Taking a Break

I realize that some people who read my blog are not connected to me on FaceBook or Instagram and are possibly wondering why I haven’t been posting. Fred and Pinky and I spent the month of January on the beach. Believe it or not, it gets chilly in the Mexican mountains in January. The days are sunny, warm and spectacular, but the late nights are sometimes in the thirties. The houses get cold, and don’t warm up much, even in the afternoons.
Fred and I have managed to take a winter beach vacation for the past 25 years. These trips have ranged from two weeks to three and a half months, and have gone down both coasts of Mexico. Going to the beach has been a very sustaining part of my life. There is something about going to a new place and staying there for a while that gives me a new way of looking at my life and a new way of seeing myself and my situation. Fred and I tend to treat our beach trips like little honeymoons. We got the honeymoon idea early in our travels, on our first trip to Puerto Vallarta. The tradition on many beaches in Mexico is for a guy to stand outside the bars and sort of flag people in for happy hours. And, every hour seems to be a happy one. There was one guy whose line was, “Hey, Honeymooners…two for one.” We loved that line, and did see ourselves as honeymooners, and all our beach trips give us a new look at what being together means to us. We have enriched our last three beach trips by including Pinky, making it a family affair.
This particular trip has been especially important to me. When I finished radiation on November 2, I was kind of a mess. I was shockingly skinny, had just started to get my hair back, and my muscle tone was pretty much shot. In spite of this, physically and mentally I felt really good. But, it was hard for me to reconnect with my physical self. I almost felt like I’d been picked up and reinserted into a different person’s body. I spent very little time without being wrapped in very concealing clothes, and struggling to recognize the woman I saw in the mirror. I also knew that my outlook on many things had changed. My boundaries were stronger (a good thing), and my patience much shorter (sometimes not such a good thing).
One thing being in a tropical beach setting does is force you to confront your physical body. I have managed to gain eight pounds since I was officially declared finished on November 8 (I won’t forget the date, or fail to see the irony of it). I brought my exercise mats and bands to the beach and have managed to get enough discipline together to get my workouts on a roll. I see muscle tone again. My skin looks less like it is draped over my bones. I have hair, and that hair has a definite mind of its own. I started coloring my hair as soon as I had a quarter inch of it, because that’s how I am. I have been redecorating my face, changing my make up. Changing my mind about my face, too.
But, most importantly, I have continued to write. I have been writing, just not posting. So, now that we have wrapped it up and are back in San Miguel de Allende, I have several new posts ready for you. So, more to come.
I have enjoyed Instagram very much on this trip. I have had a creative dry spell for the past many months, as most of my energy has gone into just taking physical care of myself. I have been thinking about that and looking for what I will do next in that direction. I think one of the most interesting phases of the creative process is when you have the drive but aren’t quite sure how to channel it. Writing has been so good for me during all this. I have been encouraged to hear from some readers that my posts have been good for them, too. I am glad to know that. I am writing this particular series not only for people who find themselves slammed by a health crisis, but also for myself as I walk my own way down this path asking “Where have I been, where am I now, and where am I going?”…

A Book That Could Save Your Life

A Book That Could Save Your Life, and make you much healthier whether you are undergoing chemo or not. Stay Healthy During Chemo by Mike Herbert, ND, with
Joseph Dispenza

(This is the ninth post in a series about my past year. I moved to Mexico…my dream come true…and soon thereafter found myself dealing with cancer and in the middle of a nightmare. I chose to stay in Mexico for all my treatment, and I received great medical and alternative care. I am now well, cancer-free…and remarkably slim.)

By the time I got out of the hospital from the surgery I had pretty much snapped out of my initial state of catatonic shock and knew I had to take charge of what was happening to me. I used the time between the surgery and the start of chemo to put together a team of people in the alternative wellness fields who could support me as I went through chemo and radiation. I had no idea when we moved to San Miguel de Allende that it is a center for alternative medicine. I believe that I received guidance on just the right people to connect with. One of the very helpful people I found was Mike Herbert, who, with Joseph Dispenza, wrote an amazing book, “Stay Healthy During Chemo, the Five Essential Steps”. Mike lives in San Miguel and I was able to have several consultations with him about my diet and the other supportive steps outlined in the book. I read this book straight through, and immediately I felt a real understanding of the connection between cancer and nutrition, a subject that the author has researched thoroughly. He did not have to convince me to do this diet and the other things recommended. I was as highly motivated as a person could be. I really wanted to stay alive and nothing seemed too radical for me. I used this book as a reference throughout my treatment and I think that ANY PERSON WHO FACES THIS CHALLENGE OWES IT TO HERSELF TO GET THIS BOOK. It is available on Amazon. I can honestly say that the information in this book played an important role in saving my life, and it certainly made going through chemo much easier.
This book covers so many important things that can make the difference as to whether you get through chemo with relative ease or you are completely wiped out by it. The five steps discussed are attitude, methods that you can use to detox, diet, supplements, and the balance between exercise and rest. All of these important topics are discussed in detail, and in language that is clear and understandable.
Even if you don’t have an opportunity to meet with Mike Herbert personally, this book will be very helpful. The overall positivity of the book is contagious, and many ideas he shares about attitude are very empowering. One of the main points made is that while chemo can kill malignant cells, it is our job to make ourselves healthy. We can do this by following the program set out in this book. What a patient does during chemo will determine how well he/she will get through it. What a patient does after chemo will establish a lifetime of ongoing health. I intend to stay on this diet, with a few modifications, for the rest of my life. One side effect of all this is that I am now very slim, and I like that. (I will discuss my personal diet in a future post.)
One of the main thing a person has to deal with at the beginning of a journey like this is fear of the unknown. This book helps you to move through the fears, find a way to take charge of your own recovery, and to plan your way to move forward with your life after chemo is over.
“A very powerful book that will change your perspective forever on recovering from cancer. It provides excellent and sound guidelines on protecting your immune system while undergoing and recovering from chemotherapy. This groundbreaking book will help you conquer your fears and anxieties and replace them with healing and hope.” Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Vegan. Thinking About It? Part I

