31 days – Habits created

One month has passed since I made the positive change to improving my health.  My intention was to be sugar free (apart from sugar in vegetables and dairy products) and be meat free).  I have however, taken it a step further and not eaten any fish, eggs and virtually cut out dairy products and so for the majority of the month I have eaten a vegan diet and the remainder of the time, vegetarian.  It wasn’t really a conscious decision…it just sort of happened.

Apart from the first week of sugar detox unpleasantness, I have enjoyed the month. I have found a few things out about myself – I do have will power and an inner voice that is looking out for me!! On the odd occasion when I have been hungry between meals (I actually haven’t wanted to snack between meals very much at all), I’ve opted for a savoury snack – new found passion for oatcakes and Marmite – rather than a sweet biscuit or two … or three! I have found myself having internal dialogue – acknowledging how much better I feel and do I really want to jeopardise that feeling?! In fact, there has been a bar of chocolate in the bottom of my handbag all month – I found it the other day. 31 days ago it would have ‘shouted’ at me and been snaffled and the wrapper probably hidden! There are also biscuits, homemade cakes and puddings for my husband – i’m not interested! Although I am focusing on how the food choices make me feel, an additional benefit is that I have lost 4kg over the month. Chemo weight is finally coming off  😁 yay!

I do think about food a great deal – not in a negative way though. Instead I enjoy planning and thinking about the day’s meals, enjoy reaching a mealtime hungry and therefore really enjoy what I am eating – every rainbow mouthful – rather than just seeing food as body fuel. I have settled in to a pattern of planning the week’s main meals on a Friday, collating the shopping list from this and therefore only buying what we need. An additional plus is that we don’t have any food going to waste and the weekly food bill is reduced!

Creative food swapping is becoming easier – my cheese sauce swap has really helped cut out a lot of dairy. I did think removing cheese from my diet would be hard – not helped by many vegan cheeses tasting, in my opinion, pretty vile. However, I have found a brand that tastes good and melts well – perfect for lasagne toppings etc.  Oat milk is very tasty in tea and coffee or I drink weak black tea (thanks HS for the tip 😊) although I have cut my consumption of these drinks significantly and prefer herbal teas.  Butter is the one food I haven’t found an alternative I enjoy. Toast and butter..mmm… I don’t have it very often but thoroughly enjoy it when I do. Any really tasty alternative options out there? From a purely health point of view I think butter is better for me than a vegetable spread with lots of additives.

I have been pleasantly surprised, when I have eaten out, about the number of vegetarian and increased number of vegan options on the menus. Foods with wonderful flavours and textures.

So many people have been supportive, which is lovely, but – here comes a negative – occasionally the odd person (occasional not strange!) passes a comment such as, ‘ Should you be eating that?’ or even, ‘You can’t eat that!’ For me, my diet choices are for my health – mine. My choice; my decisions.  At the moment, I can’t imagine eating meat / fish again but…if I want to…I will. I am not going to pigeon hole my dietary choices.

A taste (pardon the pun) of the rainbow of food eaten this month:

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My next steps:  eat cake, steak and fizzy drinks.  I very much doubt it.

I will however eat fruit if I feel like it.

I will continue to plan our weekly food and buy only what we need to keep wastage low.

I will continue to enjoy every mouthful.

 

 

Intermittent Fasting

This is something that really interests me and I am going to embark on to see how it effects me. Following on from chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment I was acutely aware how my gut microbiome had been effected. I am once again having milk kefir daily and water kefir and kombucha regularly – things I wasn’t allowed to have during treatment because of their powerful probiotic powers.

There are numerous studies showing that intermittent fasting can have benefits for our bodies and brains. For me, the main reason I want to do this is to improve my gut health. One particular species of  bacteria (Akkermansia) thrive when fasting occurs and they strengthen the gut wall and reduce inflammation.

When we don’t eat for a while our bodies initiate important cellular repair processes and changes hormone levels to make stored body fat more accessible. Insulin levels drop and human growth hormone increases. Studies show that intermittent fasting can reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in the body.

There seem to be 6 different popular methods and which one fits best will depend on the individual.

  1. 16/8 – fast for 16 hours a day. Generally recommended that women only fast for 14-15 hours. On each day eating is restricted to an 8-10 hour window.
  2. 5:2 – eat normally for 5 days of the week and restrict calories to 500-600 on two days a week – popularised by Dr Michael Mosley.
  3. Eat-stop-eat – do a 24 hour fast once or twice a week
  4. Alternate day fasting – either not eating every other day or restricting calories to 500-600.
  5. Warrior diet – only eat small amounts of raw vegetables and fruits during the day and then eat one huge meal at night.
  6. Spontaneous meal skipping – simply skip 1 or 2 meals a day when you don’t feel hungry.

For me, the 16/ 8 …or because I’m a woman -14/10 style of intermittent fasting is the type that I feel will fit with my lifestyle. So from now on my breakfast will really be breaking the fast 🙂  Of course, during the fasting hours drinking water/herbal tea is to be continued as normal.

Would love to read about your experiences of fasting.

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

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 🙂