Even Your G-Zone Isn’t Safe!

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A few weeks ago, I had posted a link of my entire two year collection of plant-based vegan interviews onto the Facebook page that I manage, “Cancer Project Nutrition and Cooking Class”, and soon after I got a very nice surprise from a woman named Jan telling me that she’d like to share her cancer survivor story. Well, I was thrilled, especially since she told me that she’d gone plant-based right after her diagnosis! Enough said, here’s Jan’s amazing story:

 

My Life Before, During and After Cancer

 

janbeforeandafter

 

Almost three years ago, in mid-2011, my life changed for my family and me.  The doctor at the OB-GNY clinic told me I had vulvar cancer.  What is that, you say?  The vulva is the external genitalia on a woman.  I didn’t even know you could get cancer “down there”.  You hear of ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers, but there is also vulvar and vaginal cancer.  I only knew of one woman who had vaginal cancer.  There are just over 4,000 new cases of vulvar cancer a year, one of the rarer gynecological cancers.  This doctor’s diagnosis was confirmed by doing a biopsy in her office.  The next step was to send me to a gynecological oncologist, who specializes in female cancers.

Gyne-Cancer-Ribbons-Logo 

Shortly after my examination with the oncologist/surgeon, I had my first surgery to remove the tumor.  Because I had a trip across country planned months before all of this happened, my surgeon said it was O.K. to take the trip, just 10 days after the surgery.  My next exam with my surgeon revealed at least one “lump” in my groin.  Normal lymph nodes are microscopic, unable to be seen by the naked eye.  My largest one was over one-inch in diameter.  An ultrasound and biopsy revealed that I had positive lymph nodes, so the second surgery was scheduled.  I was advised that there was a good chance that I could develop lymphedema in my legs, which I did develop and now I have to wear compression stockings every day.  Swelling varies from person to person…some have very slight edema, other people’s legs swell quite a bit.

 

PelvicIllustration_lg

 

Because I had positive lymph nodes, my surgeon wanted me to start chemo and radiation, so an appointment was made to see a radiological oncologist.  Lymph nodes are a highway system throughout our bodies.  We have about 1,000 of them.  I was concerned that the cancer could affect more lymph nodes.

 

Years before I was diagnosed with cancer, I ate a rather unhealthy diet.  As many Americans do, I ate foods full of fats, sugars and salts.  On days that we were in a hurry, I’d quickly fix foods like hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese, just foods that didn’t take long to cook.  Unfortunately, eating this way was a fast way to damage my immune system.  These kinds of foods are nutritionally poor.  A few years before my diagnosis, my weight had gotten to 209.5 pounds.  I was about 5’4″.  The month before being diagnosed, I started on a popular weight-loss program and lost 19.5 pounds.  My sister, who had been a vegetarian before changing over to a plant-based diet, kept pushing me to change my way of eating, too.  So, less than two months after being diagnosed, I changed over to a plant-based diet within two days of my decision.  It wasn’t really hard for me.  I knew I wanted to survive and that I would do anything to achieve that end.  You see, I learned that animal proteins encourage cancer cell growth, and I did not want to feed my cancer!  My sister told me to read the book, “The China Study”, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell, II, M.D. Now, I do not eat ANY meats, no fish, no dairy, no cheese, and no eggs.  And, I feel GREAT!

 The-China-Study

 

In the year after changing to a plant-based diet, I lost 72 pounds.  I wanted to lose a lot of weight, but an added benefit that I noticed within three days or so after changing to a plant-based diet, I had so much energy!  I’ve heard this from many other people who also eat this way.  I got down to 137.5 pounds, and I hadn’t seen that weight in many, many years.  I felt great, people told me how nice I looked, and it was just a nice feeling to not carry that weight around with me.

 

I believe I had the same types of thoughts going through my mind throughout my whole cancer ordeal that other cancer patients do.  At first, it was a feeling of, “Why me?”, but then thinking about it, “Why NOT me?”  I’ve read about so many other cancer patients who go through the whole range of emotions, which I probably did, too.  But, from the beginning, my ONLY concern was that I WOULD survive.  There wasn’t a question about this.  You see, I am a fighter, and if someone tells me that I can’t do something, I probably will do whatever it takes to DO it, anyway, if I feel that strongly about it.  I never even asked either of my oncologists, “How much time do I have left?”  NOPE, never wanted to know, because I WAS going to beat this.  It is very important for cancer patients to have a POSITIVE ATTITUDE.  There will be bad days, for sure, but if you have something to keep working towards, whether it would be to be there in the future for your kids or grandkids, or you have an activity that you love to do, or something else that is SO important to you, then that is what you should focus on.  It is also important to rid negativity around you from other people.  If someone started telling me about negative things, I would tell them that I was only focusing on positive ideas right now.

