Survivor Story: Mary

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Meet Mary, a Medullary Thyroid Cancer Survivor who has found a good support system and is ready to begin her journey to a healthier lifestyle in earnest. 

 

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Name: Mary

Age: 58

My Cancer History

I was diagnosed in May of 2015 with Medullary Thyroid Cancer after a fine needle aspiration at the Cleveland Clinic. Medullary Thyroid cancer is rare. On June 8, 2015, I got my total thyroid out with nodules, ten lymph nodes and two parathyroids. I had to make sure I had a specialist in Medullary to do this surgery – something that I did not know until later. Thankfully my doctor was a specialist. I was blessed with that. With Medullary there are not treatments, just surgery if it comes back. Some chemo drugs slow it down. They take blood tests to watch for the markers called Calcitonin and CEA. I am on Thyroid medicine now for the rest of my life. After my surgery I had to be on very high doses of Calcium and Vit D. A couple of days after surgery my face hands legs went numb I could not do anything. My hubby called the doctor for me and they said that sometimes the parathyroids get stunned and you have to take a lot of Calcium to help them until they wake up again. That was scary but after about half hour after taking it I felt better. I just had to keep taking high doses of calcium for a while. I get checked every six months and this is a very stressful time for me.

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

I ate pretty healthy before diagnosis. I had three other surgeries before for other reasons, so my body was weaker. I was going through menopausal symptoms. Since the only treatment I had so far was to take out my thyroid and other parts I just have to watch and wait and pray that this cancer does not come back in my blood work.

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

Cancer has changed my life. I get very tired I believe this is my new normal. Sometimes I get emotionally drained. Especially the times when I have to go to the doctor for my blood work or if I find a lump somewhere that is not supposed to be there. I eat very slow now since my surgery – my kids say that is a good thing. It is just sometimes hard to swallow but that is ok as long as my blood work is good. If I think about or read about how long I could live with this rare cancer I get depressed but I try not to. I wake up every morning and say Thank you God for another day! Then I live my life.

What was your silver lining?

My silver lining was the fact that I found the lump. My sister-in-law helped explain things to me. My doctor explained things to me. And I had surgery very fast in two weeks after they figured it out. I have been very blessed to find it early. My family has been with me every step of the way! I could not have done it without them.

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer process for you?

When the doctor called me on my cell phone and said good thing we took the FNA because it is cancer. I thought WHAT? How bad is it? His nurse called and schedule surgery which happened in two weeks. Also one of my good friends that I have known for years disappeared when she found out I had cancer she could not handle it but that is okay, I understand. My family has been fantastic! I have been blessed with my support group!

How long did it take you to feel like yourself again?

I do not think I will ever be the same again. Tired is my new normal. Cancer has changed my life.

What changes have you made post-cancer treatment?

I am trying to eat better. I need to educate myself on medullary thyroid cancer because a lot of people in the medical field (doctors and nurses) are not educated in it so I have to drive my own bus to make sure I get the proper treatment. I am on a site on Facebook that has helped me a lot when I have a question they are just people like me that have Medullary thyroid cancer. They are my second family and they are wonderful! I have learned more about this than I ever thought I would.

Tell us about your life now.

When I got the news of cancer I was not sure what was going to happen. Would I see my grandson, would I see my daughter get married? The answer is yes I saw both and cried each time. My life has changed totally. I had to get genetic testing to see if my family had to get tested. I am sporadic so they do not have to worry it is non inherited. Thank goodness! My life now is I am thankful to wake up in the morning and live my life. I pray the markers stay low. And I keep learning more about this cancer I am still new but I have wonderful people to help me. I just wish there was more research on this rare cancer.

Favorite sayings/power quote:

With God anything is possible.
Wrinkles mean you laughed, gray hairs mean you cared
and scars mean you lived!
Always remember that you are braver than you believe,
stronger than you see, and smarter than you think.
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Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron area based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Survivor Story: Doreen

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Meet breast cancer survivor, Doreen. She strongly believes that sharing her story and knowledge will help others in their journey or to prevent a cancer diagnosis. We agree!

