Monday, October 29, 2012

Goodbye, Cancer!

"Good morning, you are Cancer Free!"  
Wednesday was my birthday and I received the best birthday present ever when my doctor called me with my newest biopsy results first thing in the morning. I had to ask him to repeat what he said since the phone woke me up and I was still half asleep. Best news ever after my long, painful, terrifying and expensive cervical cancer scare. How did I get there? 
When I lived in Czech Republic I used to get my pap smear and routine gynecological exam yearly since I had free health care. When I moved to USA I lost my free health care and my job has never been able to provide me with health care. I have to pay for any doctor's visit, surgeries, or medication out of pocket. Since I was pretty healthy I figured that I did not need to go get my pap smear every year. I skipped a few years to save money which turned out to be a big mistake and at the end it did not save me money, but rather cost me (and still will cost me) thousands of dollars. Two years ago I had an abnormal pap smear after not having any pap smear for four years. My doctor wanted me to do a colposcopy to check for precancerous cervical cells (which can turn into an invasive cervical cancer if left untreated). When I got my $300 bill for the lab work (on top of my  pap smear) I decided to wait for the colposcopy since the lab bill was a nasty surprise. Few month later my father died of brain cancer and I was totally consumed with grief so I forgot about my abnormal pap smear. The next year life got in a way again, I had to have an emergency oral surgery and later that year my dog Shelly needed two surgeries so all my money went to pay for that. Once again I did not do the colposcopy. It was not only a question about money, but also the fact that I am extremely scared of any needles, and medical procedures. In the beginning of this year I started having some problems, mostly annoying pain in my pelvic area and bleeding. I went to the gynecologist and he got upset with me that I did not come see him earlier. We did another pap smear and the results were very abnormal so I was told that I needed the previously mentioned colposcopy and biopsy of my cervix. And I needed it immediately. I waited a few month to get the courage to do this and also to save up enough money for the procedure. We did three biopsies and colposcopy which was very painful and uncomfortable. Physical pain came with a mental pain when my friend died the day after my biopsies. I was so depressed and upset I did not even care about my biopsy results. Those came a week later. My doctor called me to tell me that they found something bad during my biopsies: high-grade, possibly cancerous cervical dysplasia. He recommended a full hysterectomy but due to my young age, the fact that I don't have any kids, and that I don't have the money for hysterectomy, we agreed on a less invasive cervical surgery to remove these precancerous, possibly cancerous cervical lesions along with a part of my cervix. Since I waited so long to get my biopsy I could not do the simple method of cryosurgery-freezing abnormal cells or laser therapy-burning away abnormal tissue. Lucky me............I was mortified and crushed. I wanted to crawl into bed and cry. I cried every day. I was angry at myself that I let life get in the way and put it off for so long. I was angry that I did not have health insurance. I was scared. I felt sorry for myself. I was mad at myself. I was mad at the world. I was worried that this thing was in my lymph nodes and other organs which would mean more surgeries, possibly including a full hysterectomy. And then what? Radiation? Chemotherapy? How would I pay for it? How could I afford not to work for a while? Would I ever have children? Would I ever see my family in Czech Republic? How would I go through this with my anxiety, and needle and medication phobia? Why is this happening to me? I eat very heathy vegan diet, I don't smoke, I hardly ever drink, I don't take drugs, I exercise, I try to do my best to take care of myself and now cancer?  I lost all my motivation and good spirit. Thankfully I was surrounded by amazing people who love me and supported me through all this. My family, companion animals, friends, work clients, my blog readers, Twitter followers and pen pals offered me love, kind and encouraging words and support. I could not do this without them. I could not do this without my loving husband who has been there for me 24/7. 
I am very grateful to have such a beautiful support net around me. I am also thankful for all the care packages, visits and vegan goodies that I received during my tough times. I had friends from all over the world supporting me and giving me virtual hugs and sending me goodies (some even from Australia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Canada, etc). 

Last Friday I had my super expensive surgery. It was recommended that I do this under a general anesthesia but due to fear of being put under and the high cost of this anesthesia I chose to do it under a local anesthesia instead. I am not going to get into details about my surgery but it was a very traumatic and painful experience with some complications. I wish I did that under a total anesthesia instead. I was home for a week recovering and yesterday I was able to go back to work. However, I cannot lift anything too heavy, bend or exercise for a few weeks to prevent the risks of bleeding and other complications. I miss my daily running so much but my healing and recovery is important so I am willing to wait until I am 100% better. I was in a lot of pain for days, but now I am feeling much better. 
Ladies, don't make the same mistake, get your pap smear yearly (or every two years if your doctor recommends it). Don't let your life get in the way of your health!

