THE ARTISTIC LIFE – Living the creative life in everything we do

Posts tagged ‘health’

Mission Accomplished

Cue the music. My mission has been accomplished. I completed my first Half Marathon!

Things didn’t start out well that morning, as I never even fell asleep the night before because of nerves and excitement (and my thyroid meds don’t help). So, the alarm went off at 4 am, but it wasn’t even necessary, since I was just laying there anyway. Also, the temperature and humidity were higher than normal and we were given repeated warnings about the heat and proper hydration. So, I knew it was going to be rough going, but I did it (and even at my predicted time). Below is a picture of me (taken by my husband, who waited along with me by the corral) sporting my self-designed Thyroid Cancer Survivor shirt

In honor of this race and Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month, I am hoping to raise money for ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association (http://www.thyca.org) through September 30. Donate or read more about my story here.

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Life is Beautiful!

After weeks of medical testing, and some scary and lonely moments, my doctor has now come to the conclusion that I am *most likely* CANCER-FREE! This is about as much certainty as can be expected at this point…possibly after a year of good results we will be able to say it with 100% certainty. However, one of the lessons that I’ve learned from dealing with cancer, is how to live with uncertainty. This really is a metaphor for life in general…life can be an unpredictable rollercoaster sometimes. My relief is still sinking in and my fear is gradually being replaced with such profound joy and gratefulness. I’m not resting on any laurels at all…there is always a chance of persistent or recurrent disease. And, of course, there is a higher risk for a 2nd cancer somewhere else…but reaching this milestone is a battle won. Cancer takes away enough from us as it is…I’m not going to let it take away my celebration and joy of relishing this good news. In fact, that 8K is tomorrow, and I’m going to run it with all my heart. I hope everyone else has a joyous weekend as well! And remember…life is beautiful!

Non-toxic Oil Painting

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to live a more non-toxic life as part of my fight against thyroid cancer. Well, I’m also an artist. As I’ve just accepted a new oil painting commission, I’m researching ways to make the painting process safer and less toxic. As many people have become concerned about the health and environmental effects of the products we use, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned. So far, here are a few suggestions I’ve found:

1) Use good hygiene and cleaning methods. Definitely don’t put your brushes anywhere near your mouth. Supposedly, VanGogh ingested traces of his oil paints as he worked, and this may have contributed to his mental and physical decline. Also, try to wear gloves as you paint. I know in the past, I’ve been guilty of getting oil colors all over my hands as I paint. Even though I’d scrub my hands afterward, remnants of stubborn color would still remain. This can be absorbed into your body, along with any toxic ingredients, so you should minimize skin contact.

2) Use good ventilation. Outdoor Plein Air painting is great. If this is not an option, paint with as many windows and doors open as possible. Paint in a garage with the doors open. Or use a studio with a built-in ventilation system and/or lots of windows. Use fans and air purifiers as well. I have a small window, but also use a purifier and a fan to blow any fumes out the open window. Put a ventilation mask on if you are still concerned.

3) Check the ACMI (Art & Creative Materials Institute, Inc.) labels. This is a non-profit association that tests for toxicity in paints and media. Look for the AP (Approved Product) certified nontoxic seal on your individual paint tubes (every color may be different, even within a specific brand or line of paints). Avoid the CL label which indicates that caution should be used. In general, avoid the Cadmium colors and the Cobalt colors, including Cerulean Blue. Lead White (also known as Flake White) has been banned in most countries because of its toxicity, now selling the safer Flake White Replacement color. Most major art supply catalogs and websites will indicate the labels for each paint color. For more information, see the ACMI website.

4) Avoid turpentine and most thinners and mediums. In my research, it appears that Walnut Oil is safe and a quality choice. There is also M Graham Walnut Alkyd Medium which is non-toxic, if you’d like a fast drying medium (oils such as walnut oil are not fast drying). I have a bottle of water soluble Stand Oil at home that has the AP label. There may be other limited choices, but use caution.

