The Cutting Edge

Yesterday, late afternoon, my little buddy was here and we were just enjoying a movie and a sandwich when the phone rang and my ‘other’ reality interferred. Oncologist/Radiologist from Cyberknife asked to speak to me and then explained the following to me. (Very nice and patient Doctor.)

Seems that I am a candidate for this procedure. Seems it’s not quite that simple, yet again. Pro- there may be only 3-4 treatments necessary to get rid of that tumor. Con- there may be some damage to some areas due to location of that tumor. AND, I still may need chemo!

Conventional treatment: Surgery, would be more informative as they could check surrounding areas, IF there could be additional nodules, which then would be biopsied for positive/negative results. Then follow up with chemo for a better quality of life. (Sounds backward to use ‘quality’ in the same sentence with chemo.)  Still not an easy choice. Still wondering which road to take? If, if, if.

I have to wonder again, WHY they did not take this lymph node out 10 year ago? I’ve had two surgeries within 2 weeks.  That’s when they told me, afterward, IF this lymph node made any problems, it would be diffilcult to remove. (I had purchased a long, purple zipper which I’d put under my hospital gown , so when they’d took it off before surgery, they saw it laying on my belly. Message: You sew that in there for easier access. They had a good laugh about that.) So, now I’m stuck with this cancerous, enlarged lymph node, like some ugly souvernir and have to make these awfully hard decisions. ( Am I whining? Well. Sometimes I get to do this.)

Even though there were other health problems that came in rapid succession, I was always in gratitude and proclaimed, “As long as it’s Do-able.” It’s still do-able but in a more sinister way and it’s not leaving a lot of room for erroneous decisions.

There’s another choice: Cancer Centers. Closest one is in Phoenix. I have some good friends, living close by.

Before all of that, there’s still hope that some ‘miracle’ will happen and through this long walk on the Camino, my body will heal itself. Then, we do a P.E.T scan, bloodwork and SEE what happened. (Although the P.E.T does not show everything, either, I am told.)

I’ve been up since 4:00 A.M again and these thoughts are circling like big birds. (Sure hope they don’t turn into Vultures.)

Any medical voices out there that want to weigh in?


Eat fresh, organic and raw

Well, at least raw twice a day. That does not mean a raw potato.  You don’t have to wait until you have a life-changing illness to change your lifestyle.

During my cancer journey, last time, I could barely eat anything. Chemo changed the taste of so many food items. Then, there was hardly any appetite due to long lasting nausea.

I would buy fresh products and create dishes. I would experiment with new items but what I neglected was organic. First reason, there was no organic market here. I’ve learned just because something looks green, or like a sweet potato, it doesn’t make it organic. It’s been sprayed into oblivion. It’s been trucked across and sometimes left sitting in the hot sun or cold weather. By the time, we pick it up, it’s been altered considerably. I thought I bought fresh. I did not know about mercury in fish. I did not know a whole lot about GOOD healthful food.

Then, about 3 years ago my health started to deteriorate. I had a myriad of ‘phantom’ complaints. I made the doctor rounds and no one knew what was the matter with me. I had heart palpitations. My hair started to fall out. I started to gain weight and had fluid retention. My eyes were so grainy and burning, I thought that I had severe allergies. My right kidney hurt. I had to go to the bathroom 12-14 times a day. (I went to the Urologist and he diagnosed me with ‘Interstitial Cystitis.’ This is when the mucuous lining of the bladder ‘eats itself’,breaks down. Very painful and chronic. Finally, I couldn’t stand the pain any more and went to a different Urologist, who diagnosed me with kidney stones. Geez. Eighteen month of pain. and a wrong call. I had a Lithotripsy to remove them. I finally got some Thyroid medication for the other problems.

Then, I got Plantar’s Fasciitis and couldn’t walk. It felt like I stepped on broken glass.  Months later, I finally saw a very good Foot Therapist and he helped with that. My friend Carla, tried to get me to eat ‘organic’. She  tried to impress its importance. She said, I needed to change my food. I kept saying to her, ‘ but I eat well and fresh. I can’t afford organic’.  When the lab report came back, it stated the stones were ‘calcium’ based, meaning ‘you eat wrong.’

