Archive for July, 2011

Deep Fried Frenzy

Monday, July 25th, 2011

 As my kids stood in line at the Heart Attack Café at the OC Faire about to indulge in deep fried food frenzy, I was filled with mixed emotions.  I was excited for them to “just be kids” and partake in this deep fried insanity and horrified by the thought of all these people in line about to stuff their face with processed sugar, trans fats and ingredients I can’t spell or pronounce.  Deep fried Snicker Bars, fried chicken, curly fries smothered in ranch dressing, deep fried Twinkies, chocolate covered bacon and the end-all, deep fried butter on a stick. 

 Casey and Harrison decided on a deep fried Snicker bar.  As I watched them devour cancer on a stick, I pulled out my raw organic sprouted vegan gluten free nut bar I snuck into the fair.  No outside food or water allowed. After a bit of sweet talk’n, I used my cancer card and got my Mountain Valley Spring water bottle past the security guy at the entrance check point.   

 I don’t want to seem holier than thou.  There was a day I would have indulged in the deep fried frenzy myself.  And, I don’t want to keep my kids from having a bit of fun either.  I know that the deep fried snicker bar was more than a treat, it was an experience.  But, by the look of many of the Heart Attack Café patrons, fried food is not a new experience.  It is a familiar practice.

Since my battle with cancer and my better understanding of how food plays a part in our health, I admit it is difficult for me to watch.  Even though I have always eaten what I considered to be healthy, salad instead of a Reuben sandwich for lunch and salmon instead of pork chops for dinner.  I realize that it was not healthy enough.  I’m sorry that it took a life threatening disease to help me see the light.

We humans are interesting creatures. Why do we wait until we are sick and all hell breaks loose before we make major changes in our lives? We smoke when we know it causes cancer.  We sit on the couch and promise to exercise tomorrow as our waist grows, our muscles shrink and we lose bone density resulting in osteoporosis.  We drink too much alcohol even after many studies connect alcohol consumption to breast cancer.  We think French fries are a vegetable and Red Bull “gives you wings.” 

And, sugar!  Don’t get me started on sugar. Americans eat on a per capita basis 156 pounds of sugar per year.  This is equivalent to 31 five-pound bags.  I admit I had a major sweet tooth.  I used to devour Robin Eggs at Easter, demolish dozens of cut out cookies with powdered sugar frosting at Christmas, gobble down slices of  my mom’s apple pie for my birthday, stole Kit Kat bars from my kids pillow cases at Halloween and snacked on pretzels and M&M’s chased by a beer for happy hour.  Sugar!  Sugar!  Sugar!

Resulting in Cancer! Cancer! Cancer! 

Sugar is to cancer as oxygen is to fire.  It is pretty clear we are what we eat.  But, just as important, we are what we don’t eat.   According to Joe Cross in his film, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” Americans are not eating their vegetables.  In fact, for many, veggies only make up 5% of their overall diet.  In his documentary, Joe shares how he ditched his old ways of eating and stressful lifestyle with juicing and exercise.  He not only lost a ton of weight, he helped others do the same.  And, “ta-da,” today he is off all medications for a rare skin disease that appeared with his growing waist line and now has disappeared with his shrinking waist line.  How?  Veggies! Veggies! Veggies!

Why are vegetables so important? Answer:  Phytonutrients.  According to the voice of sustainable wellness, Frank Lipman:

”We have known for a while that plant-based foods are extremely beneficial to consume, and phytonutrients may be the reason why. There are literally thousands of them in our food. Some phytonutrients help our cells communicate better with each other, others help prevent mutations at a cellular level, some are anti-inflammatory, others are potent antioxidants and many have functions we are only beginning to understand. What we do know is they help prevent cancer, heart disease and most chronic diseases in general, are anti-aging, boost the immune system and generally promote health.”

Cancer grows when the immune system is on the fritz, genes mutate and inflammation is rampant.  I didn’t eat my veggies.  Sorry I didn’t listen Mom! 

Veggies just don’t taste as good as cookies.  Ask my daughter.   But, the less sugar we eat the better and sweeter fruit and veggies taste.  These days I actually prefer a slice of a sweet organic apple over a Kit Kat bar.  I would not have said that 10 months ago.

Maggie prefers a Kit Kat bar.  She is not alone.

