Thursday, January 28, 2016

Our Universe Ourselves

 An Equation for Life

   I just read this beautiful quote from Albert Einstein, and since my computer was right at hand, I thought I would share it. 

"A human being is part of the whole called by us "the universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings,as something separate from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our  personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Alternative Cancer Treatments

      Be warned, I may be over sharing here, but there are a few things I would like you to know about me. I take my coffee up my butt. I send my urine to the Philippines. And I zap myself with radio frequencies. This may all sound crazy, but I don't think it is any crazier than pumping poison directly into my veins, which is exactly what they did when I was going through chemotherapy.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Cancer Update/ I'm Still Here

   I thought  I was going to wait until next week, after I see my doctor, to give you an update on my cancer, but there's something I want to say today. I'm still here.
   If you have read my post Cancer I Know, then you know that I was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer in November of 2013, and then moved onto stage 4 ovarian cancer in 2014, when the sneaky cells metastasized to my liver.

    My initial prognosis in 2013 was that I would live for 1 to 5 years. Even after all the surgery and chemotherapy that I endured, that was all I could expect - 1 to 5 years. After it metastasized to my liver, my life expectancy was reduced to 1 year or less. That was just about a year ago today. When I found out this past November, just 5 months after completing chemotherapy for a second time, that the cancer was back again, my doctor took my hands in hers, and with a grave look on her face, said- this is going to shorten your life. Now I really like my doctor, so I held my sarcastic tongue, and just said - I know. But what I was thinking was -  what do you mean by that....don't you think that's a funny thing to say to someone who should be dead by now? 

   When I see my doctor next week, if the lab results show that the cancer is still growing, I will again be told I am dying. Frankly, I'm getting pretty tired of people telling me I'm dying. 
I have cancer. The cancer may kill me. But I am not dying! I am living!    I'm still here.

   Considering 1 in 3 Americans will at some point in their life (those are the current statistics) have some form of cancer, isn't it time we started talking about living with cancer? Isn't it time we erased the assumption that cancer = death, so that we can talk about it like any other life struggle? 

   Cancer sucks, but I'm not sure it's the worst thing that can ever happen to a person. The fact that we have made it so, has not only scared a lot of people with cancer into living like they are dying, but it has also isolated a lot of people. 
   The fear surrounding cancer has made it difficult to talk about.  When I was first diagnosed, I told very few people. I didn't want to make them uncomfortable. I knew my cancer diagnosis would change the way they looked at me. I was now someone who might die soon. I was now someone who made them think about scary things - like dying.  That's changed. I no longer feel I need to take responsibility for how others may react to hearing that I have cancer. I now tell anyone and everyone. 

   I don't mean that I run around telling people I have cancer for no reason, but I don't hide it either.  And when I do tell people, I find because so many of us have cancer, or know someone who has cancer, that it gives us both the opportunity to show compassion, and to share our story, or the story of a loved one. It creates a connection. It takes away a little bit of the fear. It let's us be human. Not a statistic. Not a media headline. Just human.  

   So, I just want to say. 

I'm still here.
So is my cancer.
I am alive.
I am not afraid.
I am living!


Bone Broth and Avoidance

While Diane is in her kitchen a few short blocks from me, making her colorful, fresh, inspired food, I am over here cooking everything to death in my bone broth soups. As similar as our journeys are--from being single women living alone in foreign countries to sharing this cancer journey--they are also different stories. I am currently working with my third tumor, second one on my spine (first was in my colon), so strengthening that part of my body feels paramount. After I had the first tumor on my spine removed in May--they went in through the front of my neck, took out the entire T-1 vertebrae and replaced it with a "cage"--I was told by a healer that bone broth would be really beneficial for me. Intellectually it made sense, but I was a bit stumped. I don't like meat--stopped eating it the day I left my parents house to go to college and never looked back, until I was pregnant at 42 and unable to satiate my hunger with beans. At the time I would indulge in an occasional grass-fed beef burger and that would do the trick. My son is now ten and I make some basic meat dishes for he and his dad, but usually from ground beef or poultry. I have made stock from chicken bones before, but beef bones were just not in my repertoire. This might not seem like a huge hurdle for the average person, but for me, at the time, it was. I have a history of becoming a bit paralyzed by things I don't know how to do, so I find lots of ways to avoid having to deal with them. Okay, so I was also dealing with my first ever radiation treatment, which was far more debilitating than I had expected, along with the myriad of other issues that come from now being a Stage 4 cancer patient. So I put it on the back burner. for months.

