Keeping my faith.

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

I haven’t written in quite a while, but I wanted to check in and for anyone who checks-up on this blog: I’m Still Doing Great.  I finished 2012 by completing my second Chicago Marathon.  2013 started with my wedding; a beautiful, small ceremony in Costa Rica on the beach.  Our plans in 2014 are to finally house-hunt (we’ve been apartment dwellers in the city) and then maybe a baby… but that is a WHOLE other blog post…

Anyway, June 2013 marked three years since I received my diagnosis.  I haven’t had any relapses and I continue to pray that it will stay that way.  I continue to stick to a clean diet and exercise (alternating running and yoga) six days a week.  My MRIs have been hit or miss; it seems like every other one there is a change.

Comparing:

  • June 2010 to Dec. 2010 – No change
  • Dec. 2010 – July 2011 – 2 new lesions
  • July 2011 to Dec. 2011 – No change
  • Dec. 2011 to May 2012 – No change
  • May 2012 to May 2013 – 4 new lesions

It’s frustrating when the MRI shows new lesions.  This last appointment was especially hard for me.  I received “the talk” from my neurologist about the importance of interferons and their proven ability to slow disease progression.  She’s not mean about it, but she does throw in there, “you want to start these before more damage is done and something happens to you that is irreversible.”

Needless to say, I left that appointment crying again; and as hard as I try not to, second guessing my decision to stay interferon-free.  But I can never bring myself to give-in.  The stats and studies just don’t compel me enough; and I always wonder if she would consider my results (clinical and physical) decent if I were taking an interferon.  No physical disease progression, no relapses and six new lesions in three years… would this be considered successful treatment so far?  Would she say, “good thing you’re taking A/B/C.”

Since I showed new lesions this time, she wants to follow-up in six months.  My next appointment and MRI will be toward the end of November.  I’ve been trying to identify anything that I was (or wasn’t) doing from July 2011 to May 2012 so I can replicate that period of “no disease activity,” but I haven’t come up with anything yet.

So until then… I will stay my course.  I’ll stay true to good eating, good exercise and a great God.

My simple prayer: Dear Jesus, Thank you for everything.  Please be with me and keep me healthy and strong as I continue in this life. Amen.

Peace be with you

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According to my fiancé, I always have a medical statistic or dietary fact to share.  And when I do this, I provide my own insight and theory as to how it applies to me and my natural health methodology.  Inevitably, my fiancé patiently listens as I excitedly tell my news and then asks, “So, when did you become a [insert specialty]?”

I don’t mind the teasing and sometimes I’ll even get him to indulge in my holistic health ideals and reminisce on how far I’ve come.

Before this diagnosis, my diet was the epitome of processed.  And now, nearly three years later it has been transformed.  The gluten-free, dairy-free part was cold-turkey, but that was just a matter of swapping out the real stuff for the replacement foods (which aren’t necessarily good for you either).  I substituted those for a while, settling into my new “diet.”  But slowly, I’ve transitioned away from those substitute items, ex: eating a gluten, dairy-free chocolate bar to eating a cup of raspberries or strawberries if I want something sweet.  Now I just eat clean and natural.

It’s a small feat, in my own little world, but it truly amazes me because I know how I was!  I can’t get over the irony that at this point in my life, where I was told that my brain will slowly disconnect; I’ve never felt more connected and more at peace.

And the peace isn’t solely a result of eating my vegetables.  ;)

It’s a complete change in my lifestyle.  Reforming my diet is just a tangible result.  Most importantly, I’ve grown so much deeper in my faith, which I’m sure is the core of the peace in my heart.  I used to think those holistic “mind, body, soul” people were a little nutty.  But now I completely understand.

Free Webinar Series: Becoming Well, from Dr. Terry Wahls

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Thought I would share this three-part series from Dr. Terry Wahls.  Even if you can’t attend the live webinar, sign up to receive a link to the recording: http://savingdinner.com/wahlswebinar/

Dates and Topics:

  • September 20, 8PM ET: The Incredible Importance of Vitamin D & Minerals

Your vitamin D levels are critical; which minerals you must have daily for optimal health. Inadequate mineral intake is associated with the top 10 causes of death and disability; 2/3 of Americans are deficient!

  • October 30, 8PM ET: Friend or Foe? Who or What is Living in YOUR Gut?

Your gut is your second brain; how to heal a leaky gut, practical steps.