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Name

Doreen

Age

58

My Cancer History

I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ, metasasis to one lymph node, thyroid nodules and Hashimato’s Thyroiditis in late October 2014. I had an estrogen positive positive cancer which means that I had excess estrogen in my body. I started treatment for the cancer the beginning of December 2014 and the Hashimato’s in November 2014. I received 5 months of chemotherapy, which shrunk my tumor small enough to have a lumpectomy in June 2015. I had a second surgery in July 2015 to remove some remaining cancer. In August 2015 I began radiation therapy which lasted weekly until mid November 2015.

I began taking thyroid medicine in November 2014 as my thyroid gland was not functioning properly and I was hypothyriod due to the Hashimato’s.  Several nodules were found on both sides of my thyroid gland in November 2014 which were evaluated by biopsey at that time and and the doctors wanted to start treatment in December 2015 when I had finished treatment for the breast cancer. The pathology report had shown that the nodules had a small chance of turning into cancer. Rather than having my thyroid gland removed or another biopsey, as my body was so weakened by the treatment I had received for nearly one year, I chose to have the nodules monitored by ultrasound testing. The largest nodule was completely gone as were several of the smaller ones, based upon ultrasound testing in December 2015.

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

I ate fairly healthy for the 18 or so years prior to diagnosis; a lot of homemade food made from scratch, fresh fruit and vegetables, but also a fair share of ice cream, brownies, crackers, Hamburger Helper, chicken nuggets, fish sticks, Campbell’s Tomato soup and grilled American cheese sandwiches on whole wheat. Fast food was consumed several times a month.  Most of the fruits and vegetables I ate were estrogen producing foods, as well as the soy beans that I kept at my desk at work and ate for several years to help combat menopausal symptoms. I was borderline hypothyroid for several years prior to diagnosis and rather than take thyroid medicine I avoided cruciferous vegetables which are known to “kill cancer cells” and I frequently ate tuna and salmon. I also ate a lot of foods that I did not know were contraindicated with Hashimato’s. I had not been tested for Hashimato’s which was ultimately found to be the cause of my hypothyroidism.

I had not regularly exercised for the 18 years prior to diagnosis as I worked full time at a very stressful  job, was a single parent and helped care for my Mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. My life was very stressful, rushing my daughter to daycare and later school, rushing to work, rushing to pick her up, rushing to her sports and extracurricular activities and helping with my Mom on Wednesdays, Saturdays and overnight for hospital admissions for several years. I had little time to relax and seldom did not feel stress free throughout those years.

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

I was fortunate to have a desk job, so I continued to work throughout treatment other than the 2 1/2 weeks off following the surgeries. I was emotionally distraught following the diagnosis of breast cancer, potential thyroid cancer and testing which showed a small lung nodule. I was physically exhausted throughout treatment which worsened as treatment progressed.

What was your silver lining?

To have learned how to mostly live stress free and to be grateful for each day of life, regardless of the events of the day.

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer process for you?

The people that showed no concern for my well being during treatment and the many people who helped me, for which I am most thankful.

How long did it take you to feel like yourself again?

I still do not feel like I did prior to cancer as I fatigue easily; however, it has not yet been one year since treatment stopped.

What changes have you made post-cancer treatment?

I avoid sugar, drink reverse osmosis water, I eat mostly organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, wild seafood, free range organic chicken and eggs, limited dairy, no soy products, very limited processed or fast foods, limited grains, I balance Omega 3 and 6 fats and I intermittently fast. I drink 1 cup organic green tea with fresh lemon and coconut oil and one cup organic black coffee daily. I eat cruciferous vegetables daily, which are estrogen blocking and I limit estrogen producing foods.  I walk several times daily, I do Chi Qong, yoga and paddle with the Dragon Dream Team. I try to practice mindfulness.

Finally, I now use laundry, cleaning and bathing products purchased from the health food store as many of the commercial products I previously used are estrogenic. I was shocked to learn from the medical research I did after diagnosis of  the high amount  of estrogenic producing foods and chemicals I had previously used.

Tell us about your life now.

I avoid stress and situations that cause stress. I perform medical research to learn ways to combat any breast cancer cells remaining, a recurrence or a secondary cancer that could develop as a result of my treatment and my genetic background. I’ve developed deeper and stronger relationships. I am so happy to have survived.

