Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Food of the Gods

In which both our Heroine and Montezuma enjoy the Fruits of the Earth. 

Cod liver oil isn’t the only thing I brought home from the health food store.  I also decided to check out the very dark chocolate section.  At nearly 4 dollars a (large) bar, you can imagine my husband’s reaction (especially after the $53 cod liver incident).  I have picked out a whole bunch of different brands and kinds.  When I taste them all, I’ll let you know my favorite.  Until then,
I give you facts about chocolate:
1.       WEALTH: Aztecs, Mayans, and Toltecs used the beans as money.
2.       DEITY AND SCIENCE: Linnaeus called it theobroma cacao, literally “the food of the gods.”
3.       CONQUEST: After landing, Cortez drank chocolate from a goblet of encrusted gold.  The question for me is which was worth more in the end, the cacao trade or the gold?
4.       LOVE: Chocolate has never been proven, but is nevertheless rumored, to have aphrodisiac properties.  The root of the story is this: Emperor Montezuma drank enormous amounts of xocoatl per day, which we all know equals a tremendous quantity of caffeine.  He had a harem of 600 concubines.  Enough said.
5.       HEALTH: Good quality, dark chocolate in moderate quantities is actually good for you as it has high polyphenol and anti-oxidant content: 3 times greater than a cup of green tea, etc…  It is known to be good for circulatory problems, although the benefits disappear when milk is added.  Has great anti-cancer possibilities—especially for lung cancer, but I remain positive about its effect on brain cancer.  1.5 ounces of 70% dark chocolate per day is good—especially if it replaces other not-so-healthy treats. 
6.       INDUSTRIALIZATION: In which the otherwise healthy cacao butter is replaced by unhealthy fillers made up primarily of processed fats and sugars.  Flavor retention, but not healthy.
Pile o’ chocolate.  Mmmmm.
Word of advice for the unwitting: Don’t eat the kind with cacao nibs right before bed—there’s some serious caffeine in there.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Best Monkey Money Can Buy

In which our Heroine finds Health in Hidden Places. 

Generally speaking, I am opposed to encouraging child addictions to the media.  However, in this one instance, I heartily extol the virtues of the portable DVD player and the true health and happiness it can bring to the whole family while traveling from state to state.  Notice the very appropriate signage above the screen (okay, maybe not the money part).  Also featuring Eva’s new fix: Curious George.  Never was there a more splendid monkey.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Door Number 3

In which our Heroine refuses to choose Sides
Dear All of You who are more Medically or Nutritionally Smarter than Me,
I don’t want to choose sides, okay?  I want to continue using my excellent brain surgeon, and if push comes to shove, even a radiologist or oncologist.  I am also pro-anasthesia, okay? My memories of the epidural are very close to my heart, so lay off.  In addition, if I want to use some disgusting cod liver oil and eat massive amounts of organic vegetable instead of an oversized daily vitamin, I think I should be able to do so without criticism. 
Is it so bad to want the best of both worlds?  Why can’t the different schools of medical thought work together for my benefit?  I read about a city in India where the very Western/high-tech medical facilities were right down the street from herbal stalls.  The author, in an attempt to answer how this could possibly work, asked many people how they choose their medical care.  The answer was an overwhelming mix of both sources of treatment.  For chronic conditions that had a lot to do with lifestyle (like high blood pressure, cholesterol, or even cancer), they went herbal every time.  For ailments that needed immediate or emergency attention (like a broken bone or a heart attack), patients chose the hospital. 
To continue: Please stop looking overly concerned for my mental health when I tell you of my explorations or preferences.  If you have to say something, then come up with a concrete reason after first keeping an open mind, please.  Try reading the other side’s literatures for a change.  It’s pretty convincing too.  Oh, and quit asking whether I am doing traditional herbal OR medical practice treatment.  Surely they are not so incompatible that they can’t work together for my good.  I take neither A nor B on its own.  I choose C.
Yours in  longevity,

Friday, February 4, 2011

I've Always Wanted to Receive a Telegram, Haven't You?



Thursday, February 3, 2011


In which our Lady eats the MOST DISGUSTING THING EVER. 

Cod liver oil is possibly the most revolting thing I have ever tasted in my life—even when mixed with fruit juice.  “Why,” you ask, “are you ingesting cod liver oil, Tara?”  Well, according to my health-conscious/ taste-deficient sources, increasing intake of Omega-3 fats is actually very good for you: it boosts immune system activity and provides DHA and EPA—both of which are very good for the brain.  In short, Omega 3 fats are ideal at giving the body what it needs to fight cancer.  I’m getting desperate, here.  I’ll swallow ANYTHING to avoid chemotherapy, and trust me, cod liver oil is almost the worst “anything” you can come up with. 
Fats like this used to be more common in food supplies.  For instance, there are tales of the nasty spoonful of cod liver oil from Mom or Grandma when a kid got sick back in the day.  Some of my reading gave me the terrible mental image of a barrel of fermented cod liver sitting just outside a Viking man’s doorway, a common occurrence?  (Thanks, Nina Planck).  Given Mr. Viking’s probable lack of hygiene—icky.
Meanwhile, there are other options for getting your Omega 3’s.  I feel great when I take the flax seed oil stuff.  There is actually an obvious difference in how I feel when I take it.  I feel like the Keppra isn’t bringing me down as much—less fatigue is a VERY good thing.  (Cod liver oil actually makes me feel better than flax seed oil, but it also makes my various body parts and functions smell like rotten fish, which is a definite downside).  If I had enough wild salmon in my freezer I could go that route too, but I don’t (even though I live in Alaska: the salmon capital of the world). 
These past few days I have felt more high-energy.  It almost seems like the Omega 3’s give me the capacity to fight through my Keppra-driven fatigue better—still without seizures, I might add.  My mind works better.  My thoughts are clearer.  Also, cod liver oil is high in vitamins A and D.  I’m pretty sure the D is good for my Alaskan-winter personality.  Not that I’m oh-so-depressed, but I’m certain that I’m happier even though I smell like a Viking. 
Will I continue to imbibe fermented cod liver oil?  Yes, but probably in smaller amounts than suggested.  Maybe there will be less gagging if I take a half dose.  The health benefits have to be worth it.  Besides, I got the best of the best, and I’m going to use all 53 dollars of it, dang it.  By the way, Jon almost choked when I told him how much it cost, but then I reminded him that our insurance doesn’t cover chemo drugs, which I’m told will cost about $150 a month because there is no generic brand for those kinds of drug cocktails.  He stopped choking about the cod liver oil.  Now I’m the one doing it (GAG).  Is the gagging worth a try?  I think so.  Now all I have to deal with is his triumphant smirk every time I try to swallow the most disgusting thing ever created.
My line-up: Flax seed oil, Fermented Cod Liver Oil (the highest quality out there),
and fruit juice to chase them both quickly down.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Directional Device Embedded in My Head

