What do you eat after cancer?

What should I eat? That’s a question I asked myself a lot after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. It seemed like everything I loved was off the menu. No sweets, caffeine, dairy, meats, etc. The list went on and on. Since then, I’ve met a lot of people with valuable information about nutrition. I’ve even read countless articles and gone to conferences to hear speakers talk. The truth is however, I’m still Elizabeth, and not one diet or lifestyle was right for me.

Many were to extreme and others expensive to keep up with. I started to feel like it was all pointless. If I couldn’t stick to it, why do it at all? Then I thought, “something is better than nothing”. I’m no expert, but that something would eventually become habitual making other changes easier to add to my daily routine. So, with that being said, I decided to take baby steps towards eating healthier and cleaner. For instance, it’s ideal to eat fresh as often as possible. A lot of foods are processed, even if they are healthy choices.

Hummus, which I love so much, is a great example of one of the changes I made. I loved to eat dips but found myself eating many that were heavily processed. I went back to eating hummus. It wasn’t the cheesy goodness I loved, but it was certainly a healthier choice. I started by buying it pre-made at the store, but now I whip up a delicious batch at home with fresh ingredients. It eliminated any ingredients the company uses to keep it on the shelf longer without going bad. I just boil the chickpeas, put them in a blender with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, fresh garlic, a pinch of salt and Wala! You’ve got yourself a delicious dip of classic hummus. 

Information was gathered directly from the Sabra website. Sabra was my favorite brand for hummus until I started making it on my own, to avoid all unnecessary chemicals. :)
Information was gathered directly from the Sabra website.
Sabra was my favorite brand for hummus until I started making it on my own, to avoid all unnecessary chemicals. 🙂

Fruit was another big one. Don’t get me wrong, I ate my fruits, just not nearly as much as I should have. I was what you would call, “lazy”, about cutting and peeling. Plus, I could only eat so many before I would just say, “ok that’s enough”. That’s when I decided that juicing and making fruit smoothies would be the best way to fit in my fruits and even some extra veggies. I could still eat them as a snack through the day, but I would increase my intake by also incorporating them into my daily fluid intake. “Jackpot!” Store bought juices have almost become a thing of the past.

Currently my favorite fruit is Guanabana. It’s something I eat or drink everyday. Though I haven’t found any concrete data, I’ve heard a number of stories that talk about it being a fruit that kills off cancer cells. My hair dresser even shared a story of a friend of hers that was expected to have chemo treatments, but instead, decided to go one month adding Guanabana to his diet. When he went back to the doctors, they asked him what he had done, and shared that he no longer needed to have chemo. I was both shocked, and happy to hear he didn’t need the chemo. Needless to say it made me happier to be eating such an amazing fruit.

Photo taken by  http://operaflute.blogspot.com/2014/05/everglades-pedal-no-2.html Guanabana (aka Soursop) has become one of my top favorite fruits. I eat it everyday, usually in a shake. :)
Photo taken by
http://operaflute.blogspot.com/2014/05/everglades-pedal-no-2.html
Guanabana (aka Soursop) has become one of my top favorite fruits. I eat it everyday, usually in a shake. 🙂

I don’t disagree with modern medicine, as in many cases it has not only helped me, but it has saved many lives. I am intrigued however, with the idea of eating cleaner and the positive effects it has on my body. I thought I was eating so well before, as an athlete trying to keep an eye on my body and it’s nutritional needs. Now I know however, that I still have more to learn, and I can’t say I’m not enjoying the taste testing as I explore new foods.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Happily moving forward…

Last Thursday I finally established with a new gynecologist here in Miami. It took a while to get in, but so far I’m pleased with her approach. She looked over my medical records and immediately followed up on my pelvis. She ordered another pelvic ultrasound and a CA125.

The CA125 was going to be used to determine my baseline, and monitored for any abnormalities. Last night I received those results through my patient portal, and was pleased to see that my score came back at a 10, placing me within normal range. This was great news and a huge relief.

Today, I went to have my follow up ultrasound done. I feel confident that the results of the test will come back normal too. I should know for sure within a few days.

I did also receive a call from Moffitt yesterday afternoon, however, the results of the genetic testing were still not available. I was told it would take anywhere from 2-3 weeks, so they feel I should have some answers by the end of the week.

All in all, I’m happy that everything is coming together so well. It allows me to stay focused on moving on with my life. Though, I’m reminded everyday of this experience when I look at myself in the mirror, I’ve started to adjust and accept the changes that have occurred as a result of it.

Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.
Thanks to an insane amount of vitamin E, I feel my scar as healed so well since November 2013.

My scar isn’t something to be embarrassed about, it’s a beautiful reminder of one of the most important experiences of my life. An experience that changed my life for the better and brought me closer to the person I want to be…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

A short update on my where abouts…

So as my story catches up to present day, I’ve found myself reaching a “writers block”. Sure there are things going on, but nothing major worth writing about. At least that’s what I thought. Then I remembered, this is a story about my journey, that includes the bad, the good and even the boring. With that being said, I thought I should at least update you on what’s been going on.

