A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Saturday, June 28, 2014

One Year of Recovery

6.14chrisbday-1 One year ago today I finished my last treatment, radiation therapy. This marks my first anniversary....my first year of recovery. Thank you all for your prayers and compassion through this journey.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Onions and a recipe for Red Onion Soup

Onions' sulfur compounds and flavonoids may help fend off several forms of cancer. These powerful antioxidant compounds also help fight some of the side effects of high blood sugar, not to mention heart disease. Onions even seem to boost HDL, or the "good" cholesterol. Evidence suggests that onions may help preserve bone and prevent osteoporosis, and because  the sulfur compounds are strongly anti-inflammatory, onions may also relieve the pain and swelling of arthritis. Finally, onions are one of the richest sources of chromium, a mineral that improves the body's ability to respond to insulin. Onions have very few calories, so add them cooked or raw to as many dishes as you can think of. Minced raw onions have the greatest health benefits. A serving is usually considered to be 1/4 cup at a time.
Here is a list of onions and their cousins, ranked from highest to lowest level of antioxidants:
Western yellow
Northern red
Empire sweet
Western white
Imperial Valley sweet

Here is a recipe for Red Onion Soup to get you started.

Red Onion Soup

French Red Onion Soup
3 Tab. olive oil
6 large red onions, sliced
pinch salt
2 tea. fresh thyme (or 1 tea. dried thyme) or 2 tea. fresh marjoram
1 cup red wine
6 cups vegetable broth
pinch of nutmeg

In a large pot, heat the oil and add onions and salt and stir. Cook on med-low heat for 25 minutes to caramelize. When the onions have turned a deep golden brown. Stir in the herbs and deglaze with the wine. Add broth and nutmeg and simmer 15 minutes.

If desired, you may serve with Parmesan Crostini floating on top the soup.
Slice a baguette into 1/4 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each slice with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake 350 oven until lightly toasted and cheese has melted.

Source: modified slightly from the recipe at One Bite at a Time, Rebecca Katz; Magic Foods, by Robert Barnett, Christine Pelkman and Denise Webb

Monday, June 16, 2014

1 1/2 Year Check-Up with Oncologist

First of all, it was a good check-up and the exam went well. For this check-up, Steven and I had lots of questions for the oncologist, which was very different from my 1-year check-up in which we had no questions. I have developed a very itchy rash on my arms and I have been seeing a dermatologist for it. He has suggested a steroid cream to apply topically. The oncologist had told me that I was not allowed to take any steroids, but I was not sure whether this applied to topical steroids. The oncologist okay-ed the particular cream the dermatologist suggested and in fact, even okay-ed a temporary use of some oral steroids that the dermatologist wanted to use. He seemed to feel I was getting a good diagnosis and treatment from the dermatologist. So, I am good to go with the dermatologist.
Next, we talked to him about the abnormal pap test results. We were worried because we had understood that the Tamoxifen that I am taking to prevent the re-occurrence of breast cancer might cause uterine cancer. It turns out that the kind Tamoxifen encourages is a different type than the kind detected by a pap test. It is a very rare form of endometrial cancer in which there is no test for. The symptoms are heavy bleeding. The oncologist is keeping in good communication with my gynecologist.
Lastly, we talked about the possibility of switching from Tamoxifen to another medication (I believe it is called anastrozole) now that I seem to be post-menopausal. He said that he would like to see me in menopause for a full year before he would be comfortable with the switch and if I am not not reached that point by the time I see him again in December, that there might be the possibility of me getting shots to make sure that I am in menopausal so that I can make the medication switch.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Turmeric and a recipe for Bombay-inspired Green Beans

Turmeric, the spice that gives mustard its bright yellow color, is related to ginger, and is the most concentrated souce of the antioxidant curcumin. In a lab test, curcumin caused the death of cervical cancer cells and blocked harmful cell changes. In addition to its cancer-reducing qualities, curcumin could help stave off heart disease as well as damage related to high blood sugar, as it helps prevent blood sugar surges. Turmeric is particularly good for stomach ailments and colon cancer. Most recently, however, researchers have begun to look at whether curcumin may help to prevent Alzheimer's because it decreased the formation of amyloid, which makes up the brain deposits characteristic of people with Alzheimer's. Most of the studies with turmeric have used curcumin extracts derived from turmeric, so its hard to know exactly how much is beneficial. Usually a dish only takes about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon at a time, so use turmeric whenever you can. Here is a dish to get you started.

