Medical Update ~ Time for Reflection

Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. ~  Rabindranath Tagore

For those who may not know, 4.5 years ago my dear hubby Terry received the news that many of you can relate to, the “you have cancer” message.  To say this news took the wind out of our sails is an understatement.  We quickly began to unravel our plans to start our RV life as the future looked rather uncertain at this point.  Through divine grace, a mother’s keen recommendation for a must-have book, a close friend’s referral and unselfish gesture of taking us into their home post-surgery to heal, and the countless well-wishes of family and friends, we feel much stronger and wiser.

My strong he-man!

If a man is faced with this diagnosis, prostate cancer may be the lesser of many evils as most times it is a slow-growing cancer found in one’s “golden years” and it is left alone.  Unfortunately, Terry was informed he was too young and the tumor too large to ignore, so surgery seemed to be the best option.  Blessed with none of the horrid side-effects this disease can hand you, Terry donned the Lance Armstrong LiveStrong bracelet and vowed to wear it until he had reached the “industry standard” survival rate of 5 years.

On the trail, in his element

Fast-forward 4 years, through many anxious moments following regular PSA tests.  All had great results until this past January when Terry’s PSA score was somewhat elevated.  Once again we unraveled our plans as it seemed bone scans and MRI’s were in Terry’s near future and we felt the need to sit tight where there was a plethora of excellent medical facilities.

Last week yet another PSA test.  I try to put myself in Terry’s shoes as he leaves the lab and begins the waiting game.  Although I can empathize and pray for a good outcome, putting myself in his shoes is not possible, for this is his personal journey to walk.  We all have these, being unique individuals, and face life’s obstacles differently.  Terry knows I am by his side and for me, that is what is important.

Hiking the Oregon dunes

Terry’s latest PSA score was the same as the previous two, which means he has held steady for the past nine months.  The good news – the number has not increased.  The not-so-good news – the number is still somewhat elevated, which means there is something going on.  This “something going on” could be benign or could be something else; we don’t know.  The doctor is confident enough that he feels the watchful waiting can continue for another 6 months.

Many who now live with cancer or consider themselves survivors wear the Live Strong bracelet, as did Terry, until a few days ago when his broke. Ironically the break occurred while anxiously awaiting a return call from his doctor on the lab results.  His first thought was “wonder what that means?”.  My initial reaction was “you no longer need this; it’s time to move on”.

Living Strong

Terry and I often talk about how deeply grateful we are for the ability to experience life as we are, seeing this magnificent country, walking in nature, feeling the hand of something greater touching us.  We can dwell on the ‘something else’ or we can live in the present moment.  It is our choice and we choose to live the now.  Terry chooses to breathe in the beauty around him, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people we are meeting along the way.  I choose the same, as I walk by his side.

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Kale is King

Today I am naturally crazy for kale, the king of veggies, one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  Some of you may be thinking (yuck) bitter taste, or I just don’t know what to do with it.

My father and I didn’t have what I would call a healthy relationship but what he did teach me was the benefit of eating my veggies.  As youngsters my siblings and I were relegated to assisting with the planting of the garden (more like the size of a small field) and the maintenance, hoeing, picking, etc.  From there some of us were moved into the kitchen (yours truly) for the canning of those fresh-picked beauties or blanching to freeze for future meals.  I’m sure I did some whining at the time but am forever grateful for those lessons.

A nutritional powerhouse, the list of benefits derived from kale goes on and on.  It is a cruciferous vegetable, much like broccoli, cabbage, or brussel sprouts, so has cancer-preventive properties and provides cardiovascular support.  It is a super antioxidant, a detoxifier, an anti-inflammatory, is chock-full of vitamins A, C, K and many minerals, such as potassium and iron.  Kale is unusually high in fiber, which is sorely lacking in many diets and is a great way to flush out fats and toxins from our system.

