Confused…

Everyday the news is filled with conflicting health messages…eat this, don’t eat that, drink this, don’t drink that and so it becomes increasingly difficult to take control.  We are told, and I believe, that what we eat will ultimately keep us in good health or put us on the path to illness.

I feel I come at food and nutrition from quite an informed position but recognise there is much to learn. For me now, nutrition and getting it right is even more important. My cancer was oestrogen and progesterone positive and I am on drugs to inhibit my body from producing these hormones. I want to avoid foods that contain such hormones. So… I am somewhat confused and dismayed by the conflicting literature and papers available on the subject of dairy products and water and the content of female hormones within both.

In this country, at the moment, it is ‘safe’ to eat dairy products although some research in other countries state otherwise. Equally, we are told to drink plenty of water and yet there has been plenty of research to highlight falling male fertility due to the levels of female hormones in water.

I don’t want to become paranoid but equally I don’t want to hear in 5 years time that there are proven links between breast cancer recurrence and dairy products / water. So for me now I have greatly reduced my dairy intake – ensuring I eat other calcium rich   foods and am looking in to a filtration system for the house. Most of all … I want answers.

If you have any thoughts please share 🙂

 

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Health Esteem Queen for the month of May

On May 20 2017 the wonderful Sara of mshealthesteem.com   posted her interview with me as she had nominated me Health Esteem Queen for that month.

I urge you to take a look at her wonderful blog and health and wellness website.

I have posted the interview here as well:

Tell us about your health philosophy.

I believe we are what we eat. With this in mind I cook all my food from scratch where possible, and use the best ingredients to ensure the outcome is a balanced and nutrient dense meal. I also believe in ‘simple is good’ and very rarely produce food that has taken hours to prepare. I cook gluten-free and fructose free / minimum fructose food.  (I am no means perfect and do occasionally succumb to chocolate or cake – when I do I don’t ‘beat myself up’.)

Having recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and now on drug therapy for many years, this has heightened my awareness of and the importance of, treating our bodies well. I not only try to ensure nutritious food goes in to my body but I also am careful of the products I put on my skin – e.g. paraben free products, paraben and aluminium free deodorant.

I exercise daily – walking my dogs and spending time with my horse. I also try to meditate daily for at least 10 minutes.

What’s your favourite part of your health-esteem journey so far?

As a result of the changes to my diet, I never feel bloated, my skin texture has improved and I have lost weight. I no longer count calories, I eat fats – coconut milk, avocados etc, I don’t snack between meals and most importantly of all, the bathroom scales do not rule my life which they did for as many years as I can remember. I now have a sustainable positive mindset about choosing the foods I eat and the amounts of food my body wants. I actively listen out for the feelings of satiety and most importantly and totally amazingly for someone for whom bulimia has been a constant companion for so, so many years I am eating guilt free. It has been such a liberating experience – I am now free from my bingeing habits and the suffocating feeling that food is controlling me.

Why do you think self-love is an important aspect of someone’s health?

I think self love is all about owning our own power and acting from a place of kindness toward ourselves.  What matters is how we feel about ourselves; that we accept ourselves; we become responsible for our own lives and we stop trying to prove something. Self-love isn’t about being narcissistic it is about looking after ourselves. We have one ribbon of life and should value it – our health being one of the most important facets of our lives and one which we can have significant control over.

What changes were necessary in order to achieve your state of self-love?

Firstly, looking inward: I needed to identify my own individual appetite drivers and my food choices. Once I understood my triggers to eat, triggers not to eat I then became able to manage my weight. Fructose was a trigger for me – so I removed it. Snacking and being unaware was another trigger. For a long time I, like many others I have talked to, seem to have been in the pursuit of the perfect diet – the key few ‘must have’ ingredients or ‘must do’ approaches to eating. I have followed the latest hot topic dietary approaches and listened to all the ‘experts’ wanting to share their ‘dietary magic’. At times I have been lulled in to the promises of quick fix approaches – which have ‘worked’ – but of course any weight loss has slowly returned or different diet approaches have not be sustainable. If I have followed a restrictive diet my emotional reaction has always ended in rebellion.

Then, I recognised and accepted that my working environment was harming my health. Continual pressure and stresses were taking their toll. So a change of direction was in order. (That is partly on hold due to diagnosis but I do have a plan!)

Finally – acceptance of who I am, who I will never be and most importantly…the person I no longer want to be.

What inspired you to become the Healthy Foodie you are today?

The pursuit of a sustainable way of life. I have always thought myself to be quite savvy about food. I have however, at different times in my life be ruled by it; controlled by it even. For a large proportion of my life I have awoken in the morning determined to be in control and not worried about what I was going to eat during the day. Invariably after my first of several weigh ins the feelings of guilt/ self loathing etc. would raise their ugly heads. I have tried many diets over the years – never needing to lose too much but never satisfied with how I looked or felt.

2 years ago, I was given a copy of ‘Simplicious’ by Sarah Wilson. That was it…my turning point:)

Why did you choose to switch to a plant based diet?

