Tag Archive | breast cancer

Help! Someone I Love Has Cancer: How You Can Really Make a Difference

I would like to introduce to you Joel and Rebekah Hughes, who live in Irvine, California. Rebekah is originally from Southern Oregon and Joel is a Southern California lifer. They often jab each other as to which place is better to live. But for better or worse, So-Cal is home.

At the age of 23, Rebekah was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.   Her oncologist said that she was the youngest patient their office had ever seen with breast cancer. She made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy. She did seven months of chemotherapy and then three years of the hormone therapy maintenance drug, Herceptin.  When Rebekah had been cancer free for three years, she met Joel and the two were married one year later.

Just eight months after they wed,  Rebekah was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Stage 4 cancer is considered incurable. After many tests and scans, they learned that not only had Rebekah’s cancer returned, but it had metastasized (spread) to her liver, lungs, kidneys, bones, and brain. They found at least 9 tumors in her brain. One radiation oncologist that reviewed her scans said that even with treatment, she probably had 4-6 months to live. She was 26 years old.

Rebekah’s diagnosis and cancer remain a constant battle but a huge part of fighting her cancer is that they try to not let it dominate their lives. In fact, they try to live as though she does not have cancer.  They are both Christians, and their faith is a central focus of their lives.   They like to read, bargain hunt at garage sales and thrift stores, refurbish (upcycle) old furniture, decorate their house, hang out with friends and family, spend time with (Joel’s) kids, and watch Netflix in bed while eating ice cream (double fudge mouse tracks).  They also enjoy helping people who are hurting and struggling since they know that pain so well.

It is this desire to help others that inspired Joel to write this book

One of The Best Books for the Cancer Journey

How You Can Really Make a Difference in Helping a Loved-One with Cancer

7-10-18 Irvine, California

“Within two months, my dad and new young wife were both diagnosed with stage four cancer. My wife was only given 4-6 months to live. I didn’t even know what cancer was, except that it was really bad. I didn’t know what to do or say. The world fell out from below me and the future went black.”

When someone you love gets diagnosed with cancer, what do you say? What do you do? What do you NOT do? These questions and many others are answered in a new book: HELP! Someone I Love Has Cancer: How You Can Really Make a Difference. The answers come from a young couple who are in the trenches and valleys of fighting cancer and learning to love through it.

In 2014, Joel and Rebekah were married. Seven months later, Joel’s dad was diagnosed with stage four stomach cancer. Two months later, at the age of 26, Rebekah was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. One chapter of life closed and a new chapter opened. Their cancer journey began.

They are now three years into the journey. Along the way, many people have come alongside to help: family, friends, strangers, and some out of the woodworks. Many are helpful. Joel calls them “Cancer Angels”.  Others try to help but end up doing just the opposite. Joel calls these folk “Well-Intentioned Dragons”. The book is clothed with many stories of encounters with these “dragons”. This book will help you become a Cancer Angel and, hopefully, not be one of the dragons.

“Most of the dragons think they are helping and have no idea that they are actually causing harm. I wrote this book to inspire people with our story, to help people learn what cancer is, and show people how to really help a friend or loved one walking the cancer journey.”

The book will be available on Amazon on 7-10-18. He is also giving it away FREE for a limited time here: http://www.cancercaretakerbook.com

Joel Hughes is a husband and father. He is also the author of In Your Corner (coming soon), co-producer of the movie A Brave Hope (coming soon), and director of Rebekah’s Hope. He holds degrees in Christian ministry and philosophy. Joel lives in Southern California with Rebekah and his two kids.

Contact Joel at: joelhughes63@gmail.com

contact@rebekahshope.org

 

www.cancercaretakerbook.com

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Kimberly’s Sisters

The only thing I know about Kimberly is that she died on October 10, 2013 at the age of 32 from a brain tumor. I met Kimberly’ sisters while strolling along the waterfront of Lake Superior one beautiful fall evening. My co-author, (of 100 Perks of Having Cancer Plus 100 Health Tips for Surviving it) Susan and I were still feeling slightly buzzed from the excitement of speaking to more than 500 guests at the tbaytel Luncheon of Hope in Thunder Bay, Ontario. One of the perks of being a cancer survivor is being given the opportunity to inspire others through our stories. We felt confident on that day that we had conveyed our message of empowerment and hope, not just for those facing cancer, but for anyone facing difficult times in their lives. Many guests approached us after the luncheon to speak to us personally and share their stories with us. Nothing is more rewarding than hearing that our message has touched someone’s life in a meaningful way. That is why we do what we do.

