2016 Year in Review

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Playing in the rain on my wedding day

2016 was a great year overall for us. We had our ups and downs as anyone does, but we had so many wins this year it made all the crummy stuff worth it.

Some of the things from our family vision board manifested themselves into reality this year. I’m totally into what many refer to as woo woo; I believe in visualization and I look at my vision board every morning before I meditate. In February we traveled to Arizona for a week to check out potential places to live and scope out the local scene. In December we married on Maui next to the ocean underneath the beautiful palm trees, something we had dreamt of for many years. It was such a fun week celebrating with family and friends on one of the most beautiful islands in the world. If you had told me ten years ago all these things I wished for would actually happen, I probably would have told you, “You’re crazy!”. My life was just stumbling along until I discovered and added in some of these success habits and goal setting techniques. I also began writing my future book about my cancer story and how I recovered from treatments, which I can’t wait to share with you!

This year also marked an important milestone for me. 15 years that I have been blessedly cancer free. I feel like that is a reason to celebrate! I have made it this far with no chronic illness besides my hypothyroidism from radiation therapy. It does not mean much to life insurance companies however, they think I will die soon apparently so they refuse to insure me at any cost. It’s quite unfortunate that you get treated like some kind of defective human after cancer. I can’t donate blood either. I’m just going to keep living as healthy a lifestyle as I can so I can live to 100! (My current goal) I’m still thinking about ways I can help and inspire other childhood cancer survivors that being healthy can be accomplished after cancer, I do not like the current statistic that 80% of childhood cancer survivors have a chronic illness by age 40. I want to lower that number.

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Myself all puffed up on steroids during treatment in 2001

We’ve also been dealing with the toxic black mold situation that has progressively gotten worse the longer we are living here. It’s such a nightmare to try to get out of if you don’t have a safe place to go and a wedding already planned and paid for with non refundable plane tickets. I have read multiple books on minimalism over the past few years and made it my goal to lose the materialism and stuff that doesn’t bring me joy, but I’ve floundered at it quite honestly. I seriously cut back on buying things, but I felt like I couldn’t ever get rid of enough stuff! Well, now we really don’t have a choice. The universe has brought me a lesson on the importance of minimalism and shedding excess stuff. We can bring what we deem safe and the furniture is all going. A new mattress on the floor in an empty room is better than being ill!

Myself now with my family

Myself now with my family

This next year will be super exciting as more things manifest into our lives from our vision board. Currently we are packing, selling and donating in preparation to move to Arizona. I’m immensely excited about this as I have dreamt of moving to a warm climate for a decade now. It’s finally happening! When you evaluate your life and gain clarity on what you really want it can happen. Years of hard work eventually do pay off. When we looked at the current environment we live in (weather included) it was not conducive to the type of lifestyle we’d like to lead, so we made the decision to move across the country. It’s interesting how it all came together in the past few years, as if it were simply meant to be. The universe works in mysterious ways indeed. Have a happy, healthy, amazing New Year!

My Thoughts on Supplementation 

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A beautiful bounty of organic produce

I went back and forth on whether or not to take supplements as I grew up. The media tends to confuse us with the back and forth studies: Multivitamins will raise mortality rates, no wait, vitamins are good for you! The thing I’ve come to realize over time and much researching is that the Type and Quality of the supplements you take matter. You can indeed cause harm by taking the wrong type of supplements or the wrong doses. Vitamin A in beta carotene form is way different than Vitamin A in retinol form. Vitamin C as ascorbic acid is very different from whole food Vitamin C derived from oranges.

So, what do we take for supplementation? Should you supplement? What about children?

It’s also important to understand your body’s unique needs and genetics. If you can afford to do it, I highly recommend getting your genome test done from a site such as 23andme.com. This allows you to better understand what your body’s individual needs are. For example, if you have a defect in the MTFHR gene you should be taking methyl folate. What you take will also be based on your dietary needs as well. Supplementation is meant to enhance and supplement your healthy diet, not supplant a bad diet.

From the time I thought about possibly having a baby, I took a multivitamin only with a separate fish oil supplement. I did this throughout my pregnancy. I did not want to use the prescription prenatal with all of the additives and artificial colors. I used New Chapter Perfect Prenatal organic whole food derived vitamins, and Garden of Life Ocean’s Mom 3 Prenatal fish oil supplement. Optimally, you would skip the multivitamin and try to buy each supplement you need individually. This is not the easiest route and it takes more research and money, but if you can do it, go for it!