For my health.

Every year, following the rich and meat laden excesses of the Christmas period, I would serve only vegetarian meals for my husband and I for the month of February and then try to limit the amount of meat/poultry based meals we ate afterwards.

Last year, I decided to extend the month and I ate a vegetarian based diet for several months. I do now eat meat occasionally – could I do without it …yes. Could I do without my vegetables, pulses, grains etc…absolutely not!  .

Being on a plant based diet ensures that I feel fuller for longer; don’t suffer with bloating and feel generally more energised.

Any tips for those wishing to add more plants to their plates?

Variety – explore the multitude of textures and colours available.

Seasoning – learn to use herbs and spices to enhance and enliven dishes

Describe a typical day on your foodie plate.

Breakfast –  oat, chia and teff porridge served with coconut milk and a milk kefir smoothie – acai, baobab or maca flavoured

Lunch – buddha / abundance bowl with something green e.g. watercress, something red – peppers / tomatoes / beetroot; something yellow  – peppers / sweetcorn and some protein – pulses / fish / egg

Dinner – easy to prepare meal and often one pot e.g. a cauliflower , chickpea and quinoa bake

What is a daily health ritual must?

Drinking plenty of fluids

What advice would you give for someone wishing to make some health invoking changes?

Identify why you want to change and the positive impact this will have. Then break it down in to small and manageable chunks. Don’t view it as failure if it doesn’t always go to plan. Each day is a new opportunity to start again.

What’s your biggest health misconception pet peeve?

Fats are bad for you

What is your favourite health food staple?

Chia seeds – so versatile and nutritional powerhouses

What’s your go to healthy snack?

Brazil nuts – brain food!

What does Health-Esteem mean to you?

Possessing self regard for your health. Valuing yourself enough to want to look after yourself on the inside. As well as the outside.

 

Mrs Impatient

On the 28th of December, I wrote that I had finished chemotherapy and was at last starting on the road to recovery…followed by a post on the 26th February about the start of a new healthy me.

I think I was both naive and deluded! My doctors told me the chemotherapy would impact on my system for several months and  this compounded by the 5 weeks of daily radiotherapy would mean that the side effects would be long reaching. But …oh no…not me I thought! Well – they were right. I have been  / am really frustrated by the very slow process of recovery.

I understand that my body has taken a battering but I truly thought I would bounce back more quickly. I am struggling with accepting this – although I have no choice and am trying to turn my, ‘But I’ve only managed to do this,’ into, ‘Today I have done this!’ I have accepted (I think) that I won’t be the same as before diagnosis – and that isn’t a bad thing, I had already recognised that things needed to change – hence handing my notice in at work. I am accepting that this is a blip, a haitus in my plans and future goals and only that. I would like to have heard the words, ‘You are clear.’ but know that with the ‘high risk cancer’ (oncologist’s words not mine) it is all about doing things to increase my survival rate and chance of being around in 10 years. This is taking a bit to process…but I will 🙂

On a very positive note I now have a complete covering of baby soft hair on my head (albeit a different colour and flecks of grey – lovingly pointed out by one of my daughters!!), a full set of lashes and eyebrows and I do now feel in the right place mentally to tackle the few pounds that I put on during chemo and am fully embracing the diets choices  I used to make prior to treatment.  Of this part of my life, I can be in full control.

Would love to read the thoughts and words of wisdom from those of you who are at the same point as me,  ahead of me or just interested in my ramblings 🙂

All a bit bonkers…

This is going to seem to be a bit bonkers…

I have only just realised; I have had cancer.

People who know me will probably think that I have finally lost the plot. They know I was diagnosed last July. Since then I have existed within a whirlwind of tests, operation, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, weekly and sometimes daily visits to the cancer hospital, visits to my own doctor, visits to district nurses, etc.

Throughout all of this I haven’t really had time to think…or been able to think. It was during my penultimate visit for radiotherapy treatment (18/19 treatments on 9th February) that the reality hit me – like a sledgehammer. I then did what I had vowed I would never do – spent a week wallowing in self pity and ‘woe is me’ mode.

Now it is all about moving forward. Yes, I still have reminders of the treatment – operation scars, nails falling off, aching bones and joints, burned skin – but… my body is recovering and the signs are clear. I have a covering of hair on my head, eyelashes and eyebrows are returning and my energy levels are increasing.

During treatment my diet changed. Partly due to taste buds; partly due to the fact that many of my staple foods were banned (sprouted legumes, kefir, salads) and partly because somedays eating anything was better than eating nothing.

It is time to recalibrate.

Here is to the healthy me 🙂

Recovery

Yesterday (Tuesday 27th December 2016) was a significant day for me. I had the last of my chemotherapy related drugs. So today is an even more auspicious day … the start of regaining my strength and my health. I know that my approach to food and health gave me a very strong foundation going in to treatment but I am now completely running on empty  – at least this means the chemo has performed its sledgehammer role.

