I usually have a large salad as one of my main meals each day. Sometimes it's in a bowl, sometimes it's in a tortilla, but the idea is that it's mostly green, fresh and raw.
It's part of the Girlbert's Pursuit of Ultimate Health with Minimal Effort Plan.
Summer (record-setting!) heat, having to handwash every dish I use, Boyfriend's preoccupation with Things Concerning How We Pay Our Rent, and my continuing monthly chemo regimen have me pretty well convinced that cooking or juicing three squares a day just isn't in the cards for us. So, one big bowl, a multitude of delicious, raw ingredients, maybe a knife and a cutting board - totally do-able!
And why not pass on a little of what I've learned from my Summer of Salad-Making, to you? Let's face it - most of us don't eat enough salad. We know it, but it seems an impossible hurdle, considering how programmed we are to cook every meal.
Instead of looking at it as, "I have to make a salad to go with dinner," why not look at it as, "what should I put with the salad we're having for dinner?" Make the salad the centerpiece - give it a little weight with some grains or beans, spruce it up with some colorful veggies or fruit, and suddenly it's a meal. And when done right, it's plenty filling, but doesn't keep you up all night with your body straining to digest a heavy meal.
So - get creative!
First, stock up on salad fixins you like, or would like to try. I try not to do the same thing too many times in a row, if ever, to keep myself from getting bored. I just pick up lots of salad greens (I love mixing arugula into my salads) and veggies when I do my grocery shopping and keep lots of things in my fridge to choose from.
And I've gotten over thinking that I have to cut up a million different kinds of vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, radishes, onions, etc, for every salad. That's way too overwhelming! The point is, lots of greens for the fiber and vitamins; and a couple of veggies for color, flavor, and interest. And a fun way to mix in veggies without having to chop, peel, worry about the size, etc? Shred veggies like carrots, peppers, cucumbers, radishes and zucchini with a cheese grater!
Go easy on the dressing - just lightly toss the greens and veggies to coat before adding additional ingredients. I usually stick with a tablespoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for every two people or three to four cups of greens. Lemon or lime juice is a nice raw substitute for the vinegar. And use sesame oil (topped with sesame seeds) for an Asian flair.
To make it a meal with enough weight to satisfy, I add quinoa or rice, and beans like garbanzos, black, kidney, or Great Northern (white) or edamamae. Toss these in just after dressing the salad, so they don't get too weighted down with dressing.
(TIP: Save time by using canned beans or frozen edamamae (thawed, of course). And I usually make a big batch of quinoa or rice at the beginning of every week and add to green salads as I make them. If I'm going to used beans and rice, I mix them together in a separate bowl first, so they're thoroughly mixed before adding to the greens.)
If you must add in some meat or tofu, might I suggest small pieces, thoroughly incorporated, to assist your tastebuds in savoring all parts of the salad. Otherwise, old habit may find you skimming the meat off the top, and being too full to eat much greenery, which is not really the effect we're going for! And to keep with my "Cooking to a Minimum Theme", might I suggest adding something simple, such as canned tuna or shrimp or smoked salmon? Or boil some eggs at the beginning of the week and dice into your salads throughout the week.
But don't forget about fruit, too. I love to add in tasty surpises like shredded apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, dried cranberries, figs (fresh or dried - yummy!), even orange slices. But don't add them until after you dress the salad - they're yummiest "naked"!
Finally, stick with whole, raw foods and top with corn, avocado, a scoop of guacamole or hummus, or some nuts or seeds, too. I try to stay away from too much dairy, but can't resist topping with goat, feta or parmesan cheese on occasion. Variety is key for your taste buds and your health!
For those of you still rolling your eyes - maybe you have children who have an aversion to all that which is green and uncooked. Where do you think they get that from? (hmmmm...) Try getting them to help you shop or help you in the kitchen (both is best!). If they're still hesitant, resist loading up on cheese, croutons and dressing to get the greens down. Try fresh fruit instead. Who doesn't like blueberries? Grapes? Oranges are fun in salads! Encourage them to try multi-colored versions of traditional salad fare: bell peppers come in purple (FUN!); sunny-yellow lemon cucumbers intrigued me the first time we were introduced; and tomatoes come in orange, yellow, and crazy shades of red - some even have STRIPES! And if all else fails, top your greens with fun things like Goldfish crackers, crispy Asian noodles, some whole grain pasta, organic cottage cheese or tortilla chips. They're better than the alternative: BACK, you fatty, oil-laden croutons!
A lot has happened! And I intended to write everday, but I've been allowing Boyfriend to step in with major updates, because we're on the low-stress-for-Girlbert-program. And I've been trying to be a good girl, despite some peaking (drug-induced) creative and physical energy.