On the right, this is what they look like The most painful ordeal. Child birth is a low 1 point on that scale!! This procedure cost $16,000. (Imagine the amount of organic food that would’ve bought.)

Finally, when I was re-diagnosed with cancer, 18 mos ago, I was so scared I changed my lifestyle over night! One of the first things I did, was, to appologize to my friend, Carla. For being stubborn, un-believing of her many years of knowledge and the gentle, loving way she tried to make me see.

I learned that even though, I knew a LOT about food and butter and cream sauces and wonderful dishes and pastries, I knew very little about NUTRITION. You can eat and still be nutritionally malnutritioned. That’s where the trouble starts. Your Immune system is falling apart, sending desperate signals of ‘symptoms’, which we ignore or, silence them with prescription drugs because hardly anyone is interested in the CAUSE. God forbid, we should do without that cheeseburger and lab-created, plastic maccaroni and cheese. Or, we think, that this only happens to other people.

I look at the many cooking shows where some designer Chef pours massive amounts of oil into pots and pans. Or, like the one lady who uses pounds of butter and sugar to make things taste good. Well, it takes a better chef to make food taste good without all that stuff.

Changing my lifestyle, even as a senior citizen, was the best thing I have ever done for myself. I’ve lost all that piled-on weight (43 lbs so far.)  No more pains, no more kidney stones. My skin is glowing, my eyes are bright. I have very good energy. I am full of Tatendrang (desire to do great things.) Some people do not really believe that I have cancer. How can I look, feel this good?  Well, I have no clue. The scans, bloodwork and tests say, I do. The first P.E.T scan showed 3 tumors. One in lower abdomen, this one disappeared with lifestyle change and never came back. One, in my lung (removed with VATS (1 at the inside of my spine (it’s the last one and that’s the one I’m researching for Cyberknife procedure.  (Remember? Non invasive, painfree, hard to get to place?)

I have renewed my attention and committment to eat better. I eat two raw meals a day (salad with 5-8 ingredients and home made, wonderful tasting dressings. I juice and do smoothies. I walk for miles, at least 3-4 days in the week. I feel great.

What I would like to impress on my family and friends, especially for my grandchildren, is, to start NOW. Start better habits. I worry about the sugar they eat, the bad carbs, the lack of raw, organic foods. Just think about it. Just love yourself enough to change.

The medical side wants to do surgery, chemo. I still try to hold that off and walking the camino is one of my ideas.

Long, long ago…

 I was the fourth and youngest child. The line-up went boy, girl, boy, girl. I was also a “Furlough Baby”. I wouldn’t know my Father until I was 3+ years old. He was a Prisoner of war, in those last few years. When he came home, he was 35 yrs old and looked like an old man.
I remember that my mom had gone somewhere for a few minutes. The chain was attached to the door and when the doorbell rang, I openend it to its allowed space. There stood a man, in uniform. He would later tell the story that he said to open the door, that he was my father, but I was admonished by mom not to open the door for strangers, many times, and so I didn’t, Left him standing there. Tired and hungry.
These pictures were sent to me by my  friend, Heidi, who went to Kindergarten and school with me. She also lived next door. As you can see, it was run by nuns. Stern, scary beings! But, I suppose we learned a lot and there was not much other choice.
When I went to Germany a couple of years ago with my best, lifelong friend, Irene, we went to this place and it still exists. It’s still a Kindergarten but beautifully restored. With light and color we couldn’t even imagine, back then. Children were singing  and we recognized the song, sung in wobbly, high, little voices and for a moment we were transported back in time. We looked at each other, moved to tears by this poignant moment.
(I’m the third one on the left.) I had the lead role as a Gardener. I was carrying a watering can and sang a song as I ‘watered’ the flowers. At some point, in the middle of things, my hat fell off and I bend down so fast, in one fell swoop to pick up, without missing a beat nor step, that people laughed at the comedy of it. I thought, that they were laughing at me. I cried, embarrassed and  heart broken and refused to continue.
I still see most of these ‘kids’ when I go back. They wait with reunions until they know I’m coming.
On the right was last year’s meeting. I am so very lucky to still have these friends in my life. They found me, a few years ago, after searching for years. I remember the letter starting with:  “Dear Inge. Finally, finally we have found you.” And I cried.