It was around the same time I was able to get myself up into the studio that I was ready to actively pursue beef bones. I wish it hadn't taken me six months, but it did--and this is another part of the journey: No Judgement. The time simply wasn't right. So, now I just had to find some bones, and make sure they were good ones. Even though this step had felt particularly difficult months ago, now that I was feeling more grounded it became almost effortless. Suddenly I was hearing about a local butcher shop, Sutter Meats in Northampton (20 miles from here), that sells only pasture-raised local meats. Maybe I could just ask them. Like so many of us, I am still learning how to ask for help, especially about something that I feel like I should already know about, but I was finally ready to ignore my ego. "Everyone knows how to cook meat, except me. I'll look foolish," was the voice. Turns out that the guy behind the counter could not have been any nicer or more helpful. He was happy to share all kinds of information, which has become the basis for my bone broth. He told me that they roast their bones first, and even though I can't recall exactly why (which I am happy to blame on my steroid-induced brain fog), I notice that it helps gets some of the fat off them. So I roast the bones, then add a little apple cider vinegar to draw out the minerals, which an herbalist friend told me to do. He said that they cook theirs for 48 hours, but that 24 is really sufficient, which I've seen confirmed elsewhere so that is also what I do. Sometimes I add seasonings and vegetable scraps if I have them, and other times I just cook the bones and leave the seasoning until later, in the soups. Louise Hay and Heather Dane have just written a new book entitled The Bone Broth Secret and they suggest using a combination of beef and pork bones, which I did for this batch. Plus, if I'm going to the trouble of cooking something for 24 hours, I might as well make a large batch, right? Although I just discovered that my pot might be a bit small for two bags worth….. I also know I massage therapist who adds immune boosting chinese herbs to her bone broths, which is next on my list to pursue. 

I bought a similar sized bag of pork bones, also $2.99 lb.

Before roasting for an hour at 400 degrees

After (see all that fat that I will just pour off?)

My new stock pot is almost too small now!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


When Diane and I envisioned this blog months ago, it was as a way to communicate what we are experiencing as we move through the world as creative people, as cancer survivors, as friends. There was the intention that it would be a joint effort, but up until now the extent of my effort was simply to support Diane as she got the blog up and running—which she has done beautifully and courageously. I couldn’t seem to get myself to contribute. I suppose there were a number of logistical reasons--my own recurrence of colon cancer, caring for my family and myself--but there was also a way that I was simply holding back.
Diane and I have had many conversations about fear—not the kind of fear one might think two people with Stage 4 cancer would talk about, not the fear of death, per se, but of not living fully. Starting a blog was a dream of Diane’s, and while I love to write and have often turned to that as a form of creativity and expression, it is painting that has been gnawing away at my heart for years. I have had periods in my life where I have successfully made art, showed the work, and had some small measure of “success” in terms of how it’s been received, but then it always goes underground. Work and family take over, and it is simply so much easier for me to care for others than nourish myself--physically, emotionally, and creatively. Cancer has changed that.

Over six months ago, after I was recovering from my second cancer surgery, it became clear that I would need to take a leave of absence from work. My hope then was that I would not only devote more time to making art, but that it would become an essential part of my healing process. And yet it still took six months before I was able to get up to my little third floor studio and start. That is okay—I don’t judge myself anymore. But now that I’ve been up in the studio working and bringing a few pieces close to completion, it seemed that the next step was to share it, on the blog. This of course meant pushing through more fear. “Is the work too emotional?” “How will people respond to the text/prayers?” “Is this other, newer style really mine, or did I borrow it?” Telling Diane that I was ready and having her come take pictures was a little uncomfortable, but do-able. Then there was the actual writing of this piece and publishing it. More resistance and fear. It’s not even so much a fear of “not being good enough” anymore (as that was the fear for years), as it is a fear of simply being seen, of taking up space. It’s what the blog is about too--and I think Diane would agree—being willing to say, THIS is who I am, in all my imperfection and vulnerability. In the past, keeping myself small made me feel safe, but that doesn’t translate into fulfillment and joy. So, voila. Artwork, unfinished, untitled, but out there.

An older piece (1997)

Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunny Miso Collard Wraps

sunflower seed miso spread in veggie collard wraps


  I love to eat with my hands, but I don't like to get my hands dirty (ever). That is why I love wraps. They are everything delicious in one neat tidy package that I can pick up and enjoy without anything sticking to my fingers, or dribbling down into my sleeve.

