Hair…Part Two (get it?!?) Or How My Gray Hair Went Away

I'm gray

TOO YOUNG TO BE THIS DAMN OLD

So it began. The tender sprouts of gray began to emerge in September of 2013, barely a shimmer of sparkling light as the sun passed over my bare scalp. I was on a trip with my son, just the two of us, when I shouted out in the hotel room one morning. “Come look. I think my hair is growing back!!” Sure enough, he confirmed that he too could see the tiniest spikes of hair emerging from the barren desert under my bandanna.

Now at first I was thrilled. I swore that those new locks were coming in a lovely silvery blonde. And I managed to keep deluding myself in this way for a few more weeks. But the reality dawned on me fast and furious. I was not going to be a Marilyn Monroe bombshell blonde, but a Meryl Streep “The Devil Wears Prada” grey. Yes, all those lovely blonde strands were silver!

I’M GONNA WASH THAT GREY RIGHT OUTTA MY HAIR..

At first, I toyed with the idea of keeping my new hair. I got a lot of compliments. But, as you know if you’ve ever endured cancer, you just want things to go back to how they were before you were a patient. Back to ignorant bliss, and some sense of normalcy. So…I mentioned to my mom that I had decided to color my hair. She found me a great stylist on a visit to Florida, and I was tickled pink with the result. There I was! Blonde and looking like my former self at last.

Now, I’m not known for being the most practical person in the world. It dawned on me after the glow wore off that it is next to impossible to find someone who does good color, especially over all grey. So, what did I do? You got it. I trekked back and forth to Florida from Asheville about every three months to maintain my new look. I joked with Mr. Gary that he was the most expensive stylist in the country!

Fast forward to September of 2014, which was the last time I was able to get to Sarasota to the salon. I’ve been meaning to do it, but my practice has picked up and there just hasn’t been time. I kept checking my hairline, just knowing that I would inevitably start to see the solid wall of grey appear.

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Meanwhile, I started using Young Living essential oils at the beginning of this year, both personally and in my practice, with phenomenal results. One of my absolute favorite products is the Ningxia Red super-antioxidant, essential oil infused drink that Young Living makes. Two samples came in my Premium Starter Kit, so I drank them and didn’t really give it much thought.

C’MON I KNOW THE GREY IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE!

If you’ve been following my essential oil series here on the blog, you know that my hair began to come in fuller and grow faster, especially around that front part area where so many “mature” women become follicularly challenged. In the past few weeks, it has occurred to me that it has been 7 months since I last colored my hair, and that wall of grey…well, it has yet to show up.

Growing in light auburn

Now I can still see some silvery strands woven throughout, but the most lovely shade of light auburn has started to appear at the roots. And that shade, my friends, has not been seen on this head since high school! What?

The longer I use these oils, the more I am blown away. The effects with me are more subtle than for some because I am in pretty good health to begin with. Oh yeah, except the whole cancer thing. But when I do get a sign, it shows up in a powerful way.

food equiv ningxia

What’s the mystery behind erasing the grey? I don’t believe it’s anything mystical or other worldly. It’s a matter of nutrition. Ningxia Red is made from wolfberry puree with berries sourced from the Ningxia province in China, which boasts the largest per capita population of 100 year-olds anywhere on the planet. It has the highest antioxidant score of any food or supplement you can buy.

compare antioxidants ningxia

Ningxia Red also boasts a combination of Grape Seed Extract, blueberry, plum, cherry, aronia and pomegranate juices, along with orange, yuzu, tangerine, and lemon essential oils. These ingredients work synergistically to support:

  • normal digestive health
  • healthy immune function
  • normal brain function
  • healthy cardiovascular function
  • healthy joint support
  • sleep enhancement
  • improved insulin function

ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CANCER PREVENTION (SORRY, CHIPS WOULD BE INAPPROPRIATE HERE)!

