Tag Archives: Cancer

Let It Go: Highlights from 2014

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)

Me in my master bedroom on Mother's Day 2014.

Me in my master bedroom on Mother’s Day 2014.

As this year comes to an end, and I look ahead to 2015, I can’t help but reflect on all that has happened. Although I booked more jobs than ever in 2014, my biggest moment of the year was my cancer scare and the major surgery that followed. My faith and fortitude were tested in ways that I never expected. I am so grateful to God, my family, friends,  colleagues, and health practitioners, who saw me through this scary ordeal. I blogged about my experience here.

At church, last Sunday, my minister preached a sermon titled “Let It Go,” and encouraged us to deal with any unresolved issues from this year. After service, I told him that I planned to contact the first Gynecological Oncologist (GYN-ONC #1) that I consulted with during my health crisis. My intention was to contact his office earlier; but I wasn’t ready to “go there” emotionally. I am happy and relieved to report that I spoke with GYN-ONC #1’s nurse yesterday, then spoke with their Nurse Manager today. I informed them of the outcome of my situation, and the surgical approach that was taken by GYN-ONC #2. In addition, I took the opportunity to point out some of the circumstances around my consultation with them that were off-putting to me, in hopes that they might improve their services. I was humble, vulnerable, yet forthright in delivering my message.  I had great conversations with both nurses, and felt that my feedback was well-received.  I felt so free!

I am so relieved and excited to ring in the new year, having dealt with one of the biggest burdens on my heart from 2014.  Whatever unresolved issues that you may have from this year, I hope and pray that you are able to “Let It Go,” and start fresh in 2015.

I wish you a safe, healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

My Top 10 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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When faced with ovarian cysts and the possibility of cancer, I sprung into action and tightened up my “food game.”  Mind you, no one advised me to do this.  However, I consider diet to be an important aspect of my health and well-being.  (Is it me, or does it seem like diet is always the LAST thing to be addressed in the wake of a health issue in our society?)  Personally, I am 14 years into my holistic health journey, and it was one of the FIRST things that crossed my mind when my recent health drama unfolded.  I decided to be proactive with my food choices to ensure that my body was in the best possible condition to deal with whatever was going on inside of me.  A little inflammation in the body can indicate a healing response, and that’s okay.  But too much inflammation could indicate, or contribute to, a chronic problem, and lead to disease.  That said, here are some anti-inflammatory foods (in no particular order) that I have been consuming with conviction:

1.  Green Tea:  Heralded as one of the world’s healthiest beverages, it has been used medicinally for thousands of years.  This flavonoid-packed drink is often touted for its anti-aging, brain-boosting, and cancer-fighting capabilities.  I’ll drink to that!

2.  Garlic:  Hhhhhhhow do you like your gaaaaaaarlic, dahhhhhhhling???  I like mine sauteed with veggies; pressed and added to salads; sliced and eaten raw with hummus and crackers.  It’s a pungent, yet powerful, healing food.

3.  Ginger:  In addition to being an “upset tummy tamer,” this spicy root increases circulation.  When I order a “Green Giant” juice at my local Whole Foods Market, I add this to it.  Cheers!

4.  Turmeric:  Used in India for thousands of years as a spice and medicinal herb, this member of the ginger family is what makes curries yellow.  I have been adding fresh turmeric to my green juices, such as the “Abundance” at Pomegranate Cafe.  And although I feel that fresh is best, I sprinkle the powder on my cooked kale and quinoa.

5.  Kale:  It’s the alpha and omega of dark, leafy greens, in my opinion.  I enjoy mine in salads, blended into smoothies, cooked with quinoa, and I love it in chip form.  All hail kale!

6.  Spinach:  One of my other go-to greens, it’s rich in vitamins and minerals.  I use it in my green smoothies, as a base for many salad recipes, and enjoy it sauteed with garlic.  Mmm!

7.  Other Cruciferous Vegetables:  These vitamin, mineral, and fiber-rich foods can help fight cancer as well.  In addition to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts are my personal faves.  They’re great in salads, and as side dishes.  Yes, please, and thank you!

8.  Almonds:  Rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, I snack on these during the day.  Furthermore, I use almond milk in my smoothies, pour it on cereal, and drink it straight.  Aaaaah!

9.  Pineapple:  This tropical treat is loaded with vitamin C and bromelain.  For me, it’s a staple smoothie ingredient.  However, recently, I’ve been topping homemade pizzas with it.  Pssst…try it!

10.  Berries:  Gotta love these antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory gems!  I use them to make smoothies, and eat them by themselves.  When I mix them with a little So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Milk Yogurt, it helps to curb my desire for more decadent desserts.  Yum!

While my anti-inflammatory food consumption did not eliminate my cysts (I wish!), I do believe that it has boosted my immune system, nourished my body from the inside out, and helped tremendously with my healing process.

What are your favorite anti-inflammatory foods?

 

 

 

My Surgery Saga

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Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  This year, I have been busy working, traveling, and taking care of my family, which is great.  However, over the past 2 months, I’ve had to deal with some medical issues as well.  Now that I’m on the other side of the situation, I have LOTS to share.  This is the first of a series of posts in which I will talk about my experience.  I sincerely hope that it helps others.

