Sunday, February 13, 2011


Why did my mom and Andrea Wilson send me this blog from Gwyneth Paltrow on the same day (my sister Caitlin it turns out had sent it to me the week before)? Are they trying to tell me something? If you are juggling a lot right on.

Organic skincare...from South Africa

This is a great organic skincare line that I have been using for the past 6 months - started by my friend Gretchen Peters' sister, Jenny who is in South Africa. It's a new line and uses only natural ingredients. Skin is an organ so you may want to switch to organic from whatever you are using. I love Savane. It reminds me of my days in Cape Town and Joburg and is filled with oxidant killers such as Rooibos and baobab nectar. Yummy.

The before...during

And after

When I was in college, my roommate Chloe Breyer and I started a magazine called "There and Back" for those who, like us, had taken the year off and travelled abroad and then come back to study at Harvard. "There and Back" should be the title of this photo montage. I thought it might be useful to remind you (in case you are going through chemo) and me (lest we forget, which we all do - it's like childbirth) of the "before" and "after". This is my year in pictures.

These Shots are OK

Alright, here's to all those who know they need to be drinking a shot of wheat grass in the morning to get maximum chloraphyl and alkalinity (remember disease breeds in an acidic environment) and to those who don't want to "juice." (Some people just aren't juicers.) They don't want to buy the multi hundred dollar Vita Mix or Optima or whatever. They don't want to clean the industrial metal parts, but they know that they need the "juice." We (because I am with you - don't want to start growing wheat grass or any other grass in our kitchens, but we want this green shot at the fountain of youth. So here's how you are going to do it. If you live near Glover Park in DC, you are going to go into the Whole Foods and walk up to the Wonji man whose Juice bar is wedged between the pizza man and the sushi chef (so wedged that during this entire last year I didn't know it was there!) and you are going to order a "Green River" or a "Green Goddess" depending on whether you like pineapple. You are then going to order a double wheat grass shot. Drink that first because it tastes, well, like grass - and you are not a cow. Then you are going to do a chaser of the Green juice of your choice: kale, cucumber, fennel, etc. with a green apple to make it sweet and make your gut not wrench. You are going to do this every morning instead of going to Starbuck's and you are going to then realize that you need one of those 10 value pack cards from the Wonji man (thanks, Sarah Williams!). Otherwise, you will go broke.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Give Up

I told you about our friend photographer Joao Silva from the New York Times, an old friend from South Africa, who lost both his legs to a land mine in Afghanistan in October. Joao took his first steps at Walter Reed this week. Take a look. And if chemo is knocking you out right now and you don't know how you are going to get through these next months. Watch this video of Joao and please go put on your running shoes. You will feel so much better. I promise. Don't give up.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Food Tips for Busy Moms

OK so maybe we aren't going to be completely vegan or raw (no cooked food) but we can clean up our acts and when we strip our diets of toxins suddenly our skin glows, and our energy is ramped up whether we are trying to get through chemo or trying to get through carpool.

I just got off the phone with Jocelyn who sat next to Mort Zuckerman at a dinner party last weekend and he was singing a vegan tune. It seems that every billionaire has caught on to the benefits of veganism and clean diets. I don't necessarily think you have to be completely vegan - I eat some lean meat and fish (very lean). But I do think if I had to do one thing I would in general eliminate dairy from the diet (I justify a sprinkle of cheese on salad for garnish and zero percent fat Greek yogurt for probiotics). Dairy just slows you down.

Here are some tips I sent to a busy friend, mom of three young kids. These are just a few tips I have been following for the last year and really recommend:

Here are foods that I am finding very helpful as go to items - big bang for buck.

There are a bunch of new ways to do kale - I like just popping in the oven sprinkling with olive oil and sea salt - that is a great appetizer. (Elizabeth's Gone Raw has the most amazing kale chips, dehydrated and seasoned with cashew nut powder and parika - tastes like Parmesan - divine!)

I have been doing a lot of roasted beets with sprinkled organic goat cheese and walnuts - a bit of olive oil and rice wine vinegar.

Eliminate processed salad dressings - when you actually look at the ingredients there is so much hidden saturated fat you may as well be eating a quarter pounder. I like olive oil and Marrakan Seasoned Rice Wine vinegar with a red top - so flavorful and so light.