Favorite sayings/power quote:

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. Saint Francis of Assisi

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

In the final analysis it is between you and God, it was never between you and them anyway.

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Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Survivor Story: Tara Reynolds

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Meet Green for Pink Founder, Tara Reynolds.

 

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With my daughter two days before my biopsy, 2012.

 

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Exiting the Breast Cancer division winning boat at Portage Lakes Dragons on the Lake festival, 2016.

 

Tara Reynolds

Age 49

 

My Cancer History

Cancer was detected in my right breast in 2012 while I was having an ultrasound and mammogram to investigate a lump in my left armpit! The left side lump was a reoccurring cyst that was tender but harmless. I never felt any discomfort on my right side. I’m still thankful for that pesky cyst because it led the doctors to discover the invasive ductal carcinoma at an early stage. Oddly enough, I was extremely calm during my diagnosis. There was so much happening at that time – I was homeschooling my daughter, caring for my aging mother, coming to terms with my father’s rapid health decline, running my design business – it was a whirlwind! I didn’t have time to panic. I postponed my surgery as long as possible in order to make arrangements for someone to cover my business, help school my child and get the freezer stocked and then had a sentinel node biopsy and lumpectomy. I had 36 radiation treatments. Tamoxifen was recommended but I declined it due to side effects and the very small possibility of my cancer returning.

 

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

Before cancer my diet was all over the place. I would eat super-healthy for a few days then fall back on fast food or not eating and then overeating when my schedule became hectic. Caring for my parents involved two hours on the road and could be stressful at times. “Rewarding myself” with a treat on the way home became routine. I also ate very little protein, making up for it with carb-heavy meals and snacks. Severe fatigue and a low immune system interfered with daily activities. Just before my cancer diagnosis I worked with a naturopath to heal adrenal fatigue and, on the heels of that, contracted shingles. I was not the person I wanted to be. I hated feeling sick and tired all the time.
My cancer treatment took place during spring and summer and I craved iced tea, cold watermelon, banana-peanut butter smoothies and Panera salads. (Seriously, we should have bought stock in Panera!) I had a fair amount of fatigue and some serious burns from radiation, which forced me to rest. Looking back, I think that rest was critical in many ways.

 

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

Physically I was tired – more than anticipated. I napped every day, sometimes twice a day. And I was so thirsty. I felt like I couldn’t get enough to drink.

Emotionally I had mixed feelings. At times I felt lonely and overwhelmed. I worried about my daughter and husband; I didn’t want them to feel burdened by my illness. I worked hard to pretend like everything was okay and keep my energy levels up outside the house.

 

What was your silver lining?

I definitely had more than one! I learned that I was stronger than I knew, and that it was okay to stop and take care of myself. I pledged to start enjoying life more and saying no to situations that felt toxic or caused stress. I adopted the dog I always wanted — she had been hit by a car and needed to rebuild strength in her leg — and we healed together, walking every day. It sounds trite, but I learned to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

 

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer process for you?
I had two: Painkillers and the end of treatment.
I was prescribed painkillers to help cope with radiation burns. I hated the way they made me feel and the physical side effects, but they were a necessary evil.
I saw my radiation team daily. They lifted me up and were so very caring. Even though I was happy to end treatment, it was hard to say good-bye and even harder to re-enter the real world. I was still tired and not ready to jump in with both feet, but I felt a lot of pressure to do just that.

 

How long did it take you to feel like yourself again?
There was a small increase in energy after a month and another one at 6 months. After that it was another two years before I truly felt strong and healthy. I remember being thrilled that I could stay on my feet until 8 or 9 pm instead of having to rest immediately after dinner.

 

Tell us about your life now.
Life is good. I’ve been steadily removing processed foods from my diet and toxic health and beauty items as well. I joined a dragon boating team while I was still in radiation and through steady practice, have increased my strength and endurance. Boating keeps my diet on track too — when I don’t eat properly, my practices really suffer! Through Green for Pink I meet many inspiring people and fulfill one of my life goals of giving back to my community. My daughter attends film school in Nashville, giving my husband and I a great reason to visit and explore a new place. When I have a little downtime, you’ll likely find me with my nose in a book or watching a movie and knitting.

