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What will your health be like in 10 years time?

This is a question that we normally don’t ask ourselves because our health is not often a priority for us (I know we say it is but truth is, is it really?)…

We first put our efforts on our kids, then on our jobs, then on our appearance, then on our friends and the list goes on…

But when it comes to our health, it all becomes too hard…too difficult…so we often choose to drag our tired bodies to the threadmill we are running on a daily basis.

When I tell people I don’t eat sugar, don’t drink alcohol, processed food, eat little dairy and no meat…they look at me with eyes wide open as if I am completely over the top…then I tell them I exercise daily and try to meditate as often as I can too…that is when they ask me:

“Do you have a life?”

“Do you ever feel you need to be a little less rigid?”

My honest answer is NO…

I worked hard on creating healthy habits in the last year…

I am now more connected to my body than I have ever been.

I have now had more moments of truly happiness than I have ever had…

I feel good, very good and pretty healthy physically and mentally.

But if it wasn’t for cancer, I wouldn’t be here today.

I would have carried on running on that same threadmill…I would have treated my health as a given…as something that I took for granted.

Therefore I am truly grateful for my cancer diagnosis…

What we are doing to our bodies now, it will be what we see and experience in our future.

I am not sure why it is so hard for us to see this as a priority in the same way as we see saving up for our retirement…in the same way as we treat a “future promotion” in our jobs or having more “material things” (as if we haven’t got enough already)…

Because reality is if we saw it as a priority, we would all treat it as a priority and we would take time each day to look after our health…we would be selective of what we put inside our bodies, we would be selective what we let in in our minds too.

If this resonates with you, don’t let the pressures of day to day life get in the way of your willingness to work on your health, to treat your health as a priority.

Treat it as that “promotion” you are working towards, treat it as your next “material purchase” that you are saving up for… work on it, little by little, make conscious decisions that will add to your health…make the time for it.

Treat it with the same care and importance as everything else in your life that you are working towards and have worked for.

Our health is not a given, our health needs our care, love and attention like everything else in our life.

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What to do when you think you are not enough…

In my search for my own emotional healing, I came across the question a lot of people ask themselves or maybe it is something I believe a lot of people ask themselves.

I have always had very high expectations of myself in everything I did and do and while we can all talk about this as being a positive thing, we all know that this can drag us down when it comes with a feeling of not being enough…

That constant inner voice saying to you: “you could have done better”….”you should have achieved more”…”you haven’t got enough”….

So I asked my psychologist where was that coming from…I read books about it…I listened to podcasts about it.

I needed to understand where exactly this was coming from so I could stop that inner voice.

Truth is, there are lots of reasons….and shutting down that inner voice is not that simple.

I came from a society where females had one path to follow: study, get a job, get married and have kids. A society where you can only count on yourself as our government is extremely corrupt so whatever you do, somebody else is doing 10 times more than you as people are scared not to have a job, not to have any meanings to create a life for themselves and their families.

In my wild being, I broke that cycle as I never felt I belonged there.

That meant I have always been trying to find where I belong and within that, I have seek people’s approvals, I have tried to stand out as being someone who accomplish things. I have taken into consideration people’s expectations of me.

In everything I read, I found a common thread…we need to feel enough inside ourselves as supposed to look for it outside of us.

By understanding the reasons, I got some clarity around it but that inner voice is still there….not always but sometimes…so now that I recognize that voice, I work on calming that voice down by telling that voice that I am enough when it gets louder.

This week I heard something which is something that has helped me the most. Kyle Kuzma, an atlete said he used to always seek external approval from others but he realized that he didn’t need to do that anymore as his expectations of himself were already high enough.

So for now, I am going to focus on that when that inner voice creeps in…and I am hoping you can use that as a tool too.

I am hoping you can practice to tell that inner voice you are enough when it gets louder.

It is not an overnight solution…it takes courage and it takes time…and I will keep working on it and I hope you will do it too.

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The benefits of crying

After a cancer diagnosis, it is hard not to cry…if you are a strong person you might not cry straight after you get told you have cancer but when the reality sinks in….the tears are going to come.

When I was told I had cancer, it was after my bowel surgery so I was groggy…coming to terms of being alive after an emergency surgery…feeling lost without my kids so I don’t remember crying as such.

What I do remember is a particular day…a few days after I went home from hospital after my surgery. It was a defining day on my journey…

My husband took the kids out to the beach and I stayed at home by myself…recovering.

I spent the whole day crying…sobbing if I remember well.

I cried about my diagnosis…I cried because I could feel all the sadness inside me, how much I felt disconnected to my body and my inner self….