Luckily my doctor was able to remove all the bad stuff so at this point I am cancer free and I do not need any further treatment. 
I have a 95%-97% chance to stay cervical cancer free. 
However, I have to do a pap smear every three month now for at least a year and then every half a year to monitor my cervix. Doesn't it sound like fun? Very expensive fun considering that each pap smear will come with a hefty lab work fee. 

I had a lot of time to think about cancer and various treatments since my father died and I was determined not to do chemotherapy or radiation if they left some cancer behind or if I had an invasive cancer. This was something I thought about a lot. I respect everyones decision to treat their cancer in ways they think is the best, but for me chemotherapy or radiation was not an option. I have seen the long term side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. 
I work with animals and many animals who undergo such dramatic treatments do not make it through, or if they live they only get a few month but their quality of life is not good. I have only seen a small handful of animals who were cured by radiation or chemotherapy (but they also did some holistic treatment in addition to it), but most were also pretty young. I lost my father to cancer, I lost my grandma in law to cancer, I lost my uncle to cancer, I lost my dog to cancer and I knew many people and animals personally who died because of cancer despite the treatment they received at a hospital. Yes, there are thousands of lucky people and animals alive nowadays who live because of the traditional treatments but I bet you they also changed their diet or received an additional holistic treatments or supplements, including doing yoga, meditation, acupuncture, etc. I am happy that it worked for them. 

Here is a documentary that shows pretty much what I think about the whole cancer thing, from the traditional and approved treatment options in USA, pharmaceutical industry, to holistic approach. While I don't agree with everything that this documentary shows, I think it is a very valuable documentary that I would recommend to everyone. Yes, there is a place for pharmaceutical drugs and surgery so I am not saying that holistic approach is the only way, but we all deserve to know all our options before doing a radical chemo or radiation treatment. We deserve to have a choice and to know all aspects of all possible treatments. Don't judge someone for not wanting to do chemo or radiation, it is a very personal choice. 
Do you have an experience with holistic cancer treatment or any natural cancer treatment? 


(Video source YouTube )

Here are some of my favorite blogs and websites with cancer tips that promote plant-based lifestyle. 

My friend Lindsay S. Nixon who is the author of Happy Herbivore cookbooks and a HH website had a similar experience like me many years ago. That experience sent her down the road to vegan diet. 

Carrie's thyroid cancer battle at Carrie on Vegan Blog 

Lindsay's cervical cancer journey at Standing with Cancer Blog 

A few interesting cancer tips on Raw Vegan Forever Blog 

Chris, a chemo-free cancer survivor at Chris Beat Cancer website 

Cortney, a cancer survivor at Green Drink Diaries website 

PCRM promotes preventative medicine through innovative programs

A non-profit organization in San Diego, CA, dedicated to providing education and training in the Gerson Therapy, an alternative, non-toxic treatment for cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases. 

Physician and nutrition expert who teaches better health through vegetarian/vegan cuisine. 

Website with amazing cancer tips and helpful resources. Kris is an author of several amazing books, including "Crazy Sexy Diet", "Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips"and "Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor" 

Ladies, please, promise me that you will do your yearly Pap Smear! 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Just Tomatoes etc! Fruit snack and powder review

Two years ago I discovered Just Tomatoes etc! company.  I did a review for them and I have been a fan ever since. 
Just Tomatoes etc! freeze-dried fruit and veggie snacks are flash frozen, then specially vacuumed to extract the water to keep their color, nutrients and intense flavor. Since their freeze-dried fruits are never processed above 90 degrees, they are considered raw. Raw food enthusiasts love them! They also make dehydrated products that are dehydrated at 125 degrees. Absolutely nothing is added! Just Tomatoes etc! snacks are all natural, nut free, GMO free, gluten free, vegan and kosher. 
They sent me a few baggies to review again which made me very happy since I am a big fan of their fruit snacks. Here are some things that I love about them. They are fun to eat! They are sweet, crunchy and delicious! 
They are healthy, convenient, vegan and raw snacks that are light and easy to carry on hikes or long trips, and they make a nice snack addition to a work lunch. They are an amazing topping for any cereal, rice pudding, yogurt or oatmeal. They are also great as dog treats for dogs who are vegan or have allergies to certain meat proteins, grains, or traditional dog treats. Just stay away from the grapes since dogs should not eat grapes. 
Just Tomatoes etc! snacks are pretty low calories so people and doggies can happily indulge on these without getting fat :-) I love that a 3oz pouch equals about 1 pound of fresh fruit so I get tons of antioxidants and nutrients in a smaller portion. They make a nice addition to pancakes, muffins, or ice cream dishes. The powder takes any boring oatmeal to a new level of awesomeness. I add about a tablespoon of fruit powder into my morning oatmeal and it blends very quickly and nicely. The strawberry powder smells just like ripe strawberries and it tastes like strawberries, nothing fake or weird about it. The fruit powder and fruit pieces soften when you submerge them in almond milk or other liquids. 
I like the small 50 calorie pouches since they give me more control over my daily calories, but I can easily eat two or three of those pouches in one day........