 

Favorite sayings/power quote:
Be impeccable with your word.
Embrace the suck!
Under any circumstance, do your best.
Surround yourself with people who enhance your best self.

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Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Recovering from Cancer Treatment With “The Four Agreements”

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The long awaited last day of treatment has arrived. Your next appointment, a follow-up, is weeks away.

Before you sign up for overtime at work, volunteer to carpool the kids and plan to reorganize the basement, remember that full recovery takes time. Diagnosis, course of treatment, side effects, age and health level all come in to play. It’s important to recognize that no two people are alike and honor your unique healing journey.

Today I’m sharing traditional healer and author don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements” and my thoughts on how they apply to healing from cancer treatment.

Be Impeccable With Your Word.

“Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”

What does your self-talk sound like during this time? Is the voice in your head shaming (Treatment is done, you should be able to keep up!) or nurturing (Do what you can and then take a rest. You don’t have to finish everything right now — your body needs to heal.) Speak to yourself the way you would a good friend. And speaking of friends, be truthful about asking for help or taking a pass on an outing to rest. They want what’s best for you.

Don’t Take Anything Personally.

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

I have vivid memories of someone telling about her friend who bounced back from radiation quickly, calling it “no big deal.” I felt as if something was wrong with me because I wasn’t able to do more. Was I lazy? Or trying to “milk” my diagnosis? No. My body was simply healing. My friend was sharing her cancer reality, which happened to be this particular story. And I didn’t have to take it personally. Neither do you.

Don’t Make Assumptions.

“Find the courage to ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.”

Without a bald scalp, wheelchair or bandaged port, it can be hard for family, friends and co-workers to remember that you aren’t 100% on the inside. It’s okay to provide a gentle reminder. Being direct about where you are on the healing spectrum will help others extend appropriate invitations or provide continued support.

Always Do Your Best.

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and self-regret.”

You felt well enough to jog last night and now you can hardly get out of bed. Sometimes it’s like that. If your best means staying at home in your jammies, find easy tasks you can tackle between naps like filing papers, clipping coupons or cleaning off your hard drive. Resting now will help you get back to the jogging you love. Let your body be your guide.

Although I refer these four simple bits of wisdom on a daily basis, they were especially meaningful during the days of transitioning from cancer patient to survivor. I hope they resonate with you, too.

Be well!

 

More tips on healing from cancer treatment are available through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s page Your Body After Treatment.

The Four Agreements is available online through Amazon or at your local bookstore or library.

Learn more about don Miguel Ruiz’s writings and teachings at www.miguelruiz.com.

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Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

The Two Simple Things That Will Give Your Smoothies Staying Power

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In my kitchen summertime equals smoothie time.

I first fell in love with smoothies during my radiation treatment in June 2012. I was hot, tired and always thirsty. Smoothies were quick, cooling and filling. Okay, maybe not so filling. You see, even though I added plain yogurt for protein, my smoothies only held me over for 2 or 3 hours max.

Maybe you’ve had the same problem?

I’ve learned a few things since my radiation days. Here are two things I do to help take my smoothies from snacks to meals that last.

Cut the sugar.
Every smoothie I make includes fruit so there’s really no need to add sugar. Any added sweetener – even honey – raises blood sugar and sets up a fast crash later. If you’re like me, that will lead you into a cycle of craving quick, sugary snacks and the cycle will continue. Use unsweetened milk and plain yogurt in your smoothies and choose in season fruit for maximum natural flavor. You won’t miss the sugar – promise.

Add protein.
I add two forms of protein to every smoothie I blend: chia seed and plant protein powder.

Chia seeds are tasteless, low in calories, high in fiber and add almost 5 grams of protein per tablespoon. The tiny black seeds are digested easily and absorb nearly 20x their weight in water, creating a feeling of fullness. I could go on and on about these little dynamos, but the final thing I’ll mention here is their high mucilage content. In lay terms, all that water absorption results in a slippery gel that aids gastrointestinal function. (Learn more here.) Good news for sensitive tummies.

