"2wellness" Posts

WHEN THE WORD INVADES YOUR CLOSET PART 4: PRODUCE AND POISONS

It was 7:30 a.m. and the sun was peeking through our bedroom blinds.  For a second I thought, “It was all a bad dream”, but as I rubbed my eyes into focus, reality was the first thing I saw…Brian’s CT scan on the dresser.

My heart sank, it wasn’t a nightmare.  I felt a hand on my shoulder.  “Good morning, sweetie.”  Brian had just woke up.  I took a deep breath, smiled and turned in reply, “Good morning.”

He shuffled into the shower.  I ran into the kitchen. I had stayed up all night researching.  I had no control over cancer.  It had invaded my husband’s body without my permission, but my kitchen…my kitchen I could control.

Georgia and I stood in the middle of the floor.  To the average American we “seemed” extremely healthy. Our meats of choice were ground turkey or chicken breast.  The majority of our sauces or canned foods were organic.  If we used sugar it was always raw sugar cane.  Our cleaning products were mostly “green” or at least biodegradable.  What we didn’t know was there were things lurking in our food and products…just like cancer without our permission.

I dumped everything in our cabinets on the floor.  Vitamins, protein mixes, canned tomatoes sauce…

Groceryonfloor

I had always been a label reader because I have allergies, but I was ignorant to the problem of genetically engineered foods or GMO.  So when I found words like soy, citric acid, lecithin, natural flavorings, organic flavorings…I tossed it out unless the label said GMO free.

As I pulled out the pasta shelf I held my breath, “Please, please, please be ok.  We spend so much money on organic tomatoe sauce.”  I turned the can around and there it was…Citric Acid.  NO!!!!!!!!!!!!  I screamed, “Crap! Not my tomato sauce!”

Completely in denial, I picked up the phone and called the company to see what their citric acid was derived from, and sure enough, an organic product I had paid extra money for was made from GMO corn.

Why didn’t it say something on the label?  Like WARNING GMO.  But it wasn’t just GMO soy and corn products I was finding…our organic seasonings had fillers in them too. Our vitamins had chemicals.  Brian’s organic protein shake?  Well, that was just a HOT MESS!

It turns out in the last few years the laws have changed for organic products.  Unless it says 100% organic it may not be 100% organic and pure.  This dupes all of us but still guarantees we will empty our pocket books for so-called organic products.  The result?  I had spent on average $150.00 a week on our groceries and we were poisoning ourselves.

I turned to Georgia and asked, “What the hell are we going to eat??????”

Georgia, by the way, was no help.

Georgia

Feeling overwhelmed, I decided to leave a pile of possibly suitable products on the floor.

I closed my eyes and opened the fridge.  I peaked through one eye at the organic dressings…and then reluctantly I threw away 6 bottles.

All I kept hearing was the ding of a cashier register over and over again as I dumped $100′s of dollars in the garbage.

Time for the meat and dairy shelf.  Goodbye ground turkey.  Goodbye parmesan cheese.  Goodbye honey mustard.

I dragged two hefty sized trashed bags to the curb and headed to the store, literally, in my pj’s.  In fact, I would spend the next 5 days in my jammies revamping our lives.  (the closet karma for cancer was a week long PJ’s session)

Whole Foods used to be my version of a zen garden.  I loved to stroll the colorful aisles looking at all the pretty produce.  Sometimes after a bad day at work I would just go there and sit.  Somehow I felt healthier just standing next to their eggplants.  But today, with my dirty hair and bags under my eyes, I was not “oming” on my drive.  I was cursing like a sailor.  The same store that had just double crossed me was my only choice for healthy food…at least for now ;)

I stormed through the doors that I once just strolled through.

I spent two hours sifting through the aisles.  Suddenly my shopping list felt like the ‘In and Out’ section of Star Magazine…Rice Milk soooo…out, but Almond Milk soooo…in.  Lisanatti Almond Cheese?  4 stars!  It was 100% free of everything.  Just plain raw almonds at Whole Foods…soooo last month…they did not carry non-irradiated ones.

(I would later learn you can soak non-irradiated raw almonds to try and remove harmful chemicals they MAY have been exposed too.)

In the end, I had a cart full of cancer fighting foods for Brian.