The Strawberry powder can be swapped for Raspberry powder in my Pudding recipe here

Healthy Rainbow treats! 

More treats and Strawberry powder 

Just Strawberries 'N Bananas 
Beautiful, crunchy slices of bananas and strawberries. Simple but delightful! 

Just Fruit Salad 
A delicious fruit picnic in a bag! Pears, apples, peaches, bananas, strawberries and red grapes make up a great fruit salad blend that is sweet, crunchy and tasty. 

Just Fruit Munchies 
 Sweet and tart fruit extravaganza that is made of apples, grapes, blueberries, sour cherries, mango, pineapple and raspberries. I love sharing the big apple pieces with my dog Shelly (picture bellow). This is a lovely colorful mix of tropical and local fruits that taste as good as they look.   

Strawberry Powder is crushed, freeze dried fruit which has endless possibilities for application. Everything from smoothies, cakes, oatmeal to raw desserts. I love adding it to my oatmeal or rolling banana pieces in it for a healthy raw dessert. I also make a really nice instant strawberry jam by mixing strawberry powder and a splash of water and letting it sit for a minute. 

Visit Just Tomatoes etc! website
Like Just Tomatoes etc! on Facebook
Follow Just Tomatoes etc! on Twitter  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sweaty Bands Headband Giveaway

I run almost everyday and I was getting tired of headbands that were falling off my head after a mile or two. I had to constantly adjust them or just them off. Plus the cheap, cotton headbands don't look exactly pretty or fashionable. I was looking for somethings that would look pretty but also serve its purpose and I found Sweaty Bands. The company sent me one headband to review, and one to give away to one lucky reader. I got a Viva Diva Pink Sweaty Band that sparkles :-) 
I have been running and exercising while wearing my fabulous, sparkling hot pink Sweaty Band for over two weeks now. I have been wearing it during the day sometimes, too. Not only is this headband beautiful and girly, but it stays on my head all day. The "glitter" does not come off unlike some other sparkling accessories that I have. This is great news since the last thing I want is to get some glitter in my eye while running outside in the middle of the night, or while running on the treadmill. I was worried that it would be too loose or too tight but it fits perfectly. There is no tugging on my hair, no slipping off my head, no need to readjust it while running or working out. I even wore it while dancing and doing jumping jacks and the Sweaty Band stayed on as if it was glued to my head. My hair stays in place even on a windy day thanks to my Sweaty Bands headband. I love my Sweaty Band so much I will be ordering the same in silver and turquoise. Sweaty Bands company offers more than thousand colors, patterns and print combinations. They grip and hold your hair during the most strenuous of workouts, all without slipping, pulling or tugging. 
You can even custom design your headband, too. And I like the fact that these headbands are designed and sewn in the USA. 

Sweaty Bands is the #1 Fitness Headband in the world! 

                                    It's a giveaway time! 
One lucky reader will win this beautiful, functional, baby blue/white polka dot Sweaty Bands headband (picture bellow). 

To enter this giveaway, leave a comment telling me what is your favorite fitness routine, exercise or your favorite way to stay in shape. I will pick 1 random comment on October 30th 2012 (Tuesday). I am giving you options for extra entries. 
Extra entries: 

#Become a member (follower) of this blog and leave a comment that you did (if you already follow my blog, leave a comment that you are a follower)

#Follow me on Twitter and leave a comment here

#Like Czech Vegan on Facebook and leave a comment here

#Visit Sweaty Bands's website and leave a comment which headband from their website do you like the most 

#Follow Sweaty Bands on Twitter  and comment here 

#Like Sweaty Bands on Facebook and comment here

#Tweet about this giveaway and leave a comment for each tweet (include @CzechVegan and @SweatyBands in the tweets)  

#Mention this giveaway with a link on your blog and leave a comment here with a link to that post

#Bonus entry! For extra 5 entries, make any recipe from this blog and blog about it on your blog or tweet about it (with a picture of the recipe). Leave 5 separate comments for this extra bonus entry. 

