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Flax seed and Fedoras
Boy, before all this, I never really appreciated the comfort a Muskoka chair offers. The little luxury has become especially nice for me during the warm summer evenings. I'll quite often plop myself down in one on the front patio with a handful of store flyers in one hand and my laptop in the other. It's a nice little break just before dinner when my energy level drops near "empty". That was an expected side effect of radiation, but it's not nearly as bad as the dreaded chemo.
To be perfectly honest, I actually enjoy having some simple structure right now. I hate the reason for it, but for the first time in months, I'm on a regular routine. It’s one that also requires an alarm clock, too. My radiation treatments are daily, with weekends off. It's almost like going to work -- almost. The late morning drive along the Lakeshore is quite a pleasure. I enjoy feeling the warm sun, and seeing the water and the hub of summer activity along the route. Dog walkers, cyclists, and kids playing in the wading pool at Budapest Park. They are all the delightful signatures of a perfect summer day, and in a small way, I am part of it. It just feels good. I savour these moments for as long as I can, sometimes even taking the longer route, if time permits. That is something I would have never done six months ago. This comforting diversion lasts all the way -- that is, until I walk through doors of the hospital.
Then reality sets in again. I'm still a patient. A patient, at one of the best cancer treatment and research hospitals in the world, mind you, but I am here for yet another radiation treatment. The team in the ward is fantastic. They're always very friendly, caring and respectful. They put you at ease, just before they zap the hell out of you. I try not to think about just what those radio-active beams do -- I'll tell ya though, I'm like a nervous kid when it all starts up.
I can tell exactly when the beam is about to fire up -- repetition has been my teacher. The precise and calculated electronic movements of the gurney, and oh yes, those specialized sounds; the whirling, revving and buzz-ing. Each day we go through the exact same setup, so I close my eyes, and to be honest, have a brief moment with a higher power. It may sound a little odd, but remember once you're in position, you can't move -- and not even for an itch. So for several minutes, with the medical team safely out of the radio-active zone, it's just me, the impending laser beam and I would like to think, God.
We all secure our private source of strength. It could be faith, maybe a friend or some other way. Whatever it is, it's personal and for many a crucial part of inner peace. As I lay on the gurney, there are so many different thoughts that go through my mind. Today I realized I'm still trying to convince myself that the distant glow I see ahead on this journey could indeed be, as they say, the light at the end of the tunnel. I have a hard time accepting that, perhaps, for now the worst of this journey could soon be over. I should be clear, it’s certainly not that I don't want it to be. I guess it’s just that, there's still that uncertainty -- the unknown. Will something else come next? It's like an open wound that won't heal. Although there is no real physical pain per say, I feel my body remains forever tainted because of the illness. Hopefully that feeling is something that will fade in the passing weeks, months and certainly years.
World Lymphoma Awareness Day
Sept. 15, 2010
In the meantime my game plan includes focusing on recovery while working on efforts to expedite the process. I'm sure everyone reacts differently when dealing with this kind of illness. For me, the medicine/treatment is one thing and my lifestyle is another. I will likely never know for sure why I am one of the ones to get this disease, but I am going to do as much as I can with the hope that I can prevent it from coming back. I am much more in tune with what I deem toxic to me now, some might say I'm borderline obsessive, but I strongly believe our ever changing daily environment is making it easy for Cancer. Lymphoma is, in fact, now the Number 1 Cancer in 18-35 year olds and rates are still rising. I know there are endless studies and research on both sides when it comes to environmental toxicity, but for me its simple -- reducing my exposure is something I can actually control.
One thing that I have truly embraced is a new diet, or perhaps better described as a firmly modified one. Whether it has a direct impact on my future or not, I don't think it really matters. How can eating healthier be a bad thing? There are studies and a ton of research suggesting the benefits of natural whole foods, especially when it comes to preventing diseases. Although I am not supposed to ingest herbal supplements during treatment, I have found a new pleasure in eating organic fruits and veggies -- even breads, and grains. I'm regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, more home grown tomatoes, plus nectarines, plums, kiwi, berries, pineapple and many more. It is not only amazing how tasty these super foods are -- but also the rewards they offer the human body.
For a moment, please indulge me with a blogger disclaimer: If you are undergoing treatment or recently diagnosed -- it is important that you consult with your physician before altering your regular diet. Certain foods and supplements may cause adverse affects during treatment.
One of the first things I bought after my diagnosis was a juicer, with a little research and a lot of practice, I have become a perfected juice junkie -- Jack LaLanne look out! One of my favourite juice concoctions features all organic: broccoli, cauliflower, 1/2 of a red pepper, 2 carrots, an apple, and a handful of strawberries. It’s awesome.
Aside from the juicing, I am also trying to avoid white flour and refined sugars. I opt now for whole wheat or kamut, mixed with a little flaxseed. A recent study confirmed that cancerous cells use sugar or fructose as an energy source that can help tumours grow more quickly. I've started using agave nectar as a substitute. It is made from the same plant that produces Tequila or Xyiltol, which is an alcohol sugar made, most commonly, from birch trees.
Moderation is still key here, because it "is" sugar and still contains calories -- despite being a natural sugar. I know, I know, you're thinking -- he's becoming one of those guys -- "everything is bad for you" blah blah blah. Hmmmm, I don't think so. Admittedly, I'm much more selective, but to each their own. For me, its an exciting change that, I believe, makes me healthier, while creating an inhospitable environment for cancer -- that's not to mention a little bonus, I've lost over 10 pounds.
Okay, so that's enough of this Dr. Oz stuff. On to something a little more critical at the moment: my hair.
As you may recall, in a previous post, I remarked how lucky and blessed I was, that I did not lose all my hair. That is still the case, (he says confidently) yet my thinned out doo isn't doo-ing much else. I haven't seen much improvement. In fact, the back has turned a little curly. I know it takes time, and yes I realize it could be so much worse, but now I'm getting a little uneasy about it. I was so self-conscious that I went hat shopping. I wanted to add to the blue cap that I already have.
It was a task that was much more difficult than I would have ever thought. There are so many styles, colours, and fabrics. Hats for small heads, fat heads, hairy heads, bald heads, young heads -- old heads. For a fleeting moment, I almost considered a fedora, but I was afraid I looked like a cast-off from "Dancing with the Stars." Then there were the civil army-type caps, not too bad, but with my newly acquired facial hair, from a distance I could pass for a Cuban soldier. (Not that that's necessarily a bad thing). In the end, I opted for more of the same, but different colours - even a patterned one. It’s boring, perhaps, but safe.
Now, before I wrap up, I want to let you know that September 15th is World Lymphoma Awareness Day. Like all cancers, the earlier you catch it, the better. So what are you looking for? Well in most cases, including my own, it starts with a swollen lymph node. It doesn't always mean you have cancer, but certainly warrants prudent follow up.
You do know where your nodes are, don't you? That's okay -- I didn't either. To find out, see www.lymphoma.ca. It’s a brand new website setup by the Lymphoma Foundation of Canada. If you're newly diagnosed or have a friend or family member dealing with Lymphoma, this a great resource.
With your help, we can make people more aware of this disease -- maybe even, some day, eradicate it.
Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.
- Doug Larson