Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Post-cancer Diet, Part 1

In the aftermath of my cancer experience, I have been a little confused about some dietary things.  I am familiar with the universal fear that probably much of our food contains chemicals that can be cancer-causing agents.  My mom has asked me for years to quit drinking my Pepsi because she knows it is not good for me.  I have cut back, but I have not quit, much to her chagrin. :)  I fully expected my oncologist to discuss a change of diet with me, but he did not.  A friend gave me a book that goes in the opposite extreme and suggests going all natural, even limiting the treatment you take that is recommended by doctors.  Now, while I agree that an all natural diet has to be better for my body, I cannot agree with everything this book recommends.

So, how do I find that happy medium?  First, I listened to my doctor and completed that treatment that is known to work very effectively.  At my age, with 4 small children, I am not skimping on anything that will help me live longer!  Now that my treatments are complete, I am investigating the changes I feel are realistic in my and my family's diet.

The first easy change that I am making, and my family has not even noticed, is to get rid of the "high fructose corn syrup" in any way that I can.  I love the commercial with the young couple having a romantic picnic in the park and she offers him a popcicle.  He says, "Honey, No!  That contains high fructose corn syrup!"  Then she talks about how corn is a natural substance and that just like sugar, the corn syryp is fine in moderation.  The problem with this logic is that the high fructose corn syrup is an artificial substance that our liver cannot break down and our body does not know what to do with.  And....who gets it in moderation?  You don't realize it, but it is in almost everything we eat or drink!  It really is not that difficult to find alternative products.  Here are a few easy changes you can make to get you started...

  1. BREAD: Sara Lee to Natures Own
  2. KETCHUP: Heinz to Hunts
  3. JELLY: Smuckers to Welch's
  4. PEANUT BUTTER: Jiffy to Peter Pan
  5. POP: Pepsi to Pepsi Throwback :)
We have not been able to get rid of this chemical in our food totally yet, but every way that we can decrease what we are taking in has to be better!  When I started going through our cabinets and looking at the ingredients, I was shocked at how many products contain this chemical!  This in my challenge to everyone...go through your cabinets, find out which products contain this type of corn syrup and then on your next trip to the super market look for alternatives!  You don't have to look hard or read all the fine print.  Most companies that are no longer using high fructose corn syrup are putting it right on the front of the item!  Happy hunting!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Three Years and Counting!

Yesterday I celebrated my 3 years "CANCER FREE" mark!  It does not seem quite like 3 years since I just finished the last part of my reconstructive surgeries 6 months ago, but it has been 3 years since my initial surgery to remove the cancer!  My breast surgeon says that for my rarer kind of cancer, the highest rate of return in within the first 2 years, so I am celebrating that I have passed that milestone.

I still have to be careful I know.  It is up to me to be aware of what is going on with my body and alert my doctor of any suspicious change or pain in my body.  I am finding out that this is just something cancer survivors have to live with for the rest of their lives.  So, I try to remain aware, yet not live in a paranoid or fearful way.  The 5 year mark is when the survival rate for my type of cancer reaches 90%, so I am celebrating my 3 years and still counting up to 5!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Intentions & Traditions

I love the holidays!  The pictures, the lights, the sounds, the smells, the songs, all of it!  However, there is always so much going on, that it is here and gone before you know it.  Maybe it was the cancer diagnosis, maybe I am just tired, but I have decided that I don't want to miss the "holiday spirit" and I want it to last all year long, so I am going to have to be intentional.  Now it's easy to have good "intentions" and still not get around to it...new year's resolutions for example.  It is going to take implementing some family strategies and traditions to make it work.  This is what I have set my mind to do.

Everything we have been doing is good, but we realize that we can't do everything. :)  We began our "intentional journey" this fall by dropping several activities that I loved for the kids...piano lessons and choir.  It still makes me a little sad, but the girls are still taking an instrument for free in the band at school, and the freedom this has added to our schedules and the extra family time has been more than worth it.  We also went down to one sport for the year with all the kids.  We have chosen soccer because all the kids enjoy playing, their Daddy helps coach them, and we all go together!  I don'k know what next fall will look like, and there may be more cuts still to come in the near future, but we will see.

As far as family traditions go, the holiday season is the best for getting these started.  We have some that we already participate in and love, and some we have heard about this year that we have decided to implement in the coming year.  These are all things which are fun and thoughtful and I hope will make memories for us and our children for years to come!