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Flo and Susan speak at the tbaytel Luncheon of Hope, October, 2015

While walking by the lakeside and chatting about the luncheon that evening, we noticed an attractive young woman on a skate board approaching us, with another young lady who was carrying a baby walking next to her.

“This is for you,” she said as she passed us a sandwich bag containing two cards. One card was a hand written note, with this message: “Our sister Kimberly passed away on October 10, 2013. She was only 32. She loved her coffee. Please use this to enjoy a coffee with a loved one in her memory.” The other card was a $5 gift card from Tim Horton’s coffee shop.

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My immediate thought was, “What a nice gesture, but I wonder if this is just a scheme to get money?” However, even though Susan was practically trying to force a $10 bill into her hand, the young lady adamantly refused to accept it.

“Kimberly was our sister,” she said, “One of her favorite ways to treat us was going to Tim Horton’s for a cup of coffee. We figured that the best way to honor her memory is to treat others to her favorite thing. Please help us to keep Kimberly’s memory alive by having a coffee on her, and enjoying it with someone you care about.”

Susan and I were both surprised and touched by this beautiful gesture. What a coincidence that the card found its way to two cancer survivors. I smiled as I tucked the card into my purse and wondered if Kimberly was secretly guiding her sisters to the card recipients.   The following morning, Susan and I were at the airport waiting for our flight, when I noticed a Tim Horton’s kiosk nearby.

Susan mostly does book promotions in the US, and I in Canada, so it is a rare treat when we can come together to work. She is not just my co-author, but also a good friend, and I was feeling kind of sad that our brief time together was coming to an end.

“Hey,” I said, “It’s been two years since we have been together and it could be another two before I see you again.   I am going to grab us a coffee and tea using Kimberly’s gift card, and we can enjoy it together before we catch our flights.”

We wanted to capture the moment of sharing our Tim Horton’s treat, but the airport waiting area was unusually empty. There was however, one lady sitting close by, so we asked her if she would take our picture.

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Flo and Susan enjoy a coffee and tea, compliments of Kimberly’s sisters

Soon, we found ourselves chatting with our photographer, Patricia, and would you believe that she also happened to be a cancer survivor! Coincidently, like Susan and I, she had also battled breast cancer. Her prognosis however, was much grimmer than ours. She had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, and was told that she had only six months to live. She attributes her survival to empowering herself with the best cancer treatments available to her, and by maintaining a strong sense of hope. Six years later she was not only alive, but also cancer free!

For many years, I have believed in the power of angels, and I truly believe that on that day, Kimberly was the angel who brought together three cancer survivors to share their stories and to bond, if only for a short while, in the sisterhood of survivorship. Coincidently, Susan and I had just spoken at a luncheon where our message centered around the themes of empowerment and hope. Meeting Patricia brought the experience full circle, and confirmed for us the importance of continuing to spread this message.

Patricia was the living proof of the message that Susan and I had shared with countless numbers of cancer survivors. She empowered herself by taking charge of her health and seeking the best medical treatments available to her. Then, despite a grim prognosis and seemingly insurmountable odds, she held on to hope and her faith in God. In doing so, she defied the odds and became a living miracle. Thank you Kimberly, and Kimberly’s sisters, for bringing us together on that day.   Thank you too for re-igniting my passion to keep sharing this message of empowerment and hope with others.

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Flo and Susan meet fellow breast cancer survivor, Patricia and gift her with our book.  Just paying it forward for Kimberly!

 

 

 

 

Healthy & Powerfully Feminine‏

Hi everyone!  I noticed a few people have come on board with the “Healthier Eating Challenge”.  In case you missed it, you can find my post (and recipes) on kale HERE, and my quinoa post HERE, with 3 more super-foods to feature in the coming weeks.

But, let’s take a break from that.  I have recently cyber-met a lovely lady who is taking on a fabulous project to help cancer survivors everywhere.  In this post, she tells us about her project and links us to her site, where you can find more information.  So please take a few minutes to read Mireille’s post:

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Mireille Parker is a transformational life coach who works with female entrepreneurs to incorporate their femininity into their business for more ease, flow and fun in their lives. After going through a health crisis with breast cancer, Mireille knows the importance of empowering our bodies to heal, developing our feminine essence and balancing it with our masculine to work smarter, not harder, and putting the structures and boundaries in place that support our well-being. Originally from Australia, she is now living an active life in Switzerland and has recently completed her first novel, Wonderlust. She is also a dancer and yoga-fan, who balances green juice with champagne, prioritises weekly massages and loves being in nature. 

