Sunday, November 29, 2015

Health and Patience

It's been just over five months since the last time I went in for chemo. That's weird. In one more month I'll have as many months of post-chemo as I had of going through chemo. That's weird too.

Life is so nice not being sick! This Thanksgiving was so different from last year, when I was a skeleton who was in so much pain. A year ago I didn't even know I had Crohn's yet. Last year I remember seeing so much good food, and even loading up my plate to eat, but ending up only eating a a few bites. Derek had to finish eating the food on my plate for me. My body was depleted and tired, and we hadn't even started chemotherapy. Last November was definitely one of the lowest and hardest parts of my (and Derek's) life.

But this year was so great. Health! I helped cook the rolls, green bean casserole and began learning the way of the pies, under the tutelage of my mother-in-law Mary. I didn't have room to eat seconds, but I had a generous plate and ate everything (except the jello). I even ate a few bites off Derek's plate! We have been enjoying leftovers and life.

For the past few Thanksgivings that I've spent with Derek's family, we have gone around the table and said what we are grateful for, and then we'll share a word that sums up a goal for the next year. This year I said that I was grateful for health. So grateful. Every day I thank God that I am alive, not in pain, and once again able to do things. And I'm so grateful that my family and friends are in good health too (take care of yourselves my friends! I want you all to live long and happy lives!).

The word that I chose for my goal this year is patience. I can be pretty patient with other people, but it is an entirely different thing to be patient with yourself. But that's what I need as my body continues to heal. I'm so much healthier than I've been in ages, so I often forget that I need to still take things slow. My body is quick to help me remember to slow down by quickly becoming exhausted. I need lots of rest at night and I get frustrated when I am to tired or weak to do things. Sometimes I cry when I feel like I'm not making progress. It's not easy. But it's easier when I try to point out the good things that I do have and what I can do. I'm learning to be okay with setbacks, and to look at the positive ways in which I've progressed.

Being madly in love with your best friend also helps. *saaaaaappy loooooove*

And now for some frequently asked questions!

Do you exercise?
Yes and no. I walk to school most days of the week, which takes me 30 minutes. And it's uphill on the way back, so I sometimes have to stop and catch my breath. Basic things like walking and grocery shopping are draining, so I could those as exercise. But no, I'm not out running or anything.

How much do you weigh? How much did you weigh?
I weigh 115 lbs right now!!! AMAZING. I've gained 20 lbs in the past six months. I was 123 lbs before I started getting sick two years ago, but 115 is average for both my grandmas (when they were younger) and I have the exact same body type as both of them. So I am in a really good range. Waaaaaay better than the 83 lbs of last winter. MY CURVES CAME BACK HURRAY.

What can you eat?
Anything! But I don't feel good when I eat straight dairy, so I limit that to cheese and homemade yogurt, and the small doses that are cooked in stuff. I can eat grain again, but try to limit that. Derek and I eat somewhere in between paleo and vegetarian.

Do you feel like you are back to normal?
No. I'm still nowhere near as healthy as I was two and a half years ago. And it'll take me years to get back there. But I am in drastically better health than any point in the past two years. Some things feel more normal, like being able to take care of myself, and to even take care of my husband (for the first time since we've been married), but it comes and goes. Sometimes I'll have a week or two where I'm so very tired and don't get as much done. But then other times I'll be a boss lady and clean stuff and do homework and everything. I take it day to day, and try to stay patient and positive.

And Happy Halloween (very late, but whatever) from the Von Trapp family!

Monday, October 5, 2015


I am done with cancer.

Kind of.

I guess once you've had cancer you're never really done with it. I'm in remission now, which is as "done" with cancer as it gets, I guess. Two months after my last chemo (which was June 23), I had a scan done to make sure that all of the cancer is gone. I'm almost totally clean, with just a little warm spot on part of my neck. That means there's a tiny chance that the chemo didn't get all of the cancer, but that is still not super likely. It probably is just some of the cells hanging out in that spot or something like that. So we'll watch that spot.

For the next forever I'll be periodically visiting my doctor to make sure I'm staying in remission and the cancer doesn't come back. For the next year, which is the most common time for cancer to return, I'll have a scan every 3 months just to make sure nothing is growing anywhere. After a year, I'll have a scan every 6 months for a few years, and then yearly after that.

