The C Word – Part 14

The C Word – Part 14

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”Jon Kabat-Zinn

Photo of my “Eye of the Storm” piece for Small Stage at The Shadbolt Centre taken by Dana Szyndrowski.

Adapt. Evolve. Survive.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the science of “routine” and “habit” recently as well as “adaptation” and “evolution”. I’ve been fascinated by the psychology behind habit ever since I heard media theorist and counterculture figure Douglas Rushkoff being interviewed on CBC radio in regards to his most recent book. We are literally creatures of habit, and we form habits based on rewards. We structure and form habits such as driving the same route to and from work because we know the route by heart. That frees up our brains to do other things like listen to the radio or think about what we’re having for dinner. That “flex time” is a little reward for your brain.

When people are going through a major change in their lives, they are most susceptible to changing their habits. That could mean changes in personal routine, shopping habits, dining habits, brand loyalty, the route one drives to work, hobbies, etc. And the big marketing companies use all our meta data to predict when we are going through a change, and bombard us with content to support their agendas: to get us to buy whatever they’re selling. Be that a product or an ethos. I was initially reluctant to post anything using the word CANCER because I was afraid of being inundated by ads for snake-oil vendors and self-help gurus with misinformation. But I use a secure browser and a digital shield that protects me from social media trackers, so I’ve thankfully been spared that particular annoyance.

But as humans, we also have the power to create our own new and healthier habits and routines.

The science of evolution is a story of adaptation. Beings must adapt to their surroundings to survive. I believe that much of the problems we’re having with mother earth stem from the fact that many, many people are digging their heels in and resisting change, due to a blend of lack of comprehension and rampant misinformation. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” is a principal attributed to propagandists such as Goebbels. It’s known as “the illusion of truth” and it’s a dangerous tool. There’s a good article about it on the BBC here.

On the other hand, I’m also gratified and fascinated by the way in which most people have adapted to the life during a pandemic. We now instinctively grab our masks when heading into establishments and give people space at the grocery store.

On the same note, I’m impressed with the way I’ve adapted to my current situation. In a way, going to my appointments and seeing other people going through similar journeys has normalized it for me. When I think of the abject terror which gripped me back in May, compared with the way I’ve been able to fully live my life between treatments, I’m blown away. But this is our most human nature. To bend, rather than break.

I’ve spoken about a lot of the actions I’ve been taking for my health, but I haven’t walked you through all of it, so here goes…

Morning: I wake up around 8 am. Remember, I wake up a bit HIGH from my evening dose of Phoenix Tears / Rick Simpson Oil. Laying in bed, I plug my headphones into my tablet, dial up the INSIGHT TIMER app and select a guided meditation to start my day. Meditation usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes. After that I need to putter about the house while the high wears off.

Fasting: My naturopath recommended prolonged nighttime fasting and fasting as much as possible on chemo days. She recommends 14 hours between my evening meal and breakfast. On my chemo appointment days (which are usually around 1:30 pm) I only drink water before my appointment and try to keep up the fast until dinner time. It definitely helps assuage the side effects, especially the GI ones. “During fasting, normal cells in the body undergo a process of repair (the cells equivalent to sleep). One of the processes is autophagy, a term that refers to a process in which cells get rid of old proteins that have built up inside of the cell (like house cleaning). So, with time-restricted eating, it’s possible that normal cells in the body may be better able to tolerate cancer treatments, while cancer cells (which are abnormal in many ways and are not good house cleaners) would be as susceptible or more to the toxic effects of treatment.”  –

Low Carb/ Low Sugar: I’ve stopped eating refined sugars and she also recommended that only 10% of my food intake be carbs. This is because the body processes carbs into sugars and cancer cells feed on sugars. So, I’ve adapted by replacing some carbs in recipes with protein rich substitutes like red lentil and black bean pastas and almond and chickpea flours. I’ve also replaced any sugars with low glycemic substitutions such as agave, maple syrup and coconut sugar.

I try to finish eating each night by 8:00 pm or so. I start my day around 10 am with a big glass of water. Then sometimes a cup of green tea or a matcha latte, or sometimes I skip it. Coffee hasn’t appealed to me since I started chemo.

Morning Supplements: I take a fermented probiotic, fermented wheat germ extract (aka Metatrol), magnesium and sometimes zinc. I also take my immunity shot which I started making for Doug and I at the beginning of the pandemic, It’s ginger, turmeric, lemon juice, cayenne, honey and saffron, to which I add two vitamin D drops (2000 mg).

Organics: I’ve been trying to eat mostly organic food. Yes, it’s more expensive, but guess what? I only have one body in this life so I’d better take care of it. The idea behind eating organics is that the liver normally has to work hard to process the toxins from pesticides and chemical fertilizers in our food. During chemo, it’s already working hard processing the chemotherapy drugs, so giving it a helping hand by not infiltrating it with extra chemicals is key.

Breakfast: The word breakfast literally means to break the fast. We are meant to spend more time between meals than we do.  So around 10:30 or 11, I make my smoothie. I start with a couple of smoothie cubes which I make at home and freeze in ice cube trays. They contain:

– Organic blueberries
– Organic mango
– Coconut milk
– Hemp protein powder
– Super Greens powder
– Collagen Powder
– Agave Syrup

To those two cubes I add:

– 1000 mg Turkey Tail Mushroom powder
– Organic frozen strawberries
– Coconut yogurt
– Pineapple Juice
– Coconut Water

To go along with my smoothie, I usually make an egg or two with some sauteed veggies and a tortilla.

