Tag Archives: health

Diet and exercise: mind, body, & spirit

Luna moths in June are a wonder of nature

Luna moths in June

Does it really matter what we eat and whether we exercise?  From one point of view, we’re here to have an experience in the physical world.  Does it really matter what that experience is?  In a way, I think not, with no qualifiers.  There are as many ways to perceive reality as there are beings to perceive.  It is not for me to say you should eat this or get up and walk every day so you’ll be ‘healthy’.  Maybe you don’t want to eat mostly plants and no chemicals and would rather sit around all day watching crap TV, or reading or playing games or whatever.  It’s all ok.

But. The reality is that there are lots and lots of people who aren’t happy, and more than that, are depressed or anxious or filled with fear.  That doesn’t seem like fun to me but they continue to be depressed and unhappy and fearful even when taking so-called anti-depressants.  These drugs don’t really work because they don’t change the underlying situation.

Thoughts have power.  We imagine, we think, we become what we believe.  This is a world of free will.  We  don’t have lots of control because there are so many others with their own input but we do have control of how we feel about things.  The problem is that if we are used to thinking and feeling down and fearful those patterns will continue unless we interrupt them.  I learned in my hypnotherapy studies and related readings that neurons that fire together wire together.  Thought patterns and habits that are repeated become habitual.  The opposite is also true: use it or lose it.  In other words, when you stop thinking a certain way, you can really change the kind of neural connections that you have.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fear, anxiety and depression.  I have a friend who is struggling in some murky waters of fear and anxiety.  Anxiety can be crippling and support can be hard to find since the symptoms are so ambiguous.  While talking with my friend it has occurred to me that anxiety and fear are a form of pain.  In hypnotherapy we learn that as much as 75-80% of experienced pain is actually remembered pain, not current.  The expectation of what pain will feel like magnifies the pain.  That’s why pain meds don’t really work long-term and why hypnotherapy can be so effective for pain management.  With several techniques the remembered pain is peeled away until a much smaller and manageable pain is left.

The view from Healy Pass on the BC/ Alberta border.  Love of the world can lighten heavy spirits.

The view from Healy Pass on the BC/ Alberta border. Love of the world can lighten heavy spirits.

So fear and anxiety are sort of soul pain with life and those fearful and anxious pathways become worn in and familiar and at the same time dreaded  so that each subsequent anxiety event is made greater with the anticipation and remembered feelings of fear.  A person might resist but I wonder if resisting might just create more fear and anxiousness with the buildup.  The hard part is that most of us identify so closely with our mind that we can’t separate enough to see/know/perceive that we are the rider, not the ride.  One moment of noticing the negative pathway can make a difference.  Interrupt the thought and reframe.  Subsequent interruptions will be faster until the pattern has changed.

Most of the inner dialog started when we were children.  I know that we all learned, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.’ but that is not true.  Words have power.  Negative words repeated and repeated to young impressionable children sink in and become core values that limit that person.  It takes work, but those erroneous values can change.

I was fortunate in my childhood because I had a godmother who loved me unconditionally.  I knew that she thought I was fabulous.  I would not have survived my miserable teens without her in my life.  I felt understood and loved and accepted for myself.  To this day my godmother Mary is the single most important person in my life.  I would hope that everyone has at least one person that shows that kind of acceptance.   It is the basis of self-esteem, so important for healthy navigating of a life.

Ultimately the goal for everyone is to enjoy being themselves and to be interesting to themselves.  Being creative or helping others is a way of getting out of oneself but eventually everyone needs to love and care for themselves.

Returning to diet and exercise, it’s my experience that all dis-ease has an emotional and spiritual (invisible) component as well as a physical one.  We are beings of energy and all our cells have a consciousness.  It makes sense to me that the energy of the food going in will directly impact the cells that receive the food. Organic, life-sustaining food that produces viable seeds for the next season is the only choice when you look at the universe in a soulful way.

In the years since the development of low-fat foods and diet this and that, there is an obesity epidemic.  I read recently that diet foods actually cause weight gain (!!!??) and eating good fats  helps metabolism  and targeting healthy weight.  There is more heart disease and diabetes than ever even with all the new drugs.  The cholesterol lowering drugs, statins, have not helped heart disease because cholesterol isn’t the major cause of heart disease, lifestyle and diet are.

I recommend drcate.com for some interesting and not widely known things about cholesterol, statins and heart disease.  Also, listen to her interviewed by Sean Croxton of undergroundwellness.com  for  clear information about diet and cholesterol.  Cholesterol is the body’s delivery system, how we get fats and nutrients to various parts of our bodies, especially our brains.  Statins don’t just block receptors, they instigate a metabolic change and we are only now learning the full effects.  Some of those effects can be so subtle at first that they are attributed to aging and some of those changes are irreversible.

It’s the responsibility of the individual to attend to her own health and well-being.  I learned when I had cancer that I could control what I ate, I could learn  about my condition and so make informed decisions, and I could chose a fabulous team of health care people to help me journey through cancer to health.  I addressed the spiritual and emotional components as well as the physical.  It all INTERESTS me.