5 1/2 months ago I was in blissful ignorance. I decided it was time to have a career change and turn my passion for healthy living in to my new career. So I made the leap and handed my notice in at my place of work for the last 15 years.

Then…

June 17th – routine mammogram

July 6th – recall letter, ‘nothing to be concerned about…but bring a friend for support.’  I saw my unwelcome visitor clearly on the screen. Another mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy and a very frank radiologist made it clear that it was 95% likely to be malignant.

July 11th – results confirmed Grade 3 invasive malignant tumour.

July 13th – met my consultant and fully accepted that now was the time for me to put my trust in the wonderful team of medical professionals taking over my care.

July 29th – tumour removed and lymph biopsy

August 17th – only 2 months after the initial mammogram – met with my consultant to be told that the removal of all the tumour was successful but that cancer cells were found in my lymph nodes. Met with my oncologist to discuss my next treatment: chemotherapy; radiotherapy and drug therapy. Also to arrange a barrage of tests to check my body was strong enough for the onslaught of the poisons.

September 5th – picc line inserted and first chemo treatment. I must admit as I watched the red poison moving along the tube to my arm I did wobble.

Ahead of my treatment I thought chemotherapy meant hair loss and feeling a bit rough…I was so wrong – not about the hair loss which I actually have found quite liberating and of course have saved a fortune in hair products and time wasted washing drying and generally faffing. It has been grim – most of the time I have managed to remain upbeat but there have been times when I have felt so sorry for myself and wondered, ‘Why me?’ But of course the words of Paul Kalanithi (When Breath becomes Air), ‘Why not me?’have pulled me up sharp…I am still alive after all.

December 19th  – last chemo session – I made it without any sessions being delayed (a target I set my neutrophils 🙂  I got to ring the bell at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. A place filled with laughter, positivity and hope and staff who are truly wonderful.

December 27th last injection and chemo related drug.

So here I am…

Whilst undergoing chemo I have not been able to eat many of the foods that I would choose – some would make my body fight back against the poison; some because of the risk of bacterial infection.

I am now looking forward to feeding my body the foods it is used to and the foods that I know will get me back to full strength rapidly. Afterall…as Hippocrates said, ‘Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food,’ and, ‘Let medicine be thy food and food be thy medicine.’

 

Thank you to all my fabulous friends and family, without whom, the last few months would have been both unbearable and unmanageable. x

Most peculiar

It’s been a funny old week – definitely not the amusing type.

I am now in to my second week of cycle 1 of chemotherapy and have experienced some odd and some deeply unpleasant (won’t go in to that!) effects. Changing tastes:

Firstly I have absolutely no appetite –  a novel and curious feeling for a devout foodie.

Secondly – for a few days when I did feel the urge to eat it was for foods I never normally eat. I longed for shop bought fish, chips and mushy peas – the combination tasted like nectar! Another night I sent my poor husband to the shops to buy a tin of Baked Beans (reminiscent of a pregnancy midnight raid!) and wanted only beans on toast with cheese on top. This, unlike the fish ‘n chips, was a total  disappointment – unsure whether my tastes are changing or just that I have not eaten processed foods for so long.

I have gone off tea and coffee and am enjoying powdered skimmed milk as a hot drink!

I am seeking much stronger flavours  – no subtlety to my palate at the moment.

Somethings I eat have no flavour yet I can smell them. Flavour is the combination of taste -what your taste buds pick up (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and  potentially umami) and the smell of the food. The roof of my mouth seems to be completely inert at the moment (the same feeling when you have burnt it).  The roof of the mouth is the palate – and presumably where the terms palatable  / having a pleasing palate come from. I can only assume this change is what is affecting my dietary choices and experiences.

All very odd and quite fascinating … as long as it settles down!

 

Irony

…a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.

I believe I eat healthily. I have a number of friends who frequently message me, after seeing something I have posted on my Instagram account @jfb50, asking me, ‘What on earth is that?’ or ‘So what does that do?’  I even have one particular checkout assistant at my local supermarket who quizzes me on everything that passes along the belt – ‘How are you going to cook that?’ and one day popped up in the spice aisle when I was looking for sumac and followed me around the supermarket asking me all about the food I was buying!

I eat a balanced diet and thoroughly enjoy what I eat. I ‘listen’ to my body and respond to any dietary preferences. Talking of preferences – I avoid taking tablets of any kind if I can – unless prescribed.

So…with this in mind, this week, I ‘willingly’ signed the consent forms for a 6×3 week treatment cycle of chemotherapy. The impact of these toxins: the destruction of the flora in my large intestine that I have nurtured with my daily kefir and frequent meals of beans and pulses; the stripping of calcium from my body and all manner of other unpleasantness that I don’t really want to think about! But of course, the pay off is, I hope, the destruction of anything lurking in my system that shouldn’t be there.

I know that the food I eat will heal me and my positive attitude will see me through 🙂

Any tips gratefully received 🙂