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!

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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?

My Birth Story

Monday 4/16/12 11:30am​

Today I had a fetal non-stress test at the OB’s office. The baby is perfectly normal and healthy of course, as confirmed again by the test, but they are still pushing for an induction on Friday night. I am only 2 cm dilated still and the doctor does not think I will progress on my own by Friday. I don’t really like the whole idea of chemically inducing the baby to come. I want a natural birth, which includes the baby coming on his own. We decided to go see my acupuncturist at 5:15p and see if he could help move things along in a more natural way.

4/16/12 5:15pm

acupunctureWe arrived at the acupuncture office and I asked Dr. Neff if he could assist me in inducing labor so that I could avoid a medical induction. He started by inserting some needles in my lumbar spine and I felt the baby move immediately. After a few minutes he put some more needles in my legs/feet and hands and I sat there for about 30 minutes. Fluids started to flow into my feet and they became swollen, which he reassured me is quite normal because the focus is on moving things down and opening up. He also showed us the acupressure points to use and advised me to use visualization of a rose bud opening up to get my cervix to open more. I scheduled another session for Thursday just in case and headed home to finish my last final exam.

4/16/12 10:30pm

Shortly after I finished my test and started to settle down for the night, I started getting crampy feelings, like bad menstrual cramps. They progressively worsened and I attempted to lie down with my fiance and get some sleep at 11:30p, but the pain became much more intense and we started timing the contractions with an iPhone app we had downloaded. I was shocked that they were already 5 mins apart and they lasted for about a minute. I hopped in the shower since I couldn’t sleep with the pain and my fiance started loading the car up with our bags. It was finally time to meet our little boy!

Tuesday 4/17/12 1:11am

I finished my shower (The quickest shower I’ve taken in my whole life) and called the OB to let him know I was in labor while my fiance finished his shower. I told him that the contractions were strong and close together now, and that I noticed some bleeding while I was in the shower. I was instructed to head to the ER of the hospital we were going to deliver at. We left the house at 1:30am. The pain was pretty intense, but I was still able to breathe through it at that point. We sort of sped a little on the way since I was so nervous about making sure we made it there in time.

4/17/12 2:00am

I was admitted to labor and delivery from the ER. They handed me consent forms to Pretty Pushersfill out while I was in the middle of having contractions. Then I was wheeled to the delivery room, we put down our bags, and I hurried to change into my pretty pushers gown. I laid down in the bed; the nurse took our information and hooked me up to a fetal monitor. The baby’s heart rate was a little fast on the monitor so I was given the choice to drink a lot of water or have an IV. I chose the water. I made sure to drink the Bodyarmor that we had grabbed from the fridge on our way out the door(I knew I’d need the electrolytes). My fiancé was trying to make sure that I drank plenty of water in-between contractions because I was so exhausted from being up since 9am that morning I was dozing off in-between contractions.

4/17/12 2:40am

The baby’s heart rate was back to normal after rehydrating myself. The nurse checked my dilation and I was still at 2 cm. She said that I’d probably be in labor for a while, which didn’t make me happy because I was so tired and had hoped that with such strong contractions I’d be dilated further.

4/17/12 3:00am

I was so exhausted that the nurse suggested a morphine shot to quell the pains so I could rest a little bit. I was willing to try it if it meant I could get a little bit of sleep(As much as I didn’t want any medication in my birth plan, I hadn’t planned on being up all night either). I had no idea how long I would be in labor for and I hadn’t progressed any further than I had that morning at the OB’s office. After the nurse gave me the injection though, I didn’t really feel any relief. I still felt the contractions as strongly as ever and they seemed to be getting worse.

4/17/12 3:30am

Suddenly my water broke, it gushed out with each powerful contraction. It was so painful, I was gripping my fiance’s forearm and begging him to massage my lower back. After my water broke I started to feel a strong urge to push; I asked my fiance to go get the nurse and hurry! The nurse came back in and checked my dilation, it was now at 9 cm. She was very shocked that I dilated so quickly because she said, ‘If I hadn’t checked it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.’ She hurried to call the OB in to deliver the baby, and told me to try not to bear down. (Easy for her to say!) I couldn’t really help the pushing urge, the contractions were so strong I just tried my best to hold the baby off.

4/17/12 5:00am

The doctor arrived and by this point I was so tired I just wanted to push the baby out already. I asked for a squatting bar; I tried to squat and push but it was hard to hold myself up. I was willing to try it anyway since I had read how well it works. The OB persuaded me to lie down in the traditional lithotomy position. I gave in and went with it. My fiance held one leg and the nurse had the other. I gave a few good pushes and the baby’s head crowned. The doctor asked me if I wanted to feel his head. I replied sure, and reached down to caress his little head full of gooey hair. It was pretty amazing to experience.

4/17/12 5:32am

A few more pushes and he was out, crying and healthy. My little Rafe, all 7 pounds 4 Loveounces of squishy love. The doctor said I had a small tear and he proceeded to stitch me up. They had Narcan ready just in case the morphine had crossed the placenta, but it wasn’t needed, he was very alert and crying. The nurse handed Rafe to me, all covered in fluids and vernix, and I hugged him tightly to me. It didn’t even faze me that he left a smear of bloody fluid on my upper arm, I was so enraptured by this little boy I had carried inside of me for 40 weeks. We finally get to meet, my little love. ❤