What does it mean to be a healthy and powerfully feminine woman?

 

How would it feel to have a healthy relationship with your body, to be in communication with her, to be proud of your imperfections, to cultivate gratitude and tend to your mind, conscious of what you’re putting in to it just as you are with your body?

 

Imagine being pleasureful, playful, fun and full of joy and passion, sensual and present, lit up from the inside, appreciating your beauty, pampering yourself and being in a loving, supportive community.

 

This is who you are. This is your female essence. You are vibrant like the trees and the sky. You are alive like water and sunlight. You are feminine, powerful and healthy.

 

It’s a gift to be a woman.

 

For years we’ve tried to keep up, we’ve pushed to get ahead and become disconnected to our bodies.  But this is a new era. It’s the age of the healthy and powerfully feminine woman.

 

In the Healthy and Powerfully Feminine Interview Series, starting September 22nd, we’ll be going deep about not only physical/external health, but also how to be healthy on an emotional and spiritual level.

 

I’ll be interviewing ten incredible women from around the world, including…

Women who have healed menstrual and digestive issues, precancerous conditions & endometriosis.

Your very own Susan Gonzales, stage III cancer survivor and advocate for holistic healing.

Plus, mentors on feminine leadership, women’s empowerment, health & nutrition, lifestyle design for moms and wellness and weight-loss through pleasure & sensuality.

We’re talking about how to empower our bodies to heal and be healthy, how to create more flow, ease and fun in our lives, developing intuition and guidance, the importance of beauty, how to deal with our emotions and cultivating our feminine power while being successful in our careers.

 

For more information, come join us at www.healthyandpowerfullyfeminine.com

Meet Gai Comans!

My first conversation with Gai Comans went something like this:
Gai: Hi Flo!  Are you ready to do your interview for Survivor’s Secrets?
Me: (Laughing) I think you have the wrong day, Gai, our interview is scheduled for Wednesday.
Gai: Yes.  Today. Wednesday.
Me: No Gai, today is Tuesday.
Silence
Me: Where are you calling from?
Gai: Australia
Me: Oh.  I guess it is Wednesday there.
Gai and I did eventually get our time zones worked out and managed to connect.  I am fascinated with the work that Gai is doing on behalf of breast cancer survivors, and so I would like to share her story with you.
Gai
Gai Comans is a health and wellness advocate who has a passion for helping women thrive after their treatment for  breast cancer.  Gai’s interest in helping breast cancer survivors was sparked by a life-changing cancer diagnosis in 2000, at the age of 38.  Given a 1 in 10 chance of survival, it was time to revisit her choices and the impact of them on her health.  At the time of her own diagnosis Gai was working as a senior executive in corporate, where she held senior leadership roles for 15 years.   When she was diagnosed, being a businesswomen, she dealt with both life fear and career fear.   Gai is now focussed on giving survivorship a makeover and is starting and holding global conversations on the impact and challenges of survivorship and talking about the challenges, which are usually held in secrecy, in an open forum.
Q:  Gai, please tell us a bit about your background.

 

A: I had a pretty ordinary life, really.  I was fit and healthy, working as a corporate executive and I had just married my long-term sweetheart.  Then, we had the party of the decade during the Sydney Olympics. We had to put on quite a show, but it had to top my wedding. Just kidding!  But, it was awesome.

The day we were moving into our new home, I discovered a lump.  No big deal, I thought.  I had discovered a lump in the other breast a year earlier, which turned out to be nothing.  I wasn’t so lucky the second time around.  And everything changed just a few short weeks before Christmas in 2000.

It had taken three months to confirm a diagnosis of breast cancer.  It was small, but extremely aggressive and it had already spread to my lymph nodes.  I was given a one in 10 chance of surviving.  I fought through 10 months of treatment, to emerge on the other side as a cancer survivor.

Q: Why did you start this project?

A: When I finished treatment, I was expecting that I would be ready to party. The reality was very different though.  I had been so strong all through treatment, but when treatment finished the reality started to really hit home.  I didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. As my diagnosis was life threatening, I wasn’t quite sure if I was waiting to live or die and I dove into a short depression.  The worst part was that I thought I was the only person that this ever happened to and from there; guilt and shame took over for a while.