The brand of plant protein powder I use is made from quinoa and green peas. The powder is tasteless and, in small quantities, virtually undetectable. (Take note: more than 1T can cause a gritty texture.) One tablespoon in my smoothie gives me 7 more grams of protein. Easy peasy!

So there you have it, with almond milk (1.7 grams protein), 1 tablespoon of chia seeds (5 grams protein) and 1 tablespoon of plant protein powder (7 grams protein), my fruity breakfast smoothie is naturally sweet and has 13.7 grams of protein – the same as two medium eggs and about 28% of the recommended daily protein intake for an average woman.
Try this Classic Green Monster smoothie from OhSheGlows. With chia, protein powder, kale, cinnamon and banana for natural sweetness, it’s sure to please.

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Green for Pink is 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information

Survivor Story: Joan Keifling

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Are you ready to be inspired? Meet former Green for Pink participant Joan Keifling.

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Joan “graduating” from radiation and today, cancer-free, with her daughter and husband.

Joan Keifling

Age 53

My cancer history

My cancer journey began in February 2014 with a regular diagnostic mammogram. I received a call from my doctor at 4:30 on Valentine’s Day saying that I needed to return for further screening. After an ultrasound and biopsy it was determined that I had invasive ductal carcinoma and that it was a relatively small tumor. I got a list of recommended surgeons, made a visit, and my surgery was scheduled for late in March 2014. After the surgery the good news was that I found out was that it was stage I. The not so good news was that my margins were not clear, and I would have to have a second surgery. The second surgery took place in May 2014 and after this surgery my margins were clear. I underwent 21 days of radiation and completed my radiation one day before my 52nd birthday. The radiation went very well and I did not have any serious side effects. I am also currently on tamoxifen.

In December 2014, I went for a skin cancer screening at the recommendation of my primary care physician and was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma on my nose and scalp. In January 2015, I had surgery for that and have been clear skin-wise since then.

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

I believe my diet/lifestyle was relatively healthy but with room for improvement prior to diagnosis and treatment. My mother had breast cancer so I was always aware of the possibility of a diagnosis, and made myself aware through books and conversations with health providers strategies, to try to be as  proactive as possible to keep myself healthy. However, I believe that I could have done better as far as exercise, but I did my best! During treatment I decided that my diet needed tweaking and I added more fruits and vegetables to my regimen. Through Green For Pink I was blessed with an assortment of wonderful organic fruits and vegetables delivered to my door for four weeks. I changed from probably meat almost every night to limited portions of meat maybe twice a week. I also have been trying to walk as much I can keeping track of my steps through a Fitbit.

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

I became determined to be as physically strong as I could be through exercise and diet. Emotionally I had support from my loving family and wonderful friends. I had a circle of friends praying for me and felt strength from that.

What was your cancer “silver lining”?

After my diagnosis I read a book called “The Silver Lining: A Supportive and Insightful Guide to Breast Cancer” by Hollye Jacobs. I found this book incredibly helpful in facing the physical and emotional aspects of diagnosis and treatment. For me my “silver lining” has been a heightened appreciation for my health and life in general. I have learned to view my glass as half full and try to look on the bright side of life’s challenges and obstacles.

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer treatment process for you?

The biggest unexpected aspect was when my margins were not clear and I had to have a second surgery. I was not fully prepped for this possibility. As a consequence, I did not expect this and it was a surprise to me.

How long did it take you to feel “like yourself” again?

Actually during radiation I actually felt stronger than I had for many years prior to diagnosis. I felt like being lighter physically (loss of about 15 pounds) and the dietary changes made me feel better than I had in many years.

What changes have you made post-cancer treatment?

I have decreased my meat intake significantly, added more fruits and vegetables to my diet, and increased my daily walking. Our family now uses a service called Door To Door Organics which delivers fresh organic fruits and vegetables right to our door. I have started using a juicer periodically and like smoothies. I also try to cook from scratch as much as possible. I have one cup of coffee and occasional alcohol.

Tell us about your life now.

