My Complimentary Therapies

Happy Friday!

So I have to admit, I was a little nervous talking about “alternative therapies” yesterday. I know it’s a topic a lot of people feel strongly about and I was nervous because I’m not entirely on that bandwagon yet. As a cancer patient, you get a lot of recommendations of things you can do to 1) make the cancer go away, and 2) help ease the side effects of traditional treatment.

I am always open to hearing new things in this regard. I want to have as good an experience as possible and will try anything that will make this easier for me. With that said, going through treatment is a very emotional, physical, and mentally draining process. I’m a strong believer that in order for therapies to work, you need to be 100% ready and committed to them.

That’s not to say I won’t ever try certain things, but I do know where I am in my “journey” as of today. I’m only six weeks in to treatment and often still feel overwhelmed by what is going on. Introducing tons of new therapies right now makes me feel even more overwhelmed!!

With that said, there are two additional complimentary treatments I already believe in 100%. They’re at the heart of this blog and something I will always use to heal my body: food & exercise.

As I’ve mentioned before, the food aspect of my healing is a work in progress. No one can overhaul their diet overnight, not even someone with cancer. So far I’ve been trying to focus on cutting back meat and dairy, while increasing the amount of organic produce and good seeds & grains. There is more I’d like to do, like thinking about glycemic index, alkalizing foods, etc. Baby steps!


In terms of eating better, the best thing I’ve ever done is sign up for a CSA box. Chemo screws with my food tastes, making the idea of fruits and vegetables a lot less appealing. But having a box of local, organic vegetables arrive every Wednesday forces me to eat them up.


The hardest part about eating all these veggies is that I no longer have the stamina in the kitchen to make wonderful meals with them. Food while on chemotherapy is all about simplicity. One of my favourite things to do is just chop up veggies and throw them in a pan with good oil and protein.


Favourite flavour additions include pesto, sriracha, Bragg’s liquid aminos, and fresh cheese.

On days when I feel like I can digest raw veggies, I whip up giant salads with everything that’s in the box.


And lots and lots of coleslaws. I love coleslaws. I take a peeler and just peel everything into the bowl. Usually I make my own simple oil and vinegar dressing, but sometimes I’ll make a creamy dressing using thinned out laughing cow cheese.


This dressing, by the way, is gross. Don’t do it.


Coleslaw is either the side dish or the main show. Here dressed up with goat cheese, olives, and plain grilled pork.

I also get a lot of herbs in the CSA, which has led to some great meat toppers.


The best one so far – caramelized onions and fennel, with orange juice, Old Bay seasoning, and corn starch. On top of grilled salmon. It was to die for.


The chemo also has me craving lots of comfort food (okay, maybe it’s just because I’m sick!). I love cooking up Annie’s shells as a treat with Rain Coast canned tuna (ridiculously expensive but ridiculously good) and some green veggies from the CSA box. I highly recommend adding smoked paprika to your mac and cheese for some added oomph!


Cutting back to one meat serving a day as been a bit of a challenge for me, but cutting back on dairy has been a cinch. I never ate much to begin with. I have been experimenting with new non-dairy alternatives, such as Daiya cheese, for fun. So far I’ve had a grilled cheese, fried egg sandwich, and toasted salmon sandwich with it.


My thoughts on the mozzarella flavour is that it is tasty, but doesn’t taste anything like cheese. It’s VERY rich and buttery tasting. It’s missing that bite that regular cheese has. I would buy it again though, because I do enjoy the flavour. Just don’t expect it to taste like cheese.

And would you believe chemo has me hating the taste of chocolate? I know, I know. I do still crave dessert, but usually just dried fruit or a homemade cookie.


Or a spoonful of marshmallow fluff.


Favourite way to eat fruit these days is in smoothie form. Super easy way to get a bunch of servings in one go. I’ve been making smoothies using plain goat yogurt and they are really, really good. Goat yogurt is not good on its own, but adds a really great tang to smoothies, try it!


Also drinking lots of iced green tea and Emergen-C. I can’t eat citrus fruits because they hurt my mouth (chemo breaks down the lining in your mouth) which means I’m missing out on my usual Vitamin C. A very important vitamin these days since I’m trying so hard to keep my immune system up!