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Vegan. Been Thinking About It? Part I

(Disclaimer. Fred says you probably won’t like this post. You can skip to the bottom and get right down to business with the pizza.)

I am a little amazed at how much buzz there is right now about changing one’s lifestyle to a vegan diet. I don’t even need to explain what that means, right? Switching to a way of eating that is totally plant-based is no longer a concept that is unfamiliar. I also realize that changing to a vegan diet is not an easy path for everyone. There are many books to read on the subject. The one that I really love is The Veganist, by Kathy Freston. It is available on Amazon. Her basic premise is that sometimes a gradual change is easier to make. Her attitude is non-judgmental, and this book was very helpful to me as I made my own personal transition from vegetarian to vegan.

I started out 45 years ago, when I was 25 years old, by becoming a vegetarian. There was a moment in time when I made this decision. I was driving my car and got behind a truckload of pigs on their way to the slaughterhouse. I could literally emphasize so much with their fear that I felt it in every part of my being. When I opened my mind to what the death of animals for food really is I felt I could no longer participate in it. I saw that when you eat a dead animal, you are taking death and fear into your own body, as well as supporting that fear and death. I gave up all meat. That was not a challenge for me. I was never a big fan of eating meat, but I did love me some fried chicken, shrimp cocktails, and tuna salad. At this point I was a real cheesehead, and could seriously put away some pasta. Off and on, about four times, I think, I lapsed into eating fish. This was usually provoked by travel, especially to fishing villages in Mexico, where I partially justified my lust by “supporting the local economy.” I was also traveling a lot for work, going to restaurants, and by the time I was in my 50’s, battling with my weight, which made fish a form of protein preferable to cheese.

I always felt better about myself in the strict vegetarian phases, and what would usually end a fish phase was a good episode of food poisoning. The thing that got me cured of fish permanently was watching the struggle a fish put out to hang on to its life. It was impossible for me to deny the fear and suffering I witnessed from the beach as I watched people fish. I also became more and more informed about the health hazards associated with eating so many fish, and how endangered the ocean has become from overfishing. And, let’s face it–a hunk of flesh is a hunk of flesh, whether it’s lamb or tuna.

I used to think that being a vegetarian was easy but that being vegan would be incredibly difficult, if not impossible. I tried in once a few years ago, and lasted for three days. Just too many changes to make. Let’s face it; in order to make a radical change in your lifestyle you have to be highly motivated. To stick with that change requires the ability to make a quality decision and not veer from it. Tomorrow I’ll tell you what finally made me go vegan, what that change was like, and why I wouldn’t go back. If this is a change you’ve been thinking about I’d really like to help you on your journey.

Now, how about some vegan comfort food in the form of Vegan Pizza.

I have also gone gluten-free. That’s another subject all together, but for this pizza I use Udi’s Frozen Gluten-Free Pizza Crust, available at Whole Foods. You can use any crust.
I also use a jar of marinara sauce, I like Paul Newman. This pizza is an simple Sunday night supper at Casa Ellis. I keep it easy.

In 2 T of olive oil sautée
1 medium onion, chopped for 5 minutes on medium heat. Add
4 cloves chopped garlic
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped mushrooms. Continue to sautée for 5 more minutes.
This is enough topping for 2 Udi crusts.
Coat the crust with marinara sauce and then half the vegetables.

Top with homemade
Vegan Ricotta Cheese
I got this recipe from my dear friend, Edward Tomlin, and I use it so much. Great for anything that needs cheese. Creamy and delish. I just keep a batch in the refrigerator.
In food processor blend
1/2 cup raw cashews
1T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 cloves fresh or roasted garlic
When these ingredients are all blended and nuts are well chopped add and blend well
1 package firm tofu, drained and crumbled. My favorite is Mori Nu (12.3 oz.)
1 1/2 tea dried basil
1 tea salt.
Taste and see if you’d like more salt.

Bake according to instructions on the Udi package. You are going to LOVE this. I just serve it with celery sticks. Like I said, keep it easy.