The list that gave me hope: redefining my health with terminal cancer

For those of you who know me well, you know I love lists. Whether it be a cleaning schedule, a grocery list, a to do list, I just find I’m more motivated when it’s written down. That’s what led me to make a different type of list, I’ll get to that in a bit. First I have to explain how I got there.

We’ve all been there, that moment when you look in the mirror and suddenly don’t like what you see. Some of us have “fat” days, where we just feel bloated and off for the day. Well, I had a “fat” year, and then two, and then three.

I was never super skinny, but I was healthy. Until I got sick with pheochromocytoma.

I gained approximately 75lbs.

Hello rapid hormonal weight gain 👋🏼

Then surgery, nothing like trauma to the body and inactivity to gain a few pounds.

Oh, now I have to start taking steroids to live? Great. Hello swollen moon face and abdominal bloat.

Not to mention, most of us eat for comfort. Stressed? Eat. Sad? Eat. Bad news? Eat. Good news? Go for a meal. Food becomes our go to comfort, but the issue is, we’re not able to do much to burn it off.

As my cancer progressed, I was lucky if I could walk to the bathroom. Needless to say my Fitbit wasn’t tracking many steps, some days were as low as 200-300.

It’s depressing being sick, but add on not feeling “healthy”, and it just gets to be too much.

There’s nothing worse than feeling like you have no control over your body, and the unfortunate truth is those of us with chronic/terminal illness… feel that way every.single.day.

Well, I was tired of feeling like that. I wanted to regain some of that power back, any way that I could.

This has been a long road, I could go on and on about the small steps I took to get me here… but we’d be here a while. So I’ll just give you the readers digest version.

I knew that nutrition was the main hurdle, when you’re unable to move much, you have to rely on what you’re putting into your body. The problem is, most of us don’t know where to start.

I wasn’t a person who was drinking soda every day, snacking on potato chips, and eating fast food for dinner. I was actually always very aware of what was going into my body. Or so I thought.

So I decided to start by eliminating inflammatory foods, like gluten. So here I am, eating gluten free, thinking… “I’m eating so well! Why am I still gaining?”

As my cancer symptoms were more under control, I pushed myself to move more. Whether it be stretching, small walks, anything to get my body going. (I had been stuck in a wheelchair for a couple years)

I still realized, it’s not enough. I need to figure out something more drastic, something that will REALLY make a difference. I cannot keep gaining.

I was scrolling on Facebook one day in February of 2020. I noticed a friend of mine (who also has the exact same rare cancer as me) was talking about her keto diet. Michelle, like me, had started making changes to her diet a couple years prior, also GF, but progressively started eating lower carb. She eventually realized her carb intake was in the “keto” range, and just adapted to that way of eating. She was sharing how adopting this low carb way of eating gave her some energy back, she got rid of her “steroid belly”, her face was slimmer, her body felt less inflamed. She was able to keep up in her yoga classes. She wasn’t sharing to tell others to do this, she just wanted to let others know that there is hope. She wasn’t doing it for weight loss, she made the change because she just wanted to feel healthy.

I found it incredible, almost too good to be true. But I also was so curious, “what if that could be me?”

So I did what anyone would do, started googling keto and low carb 😂 I looked to Pinterest to give me meal ideas and snacks. I talked to friends who had done it before. I joined a few keto groups on Facebook to see others experience. I was skeptical about whether or not I’d be able to eliminate sugar from my diet, that seemed like insanity and torture. Sugar is in EVERYTHING. I had NO idea how many carbs I was actually consuming, in “good” foods even. It was shocking. Once I started understanding what sugar does to the body, and how many carbs a person should be taking in, I was sold.

So I said to myself, I’ve tried so many “diets”, I’ve paid so much money for different solutions, none of them worked. Can it really be as simple as just eating meat, vegetables, and limiting fruit? Just going to the grocery store and not buying starchy foods? But let me tell you my friends, there’s nothing simple about eliminating starch from your diet.

No more quick sandwiches for lunch, no more oatmeal for breakfast, no quick bagel while you’re on the road, no potatoes, no rice, ZERO!

Could I do this? YES. I want to feel better, I want to have the same success as Michelle. I want to lose weight, but I also I want my joints to hurt less, I want to be able to walk further, I want my skin to glow, I want my stomach to not feel bloated, I want to see my jawline again.

So I set a date, (March 1st, 2020) and I began. I downloaded an app called carb manager that would help me keep track of the food I was eating, mostly so that I could stay accountable and get to know what foods I could and couldn’t eat. And I just made the choice to be healthy.

It sounds simple, right? Just waking up one day and redefining your health?

Didn’t I already do that several times? Yes and no. I dieted several times and failed. Diets aren’t sustainable, you need to truly change your lifestyle. Your new way of eating needs to be how you live all the time.

So, quarantine started. I didn’t realize I’d be making the decision to do a restricted way of living during the most stressful world event ever. But I did. I figured, if I can have the resilience to fight cancer, I can certainly control myself when it comes to food. I started to see results right away, a couple pounds here, a few inches there.

I couldn’t believe it. NOTHING ever worked for me. This is working, wow wow wow!

I wasn’t just losing weight, I felt less anxious, my mind felt clearer, I felt confident, I was fitting into my “skinny” clothes. It was so much more than weight loss.

Fast forward a few months, I lost 32lbs by the end of summer. I felt unstoppable.

But we all slip up, we’re human. Birthdays came, so I thought, “I deserve cake! I’ve been working hard all year”. Then thanksgiving, I figured… I can eat a bit of stuffing. Then my one little cheat would turn into several, I started turning to food for comfort again. I slid back into my old habits. When I’d get bad news, or have a long day of testing, I’d treat myself to some cookies. I felt the control slipping away again. Christmas came, and I just indulged without caring.