In which our Heroine’s cancerous Brain acquires an Aptitude for Compassing. 

It’s just possible that brain tumors come equipped with some kind of directional device inside of them, a kind of inner compass that is left behind even after surgical removal.  I know this, because last Friday it sent me to the exact person who could help me find what I needed.  I can see no other reason why two such tumorous people would find themselves in the farthest corner of The Natural Pantry, basically a health food store for hippies here in Anchorage.  It sells organic and gluten-free food, and a lot of health supplements. 
Last Friday I was feeling adventurous and health-minded.  Having just read about how Omega 3’s are good for a healthy brain, I decided to check out the flaxseed oil and cod liver oil (ick) section.  Soon I was hovering uncertainly in the back corner of the store, the Omega 3 area, just behind a man’s right shoulder, trying to grasp the fact that there were many more options than I could possibly choose between with my limited knowledge.  Moving into the supplement arena is a very new step for me.  In fact, it feels more like 3 steps past the “I guess I’ll eat some extra broccoli” stage, especially when it is something like cod liver oil in a store whose clientele is primarily the urban hippie.  (There are a surprising number of these in Anchorage).
The man turned to me and said, “I’m not in your way, am I?”
Me: “Well, not really because I don’t quite know what I’m looking for.”
Man, with eyebrows raised in unbelief since I’m in a very specific corner of the store, “You don’t?”
Me: “I’m interested in this Omega 3 stuff, but have no idea where to go from there.”
Man: “Maybe I can help you.  Why are you interested in this?”
So I bluntly said, “I have brain cancer and I heard its good for that.”  Although I’m getting ridiculously sick of explaining my whole cancer history over and over again—and usually with the same reactions every time—I didn’t find it as bad this time.  I think its because the guy’s reaction was atypical.  There was the usual “I’m sorry,” but then, “It’s funny we met like this, because I had a benign tumor removed in 2002.” We then proceeded to share stories and sympathy. 
Either brain tumors have their own uncanny sense of direction, or I should take it as a sign that the heaven’s above really wanted me to meet Patrick.  He advised me to get guidance on the highest quality of supplement from one Angela, an herbalist at a small shop across town.  Inside my head, I thought this humorous as “Angela the Herbalist” is a character in the Eragon series of books.  Additionally, she is an actual person who owns Angela’s Health Store here in Anchorage.  Hypothesis: All the best herbalists are named Angela.  Following this theory, you would assume it would be easy to find and identify such a woman.  Unfortunately, she doesn’t work on Fridays.  (Sigh).   Nevertheless, I took home some stuff, which I will write about tomorrow.  Stay tuned for further interesting experimentations. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Day of the Hippie

In which our Heroine officially becomes a Hippie. 

 I’ve been teetering on the edge of hippie-ism for a while now.  First, I was born naturally mistrustful of authority.  Then I went to art school, and then studied art history.  (I liked my feminism theory class, okay?  And I think contemporary art forms are cool.)  About 5 year ago I quit using cosmetics and ditched hair spray.  Then last year I began grinding my own wheat and considered buying organic produce and grass-fed meats.  I got interested in aroma therapy, and only wish I was flexible enough to do yoga, and patient enough to do tai-chi. 
And yet, somehow, I didn’t quite see the herbal-remedy-for-cancer thing coming.  I am interested, I’ll admit.  I just don’t know how far I want to go into it. Again, I have trust issues.  I refuse to jump headlong into alternative therapy.  Meanwhile, I am more open to the idea than I ever thought possible.  Once I realized that much of the idea behind alternative medicine was to eat traditional, time-tested foods and herbs in an attempt at better health, I decided it might not be so bad.  It makes a kind of sense to eat 1) what God put on the earth for our good, and 2) what man has had millennia to test out (in case of side effects, etc…) in the hopes that it makes me healthier. 
However, I will admit that I am still cynical about most of the “miracle drugs/vitamins/ supplements” out there.  Ginkgo biloba and massive over-doses of vitamin C might be good, but I’ll be doing a lot of research to find out for sure, first.   
Meanwhile, I am turning into a hippie, and I didn’t even mean to do it.  Where will cancer take me next?