5) Use simple soap and water for cleaning your brushes and hands. My art professors in college suggested we use regular dish soap for washing brushes. This is easy on the budget, as well as health. I used to swirl the brushes into the palm of my hand with soap to clean them. Now I will use a clean surface, such as my palette, to swirl, to limit the skin exposure.

6) Make sure to close all paint and medium containers as soon as you are done with them and clean up thoroughly.

With these precautions, you should be able to oil paint safely and enjoyably. If you know of any more safety tips with regards to oil painting, please let me know!

Why Run?

So, as I was thinking about my recent fun and successful 10K race and my desire to run more races and even work my way up to a half marathon, I was thinking more about WHY I am running. Of course, there’s the obvious health factor. Not only the cardiovascular benefits, but keeping weight down, boosting the immune system, and (hopefully) minimizing my chances of a recurrence or another kind of cancer (after my thyroid cancer and radiation, I’m at higher risk). However, continuing with the cancer theme, as one goes through the diagnosis and treatment phases for a serious condition like cancer, one feels dehumanized. I became a piece of meat, a pin cushion, a set of lab numbers, an appointment slot, another seat in the oncology waiting room…This isn’t to say that I didn’t like the care from my doctors and nurses overall. In this situation, it’s something that can’t really be helped, when you’re in a sterile environment (both literally and figuratively as you’re sitting in a clean, white medical room without personality), focusing on your bodily functions and measurements, and not on your soul, mind, or personality. While running does focus on your body, it also focuses on your other aspects of humanity as well – your mind, your determination, your drive, your goals, your enjoyment of your surroundings, your musical taste as you listen to your choice in music, etc. It is a way to control your body after a time of losing control and also rejoining your body with your mind and soul.

Also, having racing events to work towards can get you through the tough times. In the near future, I will be getting more medical tests done and seeing doctors to try to decipher if my cancer has been successfully and completely treated. I will admit I am nervous about this and not looking forward to it (although I do blissfully dream of hearing the words “You are cancer-free!”) However, I’m thinking of signing up for an 8K race that’s 2 days after a big medical appointment. Is this a good thing? Well, I figure, if I receive bad news during the prior medical appointment, this will be a way for me to cope and not dwell on the bad news. If the appointment goes well, it will be a joyous way for me to celebrate! I even may sign up for a Half Marathon in the Fall, not knowing for sure if I will need any more medical treatment (RAI or surgery) during that time period. Worst case scenario – I’m out 70 bucks if I can’t run the race. Best case – I stay in top physical shape, with this goal keeping my mind busy through the tough times, and I reach the goal of completing a Half Marathon.

Running is also good at forcing one to seize the day and make the most of each moment, which is something that many cancer patients learn. When life is short (and it is for everyone, not just cancer patients), make the most of what time we’ve got. Running involves counting minutes (even seconds), timing oneself, and celebrating the big finish – what a great way to live in the moment!!

3 Foods You Should Be Eating, But Probably Aren’t (Part I)

In a couple more weeks, we will be starting our 2012 New Year’s Resolutions. In my online research on becoming healthier and overcoming cancer, I’ve learned about many different foods to try to incorporate into one’s diet to improve health. This post (and the next one), I’m dedicating to some foods I’ve learned about that you may want to try incorporating into your diet. Although I should specify that I’m not a nutritionist, there is a lot of positive information out there regarding these foods, which you should explore further if interested.

1) Kefir – a cultured, yogurt-style drink

Kefir is a smooth, slightly sour drink that tastes like yogurt. The name originates from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling”. Hopefully this drink will have you feeling good. This beverage is easily digestible and contains many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, B2, B12, D and K, and calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. It also contains probiotics, and is responsible for improving immune function and digestion issues. It can possibly improve IBS, as well as other issues, such as high cholesterol, allergies, metabolic disease, and possibly even cancer. Kefir is now commonly sold in grocery stores and is often paired with other flavorings, such as blueberry or pomegranate. I have recently seen Kefir in both Bloom and Trader Joe’s, and both versions are delicious. Kefir can be sipped from the bottle, used with cereal, or as a substitute for yogurt or sour cream in recipes. I have read you can even freeze it and turn it into ice cream.

