I have always been challenged by food and even though an awesome new door has opened, it continues to be a challenge and I am sure will always be so. I have tried all sorts of crazy fad diets and yes you guessed it, any short-term wins were overshadowed by long-term losses with bigger issues than before starting the fad. You know, down 5kg up 8 kg!!
I have long known that my body disliked some foods but when you are young you think you can just ignore it and keep on eating what you want. Who has the time and will to be a little ‘different’ to your friends and family? The truth is so very simple and right there in front of you all the time.. Usually the case is that the stuff you crave is the stuff that is doing you the most harm. I have moved far away from fad diets they are just plain dangerous and you never achieve long-term results or happiness. They are just fillers!
When I was younger I had an allergy test done, but dust and dust mites are not normally on my dinner plate!! Wheat stuck its head up just a little and they said that it was so insignificant that I really should not consider leaving it out. Just go and eat a balanced diet as described in the food pyramid and you will be fine. Only problem is that I never felt any better and it was just something that I learned to deal with and with so much going on in my life and my head in the fast lane it was just easier to ignore.
I would either obsess over food and do so well but slowly found that I was not be able to dedicate the rest of my life to that level of planning and concentration that the plan required. It is only now that I know that my body has been living with almost constant inflammation and low-grade infections and it has always been angry and I am sure it has always been crying out for help. I kind of knew but really did not know who to ask or what I was possibly dealing with. It was even as long as 21 years ago when I first was told that food and I were having a love-hate relationship. I paid attention and over time everything settled, I lost 20kg and fell pregnant with my son. Once again after a very trying pregnancy (down to 40kg and in and out of hospital) life became seriously in the fast lane again and I lost sight of the really important lessons that I had learned and slowly began to eat things again that with no real reaction I just kept doing it. By the time I realised it was not going so well I was back in a place that I was before and just tried to ignore it all.
As you are reading this, I am sure you are saying, sure, you know there is an issue and yet you do not stay on the right side of it.. I know, and I sometimes shake my head at this too. But the truth is that it is my past and I cannot change it.. I could give you 50 pages on why I could not, did not, did not want to, did not stick to it.. the list goes on. But really, it does no good. I think it is the fact that I kept living in my past failures and by beating myself up about it actually stopped myself from succeeding at all in balancing my eating out and just feeling healthier.
Even back when I was originally diagnosed with Early Breast Cancer in 2004 I lived in a place that was calm and organised but was just doing everything to get past treatment and be sent away with a clean bill of health. I believe that I was even heard to say on occasion that I would not change what I ate because life is too short. My weight was pretty good so I thought I was doing OK. (I just want to say right here that I believe everyone has the right to their choice and I do not and will not judge anyone this is just me and my choices on the line).
In 2008 I was sent for a food sensitivity test. An amazing range of foods were tested and a list of 15 came back ranging from mild to extreme. Again I tried to just drop these foods from my list but I was disjointed and uncoordinated and really did not know the best way to tackle it.. I did it for a while and again felt a little better and slowly but surely began to eat from the list again. You see, the only thing that was easily identifiable was dairy such as milk and cream, it make me quite ill by the next day and I knew if I ate it that I would ‘pay’ by the next day. The rest seemed very nondescript and not identifiable and so I just wrote it off to other things.. I had been told that when you banish the sensitivity items that after 3-4 months without them you can slowly re-introduce them and it will probably be ok. Looking back now on the actual information that is only half-true. But you only read what you want to read and see what you want to see. It was that way for me. I was still living in the ‘it is all to hard to be different’ and I truly did not think that it was doing that much to my body. I never really had any assistance from the MD’s that I visited as my overall health was not too bad.. Usually told, lose a few kg. Get some sleep. Slow down at work. Make sure you eat well. It is really the usual kind of stuff for someone who is not obviously unwell. Any UTI or infection I got was dispatched quickly with a course of tablets. All good. Well, not really.
As I sit here and write this it is 1 year, 8 months and one day since I sat in my Breast Surgeons office not expecting anything bad to happen. Just a routine 8th anniversary visit I thought. But no, not routine she gave me the news that I needed more tests and biopsies to discover what kind of cancer I had all over my body. It was on that day that I made the decision, even before I walked out of her office that I would be going on leave from work and most likely, would never return. I no longer wanted the headaches and pressure of the Operations Manager of a security firm with a monitoring station. After working right through chemotherapy and radiation therapy the first time around, it was not even a big decision to stop work. I still do not know how I actually got all the things I got done back then. I suppose it is something that you do because you think you have to and need to. It was my way of coping and being ‘normal’.
I was able to eat a balanced and quite healthy diet right through chemotherapy and not feeling overly well goes with the territory. But after finishing chemo and as time passed, even though the Letrozole that I am now on in the form of a daily tablet causes issues, I was just not right. I was not willing to just accept that everything that was going on was the cancer and the treatment. I just kept trying to feel better and kept on remembering that last time I did chemo with radiation that it took over 2 years after treatment ended to feel any better. So I was on a mission to try to shorten the time span this time around.