This super veggie comes in many varieties:

(photo compliments of

Curly – more pungent, peppery flavor

(photo compliments of az plant lady)

Ornamental – more mellow flavor and tender texture

(photo compliments of

Dinosaur (Lacinato or Tuscan) – slightly sweeter and more delicate taste

Here are just a few ideas for enjoying this amazingly versatile veggie:

Green Drink (made in blender)

  • ½ green apple
  • 1/2 cucumber (peeled)
  • 1/2 c. baby spinach or kale (or more to your liking)
  • 1/2 lemon (peeled)
  • 1 small piece ginger root
  • 2 c. filtered water

Green Drink (made with juicer)

  • 6 kale leaves
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 2 green apples
  • ½ lemon (peeled)
  • 1 sm. piece ginger root
Butternut Squash and Kale Hash  – This is soooo good!
(make without eggs for vegan version)
Raw Kale Salad (makes a large recipe)
  •  ½ bunch kale
  • ½ head red cabbage (can be made with green cabbage if red not available)
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • 5 scallions
  • ½ pkg. arame seaweed
  • Lots of raw almonds (2+ cups) and raw sesame seeds (1/4 cup)
  • Equal parts of organic toasted sesame seed oil and organic tamari

Chop kale, cabbage, pepper and scallions.  Put the almonds in a strong plastic bag and chop them in the bag with a mallet until coarsely chopped.  Soak the arame in water for 10-15 minutes.  Rinse and strain.  Put everything together and add sesame oil and tamari to taste.

For a quick “get your greens” dish, sauté kale with garlic in extra virgin olive oil (just until tender ~ 5 minutes).  Remove from heat and add sea salt and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice.

So now, no more excuses.  This king of veggies can be a regular addition to your meal planning.  Eat your greens and enjoy!

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That Amazing White Powder

No, this is not a pitch for some illicit drug.  By now you should have me figured out.  I’m the fanatic searching for all things healthy and “natural”.  That amazing white powder I’m referring to is none other than baking soda, aka sodium bicarbonate.

amazing white powder
That amazing white powder

While growing up the only use I was aware of for baking soda was to add to cakes and cookies to make sure those sugary treats rose properly.  As I grew older, I discovered how easy it was to substitute baking soda, vinegar and liquid Castille soap for most harsh cleaning products being mass-produced today.  Baking soda’s list of cleaning benefits are extensive, from scrubbing porcelain, chrome and tile, to eliminating odors in the frig and cleaning your oven.

Other benefits, used under a doctor’s care, are treating colds, flu, sore throats, bladder infections, heartburn and indigestion, kidney stone treatment, to name just a few.  There have been a host of books written on baking soda uses, as well as a plethora of websites touting its benefits.

Healthy homemade deodorant

Always on the hunt for more “natural” products (and I use that term loosely as it has many meanings, depending on who is using it), I came upon a recipe for healthy homemade deodorant that costs pennies to make and has very few ingredients.  And guess what, I can pronounce each and every one of them.  I used a recipe that includes baking soda, coconut oil (yet another use for this great oil), arrowroot powder (very much like cornstarch and can be purchased at a Whole Foods store or the like), and essential oil.  I like both lemongrass or calendula for my deodorant.  I had used Tom’s deodorant at $5-6 a pop and liked it but who doesn’t want to save money.  It took me just a few minutes to make and a little goes a long way.  Bear in mind that it’s runnier than the solids you might buy at the store so just rub a little in and you’re good to go.  And no, I’m not walkin’ around stinkin’ up the place either!  Seriously, this is one of those products where I believe it pays to spend a little more for something healthy (something without aluminum), given studies done on how aluminum is linked to cancer and Alzheimer’s; or make your own with clean ingredients.   Gotta love how easy it is!

Another product that I have gone out of my way to spend more money on is toothpaste.  Be very scared when you start reading the ingredient list off of many brands of toothpaste, if you can find more than a cryptic list at all.  Here again, you can make your own healthier version for pennies, even doing as little as brushing with baking soda alone, or you could do something more like this.  I love the clean feel of my teeth after brushing!

Having heard on the news the other night that on average a person is exposed to 120 chemicals (oh my) each day by way of swallowing or absorbing through the skin, I am convinced that a more natural approach is healthier and, that amazing white powder, baking soda, sure is tops on the list for clean livin’!