I am married and have a ten year old daughter who keeps our family very busy. In October 2015 I completed a medical transcription editor program and became employed as a medical transcriptionist in January 2016.  I work part time from home as an independent contractor and I enjoy the work. Our family loves to travel and my husband, daughter and myself joined my sister (a cancer survivor) and her husband at Folly Beach in South Carolina in August 2015 for a relaxing beach vacation.

Favorite saying/power quote:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Knowledge is power.

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Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Survivor Story: Diane Carano

Read stories of survivors who are thrivers, right here in our community. Green for Pink Survivor Stories show how cancer patients are creating a vibrant life after cancer by changing the way they eat and live. As you will see, each journey is as unique as the person who takes it, yet they all lead to a healthier way of life. Are you ready to be inspired? Meet Diane Carano.

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Diane and her husband on a recent hike at Glacier National Park.

Diane Carano
Age 53

My cancer history.

My cancer journey has actually been a long one, with my first experience with a Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1989, but I will focus on breast cancer. My first breast cancer diagnosis was in 2007, picked up by an MRI. ER positive, stage 1, treated surgically by a bilateral mastectomy because of my radiation history from lymphoma. It recurred in the chest wall in 2011, again treated surgically with a wide tissue excision of the area into the muscle and a lymphectomy of the axillary and upper chest lymph nodes, followed by chemotherapy and ongoing hormone therapy with an aromatase inhibitor.

What did your diet/lifestyle look like before diagnosis and during treatment?

The year of my first breast cancer diagnosis I was in a very active lifestyle. I has just completed running the Cleveland Marathon and was training to run another. My diet was healthy by my standards at the time, it included some meat,dairy, some vegetables, and some grains and breads. Alcohol in moderation and some sweet treats.

After my first diagnosis I really started educating myself about food. How most commercial food is grown/raised and processed. I slowly began to change over to more organics, less meat, dairy and sweets. Dabbled in veganism.

I really had a lot to learn.

By the time I was diagnosed with a recurrence I knew that nutrition would be an important piece in my recovery and I searched for guidance. I started to follow a whole food, plant based diet in between my surgery and when I started chemotherapy. I adhere to it strictly and consider it to be an important component in my ongoing recovery.

How did cancer treatment affect you physically and emotionally?

The last course of treatment was the most challenging. I traveled to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston TX for my biopsy and surgery. The recovery was more difficult than I anticipated and couldn’t travel back home until two weeks. This did allow me time to spend in their library, which is where I found some valuable research into diet which has guided my lifestyle since.

During chemo, I was able to hike through the first two treatments, but became much more fatigued through the last two.

Emotionally, the most challenging time was when I was away from family and friends in Houston. Once I was back, I was pretty strong emotionally, which is how I usually am. I find the strength feeds on itself and is actually an effective coping mechanism for me.

What was your cancer “silver lining”?

One way is having the privilege of feeling the love of friends and family. It has strengthened my relationship with Jesus. I appreciate everyday and use that to guide the way I live.

What was the biggest unexpected aspect of the cancer treatment process for you?

Actually, it went much like I anticipated. Maybe better because I thought I might have some complications, but I didn’t.

How long did it take you to feel “like yourself” again?

I would say that that I never really returned to my pre recurrence “self”. I am unsure if some of that is related to my ongoing hormone treatment, or lingering effects (or aging!–haha).  I have accepted that changes happen, and I am grateful.

What changes have you made post-cancer treatment?

I now consider cancer as a chronic illness and address it on a daily basis. I eat a whole food, plant based diet, little added oil and no processed sugar or alcohol. I prepare almost all of my food from scratch, I take some new supplements, and have scaled back my exercise from my pre diagnoses level, but exercise regularly.

Tell us about your life now.

My life is full of love and joy in the little as well as the big things. I stay active with my job teaching nursing, doing nutritional counseling and education, volunteering at Stewart’s Caring Place,  Green for Pink and Church council. I enjoy my book club, jogging,and my new found passion in paddling on the dragon boat dream team of breast cancer survivors. My husband and I recently celebrated our 30th anniversary by hiking in Glacier National Park with our son, daughter and son-in-law. On a regular basis I am kept active by our 2 whippets and vizsla puppy. I truly have a blessed life and am grateful for the opportunity to share my story in the hope that it may be an encouragement to others.