But the amazing news is that I am done with cancer for right now! I am healthier than I've been in a long time. I feel so so SO great. Life is amazing and I feel like I'm savoring every moment that I can. I celebrated when I was strong enough to do our laundry by myself—for the first time since we've been married! I take so much joy in making delicious food, and most food still tastes wonderful! Every now and then I'll eat a food and it'll remind me of going through chemo, so I'm still careful about eating things like mint-flavored stuff and jolly ranchers.

I'm enrolled in school right now (just taking 2 classes) and working part time at my old job. Derek is deep in his schoolwork and sometimes I'm amazed at how nice "normal" is. How great it is to be healthy. I thank God every day for my health, for Derek's health, for my friends and family and their health. It really is an amazing blessing to feel good.

Also, as a celebration Derek and I went on a 12 day roadtrip all over the Pacific Northwest and northern California. If you want to see more pics of that check out my Instagram or search the hashtag #millersaroundtheworld on Instagram.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Even more about the hairs

It's a good thing we shaved my head, cuz these hairs do not wanna stay in. My pillow and the insides of my hats are covered with teeny tiny little hairs. A few days after buzzing my head I took a shower and as I was scrubbing my head, noticed this:

Hundreds of hairs falling out!

Even with all of these hairs falling out, I'm still not bald. My hair has stayed relatively the same length since we buzzed it. Except for a few (like ten) renegade hairs who are like "we wanna grow!" are are an inch long. But it's cool. I just pull them out. Which is kinda fun and totally painless because my hair follicles are closed up anyway. So I can pull our hair on demand. New talent? Sure.

My armpit hairs have totally stopped growing (#chemoblessings) and the leg hairs have thinned and slowed, but still grow, especially on my knees, for whatever reason. I've lost nearly all my pubic hair (feeling very prepubescent). Eyebrows are holding out, but my eyelashes are in a pretty sad state. I could probably count the last remaining hairs. Not sure if I'll lose all of them, but it's getting close. I wore mascara a few weeks ago, and the result was mostly scary. Kind of like how Yzma has three eyelashes from the Emperor's New Groove. I definitely miss having lots of lashes, because stuff gets into my eyes all the time now.

Buuuut, have no fear because if I do lose all of my eyelashes, there are tons of great tutorials online to help out! Like this:

Barbie Doll Makeup Tutorial!!!

Who knew you could just DRAW your eyelashes on?! #lashgameonpoint

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day in the life

Here is a detailed account of Tuesday of last week. It was a chemo day, so most of my days aren't exactly like this.

8:34 am
I don't have an alarm, so I gradually let my body wake up. The sun is streaming in from our window, and I can hear birds and construction outside. I stretch a bit, and then doze off. When I'm awake again I shuffle to the bathroom.

9:40 am
I pull on my black leggings, a loose-fitting black shirt, and my gray beanie. I wear leggings everyday, and have just a few t-shrits that I rotate between. Then I slip to the couch, where Derek is sitting. He slides over: he warmed up my spot and the blanket for me. We kiss good morning, and cuddle for a bit. Derek had a crazy dream last night, and tells me about it. I try to remember my dream, but it's already evaporated.

10:06 am
"Do you want breakfast?" We eat the same thing every day for breakfast. A smoothie made from our homemade yogurt (probiotics yay!), blended fruit and Miralax. This has been a lifesaving combination for my constipation. Derek hops up  to make it, and I start scrolling through my Instagram feed, wrapped in a blanket. I get really cold after eating cold things. Today's smoothie has some pineapple in it and is particularly delicious.

10:29 am
"What time should we leave here?" Derek asks. Today is a chemo day. I remember that I had dreams about coming to chemotherapy last night. "Let's leave at like 11:30? Maybe a little before then..." It doesn't really matter what time we go. Our appointment is for 11:40, but come on, I have cancer. They nurses and doctors get it, and are flexible. Still, my body doesn't want to go. The fight of brain vs. body begins. For the next hour I swing from "We are so close to finishing! Going to chemo makes the end closer!" to "I really really don't want to gooooo. I don't want to go to the hospital. Please nooooo." Derek is patient and encouraging. He knows that the night and morning just before chemo are hard. I try to distract myself for a while by doing some family history work online. I've been finding and connecting a lot of my English ancestors, which is really exciting.