   For this wrap I chose collard greens as the container for all the goodness I piled inside. Collards are a great choice for a wheat free wrap because they are sturdy. And with a little blanching, they are flexible enough to hold everything securely in place- right down to the last bite. They are also full of nutrition.
   Collard greens, along with broccoli and cabbage, are a cruciferous vegetable.  A serving provides  more than 100% of our daily requirement of both vitamins K, and A. They also have a respectable amount of vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and calcium. And when talking about cancer, I read that collard greens have glucosinolates, which can convert to isothiocyanates. Not that I know what either of those are, but apparently isothiocyanates can stop the harmful effects of carcinogens. They are the cancer fighting food of the season in my book.

   The sunflower seed spread in this recipe is one of my favorites for sandwiches, wraps, or crudite. I started making it when I was on my raw, vegan diet last year. While I no longer strive to eat all raw food, I do still make this sunflower seed spread on occasion. It is a nice alternative to hummus, and if you read this post from a while back, you can read their nutritional profile. Sunflower seeds are full of important vitamins and minerals.

    This spread is bold with flavors. The miso adds a nice salty savory flavor, and the cider vinegar adds enough acid to keep it from losing it's zip under all the veggies. It's garlicky too. I find that the garlic can overpower, if you don't consume it fresh on the day it's made, but I don't mind. I like garlic. You could always blanch the garlic, if you don't like it with a strong garlic flavor. 

  1. Start by washing the collard leaves and trimming/shaving the thickest part of the stem in order to make it easier to fold. 
  2. Then drop one leaf at a time into a pan with a couple of inches of simmering water. Put the cover on, and let the leaf steam/blanch for about 30 seconds. This should be enough time to make the leaf flexible enough to fold and envelop the filling. You can let it go longer if you want it softer, but not more than a couple of minutes. 
  3. Then rinse the leaf under cold water and set aside to dry while you blanch the remaining leaves.


   Once the leaves are ready, spread 1/4 of the sunny miso spread over the center of the leaf, then top with your favorite vegetables. I used grated carrots (highly recommended), avocado (almost a requirement), and watercress ( one of my favorites). Fold in the stem end first, then one side, then the top and then the other side, rolling as you do this to form a nice tight package. I like to cut mine in half, but that's a matter of preference. 

   You don't have to keep it raw here. You could add some cooked grain, or steamed vegetables if you like.

   Sunny Miso Spread

1 c. raw sunflower seeds soaked and rinsed
1 T. white miso (I used chickpea miso)
1 tsp.. cider vinegar
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. tamari
1 garlic clove (small) minced or crushed
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 T. coarsely chopped parsley leaves, or cilantro if you prefer.

   Put everything except the parsley into the food processor and run until the seeds are broken down, but not until completely smooth. It's nicer if it has a little texture. You will need to scrape down the sides several times. Add the parsley at the end and pulse a few times to chop it up. 
   This makes enough for about 4 collard wraps.
   It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.

Note: seeds are soaked 6-12 hours to remove phytic acid, which can interfere with mineral absorption.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower with Indian Spices

   It's a terribly gloomy day today. The sun is nowhere to be found, and the landscape is obscured by fog. The sky is dark. It's raining. Everything is dripping wet ,and the snow is turning brown with mud. Oh what fun. 

   If you are ever wondering what to do with yourself when days like these roll around, do what I did today. Before parking yourself on the couch for the day, go sit in a sauna and have a good sweat. It's so relaxing. And if your looking for a way to get the lead out,(or mercury, or toxic chemicals) a sauna can help you do that.

  I went to a spa with a far infrared sauna this afternoon. Infrared heat penetrates the body inducing it to sweat and release toxins. I usually have a hard time breathing in a sauna. Especially the ones that get all steamy, but because the infrared heat penetrates more deeply, they run at a lower temperature than conventional ones, and are very comfortable. 

   Saunas are very good for increasing circulation. This brings more nutrients and oxygen to your cells as well as flushing out toxins, which can boost your immune system and increase healing. Sweating also burns calories, so after the sauna you will want to get yourself some food.