Let’s all go Nuts

I spend a large amount of time researching. On all German speaking websites, too. (Austria, Switzerland). I go to ‘Heidelberg, Munich, Cologne and other Universities. I check their wellness program and cancer approach. Last spring, when I went to Wuerzburg University to have a CT scan and bloodwork, I also visited the famous ‘Immunobiology Therapy’- Hufeland Clinic in ‘Bad Mergentheim’, Germany. It was an amazing experience.

They treat all kinds of Immuno-problems, holistically. Their Motto is:

1. Detox

2. Regenerate

3. Activate Defense.

They had a waiting list as patients come from all over the world. People come  to be treated without chemo or radiation but especially after they’ve already had one or both, to help put them together from all that toxic mess. I would have loved to stay but I just couldn’t afford it. While I waited for my appointment I ate a bowl full of nuts.

What I have learned, is that they all use the same dietary approach. Organic, local if possible and seasonal, low fat, very little sugar.

I have gone nuts over the nut approach. They’re easy to get, easy to eat and have tons of healthy attributes. MOST importantly though, they must be raw, organic, and unsalted. Here are the most important ones:

(Clinic is near this wonderful park.)

ALMONDS: have as much calcium as milk. They contain Vitamin E, selenium, magnesium and lots of fiber. (Most people need that, for sure.)

CASHEWS: are rich in minerals, like copper, magnesium, zinc, iron and biotin. Good news is that they’re low in fat and have a high concentration aleic acid which is great for heart health as well. Research states that one, big handful of cashews provides one, to two thousand milligrams  of tryoptophan, which will work as well as a prescription of Prozac.

BRAZIL nuts are a great source of protein, copper, niacin (more on that important one later) magnesium, fiber, selenium and vitamin E.

PINE nuts have vitamin A,B,D,E and contain 70% of required amino acids. Sprinkle lots on your salad, in your soup.

PECANS  are loaded with vitamin E and A, calcium, aolic acid, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc and a few B-vitamins.

WALNUTS your heart and brain loves them and they contain cancer fighting antioxidants as well.

Now, maybe you’re looking for the PEANUT. Well, it’s missing on purpose from this honorable line up. Peanut, is not a nut but belongs to the bean family. It is very high in Omega 6 fat acid, which suppress the immune ssystem and can increas tumor growth.

Most (if not all) Peanut Farms use pesticides and therefor all is contaminated. They can also contain a carcinogenic mold, called aflatoxin.

Use ORGANIC Nut butters. Almond or Cashew. I’ve recently posted a recipe how to make that one yourself.

So. Mix up a bowl of nuts and seeds and go NUTS.

Choose Hope

Dear Mom,

Your experience with the doctors who told you, ten years ago, that if your cancer ever came back it would be “worse than the first time,” highlights a real problem with doctors’ training — they sometimes seem to lack the training that would have helped them to understand what they do not and cannot know. It is simply unknowable that cancer would, necessarily, come back worse the second time, in every patient. I would go so far as to say these doctors are violating the scientific method by purporting to have such certainty, not to mention committing egregious harm to patients who are unable to get such words out of their heads.

At best, the scientifically accurate statement would have begun with these words — “On average” — and would have ended with “but we can’t really know, and your situation could be completely different.”

We hear stories every day of doctors who have told someone they had two weeks, or six months, to live — and the person lives five, ten, twenty years. Why would someone, lacking both humility, in the awesome face of their science, and certainty, nevertheless lay hold to claims of certainty that cannot be supported?  Perhaps they think it’s simply their job to have something to say.

