WK1 – “Where’s the beef?”

How to tell if you have a spoiled dog: You and your spouse have changed to a plant-based diet and your husband says “We should make a hamburger for Jake, poor guy.”

Today is the start of week 2 of our new meat-less life style. So far things are going well. I actually don’t even miss the meat. The key is to have variety and good flavor. It is still a little hard in the transition because I found myself still consuming some processed foods with the only difference being that it was vegan processed food.  I also found myself consuming a lot of carbs, so I need to rethink some of my choices. Jake is not happy at all.

Jake is used to being spoiled. As my dad says, “I don’t know too many dogs that get steak.” It is an adjustment for him. He was used to sausage, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and gravy on Sunday mornings. During the week, it was fried eggs, bacon and toast at least three times a week. Going to McDonald’s meant there was a double stack cheeseburger in the bag for him. Subway, well, you order a foot long because 1/2 of it was his. Dinner was his favorite meal of the day by far. He loves Italian, Steak, pizza and beef Lo Mein noodles just to note a few. So this vegan thing has got him a little perplexed.

The other night I gave him a bit of my veggie burger. Jake gave me that “What the heck?” look of confusion. He just  sat there with an open mouth of food like he was afraid to close it.  Then, he lowered his head and let it drop to  the floor. Then asked for another bite thinking it would be different I guess. Same reaction. He followed that with a few grunts and growls, as if to be chewing me out and asking “Where’s the beef?” and then walked away to sulk. At least he still has his Milkbones. In the long run it is for the  best, as I know he was eating foods he shouldn’t, but so were we.

In addition to healthier eating, we want to juice, but unfortunately the one we wanted could not be purchased locally. I ordered it online and it should be her sometime next week. The only reason I want to juice is because I want large volume of nutrients that can be provided by juicing. You would think being a cancer patient someone would have talked to me years ago about eating better.  Since they weren’t, I didn’t think about it either. I knew I should have been making better choices. However,  I had not reached my rock bottom until recently I guess. Food was my drug and I was addicted. We all are. It is how we were raised.

After the first week, I sleep better. I don’t feel as stressed. I am less bloated. I am more energetic. And, I have lost 10 lbs. All-in-all, its been a good week.

Veggie Tales

No, This is not a blog about the gospel signing, animated veggies that appeared on DVD. This is a story about my journey into the world of actual vegetables. I know I had to eat vegetables when I was younger, but not to a large extent that it was engraved in my brain. And even as an adult, there were many times my plate was veggie-less. However, today, my life is all about veggies.

Today is the second day that I have gone without consuming meat. So far I have not missed eating meat. I have enjoyed learning about and trying new foods like quinoa and brown rice. I have eaten rice all my life, but it has always been white rice. I am also discovering a whole new way of thinking and foods I never knew existed like Nutritional Yeast. I am excited to make the hour long trek to Austin soon and visit a Whole Foods Grocery store. We don’t have a Whole Foods n our town, and the Nature’s Grocery does not have all the options I have seen in some of the documentaries I have watched recently.

My transition has been made easier because my husband is making the change with me. Also, a good friend is making the change as well.  I think that having that support is important as opposed to going it alone. I think of this diet not as a diet but as my medicine. And frankly, the cost to eat healthier is less expensive than the medical cost I have already accrued. It is also less expensive than the cost of the chemo I need but can not afford.

Some people may think I am crazy and am taking a risk. They think I  should put my self in debt and then claim bankruptcy.  Seems like a simple solution, but then who is going to make up the $500,000 in losses to the hospital. I will tell you who, YOU! It is what drives up the cost. Just like at the local store down the street, if they have shrinkage (loss from stolen goods) they have to cover those losses. And that my friend is done by increasing consumer cost, in other words your cost.

I don’t know if this will work, but I have nothing to lose. It’s not like eating the veggies will harm me like the poison they pump into you when you are having chemo. I am fortunate that my cancer’s characteristics do give me some time to try to see if eating a healthier diet will change things. If not the healthier choices I am making will definitely help with my other health issues like cholesterol.

This whole journey is a learning experience. An experience that I have to take because of my Stage 4 Cancer. I am not saying veggies will cure me of cancer. I am not saying I will go in for a scan in six months and they will be gone. But frankly, if the new diet keeps them stable, I will be happy.

I Will Do It With You!

It has been a while since I sat down and blogged. This is mostly due in part to a depression that I was wollowing around in. This year has not been an easy year for me.  I felt as though every thought that was in my head was so negative I could not bring myself to spew anymore negativity out into the world. Then last week I received a text message asking me to watch a movie. It was followed by another text that said, “I will do it with you!”