11:02 am
Derek warms up leftover rice, garlic chicken and asparagus for me. Lunch. I eat with my computer on my lap and take my anti-inflammatory pills (for the ulcers in my colon, which haven't been bothering me lately. Yay!)

11:23 am
"But I don't wanna gooooo." Brain vs. body fight continues. Just thinking about chemo makes my body shudder. Derek finishes packing my backpack with letters and a package I received in the mail. I like having "chemo presents." It helps me stay motivated. "What if we just don't go?" I slip on my Birkenstocks and a cardigan and keep whining a little. But I try to stay positive. "It's practically over, right?" and then "Let's just stay home." A lot of cancer fighting is mental, I swear.

11:35 am
We're finally leaving. We don't ever leave on time, and that's okay. I check on my herb garden on our balcony before we go. Even though we only get 3 hours of direct sunlight, my mint plant has been thriving. And my basil isn't dead yet. Watching them grow (and smelling them everyday) makes me pretty happy.

11:43 am
We get to the hospital and park. Derek carries both his backpack and mine and checks us in. We're friends with the front desk ladies and they're always cheerful and glad to see us. After a few minutes the nurse comes back to get us, and we head to the back of the office. I weigh in at 92.5, which is a 1.5 lb gain! For the win! We all cheer, and then take my blood pressure and pulse. It's low as normal, so it's time to take my blood. I love having a port since it makes for easy access to draw blood and take in the chemo. Buuuuut, the worst part is that every time we use it we have to flush it with saline in order to keep it clean and sterile. This is the worst, because every time we flush it (at the beginning, middle and end of chemo) I get a strong, nasty chemical taste in my mouth. Just thinking about it makes me nauseous and gag. I chew a stick of gum when they do the saline flush to help with the taste. Mostly it just makes me associate gum and mint flavors with saline, but oh well.

12:15 pm
We chat with our doctor about how I'm feeling and my side effects before starting chemo. The past few weeks I hardly been nauseous, I've had more energy than I've had in months, and really I've been feeling good. The only weird side effect that I've been dealing with are hot flashes. Our doctor's best guess is that my ovaries are pretty stressed out (extreme weight loss and chemo chemicals have killed my period since September) and that could be giving me hot flashes. An early menopause is possible, but unlikely. Definitely hoping for the best right now.

12:28 pm
Before the nurses come over to start my chemo, we chat with a lady sitting across from me. She's here for breast cancer and is just a few rounds of chemo in. She's got 10 more. We cheer for her, and give her encouragement. I think breast cancer is what most other people are being treated for, at least when I'm there. We have yet to meet anyone younger than us, but that might be because anyone younger would go to the children's hospital in Salt Lake... Anyway, I get hooked up to my chemo bags, and hop on my laptop. Derek has a work meeting on campus so he kisses me goodbye. I breeze through facebook, watch an episode of Parks and Rec (surefire way to cheer up) and then start writing this post. Derek is back an hour and a half later, he studies for his upcoming test while I keep writing.

2:44 pm
And chemo is over! "Sarah, just three more times and we are done." I tear up and cry a little bit. Today was 9 out of 12. That light at the end of the tunnel is a little closer, and I can't believe it!

I chew gum for the final flush, but can't stop shuddering. Such a nasty taste! I try to focus on the food we are going to eat to distract myself. We place an order for pick-up at Cubby's and walk back to the car. I forgot to take a picture, so we take it in the parking lot (I usually forget to take pictures...). My sister Ishel has sent me some videos of her and the babies she nannies. They are adorable and definitely brighten things up. Then to Cubby's for delicious burgers. We've successfully reintroduced gluten back into my diet, so when we get home I eat my first burger with a bun since October. It was delicious.

3:20 pm
I use the bathroom, and my pee is red. One of the chemo drugs is bright red, and makes my pee red for a day (it's normal). I take a pill for nausea, but my body is tired. I have a minute-breakdown, and Derek holds me. It's okay. Really, it's going to be okay. We watch two episodes of Jimmy Fallon to distract and cheer me up. I have a glass of orange juice to help get the saline taste out of my mouth.