I started this project because if I was aware that this might have happened, I would have found the support I needed instead of thinking that I had to face it alone.  I now understand that this is a very common occurrence for breast cancer survivors. I wish I would have known that then.  This project is about helping people understand the reality of survivorship.

Q: What is Survivor Secrets all about?

A: Survivor Secrets is a conversation or perhaps a narrative might be a better way to explain it.  I wanted to provide a platform for cancer survivors to share their insights as a community, so that others may benefit from our experience.  Hindsight is such a wonderful thing and particularly when you face a life-threatening diagnosis.  I also felt it was important to share the conversations we generally have within our community, but to share them publicly.

Sharing the reality publicly can help the survivor to heal, because then they know they are not facing the trauma alone.  I believe it can provide a way for people to maybe heal a little easier, with more understanding and support.  But, it can also help their family, friends and colleagues to understand and get a little more insight into the life of someone diagnosed with cancer—some insights into the challenges, the fears and tears, the reality, rather than the pink wash of how you are supposed to “do cancer”.

Q: What have you learned from Survivor Secrets?

 

A: I have learned so much.  I loved the conversations with the ladies. Each one of them opened their hearts and provided a treasure chest full of insights.

As I have spoken more broadly about this project, it has given me a much deeper understanding of the real impact of a cancer diagnosis on family, friends, colleagues, husbands and children.  My diagnosis was personal for me, but in a way, it was personal for them too. I think I am just starting to really understand that.

Another thing that I have learned is that everyone has a survivorship story.  It isn’t always cancer, but it is something very deep and personal for them.  I believe our survivorship stories connect us all deeply if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable enough to share our secrets.

survivor secrets

 For your FREE copy of Breast Cancer Survivor Secrets, see my last post:  https://perksofcancer.com/2014/03/02/a-free-gift-for-breast-cancer-survivors/

My Tribe

ta ta

At the end of a hard day’s work (and by the way, my REAL work begins when my paid job ends), after I cook, clean, do homework, pack the lunch bags, do a load of laundry, and get my youngest off to bed, there is nothing I enjoy more than pouring myself a glass of wine and checking out the latest Scientific Journals.  By “Scientific Journals”, of course, I mean Facebook.

While some people are very private and selective about their Facebook endeavors, I admit to being quite open about mine.  In fact, in my personal opinion, if you are the type to get upset if someone with whom you are not intimately acquainted “likes” or (God forbid) comments on a post you made, maybe you need to look for another form of social media.  I think they should invent a new form for those people who really value their privacy.  They couldn’t call it “Facebook” of course, as the “face” is the most exposed part of the body. I think “Butt-book” would be a more appropriate name, as that is a part of the anatomy that is private and we normally only expose to our nearest and dearest, but I digress……

I don’t know how I got off on that tangent, but the point I am trying to make is this: I am not overly cautious or selective when it comes to accepting friend requests on Facebook.  I just assume, rightly or wrongly, that those who want to add me either:

  1.  Know me and want to keep in touch
  2. Are fans of my blog/book
  3. Are trying to add to the numbers on their own Facebook page or
  4. Are just plain nosey

I am fine either way.  I may be naïve in thinking that these Facebookers are not insane criminals who are out to harm me and my family in some way.  However, so far I have been right in judging them as safe approximately 100% of the time.

In recent weeks I added three new friends to my Facebook repertoire.  One of these ladies I had met briefly at a cancer survivors convention.  The other two I have never met.    All three of these are young mothers who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer (one with a reoccurrence).

I cannot begin to explain to you the terror that comes with a cancer diagnosis.  The fear of dying an untimely and painful death usually takes the forefront of these fears.  Then, in many cases, there is the extreme sorrow that comes when thinking of your children and how they will survive without their mother.  What lasting psychological damage will be done to your beautiful babies if their mom is taken in her prime?  Will you ever see them graduate from high school?  Get married? Or hold their own babies?   Breast cancer also generally brings with it unsightly physical changes as well.  While “creeping” my three new Facebook friend’s photos, I was struck by their physical beauty.  Judging by their clothes, make-up and impeccable hair, it is obvious that they take pride in their appearance.  I imagine that these  women have been haunted by thoughts of losing their breasts and their beautiful hair, while gaining the puffy “moon face” features brought on by chemotherapy.

