Colon Cancer Part Two

Things should be getting back to normal very soon. I’m kinda/sorta back to work, but have noticed my stamina isn’t completely back to normal. I visited my oncologist for the first time and learned a couple things about my cancer.

  1. It was very slow growing; that was a good thing. They got it all; very good. My prognosis is bright; excellent.
  2. He said the tumor was inside me for a “very long time.” This means that while I ate what’s called a “vegan” diet for six years (higher fat plant foods, some junk (i.e. Twizzlers), etc.) immediately after my husband’s heart attack, the last four years of eating a healthy plant based, heart healthy diet likely had a little to no effect on the tumor. If anything it may have slowed it down a bit, but today we don’t know. Research isn’t exactly precise concerning this.
  3. Every doc and RD I’ve spoken with has heartily endorsed this way of eating as a way of both recovering and preventing this from happening again. However, they caution nothing is 100 percent certain.
  4. I will be monitored closely for quite a while, looking for new tumor growth and such. Guess I’m my own science project.

I think this all sounds reasonable. The docs have answered many of my questions and I’m looking forward to a healthy recovery and (hopefully) a long life. I appreciate all your kind messages and am already tapping away, experimenting with some fun recipes. I’m looking forward to posting some new concoctions!

Onward and upward,

Beth 🙂

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Colon Cancer

Does a plant based diet completely protect you from colon cancer? In my experience, not necessarily.

On May 27, I went kicking and screaming to my very first colonoscopy.

I don’t know why, but for some reason I got roped into my first physical in, er, MANY years. And woof, it was a doozie. The doc knew I’m a fairly bad patient and wouldn’t be back for at least a decade so he threw the book at me. I had every test known to human kind and to my delight, all the reports were coming back stellar.

When he said I could do my colonoscopy immediately or wait. I said I’d wait. Then he said, “No problem. We’ll have to redo your physical again, but that won’t be a problem. I’m up for another round.” Then he added, “We always need a physical before we can do the colonoscopy.”

I felt hoodwinked. So, simply to avoid another useless physical, I consented to the procedure.

Having passed every prior medical test, and exceedingly cranky from the colonoscopy “prep,” the last words I said to the doc before the procedure were, “This is a waste of time. Such bullsh*t.”

When I awoke, I knew something was amiss. First, nobody offered me orange juice. They promised me orange juice (I felt famished and dehydrated). Worse yet, everyone looked at me odd. Finally the doc came out and informed me he found a large malignant mass. I was scheduled for immediate emergency surgery.

Surgery didn’t go well and they wound up slicing a huge gash into my abdomen.

The good news is all the pathology is in and tumor was literally within millimeters of breaching the large intestine and entering my abdomen. For the geeks out there, my tumor was a mild variety, stage two, “T3 N0 M0.” I will not need chemo or radiation. They got it all.

So… I spent the last few weeks hopped up on Vicodin and after three weeks am finally feeling somewhat “normal.” A couple days ago, the surgeon removed all my staples and replaced them with some lovely strips.

My belly looks like a war zone.

My point? (I always have one.)

I remember one evening in the hospital. I laid there listening to my husband snoring as he attempted to sleep on the plastic couch. My hands continually shook for no apparent reason. I pondered how the Hospitalist informed me that I’d likely experience premature menopause due to the tumor removal. Earlier that day, an infection blossomed in my wound causing continual drainage. I recently discovered I gained four pounds in 24 hours eating nothing but a couple saltines and one glass of apple juice. The words “ostomy bag” entered conversations far more often than I liked. I felt gross, imagining all the other inconveniences this new life episode would generate. I felt so depressed, I supposed surgeon removed my ability (or desire) to write when he removed the tumor. Knowing I now had two fewer feet of colon, I felt profoundly sorry for myself.

Then the nurse entered my room to take vitals and said, “Do you realize how lucky you are?” She continued, “You knew you had cancer for less than 24 hours and you’re already considered in remission. They got it all. It didn’t spread.” As she changed my bandages, she continued, “Sure, you have a nasty incision. This infection is bad, too. But you were in pretty good shape before the surgery and are making remarkable progress. You’ll get better fast. Also, can you imagine how bad you’d feel trying to recover while dealing with chemotherapy?”