Groceries

The bummer was the bill…$118.00 and I had just begun to get him what he needed. The sailor in me came out once again. “F#$@!”

Pomi Tomato Sauce was my favorite find.  Its JUST TOMATOES.  I try and make my own marinara but when I am in a pinch this is a great alternative.

Pomi

I pulled into my driveway and contemplated how to unload my merchandise. The weeks to follow were not going to be easy.  The majority of our days would be consumed by doctors appointments and hospital visits.  My time in the kitchen would be minimal.  I needed to be organized and efficient.

The top shelf was the most important.  Juice, amino acids, wheat grass, probiotics…I created rows for each day of the week.  This way Brian knew what to do if I was not around.  It would also allow me to keep tabs on what he was NOT drinking that he was supposed to. ;)

Second shelf raw foods. Third shelf juiceable items.

I needed to know when we were low on produce, especially carrots.  (My goal was to turn him orange from carrots if possible, just like chrisbeatcancer had done.) 

  Fridge

 

The little pull out drawer would be off limits labelled with a “Brian don’t touch” sign taped to it.  This mostly consisted of items that I just couldn’t throw away without tremendous guilt…expensive and delectable cheeses and savory sliced meats.

By 7 o’clock I had conquered our kitchen.  I only had the whole house left to deal with…

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Brian and I know how overwhelming this information can be so here is the checklist I started with to eliminate GMO foods from our life.  You can only do what you can and you can’t do it all. We now work with a local farm that delivers our vegetables weekly.  I also grow our own wheat grass and sprout many of our seeds. (It is cost effecient and easy but I will tell you more about that in later blogs.)  We also are big fans of talking to your local farmers’ market.  It is a great place to ask questions and find answers.  Also, sadly, when choosing a farm BEWARE and don’t be duped.  Think about how long your produce lasts in your home?  If you are ordering from a farm that is trucking your fruits and veggies cross-country the odds of them being 100% GMO free and organic are rare.

    • KNOW WHAT FOODS TYPICALLY CONTAIN GMO’S or ARE GE
    • Soybeans – Gene taken from bacteria (Agrobacterium sp. strain CP4) is inserted into soybeans to make them more resistant to herbicides.
    • Corn – There are two main varieties of GE corn.  One has a Gene from the lepidoptera pathogen microorganism Bacillus thuringiensis inserted to produce the Bt toxin, which poisons insect pests .There are also several events which are resistant to various herbicide.
    • Rapeseed/Canola – Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to herbicide.
    • Sugar beets – Gene added/transferred to make crop more resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.
    • Cotton – engineered to produce Bt toxin.  The seeds are pressed into cottonseed oil, which is a common ingredient in vegetable oil and margarine.
    • Dairy – Cows injected with GE hormone rBGH/rBST; possibly fed GM grains and hay.
    • Aspartame/AminoSweet – Addictive and dangerous artificial sweetener commonly found in chewing gum and “diet” beverages.  A building block of aspartame, the amino acid phenylalanine, is usually manufactured with the aid of genetically modified E. coli bacteria.  This process has been used industrially in the USA for many years.
    • Papayas – yup the fruit
    • Farm Raised Salmon
  1. MAKE SURE THE LABEL SAYS 100% organic                                                                               The US and Canadian governments do not allow manufacturers to label something 100% organic if that food has been genetically modified or been fed genetically modified feed. However, you may find that organic food is more expensive and different in appearance from conventional products. Also, just because something says “organic” on it does not mean that it does not contain GMs. In fact, it can still contain up to 30% GMs, so be sure the labels say 100% organic.
    • This applies to eggs, as well. Eggs labeled “free-range”, “natural”, or “cage-free” are not necessarily GE-free; look for eggs to be 100% organic.
  2. LEARN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES NUMBERS.
    • If it is a 4-digit number, the food is conventionally produced.
    • If it is a 5-digit number beginning with an 8, it is GM.  However, do not trust that GE foods will have a PLU identifying it as such, because PLU labeling is optional.
    • If it is a 5-digit number beginning with a 9, it is
      organic.
    • PURCHASE BEEF 100% GRASS FED.  Most cattle in the U.S. spend the last portion of their lives in feedlots where they may be given GM corn, the purpose of which is to increase intramuscular fat and marbling.  If you’re looking to stay away from GMOs, make sure the cattle were 100% grass-fed or pasture-fed (sometimes referred to as grass-finished or pasture-finished).  The same applies to meat from other herbivores such as sheep. With non-ruminants like pigs and poultry that cannot be 100% grass-fed, it’s better to look for meat that is 100% organic.
    • LOOK FOR THE WORDS NO GMO’s and NO PERSERVATIVES
    • SHOP LOCALLY Although more than half of all GM foods are produced in the US, most of it comes from large, industrial farms.  By shopping at farmers’ markets, signing up for a subscription from a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm, or patronizing a local co-op, you may be able to avoid GM products and possibly save money at the same time.
      NOTE: More and more small farms are offering grains and meat directly to customers
      I will list a few companies in the future.
    • Buy whole foods.  Favor foods that you can cook and prepare yourself, rather than foods that are processed or prepared (e.g. anything that comes in a box or a bag, including fast food). What you lose in convenience, you may recover in money saved and satisfaction gained, as well as increased peace of mind.  Try cooking a meal from scratch once or twice a week.  You may enjoy it and decide to do it more often.