What do I take today? A slew of supplements, which I understand is not a fit for everyone, but it works for me to keep my health optimal. It is costly and you have to put in the effort to swallow 20 pills a day. This is my current list of vitamins:

  1. Gotu Kola by Nature’s Way – I heard of this from Wim Hof, it is good for the skin sag I have from the rapid wasting I had in the hospital on chemo.
  2. Caprylic Acid by Now – This is good antifungal and has many uses. From PubMed: Caprylic acid is superior to & less expensive than Diflucan, & has potential application for anti-cancer, anti-aging, anti-Alzheimer’s disease, anti-Autism, anti-infection, & general circulatory improvement.
  3. Hawthorn Extract by Now – This has been studied many times on PubMed for use in treating CHF, or heart failure. It is also good for Hypertension. Anyone who has been through cancer treatments knows that your cardiovascular system could use some support!
  4. Organic Olive Leaf Oil by Barlean’s – The oleuropein, and other compound found in olive leaf, have a unique feature that makes the leaves particularly effective in fighting against various micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. These substances impair the ability of the viruses to create amino acids, thus preventing their ability to reproduce and multiply. It has been found that oleuropein is able to relax the blood vessels, lower blood pressure and even prevent the formation of blood clots. In addition, olive leaf also helps to stop irregular heartbeat, improve blood flow in the coronary arteries and balances blood sugar levels.
  5. Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 by Life Extension – I have been taking CoQ10 for a long time to offset the hardships my body endured from chemo. Recently I have stepped it up with this CoQ10 + Ubiquinol. Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 with BioPQQ® contains shilajit (which studies have shown doubles CoQ10 levels in the mitochondria) plus the breakthrough compound PQQ (shown to support the spontaneous generation of new mitochondria in aging cells). This represents a three-way strategy for enhanced mitochondrial support.
  6. Ultra-C 400 by MegaFoodA landmark study published in 2004 in the Journal of American College of Nutrition studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin C over the past half century.  Today’s fruits and veggies were found to contain 30% less vitamin C than your grandparents’ fruits and vegetables.
  7. EGCg by Now – From PubMed: Intervention studies using similar amounts of green tea, containing 200-300 mg ofEGCG, have demonstrated its usefulness for maintaining cardiovascular and metabolic health.
  8. Organic Evening Primrose Oil by Barlean’s – I take this for its health benefit for hypothyroidism and hair loss/brittleness. It does seem to help with hair and skin!
  9. Vital Proteins Collagen – Collagen peptides contain the same amino acids as gelatin which is identical to the protein found in skin, nails, hair, bones, cartilage, and joints. You can add this grass fed, pasture raised collagen to any liquid or yogurt for extra nutrition.
  10. Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega – Fish oil is well studied to help with inflammation and cell function. (30% of your brain is made of DHA) I also eat fish every week. Nordic Naturals uses nitrogen to process their fish oil and keep it from oxidizing. Make sure to refrigerate these!
  11. Vitamin Code Raw Calcium by Garden of Life – I was low in calcium after pregnancy so I spent time researching calcium supplements. I found that vitamin D, magnesium and K2 are very important for your body to be able to use calcium, they work synergistically. This supplement uses plant calcium along with vitamin D3, MK-7 from natto (converts to K2 in the body), magnesium, and other naturally occurring minerals and trace elements.
  12. Vitamin D3 by Life ExtensionVitamin D3 can be synthesized by humans in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet-B (UVB) radiation from sunlight. But, due to the winter season, weather conditions, and sun block, the body’s ability to produce optimal vitamin D levels may be inhibited. I take this D3 along with the D3 in my calcium supplement to keep my D level optimal. I do not live in a sunny state (yet!) so I have my D tested regularly.
  13. Probiotic with FOS by Jarrow – Probiotics are well known to benefit gut health, the immune system, and possibly even brain health. It contains strains that help protect and maintain a balanced intestinal microflora, and support immune function and intestinal health. (FOS is a natural prebiotic fiber that enhances the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract.) They must be kept refrigerated.
  14. Turmeric Strength by MegaFoods – Curcumin is the potent anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer active ingredient in turmeric. It has been well studied to be full of awesome, with minimal contraindications. Look for products standardized for 95% curcuminoids.

For my toddler, I give him a few things to supplement his diet and picky on and off toddler eating.