Finally, there’s exercise. I can’t gush enough about how wonderful exercise has been for me during this experience.


It boosts my mood, alleviates my pain, nausea, and fatigue, keeps my body strong, and gives me something to do every day.

After a crummy July, Moncton has had a beautiful August. So I’ve been taking it outside lately to get in as much sunshine and fresh air while I still can.


Usually I put on a podcast and walk until it’s over. Preferably routes with hills or nice scenery. Can’t wait until i can jog again!

Then there’s dancing…


That would be my sister and Nana dancing to my other sister’s bands last night. I got to watch her sound check before the bar filled up with germs – I mean people. Pretty sure good music and family are healing too.

Have a great weekend!

Posted on August 26, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. You’re doing so well, Susan! CSAs are wonderful, eh? I grow a few things myself, but think I’ll join a CSA next year. One little tip: add some kale (or other deep coloured greens) to your smoothies — lots of extra good stuff. Wash it and tear from the stem & freeze, then just grab a small handful to add to smoothies.

  2. In a word: Awesome! :-) Enjoy your weekend!

  3. susan, it does take a while to change one’s diet….plus adding chemo and feeling yucky sometimes, i can only imagine that you might not want to have broccoli juice…i am now officially 40….my wake-up and smell the vegan lifestyle took me 20 years…at 20 yrs old i came back from living in europe for 2 years weighing 130….in my early 20’s i experienced the whole ‘don’t eat any fat’ thing and did lose so much weight (i’m 5’5′ and weighed 110lbs–not good)…i ate really well but i was so about the number on the scale not my health….enter late 20’s and have the career rolling and start gaining some weight back—probably back up to high 120’s….then get married and pregnant and gain to 165 and hard to lose the baby weight then have baby #2 and get back down to 130 throughout my early 30’s….then mid 30’s do the calorie restriction thing & scale obsession and get back to 120 and then start my own business and get to 130….until now, 2 years ago–i realized i need to just eat to be healthy…if i focus on putting nutrition into my mouth and not a stupid scale, then the weight will come off…..if i am truly committed to a plant based diet—in which there is zero deprivation for myself, then the weight will come off…and it has…i am down to my desirable 115…
    and you are thinking, why is this woman telling me about all of this?… agree with you that changing one’s diet is a process….it’s not overnight….it’s not a cancer diagnosis that you’d think would change it all and make you want to drink shots of wheat grass 5 times a day….
    i know all about the alkaline diet and vegan way of eating…i love raw foods…and i know how bad coffee is for my health—but i still don’t want to give it up for a cup of lemon water in the morning….with my degree in biology, my 10 year career in the pharmaceutical industry, my increasingly, and accelerating knowledge of the akaline way of eating and the importance of put as many living raw veggies and fruit into my body, reading books by Michael Pollan, The China Study, the PH Miracle and being involved in raw food communities and reading tons of vegan blogs and fully immersing my self in this nutrition first lifestyle—i still don’t want to give up coffee…’d think–lady, just give up the coffee!…so for me giving up coffee and dealing with my stress is the last things to deal with….
    and someone reading about your cancer experience thinks–well, if she’d stop eating the meat and drink broccoli juices and wheat grass all day, she can lick this disease….but until someone is in it and experiences all the periphery as well, it’s not that easy….i get it….
    i’m on your side my dear! keep fighting!

  4. Your doing so great! Your right, baby steps for sure!!

    Everything you`ve been making looks fantastic!

  5. Loved reading this post Susan! Glad you can get some fresh air when you can – enjoy your weekend! Hugs! Biz

  6. COmplimentary therapies are part of what make live livable I would think in your situation. I can’t imagine going what you are going through, and certainly can’t imagine it without good foods and light exercise. I really think you’ll pull through this faster than many others simply because of these things. <3

  7. I would have a really hard time changing my diet overnight. I think the only reason I stick to the gluten free thing so well is because the side effects are immediate, very uncomfortable, and potentially embarrassing! lol!

    I totally feel you on the coffee. I actually have a mild allergy to coffee, it makes me break out in hives, my mouth tingle, and my head feel real fuzzy. The allergist said it’s unlikely to turn anaphylactic so I still drink 2-3 cups a week. Change is hard!

