All In The Same Boat

I am looking at my aging, dry hands sitting at the computer keyboard, wondering where to start. It was five weeks ago that I posted last. Since then much has happened. In our personal life the big events have been – I made the official decision to NOT do chemotherapy and my father-in-law passed away after a long illness. In this five weeks was also my wife’s birthday and our second wedding anniversary. In the bigger picture as you all know Covid-19 has changed everything.

Even before Covid-19 came along, our lives felt like an emotional roller coaster. The one thing that Covid-19 has done is bring everything into perspective. To be very frank yesterday was a difficult day for me. I felt very heavy and grey. I felt like I was walking around with a wet and weighted dark grey wool blanket draped over me. I tried to sit down to work but felt like a dog walking in circles unable to settle in. When Jenn came home from work I voiced my feelings and cried a bit. I expressed sadness, fear, overwhelm, disease fatigue, and just general uncertainty. We then took the dogs for a walk in the rain, ate a yummy dinner of leftovers, meditated, did my 10 energy movements (from Dr. Lu) and sat in bed looking at light topic things on the internet.

One thing I did notice about yesterday is that I started the day by trying to update myself on what was going on in the world. Updates are coming every hour and it is easy to fall behind. What I realized by the end of the day was keeping updated on everything may not be the best idea for me right now. It is a privilege that we have news and updates at our fingertips in so many platforms but it is necessary or helpful for the everyday person. Basic messages have not changed – wash your hands and stay home unless you have to and then distance yourself from others and take precautions. By my evening meditation I did realize that the stress I was projecting onto my work and the shifts I am having to make due to Covid-19 was actually stress about the unknown in general and about not being in control. It was helpful to name the real source of my stress instead of projecting it on to work, or the kids, or whatever.

Today I am listening to Eckhart Tolle about dealing with stress and the mind. I also read an article by Shaka Sengor, a man whom I had the privilege of hearing speak a few years ago. He is a very impressive human. His article is 8ight Things I Learned In Solitary Confinement, That Will Help You Keep Calm During The Coronavirud Pandemic. Reading his article led me to write here. Getting to the things that fill my cup, one being writing.

As I am trying to minimize the power of the outside world and its effects on my being I am going to move back to talking about our journey in our little universe.

After my PET scan I was feeling positive and a relief I had not had since before I was originally diagnosed.  That was short lived since my next visit to my oncologist was full of uncertainty, statistics, and generally scary information (at least to my mind it was scary). I was lucky that Jenn accompanied me to that appointment because in the overwhelm of what the doctor was saying I chose to disassociate and check out of the room mentally. I knew the doctor and Jenn were still engaging in conversation, Jenn asking questions and the doctor giving her best answers in the uncertainty. I on the other hand heard absolutely nothing and forced myself to stare at the doctors hairline to give the illusion that I was paying attention to what was being said. It was like my oncologist took my happy balloon and popped it right in my face. It was after this visit that I started to realize I was forming a solid stress response to being in those office visits. That does not bode well for the next five years. I am very aware I need to get a handle on that before my next visit in April.

The next layer of information collecting on the path to deciding chemo or no chemo was meeting with my surgeon who is a gynocological oncologist and who also has worked wtih Dr. Lu (the eastern medicine doctor). I was much more at ease meeting with her. I think because she was open to ideas outside of the tradional western medicine approach.  Also because she was the one with her eyeballs looking at my insides and had her hands on the tumor in question. I do put a lot of weight on hands on experiences and this situation was no different. She was very open and honest that if she were in my shoes she also woud not know what to do. I appreciated my visit with her although not much new information came from it.

The last step in information collecting was to see what Dr. Lu thought about me being a candidate for not doing chemo and taking his apporach. It was joyous news that brought tears to my eyes when he said I have been responding very well to treatment and doing everything I need to at home hence I would be a good candidate to not do chemo – BUT understanding that this is a lifestyle change for the rest of my life. I had not only responded but responded very well that I only have to get treatment once a week not three times a week. That was a huge relief. I will be getting teas about once a month and I am on a daily cancer immune boosting herbal powder. It was at this visit that I felt good and we could solidly decide that I was not going to do chemo.

This joyous day for me and my health came only three days after my father-in-law passed away. My wife had spent much of the week before and the entire weekend with him as he made his journey. Everything was a swirl of emotions all at once for both of us.  It was not an easy or simple time for many reasons. All the while doing our jobs, raising teenagers and all the other life stuff that just is. (NOTE: the soundtrack of my mind is now playing Kelly Clarkston’s “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”)

So, a question many folks have posed to me is what does it look like to take this eastern approach and not do chemo. A simplified version of that question is “What are you allowed ot eat?” Much of my care is in the food I eat but there are a few other things I do for my health.

  1. Keep my stress down.
  2. Walk 40 minutes a day
  3. Drink only Green Tea or Ginger Tea
  4. Do my 10 energy movements
  5. Meditate for 20 minutes
  6. Eat organic whole food cooked at home.
  7. Most food lightly cooked at least
  8. NO – avocado (that was a tough one), pineapple, dried fruit, citrus, deep fried food, sugar or sweetners other then raw honey in small amounts, spicy food, red meat, soy based food, cow’s milk, soft drinks, processed foods, excessive salt, and coffee.
  9. YES – Sprouts (lightly cooked), legumes in small amounts, seaweed, micro algea, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic, radish, asparagus, bell peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, turnip, shan yao root, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes, sweet potatoes (use moderately), apples, mulberries, papaya, cranberry, pomegranate, cherry, grape, dried fig, oats, rye, millet, roasted buckwheat, brown rice, barley, amaranth, quinoa, goat milk products, fish, organ meats, walnuts, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, black sesame seeds and woodear mushrooms.
  10. Largest meal early in the day smallest meal at the end of the day
  11. Have nothing but water after 7pm
  12. No alchohol
  13. Acupuncture

Luckily for me I already kind of ate like this so it was not a huge shock. I have almost completely cut out eating at restraunts. I have no problem being the person drinking a hot water and hanging out with folks out and about. Also that I like to cook is a huge bonus.