 

Your brain... 

In February of 2012, plans were made for me to start chemo and radiation.  I was totally against doing BOTH of them, because chemo is toxic to your body and radiation burns skin tissue and can damage organs.  I had done some reading, watched videos and heard testimonials about people who beat Stage 4 cancers by eating a plant-based diet.  This is the way I was hoping to go, too, without these damaging treatments, but since my cancer had already gotten into my lymph nodes, I felt it was important for me to proceed with chemo and radiation.  I was told that if I did BOTH, together, that the chemo would enhance my radiation treatments.  I had six weeks of radiation and chemo and was not nice to endure.  By the fourth week of radiation, I had become VERY sore.  And, having the treatments down in “that area”, I was sitting on my pain.  Each daily treatment didn’t produce pain, but it was pain that built up over time that burned the tissue, therefore causing a lot of pain.

 

The chemo drug that I was given didn’t make me lose my hair, but it does cause nausea.  I was lucky to have good insurance coverage to be able to take a drug that kept me from developing nausea.  But, about in the fourth week, I noticed that I wasn’t eating enough protein in my diet.  The plant-based foods that I normally enjoyed, like rice and beans just didn’t appeal to me.  I finally was able to eat a little peanut butter, but this chemo DID make me basically lose my taste buds temporarily.  Not much appealed to me.  I was in contact with a plant-based registered dietician who had worked on an oncology ward who suggested drinking smoothies with pea protein powder or brown rice powder, so I started with the brown rice powder.  In just a short time, I was feeling much better and had more energy.  It took several weeks before my taste buds seemed to return to normal and for me to want rice and beans and other proteins, again.

 

After having radiation, your body just doesn’t stop “burning”.  It will have after-effects for months later, up to 1 1/2 – 2 years later.  In the middle of the surgeries, chemo and radiation, I had to temporarily give up the one sport I just loved to do and lived for…bowling!  It’s what really kept me going.  I don’t work outside of the home, my husband is retired, and we belong to two bowling leagues and I look forward to bowling and seeing our seniors every week.  But exactly six weeks after ending chemo/radiation, I bowled in the Women’s National Bowling Championship Tournament in Reno, Nevada, with my team.  And, I had two games that were over 200 pins!

 

2014-womens-bowling-championships 

In the accompanying photos, in my “heavy” picture, I had blond highlights, and after I finished treatments, one day while at my hairdresser’s, I asked her if she could dye my hair another color.  Her face lit up like a light bulb and had a smile on her face and told me, “I know EXACTLY the color to use.”  So, I went to a reddish brown and I immediately loved the change and everyone else around me seemed to love it, too, except my husband!  I told people that that blond woman died with the cancer and this was the “new me”.

 

janbeforeandafterJan’s before & after shot 

 

SOME FINAL THOUGHTS:  I firmly believe (and both of my oncologists do, too) that by changing over to a plant-based, whole-food diet, my body developed a strong immune system that could fight off new cancer cell growth and also helped me deal with the nasty side effects of chemo and radiation treatments.  I had a couple of medical issues develop following the lymph node surgery, but came through those very well.  I did gain a bit of the weight back, after eating normal, plant-based foods, but I still feel really great, still bowl, I play golf as often as we have time to get out, and all of my CT scans (four of them since ending treatment) have been clear. To celebrate life after cancer, I told my husband I wanted to get a trike (3-wheeled motorcycle).  He had spoken of wanting to ride again at some point, so I decided this was the time, so he also bought one.  I talk to many men and women about this type of cancer and that I’m not going to stop living, wondering IF or WHEN a cancer can come back.  People have told me that I am an inspiration to them.  I am on a mission now to educate people, especially about vulvar cancer.  There are one or two vaccines that are being used now to vaccinate boys and girls against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV).  I would do a lot of researching about these vaccines, pros and cons of getting vaccinated.  The big thing is for women to keep getting pelvic exams.  This can help detect gynecological cancers, especially the vaginal and vulvar cancers, early.  Having a support group around you is also very helpful.  Family and friends often don’t know what to say to a person who has vulvar cancer.  After all, it is in a private area of a woman’s body.  But, knowing that your friends and family are in your corner no matter what you decide to do, is very comforting.  My husband left ALL treatments up to me.  That does free the family member from some guilt, because if I didn’t survive, for example, and he PUSHED me to do one or more treatments, it could leave him with a lot of guilt afterwards.