4:38 pm
Bedtime. But not quite sleep time. Derek kisses me before leaving to take a test, and I watch 9 to 5 for the first time (wacky, but good) and then Legally Blonde. Normally I like watching cooking shows, but not right after chemo. Too nauseous. I eat an orange juice popsicle, and watch another episode of Parks and Rec. Leslie and Ben are "on trial" for their relationship, and it's pretty funny.

8:30 or 9:00 pm
It's dark, and I'm exhausted. I fall asleep pretty quickly and don't even wake up when Derek gets home. But I do wake up in the middle of the night, sweaty, a little nauseous, and needing to use the bathroom. Late night/early morning bathroom breaks are a regular nightly occurrence. I sleep all the way through the night maybe once a month.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I fight cancer

What the heck does it mean to "fight cancer"?

Before I was diagnosed I had only a few experiences with cancer. My mom's parents both fought and passed away from cancer while living with my family in my late teens. Growing up I had heard stories of how my mom's brother also fought Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was my same age and in college (he survived and is still kickin'!). But I didn't really know what cancer was or what it meant to "fight" it.

Until now! There are so many different types of cancers and chemotherapies and treatments, so I can only speak for myself. But if you're interested, here's how I fight:

I fight by going in for chemotherapy.
Going to chemo isn't my favorite. It tastes gross, it makes me feel crummy, and I have to get poked with a needle. But I know that it is helping me heal and get better, so I choose to go (and try to have a good attitude about it).

I fight nausea.
This is the biggest side effect of chemotherapy. Feeling nauseated is the worst. I take that back. Actually throwing up is the worst. I have pills that help enormously, as well as smelling citrus or distracting myself with Netflix.  

I fight constipation and diarrhea.
Another foe that is not pretty, but real. It has taken four months, but we have finally re-figured out my bowels and how to keep them functioning well. But with that said, it took us four crappy months.

I fight all sorts of weird side effects.
My teeth are super sensitive now for several days (it feels like I'm teething). I've had a fever for a week (and I'm taking antibiotics to help, don't worry too much). I get a metallic taste in my mouth pretty often. My skin is acting weird and dries out in strange ways. Night sweats baby. My hormones are loco-crazy. Ya.

I fight my body.
My body is a battlefield right now. Chemo drugs as well as some of my cells are kicking those cancer cells trash. Every. Single. Day. Plus I've still got ulcers in my colon and my body is freaks out about that sometimes. I'm underweight, so I have no fat storage so my body is constantly in starvation-freak-out mode. Sleeping isn't always easy, and I really, really need sleep. In short, things are pretty dang whacked out right now. Which is why...

I fight to love my body.
My body is so far from functioning normally right now. And that is frustrating. Walking 300 feet to the mailbox is a huge feat. Trying to read a book or learn new things is sometimes challenging. Staying awake past 10 pm is almost impossible. Using the bathroom takes an enormous amount of energy. Being bony and thin is very uncomfortable. Things I used to love to do, like cooking and running are impossible for me to do right now. But even though there is so much my body can't do, I choose to love my body. I'm healing. I'm fighting. And I still can do lots of things! My body isn't very strong right now, but I have a body, and I love my body, and I know that someday I will have a functional, strong body. 

I fight boredom.
Now, I do sleep quite a lot (I would say that's the main activity I engage in) but I still have plenty of time on hand during my waking hours. I choose to read books and blogs and scriptures and magazines, paint, listen to audio-books, watch episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child, watch Netflix (favorites include Parks and Recreation, The Mind of a Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Audrey Hepburn films), check email and Facebook, reply to messages, write on this blog, visit with friends who stop by or via Skype, look at Instagram, take baths, take naps, meditate, walk to check the mailbox (that's my one chore), water our plants (mostly neglect), paint my nails occasionally, and make sure I'm eating and drinking. And steal kisses and receive foot massages from my lovely husband when he's around. I'm not bored often, but it happens.

I fight to stay positive.
This is the ever present battle. Every day I have a choice as to how I want to look at this experience. And most days I choose to see it as a positive opportunity. There is so much that I'm learning from this experience, and there are so so SO many blessings that have come into our lives. I still have moments that are really hard, where I want my old body, and a "normal" life. I get frustrated with my inability to do a lot of things. I even miss things like work and school. But I guess my motto that gets me through has kind of turned into: this is not for forever, and look at how much good there is! 