2) Raw Honey – the real stuff

No, we’re not talking about the stuff in the plastic honeybear containers at your local Food Lion. Make sure it says “Raw” and that it’s real honey. Much of what we see in our typical grocery store is NOT the good stuff. Fortunately, Trader Joe’s sells raw honey, that has been shown to be real in this study. Real raw honey has good bacteria and contains a wealth of nutrients, including B vitamins. Honey may promote better blood sugar control and improved insulin sensitivity, and is certainly a healthier sweet alternative to white sugar, especially for diabetics and those with metabolic syndrome. Honey also improves immune function, which results in better health overall. There seem to be certain unusual compounds in real raw honey that are not found anywhere else, but may be partly responsible for the medicinal purposes of honey. For children, try buckwheat honey instead of cough syrup to improve cough symptoms. In your daily diet, try a tablespoon with your tea or coffee, as a sugar substitute in baking, or on bread in place of jelly.

3) Beets

Now, everyone know what beets are, but do you know how good they are for you?
Beets contain a great deal of fiber, which is good for weight loss and digestion. These colorful root vegetables contain powerful nutrient compounds, such as carotenoids and phytonutrients called betalains that help protect against heart disease and maybe even cancer. Some of these contain strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification functions. Certain studies even indicate that beets may have anti-tumor properties. Try marinated beets or a warm soothing borscht during your next meal.

Spread Thyroid Awareness All Year Round

Thyroid Cancer Survivor and Awareness Shirts

On a previous post I talked about my thyroid cancer survivor and awareness shirts I designed in honor of Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Well, September is long gone, but we should spread the awareness all year round.

I’ve made a couple more designs since then, one that goes well on light and white t-shirts and another design which is less feminine, for male thyroid cancer survivors or loved ones. Check them out here. As before, 10% of net proceeds go to ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors Association. It might even make a good holiday gift for that survivor in your life, to show you appreciate the struggles and obstacles they have overcome. If you know a survivor, pass it on and help spread the awareness!

Goji Berry Christmas Gifts

I’ve gotten an early start (for me) with my Christmas gift-making this year. Although I do my share of online shopping, I like to make a certain percentage of my Christmas gifts each year, both for economic reasons as well as creative reasons. Plus, many people appreciate a gift that the giver took the time to actually make. One of my gift ideas for this year, which I am not actually “making”, but am putting some creative effort into, is Goji Berry Plants.

If you have any friends or family members who like to garden and enjoy healthy eating, a starter Goji Berry Plant may be the perfect idea. It is unusual (I don’t know anyone personally with a Goji Berry Plant in their garden), but they are apparently quite hardy to grow in most gardening zones (zones 4-9) and may even be adaptable to other zones. I ordered some plants from Garden Harvest Supply, and soon after received several plants that resembled twigs with roots in the mail. I’ve planted these five “twigs” in some potting soil in terra cotta pots and kept them indoors, so far for 10 days. Goji Berry Plants like a lot of sun. My living room doesn’t provide full sun, but there is  plentiful ambient sunlight from all of the tall windows. I water them each day, because they like to be kept moist, especially as they’re establishing. They are sprouting like crazy, each at slightly different rates. Since it is only November 1, I hope that by Christmas gift-giving time, they will look like attractive little plants. I will add an instructional tag with each plant and tie each pot with a ribbon. My friends can then decide to either transplant them into larger 5 gallon pots or plant them outdoors in the ground. Read more instructions on growing Goji Berries here.

Goji Berries have a lot of health benefits, including large amounts of antioxidants. They have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years, eaten raw, in teas or juice. Apparently both the berries and the leaves can be used. Not a bad plant to have around when one is fighting cancer!

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