Let me rewind myself a little, this actually all began about a month ago. A friend of mine was mulling around on Netflix for something to watch when she came across a movie called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. She called all excited about the movie and exclaimed, “I want to juice! You should watch the movie!”  I thought about it, downloaded it to stream, but never go around to watching it. The next day I received a message that said “It taste like vomit!” And the juicer was sent away. I should point out that my friend hates vegetables and there have been very few veggies that have crossed her lips in her lifetime until her attempt at juicing. At this point I deleted the movie from my queue. After all, who wants to drink something that taste that awful.

A few weeks went by when my phone rang. It was my father. “Are you watching the Revolution?” he asked. To which I replied, “Nope, don’t like the show so I don’t watch it.” He began to tell me about this woman, my dad is not good with names but remembered Crazy Sexy Cancer and said I needed to watch the show.  I have Tivo and my tuner was already set on the channel so I was able to rewind the past 30 minutes, so  I flipped the channel. There she was, a skinny, energetic happy-go-lucky blonde shoving veggies down a juicer. I sighed because I knew what he was going to say and I knew I was going to break his heart. “I am not going to juice dad, I know I won’t like it.” Needless to say he went on a campaign to change my mind, but I wasn’t listening. But, he doesn’t give up very easily when it comes to the important things like his children.

I love my dad. Things haven’t always been perfect in our relationship because we are so much alike. But he is the one that taught me to always be there for my family no matter what. And, if you mess with one Espinal, you mess will all of us. He is the one that taught me how to be strong. He’s not for everyone. Some people, or should I say one person, who is narrow-minded and, well, let’s just say lacks a sense of humor, finds him embarrassing. Some would say he is a natural flirt, so I guess I know where I got that from. And, some would say he is funny. He likes to joke, laugh and have a good time. He is the kind of man who if you ask him his opinion, he is going to give it to you his truthful opinion whether you like the answer or not, he will not sugar coat it.  But the thing I love about his the most is that we can always count on him. No matter what he has our backs. Not everyone is fortunate to have that, so disappointing him is hard.  When I said I didn’t want to juice I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

Last week I went to see my doctor at MD Anderson Cancer Center. My last treatment was done October 7th last year because of several complications I had after receiving an emergency surgery. Prior to the chaos that occurred I was on a study for a drug that, while it was working slowly, was working. However, due to several surgery complications that they believe could be a result of being on the medicine, I was removed from the study in December. You were only allowed to have an 8-week gap between treatments. Anyway, I was going to see about making a plan to get back on track with treatment.

In order to move forward with a plan I first needed CT Scans. So, I downed some prednisone, zofran and benadryl followed by some oral contrast, can you “yuck”. Juicing can’t be as bad as that crap. Anyway, after choking it down I headed off to the table to have my innards scanned. I hate the process, but it is a necessary process. The next day I went to see my doctor with optimism. Things were great! Tumors had remained stable during the past couple of months, so no new growth. Another positive was that the doctor said she thought we could continue with Avasatin. I was happy because since 1998, it is the only drug that had ever worked. In January Dr. Brown did not think it was a viable option. Then the hammer dropped and I was a mess.

The payment assistance that I thought was going to be there was actually non-existent. My heart sank to my feet. My share of the cost of the drug was $9,756 per treatment. I needed treatment every three weeks and probably for at least two years. That is just the medicine. I needed money to pay the doctor, pay for the process of receiving the treatment, money for meds they had to give me in conjunction with the Avastin. I needed money to see the ENT specialist, Nephrologist and my general medicine doctor because of the side effects that I have from it. I needed money to pay for the medicine to control the side affects. I needed money to travel to Houston to receive treatment. I needed gas money, which $20 used to fill my tank now it takes  $50. I needed money to pay for parking at the hospital. I needed money to pay for the hotel. And, last but not least, I needed money to eat while I was down there. Sadly, my piggy bank was empty. So, I then had to reconcile in my brain if I wanted to bankrupt my family and put them in debt for more than half a million dollars, maybe more, within the next two to three years. What do I do now? And, the depression set in until one day I received a text that said, “I will do it with you!”

So, I went to Netflix and downloaded  “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” along with the other movie my friend said to watch “The Gerson Miracle” into my Instant Queue, and ordered the DVD ” Crazy Sexy Cancer “. The stories hit home and I felt the need to try. After all, it won’t make things worse, getting extra veggies and I don’t hate veggies. It would help me to lose weight, which after years of abuse to my body, I have more than a few pounds I could stand to see go away. And finally, how can you turn down a friend, who hates the thought of consuming veggies and already referred to it as tasting like vomit, who was offering to do it with you.