I’m still in the process of interviewing for the right job. Not that offers haven’t come to the table. I’m just still waiting for the one that will meet my needs as well as my new employers. It’s been a tough process going into a new field, especially because of the fact that most people can’t see beyond what’s written on a résumé, but there have been some great people that have taken the time to sit with me and truly see what I have to offer. I feel like I’m getting close though. I just need to continue to keep myself open to different opportunities and have faith that the right person will see my potential. If there’s anything my journey with breast cancer had taught me, it has been to be open to new experiences and not be afraid to try something new.

My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling...
My recent trip to Moffitt Cancer Centers for more genetic testing & counseling…

On another note, about 2 weeks ago I drove to Tampa again for some more genetic testing. I should have received word by now of my results but the phone has been silent on that end. I’m not scared of anything coming up positive. I suppose it’s because I’ve been told that if it did turn up positive, it only means I will need to make adjustments in my preventative care plan. To be frank, knowing what could potentially happen before it does is a huge advantage. It gives you the opportunity to do whatever you can to prevent it from occurring.

                                                                            

Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail...
Icare Registry Questionnaire, completed and out for mail…

On that same day, I volunteered myself for the icare registry. It’s for cancer patients who would like to be notified of any new studies they can partake in. Of course, it has other benefits too, but that was the one that was most important to me. If there is something I can do to prevent someone from going through what I did, sign me up! I realize it’s a small step, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

 

 

The birth of “Gift with a pink ribbon”…

Lately, despite all of the craziness that has been surrounding me, I have found myself reminiscing about my past. The ups, the downs and the, “hey, where did that come from?” I’ve often times even considered what I could have done differently.

After sharing those thoughts with my partner, I was asked a very important question. What have you learned from the experience? It’s funny, I’ve always known that every thing we go through in life is an opportunity to learn. However, how often do we really ask ourselves, “what did I learn during this process?” To often, we let time pass and figure it out when a similar situation arises. Why not ask the question now and allow ourselves to further enjoy the moments we’ve overcome and take more pleasure in knowing we’ve learned a great lesson.

It makes sense, and here’s a perfect example of how this plays out in my own life. I’ve beaten myself up so many times for not being the athlete I once was. Could I have trained harder before so I wouldn’t have been so behind now? Should I have focused less on my mental and emotional recovery and thought more about getting “back into the game”?

The answer is no. I realize that I may still not be as strong physically as before, but I am stronger emotionally and mentally. That strength is the tool I needed to build more confidence, allowing me to speak out and make a bigger difference in the world around me. I was given a second chance to do with it all I’ve imagined, not to let it go to waste. With that desire to make a difference, and an opportunity to fulfill it came the birth of “Gift with a pink ribbon”.

So in short, just when you think you are at your lowest point or that things are going wrong because you’ve made a bad decision, remember that this may be the necessary steps needed for you to gain the tools to fulfill your life purpose.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

June recap, “Who’s inspired us most”, Feature Mondays…

Inspirational Monday :D
Inspirational Monday 😀

Story submitted by grand daughter, Greta…

Inspirational Mondays :D
Inspirational Mondays 😀

Story submitted by sister, Kate…

Inspirational Mondays :D
Inspirational Mondays 😀

Story submitted by friend, Ivette…

Thank you to all of those who have taken a moment to recognize those who have made a difference in their lives, and a big thank you to those who have inspired them. 🙂

If you’d like to share a story, please feel free to submit one by visiting http://www.facebook.com/giftwithapinkribbon.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

The End of an Amazing Vacation…

That night, after visiting Machu Picchu, we explored the city for the last time before heading back to Cusco the next morning.

Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. :D
Enjoying every moment spent in the city of Machu Picchu. 😀

The following morning we took the train back to Cusco and settled into our hotel.

Arriving back into Cusco...
Arriving back into Cusco…

The next two days in Cusco were spent exploring the main square and visiting nearby ruins, such as the Sacsayhuaman Fortress. This was also the perfect time to break away from all of the touristy restaurants and eat like the locals. There is nothing worse than visiting a place and not experiencing the culture. The food was absolutely amazing! It was fresh and cooked to perfection. We even tried Alpaca while we were out there, and to my surprise, it was delicious! (I apologize in advance for any vegans reading this post)

Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! :)
Asked the locals where they liked to eat and got some great recommendations. The food was delicious! 🙂

Since we were there for Palm Sunday, we were able to visit the cathedral for their mass. It was beautiful, and the largest I had ever seen. Certainly a great way to end the trip. After leaving Cusco and arriving in Lima, we spent a little time on a guided tour, exploring the city before it was time to board the plane again. We stopped to eat at a place called Tanta Tanta. The food was delicious and although it was dark out, there was a nice view.