I eat a lot of red lentils boiled and with indian spices - lots of garlic, ginger, turmeric and whole red peppers - reminds me of Pakistan. Add some cilantro.

It is great because it is a great protein - but it gives you gas!
A small price to pay - it's so delicious.

Shitaake mushrooms are great source of vitamin D3.

I sprinkle a bit of raw cacao powder on my Irish steel cut oatmeal with dates and walnuts and chia seeds when I need a little chocolatey flavor - cacao (raw - not cocoa) is full of anti-oxidants.

Switch out all white rice and make quinoa instead - put olive oil and salt on it for the kids - they eat it like rice.

Kiwis are really good for you.

0 percent fat plain Greek yogurt - good

Be careful with nuts - very good for you but fattening, I have learned - about a handful a day is all we are supposed to have but the anti-inflammatory quality of walnuts and almonds are great. (Make sure you buy raw almonds that haven't been bleached - ask your health food store - not all almonds are created equally!)

You may try going gluten free for a bit - I do find when I do it, I have so much more energy.

If you have to have a bread make sure it is sprouted or buy frozen Ezekial bread in the frozen section of Whole Foods.

I have been buying lots of types of wild mushrooms cooking them in a little olive oil with onions and garlic and then put in the low fat organic chicken broth from Whole Foods and simmer for a bit then blend in small batches in blender to make a really healthy soup. A lot of mushrooms have anti-cancer qualities.

Cantaloupe is anti-inflammatory.

pork tenderloin I believe is quite a lean meat and very easy to cook - I put whole onions and root vegetables and dates in the pan with it when we roast it - delicious.

Sushi is great for snacks- and they say the way they do the rice adding sweetened vinegar brings the glycemic index down - which is good - so its rice is not as bad as others as a starch.

I eat tons of avocado - but again like nuts they are fattening but have so many good nutrients that I try to balance them out.

Plain popcorn in an air popper is a great snack - I put a little olive oil and sea salt - get rid of iodized salt for sea salt.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tips for bouncing back from surgery

1) Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. 48 hours beforehand crank up your fluid intake.
2) Exercise...I did 2 hours of Pilates - one hour on the reformer followed by an hour of mat the day before my surgery. (A year after my mastectomy, I still feel tight across my pecs and need to stretch thoroughly everyday - even though I often don't and regret it.)
3) Don't forget when you head to the hospital to put on a pink bracelet to alert nurses not to take blood pressure or blood or place an i.v. in the side where you had lymph nodes removed - if you forget and if they forget you could end up with a nasty case of lymphedema.
4) Take off your rings (including your wedding ring). Your fingers will swell and they will cut them off during surgery if you forget and leave them on.
5) Don't wear make-up. lotions or contacts.
6) Wear a loose button down shirt - you won't want to lift your arms above your head after surgery. And wear some stretchy exercise pants - nothing tight and nothing with zippers and buttons - you won't want to fool with them.
7) Bring a jog bra that zips up the front. It's good for compression after surgery and for safety pinning your drains to - as you leave the hospital.
8) Reconstruction is an in and out surgery - like the drive-thru at McDonald's - treat it like you are preparing for a play-off game and as soon as you come to from the anesthesia just begin focusing on hydrating - your mouth will feel like cotton (I like cranberry juice and am a fan of gingerale after surgery - as well as crushed ice - have some on hand at home.)
9) You will feel nauseous when you wake up so as soon as you can, start sipping on a liquid and have some graham crackers. You want to have something in your stomach before they give you your first pain killer. And immediately begin deep breathing exercises - will help with nausea.
10) Avoid Percocet if you can - I preferred Vicodan. Percocet makes you woozy and mighty constipated.
11) Another reason to hydrate - the constipation 3 days after surgery will make you feel more sick than the pain from the surgery - wean yourself off the pain meds as soon as possible - it's sore but not painful - it's not like the mastectomy.
12) Make sure you have Dulcolax at home and start taking 2 at a time as soon as you leave surgery - be preemptive about constipation. It's miserable. Also try your Chia seeds - one scoop a day.
13) If you have had radiation insist on 10 days of antibiotics after surgery because the rate of infection in radiated skin is huge. I talked to a friend last night who had her surgery in August and she was hospitalized in October for a week for an infection because she didn't take her antibiotics after surgery. I am on cipro and doxycycline. Ask for them by name and have a little Zofran on hand for nausea until you get back on your feet.
14) Get a hospital wedge pillow to sleep on at home - you won't feel like lying back too far - you can get them at any hospital supply store.
15) Don't lie around. The sooner you can begin walking, the sooner you will get the anesthesia out of your system and it is the best way to counter pain and nausea. You can begin walking almost right away. Take a daily 30 minute to 45 minute walk.
16) Shower as soon as you can. I waited a few days because of the drains and realize that was a mistake.
17) Wear button up pajamas that you can pin your drains to. I favor the silky white kind that look like you are on the set of Breakfast at Tiffany's. You want to feel pretty.
18) Have group e-mail list set-up before surgery so that your husband (or 9 year-old) can e-blast your friends who will want to know how you are. Place a phone by the bed but place the ringer off so that calls don't wake you but so you can communicate and don't have to get up to find a phone when you wake up from naps.
19) Ginger - ginger is a great natural anti-nausea trick. Eat something with ginger - I found Thai tofu and broccoli with coconut milk and ginger was just perfect. Yum! Remember to eat lots of small meals to keep the meds from making you nauseous.
20) Smile - you'll feel better in a week. This will not last. I promise.