So this is long-winded, but hopefully broken down into enough chunks that you can all manage, whether you choose to skim it over or swallow it whole. I did attempt to put in some kind of order of importance...
Medi-Cal Continues To Give Me Seizures Boyfriend touched on this in his birthday post from yesterday, but after 7 months of hoops with Medi-Cal, I have been informed of denial due to a technicality. My case has been closed, and I will have to appeal the denial, as well as REAPPLY and start the process over to get the ball rolling back in my court again. 7 months, people. And this is after my Ninja Neurologist got me on the fast-track to approval with a letter stating that I may not be alive in a year without treatment. Unbelievable, but as always, we'll deal. We're putting our heads down with some social workers and lawyer friends, and we'll get it turned around. The squeaky wheel plan continues.
Treatment Is Going Well I am really happy to report that two weeks into chemo and radiation, I've had no debilitating side effects. All the medication I'm on has side effects, don't get me wrong, but I'm managing very well with rest, good food, a regular schedule, and loads and loads of meditation to keep my mind in order. My docs warned me that the irritation of radiation would cause some more swelling and sure enough, my seizures have increased a bit - I have one or two mild, conscious episodes a day, but only one like the episode Boyfriend wrote about on Friday, and nothing like that since. I took my activity level down a notch (steroids make me feel like Superwoman!) after Friday, and my Ninja Neurologist tweaked my seizure meds and added a sedative/anti-seizure drug for me to take at night to sleep.
My docs have all warned me that the further I get into radiation, the more side effects I may experience, as the tuber dies off (ba-bye little tuber!), and my brain may become more irritated throughout. But we're all prepared to deal - I'll get to take more naps, maybe!
The oral chemo is going really smoothly. The anti-nasuea drug seems to be doing the trick, not to mention I take my one, oral dose right before bed on an empty stomach. My only complaint is that one of the major side effects is, of course, CONSTIPATION. So despite the fact we're still pretty high raw, juicing like fiends, and I'm downing water like it's going out of style, hello hemmoroids! Good times, but not that I don't have the experience to handle it. So back to Alice I'll go, as necessary. I'll need a good cleanse when this is all over, anyway.
So just how is Au-Naturale-Girlbert and her complementary treatment plan really feel about all the drugs and western medicine? That it's the right thing for my body, right now. I'm grateful for it, and know this is the route I need to take to heal my body, and ELIMINATE THE TUBER. But I'm asking LOTS of questions. Every side effect, every medication and dosage change. And my doctors have thoroughly explained to me the necessity and purpose of each drug so that I understand the benefits for any detriments. My comfort level with all of it is quite high. My only concern is that my mind stay sharp and functional, and hasn't seemed to be an issue with all the increased spiritual practice. My mind is as clear and grounded as it's ever been, despite all the drugs. I couldn't feel more blessed.
About My Weight Many of you have asked if I'm eating. Yeah, I'm skinny. Too skinny. Skinnier than I've ever been, but I'm ravenous! But I agree that checking in at 5'8" and under 120 pounds is a bit disconcerting (haven't weighed anywhere near that since MIDDLE school!), so I asked Uber-Oncologist Dr. G, about it before I even began treatment. "I have one more question." At 6pm, the tail-end of our squeezed-in appointment to get some questions answered before I begain treatment the following week. "Sure - what's that?" He turned toward me, from the computer monitor full of my scans and charts. "I've lost a lot of weight - more than 15 pounds in a couple of months - is that the steroid making my metabolism go wild or something? I though steoids were supposed to make me gain wight. My energy has been really high, and I know they have that effect, too." "How's your appetite?" "I've been ravenous." "Have you been thirsty? Having to urinate a lot?" "Really thirsty and I have to pee all the time." "Hmm. Your blood sugar was pretty high in the hospital," he referred to his computer screen for reference, "126. Steroids can cause diabetes." The tears came instantly. "That's in my family history," I whimpered. The D-word. After watching many family members struggle with diabetes, my ultimate health goal had been to keep myself from ever having to hear a doctor tell me I had the D-word. Cancer schmancer. Dr. G shook his head reassuringly. "Dont worry - medically-induced diabetes is totally reversible. But we'll check your blood sugar in your blood tests anyway to make sure." My blood test the next day showed my blood sugar back to normal. Whew.
In the meantime, I shared this story with my brother, who shares my ultimate health goal of avoiding the D-diagnosis. Perhaps channelling our Grandma T's (sometimes inappropriate) sense of humor, he exclaimed, "Oh my - 118 pounds? Brain cancer is like the best weight loss program ever!"