On our way back home I spent some time thinking about our entire vacation. I felt as though the trip had changed me somehow. It had opened up a new world of possibilities and fed my desire to travel and learn more. It also made me realize that I needed to stop living my life behind the scenes, or how others thought I should live my life, and I needed to share my experience with others. Not my vacation, but my journey. Everything I had gone through and all that I was to become. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to find a way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

Machu Picchu…

The next morning I woke up with so much built up excitement. I had heard so many stories about the different energy levels found on the mountain, and I wanted to experience it all. I wanted to feel that euphoria people claimed they felt while visiting.

As I handed over my ticket and passport, I felt goose bumps traveling up my spine. “This is it! We are on Machu Picchu!” We were traveling as a group, but I remember leaving them behind a few times. It wasn’t intentional. I could just feel the mountain calling out to me, guiding me through its paths. It was almost as if I had been there before.

It almost fits in my hand...lol j/k :)
It almost fits in my hand…lol j/k 🙂

When we reached the top however, my feet were planted right to the ground. I could have spent hours gazing into the distance. I didn’t feel the change in energy everyone had talked about, what I felt, however, was absolute freedom. Maybe that’s what people were trying to explain? Till this day, just thinking about the feeling I had that day, brings happy tears to my eyes.

Enjoying the spectacular view :)
Enjoying the spectacular view 🙂

It made me thankful that I was able to survive my journey and have this experience. Thankful to hear each sound as it was, not as someone heard it, and to see and feel everything with my own eyes and hands, versus seeing it through the lens of someone’s camera and imagining what it would feel like.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

A photo recap of my first follow up visits last Thursday…

Checking in for testing...
Checking in for testing…
Faith, courage, strength.... 3 very powerful words
Faith, courage, strength…. 3 very powerful words
A little silliness prior to testing and my candid expressions after...
A little silliness prior to testing and my candid expressions after…
A snap shot of my visit with my Oncologist...
A snap shot of my visit with my Oncologist…
My Radiation Oncologist  and Nurse...
My Radiation Oncologist and Nurse…
Candid shots during my visit with my radiation oncologist....
Candid shots during my visit with my radiation oncologist….

Let my travels begin…

Less than 2 weeks into my move I was getting ready to board a plane for Peru. “Could I be any luckier?” I felt so blessed to be taking such an amazing trip, and couldn’t wait to explore another country. This was one of those vacations that I put on my bucket list, but never thought I’d have a chance to take. It was so surreal arriving in Lima the first night. “I can’t believe I’m actually here!”

Early the next morning, we were back on a plane, destination Cusco. One of our stops was the Scared Valley. There was something so special about being in those mountains. The weather was beautiful and the sites were breathtaking. That night we stayed in one of my favorite hotels, Casa Andina. The view from our room was something right out of a movie! It was gorgeous and everywhere we went the people were so kind and accommodating.

After waking up to the most incredible view I had ever seen, we had a quick breakfast and boarded a bus that took us to the train station. There, we’d board the train taking us to Machu Picchu. I must say, up to this point, we were very impressed with the booking agency we used. All of our accommodations were beyond my expectations. Many of them first class.

At last, we arrived in the town of Machu Picchu. It was small and so full of great energy. Our hotel was so close to all of the markets, dining and entertainment. It was the perfect place to just go exploring on your own without feeling like you could get lost. Of course, this also meant we did a lot of shopping too. 😉

The hotel provided the entire group with a spectacular dinner that evening. We really enjoyed ourselves, and were excited about going to Machu Picchu the following morning. I couldn’t wait to be on the top of that mountain, and take a moment to reflect on all I had gone through, and the many blessings I had received along the way…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

My new home…

I was finally moved into my new place, and officially done traveling to and from every weekend. It was hard while I was attending school earlier in the year, but even harder, later down the line, while undergoing my radiation treatments. After a year of traveling, I was ready to finally ground myself again.

I spent most of the first month exploring the city with the infamous “YELP” app. It helped me find some good places to eat and people watch. I love watching people go about their day. I often wonder what it is they might be thinking about and what kinds of things they have planned. Observing body language can really tell you a lot about a person too. All in all, I was enjoying my time off. It was a time for me to think about what more I wanted to do with my life.

I’d say the biggest adjustment I had to make after moving to the city was coping with traffic and the aggressive nature of some of the people that live here. Being raised in Naples, people were far more relaxed and approachable. I felt like people in the city were always in a rush to get somewhere. Too busy to even smile. It’s such a foreign concept to me. Now, put these people in cars and you’ve got yourself a serious problem. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone show me “the finger”.

I’ve learned to brush it off though and just move out of the way. Life is just too short, and to be honest with you, it’s a small price to pay for the opportunity to live in a place that offers so much adventure and new possibilities. That includes the possibility of building new friendships. Even though I’ve had some unpleasant experiences, I’ve also managed to find some really great individuals.

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth 🙂

*** Note to Reader ***

The amazingly adorable dog in the picture with me is my cute little boy Chico. He’ll be six this year. 🙂