And that's how I fight cancer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The Rex Lee Run was just over a week ago. And it was pretty cool.

As a way to raise awareness of the run, the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at BYU interviewed people who were running with a purpose. This college uses all proceeds from the race to fund cancer research at BYU. They managed to find Derek and got our story (that's the video just below this paragraph). They also interviewed Derek in more depth, which you can read here. (Warning: it probably will make you cry. Derek gets pretty real about how he has had to deal with cancer. Also, the same article was also published in the local newspaper here.)

I was genuinely surprised at how much the race affected me. There were almost two thousand runners who showed up on a Saturday to run/jog/speed walk/walk/push a stroller either 5K or 10K (which is double the participants from last year!) and $55,000 was raised for cancer research. That. Is. Amazing. Just check this out:

So many people! And a lot of those people ran for ME! I had immediate family, extended family, and a handful of friends who raced for me (even my dad's childhood best friend showed up, and got 6th place!). And a lot of them wore purple, which is the color for lymphoma cancers (each type of cancer gets it's own color. Yeah, I didn't know that either till I got the disease). 

As I sat in the stands wrapped in warm blankets, surrounded by my mom and sisters cheering the runners on, I got a little reflective. There were so many people who cared. Most of them didn't know me, but they knew someone who fought/is fighting cancer. And that's no joke. That's life. While I do have some feelings about cancer being put on a pedestal (a blog post on that to come), this event was so positive and happy and made me so glad to be a part of this community. Yeah, community. The Rex Lee Run was a beautiful celebration of community, and I was a part of that. My battle was honored by friends and neighbors, and I was cheered on by thousands of thumping sneakers.

I think all of this is best summed up by Phil Hermanek, a cancer survivor that CPMS also interviewed. Quite simply:

“We’re not as separate as we might like to think.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

More about the hair

Sooo, I shaved my head. And it's been pretty great so far. But let me back up.

The doctor said that my hair would start falling out after about 2–3 weeks. OK cool. About 2.5 weeks in I noticed that every time I touched my head, a single hair would fall out. I was finding and removing hairs from my laptop keyboard more and more often. This was enough to signal to me that it was time.

My dear friends Maude and Emma hopped over and helped document this once-in-a-lifetime moment, which was pretty cool. I mean, when in your life does the husband get to shave his wife's head?

We planned out how we wanted to make the gifs (check out the ones Emma made here), and then started shaving! Periodically we stopped the clippers to take photos. So fun. I got to try a bunch of sweet hairstyles as we chop-chopped our way down.

Things are significantly more chilly without a head full of hair, but that's what hats are for. And I'm covered (pun) in that department.

While some of my hair follicles are closing up because of chemo (that's what causes the hair loss), not all of them are kind enough to close up shop. I still have to shave my legs and armpits, although my pubic hair is falling out like crazy (sorry if that's TMI, but it was something that I wondered about before we started chemo). I still think it would be so awesome if chemo only affected your leg hairs...but maybe that's just too dreamy.

Shaving my head is probably the thing I got asked about the most when I would tell someone I had cancer. "Are you worried/anxious/fearful that shaving your head will be hard/scary/make you not feel or look pretty?" And for a lot of men and women this can be a pretty traumatic event. But my friends and husband were so supportive! We made it into a fun event (photoshoot = always fun), and I know that I'm not gonna have a shaved head for the rest of my life. Hair grows back. My body will heal. This is not forever.

What we eat

FOOD! I love food! Usually. With cancer and Crohn's and chemo, sometimes I really don't like food and it makes me sick just thinking about it. But in general I do absolutely love food.

Currently we focus on eating fresh vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, and healthy fats. We avoid sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains.

So that's the general rule of thumb. There are some exceptions and I'll tell you about them! But if you are going to make us food (thank you!) just go with the above statement.

We love vegetables! We like them in soups, salads, raw, steamed, baked, mashed, the list goes on and on. There are so many different types of vegetables out there too! It's fun to experiment or find new ways to cook old favorites. Vegetables are usually the main dish, but this can be hard to stomach sometimes when my body isn't feeling great.