Friday, February 4, 2011


In case you thought that chemo induced menopause is for real - think again. Maybe it's my new voluptuous self, but 11 months to the day after chemo ended something bizarre has happened to my body (and, no, I am not pregnant, but let's just say now I could be if I weren't careful.) You hear about babies born after chemo. Let's just say this was one side effect that I did not share with the world. Sure I had hot flashes during chemo. Everyone knows about chemo induced menopause. But mine seemed to be for real and that made me sad. I could accept the gray hair. I could accept my battle scars, but that was a bridge too far and not something I wanted to talk about. That meant I really was old. And the idea of not having any more children (though of course, I'm done. Really, Greg) but the idea that mother nature was telling you 'time's up.' That was just too sad for me. It hit me particularly hard when friends recently returned to me the bassinets that Luke had used and that I had lent to them. I left them in the front hall until a babysitter arrived one Saturday morning and asked if a baby was on its way. I had them removed from my sight immediately. It all put me back two years before when Luke was born. It seemed SO long ago. I suddenly realized I was really done, even though some friends with whom I was pregnant are now having another. Well, word to the wise, even if you think you are in menopause after chemo and you are of a childbearing age and don't want to get pregnant, you may want to consider birth control. Let's just say, I laughed at the nurse who gave me a pregnancy test as I went into surgery on Tuesday, having me urinate in a cup. How ridiculous, I thought. Impossible. Think again.

Another Tale of Survival

Groundhog Day

So my surgery was February 1 - technically a day before Groundhog Day, but that is not how it felt. As we woke at 4:30 am to head for Georgetown Hospital everything about it felt the same as the previous April when I prepared for the double mastectomy. Everything. It WAS Groundhog Day. The doctors were the same. The black Sharpie markers outlining the incisions were the same. The check-in procedure was the same (though the overly zealous nurse at the registration desk told me I didn't have a living will and made me walk through those uplifting 'end of life' choices and then beg two witnesses in a very depressing waiting room to sign the legal waivers even though I had filled one of those out the year before as well.) I hadn't wore lipstick (or gloss) as I did to my mastectomy. (Sorry, Geralyn.) Because they said no make-up and this time I complied. I took off my wedding ring and put them in a plastic ziploc that looked like it was for biohazard waste but whatever - it did the trick. The nurse was worried that my heart rate was low (pulse of 35) and while I may pretend to be a world class athlete, it would take a lot of Pilates to get that low. My blood pressure was also that of a reptile and my designated driver (Greg) looked a little pale and woozy in his corner seat. He was in the same seat as when we arrived for pre-op in April. This time though he seems to have caught Luke's stomach virus from the weekend and kept excusing himself to throw-up in the bathroom. I sent him home and called my mom. She didn't get there before the surgery.

My famously confident surgeon Dr. Spear came in wearing a dapper suit and European tie and began marking me up for surgery. Catherine, the pretty blond resident, I am told is going to be my advocate once I am out cold to make sure that he doesn't give me the 'Heidi Montag.' It seems she may have stepped out for a minute because the next day Dr. Spear called me at home to see how I liked his handiwork. I told him that I had been too scared to look and hadn't opened the compression bra. He said, "I'll stay on the line while you look." So I unzipped my sports bra and low and behold, I looked like Barbie. I knew Catherine wouldn't be able to stand up to him, but maybe I am secretly glad. Dr. Spear was very proud and I must say he is a magician. Even the scars are discreet.

