Happy New Year! I hope and pray that 2013 will be a wonderful year for all. That is what I hoped and prayed for last year as well. In fact, last year at this time I had no idea what was looming just around the bend. I didn’t know that in less than two months time my husband of 24 years would be diagnosed with stage IV cancer. I didn’t know that it would be a year of visits to the doctor’s office and to the hospital…to the chemotherapy infusion room and the radiation oncology facility. What a difference a year makes.
We feel fortunate for the status of “remission” that has been given to James as he appears to be cancer-free (the term cancer-free is actually not given until 5 years from the time of diagnosis and no detection of cancer cells). We were certainly grateful this holiday season with family home and time spent together. As we stand at the front end of 2013 however, I realize that my perspective on so many things has changed. In some ways drastically, and in other ways subtly. With resolutions and new beginnings on the minds of many of us during this time of year, I realize that any resolutions that I make for 2013 will be made in the “shadow” of a cancer diagnosis. So forgive me if I sound sober as I survey the future (which I profoundly realize I have no way to predict) or if I come across as negative. I am actually quite hopeful, but also more realistic than I once was…I guess cancer in someone you love will do that to you.
In 2013, I would like to:
1. Become increasingly grateful
Gratefulness is contagious I think. I assumed that when we received the news that the scans showed no cancer, that life would suddenly be back to normal. That I would walk around basking in a thankfulness that others would see and feel too. Yet, while I certainly felt a burden lifted, I also knew that the cancer had taken something from us that is hard to put a finger on. I sometimes felt angry for this. As the days and weeks passed I must have allowed these feelings to get the best of me because I started to see their effects on my children. They seemed angry at times as well… and there was a tangible heaviness in the air. It occurred to me that perhaps I was passing these feelings along, and it made me sad. One day I decided to just be grateful, regardless of how I felt inside. This was a conscious decision and it wasn’t easy to do. Some say it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 muscles to smile. While this may or may not be true, I certainly found that it was much more pleasant to be grateful than it was to be angry. And just as I had guessed, I soon found that my kids appeared grateful too. It is powerful to know that as parents we might affect the way our children see things. I realize that there are times when our emotions just get the best of us. I also understand that feelings come and go, but decisions are more permanent. My faith in God is strong…but it was tested this past year in ways that I wasn’t prepared for. I would like to hope that the last year has given me some preparation for the future and that my faith is stronger….I certainly feel it is. I know that I must continue to decide to be grateful…and so this year I place it at the top of my list of resolutions.
2. Become an informed consumer.
Knowledge is power. Today I know a lot more about cancer than I did a year ago. However that knowledge has also led me to the realization that I have to make some drastic changes in terms of nutrition and lifestyle going forward. Frankly I thought we were pretty healthy eaters, but actually there is a lot more that we can do. The growth and function of all the cells in our body are carefully controlled by many processes. The term cancer is used when these control systems go wrong and our cells start to grow out of control. In most cases, cancer is caused by many different factors, with several processes being involved in DNA damage in cells. Michio Kushi, author of the in-depth text The Cancer Prevention Diet, believes that cancer is caused not so much by carcinogens per se as by the imbalance in the body caused by improprieties of diet that allows the agents to create problems. He advocates looking at disease as a way to correct things that have gone awry. Now that we have dealt with the treatment of the disease of cancer, we are focusing on preventing it in the future. I resolve in 2013 to become more informed about cancer prevention nutrition and hopefully become a better consumer in the process.
3. Make plant-foods the focus of my family’s diet
HelpGuide.com places a plant-based diet at the top of the list of ways to prevent cancer. They present the following tips for making plant based foods the focus of nutrition…
- Breakfast: Add fruit and a few seeds or nuts to your whole grain breakfast cereal (such as oatmeal).
- Lunch: Eat a big salad filled with your favorite beans and peas or other combo of veggies. Always order lettuce and tomato (plus any other veggies you can) on your sandwiches. Order whole grain bread for your sandwiches. Have a side of veggies like cut up carrots, sauerkraut, or a piece of fruit.
- Snacks: Fresh fruit and vegetables. Grab an apple or banana on your way out the door. Raw veggies such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, jicama, peppers, etc. are great with a low-fat dip such as hummus. Keep trail mix made with nuts, seeds, and a little dried fruit on hand.
- Dinner: Add fresh or frozen veggies to your favorite pasta sauce or rice dish. Top a baked potato with broccoli and yogurt, sautéed veggies, or with salsa. Replace creamy pasta sauces, with sautéed vegetables or tomato sauce made with healthy olive oil.
- Dessert: Choose fruit instead of a richer dessert. Or a single square of dark chocolate.
We bought a Vita Mix in March and have used it almost daily ever since, but we use it primarily for fruit smoothies (we usually add a few greens like kale or collards, and some flax seed). These are certainly good for us, but I would like to add a lot more vegetables to my family’s diet in the new year, making plant-based foods the primary source of most of our meals. I actually don’t think this will be easy (at least at first), so if you have any suggestions or recipes to share, I would be grateful!
4. Cut back on sugar
There has been a lot of talk about different types of sugar…glucose, fructose, etc. What does it all mean? It’s too early to tell whether fructose is worse for us than other sugars and sweeteners, but what we do know is we eat too much of all types (at least I know I do). Askmen.com says the following in a recent article…”The American Heart Association recommends that we get only about 5-7% of our total intake from added sugars. Sure, added sugars and natural sugars are treated the same by the body, but it’s how we get them that makes the difference. Natural sugars, as in fruit, come in a package of fiber, vitamins, minerals and water. On the other hand, added sugar is just that — sugar. No nutrients, no fiber, just empty calories. We shouldn’t be eating so much sugar that it matters whether one is worse for us than the other” (Read more: http://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_150/182b_eating_well.). Sugar is something I love. But I love James and my family more! So I will try to cut back on sugar for my whole family in 2013.
5. Find an interesting and exciting new kind of race… and sign up!
I didn’t race in 2012. In 2013 I would like to find an adventure race, a mud-run, or some other totally different kind of race to participate in. I am up for any suggestions and would love to hear about fun and interesting races (hopefully not too far from Charlotte, NC). I have looked into Spartan Races, mud-runs, and Wounded Warrior races.…do you know of others?
What are your 2013 resolutions?