In addition, this powerful combination of ingredients works together to quench free radicals and prevent the cell damage that leads to mutations. And, it boasts a full and natural complement of key enzymes, vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed.

ningxia study

The best part? Well, other than the giant dose of nutrition and the great hair. This is better than juicing! You heard me. I have a brand new juicer that has sat untouched since I started drinking this stuff. Why? Because I don’t like juice unless it has some fruit, and even though it’s healthy, it delivers a whopping dose of sugar straight to the bloodstream. This is exactly what I’m trying to avoid as a cancer survivor, feeding the cancer cells their favorite food, sugar. Ningxia Red is sweetened with stevia and has only 2 grams of sugar per serving!

If you’re ready to feel stronger, sleep better, and give yourself a brand new lease on life without eating 12 heads of broccoli (don’t yell, vegans, I love broccoli), click here to get started on your own journey. Warning, feeling good is addictive!

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An Afternoon With the Great White Hope

80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

Last week, in my sepsis-induced stupor, I dragged myself to an afternoon appointment with a new doctor, an integrative MD. Although my temperature was 102, I wasn’t about to call it off; I’d already put down a $150 deposit on my credit card. As I told you last time, the visit was exorbitantly expensive and not covered by insurance. So was it worth it in the end?

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The short answer- yes and no. Hey, I never said I was good at making a decision. In all fairness, I felt like a pile of dog crap in the middle of the interstate that had been sitting in the sun all day and had been run over hundreds of times, so I probably didn’t get as much out of our talk as I otherwise might have. I think my opening line to the doctor was “I just want you to know that I’m not going to be my usual animated self today. Do you have any ibuprofen? Or…is that a no-no here?” Thank God he wasn’t above ibuprofen. It saved me from lying on the floor during our consultation.

My appointment lasted over 2 hours. Brownie points for him. He asked me what my main concern was in coming to see him. Well, um, let’s see, there’s THE CANCER! Yes, but what did I hope to accomplish? Perhaps strengthening my destroyed immune system, finding a way to deal with the sudden and unwelcome death of my ovaries, and, I don’t know, preventing a recurrence of THE CANCER! Yes, I’m a smartass. It’s kind of my thing.

pill purse

My New Purse

First, we went through all the usual review of systems. How’s your diet? Do you drink? What other medical issues do you have? What medications are you taking? What’s your family history? Then he wanted to see my supplements, which I had brought in a grocery bag. I felt like kind of a weirdo or a super-healthy bag lady dragging that in from the car. He laughed, “Oh, that’s nothing. People come in with suitcases full of pills”. Ok, so as supplement junkies go, I don’t qualify for rehab just yet.

He carefully examined each bottle, after which he told me that he approved of the combination I was taking but would add a couple more, namely DIM and quercetin. He also suggested that I change my co-Q10 to a 100mg gel instead of a capsule. I thought he would frown on the Nature’s Valley brand that I use for a few of the more common nutrients, but he didn’t judge. In my opinioin, Vitamin D3 is not going to change much over brands, but something like coQ10 or echinacea can vary widely in quality, so I go for high quality on those.

Next, I asked his opinion about my upcoming radiation. He didn’t outright tell me that he wasn’t a fan. I’d say he hedged his bets. “It works well for some people, but not for others.” Thanks. What a relief! Not. He did say something interesting, though. Keep in mind that this is an MD educated at Cornell, so he has to be careful in his assessment of his colleagues. “I will tell you that the radiation guys tend to sugar coat the side effects more than any other doctor involved in cancer care. Even more than the chemo docs. I would be very aggressive in getting your questions answered so you feel comfortable”. Now we’re getting somewhere.

radiation cartoon

Next, we turned to the evil menopause monster. I say that, but truly the symptoms come and go. The hot flashes at this point are annoying but not unbearable. The worst ones are those that happen in my sleep. I sometimes wake up soaking wet, freezing, and I have to change my shirt. Thank goodness that isn’t every night. My mood is also undpredictable. Some days I feel fine, although a sappy commercial will make me cry. And some days I just want to run away and start a new life somewhere.