WHEN THE C WORD INVADES YOUR CLOSET PART 6: FOOTBALL, FRIENDS AND FACEBOOK

 

It was a Saturday morning and usually whoever woke up first, (AKA Brian), would jump up and down on the bed yelling, “Get up!  Get up!  The game is almost on!”

The best part about living on the West Coast?  No matter what time you wake up- there’s always a college football game about to start.

However, this Saturday I woke up first and there was silence.

Finally, Brian rolled over and said, “I guess you should cancel our brunch plans for tomorrow.”

Then he rolled back over in the bed.

My heart sank.  I knew Brian had been excited for weeks to see his friend and their family.

I held my breath — for the first time, in a long time, I didn’t know what to say.

It had been days since we received the news and Brian had not told anyone.  There was a very selfish part of me that felt burdened by this.  I wanted to run down the street screaming, “HEY!  GUESS WHAT?!  LIFE SUCKS!  I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS!”

Brian and I are very different people.  I am the “event planner”.  I hold weekly girl gabbing sessions in my backyard.  I have friends I work with.  I have friends I work out with.  Friends I talk about God with. Friends I like to shop with.  If you move away?  No worries!  That’s what phones are for.  In fact, one of my BFs is my neighbor- which was no accident.  I helped her find the house.  The 45 minute commute and phone bill were getting to be too much for the both of us.

I also make her Irish on St. Patty’s day

24790_374473399565_615834565_3497242_4940177_n
However, Brian is NOT a planner.  He’d rather attend the party, not run it.  I have one friend I have known since I was 12, Brian has several.  His friendships run deep and long.  While on the surface he seems quiet and reserved, he’s not.  He is funny and VERY chatty.  He is just selective with his thoughts and sharing them.  He may not see his friends everyday but he loves them.

I knew he was holding back because he did not want to burden anyone.  But it wasn’t my place to tell him what to do.  (This was a moment of ENLIGHTENMENT- since it was probably the first time in our marriage I felt that way.)

I broke the silence, “Of course I can cancel.  You want me to make up something?  I’ll say whatever you want.”

He looked up at me, “We should probably tell them, right? Is that OK?  Do you think it is OK to tell them and could you do it?”

I gazed into his eyes, I knew he felt helpless too.

“Brian, I think if you want to tell your friends, it is not only OK but they will be there to help you and cheer you on.  There is no right or wrong.”

“Ok…call them,” he said.

My hand was trembling as I dialed the number.  I kept thinking, “Please don’t cry”.  They weren’t home so I left a message to call me.

Twenty minutes later, our phone rang.  Brian watched as I answered…

Suddenly, a wave of calmness overcame me.  I was hopeful, but direct.  I could hear tears welling up in his friend’s eyes as he asked questions, but Brian was still watching me…so I presented the facts and explained that we’re going to “kick the shit out of cancer”.

As I hung up the phone, Brian smiled.  Then he told me who else he would like me to call.

By 7pm, Brian had friends by his side.  In fact, he was never alone again.  He had a friend who would bring him video games.  A friend who would watch football with him.  A friend who would invite him to church.  A friend who would watch movies with him.  And a friend who would bitch with him.

