Thursday, April 18, 2019

All the vegetables



Scones made with grated courgette

Daisy last year


I have always eaten healthily, and these days I am 95% vegan, with no refined sugar and very little wheat. I do eat our chickens’ eggs maybe once a week, and I make the odd exception when eating out or invited somewhere, though I draw the line at meat. 

After stage III cancer I feel it is important to do everything in my power. Joe Dispenza says that when he worked as a chiropractor, the clients with most problems were those with 'perfect' diets and lifestyles, and I can see some truth in that as well. Putting pressure on myself and feeling stressed when some sugar or dairy passes my lips is perhaps just as ‘bad’ - or worse - for me as said sugar or dairy.

So instead of becoming too obsessed, I focus on including more of what is definitely beneficial: eight or more portions of vegetables and fruit a day, supergreens in the form of matcha tea and spirulina, and vegetable juices.

We grow some vegetables ourselves and get a box from Green Earth Organics every week, and we base our cooking around what is in the box. I always order extra carrots, as we juice every day (at the moment a mix of carrot, beetroot, ginger, kale and parsley). The day after I got my diagnosis I bought a juicer. There are stories of people curing their cancer with carrot juice, and while I would never have taken the risk of going for a dietary approach at the exclusion of other (including conventional) treatments and doubt those people did only this one thing, I am convinced by the benefits of juicing (and green smoothies). 

I make a lot of curries, chilli, soups and salads and I always throw in some extra vegetables. I have also mastered the vegan moussaka. Anke and I love roasting big trays full of vegetables that can then be eaten with anything and leftovers turned into a salad.

Another way of incorporating more vegetables is to use them in baking. Every summer we grate the abundance of courgettes into chocolatey tray bakes, and that cake always reminds me of home. I adapt a lot of the recipes in this wonderful book (see also photo above) by using other types of sweeteners and halving the amount. Each recipe includes a vegetable and alternatives to wheat such as rice flour or spelt. I have always liked baking, and now more than ever I think why bake any of the traditional white-flour, white-sugar, nutrient-deficient cakes when there are so many ways of baking healthier versions that don’t leave you with that sugar rush and crash. And they taste great, too.

---
These are my go-to websites for mostly vegan cooking and baking (they have published books as well):



Saturday, April 6, 2019

Yoga for healing



Yoga bolster, the only prop I have, thanks to a friend - I use cushions instead of blocks

View from my mat

Soy candle and diffuser

My 'yoga room' is also the 'map room' and where visiting babies and toddlers sleep


Shortly before I was diagnosed, I had completed one of Adriene Mishler's 30-day yoga challenges, which was no longer challenging, as I was doing yoga almost every day anyway. I felt confident that it had become a habit (again... I have a history of breaking habits*), in the same way that meditating for 20 minutes a day had become a habit. I saw both as a crucial part of healing from the physically and emotionally traumatic miscarriage the previous December.

The shock of a cancer diagnosis burst that lovely routine, and for quite a while afterwards, even when I had started doing other types of meditations and visualisations, I couldn't go back to yoga and the zen meditation. It felt so far removed - there I had been all those weeks on my mat feeling strong and healthy, oblivious of the fact that there was a 2cm tumour in my right lung that had already spread to a few lymph nodes.

Eventually I pulled up one of the YouTube videos again, with Adriene, who is a similar age and similar body type - and I felt as if I were from another planet, looking in on the activities of people who were 'well' and carefree. She talked about doing yoga after a tough day or something along those lines, and I remember thinking that for the majority of those listening, this meant 'tough' in the region of a difficult day at work, an argument or some back pain.

In real life, too, some alienation had set in - being healthy and starting a family seemed to be taken for granted by a lot of my peers, and both had collapsed within the space of months in my case. And it went deeper: most of the people in my life who are also in their thirties still have both parents and some even grandparents, while my dad died when I was 18. But I have never begrudged anyone their good luck or 'normality'; I am delighted for them. Paradoxically, along with the alienation I also began to feel closer than ever to my fellow human beings. And this was reflected in and no doubt helped by yoga (which is after all about union and being one with the source of all life).

We are all connected, and I focus on our shared humanity and how everybody is experiencing the human condition. And I am acutely aware that despite everything my family and I have been through, we are still incredibly lucky compared to people in other parts of the world, and I never really entertain the 'why me/us?' thoughts.

With the treatment I underwent, which was gruelling during the weeks I had both chemo and radiotherapy, it took a few months of feeling doomed and broken before I felt part of life again, and yoga has been a vital component of my healing.

I had never done yin yoga (where you hold a pose for several minutes) before. My hypnotherapist had suggested doing restorative poses for five minutes, and then I came across Yoga with Kassandra. Previously, I would have chosen videos around the half-hour mark and glanced at the clock every now and again, but now I regularly do 75 min or 90 min classes and lose all sense of time (well, I don't when a pose is hard to hold!).

It has a wonderfully calming effect on the emotional and spiritual level and has made me physically stronger and changed how I hold myself and how I move. For example, when I reach up to reach a shelf, I do it like a dancer and enjoy the stretch, possibly annoying anyone present. I crave stretching, and if by the evening I haven't done any yoga, I get restless.

I used to burn peppermint oil in the room I do yoga in, as it is energising (this was when I did a lot of vinyasa flows) and helps with the breathing, but now I nearly always use frankincense oil, after a friend recommended it for cancer. For some reason, I had twenty different oils, but had never bought frankincense oil before. So when I smell it, it is a reminder to say my healing mantras; I know that during my practice my cells get the benefit of the oil; and of course, being frankincense, it contributes to inner peace.

---

Here is an article about yoga and cancer. 


*It made me smile when I typed that, as it reminds me of the title of one of Joe Dispenza's books, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself -  I am doing very important work on breaking that habit! A lot of people find the title confusing, as it sounds counterintuitive, but it means releasing the subconscious programs that have been running us for most of our life.