Backseat Driver

dogs-car-17It has happened.  Another check mark off the bucket list.  It seemed unthinkable.  But now it has happened.  My fourth child, my baby, my little one, has earned her driver’s license.  I am, by trade, a domestic engineer…aka, a stay at home mom.  For me and other’s with this job title, we’ve spent many hours fulfilling the “chauffeur” role.  I half had expected my kids to buy me gloves and a chauffeur’s cap one year for Christmas.  I’ve spent countless, countless hours behind the wheel of a mini van or mid-sized SUV taking my prodigy to and fro, fro and to.  I was always in the driver’s seat.  I saw the road ahead. I planned the course.  I decided where to turn, when to turn, whether or not a U-turn was acceptable.

In 2008, a passenger hopped in and climbed onto my lap.  This made it a little bit difficult to see the road ahead.  It was easy to fall into a pot hole.  I had to move my head left or right to see clearly out the front window.  I learned to use my mirrors a little bit better though.  This passenger had a name.  And that name was metastatic breast cancer, MBC.  MBC has been on my lap for seven years now.  And, while it has made sitting in the driver’s seat and seeing that road stretching ahead a little more difficult, I have maintained my seat.  Blessedly!  While that passenger is still with me, I try to think of MBC as something that decided to just come along for the ride, but lets me stay in control. Until now.

Now, I am relegated to the back seat.  My children have taken over the front seat!  I have to get used to this new perspective.  My mother, now 91, has not been driving now for over a year (thankfully, right?!?).  She just said to me last month that it seemed that people were taking better care of their yards and planting more flowers than in the past.  I assured her that, in the area through which we were driving, people had always taken meticulous care of their yards and gardens.  But, I also responded that now that she was a passenger, she was able to soak in these great views!  And so this is where I am trying to figure things out.  My view through the back seat makes it difficult to see the road ahead.  It seems to me that now, suddenly, my children are able to choose the turns. They decide when it’s a sharp right or when to follow the gentle bend in the road.  They decide how fast to go, how slow to go, what we need to observe, where we will stop.  I see things from the side.  It’s different seeing things from the side, with a better view of the back than the front.

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It seems that as we age, that’s how it goes. We look more behind us.  The road behind us seems so much prettier.  The road ahead…we can’t really see it so well.  We need different sorts of glasses or something for that.  What does the road ahead hold?  Are there pot holes right underneath us?  Will we hit a squirrel?  It’s hard to tell.  But, behind us everything seems crystal clear.  We remember that road.  It looks familiar.  It’s comfortable.  It’s safe.  We can see that!

Posted in belief, breast cancer, cancer, disease, faith, family life update, healthy outlook, illness, Metaphors, metastatic, nancy ferrato, survivor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

telling it like it is

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted.  Because sometimes it’s easier to step away.  Sometimes I try to indulge so much in life that I forget.  Sometimes I am so obsessed with the knowledge, that I can’t talk or write about it.   It’s always there.  You know, always!  Always is a lot to handle.  But, I think I do ok.  If I’m here in April, then I’ve seen another spring and I’ll likely make it through summer.  If I see an August, I hope that means I can plan for Christmas.  And so it goes.  Blessedly.  I’ve been lucky.  Maybe there’s no luck.  In that case, I am nothing short of a miracle.  Whichever you prefer, I’ll take it.  And run!

Perhaps you’ve already seen this.  Holley Kitchen has stepped up to tell you how most of us feel.  Please watch her 3 minute video.  You’ll get a good understanding of what it’s like.  Every day.

If you cannot open the link, please google Holley on youtube.

Posted in breast cancer, chemo, disease, illness, metastatic, nancy ferrato, survivor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“God bless us, everyone”

Once again, this is the season of thanks.  The calm before the storm.  Before we rush to shop, to decorate, to visit, we are to bow are heads and count our blessings.  Really, we should do this daily, right?  Even when you’re stuck in traffic behind an accident, worrying about being late to work or that concert you couldn’twait to attend, there is the relief in NOT being a part of the accident.  There is something to be thankful for.  Even if your electricity goes out right before you put dinner in the oven, there is that thrill of knowing you can go out to dinner and not clean up dishes and pans that night.  There is something to be thankful for.  The miracle of each sunrise and sunset, the miracle of each breath you take, each beat of your heart…happening fairly effortlessly, all something for which you should be thankful.

I will never be thankful that I have terminal cancer.  Never.  It is not a gift.  I do not wish to share it.  I never wanted to open it.  I will never forget the moment I heard the words.  Nothing in my life will match the drama of that moment until/unless something happens to my husband or children.  And until I hear the words that there are no more treatments for me.  So, there you have it, something to be ungrateful for.