I am sure that my new facebook friends are experiencing all of these fears, plus feelings of anger, depression, hopelessness, and utter devestation.  Yet you won’t find them boo-hooing, “poor me” on Facebook!  To read their posts, you will find only strength, courage and determination.  As one said, “I’m ready to fight like a girl!”; and another: “This will not define me.”  THAT, my friends, is a Survivor’s Attitude!

These women are part of my “tribe”, a secret sisterhood that nobody chooses to be a part of, yet when you join you instantly become bonded with your “pink sorority.”  That’s why these women felt safe in reaching out to me.  Having been there, I am able to offer to them encouragement and hope from a place of knowing.

Last night, I was reading a book called Divine Secrets of the Ta-Ta Sisterhood, by Joanna Chapman. (A great read which I would recommend, especially to those just starting treatment.) I came across a letter that she had written to her “sisters”, i.e those currently fighting cancer.  There is a part of this letter that really resonated with me, and I would like to share it with you, my new Facebook friends, as you face your battle:

I wish I could wrap you up in a fuzzy blanket of your favorite color-which I am guessing is probably not pink.  I’d sit you down beside a cozy fire and bring you hot chai tea and chocolate croissants.  Fill your book-shelves with new releases from your favorite authors and your iPod with soothing music.  Invite your closest friends over-the ones who could make you laugh, but would also let you curse and cry. 

When you were tired, I’d help you to a comfy bedroom overlooking the ocean, where the sounds of the waves could lull you to sleep.  I’d scatter scented candles and framed photos of your favorite memories on the dresser and nightstand.  I’d help you write letters to your loved ones.  I’d hold your hand whenever you were scared until you no longer needed me.

Thinking of you, wishing you fortitude, comfort and peace.

Love, Florence

What Is A SURVIVOR?

First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to wish a very Happy 70th Birthday to my dad, Len Strang.  We had hoped that all five sisters would be together to celebrate the event, but unfortunately, the youngest could not make it.  It has been many years since my whole family has been together under one roof, and I felt it important that we get a family picture.

Dad bday 2

Happy Birthday, Dad!

“It could be ten years before we all get together again”,  I insisted, “A lot can happen in ten years!  We might never again have this opportunity!”

My sisters nodded solemnly and replied, “Yeah, Dad is really getting up there now.  He might not even be around in ten years.  We need to do something to mark this occasion.”

Whoa!  Whadda ya mean Dad might not be around in ten years?  He will only be 80.  Of course he will be around. It’s ME I’m worried might not be around.

I did not speak those words, but that is exactly what I was thinking.  It surprised me to learn that my family doesn’t think that way at all.  They seem to see me as someone who has “beaten” cancer, a true survivor. They see cancer as part of my past, not something I continue to struggle with on a daily basis. Isn’t that how society sees us SURVIVORS  as well?

When I was diagnosed with Stage 111 breast cancer in April, 2011, I really struggled with the term “survivor”.  While I was going through treatments, I referred to myself as a cancer warrior.  I figured that the word survivor was reserved for those who had beaten cancer, and were declared cancer-free.  I was holding off on labeling myself in that way until I was sure that there was no evidence of the disease left in my body.

After my last treatment, on March 30th, 2012, my Oncologist gave me the all clear.  Yet I was still reluctant to call myself a survivor.  After all, the type of cancer that I had yielded just over a 50% five year survival rate.  I decided that I would not be hasty.  I would wait until the magical five year mark was up, and then I could truly call myself a survivor.  It would be impossible for cancer to touch me after that critical time had elapsed, I thought.

I made myself a survival plan, to get me through to my five year “cancer-versary”.  My plan included taking the hormone-inhibitor, tamoxifen, healthy eating, taking supplements, drinking more water, exercise, and stress management techniques.  While doing the research on how to remain cancer-free however, I made a startling discovery.   I learned that there is no cure for cancer!  (I suppose on some level I already knew that, but I didn’t think it applied to me.)  Reaching the five year mark will not guarantee that I will be cancer-free for life.  Those sneaky little cells can lie dormant in my body for decades and come back to get me!

I then made two life transforming realizations: 1. That from the day of my diagnosis until the day I draw my last breath, I am a cancer survivor.  2. Cancer was more than just a temporary disruption in my life.  It is something that I will “battle” for the rest of my life in my fight to remain cancer-free.

So yeah, everyone, I am a cancer survivor.  However that does not mean that I have “beaten” cancer, as there is always the risk of a recurrence.  It means that I take on every day with a survivor’s attitude in my fight to remain cancer-free!