    • Yes! I think it’s a lot easier to change your diet when the side effects are so immediate and obvious. It’s different when it’s “studies show this food prevents cancer by 40%” Doesn’t seem as urgent I guess. Or at least, I can’t immediately tell the positive effects of it.

  8. Get well soon! It’s really good to see you fighting cancer with high spirits. Will power counts a lot in the treatment and its really good that you have got that.

  9. I am glad that you are listening to your body and doing what you want to do instead of what other people ‘think’ you should do. Nobody can fully understand what it is like to walk in your shoes. Although their intentions may be good, it is your choice as to how you want to live your life.
    I admire your strength and how you approach the changes in your life.

  10. Your mac n cheese looks so deliciously simple!!

    Now I’m starving for lunch…

  11. It’s always such a treat to read your blog, Susan. I started off reading it straight from my e-mail this morning- no photos- and when I clicked on the link instead- POW!- all those fresh veggies just leaped off my screen. Yum!

    And I was excited for a whole 3 seconds about the organic coleslaw dressing until I saw your comment underneath. Oh, well…I guess the search continues.

    Sending thoughts and prayers and the best of everything your way…

  12. Always do what’s right for you. Your body tells you what works and what doesn’t. And sometimes your intuition or dreams help out too. Listen to your own heart first. It’s been right so far! And okay, take advice from your mom too — since without her insight you might never have discovered the cancer.

    If you have never done it before, you might ask your doctor if allergy testing can be done. Eliminating things you are allergic to (but not know about because the allergy is minor) could help your immune system focus on bigger tasks. The blood-type diet by D”amiano I think said you can do this with a blood test, so you don’t have to put your body through any more pain with the standard reaction test.

    Also, getting rid of dairy and meat is always a good idea when you’re ill because they tend to be full of hormones that screw things up. But if in small doses they help you, because of the good bacteria in yogurt for example or the high protien and vit B-12 or fatty oils in meat, and you can get truly organic versions, and you’re not allergic . . . go for it.

    • Allergy testing is a good idea! I did it about three years ago and all foods came up normal. But I know I’m “intolerant” to several foods, and allergies can develop with time. And your point about eating meat and dairy is exactly why I’m “cutting back” and not “eliminating.” I really think it’s all about eating a varied diet and not letting certain foods become a crutch!

  13. wow you are just such an inspiration, Susan and I mean that. I really hope to meet you one day I love that you are truly listening to your body and doing what you feel is right. what works for someone may not work for someone else and its so important to be in tune. I also love the idea of egg and salmon sandwich! I am trying that for sure! xoxox

  14. All your food looks amazing lady! Yum! I love those Emergen-C packs. I use them in place of Gatorade after a workout! The cranberry/pomegranate is my favorite one :)

  15. You will always be the queen of throwing everything into a bowl and calling it good. Seriously. You are great at that! I agree with you on the Daiya mozz. Not like cheese–you hit it there, buttery and not that sharp cheese kick.

    Something I really admire about you is that when you get bad news, (ahem, cancer, broken arm) you do whatever you can to make things better. A lot of people would sit and have a pity party for themselves. You just take it and learn everything you can and put it to use to help heal yourself. You are my favorite.

  16. Haha, and here I thought you were about to start talking about acupuncture and structural integration, both of which I’ve tried!

    I love that you keep it real. You seem to live your life the way I try to live mine. You stay as positive as you can, but you’re also a realist. And you see challenges as an opportunity. I dig it!

    Funny, even though I’ve tried a whole host of treatments for chronic pain, the one that has consistently helped me the most is diet (not eating foods that exacerbate the pain) and physical therapy. It hasn’t fixed my problem, but it has certainly improved my symptoms more than other “conventional” treatments. Although I must say meditation has done wonders for my psyche. Let’s face it, the physical affects the mental and vice versa. It’s all related.

    Have a happy weekend and keep dancing!

    • I think everyone can agree that diet is HUGE! Even the Reiki Master went through a healing diet for me. It just makes sense because our bodies run off of what we feed it. If we put junk in there, it’s going to run badly. I really need to start thinking about eating for pain management as well, as bone pain has so far been my worst side effect.

