Food & Fitness

Remember when this was a food and exercise blog?

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Well I still do those things! Just on a much, much smaller scale.

Even though I whine about getting cancer despite all my healthy habits, I must say, it hasn’t all been for naught. My chemotherapy side effects haven’t been that bad. Not nearly as bad as some of the horror stories I’ve seen and heard. I credit my pre-cancer lifestyle for my ability to stay strong and withstand the powerful chemo poisons. I also hope my healthy body will be able to help the chemo work its magic faster!

Everyone told me to rest during treatment, but eventually my body started getting weak from lying around all day. I decided I wanted to try to stay active in order to keep my body strong. Then I read this New York Times article which says:

For those who can handle it, though, a light or moderate exercise regimen could help reduce some side effects of treatment, the new report stated. Studies have shown, for example, that arm extensions and other range-of-motion exercises can help relieve lymphedema, a painful swelling of the arm stemming from breast cancer surgery. It can also help patients who gained weight during treatment slim down and regain some physical function, and combat some of the exhaustion stemming from chemotherapy.

On top of that, the study showed that exercise could reduce a breast cancer patient’s risk of dying by 40 percent and 30 percent for a person with prostate cancer. They’re not kidding around!

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Honestly, when I first read that I realized that there really no longer exists any excuse not to do some kind of exercise. Then, I promptly hopped on my dad’s recumbent bike.

For over a week now I’ve been taking care to get 30-60 minutes of light to moderate exercise almost every day. The usual mix of cardio, strength, and stretching. Cardio has to be monitored because the most active part of the cancer is around my superior vena cava, the main vein that goes into my heart. So nothing more than 65% of my max heart rate. Strength on the other hand is difficult because I’m recovering from surgery on BOTH arms now. One side is my elbow, the other side from getting a lymph node removed (with mild lymphedema as mentioned in the excerpt above).

It may seem counter productive to exercise when my biggest side effect is extreme fatigue (think run over by a mack truck x1000). However, working up a little sweat helps me bust through the fatigue and provides a big boost of energy!

In terms of food, I’m finally making the switch to organic.

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I’ve always been too cheap to do this in the past. Especially when I couldn’t measure any concrete benefits from doing so.

Well it’s no longer a matter of preventing myself from getting cancer when I’m 64. It’s matter of getting rid of cancer today and making sure it neverever comes back. I now know I’m one of those people who are more susceptible to developing cancer. Suddenly the extra dollar for a can of garbanzo beans doesn’t seem so steep.

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On top of going organic, I’m attempting to cut back to one serving of dairy and one serving of meat a day. Experimenting with some new products for fun!

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Fresh fruits and veggies may sound like the easy go-to, but chemotherapy actually makes this the difficult part. I am a bacteria-free zone, and produce is crawling with it.

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I joined an organic CSA before I was diagnosed and without it, I probably wouldn’t feel the pressure to eat any vegetables. So for this, I’m thankful.

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I know a lot of people praise the benefits of raw vegetables, but I’m instructed to cook them down to kill any nasty stuff that may be lurking on them. And thanks to chemo deteriorating my stomach lining, green mush is a lot easier to digest.

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Stir-fry with a blackened chicken breast. Sauce made with goat yogurt. It’s what’s for dinner.

Suddenly food and exercise aren’t just for my general health anymore, they’re for my LIFE.

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Posted on August 10, 2011, in Cancer, Health and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. Wow, I love this post Susan! You have such a positive outlook on this whole situation. What do you think of the goat’s yogurt? I love Liberte’s Greek yogurt but haven’t tried the goat kind yet. Is it thick too? Like you said, in the past I’ve always been too cheap to go totally organic and I pretty much still am. With all the produce I eat though, I’m sure it would do a world of good. Keep us posted on how you feel with the dietary changes – I’d love to hear! :)

  2. Does that mean limited fruit too? No summertime berries sounds like kicking someone while they’re already down…

    I’ve been slowly trying to incorporate more and more organics. There are some foods that I think may not be worth it (like bananas and a lot of other fruit that you don’t eat the peel) but there are definitely others that are (beyond the “dirty dozen). If I slowly take out the non-organic, I won’t notice the price difference so much :)

    Glad you’re able to do some light exercising! It must feel so nice to get a little sweaty again.

    • Especially fruit! Even things like cantaloupe. I have to scrub the outside because things get in the grooves that gets transferred to the edible stuff when you slice through it. Berries are absolutely off limits because it’s hard to get everything off a raspberry or blackberry. And things like peaches, etc (the dirty dozen) are best eaten cooked. Also, I can’t have any citrus because it aggravates my mouth and I’m trying my hardest not to get mouth sores!