THE DISCOVERY:

On March 18th, just hours after I successfully completed a commercial shoot, discomfort on the right side of my pelvic area turned into drama overnight.  I was writhing in bed in EXCRUCIATING pain.  Attributing it to something “female-related,” I took some anti-inflammatory homeopathic drops (the only thing that I could find in my house) to relieve the pain, then drifted off to sleep.  The next morning, I felt better; but my husband (who was out of town on business at the time) insisted that I see a doctor.

I went to see my OB-GYN, who takes an integrative approach to medicine at her wellness center for women.  A pelvic exam and urine test didn’t reveal anything, so she sent me to a nearby lab for an ultrasound.  The result?  OVARIAN CYSTS!  So, she sent me back to the same lab for an MRI.  The MRI revealed large, abnormal, complex masses on each ovary with solid components that were not easily identifiable.  Although the MRI Tech thought that they were dermoid cysts, the Head of Radiology was concerned that the solid components might be malignant.  Due to the need to rule out cancer, I was referred to a Gynecological Oncologist (GYN-ONC) for a second opinion.

DUE DILIGENCE:

GYN-ONC #1 –  I went to a prominent cancer center and met with a nice, young doctor for a second opinion.  His take?  He  doubted that I had “old lady ovarian cancer.”  However, since there was a concern that the masses might be malignant, he recommended going in laparoscopically, removing both of my ovaries for biopsy, including tubes and lymph nodes, and he could take out my uterus, if I wanted him to.  WHAAAT?!?!  I was shocked, scared, and very upset to hear this.  It sounded sooooo extreme to me.  Do we have to cut down the whole tree?  Can we just take a leaf???  He explained that ovaries can’t be biopsied like other parts of the body, and that this approach would help to ensure that no cancer cells would be spread, if there were any.  Needless to say, I left the appointment feeling completely overwhelmed.

The next day, when I reviewed the details of this appointment with my OB-GYN, I expressed my concern and desire to get another opinion from someone more seasoned.  She agreed, and referred me to GYN-ONC #2, who she knew and respected.  After a couple of attempts, I managed to schedule a consultation with him (details below).

OB-GYN #2 – While waiting for my appointment with GYN-ONC #2, my husband’s Integrative Specialist referred me to another holistic OB-GYN for her perspective on my situation.  Like my OB-GYN, she lamented that she could not perform the laparoscopic procedure, due to the concern about cancer, and that I needed to work with an oncologist.  Although she doubted that I had cancer, she advised me that if anything malignant was found, “everything goes.”  *GULP*  Before I left her office, and without any prompting, she also referred me to GYN-ONC #2 for a second oncology opinion.  I felt reassured that I was doing the right thing, and confident that I was getting closer to finding the right person to help me.

GYN-ONC #2 – After 2 solid referrals, plus a glowing review from a friend, I was eager to meet with this doctor.  He reviewed my case, highlighted the positive aspects of my situation, gave us statistical information to help put things into perspective, listed in detail all of the possibilities of what the masses could be, expressed doubt that I had cancer, and proposed a more conservative, “organ preserving” approach to my surgery.  He recommended removing the right ovary and tube, having them biopsied, and using that as a benchmark to determine what to do with my left ovary.  And he suggested that my husband and I provide him with a “surgical algorithm,” which would help him to honor our wishes, based on his and the Pathologist’s findings during my procedure.  In my opinion, it was a more holistically-friendly, staged, respectful approach.

NATUROPATH – My OB-GYN has a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) on her staff.  I decided to consult with this ND about my options for hormone balancing, in case I ended up having a full hysterectomy.  She recommended some natural healing remedies that would help me before, during, and after surgery.  However, she felt that a specific hormone-balancing protocol was premature at this point.  Instead, she advised that we wait to see what my surgical outcome would be, then allow at least four weeks for the drugs to get out of my system and my body to find its “new normal.”  This made sense to me, and gave me peace of mind.

HERBALIST – After meeting with the ND, I rounded-out my holistic consultations with a visit to my herbalist.  LOVE HER!  The purpose of this appointment was to purchase some herbs and supplements to help me recover from surgery.  She provided me with some custom-blended concoctions to heal my body, which I will discuss in another post.  I stored most of these items at home for use when I returned, since I was not permitted to take them in the hospital.

