We were driving through the beautiful mountains in western Pennsylvania when I received a call from my mom’s oncologist. She confirmed that indeed my mom had ovarian cancer. We had to stop the car… I needed a few minutes to take a walk and to feel grounded by the earth beneath my feet. In hindsight I can see how fortunate I was to be on my way to a long distance bike trip with my husband and several of my siblings and cousins. For the next few days I would ride my bike along the exquisite trails of Western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Western Maryland. There would be no cell phones, no TV, no intrusions and it was exactly what I needed. In my mind I created a plan.
Over the next few weeks we got organized and educated. Mom affectionately began calling me the CEO of her recovery. With my passion for healthy living, and my unique training in nutrition and wellness, it was clear to us that I would be her guide, I had the knowledge, the intuition, and the commitment to help her. And so we began our journey together….
We decided she would embark on a combination of conventional and holistic treatments. We found a fabulous surgeon and assembled our team. I created a plan to help build my mother’s immune system and to help her stay strong throughout the onslaught of treatment she was about to endure. She was open to it and welcomed my help. She began to implement my recommendations while living on her own but it wasn’t until she moved in with me that the really big changes began to take place. And while she’s not out of the woods yet, her strength and progress are now finally worth sharing with you.
I am compelled to provide some evidence of my mom’s astounding healing, but not simply because I am so excited that she has recovered so well. I realized that my mother’s story is living proof of what I believe and what I have been sharing with all of you for years — that we can influence our health dramatically with the power of nutritious foods. When released from the hospital, we were informed that Mom might of need to take more frequent naps every day. She has not taken one since she’s home. Mom has no pain, not even at the site of her incision. The only pain she had was from the infusion sites, irritated veins from being poked and prodded. Since being on a whole food diet, she has lost close to 20lbs, and this is weight that she has ironically tried to lose for years. For at least the last 10 years, my mother could not walk any distance without stopping, always out of breath. She is now walking longer than ever before and is never out of breath. Her blood pressure is now normal, without medication, something she could not achieve prior to her diet change. And with all that she has been through, she feels great, is energized and strong, and is doing all her PT exercises everyday like a champ! Its really quite remarkable.
Most of us have been touched by cancer…. either personally or through someone close to us. I am amazed to see my 84-year-old mother getting stronger with every passing day. Perhaps some of these essential steps to healing will help you or someone you love:
- Mindset: I asked my mother before all the treatment and life changes began if she wanted to do this. She answered emphatically “YES! I want to live! I have so much still to do and see.” Establishing a reason for the effort and keeping an eye on the prize makes a big difference. When things got really tough, I asked mom to write a few reminders to herself on sticky notes, as a motivator. To my surprise, she already had. And when she went into the hospital for major surgery, she had those reminders with her. There is no question that how we think and feel, as well as having a positive attitude makes a big difference in the outcome.
- Remove processed foods: One reason the positive changes became greater when mom moved in with me was that I made sure there was no need for processed foods. Everything she eats and drinks is made at home from real whole foods. There is no white sugar or white flour, no gluten, and no dairy. It’s all plant based, largely raw and all home made. Eating a diet of fresh-made raw and cooked organic produce provides the body with much needed nutrients that are unavailable in processed foods. In addition, by keeping it fresh we do not burden the body with unnecessary and harmful toxins.
- Wheatgrass juice daily:Have a shot glass of fresh pressed wheatgrass juice at least once a day. This mighty elixir provides therapeutic dosages of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrients, which enable the body to rebuild, renew and revitalize itself. Wheatgrass juice possesses powerful detoxification properties, improves digestion, and is especially potent in the cleansing of the liver and the blood. (You can learn more here.)
- Greens:Throughout the day mom has green smoothies, juices and salads. This helps build her immune system while keeping her body regular. With the onslaught of medications she has to endure, staying regular is not easy. However, having a fiber-rich and easy-to-digest diet helps to keep her body healthy and continually detoxified.
- Find the right doctors: It is essential to find the right team to help you or your loved one. All doctors are not the same. You might need to interview several to understand your options and be able to make a good choice. Do not feel pressured to make a decision quickly… when you find the right doctor you will know.
- Become an advocate for yourself or your loved one: I cannot stress this point enough! From choosing your doctors, to deciding on the type of treatment you want to embrace, this is an active process. Once you begin, you must remain vigilant. Ask questions, read, talk to people you trust and listen to your gut. There have been many instances when something didn’t seem right and we had to re-evaluate a situation and taking the time to do so was invaluable.
- Emotional Support: This can be a very difficult time and having support can make an enormous difference. Whether it’s family, a friend or a support group, knowing there is someone there to talk with is very important. And as soon as you are up to it, get up and out, go out for a walk, to the movies or for a cup of tea with a friend. Getting out of your environment offers opportunity for a different perspective.
- Lastly, if you are the caretaker, make sure you take care of yourself!Taking care of someone sick is a big job and it can be overwhelming at times. Remember, you cannot pour from an empty vessel. So take time to refuel yourself. Sometimes I take a 5-minute break and meditate, take my dog for walk or go for a run… but every day, I know that I have to take time for me. That’s the only way I will have what it takes to give to someone else.
I hope you find these insights helpful and as always, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me with your thoughts about your own experiences, or if you have any questions for me. I will keep you updated on our progress here, and I look forward to hearing about yours.
Here’s to healing, life and health!!