      Oh yeah, and absolutely no raw or medium rare meat. No sushi and a lot of dry steaks :\

  3. That’s really interesting about the exercise.
    I’m happy for you that you know your body well enough to understand what it wants. I want to develop that understanding. Crazy as it sounds I feel like I don’t know my body.
    I think you are right about your lifestyle. It must do something to help you.
    At the moment I get organic version of the thing i use a lot of and hope to increase this as my budget allows. I find it helps me to appreciate food more. Also I quite like knowing where food comes from so am balancing local and organic :)

    • I *used* to think I knew my body, until I found out there was a mass taking up 40% of my chest that I had no clue was there! Now I don’t proclaim that I know my body as well anymore :P

      • Good point, I hadn’t thought of it like that.
        Maybe a better way is to say you are listening to your body?
        That’s what I feel I’m trying to do, but it is very easy to ignore it when it does so much for us :( this makes me sad, but determined to change it bit by bit :)

  4. Glad that you are able to do some things you want to & yes, the extra $, I bet, does not seem so much. As always, your attitude is amazing!

  5. I hear ya on the organic stuff. I was always “too cheap” as well. But lately I have been doing so much reading that I can’t NOT suck it up and fork over the extra cash. I buy the Eden’s Organic beans, too! Hooray. Maybe if more people get on the Organic wagon, the costs will start to decrease….here’s to hoping!

    I am really impressed with your blog, your outlook and your motivation to exercise through chemo. I hope that other cancer patients read this, too!

  6. Just stumbled onto your blog and we seem to have a bit in common. Despite a healthy lifestyle, I was also affected by the C-word. Your attitude is right on and it really does help determine how you come through it. Keep up your strength!

  7. Hi Susan,
    Really encouraged by your post! I started growing an organic garden a couple years ago in answer to the cost and lack of available quality fruits and veggies. I also purchased a quality food dehydrater in order to utilize the extra harvest. By dehydrating at low teperatures I am able to preserve foods without killing it’s nutrients. Also most studies I have seen show Casein(A dairy protien)and animal protiens in general to be one of the factors that provide an environment in the body for carcinogens to mestastasize. So my dairy choices have converted to nut milks and butters and meats are occosional and the highest quality I can find. Keep smiling and fighting the good fight!

    • Yup, everything I read, even written by the non-vegans or subjective scientists, says cow’s milk is no good. I’ve attempted going dairy free a couple times in the past and didn’t notice a difference without it, but seeing as it’s my immune system that is under stress, I don’t want to give it extra work by fighting the dairy I put in my body!

  8. Wow. Reading your posts about your journey with cancer really opens my eyes each and every time. I am a personal trainer and when I read how it affected your ability to exercise, it just really, REALLY made me realize how thankful I should be for the health that I have today because cancer sucks and will strike at any age.

    And having to cook veggies before you eat them? I just never really thought about it but I guess that is something that those undergoing chemo need to be careful of. After reading this post, it hit me just how much chemo alters how you approach things in minute detail (down to how you prepare your veggies) and how strong of a person it takes to overcome and adapt. You are taking it in stride and adapting quite well I think. I’m not so sure I could be as strong, resilient, persistent, and adaptive as you are. You’re definitely a role model for those who are also battling this!

    Cancer had NO idea how much it was going to get its butt kicked when it decided to pick on you!!

    I absolutely adore you and love your positive attitude towards battling this and coming out the winner in the end. Thank you for sharing your experiences with the world.

    • I had NO clue those on chemo had restrictions either until a nurse told me in the hospital. She at first said I may be forbidden from eating fresh fruits and vegetables (which could still happen) and I completely freaked out :P

  9. Love this! It IS what’s for life and I love your approach. Dinner looks delish too :)

  10. I just found your blog yesterday. I have to say you are a very inspiring person. I can’t do much other than pray for you.
    I do have to ask and please forgive my ignorance in this-do you really think that going organic will make the difference? By that I mean, I’ve read numerous accounts where people ate organic diets only to get cancer as well. I too struggle with the cost of going organic, sometimes the difference is much more than just a dollar. I’m not judging just trying to get as much info as possible on the topic.
    I always thought that all Canadian citizens were covered for everything under their system. It is eye opening to see you have to cover the costs of the RX’s.

    • It’s a legitimate question! I guess the best way to respond to that is that once you get cancer, you will do just about anything that’s feasible to ensure it doesn’t happen again. That includes pumping my veins with chemicals, losing my hair, being bed ridden at times, and yes, paying more for food. Chemo isn’t 100% and neither is buying organic, but in my mind it’s 100% worth it if there’s even the slightest chance I will never have to go through this again.

  11. It’s great to hear that you’re getting some exercise in and eating such yummy and nutritious food (a far cry from those nasty hospital food posts!!). I know your body will respond positively to this because you are treating it so well. Stay strong!!