I cried because I didn’t see cancer coming…I didn’t see it creeping up on me.

I cried for what I had yet to face….

I cried for everything I had been holding on to…everything that didn’t serve my body and mind.

This particular day was the day I felt in myself I was ready to face what was in front of me.

I was able to gather all my strength together so I could be strong for me…for my kids… for my husband…. and for everyone who loved me.

So crying is ok…it is sometimes necessary…

I am not sure when our society has become a non-crying one…I am not sure when our society has seen crying as a weakness.

Crying is human and it is needed so we can express our feelings…so we can release our emotions.

So if today you need to have a cry, I would say go for it.

Don’t hold back…this is part of being human…it is part of the healing journey.

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Let go of control: how to learn the Art of Surrender

I would like to think I am not a control freak but reality is, I am controlling.

I like to know I am always doing something to achieve my goals, to accomplish tasks to keep things moving. I like to know where everything is, where we are going and how we are going to get there.

But then I got cancer…and all of sudden I couldn’t control anything anymore.

Literally anything…

I was in hospital, I couldn’t help out with my kids after surgery.

I couldn’t be a mum, a wife, a friend that I have always been during my treatment.

I didn’t know if I was going to survive and that my friend throws everything out of the window.

All of sudden I had to deal with so much uncertainty that I didn’t even know if I was going to make over night, another day, another chemotherapy session…

I went down on such a deep whole that it was very hard to climb out of it because while climbing I had to learn how to let go of control. And that was the biggest and most important lesson I had to learn…

We live in a world where we are led to believe we are in control of everything, with our gadgets, with all the things that makes our lives easier, online shopping, everything at one click….

But this time, my life was on the line and there was nothing I could do other than take each day as it came, sometimes take each minute as they came.

Slowly I had to let go of control….of the control I always thought I had.

It taught me to free myself from thinking I had to control everything. It taught me to live each moment to the fullest. It taught me to be grateful and to appreciate each moment.

And all of a sudden, I realised I had missed a load of things in my life that were important, like sitting down and playing with my kids, listening to how creative my daughter is and how grown up my 7 years old boy had become… I had missed to look at my husband with so much love and gratitude as he is the best husband in the world (yes in my opinion he is)

But it wasn’t easy and I still work on it…

Now that I am back into normal life, I sometimes catch myself trying to control everything, feeling upset about something that didn’t go as I had planned.

Then I remind myself where I have been, I remind myself that I am lucky to be here and alive.

I look at my kids and husband and I feel so much love and gratitude that it takes me back to that place of stillness and being happy with living each moment.

Have you tried to let go of control?

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Organic or not organic?

When I started reading about nutrition, I came across the dilemma of buying organic or not organic….

I knew a bit about it. I knew about the pesticides and all the chemicals that went into our vegetables and fruits but I didn’t know what it did to us when all of these chemicals went inside our bodies.

I read so many things…and what resonated with me was Dr. Zach Bush who started his career working with cancer patients, moved on to helping pharmaceuticals to find new drugs for cancer and ended up back to studying the food and lastly what was happening where our food comes from, the soil. Dr. Zach Bush is brilliant!

From my understanding, his message talks about the accumulation of pesticides and chemicals which is where the problem is, our bodies can’t cope with it. To make it even more complex, the research we can get access to only research (if they do, when they do) the impact of one chemical on our bodies not the avalanche we are putting our bodies through daily.

I have also come across some more in detailed examples…eating kale (presumably healthy) with the exception that when kale is NOT grown organically, all the chemicals they spray the kale with can open up your gut lining and cause a leaky gut injury. All the fiber becomes a noxious injury to the immune system and you develop an inflammatory reaction. You feel bloated and your digestion slows down. Kale is one of the top most contaminated crops out there and this is just one example (quoted by a Dr. Zach Bush by the way, so yes he is a Doctor)

I can go on and on about it….but reality is eating organic or not organic comes down to changing your priorities, changing where you spend your money on.

Do you want to spend your money on your health or on a new handbag? Do you think it is smart to buy the cheapest food to put inside your body or do you think it is wise to look for good quality produce, full of nutrients with no chemicals?

Our values are inverted. We are led to believe we need to spend our money buying the latest gadgets, following the latest fashion trends and yet we are always trying to find the cheapest deals on our food, the only thing that it keeps us running, the fuel that keeps us alive.

We really need to start asking ourselves more relevant questions as supposed to follow what the masses are doing?

The masses are not eating organic, the masses are eating processed foods, foods that are full of chemicals, preservatives, additives, fast food, foods that don’t add any nutrition to our bodies. The masses are also getting sicker and being diagnosed with more chronic diseases…

So what do you want for your life?

