across tell me I should have gone to med school not law school), but this time I needed to know more. I needed to know what treatment options might work, which ones were hopeless, and I needed to know how I could heal myself or prolong my life.

With sarcomas, as with many solid tumors in general, chemotherapy just isn’t that effective. This seems to be even more so with respect to metastatic cancer. The numbers aren’t there. Essentially, it’s a shot in the dark for oncologists, one that doesn’t appear to have inspiring results. In fact, in some cases, it can wreak more havoc than good, not only can it make the tumors more aggressive in some instances, but it can also weaken and destroy the immune system. It could shut down my only kidney, yeah, that’s exactly what I need. Sign me up..NOT! Not to mention the harsh side effects that come with chemotherapeutic agents, trust me, I know as I endured two years as a cute 3 year-old, little bald-headed girl.

Radiation treatment wasn’t even mentioned in terms of being of any use to me right now.

So, with limited options, the oncologists chose a “wait and see” approach, which sometimes to me feels like a “go home and die” approach. I needed to do something.

Alas, came the cancer epiphany! No, lights didn’t actually go off in my head or anything, but I knew what I had to do. Our bodies are designed to heal themselves, so I needed to make my body my first line of defence in order to try to save myself or at least prolong my life. I needed a drastic makeover…and I’m not talking about getting my makeup and hair done (although that would be fabulous too)…I’m talking revamping my diet and lifestyle. I needed to trade in my steak and martinis for kale and carrot juice. I decided that I am going to become a health junkie, overdosing on nutrition.

My lifestyle change is going to consist of eating an organic, plant-based whole foods diet, engaging in meditation and yoga, Reiki, juicing, rebounding, alternative treatments, loving life, having an awesome support system, being more positive, and saying sayonara to anybody or anything bringing negativity, stress, or adding conflict to my life. I don’t need or want any of this while fighting for my life. I’m so done with that!

So, please follow me on my journey towards trying to heal myself…the road is a long and arduous one, but it’s far better than the alternative. I will update you all along the way.

Love sent! xo

What’s up, Doc?…

bugs bunny So, “Mildred” the metastasis, the daughter of “Oscar” the osteosarcoma (yes, that’s right, I named my cancers…don’t you?) has decided that she would like to keep growing instead of going into remission and giving it a rest.  Well, what Mildred hasn’t considered is that I plan on being even more resilient than she is.

Naturally when my oncologist gave me the news that the pulmonary metastases are still growing, albeit slowly, but growing nonetheless, I was saddened, annoyed, and frustrated.  At that point, I had the choice of going home and abandoning my diet and lifestyle change and instead eating whatever I wanted and enjoying whatever time I had left (something which the medical community seems to advocate).  However, being me, I decided to opt for something different.  I chose to instead embark on an even stricter diet regime and lifestyle change!  Although I am still sticking to an organic, mainly raw and whole foods diet, I have introduced a lot of juicing into the mix, particularly carrot juice.  The reason for this is because I plan to be around for a long time and as such, I figure I need to try to help my body heal itself. Therefore, I have to pump my body with a huge amount of nutrients, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and supplements that have anti-cancer properties and healing effects. I don’t want to just enjoy “what little time I have left”, I want to live!

I read about the anti-cancer properties in carrots, as well as testimonials of individuals who consumed a large amount of carrot juice to help heal their cancer.  Now, although I don’t like to put my faith in “Dr. Google”, as I do not want to be a victim of an internet that preys on cancer patients when they are at their most vulnerable, I did some independent research for my own peace of mind and decided to give it a try.  Afterall, it’s carrots we are talking about, so even if they don’t help, they surely cannot hurt.  I realize that carrot juice contains a high amount of sugar and sugar feeds cancer unfortunately, but I am hoping that the powerful anti-cancer compounds and nutrients in carrots, such as Falcarinol, alpha carotene, beta-carotene (which is converted into Vitamin A), and a number of other vitamins and minerals, will outweigh the sugar concern.  Perhaps the sugar in the carrots will attract the cancer cells and while “feeding” them will also deliver the potent anti-cancer nutrients straight to the cancer cells. Only time will tell.  I will update you guys on how the carrot juicing is working out.  I am aiming to have five pounds of organic carrot juice for about 8-10 weeks to see if there is any change in my lung metastases. If there is a beneficial impact after the 8-10 weeks, then I will continue with the carrot juice. Yup, five pounds! In addition, I will also be juicing greens and other veggies too, along with an organic diet consisting of mainly raw and whole foods.

Given the large amount of juicing, this is where my “Champion Juicer” comes in.  I decided to go for a commercial juicer that is used for serious juicing (which is what I plan on doing).  So far, I am loving my juicer!  The juice tastes so fresh – it’s an instant burst of flavour and very nutrient-dense.  The only thing is I may turn a little orange from all the carrots, a natural suntan is what I like to refer to it as. As long as I don’t turn into Bugs Bunny, I think we are good….but then again, Easter is just around the corner 🙂