Dad bday 1

The fam, minus sister Lynette

Chickballs!

I can hardly believe it is already day 18 of my 21 day vegan challenge!  So far it has been a piece of cake….ummm, I mean a piece of gluten free, egg free, dairy free cake….let’s just say it’s been a piece of bread (multi-grain bread).   But seriously, I have been enjoying some fabulous foods, with my new favorite being “wheatballs”.  They are so versatile!  I’ve had wheatballs in thai sauce with rice;  barbequed wheatballs ; and my fave, wheatballs and spaghetti!  Since Susan is the recipe lady, I will let her supply you with a healthy recipe for these little delights.   She has tweaked my recipe for wheatballs, and created her own version: chickballs!  (Leave it to the Savvy Sister…..if ever there was a chick with BALLS, it’s her!)

The most difficult thing I have encountered with living a vegan lifestyle is not about choosing new foods, it is about getting OTHER people to accept these choices.  I recently spoke at a Chicken Soup for the Soul Luncheon (while others had chicken soup, I enjoyed tomato soup for the vegan’s soul).

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Flo speaking at a Chicken Soup for the Soul fundraiser for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

A big part of my talk was about the difference between a positive attitude and a survivor’s attitude.   A positive attitude is a wonderful thing, and I credit it with being instrumental to my healing and recovery from cancer.  Even more important than a positive attitude however, is the survivor’s attitude which I continue to maintain.  A survivor’s attitude combines positive attitude, with positive ACTION!  As a cancer survivor, I am going to do everything in my power to continue to stay healthy and prevent a cancer reoccurrence.  If that means changing my diet, I WILL change my diet.  If that means exercising more, I WILL exercise more.  If that means giving up wine….well let’s not get carried away here.  Wine is vegan after all.

I would just like for people to accept my food choices and understand that I am not turning down your lasagna or cupcakes to be rude, or because I am picky.  I am doing it because I want to stay alive! If there are any stray cancer cells lurking in this body, I want to STARVE them by eating a plant based diet, not FEED them with animal fats and sugar.  So please don’t hate me because I’m a plant eater.

Susan, do you have any tips for us this week?  And can you please share your chickball recipe with our readers?

Savvy Sister

Way to go Flo!  The mind is a complex thing, isn’t it?  Food is not only sustenance; it’s also a centerpiece for social gatherings and offers emotional comfort.  Humans want to “belong” to a group and have a sense of conformity and sharing food means connecting.

But I wonder, Flo, if you were diabetic, and didn’t have dessert would people try to force  cherry cheesecake on you and shun you if you didn’t partake?  Eating a diet to avoid cancer is really the same thing.

We all make choices about our health and no one should feel “weird” because of them.  That’s why I try not to use the word “vegan” as stated before, and prefer the term “plant-based”.

 alien races

                        See? I told you vegan’s were buff. And look at the size of those feet!

One blogger even made up his own name for plant-based eaters: “Veganauts” , and his own definition  for the word. (That’s what you can do when you make up your own word.)

(Hit this link to learn more:  http://howilost150pounds.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/open-letter-of-invitation-to-ellen-degeneres/)

Here’s how he defines it:

ve-gan-aut /VEE-gun-ot/ (n.) 1. a person who is exploring the rewarding vegan lifestyle without actually meeting all of the vegan tenets all of the time.   2. someone who lives like a vegan but makes occasional allowances for transgressions without giving up the vegan lifestyle afterwards.  3. any omnivore who is experimenting with plant-based eating or vegan living. 4. a person who is sick and damn tired of defending their own personal brand of veganism and prefers to have a label nobody can argue with.  An example sentence: Sarah is a veganaut because even though she is almost always vegan, she wears leather shoes and eats cheese fondue once a month with her Mother-in-law and has some turkey on Thanksgiving.

Here are some tips when talking about your new plant-based diet.

1.  Don’t allow yourself to feel different.  You are the ray of light on a new horizon! You are a teacher of health! YOU are the cool one. …yeah you are! “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

2.  Don’t preach.  As tempting as it is, don’t lecture your dinner companions on the dangers of casein (milk protein), and how it’s linked to high rates of cancer.   And never start a sentence with “Did you know……?”  If people ask, keep it simple.  If they want to know more, they will contact you later.

