(this will be in the April issue of WNC WOMAN)
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ― Hippocrates
NO WAY JOSÉ
I put my foot down, crossed my arms, and shook my head. “No! No chemotherapy. No way. I refuse to abuse my body in that way. I will not go the slash/burn/poison route!” (Or did I say “What are you, nuts? Get away from me with that [stuff]!” (insert a less polite word of your choice))
But what, then? Ovarian cancer took up residence in my body this fall. It may be gone now… or it may not be. Okay, I did the ‘slash’ part of the deal—they removed about everything but my tonsils (including my appendix) but chemotherapy is where I draw the line.
“Well, Julie,” I told myself. “If you refuse to poison your body to get well, (what a concept!) you will just have to nurture your body and see if that does the trick!” and that is what I have done. In effect, I took my own ‘Hippocratic oath’ and let food be my medicine. And instead of focusing on what I was omitting (sugar—esp. the demon high fructose corn syrup, wheat, processed food, fast food, gluten, most dairy, etc.) I focused on savoring the most nutritious foods I could get my hands on. I have finally gone all organic when at all possible. I learned that the following foods are critical to buy organic: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, collards & kale, summer squash & zucchini.
KALE, KALE, THE GANG’S ALL HERE
And speaking of kale—eat it! Develop a taste for it if you have to, but eat it even if you have to hold your nose at first. I eventually found it to be yummy. I bet you will too, if you are not already a fan. It is my least favorite leafy green, I admit—I much prefer chard and spinach. But kale is a powerhouse of nutrition so I was determined to learn to love it. (Love, not fear, you know, is the name of the game.) Don’t fear kale. Don’t fear vegetables at all! Honor them. Savor them. And thank the farmers who lovingly tended them without chemical pesticides and with honor for Mother Earth.
I have been strongly influenced by Ayurveda… [ from altmedicine.about.com: Ayurveda, also known as Ayurvedic Medicine, is the traditional medicine of India, which originated there over 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda emphasizes re-establishing balance in the body through diet, lifestyle, exercise, and body cleansing, and on the health of the mind, body, and spirit. ] A typical day for me starts with a glass of lemon water, and then a stewed apple with cinnamon, and whatever else I am inspired to add. Organic, of course, and fresh. Ayurveda believes that you need to eat lightly in the morning… and that the ‘digestive fire’ peaks at noon so lunch should be your main meal. There is a wonderful Ayurvedic recipe to get the digestive fire stirred up before a meal: grated carrots, chopped fresh parsley, a few squeezes of lemon juice and a bit of freshly grated ginger.
And later in the day, sometimes I eat kitcheree (kitchade/kidgeree/kitcheri/kichdi—it has a thousand more spellings). Kitcheree is basmati rice with mung/moong dal (spell these any way you like too). [Thanks, Dr. L, for introducing me to this stuff!] Ideally you soak the rice and the dal the night before. Kitcheree is a classic and famed for its healing properties, being very soothing and easy to digest. It is typically the first solid food given to babies. It is great with fresh cilantro on top. Google it for some ideas. FYI: Ayurveda insists that cold things, like ice water, douse the digestive fire and are a big no-no. I like a nice hot cup of Holy Basil(tulsi) tea. [Another thanks to Dr. L.]
These days I find myself actually daydreaming of broccoli. (Okay, sometimes I still daydream of molten lava cake with ice cream and a cherry on top, but broccoli more and more is winning out.)
Broccoli sprouts. Rinsing my first batch now.
Veggie smoothies—ahhh. Got myself a Vitamix (vitamix.com) and am going to town. Fresh baby spinach in everything. NO ICE! And either some fresh ginger or lemon (or both?). English cucumbers. Celery. And whatever alkaline veggie floats your boat.
For cancer, I throw garlic and ginger and turmeric into just about everything… and to activate the turmeric, black pepper and a fat of some kind (olive oil or ghee, typically). For general health, I have started putting freshly ground flax seeds and chia seeds on just about everything too.