But, still, there’s that silver lining.  There just always is.  There’s always that escape window when the door is closed or locked.  It is because I have cancer that I got to experience an incredible outpouring of love and support.  I received  221 cards to cheer me, support me, vetetable-basketencourage me.  I received flowers, and books, and my favorite–vegetable baskets!  I got to know some women in an online support group that share my disease   Then I got to meet two of these women in person.  Pretty cool, right?!  These women and I share our ups and downs. Lately, there’s been a lot of sad news in this group.  I was thinking about all ladies, their families, the holidays.  And I realized something.  Each of us “metsbabes” as we call ourselves, has been blessed with a new perspective.  We have faced what my oldest brother called “The Fear”.  And, like a born-again Christian feels a rebirth, we are born again.  We have been baptized not in water and oil, but in fear and determination.  We have pondered our deaths in a way that most people don’t, because when you do, it’s damned scary!  But this has made each day sweeter for us.  That’s the silver lining.  We know in a very real way that our days are numbered.  This could very well be our last Thanksgiving, our last Christmas.  We know full well to only do the things that bring us true pleasure.  We know when to let go, when to say “no” and when to jump in full force.

We were born again.  We have entered a new culture, a new club.  We didn’t mean to, but we did.  We have faced chemo, radiation, lost breasts, lost ovaries, lost hair, lost fingernails, gained countless aches and pains, gained weight, lost weight.  But, we never lost dignity, or hope, or faith…or each other.  This rebirth has taught us what having faith really means, too.  Because we have to put faith in so much.  Will our oncologist chose the right chemo?  Will the surgeon know what to do with what he/she finds inside us?  Will the radiologist see everything?  Will the side effects be as minimal as the drug company says?  We cannot manage on our own.  We put faith in everyone that touches us.  Blind faith.  And then we pray.  And the time spent in prayer is another silver lining.  Because so many people don’t feel like they have the time for this.  But, when you feel like you don’t have a lot of time, suddenly, you make the time for this.  And prayer is very powerful on so many levels.  You can call it meditation if that’s more comfortable for you.  But, if you ever have the opportunity to live six years past a terminal diagnosis, you’ll call it prayer.  You’ll believe in God.  You’ll believe in miracles.  And, because of these beliefs, you’ll feel peace.  Huge silver lining.

Relaxing-with-Tea

Before Black Friday comes, take a minute or two to slow down.  Drink some tea, or wine. Prop up your feet.  Be still.  Entertain yourself with your own thoughts.   And, of course, count your blessings!

Posted in belief, breast cancer, cancer, chemo, disease, faith, go green, healthy outlook, illness, metastatic, nancy ferrato, survivor, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Be ‘Ware

Well, all over the breast cancer blogging world is commentary on this October, our honorary month.  It’s interesting to me that so many women with breast cancer hate the pink ribbon stuff.  So, then, who are we doing it for?  Is not everyone “aware” by now?  Yet even my oldest son…son of a metastatic mother…posted on social media for his followers to “raise awareness”.

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Fudge to awareness.  I say, go give away some cash.  Now.  Are you aware that the SAME NUMBER OF WOMEN WITH INITIAL DIAGNOSIS OF METASTATIC BREAST CANCER HAS NOT DROPPED SINCE 1975!!! (Dr. Susan Love 10/14/14)  That’s women like moi.  Women who got screened.  But, for some reason, we were metastatic before the next screening could happen.  This makes it clear, does it not, that early detection is not the cure-all.  It will cure some.  But 20-30% of those “cured” will one day be metastatic.  There is still such need for research.  Before we can prevent this disease, we need to know what causes it.  Perhaps learning the cause will also lead to a cure.  Makes logical sense, I think.  But, scientists need to make a living.  All research money cannot come from government grants.  We need to open our wallets.  Even just a little.  We’ve opened our eyes.  We see pink ribbons.  We get it.  (yep 12% of us GET IT)

So, to whom should we give this money?  Ok, I’m not going there with you.  Can I tell you something though?  Nancy Brinker, founder of that leading Pink organization Susan G. Komen, made $$673,215 in 2011.  People got upset and, in 2014, her salary will be $390,000.  The president of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Myra Biblowit is said to make well over $500,000.  Hmmm.  Charity Navigator, who studies not-for-profits, estimates the average president of such organizations make more like $175,000-200,000.  The leaders of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, Susan Love Research Foundation and many others I looked up make less than $200k/yr.  Now, I realize that some are paid as a percentage of revenue, but doesn’t that give you even more pause.  More revenue in the for-profit world is certain to be awarded in higher salaries.  But, in the not-for-profit world, many of us assume the president takes a fair share and more goes to programming.