If I am to be totally honest I do not think I could have made the full change to this diet without the mortality/chemo fear that always sits in the back of my mind. I am by no means perfect and still assimilating it into my daily life but I can report I have been feeling great since the change and lost about 15-20 lbs.

For awhile after the crazy weight loss I was still wearing my old clothes that were a bit loose thinking that I would go back to my former weight, but I didn’t. Once we thought I was going to hold at this frame Jenn took me shopping and that was a blast. I had a bit of  body dysmorphia because I could not believe that the sales lady was handing me a size 30 pant. I have not been that size since about 4th grade. Jenn would bring me tops and jeans and told me what to wear with what and even had sample shoes for me to try on to get a feel of the style. For anyone who knows me in person I have always had my own “style” which I don’t think counts as style to anyone but me, so this was new and super fun. It was like I was being a grown up or at least being on a TV make-over show but I was just hanging out with my wife.

There have been a few books that have made it to our bedside. They are:
 The Metabolic Approach to Cancer   – This book breaks down the sciece of cancer in a really great way. Very readable.
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen – I tweak recipies in this to fit my diet.
Wood Becomes Water – To have a greater understanding of chinese medicine
Healing with Whole Foods – This feels like a bible for my life right now. It is a fusion of Asian traditions and Modern nutrition. Full of recipies that I have not tried yet.

I am trying to carve out time to read further into all of these books. I am inspired and excited to learn about this new way of approaching my health and well being.

Here are some photos of what I have been eating:

Sautéed veggies and millet, Japanese sweet potatoes with vegan cheese sauce, sautéed kale and sprouts in white wine vinegar and braggs, topped with gomasio (toasted sesame seeds and salt)
Rice, sautéed veggies and Woodward mushrooms. With a banana peanut butter oat muffin
Sautéed mixed greens, mixed veggies and brown/wild rice mix
Broccoli I, Woodward mushrooms and carrots, sweet potato toast with warmed sprouts and eggs
Miller, veggies and gomasio
Woodear mushrooms and carrots in coconut oil
Sautéed veg

Above mix with a poached egg and sunflower seeds

Homemade pho

I am hoping to share some recipies from the books and some of my own as I stumble along this new path. One snack that I would like to share today is super simple. The coconut oil with the sweetness of the carrots is like a savory dessert to me.

Sauteed Carrot Ribbons

One carrot (shaved into ribbons with peeler)
1 Tbs. coconut oil
Salt or Bragg’s Aminos to taste

Heat oil up in a pan. Toss in the ribbons. Add salt to taste or add a small amount of Braggs Amino’s. Heat to soften the carrots just a bit. Serve.

All this being said we are all in a boat that we are being asked to make lemonade out of lemons for a bit. I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to a few friends who are also finding a way yo stay sane as we get through this together.

Amanda Topping: One of my favorite people, Amanda Topping has launched a Patreon for her yoga and mindfulness practice. I have known Amanda for 20 years and she is family to me. She also made me not hate yoga. When she retired from midwifery and became a yoga teacher, she invited me to one of her practice classes so she could get experience while in yoga teacher training. I showed up and grumbled and complained through the entire this because I didn’t like yoga. Because I love her and she was a natural teacher, I kept going back to the classes she would hold.She is attentive, mindful, funny, so very knowledgeable and has an amazingly strong spiritual foundation to hold and create space for others. An investment in Amanda Topping Yoga is beyond worth it. If you can commit to $5,$10 or more a month to Amanda’s Patreon, you won’t regret it. She has been a rock for me and a guiding light for 20 years. Invite her into your home with her online offerings and she can help you grow too.

Mary Potts: An absolutly amazing and talented chef is found with some time on her hands with her restraunt closed. She is taking her skills and sharing them with all of us. Check out her Fackbook page here.  And they have a really beautiful kitchen you get to experience also.

Jen Eastridge at Unicorn Feed and Supply: Need a fun pick-me-up, or scrambling to find something fun to keep you and/or the kiddos busy during this time? Why not schedule a Unicorn Shop Call? People have been loving it! Start by texting YOUR NAME and “Unicorn Shop Cal” to 734-961-8610! Jen will text you back and get it set up for you! She will be your personal Unicorn Shopper! Then you can get your purchase in one of three ways:
1. Unicorn Drive Thru free pickup (pull up behind our shop and text us, and we bring it out to you)
2. 10 miles radius for $10 delivery – if you live within 10 miles of the shop (114 W. Michigan Ave , Ypsilanti MI 48197), we will deliver it to you for $10, or
3. USPS flat rate shipping.

Check these folks out and all they have to offer. Also if you have someone who is pivoting to accomidate this new world we find ourselves in please make a comment so we can share the creativity!

I will be posting more often because I love writing here. I hope you are all safe and finding creative ways to spend your time.


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