  • Wrapping: A friend of ours has older children...high school age.  Since they do not believe in Santa anymore, she wraps the presents as she gets them and places them under the tree.  However, to keep some of the mystery alive and keep the kids guessing, she uses a different role of wrapping paper for each child.  Each child's gifts are wrapped in their own special paper.  There are no names on the presents and none of the children know which wrapping paper is theirs.  This keeps them guessing right up to Christmas morning!
  • Candle: Since my husband and his brother were children, my mother-in-law has always done a Christmas candle, and she continues the tradition today now with my children.  After the Christmas story is read, we pass around a lit candle, from youngest to oldest.  Each person, as they hold the candle, shares about some struggles or thanksgivings they have had from the year, and their hopes and prayers for the new year to come.
  • Cards and Photos: A tradition we have picked up from my mom involves the Christmas cards and photos we receive each year.  Mom would hang them all on the back of the front door and the wall.  After Christmas was over, and the decorations were taken down, all the cards and photos went into a basket by the living room couch.  Beginning with the new year, each night at family devotions or prayers, we would take turns drawing out a card or photo (one per night) and then we would say a special prayer for that family!  This should take you all the way through January and maybe into February, depending on how many cards and photos you receive!
  • Thankful Jar: This year I saw a photo on Pinterest and decided we are definitely going to do this.  You can make it your own as far as decorations, which holiday you use it for, etc.  We are going to start January 1st and go all year long.  As the year goes by, we will all write down miracles that happen to the family, special things we are thankful for, etc.  On New Year's Eve, 2013, while we are trying to stay up till midnight, we will pull out our "thankful jar" and take turns reading about God's goodness to our family during the previous year!  Then, we will keep all the slips of paper and store them in a ziploc bag in a decorative box or container labeled with the year!  Can't wait to try this one!
  • Gift Giving: My husband started a tradition when we were first married.  Every year, 12 days before Christmas, he would give me a candle for each day leading up to Christmas.  Now that we have children, we have transferred the 12 days to them.  Each day of the 12 days, we either give them a small gift, take them to a movie, make a craft at home, etc., or we make a gift or do something for someone else, like take cookies to a neighbor, rake their leaves, or something fun like that.  This is something the kids have really enjoyed and looked forward to.
  • Food and Story: I heard a Contemporary Christian music artist share a tradition of his on the radio this week.  He said when they woke up on Christmas morning their Mom had a huge breakfast cooked and they would sit around the table and eat together and listen as their Dad read the Christmas story.  Of course with all the decorated packages lying on the livingroom floor, he said the kids were dying to get in there to open presents.  However, now that he is older and has a family of his own, he said that those breakfasts and times around the table on Christmas morning are some of his fondest memories and he is so grateful to his parents for providing that time!
There are so many ways that we can live intentionally in our day to day lives.  That is my hope for you this coming year, and I would love to hear any ideas or traditions that you and your family share!

Friday, November 9, 2012


I guess it's fitting that this morning as I go to my blog to post about an earthquake in Guatemala, I find that my last post from a couple of months ago was about my trip there this summer.  As you read this post, I would just like to request you to say a prayer for the families and children in these communities that were affected by the earthquake.

In June, Hallie and I were in this very spot, San Marcos, where the epicenter of the earthquake happened.  Aside from being a little freaked out about the fact that it could have happened while we were there, I am heartbroken for the people and families we met there who are experiencing the devastation right now.

While there, we walked the streets of San Marcos in a parade, we worshiped in a church service there, we visited the homes of some of the children, we had lunch with the Mayor at his home!  To see the devastation now is so surreal.  We have heard from Compassion, that so far as they know, none of the CDSP children were killed, although quite a few of their homes were damaged.

I am so grateful once again for the work of Compassion and the fact that they are already there in place to care for these children and their families when a tragedy like this occurs.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guatemala - Part 3, Maribel

This is Maribel, the young girl we sponsor in Guatemala through Compassion International!

We have been sponsors for years through Compassion.   We have sent our money, written faithfully, and enjoyed hearing from our sponsored children.  Compassion has always encouraged sponsors to visit their children, but until now, the "why" did not seem so important.

When you meet your sponsored child, you naturally expect there to be a level of joy, but we were unprepared for the love we would feel immidiately for her and her family.  The first day meeting, we were able to attend a church service with Maribel and I just sat and smiled, overwhelmed with the fact that I was sitting there with my daughter on one side and her on the other.  Our second day together was spent at a local water park.  The girls got to swim, we all (Maribel came with her sister) ate lunch together and then got ice-cream, we exchanged gifts, chatted about life and had a marvelous time!  The love, joy and thankfulness that they showered back on us was indescribable.  It was a day and an experience that I, and hopefully my daughter, will never forget!  The hugs, the smiles, the timid speech back and forth with translation in between, the prayer of blessing over her family, and the tears goodbye.