We also are trying to juice more often, and the best juices for your body have tons of vegetables! Again, sometimes I can't deal with drinking juice, but when I can I do!

We have switched to buying organic produce as much as we can. One reason is because while I'm on chemo my immune system is shot, and pesticides can actually get me sick. Another big reason is GMOs—just look into them and maybe you'll change your mind.

Derek loves fruit! And I do too (but not as much as him). But, sugar in any form is cancer's favorite source of energy, so I've cut back to 1 or 2 servings of fruit a day. Again we're on the organic train here, and we also like dried fruits like coconut, mango and dates.

Meat and fish!
We do eat meat and fish! And a fair amount of it. Especially chicken, because that's what my body feels like it needs and can usually tolerate eating. We don't eat too much red meat because of the high iron content, which is another favorite for growing cancer cells. Any meat we do eat we choose to buy organic: grass-fed for the cows, free-range for the chickens and eggs. This makes a huge difference! Not only in flavor, tenderness, and deliciousness, but in quality. There is a major difference between the rotisserie chickens at Costco and the ones at Sprouts (our local health food store).

There are so many reasons why buying organic meat is so important (ethical, health, common sense) so look into it and try to make an effort to buy good meat and fish.

We also are into making bone broth from leftover bones! It is so delicious and full of good nutrients and gelatin. Just google 'bone broth' to learn about the benefits.

Healthy fats!
Fats are not bad! Your body needs them. For real. So cut the margarine and read the first chapter of Nourishing Traditions. It's about fats. We eat and cook with extra-virgin olive oil (but never heated), coconut oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, and lots and lots of grass-fed butter (for me especially). Not all fats and oils and created equal, but these ones are awesome!

Nuts and seeds!
We do also eat some nuts and seeds. We've been making our own almond milk, which is amazingly delicious. We'll snack on nuts every now and then (mostly Derek) but if they aren't soaked it can irritate my gut.

Now, here's what we avoid, and why:

As soon as I was diagnosed with cancer we cut this guy out. And it's gonna stay out. We haven't really missed it, to be surprisingly honest. We still eat naturally-occurring sugar from fruit, and we do occasionally nibble on dark chocolate or raw local honey, but other than that we are pretty sugar-free (and by "sugar-free" we're definitely not eating products that say they're "sugar-free" because there's usually aspartame in them which is way worse for cancer). I get headaches from drinking a bottle of Gatorade (to stay hydrated with them electrolytes, which is super important while on chemo) and tummy aches too. So sugar in nearly all forms is out of our diet.

Milk and I are not friends. You can read more about this on Derek's blog. Other than our homemade raw milk yogurt and the occasional high-quality cheese, we currently have no dairy in our life.

Pretty straightforward here. We don't eat beans. I don't feel good when I eat them, so we don't eat them. I'd like to experiment with soaking and sprouting in the long run, but right now we are just doing without.

Total avoidance of gluten due to gut irritability. So no white or wheat flour for us. We actually do eat some grains. It's so important that I don't lose weight, and sometimes that means nothing sounds good except rice and butter. We occasionally eat rice, quinoa, rice noodles, and corn tortillas. But many meals are totally devoid of even those grains. It's not hard to have a delicious vegetable-heavy meal.

Please note:
None of these foods are inherently "bad" or "good." Moderation and balance are key, and right now we are listening very intently to my body. This diet works for us because we've done a lot of research about foods that are the least inflammatory for my Crohn's, while maximizing calories and nutrients to help keep me strong enough to fight cancer.

Why we eat what we eat

Many of you know that I love food. I love to cook (thanks Mom!) and I really love to feed people. I'm sure many of you reading this have been over to my apartment/house for a meal/party/dinner/etc. at some point. This is the story of how Derek and I ended up eating the way we do. If you just want to see what we eat, go to this post.

Understanding what foods are good for me started my sophomore year when I accepted a challenge to be vegan for a month. That was life-changing, because I ended up accidentally going off sugar for that month as well. 

Here's what I learned from being vegan:
1) I was not eating nearly enough vegetables
2) how much free food is actually just crap
3) My body felt really different after a month of this change, so 

After that month I thought about returning to being vegan, but I knew that I wasn't doing it right. I knew I still needed protein, and definitely more vegetables. But how do you cook vegetables other than like, salads and carrotsticks?! So I reintroduced meat, eggs, and some dairy (I stopped drinking milk and stuck with almond milk from here on out), though I made an effort to not eat meat every day. 