Favorite saying/power quote:

Make every day count.

You are stronger than you know.

With God, all things are possible.

________________

Are you an area cancer survivor who is finding strength in a whole foods diet and active lifestyle? Would you like to become involved with Green for Pink and encourage others to do the same? You can start by sharing your story! Contact us at info@green-for-pink.org for more information.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Taking a Fall Salad Into Spring

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The sun is out. The vernal equinox has passed. Many of us are daring to dream of backyard or patio gardens, local produce markets and meals based around freshly picked garden bounty.

We’re not quite there yet, but thanks to hoop houses, green houses and harvests from warmer climates, we can have a little taste of spring right now with this delicious Strawberry Cucumber Farro Salad, an original recipe from Green for Pink.

While the ingredient combination is original, the concept was inspired by iFoodReals’s Cinnamon Apple, Walnut, Kale and Quinoa Salad featured in our Fall Favorites lifestyle class. (If you missed it, here is the original recipe. It is completely delicious!)

The spring version was created by treating the original recipe as a “base” and substituting similar ingredients to create a variation — a concept we touch upon often during cooking classes. I wanted to try farro, a new grain for me, and there were lovely organic strawberries at the market so I started there, substituting quinoa and apples from the original recipe respectively. Just as the celery in the fall version was a textural match for apples, I used English cucumber to balance the strawberry. Toasted almond slices were a natural replacement for walnuts; white balsamic vinegar for apple cider vinegar. The result was a light but filling salad, especially with the addition of a few pieces of grilled chicken.

Strawberry Cucumber Farro Salad
An original recipe from Green for Pink

2 cups farro, cooked according to package directions and cooled
3 large handfuls of chopped romaine lettuce
(I like the pre-washed and chopped romaine from Buckeye Fresh, available locally at Buehler’s)
1 pint of fresh strawberries, sliced
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 c sliced almonds, toasted and cooled
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese

Dressing
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c white balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp wildflower honey
1/2 lemon, juice of
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

Mix all salad ingredients in a large shallow bowl or platter. Mix all dressing ingredients in a small jar, cap and shake to blend. Adjust dressing taste to your liking. Dress salad just before serving.

Serve alone or add grilled chicken strips.

Salad will keep for 2 days without dressing, 1 day dressed.

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

Using Automated Meals To Get Your Groove Back After Cancer

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A chopped salad like this is perfect for an automated eating plan. Simply vary the ingredients based on what’s available.

 

An early Green for Pink participant summed up the mental fog that can accompany treatment when she shared this story – “My husband called and asked what he should get from the grocery store, and the only thing I could think of was that gummy candy, Swedish Fish!”

In hindsight, moments like that are funny. In reality, finding and maintaining a healthy routine during and after cancer treatment can be overwhelming.

Enter automated eating.

The concept, which comes from the definition of automatic – occurring as a matter of course and without debate – is as old as time itself. Early man found nourishment according to season and ate. No thought, no fuss, no choices. As the seasons changed, so did the offerings and, consequently, the diet.

Fast forward to 2016. Today the average grocery store carries approximately 38,000 products. There are choices everywhere: produce options like strawberries all year round, fast food, take out, restaurants, frozen meals, meals in a box… automated eating seems like it may seem like a thing of the past. Not so quick!

Today we know automated eating under different, and not always healthy, names like The Cabbage Soup Diet or The Lemon, Cayenne Pepper & Honey Diet. Right principle. Wrong foods!

Automating meals – having healthy “set” choices for each meal – is a tenet for nutritional success during the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Developing a simple set of options and sticking with it for a set period of time lets you know what you’ll eat and when you’ll eat it. No more Swedish gummy fish for dinner!

It may sound a bit boring at first, but automated meals can also relieve stress, save money and ensure nutritional goals are met. Remember, too, that you can choose to “re-automate” (change your plan) every week or even every few days.

Here is a sample of my go-to automated eating plan. Note that amounts are not listed. This is about eating whole foods, not portion control.