  1. Rainbow Light chewable multivitamin – My integrative medicine pediatrician recommended these over gummies. Are they organic? No. But so far it is hard to find a great vitamin for kids.
  2. Nordic Naturals Omega-3 gummies – Fish oil is important for good health and brain development, and this is one of the best brands out there for fish oil. It also doesn’t smell or taste fishy. (So that kids will eat them!)
  3. Green Pastures Blue Ice Infused Organic Coconut Oil – Each serving has 65% min coconut oil, 2+/-ml of Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil, and .5ml +/- of X-Factor Gold High Vitamin Butter oil and / or Blue Ice Skate Liver Oil. I mix this in warm juice so that my little one will take it and get his healthy fats.
  4. Udo’s Choice Flora Infant’s Probiotic -includes 6 strains of beneficial bacteria for infants and toddlers 0-5 years old. One serving per day helps maintain healthy intestinal flora, support the immune system, synthesize important B vitamins necessary for development, and is ideal for travelers to maintain healthy flora while away from home. I have used this since my son was born, I would mix it in breastmilk and now in his drinks. I use extra whenever he isn’t feeling well.

Always do your research on vitamins before you start. Some people may not need to supplement if they are getting all of their nutrients from food. It is of my opinion that most people nowadays are very busy, we get old food from grocery stores that could have lost some nutrition, and we have poisoned and depleted much of our soil that it is not up to its full potential to create nutrient dense foods. For these reasons and more, I feel very comfortable taking vitamins. Nutrition is important, and we all do the best we can with what we know.

Do you supplement? What are some of your favorite supplements? Comment below, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Our Food Budget and Grocery List

 

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One of our many fancy nut, cheese, and fruit salads

I have recently become a fan of the Frugalwoods blog since I had stumbled across it one day while perusing the internet. We had already been working on becoming more frugal so that we could save as much as we can for our move to Arizona. I’ve looked back with remorse at all the money wasted over the years on material items that rarely brought me joy for more than a few days. I had totally bought into the consumerist machine that is fed to us from birth in this country. Nowadays, organic food brings me more joy than designer bags. I suppose being a mom could do that to you!

Everything we purchase is organic whenever possible. We try to keep our food budget at $400 or less every month, buying bulk as much as we can. Here I will share our strategies for living healthy on a budget, it can indeed be done! We only eat out at a restaurant for special occasions, maybe 3 times in a year. I rely on Chipotle or Panera if we are out on a day trip and need a fast food lunch in a pinch, because they are relatively inexpensive and I trust the food quality.

I believe everyone should have access to as much organic whole food as possible. Food is thy medicine; I made a conscious choice to not compromise my family’s health by purchasing cheap food. As a cancer surviving badass as well, I attribute my great health to my diet and lifestyle. The only medication I take is natural porcine thyroid supplement because the radiation to my neck atrophied my poor little thyroid gland over time. It took about 10 years (15 to 25yrs old) for that side effect to manifest itself, but that is another story.

 

A favorite weeknight dinner, veggie stir fry

These are our staples that we purchase on a regular basis:

Costco

  • Organic eggs
  • Jasmine rice
  • Coconut water
  • Organic chicken
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon (frozen)
  • Cheese (cheddar, parmesan)
  • Kerrygold butter
  • Organic bananas
  • Nature’s Path organic oatmeal
  • Organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • San Pellegrino water
  • Organic coffee beans
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic fruit snacks
  • Organic bread (currently Dave’s Killer Bread)
  • Organic frozen fruit (for smoothies)
  • Chips (non GMO)
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers (organic, gluten free)

Whole Foods

  • 365 organic beans (black, chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.)
  • 365 organic lentils (dry)
  • Frozen pizza
  • Wild Alaskan Salmon (when on sale)
  • 365 organic whole wheat pastas
  • Organic salad greens
  • Organic fruit (apples, pears, grapes, berries, lemon, lime, avocado)
  • Almond or Coconut Milk
  • Organic vegetables (carrots, peppers, greens, squash, potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, cucumbers, onions, garlic)
  • Fancy cheeses (when on sale)
  • Organic dark chocolate (when on sale)
  • Organic yogurt (whichever brand is on sale)
  • Organic teas (Yogi, Choice, Rishi)
  • Occasional beer and wine
  • Organic cereal
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts

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Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon with veggies

Our typical menus are simple right now as we are trying to save as much money as possible. We have been fancy in the past as I wanted the baby to be exposed to as many foods as possible during those important formative times of introducing foods. He has no food allergies at all and has rarely been ill, even being in school! I could attribute that partially to the magic of extended breastfeeding I suppose. Meat is not eaten in our home daily. Fish such as sardines and salmon I incorporate 2 to 3x a week for the healthy fats. The Mr. really enjoys chicken and bacon so we have that on occasion but only organic pastured meats.