But it is deadly arrogance.

Given the power of the human mind to do its body well or ill, doctors may do more damage with insupportable assertions of certainty about unhappy outcomes than can be done by the disease in question itself.

I would urge you to realize something your doctors can’t, which is that they have simply rummaged around in a grab-bag of received opinion and averages and pulled out loose talk, which they then handed you, like feces in a bag, for you to hold onto.

Don’t take the bag. Doctors know neither the mind of God nor nature, and it is simply not possible to state anything with 100% certainty, as they too often do.

You are free to believe anything is possible. And anything is. Let’s believe that, together. As between two unknowable outcomes, we can choose the one that gives us the most happiness, the most hope, and therefore the strongest immune system — and the best chance for survival.

This post has been adapted from what was originally a comment to Inge’s post.

Great ideas and helpful hints

A friend sent me an e-mail with these great suggestions.

So here are some good ideas. — It’s hard to get kids eat salad but this may do the trick. You will need: 1 head of iceberg lettuce, 2 med carrots, peeled and sliced, 1 small cucumber sliced, 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, 1 pint mini-mozzarella cheese balls.

In bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic (or regular) vinegar, 1/2 tsp ground mustard (or Dijon) pinch of sugar, 1 Tbsp chopped parsley and/or basil.

Wooden skewers.

Cut iceberg lettuce into wedges then into 1 and 1/2″ cubes. Thread wooden skewer, alternating with sliced carrots, cucumber, lettuce cubes, tomatoes and cheese. Serve with Balsamic dressing to dip in. This would be a different salad treat for your next BBQ as well.

DON’T throw out left over salad. You can use this wilted green and make a delicious Gazpacho soup. In a food processor or blender pulse 2 cups of salad (including the vinaigrette and croutons) 1 small, chopped onion and 1 clove garlic until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl and add 2 cups of vegetable juice and chill. Low calories and fast. Serve with garlic- buttered bread.

Fluffy, summer pancakes: Swap the milk or buttermilk in the recipe for seltzer. It’ll make for a light, bubbly texture. Add the seltzer last and gently fold it so you won’t lose the fizz. Cuts down on calories as well as lactose intolerant people can eat pancakes.

Nightmares -“Daymares”

Of course, that’s a made up word but since I seem to have nightmares even when I’m awake, perhaps it’s a new word. It seems that the peaceful, calm times are getting shorter. I wake up at odd hours from a night mare. I hear my doctor telling me, ten years ago,  that if the cancer came back, it would be ‘really bad, worse than the first time.’ I wonder why I had to have this information? It lay dormant for that many years only to emerge in the blue hours of the night.

My other doctor telling me, that if that small ‘thing’ on my spine ever became a problem, it would be very diffilcult to operate, if not impossible. So! These old records, echoing their voices from long ago, as it has become my reality. But, at the same time there’s new technology. There are different options and choices. They need to be more careful what they throw out, even when meant well. Goes to show how very powerful words are and not just from the medical side. The impact of careless words. Like wild horses. Once they’re out and gallopping, you can’t call them back.

I also dreamed that I couldn’t find my purse and ran all over the place, looking. When I did find it, everything was taken. Just an empty purse and at the sight of that open, black, gaping hole, I couldn’t breath. The remaining hours of interrupted sleep, stretching before me like a long, bumpy road. The crickets chirped relentlessly but I was grateful for their incessant noise. I know, I really do, that I could call my friends, even at that hour but what would be different? They’d lose sleep, too.

I had my son call my doctor and ask him a lot questions but I did not want to know, at this point in time.  I cling onto the camino like a life saver raft. Running away. How long is that leash?? I would love to unzip my skin and step out of it at those times. Even get away from myself. I am not a whiner, usually. I’ve dealt with a lot of set backs, hard knocks. But all of that was ‘do-able’ I don’t mind so much adversity in life as I’ve become rather good at dealing with things as long as it is ‘DO-ABLE.’