 

 Dearest Jan, thank you so much for finding and contacting me! I loved reading and re-reading your amazing story and know that others will find encouragement and inspiration in it as well! You ROCK, lady! …And I love your hair color too! Have an amazing weekend!

Broccolicious Wraps

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Last night, my friend Alejandra came over for dinner. Since she was coming straight from work, I wanted to feed her – besides just having tea! What’s more fun than that? Alejandra even offered to help me in the kitchen, so I put her in charge of chopping the bell pepper. Earlier, I had come across a few new recipes from PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) online - that they had sent out in conjunction with an ad campaign to “Drop the Dog” – meaning give up processed meat and hot dogs because they are linked to colorectal cancer. There are four recipes attached to the link that I’ll post at the end. I had bought ingredients for two of them, but decided to try out the Broccoli Burritos first. It should be noted that I didn’t have tahini on hand, so instead I substituted with Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo (it’s vegan) and it worked just great! Here are the broccolicious Wraps!

 

Broccoli Burritos

Steam the broccoli. Use a food processor for the roasted red peppers, garbanzo beans and lemon juice. I used Rudi’s Gluten Free Spinach Tortillas. Do heat the tortilla on a pan – you do not need to add oil or anything else! Just heat it up! Then take off the pan and add the goodies and simply roll it up! (*Recipe at the end!)

 

IMG_0885Broccoli Burrito – Ready to Eat! 

 

These were SO delicious! I ate two and Alejandra ate three! We also added salsa on top…and we had some red wine! YUM! Try these out and please let us know what you thought of them! I know that I’ll definitely be making these again soon! Here’s the link to PCRM’s “Drop The Dog” – look to the right and you will see the colorful Recipe Cards in PDF - that’s where the recipe is located! Enjoy!

http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/dropthedog

 

 

Two Quick Plant-based Dinner Ideas

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This evening, I was inspired to make the following dish, after having watched my friend Chef AJ’s latest show, which I’ll post for you at the end. Here’s what’s for dinner at my house. This is such an easy recipe – so there are no excuses for not eating a healthy meal! Plus, I made enough for a family of six people – this way I will have leftovers for lunch & dinner! I may have to invite a few neighbors over to eat! Just sayin’!

 

IMG_0882No name brown rice & veggie dish

 

Ingredients

2 packs of Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice

1 Cup frozen Organic Peas

1 Cup frozen Organic Corn

1 Pack frozen shelled soybeans/edamame from Trader Joes

1 Red Bell Pepper

1 Cup Red Cabbage

1 Jar of Newman’s Own Roasted Garlic Salsa

 

Instructions

  1. Heat & bring to boil water in a large pot and then add the frozen edamame, peas, & corn. Let it cook for five minutes.

  2. Heat rice in microwave for three minutes. Heat one pack at a time. Once done, put over in a bowl to cool.

  3. Chop up the red bell pepper and and cabbage.

  4. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and then finally add the salsa. ENJOY!

 

As you can see this is so easy peasy that there should be no excuses for why not to cook at home! Last week, I was exhausted from a long day of working on some projects. I didn’t feel like going out and I  was craving something substantial, so I went through my fridge and cupboards and came up with this dish

 

IMG_0868Veggie Pasta al dente

 

Ingredients

Half a pack of Organic pasta

Head of broccoli washed and cut

1 Red Bell Pepper

1 Tbsp Sesame Oil

2 Cups of mushrooms

2 Rainbow Carrots – optional

Garlic – as much as you desire

Organic Strained Tomatoes (No Salt Added) from bionaturæ

A couple of dashes of Bragg’s Sprinkle 24 Herbs & Spices Seasoning

 

Instructions

  1. Boil water and cook the pasta in a large pot – follow instructions on the pack.

  2. Steam the broccoli – but not too long as you want it crisp!

  3. Saute the red bell pepper first on the pan. Then use a table spoon of Sesame oil and add the garlic and spices. Then add in the broccoli and the mushrooms.

  4. Add the cooked spaghetti and then the sauce.

 

Voilà, dinner is ready!

 

IMG_0870Veggie Pasta al dente

 

Now what are you going to be making for dinner? Got any other great ideas? Please share!

Here’s the video with Chef AJ that inspired the first dish

 

Speciesism – A Review

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Last night, my friend Jenelle and I went to the Seattle premiere of the documentary Speciesism by director, Mark Devries.