   I knew I had a cauliflower sitting in my refrigerator, so I came straight home after my sauna and made myself this recipe for Indian spiced roasted cauliflower, which I adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's  book, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best Of Indian Home Cooking, (Knopf 2015). One of the things I love about Indian food, besides the taste, is that many of the dishes are so simple to make. This can be put together quickly, yet it is so full of flavor. All you do is cut up the cauliflower, rub the sauce onto it, and throw it in a hot oven. It's a little bit spicy from the cayenne, a little bit earthy from the cumin, and a little bit sharp from the lemon. It's a great sauce that I think would taste great on so may vegetables, and I bet if you're a tofu or fish eater you could rub it on a piece of either before cooking.

Roasted Cauliflower With Indian Spices
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey
Serves 4

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 large cauliflower cut/broken into (1 1/2") florets
1T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. grated ginger
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne (more if you want some real heat)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 1/2 T. olive oil
1/4c. chopped cilantro to garnish

Place the florets in a large bowl.
Mix the remaining ingredients together. Then spoon it over the florets. Toss until cauliflower florets are well coated. You probably would have better luck with your hands than a spoon. I used my hands (covered with gloves).
Spread the cauliflower on a sheet pan and roast it in the 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Then give it a toss and check to see if it is tender. Continue cooking until desired tenderness. Probably another 5-10 minutes. 
Sprinkle on the cilantro and serve.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Quinoa Watercress Salad

so good for you-watercress and radishes
     I usually make this salad in the summertime, starting around the time that those long thin breakfast radishes first appear at the farmer's market.  Then I tend to forget about it as I am lured by the deep golds and oranges of the winter squashes that show up later in the season, when the air turns crisp and cool, and I start to crave heartier meals. Well, we are not even half way through the cold season, and as much as I love the sweetness and comfort of roots and squashes, I really needed something to remind me that spring will come again. So when I noticed a beautiful bunch of watercress at the supermarket, I immediately craved this salad.

      Watercress doesn't seem to be that popular here in the States, but I really love it. It's leaves are soft and tender and the stems are crisp and juicy. If you've never had watercress, its' peppery flavor is similar to arugula, and like arugula, is milder when young, and becomes more bitter as it matures. 

   It is a great choice for salads, not only for its flavor and freshness, but for its nutritional value as well. It may not look like it, but it is a powerhouse of vitamins A,C, and K. It is rich in beta carotene and other antioxidants that protect our cells from free radicals. And, it also contains angiogenesis inhibitors, which are the things that block tumors from forming the blood vessels they need to survive. Angiogenesis inhibitors are now being used in the treatment of cancer. That's another reason for me to love this stuff.

    I kept this quinoa salad very simple with radishes and watercress, then perked it up with the lemon cumin dressing, but you could easily add a few more ingredients if you wanted to. Cucumber and watercress are especially nice together. Avocado is a welcomed addition to just about anything in my opinion. I once had the surprise of fresh watercress served atop baked leeks, and it was a very good combination, so you might want to try something like that here too. If you wanted to add a bean, I have in the past added edamame beans, and would suggest those as a very good option.

   I chose to use watermelon radish here for the drama of its beautiful color, but you could use daikon or any common radish you like.
Quinoa Watercress Salad
serves 4

1c. quinoa (soak overnight in several c. of water if possible)
1 1/4 c. water (2c. if grains are not soaked)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 bunch of watercress roughly chopped
1/2 c. of sliced or cubed radish ( you can cut it however you like)
note: you could also increase the ratio of vegetables to grain for more of a vegetable salad

1/4 c. olive oil
1T. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
 1 garlic clove crushed
juice of 1 lemon (2-3 T.)
3/4 tsp. salt.

   Drain and rinse the quinoa well. Add the quinoa, 1 1/4c. of water, and the 1/4 tsp. salt to a saucepan. Note that if you did not soak the quinoa you will need to use the larger amount of water.

Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10-12 minutes (about 15 for un soaked grains), or until the water is absorbed. Be careful though, you don't want to overcook the grains. They should be soft and firm, but not mushy, so you can drain off any extra water if needed. Set aside for about 15 minutes, and then fluff with a fork and let cool.

   While the quinoa is cooking you can make your dressing. I have a thing with cumin. I never use it raw. So, when making the dressing, I put 1 T. of the oil in a small pan and heat it over medium heat .Then I throw in the 1T. of cumin, and fry it until it gets toasted and fragrant. This only takes seconds. I then add the cooked cumin to the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix well.
   Once you have all your vegetables, the quinoa, and the dressing ready, just mix it all together. Taste for salt and lemon. Serve at room temperature or cold.
p.s.  your liver will love the lemon and radishes, so amp up the perky flavor and liver support by adding extra of these if you like.