So I have done some research. Have learned that lemon and lime help with the taste, as well as not using the rinds for them or grapefruit. And, this weekend the hubby and I are going out to buy the supplies and equipment to get us started. Yes, I said us. My meat and potatoes husband is willing to forgo his love of beef, starches, beer and chocolate to do this with me. Wish me luck and If you want to follow me on this journey, I will keep try to keep you posted on how it all goes.

Ovaran Cancer Info

If you can't read, just click on it to enlarge it. I don't know the name of the person that put this together but I know the wording is from the American Cancer Society

Some things change, some don’t

I haven’t blogged in a while because it has been a little crazy around my homestead. Over the past 19 years since I moved into my home in Texas many things have changed in our area, but others have not. All have this has been done in the name of progress. But some things still remain the same.

I used to live in an isolated subdivision off a Farm-to-Market road. To get here you had to drive past the cutest cows on a corner pasture that had a little wind mill and a creek running through it.  As you traveled down the road you would drive by some small farms with crops that flanked each side of a two lane road. Further down the road it came to a “T” intersection, so to continue on you had to make a left onto a small two lane highway. A few feet later was a quick right turn and you were back on FM 2305. On the corner was the most beautiful pasture where horse would run sometimes run along side of you as you drove past. I love to watch these majestic animals in trot. Occasionally you would see some of the local kids riding their horses along side the road either going towards town or towards the lake. In the early spring, blue bonnets would fill the field and family’s would stop to take family portraits. Then there were a few more cow pastures, Frank’s family restaurant, some wooded acreage and finally my subdivision.

Living in this subdivision we had city water by Temple, population 46,000 in 1993, it’s much bigger now. Coming from the Washing D.C. area I didn’t really considered a city, but folks around here did and who was I to argue. Although water was piped in, sewage went to a septic tank. I didn’t know anything about septic tanks, or the fact that we even had one, until the water backed up into our house. Not something you are used to coming from the city. Our home was built in the late 70’s and what I also learned this past week is that septic tanks have a life span. This week we had to have it pumped and pay to have my concrete patio, which was already in place when we bought the home, destroyed by jack hammers in order to get to the main line to clear a clog that could not be reached through the vent stack or clean out under my sink.

Since purchasing our home in 1993, the city of Temple, has annexed most of the surrounding land around our subdivision. In fact all of it leading up to our home. For those of you who live in cities, land that surround a town that does not belong to any particular town or does not incorporate to become a town can be “claimed” by another town in order to extend its borders. After annexing all of the land down FM2305, the crops slowly began to disappear. Homes, shopping plaza’s and business now flanked the thoroughfare. The two lane road that zig and zagged grew to be five lanes wide, two going north, two south and one in the middle for turning, is now as straight as an arrow. A large over pass was built over Hwy 317 which required the city to basically take the land the horse grazed on, eminent domain. So, no more horses. And recently, I noticed a sold sign in the cow pasture    with the creek that runs through it.

With all this change you would think they would do something with the sewer systems or lines, but no that would be a good changed. Instead, they continue to chip away at what once used to be a picturesque land scape down a quaint country road. I miss having to call the sheriff to come herd the cows that escaped on a weekly basis and blocked the road so I could get to work on time. I miss seeing families out for a ride on their horses. I miss seeing the crops swaying in the wind. I miss watching the horses running in the pasture. I miss the fields of blue bonnets. All now gone all in the name of progress.

Maybe someday they will make a change to the sewer system but until then I guess I will just have to live with my little tank. But, I do have to say after five days of not being able to use water or my bathroom I have a deeper appreciation for my toilet.

Confessions of a Sodaholic

The popularity of reality TV has given rise to shows that depict families with unique story lines, swapping spouses, raising multiples and taming unruly kids. Others are about dating, weight loss and addictions.

From time to time I find myself tuning into one of those shows, A&E’s Intervention. The show has covered eating disorders, alcohol abuse and drug addiction. However, you will never see them tackle the issue of soda addiction.While addiction to soda does not create dramatic segments or interesting story lines, it still is an addiction and can have heath risk and withdrawal symptoms.

At 21 the though of having an addiction was not part of my mindset, let alone one related to Coke. Then one afternoon I found myself in the passenger seat of our car nauseated, curled up in a ball from stomach pain and on the way to the hospital. After a several hour wait in the Emergency Room waiting area and a head to toe examination by the doctor on duty, the doctor excused him self for a minute only to return shortly afterwards with a soda in his hand. He popped the lid, handed to me and said “Here, drink this.” It was that moment I realized I was a sodaholic.

Today, I can honestly say that I am still sodaholic. I started with Regular Coke, then Diet Coke to cut calories, and nowadays my drink of choice is Coke Zero. And, while I understand that soda has always been a vice and a pitfall health wise, I find myself consuming at least six cans a day. Yes, I know soda is not good for you, drink water, but I really don’t like the taste of water or tea. And, I didn’t put anymore thought into it, or at least not until today.