I was so angry at myself, how could I work so hard and then let it all go away? It’s not that I gained my weight back, I yo-yo gained about 5lbs, but it was the way I FELT. I just felt so disappointed, my body was hurting a bit more again, I could feel the familiar bloat, etc.

I saw how quickly it was to get pulled into a downward spiral, I needed to be prepared for when life throws that curve ball, I needed to learn how to control my cravings, I desperately wanted to find a way to not repeat the same mistakes.

That’s when I started ‘The List’. The list that gave me hope.

I was laying in bed feeling awful from my sugar binge. So I decided to write down how sugar made me feel. The negative impact specifically it made to my body.

It looked a bit like this:

❌ Sugar makes me feel bloated.

❌sugar makes me feel inflamed

❌sugar makes my skin dull

❌sugar gives me attacks

❌sugar makes me feel anxious

❌sugar makes me feel agitated

❌sugar makes my clothes tight

❌sugar is depressing

That inspired me to continue the list, to include WHY I made the lifestyle change in the first place, how THAT made me feel.

💚Eating well makes me feel skinny

💚My body feels good

💚My neck feels skinny

💚I like when my collarbone shows

💚I want a defined jaw line

💚My skin glows

💚Less attacks

💚Reduced anxiety

💚Improved mood

💚Clothes fit loose

💚Goal clothes fit

💚Love feeling accomplished

💚Makes me more disciplined

💚Keeps me in control of my life

💚Constantly hitting goals

I liked where this was going, so I continued onto how I would reward myself once I hit my goals that I’d set. I thought, “how can I reward myself without food?” So I thought of creative ways to feel good about hitting my goal.

💝 Buy a fresh bouquet of flowers each time I hit 2lb weight loss

💝 Get a spray tan

💝 Get my eyelashes done

💝 Get a mani/pedi

💝 Buy a book each month

Then I started thinking, what can I do to help myself actually achieve these goals? So I started to make a list of things I can do to keep me on track.

🧩Drink a lot of water

🧩Make infused waters

🧩Make fancy Perrier drinks

🧩Drink tea

🧩Make broth when hungry

🧩Make simple snacks pretty

🧩Put tomatoes & berries in pretty bowls

🧩Organize fridge for success

🧩Meal plan!!!

🧩Grocery list

🧩Meditate when hungry

🧩Exercise

🧩Go walking

🧩Share on social to help keep me accountable

🧩NO MORE CHEATING!!!!!

🧩Track ALL food

🧩Eat more salads

🧩Busy myself with facials & self care

Why stop there? Might as well write down a list of easy snacks that will keep me away from cheating.

I finished the list by making a section for meals that I haven’t tried yet or things I just really enjoy. Just to spice it up and make it exciting.

What’s great about this list is that it can be changed any time to suit your current goals, you can add to it and be more specific, or you can keep it simple. You can add your meal plan for the week, make it your own!

Also, I can’t stress this enough, health looks different for everybody. I didn’t write this post to convince anyone to change to a keto lifestyle, or go low carb. I just wanted to share how making a list to keep me accountable has helped keep me on track. Whether you’re keto, vegetarian, vegan, or just simply set a goal to eliminate sugary drinks from your diet. Whatever it is, I hope the list helps you achieve YOUR goals! ✨

What I love about it is that it’s become my go to for building will power. Any time I’m feeling discouraged or feel like I want to cheat, I just open up my notes and remind myself WHY I am doing this. WHY I am worth it.

I can only hope that those of you who are reading this, will find a bit of hope from my experience.

Most importantly, I hope your list gives YOU hope.

Happy new year unicorns & zebras!!!

Love you all 🦄🤍

Pheo VS Fabulous

Instagram: @pheovsfabulous

Facebook: Pheo VS Fabulous


			

5 thoughts on “The list that gave me hope: redefining my health with terminal cancer

  1. AHH! I love it! Honestly I am so impressed that you stuck with it as well as you did during the pandemic. Pretty much the entire world was comfort snacking and bingeing and here you are excited about healthy choices.

    I’m also really glad you pointed out that health is different for everyone. Even though LCHF/Keto has been good for me, I am aware no way of eating is one-size-fits-all. Ultimately your message is that everyone can do something. Even baby steps are steps in the right direction, and even obstacles like cancer don’t have to stop you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Michelle! For inspiring me, for being such a great supportive friend. It’s helped to have so many people support me and do this with me, my best friend started keto with me at the same time, and Serge went right along with me as well, so it REALLY helped always having people to talk to that understood.

      This time because I’ve been through it and know what I’m doing, it’s a whole lot easier to be excited & look forward to it. You’re absolutely right, I feel that baby steps are good for anyone. A whole lot of little steps add up to huge changes. There’s just so much to learn and so much room for improvement at any given time. I’m excited to continue this journey alongside you! 🤍

      Like

  2. You look maaaahvelous but the most important thing is how it makes you feel and that it’s a healthy lifestyle, not a fad diet! Thanks for sharing! I’m having my first round of PRRT tomorrow. I’m not Pheo, just Nets. Any advice?

    Liked by 1 person

    • How did your first round go?? The best advice I can give is to be fully prepped with medications to control the symptoms just as you would surgery. My endo put me on methoxytyramine which really helped. Also, make sure they give you a heavy dose of nausea medication IV before your treatment, you’ll need it. I dunno if you had the big rush sensation like I did, but within minutes of injecting, I felt a huge rush of heat, nausea, and chest pain. I hope it went well ❤️❤️❤️ PRRT is a life saver!

      Liked by 1 person

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