And the only reason I share all of this (afterall, what haven't I shared with you) is that I think it is really important to understand the strides that have been made in making women feel whole again - even bionic - after breast cancer tries to steal our femininity. The procedures have improved so much in the last few years. And despite the maligning of silicone implants, there is a reason everyone in Hollywood trades up. They give you your confidence back and that, dear reader, is no small thing for a breast cancer patient. You have to do whatever you can to feel pretty again. So if you feel like getting the 'Heidi Montag,' I say go for it. Fight back. Think twice before getting the tram flap surgery or any of the "take fat from one area and make a boob out of it". It sounds like a two-fer, lipo plus breast augmentation but from what I hear it is just an unnecessarily hard surgery on your body. And the mastectomy is hard enough.

The reason for this surgery is that at the time of the mastectomy they put in expanders (or placeholders) to keep the skin stretched while I did radiation. They have to let the radiated skin settle down (it tightens and contracts). So six months later they normally advise you to get your exchange surgery to give everything a chance to heal. At that time you can decide between saline and silicone implants. There is a bit of renewed controversy over silicone (will post the latest article) but the statistics seem low and I am afraid everything in this life carries with it a degree of risk.

So Greg left before I went into surgery - it was not sympathetic labor. It was the flu. I recognized the symptoms because the night before when I came home from work there was a stench in the hallway outside Luke's room where he had thrown up. There were the tell-tale paper towels and box of wipies in the hall. And the girls, with an eye toward irony, had left a pink Susan G. Komen candle burning in the hallway to get rid of the smell.

As I came to from the anesthesia all I remember was the nurse asking me how my husband was doing. "How did I know?" And might I add, at that point, "Do I really care?" My mom sat with me as the nurse explained to me once again about the drains - how to measure them in the little cc cups. Groundhog Day.

We got home and the anesthesia and adrenalin gave me a lift. I felt that unnatural high after you give birth. I brought Greg some tea in bed. I came crashing down the next day and slept and slept. The pain killers made me nauseous. I don't recommend using Percocet. They make you woozy and the pain is not so serious that you need them. Vicodan was plenty. But I've already weaned myself off that because it was making me loopy.

I knew surgery was going to go well because when I looked at my horoscope when I got home it said: February 1: "You benefit from the belief that good luck is coming to you. So continue to look for signs, such as a cricket on the hearth, a penny on the ground or a ladybug that lands on your shoulder." OK so that was for Aries, not Taurus, but my birthday is on the cusp and I've always reserved the option of being able to choose from whichever I thought was most apt.

The days at home have been boring. My dreams of getting the house organized or watching lots of movies never materialized. Instead I did what I would normally do at work. I flipped between 3 cable stations and the networks to see who had anything new from Egypt. I e-mailed friends who were on the air with questions to ask at the White House press briefing. I couldn't let go. And then we got news that our friends and colleagues Greg Palkot and Olaf Wiig were nearly lynched by a mob in Egypt. Ibrahim had escaped. Elizabeth Arrott's children (VOA) had had to fend off rioters keeping them out of their first floor home in Cairo until their father was able to ferry them back to Moscow to safety. The news has gotten too sad. Too repetitive so here I sit watching Shrek with Luke. Greg is upstairs with the Geek Squad. Annalise spent most of yesterday trying to set up a FaceBook page for him. Tonight I got a message "Jennifer Griffin is now friends with Greg Myre." Well, maybe on the internet. For now we are all going a bit stir crazy and cabin fever is setting in.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Elizabeth's Gone Raw in DC

Before my surgery, Mary Beth pulled me aside in Dr. Spear's office (my plastic surgeon) and told me about another patient who had tackled her cancer by going raw and had started a restaurant in a townhouse in DC on L Street. If you've read Kris Carr's book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips/Diet, then you will be familiar with Brian Clement and the Hippocrates Institute. Elizabeth is hosting a dinner for Brian and his wife this Saturday night. Call the restaurant below and make a reservation. It will change the way you view every bite you eat.