  • November 15, 8PM ET: It’s Time for an Intervention!

Your food is the basis of health or of chronic disease; nutritional interventions that may save your health!

Another great smoothie

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I’ve been busy with work and wedding planning… so not much time to write.

However, I did want to share another smoothie recipe that I’m alternating for breakfast with the blueberry one.  Don’t be put-off by the kale and spinach, I promise this tastes just like a banana.  And it’s a bright green drink, which is fun :)

1. Kale & Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

1-1 1/2 cup(s) of regular almond milk

1-1 1/2 cups Power Greens Mix (basically I use half of the 5 oz container)

1 frozen banana

How to make:

The night before, peel and freeze one banana.  The next day, combine the milk, salad mix and frozen banana (the banana breaks apart easily – I usually divide into 4-5 chunks).  Blend and drink!  I use the Cuisinart Smoothie Mixer.

How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain – Even Walking!

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A recent article from the NY Times: How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain.

This isn’t the first article I’ve posted regarding the positive benefits of exercise on the brain.  And this one even states positive results for those who simply walk more.  In a previous entry, I listed my exercise regime, as well as posted an exercise guide (developed by a physiotherapist, not me!) for individuals with limited mobility.

Keep moving as much as you can!

Link

A favorite breakfast. A favorite lunch.

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1. Chocolate Blueberry Smoothie

I seriously have this shake for breakfast every morning. It’s so easy to make and easy to have in the car on the way to work.

Ingredients:

1-1 1/2 cup(s) of chocolate almond milk

3/4 cup frozen blueberries

1-2 teaspoon(s) cinnamon

How to make:

Combine ingredients, blend and drink! We recently bought the Cuisinart Smoothie Mixer. It works perfectly.

2. Kale, Bell Peppers & Rice Salad

I have this salad 2-3 times a week for lunch. I buy the kale prepackaged/washed so it’s very quick to put together in the morning. I also buy the pepper mix pre-cut/packaged from Whole Foods. It’s their “stir fry” mix and the veggies tend to vary, but there are usually bell peppers (red, green, orange), cabbage, broccoli, snap peas.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown rice (I cook this the night before and refrigerate)

1-2 cup(s) fresh kale

1/2 cup fresh veggie stir fry mix

2-3 tablespoons Cindy’s Kitchen Fresh Avocado Vinaigrette

How to Make:

Place rice, salad and stir fry mix in container, top with dressing! I typically pack this for work and keep the dressing in a separate container so the kale doesn’t wilt/get mushy by lunch time. I also use a plastic Tupperware container so I can close the lid and “shake” the dressing in. It distributes the dressing much better that way!

Praise the Lord!

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Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His loving kindness is everlasting. ~ Psalm 106:1

The wait is over.

I prepared myself for a negative report (because of last time) and it made the positive one so much better.  No new lesions!  No new activity since July 2011!  I sound surprised in my writing because I know this can be a silent disease.  Even though I’ve felt fine and have not had an exacerbation since my initial attack in June 2010, my MRI in July 2011 showed two new lesions.  It devastated me because I just assumed I’d have none based on my physical health.

But I stayed true to my diet and to my exercise; I’m convinced it’s working.  And, I also give credit to Jesus.  Praying alone keeps me comforted and eliminates any stress.

That’s all for now… here’s to being happy, healthy and extremely thankful.

My MS poem.

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When I was younger, I said I would be a writer. This has not come true; as I work in marketing at a desk in a cubicle. But in honor of MS Awareness Month, I decided to write something before March ends. It came from my feeling that no one can truly know the value of life until they are faced with losing it (in some way, shape or form). And in that way, those with MS have a greater depth and understanding of the significance of each day lived well.

For the afflicted are the ones who are wise.
Those who understand what it’s like to lose the ability to stand;
To speak to see.

Those who have been humbled by their disability and inability.
Those who have lost control.
Those who have lost themselves.
These are the people who know the burden of fear;
The value of hope and the necessity of faith.

These are the people who have the strongest spirit and the kindest soul;
Who recognize that a broken body does not mean a failed life.

God bless all with MS.

Veggie Lasagna

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Lasagna was one of my favorite meals and was my “go to” order at any Italian restaurant. But when I changed my diet, this traditionally cheese and meat-filled dish didn’t fit anymore. I never tried making it with substitute cheese; sometimes you just can’t replicate “the real thing.” However, last week I found the following recipe from Bob Greene via Rachel Ray’s website.