The scent of roses is heartening and can lighten and uplift a somber mood.

The scent of roses is heartening and can lighten and uplift a somber mood.

In his book, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar, Martín Prechtel tells about the Mayans of Santiago Atitlán who believe that we are obligated to the Gods to be sweet and tasty so that they can appreciate life through us and continue to send us life.  I think that, as well, we are obligated to be sweet and tasty to ourselves, creative and interesting.  In our creativity we joyfully honour the creative source and love the World and create it anew each day.

Contemplating a milestone

Part of June was spent making accoutrements for marketing my services.

Last June was the fifteenth anniversary of my mastectomy, the flagship event of my cancer dance.  I meant to write about it at the time, but I was busy painting the outside of the house here and organizing brochures for my sole proprietorship and a million other things.  I thought about it a bit, and the real reason I’m writing now, and should have then, was because of a phone call I got around that time.

I don’t usually answer the phone; I screen.  Why should I be surprised by the caller or the subject matter?  This particular morning I didn’t screen and it was a woman calling to ask for donations to fund breast cancer early detection options for poor and younger women.  This could be considered a controversial topic because younger women have more dense breasts so mammograms are unlikely to be effective and I wonder if all that mangling is not doing harm as well.  I’m off mammograms these days.  I’m supposed to have diagnostic one every year.  It’s been a couple now and I’m not obsessing.

Anyway, the woman on the phone said something that got me thinking.  She stated that the highest mortality figures from breast cancer were for women ages 35 to 50.   Interesting.  I was diagnosed when I was 43, I knew the lump was there a year earlier, and I’ve lived through that entire period of my life when breast cancer is said to be most lethal.  How cool is that?

It does make me wonder about treatment.  I opted for surgery because, at the time, I was barely informed and I just wanted it GONE!  I chose, on the fly, to go a mostly natural path after the surgery, refusing chemo and radiation.  I can’t say for anyone else; everyone’s journey is individual.  I know there are plenty of women as far past diagnosis as I am who did chemo.  I’m certain, for me that avoiding chemo was the best decision.  A strong immune system is required and chemo weakens the immune system and for me chemo was about shooting in the dark thinking that maybe there might be some stray cancer cells and maybe some of them would be destroyed.   Waste of ammo if you ask me.

Closeup of a flower at Butchart Gardens taken in September

Am I lucky?  I always say I’m lucky with life, so maybe I created this favourable outcome with my certain optimism.  There’s really no knowing and I’m happy with the mystery.  I do know that if I had it to do over again I would do the same but I might decide to forgo the surgery and eliminate the tumour with the natural path as well.

I do know that I probably had cancer cells when I was in my 30’s.  In my early 30’s I worked in landscape construction, using Roundup regularly and 2-4-D sometimes as well, although we knew enough to only use the 2-4-D where food would never be grown.  Ironic that Monsanto has plans for 2-4-D corn and soybeans, as if Roundup ready seeds are not bad enough.

I am certain that my exposure to pesticides caused my cancer.  When I was diagnosed I was rare in the breast cancer crowd because of my age.  Now young women in their 30’s are more frequently being diagnosed and their cancers are more virulent.  It’s not difficult to see that the difference is the increased amounts of toxins in our environment since the early 80’s when I was landscaping.

I can feel a rant coming on.  Pesticides built in to seeds is unconscionable.  Agribusiness monocultures that need excessive spraying for pests and weeds is an affront to all that is lively energy.  We are lively energy, part of this lovely greater whole that corporate agribusiness, chemical companies and pharmaceuticals are poisoning for profit.  I truly hope that Californians pass the GMO labelling initiative.  It’s a start toward accountability and a much needed one.  It’s time that everyone realized that the FDA is not in the business of protecting citizens but protecting the interests of big business.  Convenient that the chemicals go into the food system, poison the people who then are told they must have more chemicals to get better.  Don’t get me started on the cancer ‘industry’.  That and the sham that passes for health care in the United States is the topic for another blog if not a book.

Most of the time I don’t even think about cancer and barely remember that it was part of my experience.  With all the negative talk about universal health care these days and the deluge of ads for drugs of all kinds, encouraging people to simply take a pill, it might be useful for others to know that there is an alternative.  It takes a bit of work but it feels good.  I can say that I am healthier and stronger than when I was in my 30’s and early 40’s.  I can paint a whole house by myself.  I eat mostly organic or sustainable whole foods.  I know many of the people who produce the foods I eat.   But I wouldn’t be here at all maybe if I hadn’t had Canadian health care and a fabulous community of natural healers.  With their help I have more than survived those deadly years, I have thrived.

Dentistry, and memory

Like everything, the longer I perendinate, the more things pile up.  Writing and topics for writing are a lot like that.  One of my favourite writers says about writing,’Thinking about writing is not writing.’  Yeah, I know.  If only all those bits I write in my head as I’m walking in the general vicinity of the dog could be magically turned to print, how cool that would be.