This morning I noticed diet soda on my Yahoo trend list, so I clicked on it. Unfortunately, it was an article about how people who drink diet soda is at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. Makes sense right? after all soda is full of caffeine. Well, I decided to do a little more reading on the subject, so I googled drinking diet soda. Why did I do that! To my dismay I ran across a CBS report about a study conducted by the University of Texas.The UT study was spanned a decade of observing soda drinkers that were 65 to 74-years-old. The study found that the soda drinkers waist line grew 70 percent, yes folks, I said 70 percent more in circumference as compared to non-soda drinkers. Of course with more girth in the stomach area comes more issues with heart disease, which makes sense when you think about todays article and how it relates and cancer. It also refers to another study that shows how diet soda can raise blood sugar. Sorry all you diabetics out there.

Fortunately, I am not a diabetic. Unfortunately, I am a cancer patient. And while I do not know if my cancer is related to my intake of soda, we can all probably agree, it hasn’t helped. And, It’s not a wonder why I look like and apple now. Hello, my name is Rebecca and I am a sodaholic. But only for one more day.

Just One Person ….

Just one person is all it takes to make a difference in a person’s life.  Maybe it is someone you just met. Maybe it is someone you have known all your life. Or, maybe someone you have never encountered. But, one thing you do know is that they left their imprint on your heart.

Last year, around the anniversary of traumatic event in my life, I was at the bookstore and drawn to a book called “Heaven is For Real“. I am not a big reader these days and I can’t even remember why I was there. But, I was. And, there it was just sitting on the shelf calling out to me.

That was the day two people, whom I have never met Todd and Colton Burpo, touched my life. Todd had written a book about his sons experiences while in heaven. Now for believers in Christ and Christianity, although not unimaginable, it was still an amazing story. After all, it is not often one gets to walk next to Christ and live to tell about it. For the non-believer, it is a far-fetched story that was completely made up and coerced. For me, it was about hope, joy and peace.

Hope, because thirteen years ago, after several years of trying to get pregnant, my husband and I were blessed with the news we were expecting. Thirteen years ago we were happier then we ever knew we could be. Thirteen years ago I went in for an ultrasound and saw my baby’s heart beat for the first time. But, thirteen years ago I was also diagnosed with cancer. And, Thirteen years ago I miscarried.

So how does hope, a book and a miscarriage relate. Well, if you have read the book you know, but if not I will tell you. While in heaven Colton met a girl, a nameless girl because her parents didn’t pick out a name for her, a girl we all learned was his older sister. A sister his mother had lost to a miscarriage. I was raised going to church and I have always believed in Christ. I also believed there is a heaven. But, I am far from a church-going, bible thumper and won’t profess to be, but I am a good person. Todd’s book and Colton’s story gave me reassurance that my baby is waiting for me. And it gave me hope that I would be able to hold her or him in my arms one day.

After reading that part of the story, I was excited. I had joy in my heart because I knew that she or he was not nameless and that he or she knew it. I had my son’s name picked out since I was younger and fell in love with the movie “The Never Ending Story”. I also had a love of music, even though I wasn’t great at it. My son’s name was going to be Sebastian Bach no matter who I married. When I got married, by husbands last name was Blizzard. When I think of blizzards, I think of cold and snow, so I wanted a warm name to go with the last name. I picked Summer Breeze. I was so happy I had names picked out and that my baby did not go to heaven nameless.

Finally, the book brought me peace. I have been struggling with cancer for thirteen years. I am on my fifth reoccurrence. I have never been in remission. With each reoccurrence my health issues have become worse and worse. While I don’t think about dying everyday, I do find myself preparing for “just in case”. And while I hope to live well into my sixties at least, I would like to see Kat walk down the isle, I can’t help but think people should not feel sorry for me because I going home to be with my baby. Feel sorry for my family that still has to wait to meet him or her.

I have been fortunate all my life, having people who have made a difference in it. Especially in dark times, and trust me I had a lot of dark times. But it seems that God has always placed someone or something in my path to keep me moving forward. When you come close to dying, you think about the people you have met throughout your life. Not only did I think about them, but I wondered if they even knew that what they did made an impact. So, I decided to reach out and tell them. In doing so, I learned that one of those people had been having a rough time. What he did was so simple he didn’t realize it meant that much to me. When I told him, I think he felt a sense of pride and it made an impact on him. Even if it wasn’t long-term, that day he smiled.

I know Todd does not know the impact he made on my life by writing his son’s story, but he did. He was just one person reaching out and making a difference. Do you have someone like that in your life and have you told them?