Please just be aware.  Every pink ribbon is not created equal.  And no pink ribbon will cure anyone, anywhere.  Our dollars are better spent on research, free mammograms and such.  We have created an entire industry.  And it’s unnecessary.  And, really, it’s obnoxious.  If you lost your breasts to cancer, how would you feel about the “save the tatas” or “coppa feel” organizations?  Umm, women have LOST their breasts here, marketing firms!

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And the string of bras to show your support…draped over bridges and the like…funny.  Did you take the bras of the women who no longer need them because they don’t have breasts?  Why do you keep putting in the face of breast cancer survivors the very thought of what made them ill?  Why are you reminding them of what they’re missing?  And why is every woman in a BC ad smiling?  It is NOT a fun disease.

October sometimes finds us feeling good about Pink.  Pink M&Ms, pink fuzzy socks, pink watches, pink scarves.  All of them are gonna donate some money to a breast cancer cause.  That’s nice.  Kinda like the magazine drive at my kids’ school.  If you want those items anyway, perfect…buy them, support the cause.  But if you don’t want socks or scarves and you don’t read magazines, please remember that only a small percentage of your dollars are going to the charity.  Your impact is so much greater with a direct donation.  Just open your wallet.  A little.

A friend of mine says that giving in the spirit of charity is good enough.  It’s on the charity to be effective.  The giver has done their part by giving.  Hmm.  No.  I don’t give my money away with that little discretion for anything else.  I pay the lawn guy.  But, if he doesn’t show up to mow, I won’t keep paying him.  If he just puts a sign in my yard, making me aware that my yard needs mowing, I won’t keep paying him.  If he takes so much of that money and takes a great vacation, then can’t afford gas for his mower, I’m not going to give him even more.  So, no, giving in the spirit of charity is not enough.  It’s nice.  It’s pretty.  It’s fluffy and feels good.  But, it’s not enough.

In conclusion, I’d like to remind you that, like most diseases, breast cancer sucks.  It maims women.  It strips women of their self-assuredness.  It kills 40,000 of us each year. Pink ribbons don’t really help anymore.  They had there place and time.  But, that’s over now.  My son is sweet to want to help in some way.  Everyone is sweet.  But, people are dying…are you aware?  Not everyone crosses the finish line with a big smile and a cute pink tank top.  Some people die.  Let’s try to stop that!  THAT is the message in October.

For an artistic look at what breast cancer really looks like, please visit http://www.thescarproject.org and peruse the gallery.

Posted in breast cancer, cancer, disease, illness, metastatic, nancy ferrato, survivor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

WanderLust

Yesterday my sis wore a Life is Good shirt with that phrase you’ve seen “all who wander are not lost”.  A week ago, my son posted a picture labeled, “wandering but not lost” while he was exploring Oregon.  These reminded me that my youngest older brother once told me that Americans tend to have wanderlust.  He was reading something that supposed it was because we all are descendants of wanderers.  Whether our roots are from jolly ol’ England, Mexico, or somewhere in Europe, our ancestors became restless or unsatisfied, and here we are in the USA.  Huh, I thought I just loved traveling, but maybe I have the dreaded “wanderlust”.  Every summer I look for a new house, but never move.  If I’m in Ohio for more than four weeks, I start looking for other places to visit.  Even if I don’t plan a getaway, I search out options.  It is, perhaps, an affliction.

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Of course, my mind then went down a different road, because, it, too, has wanderlust…or ADD…or maybe just extreme flights of thought (maybe it’s a caffeine overdose thing)  Anyhow, I broke down the word in my head…wander, lust.  And then I thought of my postmenopausal self.  Indeed, my lust has wandered.  It has not wandered from my husband, it has wandered off the earth.  When I speak to other women my age, they have similar experiences.  I must say, it’s pretty unpleasant.  It doesn’t seem to be an affliction that men get.  In fact, thank you Pfizer, men can pop a pill if they’re having problems.  Sometimes a woman can, too.  But not if she has any estrogen-driven issues, like, say ER+ breast cancer.  So, we must be satisfied with wanderlust since our lust has wandered.  Life is weird.

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No big conclusions here.  I’m gonna go take my dog and wander through a park.  This is the best season in Ohio.  Autumn is typically cool and sunny, and today is delivering just that.  There is Vit D to soak up!  My thoughts will wander.  But, I’ll try to just look around and soak up the gorgeous day.  One problem with the wanderluster is that sometimes we miss what’s right outside our door.  So, be careful about that.  Go wander around nearby, THEN plan your next big adventure.