Since February I’ve been concerned with: my ongoing saga with dental pain and the alleviating of said pain coupled with a bout of the recurring back pain exacerbated by a quick slip on the icy trail;  turning my sewing expertise into an actual income-producing business;  organizing the materials in the various closets and bins related to sewing in the hope of optimizing efficiency;  absorbing web site designing skills and designing brochures to market said sewing self;  calamity cat Mozart who has taken over from Murphy and has been to the vet three times this spring/summer with abscesses requiring antibiotics;  struggling with enough energy to get more than one thing done a day;  how to sort through the many passions I have and the quest for the proper thyroid med amount; re-staining and painting the trim of the house;  and wanting to write about my thoughts on finding myself fifteen years past my cancer diagnosis.

But what I want to write about today is my dental journey.  The last two years has been an ongoing dance with fixing teeth and getting crowns.  I broke down and had two root canals done rather than get more teeth pulled and added to my all-plastic partials, then a third tooth went ballistic when the crown made for it had to be re-done and the extra attention meant that tooth needed a root canal as well.  Each time my eight year old partial went with the impression to the lab until one day it got sent back in pieces with no word of explanation.  The subsequent replacement is not the same and now the upper one has returned from a different lab with one of the hook bits broken off.  (At least this lab says they don’t know what the material is or how it’s made.)

All of this has meant that in the last year I have been without some of my teeth for more than three months, putting all those times together.  And that has reminded me of the dental journey part of my cancer dance that started fifteen years ago.

I was so fortunate that I was diagnosed with breast cancer while living in Victoria, BC.  In addition to the traditional medicine crowd, I had three wonderful, loving and supportive naturopathic practitioners.  One of those three was a biological dentist named Dr. Dino Paulos, a joyful teddybear of a man who luckily practiced in the Greater Victoria area.  Because of my cancer diagnosis, and the fact that my other two naturopaths were great friends of his, I got in to see him within a couple of months, not the nearly year wait that was most normal.  The consult was to get my silver amalgams replaced, I thought, but it turned into so much more.

He asked me about scars I had from past injuries or surgeries, then before I left he injected all my scars with procaine (related to novocaine, I think), including the scar from my tonsillectomy, probably the most painful thing I have ever experienced.  I had to open wide and do the Ahhhh thing loudly while he stuck a needle down my throat to my scar.  The pain made me cry and the injection actually helped release trauma from the surgery episode.  The next time he injected wasn’t half so bad, and luckily only those two times did he inject my throat, although he injected my appendectomy scar and my breast cancer scar until the first is hardly noticeable and feeling returned to my mastectomy scar.

Along with removing my silver fillings, Dino wanted to remove my root canal teeth because he said that root canals can harbour foci infections that the body’s immune system can’t deal with but constantly tries to.  I was reluctant to lose teeth but that Christmas Eve I had such tooth pain that I sat up at my mother’s house in San Diego with a hot water bottle trying to think of an easy way to suicide.   January found me ready to do it all.  All ended up meaning that besides the three root canals, three other teeth couldn’t handle the extra drilling and had to be extracted as well.  I spent the better part of a year living on mashed potatoes and cheese blintzes waiting for my mouth to heal so I could get new teeth that came out at night, something I never thought I would do; but  I was in my early 40’s and determined to do it all, whatever was necessary to get beyond breast cancer.

Dr. Dino used kinesiology to muscle test me before, during, and after all the procedures.  For the filling  removals I was dosed with chlorella (something I was taking daily as well) and I was appreciably stronger after the metal was removed.  There was infection in the root canal teeth and with their removal I  again experienced more energy.

His office at the time was in his house on the coast of the Saanich Peninsula, with a view of Mt. Baker.  It was an oasis of peace and tranquility.  You arrived through a tall wooden gate to a high-fenced garden with a little stream and some of Dino’s driftwood creations.  I would bring knitting in case I had to wait but there was always an elaborate puzzle in progress on the coffee table in the waiting room to help pass the time as well.

Dino always greeted me with a twinkle in his eye and a big hug, and the session always ended with a warm, encompassing hug as well.  The dental part of my cancer dance was by far the most painful part of that journey and I must say that losing the teeth was way worse than losing a breast, but making that journey with such a kind-hearted person was a highlight of that time.   My life was made richer by that experience and I remember with fondness the caring and loving energy, not the pain.

So it is with sadness that I discovered yesterday, while trying to find out what material those original partials were made of, that Dino died suddenly in April of this year.  I wish that I’d managed a trip back sooner;  I was actually considering spending an extra month in BC this fall to get new partials made.  I’m sorry for everyone who was family and really close to him.  I’m sure they will miss his joyful presence for all their days.  Thankful am I that we made that connection and that Dino was a big part of my healing process.  Would that there would be more in the world with that capacity for joyful life and caring compassion.