And we laughed, because we're Tomlins.
About That Trip Up North... Boyfriend already touched on this in his earlier post, and I've been meaning to, oh, but for the time of really doing the words justice!
Here's the bomb: Following my treatment at the end of November, we'll be moving up to Marin County, CA - the lovely town of Fairfax, to be precise.
So you remember that trip, over a month ago, now? I experienced a profound shift while visiting our dear friends in Fairfax, and sensed an overwhelming connection to the place as a healing center. A mecca, even. Upon driving into town the first time, we came upon healing center after local market, after meditation retreat center after organic restaurant after holistic health care office, and my only thought was that this was the place for me. Seem abrupt? All I can say is that it immediately resonated with me at such a high level, it couldn't be ignored, and the 7 days we spent there only confirmed what I knew in that initial moment. Boyfriend and I both experienced a huge shift in our relationship during our stay, and we're not attributing that to any accident. We also deepened our relationship with the dear friends who put us up for the week, and can hardly wait to live in their community. Not to mention a much better proximity to a major University Hospital, more dear friends, and the Neuro-Accupuncturist I will continue to see throughout my healing journey. The utmost importance has been placed on my health, increased autonomy, adjacency to nature, proximity and access to like-minded, spirit-driven people, continued healing, and happiness.
Friends and Family Visiting I've just wrapped up well-timed visits from friends and family this week. A great girlfriend from Wisconsin was here over the weekend with her little boy, and such a treat to spend time with them - it'd been over a year since I'd seen her last. The magic of spending time with children - very healing. Then my baby cousin (okay, so she's 24!), whom I haven't seen for over 12 years, and her boyfriend stayed with us Wednesday night, and I couldn't be more thrilled to see her and connect with out-of-touch family at this time in my life. The universe continues to astound...
Relief Is On The Way In the form of more family coming in to help out, as Boyfriend and I continue to manage schedules, work, and appointments. We couldn't be more thrilled that my mom will be here next Tuesday for eight days to help out with driving, erranding, cooking and whatever. Not too mention lots of hugs and love. Just the relief of not having to drive me to treatment everyday will free up Boyfriend's schedule immensely to get some much needed work done, which will help our financial situation tremendously. Then Boyfriend's parents will be coming on November 4th for about two weeks, and we're are thrilled for the company and help. They have lots of friends in CA, too, to they're looking at it as a double treat. Can't wait to see you all. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
That about wraps it up! Please keep in mind that I share my journey on this blog because I believe it is a powerful tool to help me heal. Your traffic, your comments, your positive energy - I FEEL all of it, and be assured that what you put out into the universe in a loving way will come back to you in amazing and profound ways. So leave your love here, and you'll heal yourself...
I am officially one of those crazy raw-food people. I've had the juicer a week, and the million-dollar question in our house has become: "What do we juice next?"
"Should we try carrots and oranges together?"
"What about apples and broccoli and carrots?"
I've been eating about 80% fresh, raw foods for almost a week now, and I don't know that I've ever felt this good my entire life. Energy and positivity abounds!
It's been a LONG time since the thought of adding anything to my to-do list each day, particularly something athletic, didn't make me want to throw myself off a cliff. But my energy level has hit the roof and BEYOND. I feel like my old self again, only better. I feel like I can do ANYTHING, maybe even multi-task! And I WANT to do things! Like yoga! And clean my house! And MAKE MORE JUICE!
Despite the fact that I did get to ride a horse (for the first time since February - yahooie!) and give a young friend of mine a riding lesson last week, I'm referring to getting back on my mountain bike. I haven't ridden since brain tumor (SBT) and Keppra.
Exercise has been LOW on the priority list for a multitude of reasons. First, taking the time has been difficult, with brain cancer being a full-time job and all. And I'm overwhelmed when Boyfriend asks me what he can make me for dinner, never mind what happens when the credit card companies start calling at 7am. Then there's the fact that even going for a hike would leave me a bit shaky, combining my medication's side effects with physical exertion. So getting on something with wheels, even with a helmet, hasn't seemed like the prudent thing to do.
But Friday I was feeling restless, not to mention brave, so Boyfriend and I went on an 8-mile ride. AND IT FELT GREAT.
Hopping on that kid's horse for five minutes last week actually did more lasting damage than the hour-long bike ride. My inner thighs have been punishing me, complete with maniacal laughter, ever since. (Is is lame to point out that I didn't bother adjusting the stirrups, and so I went without? For the whole five minutes?)
We just got back from our second bike ride. STILL GREAT.