Bombay-Inspired Green Beans

1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound string beans, ends removed
2 Tab. Olive oil
1 tab diced shallots or onion
1 tea. dry mustard
1 tea. cumin
1/4 tea. turmeric
2-3 tea. lime juice

Fill a large pot 3/4 full of water and 1 tea. salt to a boil. Add string beans and blanch for 3 minutes Drain and set aside.
In the pot, saute shallots and mustard and cumin with the olive oil for 30 seconds. Add the blanched beans and 1/4 tea. salt and turmeric. Toss, squeeze lime juice over the beans and serve.

source: modified slightly from One Bite at a Time, Rebecca Katz

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Berries and a Recipe for Berry Salad with Berry Balsamic Vinaigrette


Berries have a well-earned reputation for being especially rich in powerful antioxidants. Studies show that not only does a daily indulgence in berries reduce your risk of cancer, they also can help keep eyes healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. Strawberries are surprisingly good source of vitamin C, giving even oranges a run for their money...a cup of strawberry halves provides just as much vitamin C as does a cup of orange slices. Berries are also full of fiber and red-blue natural plant compounds called anthocyanins that may help lower blood sugar by boosting insulin production. Since strawberries have been named by the Environmental Working Group as one of the "dirty dozen" ]fruits and vegetables most likely to contain pesticide residue, buy organic when you can.

For the Berry-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup fresh blackberries, blueberries, strawberries or raspberries
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoon honey
salt and pepper

:Add all the ingredients to a food processor or blender then process or blend until smooth. Set aside (can be made ahead of time.)

For the Honey-Roasted Walnuts:
1/2 cup (raw) walnuts (could use Pecans)
1/2 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a bowl then add honey and pecans. Toss to coat then spread out on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant (watch carefully so they don’t burn.) Sprinkle lightly with salt then set aside and let cool completely (can be made ahead of time.)

To Make the Salad:
1 bag spring mix lettuce or baby kale, spinach and swiss chard mix
10 oz fresh blackberries (could use blueberries, strawberries or raspberries)
3 oz string cheese (could use blue, chevre or feta cheese)

Divide lettuce between plates then top with blackberries, cheese pieces, and honey-roasted pecans. Dress with berry-balsamic vinaigrette then serve.

source: modified slightly from the recipe at Iowa Girl Eats.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cancer Fighting Kitchen: Lemons and Limes and a recipe for Lemon Ricotta Pasta


Not only are lemons and limes are packed with a natural disease-preventing compound called limonene that is being studied for its potentially potent anti-cancer powers, but they also help lower your blood sugar, and four tablespoons of lemon juice will give you almost half the vitamin C you need for the day.  Lemons also are antioxidants and make cholesterol less likely to stick to your artery walls. The citric acid in lemons and limes also helps stave off kidney stones by reducing the excretion of calcium in the urine. Lemon rind is rich in a compound called rutin, which strengthens the walls of veins and capillaries. Only 1-2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice should be enough to lower the blood sugar impact of a meal by as much as 30 percent.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

12 oz fettuccine, tortellini or other pasta, preferably whole wheat
2/3 cup skim ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups diced red bell pepper
salt and crushed black pepper
1 tbs olive oil
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper (increase to your taste level)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup pasta water.
While pasta is cooking, in a separate bowl, thoroughly combine ricotta, lemon juice and rind, 1/4 teaspoon salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper. (I listed 1/8 tsp of crushed red pepper, but don't be shy, this dish is even better with a bit of a kick from the red pepper, so adjust according to your taste level ).
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper and garlic, saute for 3 minutes.
Add pasta, spinach, ricotta mixture and pasta water to skillet; cook about 1 minute or until spinach wilts. Top with extra salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper if desired.

source: Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom
Magic Foods, Robert Barnett, Christine Pelkman and Denise Webb