3.  Don’t condemn. I have eaten with vegans at a table and I’ve wanted to slap the “icky faces” off them as they watch their carnivore friend chow down on a plate full of ribs.  Keep your reactions to yourself.  People have a right to choose what they put in their bodies.  If asked, keep it focused on why YOU are vegan not how THEY should be.

4. Realize that at some restaurants, you may be having a salad…again.  If going out to eat with friends, check the menu online and figure out what you can eat beforehand.  Most restaurants will be happy to add or subtract items or cook in oil vs butter if you ask.  Some restaurants (even steakhouses) that I have been to recently have a separate vegan menu.  Aren’t YOU special! And remember, going out to eat with friends is a social thing. Avoid bringing a baggie of food with you.

5. Try to make concessions.  If your neighbor makes you chicken soup because you’re sick, don’t tell her “Oh, sorry, I’m a vegan and I can’t eat this.”  Take the soup, do with it whatever, and tell the person it was delicious and thank them. If it’s someone’s birthday, have a sliver of cake. Whether you sit there and push it around or you eat it, there’s good energy behind the food, so try not to refuse.

6. Be nice! Not everyone will agree with your decision and some may even tell you that your choices will make you sick. Remember you may be the first vegan this person has encountered and it falls on you to make us all look good.  Just smile a lot and realize that it’s ok because God loves even the idiots.

If anyone has any stories about their encounters with those not accepting of you diet, let us know how you dealt with it.

To heck with wheatballs, I have something much better: Chickballs!  It is the same concept, only I substitute chickpea flour for wholewheat flour…but you can do either.  Enjoy! And Flo..keep up the good work!

Chickballs:

Always try to use organic ingredients when possible

1 (15.5 ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or avoid the BPA in the can by cooking your own)

1 cup chopped white mushrooms

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 1/2  to 2 tablespoons soy sauce (find a soy sauce without cancer-causing caramel coloring and MSG)

1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for cooking

½ cup dry bread crumbs (or use 4 Wasa rye crisp crackers ground in a blender)

½ cup chickpea flour OR whole wheat flour

¼ cup of nutritional yeast (optional but consider this high protein/non-yeast source that is usually fortified with B12…a vitamin that is essential but is mostly found in animal products,  so vegan should get it when they can I use Bragg’s, but there are lots of brands out there)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt (Season to taste. I found I didn’t need the salt when using the full 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce)

¼ teaspoon black pepper

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If cooking the chickpeas, rinse and place in a pot covered with water. Cover and soak overnight (12 hours). Replace water with twice the volume of the chickpeas, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour. Strain and allow to cool.  Cooked chickpeas can be placed in 16-ounce containers and frozen for 3 months (It’s like having a can in your freezer.  I do this with black beans too.)

If using canned make sure you rinse extremely well.

-in food processor, combine chickpeas, mushrooms, garlic and parsley, and pulse until coarsely ground, but not pureed.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse to combine.

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-with a spatula, scrape the mixture into a large bowl and knead the mixture until well blended, about 2 minutes.

-pinch off  small pieces  of the mixture and roll into one and a half inch balls.

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-in a large skillet, cover the bottom with olive oil and fry the balls, turning frequently to brown the on all sides, about 5 minutes.

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These chickballs freeze well and can be used in any recipe which calls for meatballs.  They also passed the “I’m not eating anything vegan” husband test. He gobbled them up in a flash.

Makes about 17 balls Nutrition per ball when chick pea flour, rye cracker flour, and nutritional yeast options are used ….Calories: 75, Fat: 2.5, Protein: 4.8, Iron: 4.5% RDA,  Fiber: 3.5 grams  Vitamin B12: 13% RDA

Using the rye cracker crumbs vs the breadcrumbs saves calories and also saves you from the sugars, and preservatives that breadcrumbs contain.  The rye crisps contain rye flour, water and salt.  This post is not big enough to list all the ingredients in processed bread crumbs. Go to Wasa for more info:  www.wasa-usa.com/rye-crisp.aspx

Using chick pea flour instead of wheat flour gives you 5 times the protein, more iron, and 3 times the fiber as wheat flour. These small changes add up and make your healthy diet even healthier!

FYI: Nutritional yeast, while it has yeast in it’s name, is not a live yeast product.  It is the shell of the dead yeast cells that contain an abundance of protein and adds a very unique flavor to anything it touches.  Most nutritional yeast products are fortified with B Vitamins including B12…the one that vegans need to supplement in their diet.