Breakfast: Plain greek yogurt topped with chopped nuts and a drizzle of honey or jam, large glass of water, vitamins, hot tea

Morning Snack: Apple Slices with Nut Butter
Lunch: Soup or dinner leftovers, large glass of water

Afternoon Snack: Iced tea, hummus or bean dip with pita triangles or veggie sticks

Dinner: A loose weekly rotation based around one concept (ie: Meatless Monday, Pasta Tuesday, Breakfast for dinner Wednesday, Meat on Thursday, Homemade Pizza Friday, Big Salad Saturday, Soup Sunday). Pinterest is a big help here.

If you are recovering from cancer treatment, or if you just want to get back to a nutritionally sound diet after the holidays, why not give automated meals a try? As strength and clarity return, variations on a theme and new selections can be added to the rotation. Eat until you feel satisfied – give your body what it needs to fuel your healthy, vibrant life as a survivor!

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

 

Coping With Cancer During the Holidays, Part 3

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Whether you are newly diagnosed or finishing months of treatment, cancer can change the way you think about, and celebrate, the winter holidays. Today Green for Pink offers gift ideas cancer patients will appreciate during the holidays and beyond.

Gift giving to cancer patients needn’t take a lot of time, money or energy — Just take a moment to think outside the box and plan ahead.

Here are some specifics that survivors said made their journey easier.

 

Food

Provide an alternative to the standard casserole with a themed food basket that contains everything needed for a healthy snack or light meal. A breakfast basket with plain Greek yogurt, a small bottle of maple syrup, walnuts, pomegranate, pear, tea or coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice is perfect any time of day. Or take a note from popular snack subscription services and create your own. Individual packs of almonds, trail mix, protein bars, dried fruit and whole grain crackers can be taken with to chemo treatments.

 

Creature Comforts

Who doesn’t love the feel of soft, freshly laundered sheets? Spending more time in bed can mean frequent linen changes. A yummy jersey set feels as good as snuggling up in an old favorite t-shirt and is available for around $20.00. For the patient who is dealing with hair loss, consider splurging on a luxurious set of high thread-count pillowcases.

Former radiation patients will tell you that going au natural feels best of all. When clothing is required, consider MeUndies.com lounge wear. I can personally attest to the quality and softness of the their items. And they only seem to get better with every wash.

A shawl or wrap can be used to keep warm while sitting up in bed. It’s also great to take along to chemo. Whether it’s homemade (check Etsy for handcrafted options) or purchased, it will feel like a gentle hug each time it’s worn.

 

Entertainment

A season’s worth of comedy or drama on DVD provides entertainment in short bursts that are ideal for someone struggling with fatigue. My personal favorite was ABC’s comedy The Middle. Other feel-good titles include: The Office, Parks and Rec, Who’s That Girl?, and Jane the Virgin. Drama and suspense fans might like How to Get Away With Murder, Mad Men, Breaking Bad or United States of Tara. Titles like Royal Pains and Straight from the Heart also have wide appeal. Check Amazon for great prices on new or like new sets.

If the patient you know owns a tablet or other portable device, get them a short-term subscription service to Netflix, Hulu (for streaming video) or Audible (for audio books). It’s a gift that’s easy to purchase, inexpensive and will provide a huge return on your investment.

 

Gifts of Time

If you have an extra afternoon, volunteer the gift of time.

For patients with little ones you could offer to spend an afternoon baking cookies with them (make the dough ahead of time to speed things up and reduce mess), or choose one of the following: take them shopping, do a little crafting, see a holiday blockbuster at the theater, go to a free community concert or wrap presents.

Grown ups need help too! Laundry, dusting and vacuuming, deep cleaning the bathroom, running the car through the wash, taking the dog to the groomer, wrapping presents, mailing packages, or spending an afternoon assembling ingredients for crockpot meals… any one of these would be a welcome gift.

Whatever you decide to do, make it personal with an explanation of why you chose it. The story behind the gift will make it that much more special and treasured when cancer is nothing but a distant memory.

 

Green for Pink is an Akron-based 501c3 non-profit dedicated to promoting nutritional support to cancer patients and their families. We advocate a healthy diet for quality of life through diagnosis, treatment, recovery and beyond. www.green-for-pink.org.

 

Image credit: MarthaStewart.com