A life full of energy, vitality, a healthy life?

Or a life full of health problems, medications, uncomfortable living and being?

For me the choice is easy….I have been there…unhealthy, filling my body full of heavy medication, trying to climb my way back to health with whatever strength was left in me….and that I don’t wish on anyone and I certainly don’t wish it upon myself again.

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Here is what happens when you quit sugar

During my bowel cancer journey, I came across the paradigm of sugar.

What it stuck to my mind wasn’t that cancer cells feed of sugar, it was that sugar weakens the immune system.

Sugar causes inflammation and cancer starts as inflammation in our bodies.

If you have read anything about cancer, you might know that we all have cancer cells in our bodies and if our immune system is strong and healthy, the immune system is capable of killing these cancer cells.

In my case, my immune system wasn’t strong enough but I decided to work on getting my most important asset as strong as it could be: my immune system.

Processed sugar meaning white sugar, raw sugar, ice cream, chocolate, biscuits, cakes, all the delicious things we get bombarded with on a daily basis. Hidden sugars like ready made pasta sauces, or sauces (like Jamie Oliver’s pesto sauce has sugar??), bread, cereal (OMG they are definitely the worst) and the list goes on…Oh and I forgot alcohol…yes I know alcohol…one glass of wine has about 8-9 teaspoons of sugar and let’s face it, we live in a society that it is totally fine to drink 2-3 glasses of wine daily without thinking it is damaging our health.

The World Health Organization suggests that kids have 3 teaspoons of sugar daily, woman has 6 teaspoons and men has 9 teaspoons of sugar daily. I think it is fair to say we are consuming beyond the recommended amount even when we think we are eating healthily, think apple juices with 6 teaspoons of sugar, plus tomato sauce with 1 teaspoon of sugar in one squirt etc…

I then read a lot about the sugar content in fruit. So many people talk about the consumption of fructose (sugar coming from fruit) when you have cancer. But I decided that if I cut out all of the processed food and sugars, all of my sugar intake would come from fruit (which is natural in this case). Also cutting out fruit could mean loosing out on many good vitamins that came straight from nature so I decided against it. I eat plenty of fruit and I believe fruit contributes to my overall body’s health and balance.

So why are we not stopping sugar?Ok, you don’t know me and this is just someone’s opinion but if you look into it, there will be millions of books, internet articles, information out there talking about it but we chose not to look because sugar is sooooo delicious right but most importantly so addictive and the food companies know that. There has been studies with rats, sugar and cocaine and it turns out rats go back to sugar more often than to the cocaine. Crazy right!

So quite simply, you need to ask yourself some honest questions about how you feel in yourself? Do you feel tired all the time? Do you crave sugar all the time? Are you and your family getting every cough and cold there is around? Are you getting the stomach flu all the time? Chances are, there are many of us in this situation but instead of looking into why our immune system is not working properly, we look to blame an outside factor because this is just the easiest thing to do. Oh! The cold is around…everyone is sick at school….at work…

Our immune system lies on our digestive track and we are flooding our digestive track with processed sugars, hidden sugars all the time. The sugar then becomes bad bacteria inside us. To achieve optimum health, we need a balance between bad bacteria and good bacteria in our digestive track. By eating too much sugar, our digestive system gets off balance and then we have a problem. Our immune system stop working properly and we get sick.

But then you ask me? But we all need sugar don’t we? Our kids need sugar?Yes we do and they do it too. But we can get enough sugar from nature, like fruits, raw honey (in moderation), brown rice (carbohydrates), sweet potatoes, starchy vegetables, (will become sugar in our body too) etc…so rest assure you won’t die when you cut processed sugar out of your life or your kids life.

My kids have got more energy than ever, they haven’t been sick since we have been on this “new way of eating” and I am confident sugar or not eating sugar I must say is an important factor that contributes to their health.

So are you willing to try it out slowly but surely to cut out of sugar to see if your overall health improves?

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This is how you make eating clean simple

Since I have been on my eating healthy journey, I have read many books, listened to many podcast, watched youtube videos, movies…you name it. There is a ton of information out there and a lot of controversial information too.

What I came to believe is each person needs to find their own truth within the midst of the confusion. There are some commonalities in all of the books I read and everything I watched indeed but what it is challenging for most people are the labels that come with it. Is this a vegetarian diet? Vegan? Paleo? Keto?

I remember when I was told I had bowel cancer, one of my lovely friends asked me what the doctors had advised me to eat.

Truth is, after my bowel resection, I was told to go home and take it easy.