Dr. Cornell pleasantly surprised me on this front. He said that he would be very comfortable prescribing estriol, the weakest and most beneficial estrogen. He is familiar with the work of Jonathan Wright, MD, and even produced a copy of his book, “Stay Young and Sexy With Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement”. I was impressed. He told me that he wanted to do a little more research on using it instead of/with Tamoxifen and we would discuss it further at my follow-up visit, which is in mid-October. I may never use it, but it’s so nice to have options and not to be looked at like I have 3 heads.

estrogen-cartoon

Finally, I asked about diet in relation to breast cancer, fully expecting to hear, “You have to go low-fat vegan immediately. No dairy, no meat, no sugar, kale out the wazoo, etc.” I braced myself. Again, I was pleasantly surprised. “I believe that you definitely should be eating as much organic produce as you can, and, of course, grass-fed natural meats.” What? Hold the phone. Meat? Could it be?

“You mean I don’t have to become a vegetarian?” I asked, afraid I had misunderstood. “No. I believe diet is only one piece of this puzzle. Look how many variations of diet there are in different cultures and in different parts of the world. Many of these people live long, healthy lives with very low incidence of disease. If it were that easy, we could all eat one diet to avoid cancer. That isn’t the case.” Finally! Someone has ideas that are in line with my own on the subject. Do I believe I need to seriously increase the amount of vegetables in my diet? You bet! Do I also believe that I can never have a piece of meat or cheese again? No way.

So did I learn a ton of new information from my visit? Not really. I’m still waiting for the practitioner who will blow me away with a wealth of knowledge. Maybe I sell my own knowledge short. I guess I really do know a lot about health. I did, however, find someone whose views resonate well with my own and who doesn’t think I’m completely off my rocker for not wanting to just go along and shut up.

Like that was ever going to happen!

Taxol #5 And Dinner’s On Me

80’S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

 

***RECIPE IS AT END OF POST***

Today was chemo day; the 5th overall and the 3rd of my weekly treatments. Always being the rebellious child, I started out with 2 dose dense treatments and decided really fast that those were for the birds. So, I switched to a weekly regime with a lower dose and caused my new doctor to have to do math and stuff. He sentenced me to six more weeks with no chance of parole. Fast forward to today, and I have 3 weeks left!

Last week was sooo nice, as chemotherapy goes. My white blood cell count was low, so my dose was reduced even further. That was the best I have felt after any treatment, ever. My mom came to stay for a few days because my husband had knee surgery on top of everything else. You know, chemo just doesn’t present enough of a challenge sometimes. I went for the lightning bonus round! We were able to shop all weekend, and I actually felt pretty decent in spite of having a Neupogen shot on Friday and another on Monday. Let me tell you, Claritin is the ticket if you have to get cell booster shots. No bone pain whatsoever.

burka

Unfortunately, I gallivanted around so much that I caught a nasty cold Monday. So here I am, this pitiful creature with a bandana and a snuffy nose. Quite a lovely sight! I should probably wear one on my head and one over my nose and mouth so I don’t get germs. Too bad I’m not Muslim; a burka would be perfect for someone in my situation.

I find that I’m able to do a lot more of my usual activities with weekly Taxol. I just get a little tired two days after infusion, and my hemoglobin is going down again, uggh! Today it was 10.6, which isn’t terrible, but normal for me is 14, so I’m really feeling the effects when I try to run. There’s just not enough oxygen to do any sustained exercise. But I’m still getting out there at least twice a week to keep some level of fitness. I’m not expecting to be in top shape. (Ok, I do get a little frustrated, but I’m trying…) 🙂

Today I’m going to share a recipe that requires a little more prep than the others you’ve seen, but it’s very healthy and tastes delicious! So the extra effort is worth it. A food processor would be a Godsend for recipes like this. I don’t have one, so it takes a long time to dice all the veggies. I’ll be getting one soon.