A tear dripped down my cheek.

“And look at that man on the couch,” she continued, “He hasn’t left your side. You’ve got a mountain of flowers over there. You’ve got your health. You’ve got tremendous family support. You’re young. You’re the luckiest person here.”

While I didn’t really appreciate her sentiments at that particular moment, I could hang on to her words long enough to get through the next day as well as the next.

Which brings me to today.

Every doctor I spoke with, every hospital dietitian I met thoroughly supported my plant based diet. I was delighted. They praised the high fiber and said the nutrient dense composition of the food was perfect for someone in my situation. That’s pretty gratifying.

Although nobody can be sure how long this tumor was in my body, docs said my tumor would have been inoperable in two years. I would have been dead in five. I had no idea I had this thing growing in me. No symptoms. No clues. Nothing.

I may sound like a cliché here, but here’s my big point: Your health truly is your greatest wealth. While it feels like I’ve been recovering forever, I’m barely three weeks out and have resumed nearly all my normal activities. Not too bad considering I had a seven day hospital stay, a gazillion staples in my belly, and a raging e coli infection. When I left the hospital I could barely climb two steps without bursting into tears. Today I’m hobbling all over the place. 🙂

And I’m very, very thankful. I’m thankful for every reader who takes the time to stop by. I’m thankful for every person emailing telling me they’re scheduling their colonoscopy. I’m thankful for each new morning.

None of us know how many days we’re privileged to walk this planet because in one instant, your life can change forever.

Me? I’m recovering. My priorities (my Polaris, for you who have my Advice to Freelancers series) are more clear than they’ve ever been.

I suppose that’s one of the gifts I take from this experience. After all, there is a gift in every event. Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find it, though.

Wishing you the very best,

Beth

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Got 10k? You can go on her diet.

If you’ve got 10k to burn and a few pounds to lose, give Tanya Zuckerbtot a jingle. She’s a nutritionist who will council you to help reach your weight goals. She sees around ten clients per day and has up to 200 clients at any given time. (Do some mental math and be amazed.) From Yahoo Shine:

“So much of what we do is life coaching,” Zuckerbrot, author of “The F-Factor Diet: Discover the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss” and “The Miracle Carb Diet,” told Shine. “My job is to make sure my client feels better about themselves when they walk out than they did when they walked in.”

For your money you get a few private sessions and you’ll receive a regimen based on protein and high fiber carbs. Then you get eight half hour follow up sessions.

“Is that worth $10,000? I don’t know the answer to that,” she said. “But I feel she is someone I can go back to for years to come if I need a little bit of a cheerleading session.”

Sigh. The things people do to lose weight.

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As we age, heart related health costs go up

From Reuters: The American Heart Association estimates that costs linked to heart failure is expected to more than double in the next couple decades.

Sheesh. That’s terrible news. Worse yet, healthcare providers may not be able to keep up with demand. Why’s this happening?

And while U.S. rates of smoking and heart disease have fallen in recent years, the number of people with diabetes and obesity – both contributors to heart problems – have climbed and are cause for concern, AHA said.

The group, the leading U.S. advocacy organization for heart patients, said its analysis underscores the urgent need for doctors and nurses to focus on preventive care.

Focus on preventative care? Er… like a healthy diet? Exercise? Clean lifestyle?

They’re ringing my bell here.

Once someone develops heart failure, treatments can range from changing their diet and taking medications to surgery for an implantable pacemaker or defibrillator.

Well, now they lost me. Why not live a healthy lifestyle before you develop heart failure? Heck, plant based eating is delicious, easy, and costs less than the alternative.

While I’m glad they mention lifestyle in the article, I believe it’s unfortunate that the focus isn’t on prevention, but rather how to cope with the so-called inevitability of their prediction.

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Antibiotics and meat

If you include meat in your diet, you may want to check out this article from the New York Times:

SCIENTISTS at the Food and Drug Administration systematically monitor the meat and poultry sold in supermarkets around the country for the presence of disease-causing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These food products are bellwethers that tell us how bad the crisis of antibiotic resistance is getting. And they’re telling us it’s getting worse.

Woah. That’s rather alarming. How much antibiotics go to livestock?