No dietary information was given and before my chemotherapy started, I attended an information session about bowel cancer treatment.

I was told I needed to stay clear from deli foods and if I needed to choose a fast food chain, it would be better to stick to MC Donald’s as supposed to Subway???

With all due respect, I don’t think fast food was a common denominator in all the books I read about nutrition and cancer.

Anyway my lovely friend then told me, she had checked with one of her nutritionist friends and my best approach was to go vegan., sugar free and gluten free. Yes that is right…You have Stage 3 Bowel Cancer and by the way, you need to start eating a vegan diet to help your body to heal and to stay cancer free.

This is the message I got from her message. I then asked myself: “Are you serious? Now I have Bowel cancer and I need to go vegan???

I devoured books on nutrition and started eating as clean as could. I would read one book and make one change at a time. Slowly I cut out sugar, processed meat, red meat… I reduce my dairy intake, white meat intake and the only gluten I ate (and eat) was our home made bread from organic stone ground wholemeal flour.

For me it was about getting my body back into balance, clear all the shit out, detoxifying from anything that didn’t come from nature, supporting my body through cancer treatment.

I made changes slowly and mostly was about becoming aware, understanding the information and applying the change into my life once I understood the reasons behind it and felt comfortable with it.

I made sure my husband and the kids were on board. Whatever I ate, they ate. I needed to look after their health too. My kids are now on the genetic bowel cancer spectrum and would need to get checked 10 years before I was diagnosed which means for them getting checked at 28 years old.

Now you are asking yourself? I have heard this many times…don’t tell me you cut sugar…don’t tell me you don’t eat dairy anymore…don’t tell me you don’t eat meat…and please don’t tell me you are vegan????

I actually did all of the above and mostly I eat a 90-95% vegan diet.

Unfortunately in the process of becoming 100% vegan for 3 months, my B12 vitamin dived down to “not normal” levels so I started introducing some animal protein again because my choices were either take a supplement (which is not natural either) or eat the food.

I still don’t eat red meat or chicken but I introduced a very limited amount of dairy, fish and eggs (once per week of one of them) as well as taking B12 supplements. My last checked showed my B12 is within normal ranges so I will keep my formula as it is. This is still a trial process for me.

For the ones who don’t know, vitamin B12 is a pretty important one. It is needed to ensure proper functioning and health of nerve tissue, brain function and red blood cells. So no we can’t do without it.

I am not a doctor, a dietitian, a health professional or anyone that pretends to know everything. I am someone who is focussing on improving my health. I monitor how I feel as supposed to just making dietary changes. At the end of the day, I think we all know that our bodies are pretty unique and complex in its own right and sometimes what it works for one person, might not work for another.

But back to clean eating, for me this was a game changer. For someone who ate “reasonably healthy” – meaning we always cooked from scratch at home – before bowel cancer (if you were looking from the outside), I changed my eating habits drastically.

I feel eating clean is eating foods that are alive, things that grew on the ground, things that were not made in a factory, things that don’t have a list of ingredients that are longer than a book, things that I understand where it comes from. Yes that is vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds.

Now you are asking yourself: this is too confusing…too hard…I am not even going to go there.

And my argument is why are we not treating our bodies as a temple? Why are we not focussing in buying the best fuel to our bodies? Why is everything related to eating healthy so hard to all of us? What can we do to make it simpler? Is it a matter of giving value to it? I mean to our health….

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How to practice self care during cancer treatment

I have spent an amazing week listening to a “Global Cancer Symposium” this week organised by Nathan Crane. You can still get access to it if you look it up, I think…

There were 4-5 speakers daily talking about all things related to cancer, cancer treatment, conventional and integrative medicine, diet, mental healing and the list goes on.

It made me reflect on my own cancer journey of how I learned how to look after myself, how I started from not knowing anything and most importantly not doing anything to help my body, mind and soul to heal.

I made so many changes during bowel cancer treatment and it all started with the diet as it was a physical change and probably one that we would think to change first given I had a physical disease.

I then changed how I look at exercise and I introduced exercise as a must into my daily routine. All of a sudden exercise became a priority in my life and that is when the mind set started shifting.

Lastly I started looking into what was happening inside my mind, inside my soul.

I noticed that in one of my chemotherapy sessions after having a massive argument with my family, I felt my body was full of toxins, not from the chemotherapy but from the stress I had put my body through it. I then started asking myself ” what can I do to deal with stress differently?”, “How can I stop the stress affect my physical body?”, “Was my cancer caused by stress?”

I embarked on a deep healing journey where I had to face my biggest fears while opening up wounds that had been buried for a long time inside me.