After meeting Maribel, I can honestly say that our letter writing will definitely be much more personal!  I have seen first-hand the incredible bond that is formed between child and sponsor.  It is much more than money.  The children appreciate the care and opportunities your sponsorship provides them at the centers, but the relationship with and letters from their sponsors are their prize possessions!  As a Compassion Advocate, if there was one message I could convey it would be to write, write, write your child and begin saving now to go meet them some time in the near future!  It will change your life and theirs!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guatemala - Part 2, The People

I can sum up my view of the people we met in Guatemala in one sentence...They were fabulous!  We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the children, love they showed us, the gratitude and blessings they bestowed on us, their obvious love for the Lord, and their pride and joy for Compassion and the hope it offers them!  We were a little disconcerted in the beginning, by their show of gratitude to us.  We were so grateful to them for sharing part of their lives with us and felt we had not done anything deserving of the honor they were showing us.  When we asked our "Guatemala Queen," Sandra (aka trip leader), she shared with us why.  Because of Compassion, the children here in San Marcos have hope for a future.  You are the face of Compassion and the face of their sponsors.  This is a way for them to show their gratitude for what the Lord, Compassion, and the finanacial and emotional support of their sponsors has given them!  You especially represent their sponsors.  To them, their sponsor is a member of their family!

Needless to say, the time spent with the children in Guatemala was priceless!  The morning we walked into our first center, they welcomed us with applause, and song!  Outside waited a band made up of children from the 11 different centers in the San Marcos area.  What followed was a parade through the streets, leading to the town center and the start of their 2-day sporting games!  We thoroughly enjoyed walking in the parade and were overwhelmed when they played our national anthem and displayed our American flag at their opening ceremonies for the first time ever!  We had a blast participating in and watching the 2-day sports spectacular!  The children played so hard, were such good sports, and had a blast!  We even got to try and teach some of them some Ultimate Frisbee and American football! :)

At the second center, we got to work in their bakery (a small room on the street with a table and a stove), where they are teaching the children some life skills for their future.  We also got to visit some homes of the children from the center, worship with them in a church service, and participate in a talent show that showcased singing, drama, musical instruments, mime, etc, all performed by children from the various centers!  We even performed a little interpretive movement ourselves!  It is something we will never forget!

I can truely say we fell in love with these people!  They have such a heart for the Gospel and for the children and families in their communities.  The pastors and directors of these 11 centers have crossed cultural divides and joined together for the benefit of the children and they are seeing amazing results!  One comment that really struck me and that I heard a couple of times during our week, was..."You can tell a Compassion kid just by looking at them.  It's in their eyes, their behavior, and the way they carry themselves."  What an amazing testimony to the work of Compassion and these local churches and centers who are fighting this battle over poverty and lost souls and standing in the gap!  Their passion and sacrifice inspires me!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Guatemala - Part 1, The Country

Well, I made it home safely!  May was a tricky month for me.  I was getting ready to go to Guatemala, but that is the last place where I wanted to be.  Maybe it was some spiritual warfare (I felt very much like I did while in India), maybe it was some "Mommy not wanting to leave her children."  I believe it was a little of both.  However, after much praying from friends and family, and me letting God know that I was going to follow His calling in spite of my fears, I, along with my eldest daughter, and 12 friends from our church, set off for Guatemala with Compassion International!  I have been home a week and I am still processing our trip.  I think I can express it more clearly if I break it up into sections, so here goes Part 1, The Country!

I could not adequately describe the beauty of the country we saw while traveling through Guatemala.  My pictures hopefully capture just a glimpse.  It is a country of 39 volcanoes, most of those still active!  We even saw one belching smoke...it was fabulous!  The country was lush and green, and everywhere (and I mean everywhere...hillsides, the shoulder of the road, etc.) we saw the people growing corn and sugar cane.  The variety and amount of greenery was overwhelming.  The best reference I can give is that I felt like we had just been planted right down in the middle of the set for Jurassic Park...minus the dinosaurs!  We did not even see the coast, or the famous lakes, but still I was overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation.  The beauty of this fallen creation, created in 7 days.  I cannot imagine what Heaven will be like since He has been working on it for 2000 years!

We were there at the start of Guatemala's winter and their rainy season.  I expected to be drenched every day.  However, before we left, a friend of mine prayed for me and our team.  She prayed that the Lord would cover us with a canopy of protection while we were there.  And He did!  Physically and spiritually, we were sheltered from the storm.  Each day it would rain maybe in the morning while we were at breakfast or in the evening while we slept.  During some of the afternoons it would literally begin to pour when we would go inside for lunch and then as we began to clean up our dishes, it would stop!  I never even took my poncho out of its case the entire week!  God also protected us physically and spiritually in miraculous ways that I will never forget!  I am so grateful to Him for that canopy and for those of you who prayed for us while we were away from home in beautiful Guatemala!