More morning rituals:

Writing: I try to either journal or blog every day.

– Yoga: I do my best to do at least a half hour yoga class as many days of the week as I can. I subscribe to which has an app for the Roku box on our TV. (BTW, my favorite instructor is Jackie Casal- Mahrou.)

– Walking: My naturopath wants me to take a walk every day. It SHOULD be a nature walk, but some days my walk ends up being utilitarian: a walk to the grocery store or drug store to pick up a few items, etc. I watched a recent documentary on the EARTHING movement, which also really resonated with me. The premise behind Earthing is that once rubber soles began to be implemented in shoemaking, we lost our connection with the earth. We walk around insulated against the earth, rather than making the connection between the earth’s natural electrical current and ourselves.  “Earthing  refers  to  a  physical  connection  that  takes  place  between  the  electrical  frequencies  of  the  human body and those of the earth. Just like the sun constantly provides us with important energy, nutrients and vitamins, the earth too is a source of subtle energy that provides important elements that contribute to optimum health. Despite the human body’s biological design as a natural conductor, many of us have misplaced our connection with Earth’s energy and this reality can have some severe repercussions.”
 – So, I got an Earthing sheet and sleep with my feet upon it. I do feel that I sleep more soundly and wake more focused. I also figure it can’t hurt, so why not add it into my routine! I’m also seeking to buy traditional deerskin moccasins or mukluks from a local first-nations moccasin maker for my nature walks. My mission on my healing journey is to leave no sensible stone left unturned!

Lunch: I get hungry more often so I usually snack throughout the day rather than having a full lunch. Nuts, raisins, hummus and veggies, and occasionally liverwurst and crackers. Confession: I LOVE liverwurst! I grew up in a German and Scandinavian community and a tube of braunsweiger was always in the house. I’m not eating much meat these days, but liver is good for the liver, so I have some occasionally to help support my liver health as it can take a bit of a beating with the chemo. I also like it as a sandwich on toast with mustard and pickles. Ok, now I’m getting hungry!!

Water: I’m meant to be drinking a LOT of water. Chemo really dehydrates you and also, water helps flush toxins from the body. Whenever I feel a bit off lately, I drink some water and immediately feel much better. I will admit, I was much better at my water intake during the summer. Lately, most of my water consumption bookends my days. I need to do better maintaining my fluid intake throughout the day.

My Day: My days vary. I’m still doing freelance graphic design work for The Rio Theatre, rehearsing and preparing self-tape auditions as they arrive from my agent, and drumming up gigs for myself and my husband. I’ve been trying to start a side hustle sewing some items for a friend’s shop, but my life has been so filled with appointments and gigs lately that I haven’t had the time to begin the project. I’m so fortunate to have friends who are offering me creative ways to make money during this time.

Injections: Four days following each chemotherapy appointment, I start my Grastofil injections, which are once daily for five days. The Grastofil guards against neutropenia by triggering your bones to produce more white blood cells. They say it can make your bones ache, but so far all I’ve noticed is some occasional leg fatigue. Approximately once a week, Doug also injects me subcutaneously with the mistletoe extract. Also known commercially as Helixor. This also supports my immune system while also helping protect my healthy cells from the chemo.

Dinner: I almost always start with a big salad of organic greens, nuts, cranberries and hemp hearts. Then it’s a protein and veggie-based meal of some sort. Followed, often, with coconut bliss ice cream which is sweetened with agave syrup. Because I do need to keep my calorie intake up!

Evening supplements: another 1,000 mg of turkey tail, another wheat germ capsule, a stool softener (see previous post!) and my Rick Simpson Oil dose.

Bedtime: I ALWAYS wash my face, moisturize and brush my teeth. This is important because of the potential for mouth sores with this type of chemo. I usually crawl into the sanctity of bed by a 9:00 or 9:30 pm, and usually read a bit before falling asleep with my familiar Velvet tucked securely in the crook of my left arm with her chin and front paws draped over my arm.

Specialists: Aside from the regular appointments I have for bloodwork and chemo and scans and my oncologist and my naturopath, I also see my wonderfully generous chiropractor once a week and my warm and nurturing clinical counselor once a month.

And that’s my routine these days. That’s the WORK I’m putting in each and every day towards my goal, which is to be healed and whole once again, so I can dive into the next chapter of my live with fearless abandon! I’m doing my best to help the doctors and specialists do their jobs to – well, let’s face it – save my life. I’ve always depended on myself in this world. I’ve rarely relinquished control to others. And now, I’ve had to ADAPT to TRUSTING others to fulfill their tasks and roles in my healing journey. Letting all of you in was a big part of that trust. And I’m doing it. With your help, I’m adapting, evolving and growing towards my best self. And I believe fully that in the months ahead, that self is going to be CANCER-FREE.

Keep looking UP!

Photo by Shimona Henry of Pinup Perfection Photography for PinCurl Magazine.

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