  12. I think it is so awesome that you are continuing to be active. I have been on a total exercise hiatus because I keep getting sick but I think it’s time for me to get some activity! You are so inspiring! :)

    Your dinner looks so yummy! I think when fighting illness organics are definintely worth the extra cash! No better investment that yourself! :)

    • It’s all about knowing your limits! Pushing too hard can make you sicker, but sitting on your butt isn’t doing anything to boost your immune system either ;)

  13. I really do believe that you have and continued to prep your body to heal as quickly as it can- good for you, friend! What a pain about the produce, but I’m so glad you have motivation to keep eating it- and stir fries are where it’s at! :)

  14. i love that last sentence you said.I want to join the CSA!!!! the fruit and veggies look so delicious and fresh!!! xoxo

  15. I agree with the exercise – helping with fatigue and an overall strengthening of the body. People ask me how I recover from my births and pregnancies so quickly and I tell them that I just keep exercising (just not at the same intensity). Glad to hear that you’re feeling up to hopping on the bike!

  16. Once again you are super inspiring and strong. You go girl! glad you are feeling relatively OK.

  17. Andrew van Geest

    Your posts are so positive and uplifting as is your approach to your situation.
    You’re a great inspiration

    Best Regards
    Andrew

  18. I buy cans of eden organic beans by the CASE on Amazon…it really cuts down on the price.

  19. I have been following you for a couple of weeks and have been humbled by your determination and spirit. You are a victor because you are facing your truth head on and dealing with it in a strong and resolute way that is inspiring and motivatin; not only for those who are facing health challenges and crisis, but also for those of us who just need a kick in the butt to make some changes to our lifestyles.

    Thank you. I am praying with great expectations.

  20. I have read some of those same articles, and totally agree. My first 9 weeks of chemo and first regiment of meds absolutely did not let me exercise or eat vegetables because my stomach was so extremely sensitive – it was awful. However, I started a new regiment 3 weeks ago, and I’ve used the treadmill 4 times in the last 6 days and I’ve also been visiting our farmer’s market and buying lots of organic vegetables to eat. I definitely have more energy although that could also be attributed to having 2 weeks off from chemo. :)

    By the way, I totally stole your pulling the cancer card idea for my blog, but I gave you credit and linked you. :)

  21. Let me know what Diaya is like … I cannot imagine “cheese” made from tapioca is melty and yummy … I am a turphile to the core!

  22. Mary (avid blog reader!)

    I love this post. It’s amazing to see that before you were diagnosed with cancer, you blog focused on food and fitness and losing the last 5…now after this tumultuous experience I can see that now your focused on your health. It just shows that people should slow down and stop judging their appearance and saying they’re “so fat, and need to lose weight” when they are normal! People need to stop focusing on becoming skinny because we should value our lives and the little time we have on this earth. Although it’s heart breaking to see someone deal with cancer, I love how your whole mindset has changed. You are so strong and amazing-an inspiration to us all.

  23. Andy and I completely switched over to organic for awhile and now only get organic for the dirty dozen. It is expensive but so much better for you!

    I’m cutting back on dairy too, due to the damage to my intestines from celiac disease. Apparently cow’s milk dairy is rough on your digestive system. I’ve read so much about cutting it out but I love cheese and refuse to give it up cold turkey. You’ll have to tell me how the daiya is. I’ve been curious!

  24. I am glad you are taking health by the horns and using it to your advantage. I mean, you were always so healthy, but these further steps make me feel good! I can use your example!

  25. Girl, I feel as if I could have written this post myself. Well, not really, but you know what I mean;-) Looking good is no longer in the forefront of my mind as I’m busting out 30 miles per week on my runs, rather being ALIVE and knowing that with every step I take I’m kicking cancer where it hurts. I mean, I want to look good too, but ya know;-) And I’ve been the same way with my organic fruits and veggies…too tight to spring for them before but now if they are available it’s all I’ll buy. Even though I ranted at my body for “betraying me” when I was diagnosed after feeding it all the right stuff and treating it so well, I feel like I have to nourish it extra well now to prevent my cancer from returning. And believe me, it’s on my mind a lot…more than I ever thought it would be.
    And I stress to others how important it is to stay active during treatment! I continued to run and walk during my year of chemotherapy and radiation and I believe it made all the difference in how I felt and how I handled all the side effects…yes, being hit by a Mack truck x 1000 is a fitting example;-) And now battling slight lymphedema is also another reason to keep at it; I had all the lymph nodes removed from under my right arm because 5/10 were positive for cancer.
    We’re gonna make it, girl! We’ll be running down the road and planting our own gardens when we’re 90:-) xoxo

  26. As if I wasn’t already impressed- 30-60 minutes daily!? After feeling like you were hit by a mack truck x1000? That’s way more than I could ever think of doing!

    I buy dirty dozen organic and also where the price is nearly the same. I’ve got enough strikes against me in the health department thanks to genetics and my own bad habits, so I try to make up for it where I can.

    So glad you are in a CSA- I’ve kinda wished for someone to provide random veggies I’d never in a million years choose on my own :-)

  27. Casein is great since it is slowly digested by the stoamach. This means that you get continous supply of protein over a long period of time comapared to whey protein. ”

    Our website
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/artichoke-leaf-extract-and-cholesterol/

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