Americans in general prefer fast food to organic fruits and veggies.  Food stands at the OC Faire like Chuck Wagon Charlie’s Fried Chicken Shack and The Heart Attack Café depend on this fact.  But the problem is as fast food consumption goes up, medical bills go up.  According to Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet book, in 1960 18% of our national income was spent on food while 5% was spent on health care. Today 9% of our income is spent on food and 17% on health care.

Eating healthy in America is expensive but so is cancer.  I easily spend over $300 a week at the local health food store on groceries and supplements.  But, we have spent thousands and thousands in medical bills for my treatments and we have medical insurance for god sake! 

My family has not yet embraced my new eating habits but they are making small attempts. Tonight I made Urban Zen Juice, a recipe from Kris Carr.  After pushing kale, celery, broccoli, fennel, apples, lemons and ginger through a juicer, Maggie made a valiant attempt to drink it but to no avail.  She honestly could not swallow it.  

I am hoping Maggie will eventually like it but change is difficult.  When I am faced with the choice of eating a deep fried Snicker bar versus a raw organic sprouted vegan gluten free nut bar, I will choose the later every time.  Not because change is easy for me.  Not because I have amazing willpower.  Not because I want to fit into my skinny jeans.  Because I want to live!

Sticks and Stones

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Isis, Deanne and Raundi at T-Street

Apparently I feel better than I actually am.  I was scheduled for a root canal yesterday but had to cancel my appointment because my white blood cell count is extremely low.  According to my oncologist the risk of infection is worse than the pain I am experiencing.  That’s easy for her to say. 

That is not the only news I received today.  My hormone levels are low as well.  It seems that I am in a state of menopause. 

Maggie and me at T-Street

The funny thing is I would swear that I am better.  My chemo brain and neuropathy seem to be only a 6 on the Richter scale this week compared to an 8 last week.  I am able to take my full walk around the block.  I am sleeping better.  My appetite is back and no more incontinence.  In fact, just this last week I went boogie boarding at T-Street, saw the new Transformers movie, sat in a Jacuzzi at a pool party, went to a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza and sang my heart out with Daisy Chain at The Pondwater Society event.  I was finally feeling like myself again.  I was feeling like Deanne. 

Artist - Megan Richtman

But, after I heard those words, “Deanne, your white blood cell count and your hormone levels are exceptionally low,” I began to feel low as well.  My chemo brain came back, my feet were tingling and I felt defeated.   

The power of words is amazing.  It reminded me of an experiment conducted by my 8th grade teacher, an oversized intimidating Blessed Virgin Nun with huge boobs.  I was scared to death of her.  Sister Ann Lenore told us about an experiment, where all day long she and her students told a perfectly healthy happy kid that he didn’t look well.  They wanted to see his reaction.  They would stop him in the hall and say things like, “Hey man, did you get enough sleep?  You are looking tired today.’ “Are you OK?  You don’t look so well.”  “What’s wrong dude?  Did you eat some bad sushi, you look a bit pale?  Before the end of the day, the poor kid asked to go to the nurse and finally went home because he didn’t feel well.  No wonder I was afraid of her. 

Words can be used to manipulate thinking and control behavior.  They can tear people down or build them up.   Rudyard Kiplings most famous quote, “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”  These words are from a speech he gave in 1923.  His metaphor describes how words can change the way another person thinks and feels similar to how drugs or alcohol changes the way a person thinks and feels.   

So the old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is untrue.  As Eric Idle says, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will make me go in a corner and cry by myself for hours.”

 No wonder I started feeling like crap again when I heard my white blood cell count is low.  Words are powerful stuff, whether they are true or not.  If you perceive it to be true, you feel the same as if it is true.  According to an article in Huffington Post, sscientists have actually discovered that “just hearing someone talk about elderly people led research subjects to walk more slowly.”    

Yes, my white blood cell count is low, but they are just words to me right now.  I actually feel physically great relatively speaking.

So how does one overcome this word problem?

Using positive affirming words!  I recently realized, even after my mastectomy and chemo, I was still telling people I “have” breast cancer.  Not any longer.  For now on I will say I “had” breast cancer.

Instead of saying I “am getting” healthy, I will say I “am” healthy.

I will no longer tell people I “want to be” a writer.  As an alternative, I will say I “am” a writer.

And, no more I “want to be” Joan Jett.  Instead, I “am” Joan Jett.  Ok, maybe that is taking it a bit too far but you get my drift. 

Daisy Chain at Pondwater