 

A dragonfruit smoothie bowl

Breakfasts

I tend to eat simply for breakfasts during the workweek, usually yogurt and a hard-boiled egg or piece of fruit. Sometimes I will eat oatmeal instead of yogurt, and some days I have toast or muesli bread with peanut butter. Occasionally I’ll add a piece of cheese to my breakfast. I also get free coffee from work too, bonus perk!

The little guy eats cereal and a banana sometimes if he has to get to school. We usually try to do eggs and spinach cooked with coconut oil or butter if we can for him. Some days I will give him bread with peanut butter and fruit with a hard-boiled egg. On weekends I will make him pancakes from organic buckwheat flour and add fruit or organic dark chocolate chips to them for a treat. He also enjoys toast with butter and honey. I get our honey from a local friend who keeps bees.

The Mr. usually drinks bulletproof coffee during the week and does intermittent fasting. On weekends he will cook things like eggs with lentils and spinach, and sometimes bacon. Or I come up with something to make that I want to try, like this dragon fruit smoothie bowl!

 

One of our fancy weekend breakfasts

Lunches

I always pack lunch for work. I tend to bring yesterday’s dinner leftovers most days. Once a week I have a can of sardines and a salad or gluten free crackers. Sometimes I will make a tuna sandwich or beans and rice.

For the little one we try to vary his lunches more, he loves PB&J and mac n cheese like most children of course. Sometimes I will give him cut up vegetables with ranch dressing or hummus to dip them in and cheese or a hard-boiled egg. He also loves pasta with red sauce. Rice and beans are a big favorite of his as well. I just keep tossing veggies at him really. His favorites are broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, cucumber, pepper, green beans, and spinach.

We make soups on the weekends and freeze the extra

Dinners

Dinners on the weekdays are usually quicker than weekend dinners. Once a week we junk out and eat pizza. Tuesdays I typically do Taco Tuesday with black beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. I usually have a salad or a pasta on other days. The Mr. has been working more nights now so sometimes he will set something up for us so when I get home I can finish it or just serve it. 😁 Recently he made crockpot sesame chicken with broccoli over rice. It was delicious!

I hope this peek at how we eat has helped give you an idea how to eat the best foods on a budget. My diet inspiration comes from a combination of somewhere between The Blue Zones and Bulletproof. I don’t feel like we sacrifice at all with how we eat. I would love to be able to grow all of our own food, but that will have to wait until we have our dream house in Arizona, as it gets really cold here for many months and tends to kill the garden.

 Let me know what you think, do you eat organic? How do you afford it?

New Year’s Detox & Goals

Each year I make it my goal to make the coming new year my best year ever. This way as I progress through life I am assuredly becoming a better version of myself. I’d like to share my goals for this year with you lovelies:

  1. Drink green juices or smoothies more frequently. These help get more nutrients into your body quickly and they are great to drink first thing in the morning for energy all day. It’s also a good way to squeeze more fruits and veggies into your diet. (But let’s face it, that juicer is a pain to clean!)
  2. Unfollow people on social media who do not have a positive outlook on life. I no longer wish to clutter my newsfeed with things that do not serve me in any way. What you put in your mind is just as important as what you put in your mouth.
  3. Get to the gym before work. This one is hard for some people. I know as a former night owl, it’s painful to get out of bed by 5am. Especially when it’s cold and dark and the covers are so warm and inviting. The research shows that early morning workouts get your blood going, make you more productive throughout your day, they give you energy and help you sleep well.
  4. Journal every day and use a planner to plan your days out. This year I’m going to try the Passion Planner and see how I like it, I’ve heard great things about it. I also use the Freedom Journal to do my morning journaling. These habits have really helped me to become more productive and organized, which everyone could benefit from.
  5. Meal plan more consistently. Meal plans make it easier to get through a busy week and they help you eat better too. You can also save money by only buying the ingredients you need.
  6. No screen time one hour before bed. I am notorious for breaking this rule by reading and writing on my phone in bed. The research is pretty solid that we get a better nights sleep when we cut the lights out at least an hour before shut eye.
  7. Learn to say no to things that do not serve you. If it doesn’t feel right or help you move toward your goals, saying no to things is ok.