As I watched him laughing over video games and the wheat grass growing in our kitchen, I learned something new about my husband and his friends.  Their relationships weren’t much different than mine.

And yes, the wheat grass is growing in our kitchen.   Wheatgrass1

I also learned something new about my husband.  It wasn’t that he “didn’t” want to tell anyone, he just did not know how.  So I decided I would not just be his patient advocate, but I would be his voice when he didn’t have the strength to speak.  In the end, he was the one who needed to do the ass-kicking — and he needed to save his energy.”

As we went to bed that night, he commented how there were so many more people to tell and he was tired.  Finally he joked, “Is there a Facebook status button that says, I have cancer?”

“No”, I laughed, “But if you need me to make one, I will.”

 

 

WHEN THE C WORD INVADES YOUR CLOSET PART 6.5: LEARNING TO LAUGH A LITTLE

As we walked into the white, pristine Beverly Hills office I found myself wishing we were invisible. I used to be so anonymous that the receptionist, the nurse, and the aid barely greeted me.

But today they all knew who I was. I was representing the “star”, the new patient with Colon Cancer at 35. The doctor’s office is one of the few places in my life I would not like to be known as “famous”. As they called Brian’s name, I felt like I was escorting a Best Actor nominee down the red carpet. I could feel their eyes burning a hole in my back. One nurse even whispered, “Awe, he’s too cute to have cancer.”

The bitch in me again wanted to turn around and scream, “Cancer clearly doesn’t discriminate and P.S. he’s taken!” Instead, like a good PR escort, I kept my head down and walked him down the hallway. In my heart I knew they were just in shock like us but still I longed to once again be anonymous.

Brian sat calmly on the bed while I paced on my Blackberry. I wanted to get three surgeons’ opinions. I had the names of two recommendations so far. I also needed to find a new Gastroenterologist because we were not revisiting “Dr. No Heart.” Crap, do we need to see an Oncologist too? I forgot about that. I kept texting furiously, mumbling to myself as I pulled every string I could think of.

“I should call Dr. Phil!”

“I need to get Katie Couric herself on the phone!”

“Wait, didn’t Sharon Osborne have colon cancer? I bet she’d be bff with me. “

Brian interrupted my rambling. He was giggling to himself.  “Look” he said, “I finally get to go to the fancy doctor like you.” I glanced up to catch him doing a little jig. Finally, my PR-like persona was broken and I laughed. The chatter in my head stopped for a moment. I allowed myself to enjoy his smile. In a split second his face could turn from a 35 year-old robust man to 5 year-old giddy boy.

I soo love his smile.

Briansmile

 

Brian was excited like a kid in a candy store, taking in all the gadget and gismos the doctor had in his office.

I had been terribly sick years ago. After many visits with many specialists I was finally referred to “Dr Fancy” by a friend’s wife. He changed my life. I knew he was the only doctor in LA who had a chance of supporting my theory that Brian’s diet could help him beat cancer. “Dr. Fancy” integrates phytotherapeutics, homeopathy, acupuncture and environmental medicine with traditional internal medicine. He believes in whole body healing, and if he told us my theory was crazy I would be crushed.

I knew an answer like that would ultimately lead us to the world of chemo. It’s a world I have visited with many people I have loved in the past. It’s a place I never wanted to visit again. As my anxiety rose, the door opened…

To be continued next Tuesday check back…

Edited by: Josie Perrone

 

 

 

 

WHEN THE C WORD INVADES YOUR CLOSET: PART 7 LIFE IN THE FAST LANE

“Dr. Fancy” slid into the exam room like Kramer from Seinfeld with a smile and a handshake.

(Except he was wearing a turban and is a Sikh)

“Hello Kara!  How are you?” he said as he stroked his long, gray beard.”

Sikh

 

“I am O.K.  I would like you to meet my husband Brian”, I replied.

“Dr. Fancy’s” eyes lit up with excitement, “Oh, it is so nice to see the other half!  Look — you both share the same amazing warm smile.  Welcome Brian, what brings you here?”

Shocked, I blurted out , “Brian has just been diagnosed with Colon Cancer.  They think it may be Stage 3.  I have him on this diet.  He looks better.  I think it is working.  We don’t want to do chemo… we really don’t want to do chemo, it’s poison.  They said the tumor is the size of an orange.”