  17. i really do have to commend and deeply admire your courage – both w/ the fight itself and your willingness to share your journey. thank you for your strength.

    i do think that “healthy eating” and exercise are forms of complimentary medicine – especially since so today when so many people do not. and what works for one person does not work for another – that is so true. that being said i do want to offer you something -as an acupuncturist who treats both people and animals i have to disagree w/ your statement that in order to for complimentary medicine to work the reciever has to be totally commited to that therapy. i simply haven’t found that to be true. often people/owners begin treatment w/o thinking it is going to help and having been “pushed” into by a spouse or simply not knowing what else to do and have been pleased w/ the results including in ways they did not anticipate. that is not a push to try or a criticism of your beliefs in anyway but just to put it out there for consideration.

    stay strong girl and continue the fight. be strong and healthy.

  18. I loved this post, Susan…it’s funny how many personal opinions come flying your way when something like cancer hits in your life. We were told to stock up on hot dogs because “Mikey’s going to CRAAAAVE them!” …nope, no hot dog cravings. ;) I guess you take it all with a grain of salt – people are trying to help in their own way and sometimes that’s the best way they can interact around such an unknown time for someone they love.

    Your thoughts on knowing what you can do – food and exercise – to help your body are so right on…everyone has their own therapies (we felt like you about reiki and healing touch etc) but those are two things you can stand solid on and trust in their power to help you heal. I’m so glad August has been good there…we were last in Moncton on our tour across Canada with the film and it rained a lot – but it was raining ALL across Canada then, so we hope to go back and visit (you? :) )…looks beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing so much and being so open Susan…crazy to think so much has changed and it’s only week 6! Thinking of you often and know that you are supported by this blogging and cancer community. :) Take care!

  19. Hey Susan,
    I am reading your blog for some weeks now and I am really impressed about your strength and your positive attitude. Your blog helps me a lot in moving forward and looking ahead and trying to enjoy each and every moment more consciously which is very difficult in such fast times we live in.
    I stumbled over “Glycemic Index” which you mentioned in your blog. I am trying to change my eating style and I started writing about it in my blog this month. Well, it is my first attempt of blogging I have to admit. :) I am still a total greenhorn but if you like you might get some ideas and impressions from it.
    I am very impressed about how honest you write. I am still having a little difficulties putting all my thoughts out in the open for everyone to read. It makes one vunerable if you know what I mean.
    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog, I wish you a wonderful Sunday and read you soon. :)

  20. I agree and really think that listening to your body is key. I know for me, during fighting this crazy lymphoma, that my body usually “tells” me what it needs and I start craving certain foods and my sweet tooth has really diminished. I love seeing those yummy salads!! They look so good. I just made coleslaw yesterday and it was so good. I think adding white vinegar makes it so good. I also love Emergen-C and have been taking that to get extra vitamins! My dr. doesn’t really like to use the neulasta or neupogen shots, so I am so always scared about my immune system. I loved your comment about enjoying the sound check before the germs arrived! It is so true. I worry about being around people now and have to think about things so differently now. How many treatments do you have left? I hopefully only have 3, but then have to do some radiation as well. Thanks for posting all the great food and tips. I love them!

    • Interesting you’re not taking any neupogen/neulasta! My blood counts have been consistently too low, even with the shots. I wonder if I’m getting a different dosage than you? I have three more treatments until my next PET scan, and then my oncologist is going to decide from there. He’s not keen on doing the standard 6 months if the cancer is responsive and gone before then, so hoping I get away with doing less!

  21. My neut counts have been really low too, although they were a 1.2 last time and we were all excited about that..haha. I had a PET scan after my 1st 4 treatments (1/2 way through) and things had really improved, and the cancer is on its way out, but not all the way gone yet. My oncologist thinks that after 4 more it will be completely gone He is of the same thought process as your onc, since I am responding well, if the cancer is gone after the last 4 treatments then I should be done with chemo….can’t wait for that day to come!

  22. Your photos made me lick my screen. The food ones. Not your Nana. Although she’s lovely.

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