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Posted in breast cancer, cancer, disease, go green, healthy outlook, illness, Metaphors, metastatic, nancy ferrato, survivor, weather | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dis-ease

[dih-zeez] according to Dictionary.com
noun
1. a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment.

Disease,

“something happens to a human being from the time they are well until the time they become clinically sick that is not included in scientific medicine as we know it today. Human beings do not suddenly become sick. Did you ever stop to think the word disease comes from two words: dis (without) and ease (bliss, well being, happiness)? Do not our thoughts and actions lead to disease?”–Frank Appleby, M.D., Chairman of the Dept. of Pathology, Medical College of Virginia

     Generally speaking, I leave my cancer to the month of October.  In between, I try to feel like I did pre-Sept 2008…which is, like many, Invinsible.  In October, I snoop through clinical trials and browse stats, etc.  Generally speaking, October can be rough.  

     But today I read the above tidbit by Dr. Appleby and it struck a chord.  No one wants to think she made herself sick.  I fear the truth, however, is that the mind and body are quite synchronized.  I remember some things that were going through my head in 2007 and 2008.  I remember some unrest.  Life coming to turning points I did not want to face.  Nothing big.  Remember I’m a princess!  My thoughts wandered this way…

      By nearly every standard out there, I live (and always have lived) a life of ease.  Never have I feared a bill, a neighbor, a test.  Well, I feared calculus, but who doesn’t?  But as I neared middle age, I was becoming restless.  I became hypercritical of myself.  And I was falling short of who I wanted to be in every category.  While I never lacked self-confidence, I lacked…hmmm…self-acceptance.  Perhaps this is only a problem among princesses?  I don’t think so.  As we age, I’m guessing we begin to wonder if all of our time and energy is well spent.  I know around the age of 50-60, many start to wonder if their work load is keeping them from more meaningful or enjoyable life experiences.  I guess my “motherload” was changing and I was wondering where to go next.  You never retire from motherhood.  But, when it’s your only job, you do notice an obvious switch when all the kiddies are full time students.  The house is empty for hours and perhaps there is just a bit too much time for self-reflection.

     So, I reflected too much?  Maybe.  I certainly wasn’t TRYING to get cancer.  But, perhaps I laid a good foundation for those rogue cells.  No, don’t get me wrong, I’m not beating myself up because I have cancer.  I’ve beaten myself up for LOTS of things I’ve done and haven’t done.  What I’m trying to convey is simply this:  humans aren’t perfect, period.  I kinda thought I was.  I thought I was pretty smart.  Pretty successful.  Had a GREAT husband.  Had GREAT kids.  Loved my house, my neighbors, my mini van!  Still, I felt this tug to do more, like I just wasn’t enough.  What I’m trying to say is this:  yes, you are.  You are enough.  Bono and Mother Theresa, they won Nobel Prizes.  I didn’t.  You probably won’t either.  I thought this meant I wasn’t doing enough.  Then I finally came to the conclusion that this fact is ok.  Maybe you came to that conclusion when you were 10.  But, I was a perfection-seeker for much of my life.  I only wanted people to see the best of me.  I even realize that I was trying really hard to be the best cancer patient.  I rarely complained of side effects, I called if I was going to be late for my appointment (cuz doctors are never running late, right?!).  I was kinda full of dis-ease.  I wasn’t allowing myself to just….be.  I’ve totally got that figured out now!!!  I can relax like no other!  (see, I’m doing it again….being the best at something)  I’m really trying now, though, seriously, not to take myself so seriously.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  I’ll likely make some more.  I may have forgotten your birthday, or not sent you a thank you card.  But, I’m no longer going to expect to get it all right.  I’m allowing myself guilt free lazy days.  I’m allowing myself time alone.  I’m allowing myself to quit doing something to go to Starbucks with my kids (ok, THAT’S not new!)  I guess the difference is that, at the end of the day, I’m trying really hard not to care if I have nothing real to show as the day’s work.  It IS enough that I spent an hour chatting with (at?) my husband at breakfast, took the dog to the park for a walk, picked a kid up from school, made a dinner and walked the dog again.  I have, after all, observed the first line in the Hippocratic oath…I have “done no harm”. (is that really the first line?)  Also, I have realized this….took me too long to realize it….that in these meals together, these car rides, I have shared and listened to many a fun fact, many an opinion.  And amazingly, I have shaped some other human beings.  I have not yet, nor will I ever, win a Nobel Peace Prize.   But, I’ve created other humans and let them be creative.  Two have become vegetarians, and one a student of nutrition, in part because of me.  My passion has always been food.  I’ve managed to pass along this passion.  I do not need the above mentioned prize.  I have left a mark on someone else’s thought processes.  These other people will carry the torch.  I never needed to be perfect.  I always had a purpose.  Same with you.  