THE DILEMMA:

As you can imagine, this has been a challenging time for me.  I have been blessed with good health my entire life.  I had one surgery, a tonsillectomy, when I was in college.  Since changing my diet and lifestyle, 14 years ago, I have enjoyed even better health and well-being than I had previously.  All of a sudden, within a 2-month time frame, I went from a commercial shoot to a cancer scare?!?!  And did I mention that my maternal grandmother had ovarian cancer…?  On one hand, I realized that her story did not have to become my story.  However, our close relationship and the reality of her demise had me freaking out.  Furthermore, I feel uncomfortable in hospitals, I’m a total germaphobe, and the whole idea of surgery, drugs, losing my “lady bits,” being catapulted into early menopause, and the like, seemed to go against my holistic habits.  I’m just sayin’…

THE DECISION:

My husband and I decided to work with GYN-ONC #2.  His experience, surgical approach, detailed analysis of my situation, compassion, and positive focus won us over.  He was, literally, an answer to my prayers.  So, we scheduled my surgery for May 7th (due to work and family commitments), drafted our “surgical algorithm,” and prayed persistently for the best possible outcome.  Although I made peace with having the procedure, not knowing the outcome in advance was scary, to say the least.  Still, I felt confident that I had found the right person for the job, who had my best interests at heart.

THE DETERMINATION:

My right ovary was taken over by a calcified fibroma, and was the same size as my uterus.  OUCH!  The left ovary had a dermoid cyst on it, which my doctor successfully removed.  EEEW!!  When I woke up in the surgery recovery area, my husband was brought to my bedside.  Here, he proudly informed me that I got the best of all possible scenarios:  No cancer, and I got to keep my left ovary and my uterus.  WHEW!!!

I am very grateful for my outcome, as it was an answer to the specific prayers of many.  After staying in the hospital overnight, I was discharged.   My healing process is going very well, and I look forward to sharing more related posts soon!

In the meantime, have a fun, safe, and healthy holiday weekend!

XOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Journey to Health

My journey began in San Francisco in 2000, when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal, Stage-4 pancreatic cancer. She was given 1 year to live.  Because she refused to do conventional treatments, my husband and I researched alternative therapies, one of which was the Gerson Therapy.  My MIL agreed to participate in the program, I volunteered to be her companion, and we traveled to the Gerson Clinic in Mexico for a 2-week stay. This experience changed saved my life.

As her companion, my role was to help my MIL through the Gerson Therapy, and to learn how to administer this alternative treatment when we returned home.  I chose to immerse myself in the program as well, to further educate myself and to show my complete support.  Through this immersion process, I learned about the connection between diet and health; I discovered the difference between organic whole foods and packaged, processed, and refined foods; and my eyes were opened to the dangers of environmental toxins.   In  following the Gerson diet for two weeks straight, I ate organic, vegan meals (meat- and dairy-free) in the cafeteria right alongside other cancer patients, all fighting for their lives, and consumed tall glasses of fresh-pressed vegetable juice at every meal.  Just as my MIL was asked to do, I ditched all of my chemical-laden personal care products.  I even did a couple of coffee enemas to detox my liver…a totally different way to have a java!  I was “all in,” and I think that my MIL really appreciated it.

At the Gerson Clinic, I bonded with my MIL in many ways:  I saw more of her than I ever thought I would, we had some very deep talks about our hopes and fears, and she humbly allowed me to serve and care for her (she was always serving others prior to her illness).  Together, we became part of a family with the other patients and their companions, who were also fighting to beat cancer – fighting to stay alive.  We cheered them on… and, occasionally, we cried with the companions of those who didn’t make it.  I’ve never experienced anything like it.  It was truly the fight of our lives!  In addition, I watched the team of practitioners, along with Charlotte Gerson, as they tirelessly made their patient rounds and poured their hearts into caring for my MIL as a WHOLE person.  And can you imagine being treated by doctors and nurses as though you were the first and only patient on their schedule? It was so encouraging!

The lights came on for me personally, however, when I began to experience some startling and unexpected healing benefits from following the Gerson protocol: increased energy, greater mental clarity, improved digestion, clearer skin, and stronger nails, just to name a few.  I loved my results, and the community, so much that I didn’t want to leave.  Plus, I had come to realize that my husband and I had “toxic food” in our kitchen, and I was “scurred” to return home!  As someone who had poor eating habits and lots of digestive issues, I believed that God was trying to tell me something: I needed to change…radically.

Despite all of the efforts of the Gerson Clinic staff, my MIL’s cancer was too advanced and she was unable to recover.  Charlotte Gerson personally apologized to me for not being able to do more (Seriously?!?!  They did waaaaay more than we could have asked for or expected at home!).  She did say that if we continued the therapy at home, my MIL would have the most mental clarity, greatest amount of energy, the least amount of pain, and thus the best quality of life.  She was right.  My MIL had wonderful visits with all of her siblings, family, and friends; and she was virtually pain-free until the last week of her life.  I was by her bed side when she passed away at home on May 20, 2000.  One of the last things that my MIL expressed to me was that although she knew it was too late for her to recover, she felt encouraged that my experience with the Gerson Therapy opened the door for me to change my diet and lifestyle, and to improve my overall health and well-being. It did, I did, and I am sooooo grateful!

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Here is a pic of our “Gerson group” in March 2000, on the day of our departure from the clinic.  That’s my MIL with the white hair; and me standing next to her with hair!  See the guy in the baseball cap on the far right?  He’s British yogi, Neil Patel, of Chi Kri Yoga.  And I’m FIRED-UP to report that he is ALIVE and THRIVING, having beat the odds against sarcoma with Gerson Therapy!  Go, Neil!!!

 

 

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