About a year later, my roommate Laura started eating "paleo." It was a very odd diet, and I didn't really understand why anyone would want to live a life without pasta. I was interested, but skeptical. Eating like a caveman, really? No thanks. 

I head out to Europe and that opens the doors to amazing food. 

Things I learned while living in Europe:
1) Fresh produce and food is best! It really does make a difference
2) Eat local. In Sweden especially, so much of the food is grown/raised/caught not too far from where it's sold. Plus, you can always go berry and mushroom picking in the forest. Always.
3) Americans are fat. Ask any European what they think of America, and bingo: fatty. And if you compare Americans to the Europeans, it's no wonder.
4) Bigger is not better. I could probably write a whole post about fridges in Europe. They are tiny! Which is actually amazing! It starts with urban design: most people use public transport to travel, and because of this usually choose to grocery shop several times a week (if not every day) as opposed to once a week. The quantities of food that they bring home are smaller and fresher, and there isn't a need for a huge fridge to store tons of food. So fridges and freezers are small, and the food is fresh. I love it.

Come my senior year I start following some people on Instagram who are talking about this "Whole 30" thing. It was some sort of diet challenge that lasted 30 days, or something. Not really sure. During this time Derek and I start dating and falling in love. Derek is keen to say that he fell in love with my cooking, as well as me. We were avid farmer's market attendees and cooked dinner together almost every night. We loved green smoothies, yogurt with homemade granola, pasta with zucchini sauce, quinoa vegetable pilaf and mexican chicken soup. We got married, moved to New York, lived in 100 square feet of love with a mini fridge and two burners and a sink, and loved it. We made all kinds of curry (too often), fresh summer salads, and melty tomato cheese sandwiches. 

On subway trips to and from work that summer I read It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. It was the introduction to understanding good principles of nutrition that I needed. These were the creators of the Whole 30 Challenge, which challenges you to cut out all dairy, legumes, sugar, and grain for a strict thirty days as way to better understand how your body reacts to food. After those thirty days, you slowly reintroduce each of the aforementioned types of food and see how your body reacts to them. It's amazing how poorly we listen to our bodies and how powerfully our bodies react to food. I also love that this program does not count calories or restrict how much you eat. Eat until you are full and satisfied. Listen to your body. Feed it nutrient-rich, good foods. I loved how this book explained how your body works in regards to breaking down  fats, proteins and carbs, and why a diet (lifestyle, really) of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and healthy fats gives your body energy and nutrients that you otherwise might be deficient of.

I thought about doing a Whole 30 challenge when Derek and I returned to Provo and settled down a bit, buuuuut needless to say things came up. Like cancer and stuff. 

SO, once I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, more research began. There are some people who have been able to fight and heal cancer through drastic diet changes. I found their stories very interesting, and a fairly common tenet is to blast your body with nutrients via green smoothies, freshly juiced vegetables and a raw vegan diet. I think healing through nutrition is wonderful, but after prayer and many, many talks with Derek we didn't feel like that was the road for us. For many of the people who heal their cancer through nutrition, the lifestyle change was huge. From pizzas, sodas and fast food to the green smoothie and vegan diet was a drastic change. For Derek and I, it would have been a different change, but not drastic. We felt like my body needed something else.

Aaand when we found out I had Crohn's just a few months later we saw the wisdom in that earlier impression. With my gut so sensitive and an underactive stomach, my body would not be able to handle a raw vegan diet, at all. Also with the extreme weight loss that I've had over the past few months (nearly 40 lbs, which is not bueno at all) a diet of pure vegetables wouldn't help me maintain and gain weight. 

And so, I read the following books, compared information, prayed about what foods we needed to be eating at this point in our lives, and have gleaned a diet that works for Derek and me right now. I wanted to share the best sources of information that I've gathered together, and in the next post detail what we actually eat.