     We don’t all need to reach some high standard, we just need to open our hearts and minds to the people we can touch.  Hmmm, cliche’?  Anyway, quit beating yourself up because you aren’t something you thought you should be.  Just be you. Then, you’ll be full of ease.  Keep the “dis” at bay.  

 

 

Posted in belief, breast cancer, cancer, chemo, disease, food, healthy outlook, illness, metastatic, nancy ferrato, nutrition, survivor, vegetarian | 6 Comments

Offensive?

I play offense.  I’m on team SAL (stay alive longer) playing against MBC (metastatic breast cancer).  We’re both in the NEL (national epidemic league).  And I play offense.  Because I want to move my team ahead.  I want to play hard for the big win.  I want to be the hero.  Most days my offense consists of a few servings of cruciferous veggies along with an assortment of other fruits and veggies.  Some meat, sometimes.  Some carbs.  Some people think I’m picky.  But, if you pick the wrong teammates, your team gets sluggish.  Some days I am a bit more relaxed, just staying in my triple threat stance, daring a cell to go rogue, but not seeking out that cell aggressively.  Some days I go so far as to consume potato chips or a piece of cake!  Outlandish!  And, some people find my way of living offensive.  I admittedly have trouble not talking about everything that enters my world…food, in particular.  I am very passionate about food.  Food is yummy.  Good food is yummy.  Bad food is yummy.  But, good food makes you feel good and bad food makes you feel bad.  Does that offend you?  Do you know when you’re eating bad food?  If I tell you, will you understand that I’m trying to be on the offense, but not offensive?  We are in a battle here.  Seriously.  Obesity is rampant.  50% of us will get cancer.  This is not ok.  We are living longer, ya ya ya.  But, that’s our parents.  Will we?  Will we have a good quality of life?  How about our kids.  When you were growing up how often did you eat fast food?  How often do you let your kids?  We are regressing.

This puts me on the offense.  I already have the big C, I NEED to play offense.  I need to do EVERYTHING I can to stay on team SAL.  I need to eat right, I need to reduce stress, I need to think more, pray more.  I am constantly strategizing…I have plenty of offenses to run.  I run Eat Veggies.  I mix it up with Exercise Daily.  And the ace in my back pocket is Have Faith.  If I tell you about my playbook, is that offensive?

You can play defense for now, probably.  You can throw out an arm and block those rogue cells.  You can afford to be relaxed and not so aggressive.  You might not even think about what you’re putting in your mouth, on your skin, spraying into your air.  But, while many think the best offense is a strong defense, I think we need to mix it up.  It’s really not enough to just defend yourself.  You need to stay ahead in the health game.  You need to be proactive.  Play offense with me.  Tell someone you love that they should sit down to eat.  They should put food on their plate and not refill it.  Their plate should be full of fruit and veggies and garnished with meat and grains.  This isn’t just me talking, you can read the benefits of this anywhere…everywhere.  It’s not ok to have pancakes for breakfast, an Italian meats panini at lunch, and stew for dinner.  You need green food.  Lots of green food.  Try to add a little at a time.  Try to drink green juice.  Just try.  Give up sweet drinks.  Drink less caffeine.  Drink more water.

I never mean to offend anyone.  We are all striving to be politically correct.  But, if we socially ostracized the fast food eaters like we do smokers.  Hmm.  That would be interesting.  If we made faces at overweight people (hey, I have pounds to lose, I hear ya!) the way we make faces when someone next to us lights a cigarette, hmmm.  If we said, you want “more” with a bit of disgust in our voices…Well, we’d definitely be offensive.  It’s difficult to change.  But, I can tell you, chemo ain’t no picnic.  If you want to be defensive, ok.  I guess that means I offended.  But if my offense works….I can change the world!

Posted in belief, breast cancer, cancer, chemo, cooking, disease, faith, fast food, food, go green, health update, healthy food, healthy outlook, illness, kitchen, Metaphors, metastatic, nancy ferrato, nutrition, survivor, vegan, vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Turtles and Geese

Today I am thankful for…

The unbelievable clear blue sky

The pristine snow that sparkles like crystal in the unobstructed sunshine

The scar under  my right shoulder that reminds me of a rough year that I survived

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My sloppy, graying hair that now falls past my shoulders

The other hair that I frequently see in my closet, perfectly coifed, but unneeded, for now

The abundance of jeans in my closet, covering three different sizes

All four of my children, because the world is a better place with them in it (even if I was selfish to have so many)

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My house…it is so much more than I ever expected to have

My husband, because he loves me and I love him.  That covers everything.

