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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.
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.
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.
Today I’m hitting the rewind button and bringing you back to December 18th, the day I was scheduled to meet the Oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Centers in Tampa. I remember getting ready that morning and frantically trying to find the perfect outfit. I was looking for something cheery but still professional. It was important to me that I present myself as the knowledgeable and confident person I was. If you take yourself seriously, so will others and my health was definitely something to be taken seriously.
I finally put something together, packed up my medical records and off we went. It took us several hours to get there and during that time my nerves really started kicking in. What if I do need chemo? Not only was this going to take a toll on me physically, it was also going to postpone my plans to move. I again became frustrated with my current situation. I was so ready to take the leap and start a new life. Why was it all being placed on hold?
My thoughts were interrupted by the view outside the passenger window, we had finally arrived. “Wow, look at this place. It’s beautiful!” I felt as though I had arrived at a retreat, not a cancer facility. It was huge and the landscaping was beautifully done. We left the car with the valet and made our way into the buildings.
The nervousness I had felt in the car was slowly beginning to fade. I was in complete awe walking down the halls and through the lobbies as my eyes glanced at all of the beautiful pictures on the walls and the gorgeous scenery visible through the large glass windows. There were so many cozy sitting areas and cafés to relax in. It was in no way what I had imagined it to be. In fact, what I’m about to say may surprise you. I felt as if I belonged to this special and exclusive club. My soul was being nourished by so many loving and compassionate individuals who were there dedicating many hours of their lives to make mine better. I felt inspired and needless to say I was very emotional.
We finally reached the check in desk of the breast cancer wing. I remember feeling like I was checking into a day spa. Behind the reception area there was a wall with a large soothing waterfall and off to the side was a table with complimentary beverages. I gave the young woman behind the desk my name and after verifying a small bit of information and placing an ID bracelet on my wrist, she gave me a pager and a reusable Moffitt bag with a folder full of information, a pen and other goodies and showed me into the waiting room area.
My partner and I waited patiently and kept ourselves busy making small talk and looking at funny YouTube videos to keep the mood light. My name was called a few different times before they brought us back into the exam room. Once for insurance verification and important documents I needed to fill out and the other to get my vitals. It was a slow process but eventually moved faster once we were in the back. We met first with a physician doing her internship at Moffitt. Then we met with a counselor who provided us with information on programs available to cancer patients. I was on information overload by the time the doctor came in to give us his opinion.
Prior to my visit at Moffitt I had met with the genetics counselor and received the results of my BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 testing. Thankfully, after only a few weeks of waiting, the results were in and they came up negative. This was great news because it meant I wasn’t going to have to go in for a second surgery.
The doctor reviewed all of my records and expressed he was in agreement with my oncologist back home. There was no need for me to have chemotherapy. I would only have to undergo radiation and later be treated with hormone blockers. The doctor questioned my desire to have children as he stressed the importance of my being aware of the inability to have children during the 5 years I’d be on the hormone blocker, as well as the possibility of it decreasing my chances of being able to conceive a child in the future. It had been an emotional topic for me recently but, I reassured him that I had thought about it and was okay with the possible outcome. He also suggested going for further genetic counseling but left that part up to me. It wasn’t necessary but, I qualified to participate in a research study they were doing so he wanted to make me aware of it.
Then came the answer to a question I had been asking my physicians but wasn’t able to get a straight response to, “what stage was my cancer”? He told me I could safely call it “stage 0” cancer. Really?! I felt on top of the world, blessed, lucky and proud of myself for having caught the cancer long before it had grown into something far more severe. I was excited now knowing I could meet with my oncologist back home and officially start preparing my treatment plan. It was a very long and exhausting day but so worth it after the great news I had just received…