I’ve noticed I’ve also become somewhat short tempered at people’s ‘problems’. They’re having a bad hair day. They imagine their jeans make their butts look big. They broke a perfect nail. Their husband/wife is not listening. The laundry detergent is not making their underwear white. ‘Let’s trade places’. I know. I know. It’s not fair. It’s not their fault I’m saddled with this crap. I promise, this does not last very long. Only the time span of a Hummingbird cough.

I was so moved and touched to tears by my son and daughters’ loving support and willingess to carry some of this burden. My friends rallied around, coming by, spending quality time.

I drove to Grand Junction and visited my ‘adopted’ family. We went to have lunch down town. Lovely street, art work shops and restaurants. (Had salad and a Portabella. This one, on a rosemary-herb roll.) I actually wanted to sell some gold but when he offerd a low price, I kept it. Sentimental value was so much more.

Hungarian Goulash

I am constantly trying to expand my list of meatless, low fat, sugar-free dishes. It’s not that easy! But, here is a winner and keeper. (My friend Bonnie says so.)

This recipe is for 4 hungry people:

2 yukon gold potatoes

2 sweet potatoes

2 onions

3 Portabellas

1 can (salt free) diced tomatoes, fresh is better

1/2 can of tomato paste

2 cloves of garlic

2 Tbsp sweet paprika, salt, pepper, dash chili flakes, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

Vegetable broth

1 cup Merlot

Dice onions, garlic and sautee in coconut oil, add diced Portabella’s, sautee for about 5-8 min. Then, add diced potatoes, broth and red wine. Simmer on med heat for approx. 1 hr. Then add paprika, tomatoes and all speices. Simmer an additional 15-20 min. Sprinkle Ital parsely on top.

Serve with steamed broccoli or baby bok-choy.

Smoothie Ideas

Friends have been asking for different smoothies. We all know the fruit smoothies and love them. Not so much smoothies made with vegetables. So, here are a couple of recipes.

Of course, all ingredients have to be organic. Do not use tap water in any smoothie. (For fruit smoothie, use fruit juice (100%) from concentrate, or coconut water.)

Veggie smile

(4 servings)

1 carrot, 1 stick celery, 1/2 red pepper, 1 shallot, 1 cooked potato, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 cup tomato juice, 5-6 ice cubes, dash Tobasco, salt and pepper.

Pepper dance

1 yellow – one red pepper, 4 celery sticks, 1/2 cup plain yoghurt, pinch salt, pinch sugar, chili flakes, ice cubes.

My favorite morning smoothie is already posted.

If consistency is too thick add spring water or tomato juice, or any other organic juice.

You can also use salads and herbs for smoothies, leafy vegetables. Any combination.

Makes for a healthful snack. Smoothies should not be substituted for vegetables. You’ll still need to eat your Brussel’s sprouts. (Cleaned, halved, blanched, then on cookie sheet, drizzled with maple syrup and walnuts. Bake at 400F for 15-20 min (check your baking time. These temps are for high altitude.

Awesome Black Canyon

Everyone has heard of the Grand Canyon. This is God’s smaller, just as impressive, more compact miracle. The Black Canyon is only 20 minutes from my house. Practically in my back yard. I love going there. Especially in the morning, when all is quiet, except for an occasional bird calling, or the tourists show up with their loud motorcycles and speeding cars. The pictures do not give justice to the dizzying depths. There are places, where the sun has never, ever touched the rocks. Rock formation that are over one Billion years old. Makes one feel insignificant before such wonders. How lucky am I to live so close and get to go any time I want? VERY lucky, indeed.

Sunday morning when I went on a 3-hour hike to prepare for the Camino, I met this doe. It did not move, just stood at attention, watching me. It did make some low sounds, almost like growling. I wonder if there was a fawn in the underbrush?

The Gunnison river is below. One can hear it rushing and thundering.