The fact that my husband and one daughter are now in Alaska, because it wasn’t that long ago that he wouldn’t leave me

The time I’ve been given to learn

The joy of smelling food, then eating it, without getting nauseated

The ability to take a really deep, relaxing breath

The knowledge that these little things aren’t little, they are EVERYTHING

That I realize we are all walking on a tightrope.  But, that, for now, I’ve figured out how to keep my balance.

That I got that call that brought me to my knees and was able to be lifted back up.

That I believe in God, because that’s where I find peace.  Even with Russia in the Ukraine.

Beaches, because when I see sand I’m reminded of how long things have been here before me, and will be after me

The ocean, because it reminds me that even things that are dark and cold can produce beautiful life.

Speaking of dark and cold…

Today, when I awoke, it was 5 degrees.  Later, it got up to ten degrees…

More than anything else, today I am thankful for turtlenecks and goose down coats and comforters.

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When the warm weather hits, I’ll research just what happened to those geese….but for now, I just wanna thank ’em!

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Hold the Relish?

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And so it is “that time of year” again.  This year, we have done some home renovations.     We signed papers to start these renovations in June, but here we are in December not yet completed.  So frustrating!  But, having my home a bit “under construction” over the holidays does make me ponder.  What is it that makes this time of year special?  What decorations have to be done?  What gifts have to be purchased?  What cookies have to be baked?  I’m a  home made holidays kinda girl most of the time.  I don’t want a bunch of store bought stuff on my table or on my tree.  But, why?  Who is the one who cares?  Who is the one who appreciates the efforts?

This year, I am thinking about “opportunity costs”.  If I bake something from scratch, what am I missing…a breakfast with a cousin, a tennis match, a walk with the dog, a nap?  I am trying to determine what makes Christmas happen at my house.  Is it just a calendar day or is it John’s wedding soup?  I am trying to figure out….what matters???

As I ponder this, here is one thing I’ve become certain of.  Perhaps you have, too.  Or perhaps you need to read it here.  Don’t do anything without the relish!  If it ain’t fun…skip it.  This is the first year in sooo long that I’m not sending Christmas cards.  I have a few aunts and uncles to whom I like to send a card and a picture of my kids.  Maybe they look forward to this card.  Or maybe they wonder what to do with the picture.  I dunno really.  But, I’ve done this for 22 years, I think.  And this year I am not relishing the thought of finding a good group photo of my kids and copying it and sending it.  Perhaps I’ll send New Year’s cards instead.  Perhaps in January, when the kiddies are all back at school, I will relish finding the right photo.  Or, perhaps, I’ll just skip this year.  Pretty sure the earth will keep spinning.

I also realize that just because other people are apathetic about something, that doesn’t mean I have to be.  Maybe nobody in my house cares if I put garland on the fireplace mantle.  But, it matters to me.  I relished in the task!  The ol’ garland should probably be replaced.  Maybe it’s time for new stocking holders.  But, I still love my old worn stuff.  Every night when I see it, it makes me smile.

Take some time to really do what you love this holiday season.  Ya, that’s been said before, but heed the words this time.  Bake up a storm…if you like to bake!  Shop til you drop…if you love the crowds!  Sing to Bing til your throat is hoarse…if you dream of a white Christmas!  But there is nothing that makes us all Grinchier than feeling forced to make this holiday into something that isn’t special to us.

Finally, remember the reason for the season.  So cliche’, right?  But, in the words of   images-1TSO, “Christmas stays if we don’t forget it’s meaning….And so it’s good that we remember, just as soon as we’ve discovered, that the things we do in life will always end  up touching others.”  Keep the traditions that have meaning to you and yours.  Ditch the others, and spend your time relishing your family, your friends, the snow, the hot chocolate.  I’ll be spending hours baking and constructing gingerbread houses.  Why?  Because it brings my kids and their friends into my house for a few blessed hours.  And the laughter of your own children…  Now, that’s the Christmas spirit.  Relish it!