So here's what I've been reading the past few months in regards to food:

Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D. 
This book rocks. If you have cancer, you should read it. Pretty much by juicing, including lots of vegetables in your diet, and taking certain supplements can help your treatments be more effective at killing cancer cells, as well as reduce nasty side effects of said treatments.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
My favorite. I am in awe with how thorough and well-researched this book is. The first sixty pages are a heavy-duty crash course in nutrition (like why some fats are good, breaking down myths about protein and carbs, etc.) and then the rest of the book is recipes. Fallon looks at what cultures have been eating for centuries, and using food science explains why preparing food though soaking, fermenting and sprouting helps make food more digestible and nutritious.

On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
Cool book right here. (And yes I like to draw on books) This is the bible of food science and chemistry. Not only is everything is this book totally fascinating, but everything in this book is so applicable. I like comparing what I read in other books or online to what this book has to say.

If you are wanting to learn more about food and change your eating habits, I would strongly recommend you read Nourishing Traditions and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. If you need a program to stick to, read It Starts with Food. These books offer a great introduction to real food and give sound nutritional knowledge. Once you start to create your own base understanding of food, you can then customize your diet to fit your needs. The way Derek and I are eating now is not the way we will be eating in a year. Our diet fits our specific health needs, as should yours! Maybe paleo is right for you, maybe vegan, or maybe some combination of the two. Be smart and informed about the way you eat.

Okay, I'm off the soapbox now. Let's talk about food!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

01 Chemo

Here's what chemo looks like!

That's me in a nice reclining armchair, watching some Studio Ghibli, covered in warm blankets (they deserve a post all to themselves) and snacking on gluten-free almond crackers. While .9% Sodium Chloride (or something...) drips into my veins. Whee!

Arrive. Weigh in, have vitals taken (I consistently have low blood pressure, if you were wondering) and then choose a seat! There are like 10 armchairs, 3 or 4 of which face the windows. I prefer the seat closest to the warm blanket incubator. From my seat I have a really nice view of Mount Timpanogos, plus tons of natural light. I like it.

Nurses come over and sanitize my port, then poke it which is a little uncomfortable, but over in literally a second. They have to flush out the port (keep things sanitary and infection-free) with a saline solution which immediately gives a gross taste in the mouth. Nasty crap. Thankfully we try to remember to bring mints. After that they take some blood to check my white blood cell count, as well as other tests.

Then I get to drip through a bag of anti-nausea (which is really chilly!) and then my ABVD chemo chemicals. (Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, Dacarbazine)

In total it takes about 2.5–3 hours. I watched a movie, talked with the chemo patient and his wife who were sitting across from me, and checked Instagram.

I felt fine (and was craving baked potato) through the chemo. When we got home the exhaustion hit. I ate a little bit, and then watched another movie. I was nauseous too, and took some of my anti-nausea meds. But mostly just exhausted. I went to bed at 8 pm.

A few days after chemo I was a little nauseous and pretty tired, but this past week I've had much more energy and no nausea. Mostly we're gonna be fighting weight-loss and constipation.

But overall, it was a REALLY good way to start! They say everything just gets gradually worse with each round of chemo, so if that's true, this is a greaaaat place to start. Derek and I are really optimistic and just plain happy that we are one round of chemo closer to finishing! Just eleven more and we are done with this cancer thing!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Finally! Port!

I'm finally healed up enough from previous surgeries that we can move forward! We start chemotherapy in five days AND WE ARE SO EXCITED!

We start Tuesday, January 20. Each session should take about 2.5–3 hours. I'll go in every two weeks for chemo for twelve sessions total. Right now my the date of my last chemo session is June 23!

Yesterday I had my last IV for the next six months! (That's what the picture above is celebrating) I won't need to get anymore IVs for a while because I had a port put in. A port is a little device that goes under my skin just below my collarbone that connects directly to one of my blood vessels. Instead of trying to hook up to my veins every two weeks (which nurses usually poke through because my veins are so "squirrely," which is painful and really annoying), with a port you poke through the skin into the port, and can draw blood or drip in chemotherapy chemicals. It's very convenient.

It's also purple.

But I do feel like a bit of a cyborg, with my skin bulging out in a weird rounded triangle. I'll post a pic in a few weeks when the scar is a little more healed up. I don't wanna make Ishel pass out...

Tomorrow I'll have a CT scan done so we can see how much the cancer has grown, and then it's on to CHEMO! HURRAH!