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What is clean eating for you?

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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Self care during cancer treatment? Are you serious?

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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The power of meditation

I started meditating just after I started my chemo treatment. I thought meditating was another trend, another hype that the rich and famous talked about and the rest followed through but I was desperately trying to find ways to help my body and mind to heal. I needed something to help my mind to calm down, to sleep at times.

I started listening to guided meditations to help me sleep during the day but the more books I read about how to achieve physical and mental health, the body and mind connection, the more I read about the benefits of meditation.

I slowly started doing meditations that focussed on the breathe and for me I started learning how to give my mind a break, how to breath and focus on the moment.

I then signed up to the Headspace app and every day I would sit for 10 minutes doing a guided meditation that focussed on stress, calming, gratitude etc. I would sit religiously every day to meditate and most of the time I would feel silly, feel like I wasn’t achieving anything and getting anywhere.

Little I knew that small shifts were being made on my innerself…I started noticing the present moment a lot more by focussing on the feeling of the wind on my skin, listening to the birds chirping.

This was around a year ago…I have been meditating during this whole time…I can say that I did it more often than not most days in the last year.

Today I write you from my holidays…we have been away for a week today and I haven’t been meditating for over a week now. I have noticed that my mind can’t get into the present moment as quickly as when I was meditating daily.

All of a sudden I realised that all the work I have been doing was so worthy. When I can focus on the exact moment, I feel so much joy. I have realized that it is almost as if the ability to do that easily had to be taken away from me so I could value how important it is to meditate, to work on your mind, to exercise your brain muscles so you can fully live the present moment.