 

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From My Hero

Many people wonder why they should spend the extra $$$ for organics.  If you’ve wondered, read on.  An additional comment by moi, though, first.  Some peeps responded to Kris’ blog, with a “but studies show that organics aren’t any better for you”.  I used to wonder the same thing.  Be clear with your thinking…organic apples and conventional apples both have pectin,  a natural digestive aid.  But convention apples’ pectin is covered with pesticide.  Same is true for all foods conventional/organic.  Except gmo foods could be chemically different.  Anyhow, this is the girl that totally changed my outlook on disease.  So, if nothing else, realize you have choices.  And, choices ALWAYS matter.

The Crazy Sexy Guide to Organic Foods

September 16, 2013


Hi Sweet Friends,

It’s time that we had a serious talk. The source of my distress? Pesticides, herbicides and all the other icky -icides and chemicals that make their way onto our plates from the grocery store from industrial farming. Organic foods are part of a movement near and dear to my heart, so this week, we’re continuing our focus on prevention by shifting our gaze to the ground—right to the roots of a problem that we all face every time we eat. Let’s dig in and demystify what’s behind the price tags, politics and progress of organic foods and how it affects our health, our environment, our wallets and our rights.

The Problem

So, what’s wrong with a little pesticide? When I recently asked Elizabeth Kucinich, Policy Director for the Center for Food Safety, why organics are so important she said, “We can choose to support life, or we can choose to destroy it.” When it comes to protecting our health and our world, there are few things more important than the foods we eat and how they are grown.

Simply put, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that are sprayed onto crops are meant to kill. Sure, they kill the unwanted stuff, but that’s not all they do. Many of these chemicals, which are poisons by their nature, can make their way into our land, water, food and bodies, wreaking havoc as they go.

Imagine your fruit bowl. Apples are some of the most highly contaminated fruits, landing them right at the top of Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen (a list of the most highly contaminated produce). In tests done by Pesticide Action Network, 42 different pesticides were found on conventionally grown apples! Forty two, of which 10 were known neurotoxins, seven were carcinogenic—and can we really trust the other 25? Throw an apple in your green juice every day, and the numbers of toxins entering your system multiplies at centrifugal speed. Now multiply that number because we certainly eat more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away.

What’s the big difference between conventional farming and organic farming?

In conventional farming:

  • Farmers plant extensive fields of a single crop (called mono cropping), which leads to soil nutrient depletion.
  • To maintain the soil nutrient balance, they add synthetic fertilizers.
  • To control the field environment, they spray hundreds of millions of pounds of chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides onto the fields per year in the US.

In organic farming:

  • Farmers plant a multitude of crops, which work together to maintain soil nutrient balance (or, crops are rotated yearly to ensure that the land doesn’t become depleted.)
  • Farmers use natural (as in, derived from mother nature) means of pest control, including natural compounds, friendly bugs and compost-based fertilizers.

The Center for Food Safety describes three levels of chemical contamination on farms: mild, moderate and severe. Organic produce is considered mildly contaminated, since toxins from nearby farms might blow over in the wind and leave some residue. Conventional farms are considered moderate, as toxins are used liberally, and the severe label goes to GMOs. (We’ll go much deeper into GMOs next month, since they are a big, gnarly issue of their own.)

Just how bad are farming chemicals for our health?

The effects of these chemicals on the body have been linked to increased rates of chronic disease. From the farmers who grow the crops (and are exposed to harmful toxins) to the folks who eat the food (that’s you and me, baby!), agricultural chemicals permeate every level of the food production chain. Basically, pouring poisonous junk onto our land, into our water and into our mouths is potentially detrimental to our well-being. It’s freakin’ tricky to be pro-prevention when the very foods that are supposed to nourish us bring with them the party crashers of toxins!

Here’s a list of a few agricultural chemical-related illnesses:

  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • brain tumors
  • non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • sarcoma (my personal pickle)
  • birth defects
  • impaired neurological development
  • endocrine disruption
  • leukemia
  • and on and on…

The Big Players

If chemicals are so clearly nasty, why exactly are they so widespread? Seems sorta counterintuitive to put poison onto something you’re gonna eat, doesn’t it? In trying to feed the world’s ever-growing population, it might seem like “better living through chemistry” can make more food for more folks, and faster (which has been the mantra for Monsanto and its cohort for years). Despite the charming marketing spin here, the rampant use of chemicals in farming is leading us to something much closer to H-E-double hockey sticks than a totally fed world.

How’d we get here? Here’s a little piece of information that you might not already have known:Monsanto, a chemical company that seems to like masquerading as a food company, has created some of the most notorious toxins in history. PCBs (big time carcinogens, more on these next week), DDT and Agent Orange (the very same Agent Orange, an herbicide dumped by the millions of gallons on Vietnam, causing Parkinson’s, Hodgkin’s disease, nervous system disorders, prostate cancer and lung cancer, among other nightmares)—all come from Monsanto. US veterans, the Vietnamese and the children of both sides have suffered immensely from the after-effects of Agent Orange.

