A year ago, I was stripped down to a shell of a person. I was weak, bald, full of toxins from chemotherapy drugs and recovering from major surgery. I would lay in bed at night and wonder how I would ever get my health and my life back. And then I said to myself, "Make the best of what you have, and do as much as you can every day".
I read as much as I could about how to get my body healthy and recover. Much to my dismay, nothing happens overnight. More importantly, nothing meaningful happens without effort. And I was so broken down, I didn't know if I had the strength to do anything. But one thing I have in abundance is determination. I had an obligation to my children and to myself to be better than I was before cancer. I deserve to be healthy.
What the experts say is true; it takes exercise, diet and time. I'm going to be brutally honest, I have never been a fan of exercise. I don't like how exercise feels when I'm doing it. I don't like the muscle burn or the soreness days later. And after 25+ years of actually doing exercise on a somewhat regular basis, I still feel that way. The only exception is swimming. I could do that for days at a time. The only problem is, I don't have a pool.
Now that I have a Roku, I get free exercise routines to my heart's content. About five days a week I am doing Yoga for 30 minutes in the mornings. It's extremely hard, but I love that I can pause and take a break whenever I need. More so, I love that I can see progress every single day. Even my daughter loves to do Yoga with me. I try to add Pilates when I can, and I have this awesome "Home Gym" that attaches to the door for resistance and strength training. Worth every bit of the $25 it costs.
The next vital step to getting healthy is diet. Here again, I was in a situation I didn't want to be in. I've never been a fan of "diet" food. Sure, I loved some vegetables, like lettuce and green beans, but to be honest, vegetables played a VERY small role in my diet. There were many days I didn't even eat a vegetable and saw nothing wrong with it. I wasn't overweight, and I wasn't eating fast food or insanely calorie-rich foods from restaurants. My meals were maybe a Ham and Cheese sandwich and some chips for lunch, and Pizza or Pasta for dinner. What's so bad about that?
Well, the problem was my body wasn't getting what it needed to survive and protect me from illness. I loved homemade breads and desserts, but those left me hungry within an hour of eating them because they didn't serve a purpose in my body. It was easy to eat several times a day and still be hungry. And the thought of cutting off my favorite things when I was so miserable was not a plan I felt I could stick with. So, I started to change a little at a time.
I made only one rule for myself AND my children. "Eat whatever you want, but add a vegetable to every meal". I wasn't depriving myself of anything, so it wasn't a big deal. And I found that I started feeling better every day, and I had more energy for exercise. I started to crave vegetables more often. Adding the organic garden in the back yard helped with this even more, because I wanted to eat what I had worked so hard to grow.
I was becoming more adventurous with vegetables, trying new things and making old favorites a little fancier. The kids were craving vegetables more often too. It was like a whole new world of food opened up for us. And the more plant-based food we ate, the more we wanted.
As the shift in my diet has happened, and it was VERY gradual, I also started to incorporate more of a meatless diet. I still eat meat, but where I was eating red meat at least 4 or 5 times a week, I am down to once every two weeks. And where I was eating some kind of meat, like pork or chicken, at least 2 times a day, I'm am down to once every two days. I have also switched from cow's milk to Almond milk, which my daughter loves.
Now, as far as sweets, I recall when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I was craving sugar like crazy. I was buying candy bars at the store, which was not something I did often in years past, and they would be gone by the time I got to the car. And I've heard many others with similar stories prior to their cancer diagnosis. The tumors I felt were forming overnight, and all I wanted was to eat a bag of Milky Ways. My body was definitely telling me something. More sugar = more cancer growth.
I already know the effect of sugar on the immune system, not just the effect of how sugar feeds cancer cells, so I have reduced my intake by about 75%, possibly more. I still indulge on a homemade cookie, but I don't crave sugar anymore. I don't sit around saying, "I really need something sweet". Mostly I just want to drink tea.
It's a bunch of little changes over a long period of time that make the biggest difference. For instance, when I make bread or pasta, I try my best to use wheat flour instead of white. I use brown whole grain rice instead of white. I snack on carrots and celery instead of chips. Many times, I will have a cup of Green Tea instead of a snack. And all these things add up.
I don't "fall off the wagon", because I've made most of these things habit. Even if I don't exercise today, I know I've done a year of it. I know that adds up. And when I exercise tomorrow, it won't be as hard as the first time, because I have stamina now. If I eat a piece of pizza, no big deal, because most likely, I have a big salad along side it. If I eat a cookie, it's okay, I know I'll just eat better tomorrow.
The biggest thing, and what I love above all, is proof. I am not even close to the person I was a year ago. I feel like a new person. God knows I look like a new person. I know I'm doing the best things for my body and my health. I'm building a strong immune system. And I'm creating an environment stronger than cancer.
If I can do it, anyone can.
Here are some pics of the types of food I've eaten over the past year. Keep in mind that my transition to mostly meatless is recent, and I still love cheese, eggs and butter. Although, if I had more money, I would get those organically and locally. That's just not an option yet.
|Spaghetti Squash with Homemade Sauce|
|Shrimp Stir Fry with Garden Veggies|
|Fried Chicken Salad|
|This is a typical lunch for the kids when they are here|
|Natalie made this Whole Wheat Ravioli|
|I dry Kale for chips and for powder to add to meals|
|The kids eat this stuff like crazy!|
|My daughter Natalie rolling out Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles|
|Typical haul from the grocery store|
|Spaghetti Squash with Parmesan Crusted Zucchini|
|And yes, I still make my Honey Wheat Bread|
This is not a competition to be better than anyone else. This is a competition to be better than I was. I know I'm getting there a little at a time. You can do it too.