I hope this list inspires you to create your own list for the New Year! I’d love to hear some of your goals in the comments section. What would you add?

10 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Cancer Treatments

It’s pretty overwhelming and life changing to hear you have cancer when you’re a kid. It is at any age really, but especially unexpected when you’re very young. Here are my top ten tips based on things I wish I had known then: 

1. Look into fertility preservation. I would have done this for sure if I had known the risks of possibly losing my fertility forever. It gets a mention when you start talking about treatment options but I felt like I was so upset about just trying to make it through treatments the thought of Will I be able to have kids when I’m 30? never really crossed my mind. I also learned later down the survivor road that women face possible early menopause after chemotherapy. I am very fortunate that I was able to have at least one healthy child, but if I could do it over again? I would have spent the money to preserve my eggs, just in case. 

2. Decide if radiation is really worth the risks. I had a relapse after radiation therapy, so if I could do it over again, I would have opted out of the radiation with chemotherapy. It destroyed my thyroid and some of my neck muscles and salivary glands. There are studies going on right now to see if there is any benefit to the radiation vs just chemotherapy. Knowing what I know now, I would have just gone with straight chemotherapy and added healing alternative therapies such as acupuncture and juicing to supplement my body’s recovery. 

3. Really, really care for your oral health. I am now 14 years out from my last treatments for my relapse. I’ve had so much work done to my teeth to try to preserve them that I seriously could have bought myself a house by now. My most recent bridge replacement cost $7400, but I need to be able to eat right? I didn’t realize the damage that all the radiation and chemotherapy would cause my teeth. I’m holding out for the stem cell replacement teeth, but in the meantime I have to keep replacing bridges and working on implants, which are very expensive and time consuming procedures. Your body also tends to not like foreign objects, so I know that I could face side effects from implants as well. There wasn’t much I could do for my teeth while I was in a coma on a ventilator, but before I would have gotten extra cleanings and really cleaned my teeth after vomiting more often. Maybe I would have tried the oil pulling after cleaning my mouth out. I also would have invested in a Waterpik sooner! Making sure to have good nutrition would have helped as well. I was eating things like Doritos, soda, and Taco Bell…stuff that I wouldn’t touch now if you paid me. I really miss my teeth. 

4. Make sure you have a plan for meeting your nutritional needs. Juicing your greens and taking supplements is a good start. Having the proper amount of good fats is vital too, if you look at Dr. Weston A. Price’s work on nutrition and teeth, you can connect this to #3.   I know how hard it is to keep food down sometimes when you are on chemotherapy, but your body can’t thrive without nutrients. I’ve also read promising research on the ketogenic diet with chemotherapy. 

5. Go take a yoga class. I wish I had discovered yoga much earlier in my life. It has improved so many things for me, physically and mentally. I am very grateful to have yoga in my life. I just can’t say enough good things about yoga.  It has made me a calmer, stronger, more balanced person.

6. Try some alternative therapies. I started getting into alternative or natural medicine after my last treatments were long over. I have used acupuncture and essential oils to Manuka honey and colloidial silver. These things have helped me clear up sinus infections without antibiotics! I wish I had known about the power of supplementing your immune system so it could better do its job.  

7. Read as many books as you can. I’ve read so many books now on spirituality, health, self-improvement, how to prevent cancer and live longer. One of my favorites is Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life. I also recommend The Blue Zones and The China Study

8. Your mindset is a very powerful tool. If you think you will get better then you will have a much better chance than if you have doubts. Negative emotions create disease so let it go. Forgive anyone who has ever hurt you, and forgive yourself. It’s not your fault, and feeling guilty will not help you heal. I didn’t have the easiest or happiest childhood, and it may have contributed to my own disease. I don’t know, and I never will, but it surely couldn’t have hurt to let a lot of the negative stuff go and forgive everyone.  

9. Get enough sleep. Sleep is super important and I was not taking sleep seriously when I was dealing with cancer. I had partying to do! I think we regularly stayed up till 4am and slept till lunchtime which wasn’t the healthiest thing ever. The body does a lot of repair work at night so make sure that you get plenty of sleep. 

10. Therapy does not mean you’re a failure. Everyone needs help to succeed. The top CEOs have an amazing team in their corner, you need the same. Fighting for your life is the biggest struggle you could ever face, so don’t be afraid of getting some help for your emotions during this stressful time in your life. I wish I had.