How did we go from Vietnam to vegetables?

Monsanto’s 1976 creation of Roundup (an herbicide) has led directly to its creation of GMO crops that withstand Roundup (so that farmers buy the GMO seeds, then use Roundup on the entire field, instead of targeting the weeds). Along with two other US-based companies, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont, Monsanto is in the top 10 herbicide-producing companies in the world. Each of these companies does more than $2 billion in yearly sales. Dousing our food in toxic chemicals is big business.

Since the market for organic food has seen a huge amount of growth in the last decade, big ag companies are trying to get a piece of the blueberry pie, but without actually changing their behaviors. There have been huge legislative pushes to weaken the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (which defines the criteria that food must meet in order to be labelled organic)—the only piece of legislation that protects consumer health when it comes to growing food.

The Costs

When you go to the grocery store and see that an organic apple costs more than a conventionally grown one, it’s easy to think that organics are more expensive. In that moment, they sure are. But the price tag at the store is just one measure. Elizabeth says, “Organics are a level-headed approach to cost, as they reflect the true cost of the food.” Hidden beneath the cheaper sticker on conventional items are the costs to our planet in terms of polluted air, soil and water, and the healthcare costs associated with treating the ill effects of toxic exposure.

Michael Pollan hit the heart of the problem when he told Mother Jones in an interview, “One of the problems is that the government supports unhealthy food and does very little to support healthy food. I mean, we subsidize high fructose corn syrup. We subsidize hydrogenated corn oil. We do not subsidize organic food. We subsidize four crops that are the building blocks of fast food.”

Subsidies are one of industrial farming’s stickiest subjects. They were originally developed as payments that the government made to farmers in order to keep farms afloat during the Great Depression. These days, huge industrial farms receive government support while small and organic farms get very little of the subsidy help. Conventional corn, wheat, rice, and soy have been so heavily subsidized that we end up with vast amounts of product looking for new markets.

So where do those crops go? Mostly to feed to farm animals, then to biofuels, and then, as Pollan pointed out, to fast food. It’s no coincidence that the explosion in corn syrup use occurred simultaneously with heavy corn subsidy. Same goes for meat consumption per capita. Considering this deeply flawed set up, it’s really no wonder that organic peaches or broccoli will cost you.

As Elizabeth says, the price tag on an organic apple also often takes into account such concerns as appropriate scale of food production, labor rights, animal welfare and environmental health.Buying a conventionally grown banana might be cheaper when you head to the register, but the big picture of conventional ag costs our society far too dearly.

The Solutions

What’s a conscientious consumer to do? Short of starting your own organic garden (great idea!) there are things that the average consumer can do to help strengthen the organic movement.

  • Buy organic when you can. Even if it’s not every time you get groceries, each organic purchase is a vote for better health and policies. Environmental Working Group has a handy guide to the most chemical-heavy fruits and vegetables (the Dirty Dozen) and the least (the Clean Fifteen), when these foods are grown conventionally.
  • Get educated. Dig deeper into current information on organics with EWG and the Center for Food Safety. These organizations are at the front lines of the organic food movement. For more on subsidies, check out EWG’s Subsidy Database. Read up on the upcoming Farm Bill, and how it will affect our choices.
  • Learn how to save. I totally understand that it’s difficult to afford healthy food, so I pulled together my 10 favorite, tried-and-true money-saving techniques.

Something that Elizabeth said has stuck with me since our chat: when we think of organics and our health, we can think in terms of natural remedies and allopathic medicine. Where traditional doctors might bombard our systems with drugs in a slash and burn approach, natural remedies work with our biology to heal. Organic food is produced in a way that embraces biology and ecology (including us). By choosing organic, we choose to support life.

Our choices have an impact on the market, on our society, and on our health. What we say with our mouths and our money matters, and it’s a choice that we get to make every single time we eat. By supporting the things we want on a daily basis, and pushing for policies on a national level that reflect our values, we can change the face of farming.

So! Now that we’ve scratched the surface of organics and their role in our health, what do we do? In addition to the three action items above, letting the government know that we as consumers prioritize healthy, organic food is key to growing the movement. Sign EWG’s Grow Organics Petition. The Grow Organics Proposal asks that Congress support organic farming with $1 billion over the next five years, broken out into five goals.

Consider signing this puppy, share this blog with your Prevention Partner, and and let’s talk about it in the comments!

Peace & pesticide-free produce,

Kris Carr

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