Over the thirty years that I have graced this earth I have been told on countless occasions that I have control issues and the need for perfection. Although, I have learned that one of my greatest flaws can also be my greatest asset. It all comes down to where in my life I am placing this energy and my mindset surrounding it. For example, I have learned to shut my mouth when Braden loads the dishwasher the wrong way (aka not my way) and instead place my energy into finding a routine with my workouts to keep me healthy. However, there is always a fine line I walk because the need for perfectionism can easily become all consuming. With age, and lots of therapy, I've learned how to find that sweet spot a little easier. This doesn't mean I don't fall into my old controlling/perfection habits, but it does mean I am quicker to recognize the self destruction and fix my path. My need for control in this cancer journey has been both a blessing and something I've had to check myself on.
The factors from Radical Remission where my need for control has been beneficial when used correctly has been in starting herbs & supplements, radically changing my diet and taking control of my health. The first of these that was probably the hardest to adjust to was herbs and supplements. Prior to my diagnosis, I would take a few supplements a day, but nothing crazy. Now I consume over thirty pills a day that I have chosen to take for various reasons. Do I like taking all of these pills? No, but it's also a small sacrifice for something that could create a large benefit. In this journey, I have been more than willing to try out different approaches that are healthy and no downside. Here is a quick look at what I am currently taking:
1) Alectinib- (aka my cancer pills) This is what is keeping my cancer under control.
2) Vitamin C- (Lots of it!!!) Because my Uncle Reagan told me to.
3) Afaya (or what Braden and I call the "Holy Land pill")- Because my Kansas family told me to.
4) B12- Important since following a more vegan approach.
5) Probiotic- For much needed gut health.
6) Lion's Mane- Strong anti-inflammatory and shown to lower the risk of cancer.
7) Maitake- Contains chemicals that might fight tumors and stimulate the immune system.
8) Chaga- Enhances immunity and prevents inflammation.
9) Reishi- Enhances immune response.
10) Turkey Tail- Enhances immune system and additional cancer fighting properties.
11) Ashwaganda- Enhances immune system and additional cancer fighting properties.
12) Liver Health- When starting Alectinib my liver had to be monitored because the medication was causing it to become inflamed. This helps support my liver.
13) Kelp- In addition to being a probiotic, seaweed has been used in the treatment of cancer.
14) Magnesium- Many benefits, but personally I take it for digestion support.
15) Swiss Kriss- TMI! To try to counteract the constipation Alectinib causes.
16) Chlorella- Only taken around scans to help remove contrast and radioactive glucose from system.
17) Turmeric- Only taken when my feet are more inflamed than normal (Swollen feet and legs are a side effect of Alectinib).
18) CBD Oil- Helps reduce my anxiety and sleep better at night.
(I want to note, if you are looking into adding a supplement regimen I suggest doing your own research or talking to an Integrative Medicine practice in your area. If you do add a large number of supplements to your diet, I recommend ordering through Vitacost.)
The next factor I incorporated into my day to day was radically changing my diet. Now if you know me you may wonder how I could have radically changed my diet anymore. Prior to being diagnosed, I followed a loose Paleo approach. I did my best to eat whole foods while avoiding gluten and dairy. Well my first instinct was to dive into Keto because of the research shown to reduce cancer cells in the body by restricting glucose. Plus I was already familiar with the diet as I had attempted it about a year prior. I started a Keto based diet while going through radiation. Whether it was the radiation or the diet, I found it extremely hard to stay on Keto. Not only was I still avoiding dairy, which can be a big part of the Keto diet, but I also found my gut did not agree with a high fat diet. This led me to going back to the drawing board. Through research I had run across after initially getting diagnosed, I decided to look deeper into a vegan approach. Now coming from a weightlifting background this idea really left me unsettled. Only a few years ago, I was consumed in making sure I got enough protein everyday by macro counting . All of my meals were centered around protein and I would preach on the importance of protein for women. So there I was, the protein advocate who was married to a hunter with a freezer full of elk contemplating on going vegan...it was just extreme enough to attract me. Don't forget I love control and placing strict guidelines around food has always attracted me. However, those same guidelines I crave also have caused a downfall in my life. Due to my need for rigid rules to create control, as well as trauma in my life, I have suffered from a Binge Eating Disorder. That is a long and complex story to save for a later date, but needless to say it has taken years of therapy and really looking inward to not let it control me any longer. In deciding to take a vegan approach, I knew that it could not be all or nothing. This is why I have found an approach to eating that I refuse to put a name to. I am not following a Vegan, Keto, or Paleo diet. Instead I am avoiding gluten & dairy, eating whole foods, reducing my meat intake, increasing the quality of oils used and doing my best to stay away from sugar. I have learned that is what makes me feel my best and keeps me in the right mindset to tackle my life. If I was to say I am vegan, but then consume meat I immediately would feel guilt. This guilt would lead me to giving into other foods that don't make me feel my best. Ultimately it's a downward spiral I have had to climb my way out of one too many times. So while on the surface my diet might not have radically changed...my mindset towards food has. To me that has been more beneficial than anything else.
The last, and probably most important, factor has been taking control of my health. Since day one of this cancer journey I have not let anyone else tell me how it's going to be. Insert need for control here! After receiving my rather disheartening prognosis from my original Oncologist, I was eager to get a second opinion. Braden and I made the decision to fly out to MD Anderson in the middle of my radiation treatments to receive a second opinion. Ultimately this lead us to Dr. Camidge at UC Health here in Colorado. Taking control of my health and not settling for a doctor that took away my hope for a long life was THE BEST decision I have ever made for myself. My care is now given by a doctor that gives me nothing, but hope. In this journey, and really in all life's circumstances, mindset is everything. I need my doctor to feed into a positive future and not making me feel like I don't have one.
My hope is if you have been diagnosed with cancer to give you some tangible next steps on what you can do! It's common to feel helpless when given a cancer diagnosis, but know that hope is not lost. If cancer is not what you are facing in life, I hope you can find ways to use your downfalls for your benefit. Acknowledging them is half the battle! Beyond therapy, daily journaling has led me to work through mine. I highly suggest finding time to journal or mediate to give your mind clarity in this highly stimulating world. Let's all focus this weekend on a healthy mindset by being present in our lives and less on what our next social media post is or how many likes our last post received. In other words, step away from the phone! It will still be there an hour from now, but being present with those that matter on a beautiful Fall day is fleeting. Don't miss out on opportunities to live your life! Oh and just to be clear, I am speaking to myself within all of this. It takes constant reminders to break unwanted habits! So go out and enjoy your weekend!