STUFFED PORTABELLA MUSHROOMS

Ingredients:

1 diced yellow squash

1 diced zucchini squash

1/2 diced sweet onion

1 cup diced mushrooms (can dice portabella stems)

6 large portabella mushrooms

organic canned diced tomatoes

4 servings basmati or wild brown pecan rice

1/2 pound browned meat (I used mild Italian sausage)- optional

shredded mozzarella cheese to taste

Directions:

Cook rice according to package directions. Dice all vegetables. Wash mushrooms thoroughly and pat dry. Scrape ribs out of mushroom caps gently with a spoon to make room for filling. Brown Meat; drain and set aside. Hover over pics below to see captions:

Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes. Serves 4-6, depending on appetite.

Well, I’m off to dice veggies…enjoy.

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

80S CANCER JAM OF THE DAY:

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” 
― Julia Child

no cow

DIET CONFUSION

With all of the conflicting opinions out there about what one should or should not eat after a breast cancer diagnosis, it’s easy to just throw in the towel and curl up in a little ball of self-doubt and disgust. Okay, maybe that’s a bit over the top:) You have the vegan camp, which is where all the popular kids seem to be going this summer. You know, if it has a face or a mother, avoid it. No dairy, no meat, no eggs, no fun…sorry vegans, that was rude.

no sugar

Then you have those who believe that a vegan diet is a disaster because it encourages the consumption of fruits and whole grains and makes it difficult to obtain certain vitamins that are readily available in animal foods. The crux of their argument is that cancer cells are “glucose guzzlers” and carbohydrates readily break down into sugar, thus feeding the cancer. They propose that protein, fat, and low-carb vegetables should be the main focus of the diet in order to blunt the insulin response that funnels the sugar into cancer cells.

I believe that each side has some valid arguments. There is a lot to be said for trying to incorporate as many organic vegetables as possible into anyone’s diet, not just those with a disease. I also see the merits of eliminating any food sources of hormones, i.e. traditional meat and dairy products. What I haven’t seen is research exploring health outcomes of those who consume grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free dairy, meat, and eggs. These products actually have a very favorable ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 fatty acids, which is one of the goals of an anti-cancer diet.

THE BEST DIET IS THE ONE THAT WORKS FOR YOU

The bottom line is that we are all unique, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to diet.  If you listen carefully, your body will tell you which foods bring you closer to health and which ones detract from your well-being. Symptoms such as bloating, tiredness, and irritability are the body’s way of letting us know that the ratio of protein, carbs, and fat in our last meal was wrong, or that we have hidden food allergies. Pay attention for a few days and see what your body tells you after each meal. For a good basic nutritional type test, click here (test link is at bottom of page). I’ve taken this test 3 times, and each time I come up as a “protein” type, meaning that my body will probably never be happy in a vegetarian lifestyle.

MY EASY (MOSTLY) DISHES TO SUIT VEGAN OR CARNIVORE

All this talk about food has made me hungry, so I’d like to share a few recipes with you that I’ve been trying out lately. They are easily adapted for our meatless, faceless friends and have turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. I have to admit that my diet is a work in progress, so come along on my journey. Any recipes or suggestions are welcome, just no tofu, please:)

MONDAY MEAL OF THE DAY:

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THREE CHEESE TORTELLINI WITH VEGETABLES AND PESTO CREAM

This meal can be as easy or as complicated as time allows. I get refrigerated tortellini and boil it along with some frozen broccoli stir fry vegetables. I then mix in 8 oz of plain greek yogurt and some basil pesto (jarred or homemade). When I want to have meat, I fry some ground bison or grass-fed ground beef and add it to the mixture. Garnish with grated parmesan. Add a salad with some chopped walnuts and feta cheese. My favorite dressing is olive oil and lime juice (when the tummy allows). Voila! You have a healthy weeknight meal in a snap. P.S.- Vegans can substitute soy cheese:)

Let me know what you think. I’ll have more recipes through the week.