A few years ago, my friend Nina introduced me to the work of Dr. Robert Young who writes of the importance of eating 80% alkaline foods. Really important. Really, really important. Look up his site. If you follow his suggestions, you will thank me. More and more I am reading about the importance of eating alkaline. Yes, the body maintains a constant ph all by itself, but if your diet is too acid, the body makes some ugly trade-offs to do so. (See phmiracleliving.com)
TO [X] OR NOT TO [X]
I can’t say that I have made a final decision on meat. Organic, humanely raised and honored, yes, for now. Even the milk I buy is from cows whose tails have not been docked. (I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as tail docking until I saw it on the carton.) But I am also more and more picking up almond or coconut milk. Dairy or not to dairy, that is the question. Mushrooms or not? Some say NO, not healthy, and others see them as supreme medicine. I am not sure yet. And what about fermented foods? Again, some say supreme medicine, and others the opposite. I am making my way through these decisions. I have said NO to soy (except for Bragg). Molten lava cake with ice cream? Well…
And now that I am finding Weston A. Price around every corner (google him) that is turning me back to (carefully raised) meat and dairy. I think I wore out my doctor’s patience at my last appointment when I asked him to rate, on a scale of 1 to 10, how important it is to soak nuts and how important it was to include freshly ground flaxseed to my diet. I will carefully work through these decisions myself from now on. I want to learn how to do that thing with your hands where you test yourself if something is good or not. A kind of kinesiology?
The choices I am making are not about fear of cancer, but rather are motivated by a celebration of life. (I think I want to stick around and enjoy a bit more of it!) I am not fearing cancer. I am embracing it, and thanking it for the huge springboard it gave me for making so many positive changes in my life. In fact my blog, which is called The Vocabulary of Joy, Celebrating the Blessings of Life with Cancer (at julieparker.me) is all about the wonderful, magical blessings that have absolutely poured into my life since my diagnosis September 24th. I recognized from the start that this cancer was a very good thing. And I am not beating myself up for past, uh, fast food, high fructose corn syrup, or for anything else. Whatever I have done got me here, and this is an excellent place to be.
TO TASTE OR NOT TO TASTE
What is interesting about ovarian cancer is that one of the symptoms is loss of appetite. For several months I had to actually force myself to eat. I remember one day I had nothing but a single cup of ginger tea. When I drove past my favorite restaurants—Thai, Indian, Asian restaurants of all sorts, I’d even feel a sort of revulsion. After surgery and a bit of time, my appetite was back and now everything tastes delicious! I am savoring every mouthful. It is almost like I had never really tasted before. Why? Well, I am not sure, but I am eating mindfully, for one thing. I rarely did that before. And I am expressing gratitude more than ever before. I really enjoy sending out appreciation to the sun and the soil and the bees and the beekeepers and the earthworms, the farmers and the grocers and everyone and everything that moved the vegetables from seed to my table.
And I am grateful to the folks at Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville who with their free classes on cooking, healthy budget shopping, growing your own foods, using foods as medicine, and herbal medicine, deeply understand the role of food in healing. I am grateful to my dear friend Debra Roberts (who sent me their way) and who is spreading the word of the supreme importance of bees in supporting our whole food system. (See holybeepress.com) I am grateful too to Laurey Masterton who was another loving bee mama (or a bee-lovin’ mama?), who also loved teaching kids about nutrition and who poured her heart into connecting local farmers with local eaters. This is a woman who understood eating as celebration.
So instead of poisoning my body with chemotherapy, I invite all beautiful foods full of life force energy to join with my body’s own healing ability and dance. L’chaim!
The Longevity Kitchen: Satisfying, Big-Flavor Recipes Featuring the Top 16 Age-Busting Power Foods [120 Recipes for Vitality and Optimal Health]
by Rebecca Katz
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery Hardcover
By Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson
Anything written by Marc David.
The work of Weston A. Price. Google him.
Integrative Family Medicine of Asheville (integrativeasheville.org)
Julie Parker is busy eating only good stuff—you know, free range kale and things like that. We have included a picture of her so if you find her about town eating anything naughty, you can beat her with the nearest carrot. You will find her blog, The Vocabulary of Joy—Celebrating the Blessings of Life with Cancer, at julieparker.me where she outlines all the tools she is using to heal from cancer and create radiant health in what she calls ‘The Asheville Protocol’. We think perhaps she is waiting for a call from Oprah…