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A More Natural Way

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; 
to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest 
or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of the simple life. 
~ John Burroughs, Naturalist 

I believe many of us are looking to live our lives in a simpler, healthier, more natural way, given how toxic our world has become.  But what does it mean to be natural?  Like so many things intended for good, the word ‘natural’ has been bastardized by the food industry and cosmetic companies.  It is so confusing to read labels and know whether something is good for us.  Many  products are labeled natural but are chock-full of chemicals that can harm our health and that of our environment.  Look here for a listing of harmful chemicals found in many of our cosmetics.  For me, I try to live a more ‘natural’ life by following this definition of natural:  made from organic material, not synthetic; following or resembling nature.  This is easier said than done.

When we started this RV life, I worried that I would not be able to sustain this lifestyle (living naturally), which has been a passion of mine for some time.  I thought it might be difficult to find healthy products, not knowing the lay of the land where we would be parking our home on wheels. It has proven to be easier than I had thought.  Farmers’ markets abound and being retired has allowed me even more time to research and prepare healthier versions of recipes and make many of my own products.

Cleaning products are pretty straightforward to make so I decided to tackle a bigger project; see if I could make healthier and less expensive versions of some of the lotions and potions I buy.  Having been one of those people who thought the more expensive the cosmetic the better (sooo not true), I poured a lot of money into products that did not benefit me one bit and most likely harmed me, given the ingredients in them.  This is proving to be an interesting project, one that is ongoing.

I love products that can find a home on my pantry shelf or in a bathroom cabinet. Coconut oil is one of those products that you would find in my kitchen and bath and it has so many healthy uses.  I buy USDA organic coconut oil at health-food stores, which runs me around $8.00 for 14 ounces.  Not bad considering its many uses and what I have been able to cast aside since discovering this amazing oil.

Coconut oil has some great internal and external properties, such as:

  • antiviral
  • antibacterial
  • antimicrobial
  • anti-aging
  • anti-dandruff
  • easily absorbed into the skin
  • high moisture-retaining ability

It appears that many companies are now getting on the coconut oil bandwagon, purporting other benefits which I won’t even address here as some seem a little far-fetched.

Here’s just a few of this yummy-smelling oil’s many uses:

  • day and night moisturizer
  • hair conditioner
  • body lotion
  • add a spoonful to smoothies
  • cook with it
Coconut oil is a solid at room temps but will quickly melt when rubbed between your hands.  If using as a body lotion, I will work what is left on my hands into my hair, which gives my hair some needed moisture and makes it smell great!
I make my vitamin C serum and after applying this morning and night (along with sunscreen in the morning), I add a light layer of coconut oil, which absorbs well into my skin.
For a more luscious lotion, you might want to try this recipe for body butter, which I found here.  NOTE:  I halved the recipe and used avocado oil instead of almond oil, along with 36 drops of lemongrass essential oil – absolutely heavenly!
a more natural body butter
Just replacing my moisturizer and lotions with coconut oil, I have reduced my carbon footprint by keeping a lot of plastic jars and packaging out of the landfill; reduced my toxic load by getting rid of products loaded with chemicals; taken advantage of all the benefits derived from coconut oil, saved lots of money, and I smell pretty darn good too, if I do say so myself!
I will leave you with this scrumptious vegetarian recipe using coconut oil:

Heavenly Quinoa Hash

  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 c. water
  • ¼ t. sea salt
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ t. ginger, minced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 red potatoes, cooked and diced
  • ¼ c. minced parsley
  • 3 T. coconut oil
  • sea salt to taste
  1. Rinse quinoa; place in pan with water and salt and bring to boil.
  2. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until done (~15-20 min).
  3. Sauté onion in coconut oil until translucent.
  4. Add garlic and red pepper and sauté until tender.
  5. Add potatoes, ginger and parsley and sauté for a few minutes.
  6. Fold in cooked quinoa & heat through.
  7. Add sea salt to taste and enjoy!
I give coconut oil a big thumbs-up, given its many healthy benefits and uses.  So tell me, what do you do to live in a more natural way?
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