In 2011, drugmakers sold nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics for livestock — the largest amount yet recorded and about 80 percent of all reported antibiotic sales that year. The rest was for human health care. We don’t know much more except that, rather than healing sick animals, these drugs are often fed to animals at low levels to make them grow faster and to suppress diseases that arise because they live in dangerously close quarters on top of one another’s waste.

Eighty percent? That’s  an incredible number.

I appreciate that not every lawmaker is as convinced as I am that feeding low-dose antibiotics to animals is a recipe for disaster. But most, if not all of them, recognize that we are facing an antibiotic resistance crisis, as evidenced by last year’s bipartisan passage of a measure aimed at fighting superbugs by stimulating the development of new antibiotics that treat serious infections. Why are lawmakers so reluctant to find out how 80 percent of our antibiotics are used?

We cannot avoid tough questions because we’re afraid of the answers. Lawmakers must let the public know how the drugs they need to stay well are being used to produce cheaper meat.

This is an interesting article written by former Food and Drub Administration commissioner, David A. Kessler. Highly recommended reading.

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An ancient diet expert on the paleo diet

Interesting information.

TED Fellow Christina Warinner is an expert on ancient diets. So how much of the diet phad the “Paleo Diet” is based on an actual Paleolithic diet? The answer is not really any of it.

Dr. Christina Warinner has excavated around the world, from the Maya jungles of Belize to the Himalayan mountains of Nepal, and she is pioneering the biomolecular investigation of archaeological dental calculus (tartar) to study long-term trends in human health and diet. She is a 2012 TED Fellow, and her work has been featured in Wired UK, the Observer, CNN.com, Der Freitag, and Sveriges TV. She obtained her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010, specializing in ancient DNA analysis and paleodietary reconstruction.

I especially appreciated the last five minutes where she compared eating whole, natural foods (yay!) to processed junk, like soda. The calories ingested in just one soda equaled eating over eight feet of sugar cane. Just that description alone highlighted how a whole foods diet is a powerhouse when it comes to maintaining health.

It’s a great talk. Enjoy!

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What does the world’s oldest person eat?

From Reuters: To heck with the diet wars. When it comes to longevity, Japan has a whole lotta centenarians. Now, they have the world’s oldest person as well.

Japan has more than 50,000 people aged 100 or more, 2011 government data showed, reinforcing its reputation for longevity.

Jiroemon Kimura of Kyoto, Japan recently celebrated his 116th birthday. I wonder what he eats.

Kimura is living with his 60-year-old granddaughter-in-law and has a three-meal-a-day diet of rice, pumpkins and sweet potatoes, according to local media.

Sounds like my kind of person!

Oh, and Japan also boasts the longest living woman, a 115 year old named Miaso Okawa.

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North Pole Marathon winner is plant based

It’s a particularly difficult marathon with temps around -28c but Fiona Oakes not only won the North Pole Marathon, she broke the record by 44 minutes.

Woah.

According to the Buxton Advertiser, conditions this year were the “worst in the marathon’s eighty-year history.”

Double woah. She says:

“I knew it was going to be bad but just how bad I couldn’t possibly have prepared for. Not just the consequences of running at -30 with a wind chill but for half the course through deep snow.

“I haven’t got the longest legs in the world and kept falling it was so deep as when you put your foot on it you didn’t know if it was frozen enough to take your weight.

“On one occasion I sank up to my groin, on another I fell on my hand and now have a suspected fractured thumb.

“Never mind, job done, win in the women’s race, new course record and 3rd overall. Can’t ask for any more.”

She’s competed in 26 marathons.

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Yum. It’s dinner time.

Corn tacos with a Boca burger, corn, spinach, and southwestern mustard on a soft corn tortilla. Yummy.

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Cookies!

We’re testing recipes left and right and our latest incarnation from the upcoming “One Mix, 50 Fab Recipes: Healthier Baked Goods for a Healthier Lifestyle” (tentative title) :), is chocolate chip cookies.

I don’t know what’s funner, developing these recipes or taste testing them. I’ve got a freezer full of cookies, cakes, candies, and more. Sheesh. I guess that’s why I took a bunch of the completed recipes and created single serving recipes out of each… one muffin, two cookies, one cupcake, etc.

It’s been a blast and I thought I’d share this pic. Enjoy!

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