Little by little I started feeling more connected to what it was happening inside me, I started feeling lighter, less angry, more free. I felt there was more space inside me for more happiness, for more laughter, for more positive thinking, for goodness.

I focused very hard on making little changes daily (and still do) so I can free myself from everything that didn’t serve me anymore, things that were making me feel sick.

This lead me to being here. I feel it is now my mission to share what I learned with people who are going through cancer treatment. I feel cancer could empower people to make changes in their life and in their family lives to build a better future, one with less disease physically with stronger connections with ourselves, our loved ones and the humanity.

I embraced cancer as an opportunity to grow as a human being. I took cancer as an opportunity to change everything in my life, to show up to myself, to honour my own journey and I came out of it feeling healthier and happier than I have ever been.

I believe strongly anyone can build a healthier and happier life despite their circumstances. When we tap into our will to live and to become a higher version of ourselves, we can do and become amazing human beings.

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Fighting the cancer, healing your soul

I spent this week listening to a “Global Cancer Symposium” online organised by Nathan Crane.

Still not sure how I came across him and or the Symposium but it has been amazing. There were 4 or 5 speakers daily for about 7 days and I think now you can buy the access if you like – www.globalcancersymposium.com

There were some amazing speakers talking about all the good things that are happening in the cancer world.

I was amazed by how much they spent talking about emotional healing as well as spirituality and spiritual healing.

Most of speakers have been in contact with cancer patients and cancer survivors stories from all around the world and mental healing kept coming up over and over again.

I then started thinking about my own cancer journey, specifically the emotional healing piece.

When I heard the words “You have cancer”, I knew it was about that. I felt deep down in my gut actually where exactly my cancer was that I needed to heal my inner world.

I hadn’t spoken to my family in years. I held so much anger and resentment inside me, that made me sick.

This is not a “poor me” statement or “why did I get cancer” statement at all.

Cancer has shown me that everybody goes through shit times in life and I wasn’t the only one.

Cancer showed me that I needed to change the way I look at things.

I needed to change me, not others, not what it had happened, not what it is happening neither what it will happen.

It is challenging though especially when it comes to family… but again I was committed because I knew this was the only path for healing. I was still desperately looking for ways to heal my body, mind and soul.

I am not going to say go and forget everybody in the world that upset you as I have healed all my wounds and forgave everyone. I am not going to say I live a perfect life now because that would be a lie.

What I would say though is be open to work on yourself, on your inner self.

I have certainly move forward, I opened my wounds up, I faced them even though it was painful and I was scared… I did it (my psychologist held my hand through it and still does it) and I am determined to keep working on it.

What about you? Have you thought about emotional healing or even what it is happening with your emotions, your inner world?

In a world that is moving far too fast, we are forgetting that our emotional state needs self care too.

I invite you to ask yourself if you are giving your emotional being enough attention or the attention it needs?

And if not why?

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Are you cured from cancer?

I went to my GP last week to get my little girl checked. After everything we went through last year, I am not sure she has got over mummy loosing her hair (she still askes me when my hair is going to grow long) and mummy not being well.

Valentina was 4 when I got diagnosed with Stage 3 Bowel Cancer, she is now 5. We read her books and explained that mummy was going to get strong medicine to make mummy better.

We were open about my treatment and kept everything at her level of maturity so she could understand everything that was going on. We would always ask her if she had any questions.

She is a very inquisitive girl and recently she has been asking my husband lots of questions about death (when are you and mummy going to die? Where are you going to go when you die? I don’t like that I don’t know when you and mummy are going to die) so I thought maybe we should take her to see a psychologist.

When I spoke to my GP – who is amazing by the way – about it, she asked me “Have you told Valentina you are cured?”

That statement took me by surprise. My GP told me “Right now your prognostic is really good and as far as I am concerned, you are cured unless somebody else told you otherwise”.

And no, nobody had told me that I wasn’t cured.

I then realised that we hadn’t told the kids these words :”Mummy is cured”, “The treatment worked and mummy is fine now.”

I left my GP office and realised that even I didn’t believe I was cured. Cancer is such a frightening word that it is hard to let go of that little voice inside you “what if?”, “What if the cancer comes back?”, “When could the cancer come back?”, “Will I have a cancer recurrence?”…

Living life after cancer is a daily challenge and I am constantly reminding myself that it is not all about cancer anymore…you can live a life after cancer…you are looking after yourself not because you had cancer but because you love yourself… you eat healthily not because you are scared the cancer can come back but because you want to eat a healing diet and the list goes on….

If you have gone through cancer treatment and you are ok now, have you told yourself you are cured? Have you told your love ones, you are cancer free now?