Speciesism,_The_MovieSpeciesism – The Movie

We were excited to go, but also slightly apprehensive. Jenelle has watched “Earthlings”, which I have to admit that I have not. I told Jenelle that I had watched Mark on YouTube speaking about this film and he had said that this definitely wasn’t going to be “Eartlings II”. Well, let me tell you, Mark Devries has found a way to deliver this important message in such a masterful and balanced way that requires a great deal of finesse, sensitivity and skill! Yet, he has managed to do it! He asks powerful, high-mileage questions of the people he meets, from both the experts to regular people on the streets!

Michael Shermer on Speciesism

 

The film also features one of my favorite authors and speakers, Peter Singer. Speciesism is truly a thought provoking and inspiring documentary! And Mark is absolutely right, after you’ve watched it, you’ll walk out with a changed perspective and a new resolve! I did! This is a film that I definitely want to watch again! There were many great quotes and much food thought and further discussion! Here’s Mark & me after the film premiere

 

IMG_0879Mark Devries & UrbanVeganChic

 

Here’s the link to the official site:

http://speciesismthemovie.com/

 

Please do yourself a favor and do watch this! Buy a copy or two – I definitely plan to! ENJOY!

Well done, Mark Devries and Thank you again!

Lunchalicious

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More and more restaurants are realizing that the trend towards vegan cusine  and plant-based meals are on the rise – even in smaller cities, like the one I live in! These chefs and restaurant owners are following the times, serving up healthy and delicious plant-strong vegan food! Here’s a look at what a friend of mine and I had for lunch yesterday! It’s mouthwatering for sure! As Dr. Neal Barnard will sometimes say, “This sure isn’t suffering!” I just love that line!

 

Kale wrapCharred Kale & Potato Taco

The Charred Kale & Potato Taco is one of my favorites. It has spiced & charred kale, fingerling potatoes, charred onions & mole. Very Yummy! Normally, this would come with cheese, but I just asked for it to be kept off! We also had Brussel & Apple Tacos.

 

Brussels sprout Wrap Brussels & Apple Tacos

The Brussels & Apple Tacos have diced apples, seasoned in white wine and chimichurry. The final dish that we tried was the Mushroom Taco. Isn’t it pretty?

Mushroom Wrap IMushroom Taco

The Mushroom Taco is made with seasonal, locally foraged mushrooms, pickled red onions and greens! Very delicious and nutritious as well!  Now could these be made in your own kitchen? Absolutely! But sometimes it’s just fun to go out and have someone else cook up delicious & tasty meals for you! I spoke to the chef and co-owner of this restaurant and learned that he’s a big fan of Gracias Madre in San Francisco. I can see where he got his inspiration, but I would say that these are just as fantastic – if not better! I appreciate that he’s sticking more to the plants and less to the processed!

What have you had that was fabulous and noteworthy?

752 Freed Hens

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Okay, you’ve got to watch this! Five minutes of your time that you will not regret spending! I’ve already written about why I won’t eat chickens or eggs – found in one of my earlier posts. Battery caged chickens and hens is in full operation over here and in many other places. It is beyond horrific what happens to these poor birds! Now when I see someone picking up a carton of eggs at the grocery store I can’t help thinking, “You have no idea the pain and misery that went into those eggs!” Well, I didn’t use to either for that matter until my blinders got fully ripped off. Nor did I had any idea that I was being fooled every time I bought one of those “Cage Free” or “Free Range” packs of eggs. They really aren’t “free” and are usually kept in a filthy room with thousands of other chickens. And while they might have access, for about two weeks, to a little outdoor patch of grass that doesn’t make them “Free Range”! This video shows a brighter side of this – these are 752 hens that were freed thanks to a kind farmer who realized how wrong his operation was.

 

I love Animals Australia for posting this! And while I got you, they have these fun videos to watch. Check out their site and watch, “No Way to Treat a Lady”! I could only agree! Are you listening?

 

http://www.animalsaustralia.org/no-way-to-treat-a-lady

Give Me One Reason…

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…why you shouldn’t go plant-based! Honestly, I can’t think of one! Going plant-based vegan is a win-win all the way around. It’s great for your health, the earth, and for the animals! It’s life saving any which way you look at it! Later today, I plan posting what I had for lunch yesterday, but for now I’ll leave you with this brilliantly choreographed dance segment by Chris Martin & Larkin Poynton. Two minutes of perfection!

 

Do check out the link to the article from Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health! My friend, Lani Muelrath alerted me to this. She posted the following: “Conclusions” A robust inverse association exists between fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality, with benefits seen in up to 7+ portions daily. Further investigations into the effects of different types of fruit and vegetables are warranted.” – JUST released by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health! 

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data