Good luck! 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Almond Monday

I love almonds so much I like to eat them, drink them, smell them and use them on my body. I enjoy everything from 
raw almonds, raw almond butter (currently I am addicted to Trader Joe's Raw Almond Butter), almond milk (I buy unsweetened options but chocolate almond milk is heavenly......) , roasted almonds, chocolate covered almonds, almond feta cheese, almond cookies, almond tea, to almond lotion and shower gel. 

Almonds are healthy and they taste and smell divine! 
How about an Almond Monday?
 Start the day in a shower using a moisturizing Desert Essence Organics "Sweet Almond Body Wash" followed by a Desert Essence Organics "Sweet Almond Hand and Body Lotion" which will nourish and repair your skin, leaving it feel like silk, and make you happy with the phenomenal almond scent. 

Then brew a cup of  lovely Republic of Tea "Decaf Vanilla Almond Black Tea" and add a splash of almond milk. 

For lunch have my Sopsky salad topped with almond feta cheese, toast or apples smeared with raw almond butter, or a couscous salad with almond feta cheese

Later snack on some phenomenal raw almonds, or raw almond butter smeared on banana. 

And for dinner have a giant spinach and pear salad with raw almonds, baked tofu, dried cranberries and your favorite veggies. 

Have an Awesome Vegan Almond Monday! 

Mango Tango Bean Salad

Few weeks ago I saw a bean and mango salad recipe on Engine 2 Diet's Facebook page. They used a combination of mango, onion, cannellini beans, lime zest, lime juice and cilantro to make a refreshing and healthy salad. I decided to adapt the recipe a little by adding cucumbers, using black beans instead of cannellini beans and leaving out the lime zest. I also added cayenne pepper for an extra kick :-) 

Mango Tango Bean Salad 

1 mango, peeled and diced
1/2 small to medium red onion, diced
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium to large cucumber, peeled and diced
juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup or more chopped cilantro
cayenne pepper to taste, if desired
salt to taste, if desired

In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Season with cayenne pepper and salt to taste, if desired. Serve chilled or at room temperature. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nacheez Review

Most commercial non-vegan nacho cheese sauces are full of dairy and other yucky, unhealthy ingredients (including artificial colors and preservatives).  
But nacho cheese and nachos don't always have to be just junk food. Recently I discovered a unique vegan nacho cheese sauce that is good for the animals (100% vegan ingredients) and for your body, too. Nacheez  is a wonderful dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free nacho sauce that will make your taste buds dance. 
I love the fact that the whole jar has only 140 calories so I don't feel like a piglet after eating the entire jar at one sitting. 
Nacheez is loaded with vitamins (especially B12 and B6 vitamins) and good nutrients so you can really feel good about indulging yourself in a "cheesy" treat. 

Nacheez is made with raw cashews which give this sauce a creamy, thick consistency and beautiful, velvety texture.  Red bell peppers give this sauce reddish hue and amazing, fresh taste. Nacheez smells like freshly chopped red bell peppers and it tastes very fresh. The red pepper and lemony aroma and taste with a nice hint of cheese makes my mouth water. I loved both versions, the "Mild" and the "Spicy". They were very similar, the only difference was that the spicy version had hot jalapeño peppers and roasted green chillies which gave the sauce a bold character. I enjoyed Nacheeze cold on raw veggies, and warm on multigrain tortilla chips. I wanted to make sure that I got every single drop from the bottle and in the process I dripped some on my shirt...and I did not care and kept eating :-) 
Nacheez is irresistible and I highly recommend it to everyone! 

Healthy broccoli nachos :-) 

Fresh tomatoes dipped in Nacheez 

warm Nacheez and multigrain tortilla chips :-) Sooooooo good!!!! 

I know you want some nachos :-) 

Visit Nacheez Website 
Try fun Nacheez Recipes 
Like Nacheez on Facebook 
Follow Nacheez on Twitter 

Epic Autumn Vegan Chili

Epic Autumn Vegan Chili 

1 tsp olive oil or canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 15-oz canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz canned corn, rinsed and drained
1 28-oz canned diced tomatoes in juice 
1 cup water (more if chili becomes too thick) 
Not-Beef bouillon cube or your favorite vegetable bouillon 
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 Tbs tamari sauce
6 oz frozen Meatless Boca Ground Crumbles (or your favorite ground beef alternative) 
juice from 1/2 lime 
pinch chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Place oil on a piece of paper towel and wipe the bottom of a large pot with it. Heat greased pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and 1/4 cup water and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in chili powder and cook 1 minute. Add everything else, except for the meatless ground crumbles and lime juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if chili becomes too thick. Add meatless ground crumbles and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lime juice and season with salt to taste. Serve in bread bowls for a fun and filling dinner :-) Top with vegan sour cream and fresh cilantro if desired. Enjoy!