“Dr. Fancy’s” smile faded.  I had assumed he, like the nurses who whispered behind our back, knew it was us with “The Cancer”.  I was wrong.  He grabbed my hand and said, “Deep breath, sit down and tell me what you know.”

I opened my little red notebook and started to ramble names of doctors and terms like adenocarcinomas, mucinous, and Stages 2C- 3, he nodded.  I continued to tell him our fears and how we hated the way the news was delivered to us.  I told him how the CT scan indicated the liver and vital organs seemed clear.  I told him how Brian, in just 10 days, looked better than he did the day of the diagnosis.  Then I told him how the gastroenterologist had suggested that we just get the surgery done by New Years.  Suddenly, he snapped out of his zen state. “NO, we need to get it out and get it out NOW.  If it has not spread to any vital organs and it’s that large, we are lucky. I want it out — next week.”

My jaw dropped, “Next week?!  It is Thanksgiving.  We were hoping to have more…” I stuttered, “More time to get him healthy and shrink the tumor through diet and meditation.”  “Dr. Fancy” looked at me sternly, “Get it out!  Get it out!  Get it out!  Listen, I supported Suzanne Somers when she opted not to do chemo, and I will support you guys on this journey.  I too believe in diet and integrative medicine.   Continue to do what you are doing BUT he has a tumor the size of an orange in him.  That is NOT small. I want that thing out and together we will get his body strong for surgery.  The rest we will deal with after surgery.”

I held my tears back.  I knew it had to happen.  It was inevitable.  I couldn’t picture my husband, with his sweet smile, being sliced opened.  I was now face to face with all the What Ifs?

-What if we can’t beat this?

-What if we were wrong and he isn’t getting better?

-What if he didn’t come out of surgery?

-What if we never get to live the life I had so taken for granted together?

“Dr. Fancy” looked at Brian and said, “You’re lucky you have her, she is going to take care of this.”  He winked at me, “You guys are going to pick a surgeon and be back in my office ASAP with your decision.”

Suddenly, the tears snapped back inside me.  I looked at Brian, “I told you I am going to produce the shit out of this.”

Brian chuckled.  I got to see that amazing smile once again.

The doctor continued to speak to Brian about his recommendations for a second opinion.  My mind drifted to another place… I was thinking about the phone calls Brian was unaware of… the calls when I completely fell apart and looked for strength.  My sisters had silently created a system with me.

In front of Brian, my job was to be normal.  I was to Executive Produce our lives.  I laid out what he needed to eat, where he needed to be and what he needed to do.  Most of our friends only saw this persona as well.  We were all scared.  I needed to make everyone feel like this was a slam dunk.  If we were going to beat this, that was the only way.

The minute Brian walked out the door everyday, I hit speed dial to my three sisters. Whomever picked up first I would sob to.  All three were supportive.  All three gave me a gift.  All three got me through the next day.

One sister, like an emotional sponge would encourage me to release my darkest thoughts, my fears and my anger.  She listened without judgement.  After our conversations, I felt an incredible weight lifted from me.  Another was a mighty rock I could lean on.  She helped me keep focus, she reminded me of my strengths and dismissed the idea of me even possessing weakness.  After our conversations, I was ready to take on any doctor, nurse or naysayer that stood in my way.  Yet another reminded me that cancer could not take “who I was” away from me.  She not only made me laugh but she allowed me to make jokes.  She gave me the sense of normalcy I was craving.  After our conversations, I knew I could kick the s*@t out of cancer.

My thoughts of how I loved my sisters was sadly interrupted.  Again, I went to a dark place … what if WE never get to have a wonderful family of our own??

I left “Dr. Fancy’s” office armed with a list of names and numbers.  In five business days, we needed to meet with 5 different doctors, learn as much as we could about this disease and make a decision.  In between meetings, I needed to keep up his diet, keep up his spirits and keep up his hope.  It wasn’t going to be easy — but for 10 years, my job had required me to talk my way out of situations in foreign languages, talk myself into places in several countries,  and produce a mountain where there was a lake. I had always delivered given the task at hand…

When we got home, Brian headed to work and instead of crying, I turned to our dog Georgia and said, “You ready to do this?”

Once again she just stared at me blankly.

Georgia3