This Veggie Lasagna pleasantly surprised me. It’s amazing how much flavor the nut mixture contains. I really recommend a try and that’s why I’m posting.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup store-bought marinara sauce
  • 4 ounces uncooked lasagna noodles (approx. 6-8 noodles)
  • 2 cups spinach, washed thoroughly (I probably used between 3-4 cups, I like spinach)
  • 12 tomato slices (approx. 2 large tomatoes – yields 6 slices each)

How to make:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 10×8 dish with cooking spray.
  • Combine the almonds, walnuts, onion, garlic, basil, nutmeg, salt, pepper and water in a food processor and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  • Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan. Cover with half of the uncooked noodles (uncooked gluten-free noodles worked in this recipe!), top noodles with spinach, lay 6 tomato slices on top, cover with half of the nut mixture.
  • Repeat the layers again and transfer to oven.
  • Bake for 50 minutes, until lightly browned.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods to Know

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Inflammation is not good for anyone’s brain, but people with MS need to be even more aware of lifestyle choices that can either increase or reduce inflammation. The below is an excerpt from the article, Fight Arthritis with Food and Supplements, by Dr. Leo Galland, a board-certified internist. The article focuses on arthritis, but these foods are just as applicable for MS.

If you are following the Swank Diet, McDougall Diet or have heard about Dr. Terry Wahls, this list of do’s and don’ts should be familiar. It’s always reaffirming to read about the benefits of nutrition to fight disease, which seems to be more common these days… or since I seek it out maybe I just notice it more!

1. Eat at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Choose those with bright or deep colors like cherries and berries and sweet potatoes that contain natural anti-inflammatory nutrition. NOTE: Food allergies can trigger inflammation for some people, and if there is a food that your body reacts to, you should avoid it, no matter how healthy it would be for someone who’s not sensitive to it. Tomatoes, incidentally, seem to have more of anti-inflammatory effect when they’re cooked or juiced, but most other vegetables and fruits are better if they’re fresh.

2. Choose your oils wisely.
Extra-virgin olive oil has natural anti-inflammatory benefits, whether raw or cooked. Recent research has identified the antioxidant called oleocanthal, which is only found in extra-virgin olive oil. Oleocanthal is a natural anti-inflammatory with potency strikingly similar to that of the drug ibuprofen in inhibiting an enzyme that causes pain and inflammation. Even better pain management results have been observed when, in addition to fish oil, extra-virgin olive oil is part of the natural anti-inflammatory diet.

Flaxseed oil and flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed), also have significant anti-inflammatory effects, but should not be cooked, because cooking destroys some of the beneficial omega-3 fats.

But other vegetable oils, like corn, safflower or sunflower oils, can increase inflammation and counteract the benefits of anti-inflammatory nutrients in your diet.

3. Eat fish three times a week.
Especially wild salmon, if it’s available and affordable, but don’t fry your fish; frying interferes with the benefits. Supplement your diet with the natural anti-inflammatory, fish oil. The amount of fish oil you need is not fixed; it varies from about a teaspoon (4000 milligrams) to a tablespoon (12,000 milligrams) each day, depending upon what else is in your diet. The more meat, poultry, egg yolk or dairy fat you eat, the greater your need for fish oil, because these foods contain arachidonic acid, a pro-inflammatory omega 6 fatty acid. The more you use vegetable oils other than extra virgin olive oil, the more fish oil you need.

4. Avoid sugar and foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates
Reduce inflammation by cutting out white flour products, white rice and white potatoes. Several studies have shown that consuming foods of this type aggravates inflammation. Instead eat high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes. Studies have shown that high fiber diets are anti-inflammatory. Don’t worry about carrots. All the publicity given to the Glycemic Index of foods (the tendency for a food to raise blood sugar) has given carrots a bad rep. The carotenoids in carrots, anti-oxidants that create the orange color, and the fiber, make carrots an anti-inflammatory food. Carrots, like tomatoes, are also more nutritious cooked than raw.

5. Drink tea, black or green.
Green tea and black tea can help with fighting inflammation. You need at least three cups a day to get the benefit.

6. Use anti-inflammatory spices in preparing your food.
Ginger and turmeric have excellent anti-inflammatory effects, although human clinical trials with these spices are much more limited than for the other principles listed.

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