I began to read books and blogs and articles and the more I read, the more confused I became. There are just so many ideas out there and every single one of them says that they are ‘the one’. That they are ‘right’ for me. I was in total overload and just stepped back for a bit and asked myself why am I trying to do this. Why am I trying to change my fuel intake. I thought on in for a while and I still cannot decide if it is a surprising answer or not but it has only a small amount to do with my cancer. I cannot say it does not because everything is inter-connected. But I will not sit here and say that I want to change me food to sort out my cancer. That is too narrow a road to travel and would still not be sorting the whole problem. I am sure that many of my past issues have been not solved well or successfully because a narrow window of vision has been used to fix a symptom.
I had reached a place where I was not winning with my food, my feeling of wellness, my sleep, my stamina and energy levels and was fighting with myself that there had to be more. More than cancer. More than just accepting how I was feeling. But I did not really know what to do or where to go. My head was still spinning from all the ideas it had found and they did not give a clear path that I could walk along and participate in.
It was then that I ended up in hospital and my body just crashed with anemia and infection rates that were almost 40 times above normal and all the other function indicators having a bit of a party at my expense that I really started to feel the pressure of needing to find the answer and do something. I knew that it was not the cancer as the scans had all just been completed and were showing stable.
After getting out, I started to read again and ask questions. I visited a dietitian and I still did not have my answers. I began to look at each end of the scale. You name it, I read about it and asked questions.. I was still looking for a balanced plan. Something that I could embrace and enjoy and continue for the rest of my life.
Then, I found myself at Carla’s (Naturopath) door. My chiropractor referred me to her as he could see that my body was arguing all the time and it needed help. We sat and talked and went right through my medical history. We discussed my food and my blood tests and also my sleep, fatigue levels, current head space and of course we discussed my cancer. As she spoke, it all just seemed to make sense. All the things that had been going on over time that I had needed to understand seemed to fit very neatly into the explanations. (I can hear you stirring again.. hang on.. it seems all to easy and convenient – don’t worry, I am a skeptic and always need proof and something tangible in the end but I was willing to listen and try what was being offered).
I left that day with a sheet of websites to visit and read up on. A new food plan which would start to tackle the issues that I had been experiencing. Some medication to assist with lowering my inflammation and infection levels and whoo hoo, something to help the night sweats that I could not seem to be rid of. It was a huge effort and it was only 3 weeks until my next blood test but I was ready to give it a go.
I think that sometimes a path is presented to you and you can choose to pass it by or head down it and see where it takes you. This day, I chose to investigate where this path could lead.
Within the first 2 weeks I began to feel the improvement and in the third week I actually found that I had been sleeping well, had more energy and was losing my cravings for bread (yeast), sugar and chocolate. I even had a piece of bread and some breadcrumb coated calamari for lunch on one day in my third week and that night, I was hot and bothered, could not sleep, bloated and generally sluggish. Was it a fluke?? who knew. So I waited 3 days until I felt pretty good again and did it again (with a little chocolate too this time). Same result.. So it was coming together. Stay on the Auto-immune Protocol and feel better. Bonus is that every 3 days I add an item off the list to see if it is ok. So far I have many nuts and seeds back on the list and this week I am working on capsicum and tomato.
I still here ‘fluke’ in the background.. Well maybe. But apart from when I go out, I am finding it reasonably easy to stick to and have found the chocolate mousse cake (no dairy, no grains) to die for and made it for my hubbies birthday cake.. He loved it. I am making the time to cook batches of things for me to eat when I get an attack of the munchies and it is working. Best of all, with the tablets and drops I was given along with removing grains and all things from my sensitivity list and just keeping on moving, the blood test at week three came back with some really inspiring and promising results.
My infection markers dropped from 35 to 8.8 (only need to get to below 3). Inflammation markers halved (still a way to go), my function indicators are all on the way back to mid range of the acceptable range. and in the current four weeks we are now working on the immune system as a whole to raise the white cells up. My tumour markers are floating a little but so far, I am not too worried simply because of the other numbers being so good.. Scan in September will tell what is happening in the apartment block!
What I like the best is I feel so much better when I stick to the plan. I am sleeping more now than I have in forever and if I stray I don’t get the sleep and am hot and bothered all night. My blood test numbers cannot lie and are showing a marked improvement in just three weeks. I am now looking forward to the next test (end of this week) to hopefully re-inforce the positive trend. Notice how it is not about the cancer, but is about the body as a whole. I have said from the start that I want my cancer gone but I can only give it a healthy body and mind to deal with and hopefully they will be able to rise to the challenge of the eviction. I think I may have just started down the right path. I may stray occasionally, but the basis is there and it just needs me to embrace it. I think I am up for the challenge. My health is important Allie and it is ok to be a bit different. Just need to sort the going out for food part and I am laughing!!
So I am going to share my path to food enjoyment resulting in feeling better and having better health. I really do not want to put a name on it but it is based around the Paleo theory (did not plan it, it just worked out that way). In the end it will be Sharon’s Food Adventure because I will eat what works and leave behind what does not. So far, grains are off the list and for now that even includes rice (tried it for lunch whilst I was away and mmmm not a great idea). I have decided that I will concentrate on things I can have rather than be sad about the things I cannot not. That only leads to failure.. How do I know this?? Well, I may have tried the ‘don’t eat it’ stuff before with totally no success. I concentrated on the negative.. Whoops, wrong answer!! Oh and weight loss will hopefully be a great side effect but is not the prime objective.. shhhh, that may just be a winning combination.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Wow, an epic post but it is an epic part of my life and so much to cover only 2755 words hehehe