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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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Have you thought about emotional healing?

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?

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?

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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.

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Have you thought about how you would like your health to be in 10,20,30 years time?

After my bowel cancer diagnosis, I started reevaluating my whole life and the way I treated my body became definitely my focus.

I am ashamed to say I hadn’t been looking after my body, mind and myself as a whole for years. I didn’t even know what selflove was, I truly didn’t…but when the certainty of living a long life was taken away from me, I couldn’t help but become obsessed about finding ways I could help my physical body to heal, ways to sort what was going on in my head/mind, how I could get everything back into balance.

I knew I had to make some drastic changes on how I was living my life if I wanted to survive chemotherapy and stay cancer free. All of a sudden, nothing else really matter to me, literally nothing, our financial situation, work, our house, any material things around us except what I ate, how much I exercised each day and whatever else I was doing for my body and mind daily.

I connected to my inner will to live, to survive and to thrive. For me this was the wake up call I needed but shall we need a wake up call to value our health a bit more? Don’t we all need to think how we want our health to look like in the next 10,20,30 years time?

Part of me thinks it was easy for me to make all the changes I did as I was told I had Stage 3 Bowel cancer but part of me thinks was it really?

When I hear people talking about their small ailments, I wish I could shake them and say: this is your body trying to tell you something? Why don’t you listen? Why don’t you stop what you are doing and focus on yourself, on your inner voice?

For me it is quite evident now that we have our values reversed nowadays. We would rather spend money on a new dress rather than buying good quality of food, we spend more time thinking about what to wear to a party than what we are going to have for lunch. As I get back to normal life, I am still constantly reminding myself what really matters when I get caught up with mundane stuff and I loose the connection of being grateful.

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to let the time make me forget where I have been, how grateful I must be and the importance of cultivating self love.

I hope this message encourage you to rethink about how you are treating your body, what self love really means to you and how you want your health to look like in 10,20,30 years time. Our health is live anything, if we don’t put effort in it, it won’t flourish, it won’t bget better, it won’t even stay the same…with the time and the battering of each day’s life, it will decline.

Remind yourself what it is really important to you as after all if we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything.