Kelly’s Breast Cancer Story

Meet my cousin Kelly Carroll, today’s guest blogger who shares her incredible story of how she survived breast cancer. Kelly is a stay at home wife and mom with a blended family that keeps her on her toes. Active in the local Charlotte, NC community, Kelly runs an outreach program for foster children called Mosaic-Style with Love. She has learned that each day is a blessing to cherish, and laughter is the best recipe for healing!  

Kelly's Breast Cancer Story - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

In September of 2009 at 38 years of age, I found a lump in my left breast. Several days later I was sent to the hospital for a mammogram. Within minutes, a radiologist said with tears in her eyes, “You have cancer and it’s bad!” She went on to tell me that I had 5 large tumors that had spread out of the breast to my lymph nodes. Her words were “you need to move quickly with treatment as this is life threatening.”  

The whirlwind began as the diagnosis was confirmed to be stage 3 breast cancer. I received my first chemo treatment within a few weeks of my diagnosis. I became violently ill within hours of receiving the 4 hour long drip of rat poison, which is basically what chemo is. It kills both bad and good cells throughout your body. A mediport was placed in my upper right chest beneath my skin for the medicine to go immediately into my main artery. The vomiting was so violent it caused my mediport to literally flip upside down under my skin. That night I thought I was going to die and I asked God: “If you know I am not going to beat cancer, please take me now as the suffering and pain is beyond comprehension.” That was only the beginning!

By the time I reached my 5th out of 10th chemo treatment (I had been hospitalized after each treatment), my skin was a grayish color and paper thin. It would rip if I just gently bumped it on something. My fingernails were gray/black and green with a few nails ready to fall off. My whites of my eyes were yellow. My throat was raw and it felt like razors all the way down when I just swallowed water. I was weak and my bones ached like the worst flu times 10 and finished off by what I would imagine felt like a semi truck running over your body. My brain cells would not fire and I could not retain names and simple words to complete a sentence. Every single piece of hair on my body was gone as the chemo kills ALL cells. There were days that I laid without the ability to move, no matter how bad I wanted to. I am a determined person and always on the go with a high pain tolerance.  

At my 5th chemo treatment, my oncologist told me they may lose me when the chemo drip went into my veins, as my body was not reacting well to the drugs. She told my family that my eyes may roll back in my head and I may stop breathing. A crash cart was pulled up next to my hospital bed and they were there waiting and ready to revive me if this happened. I am so thankful they did not have to use the crash cart that day, but the days that followed were the worst of them all. This chemo treatment was several days before Christmas and I was determined to be home with my children and my husband, not in the hospital. 

I fought my body for as long as I could until it started to shut down on Christmas Eve, when I was admitted to the hospital for 7 days. During that time, others have told me they didn’t know if I would leave that hospital. They truly believed that was possibly the time they would say their goodbyes to me. I recall a female doctor sitting at my bedside one evening when we were alone and she asked, “Do you believe in God?” She too thought these were my final days here on earth. But God had another plan and I praise him each and everyday for his goodness and his healing!  

I was released from the hospital and told by my oncologist that she could not give me another ounce of chemo or she would kill me with it. She said I also needed radiation, but my body would not respond well and it could kill me. She went on to say “all we can do now is perform a mastectomy, remove your lymph nodes and hope for the best.” I endured that painful surgery, only to find out they messed up and left more cancer cells behind. Several days later, I received a call that I needed to go back into surgery ASAP. I was still full of cancer cells and they didn’t get it all. It was then I decided to try something different from anything I knew previously: combine conventional medicine with holistic medicine.  

I went to Sanoviv Medical Institute in Baja, Mexico for integrative treatments for whole body health. Sanoviv was founded by a world famous virologist, Dr. Myron Wentz. After 4 extensive days of medical testing at the institute, a group of doctors created a treatment plan for me in a non-toxic environment. This included detoxing my body of all the harmful toxins that had built up from the chemo, as well as all of the harmful foods that I was eating. They began to teach me about clean eating. Everyday began with a pH balance strip which the doctors used each day to regulate my food intake so that I would be alkaline. Sanoviv treats cancer patients with a concept that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment and find it difficult to survive in an alkaline environment. Cancer cells make your body even more acidic as they produce lactic acid.

Sanoviv started me on a USANA vitamin regimen. I would take about 20-25 all natural pills in the morning, in the afternoon, and again in the evening. My nutritionist provided green juices to include cancer fighting dark green leafy vegetables in my diet each and everyday. Wheatgrass shots were given to me several times a day. This is nature’s finest medicine. Two ounces of wheatgrass juice has the nutritional equivalent of five pounds of the best raw, organic vegetables. It is also a powerful detoxifier, especially of the liver and blood.  

Each day at Sanoviv, they taught me about food products my body was ingesting that are toxic. For example: beef produced in the U.S. is heavily contaminated with natural and synthetic sex hormones, which are associated with an increased risk of reproductive and childhood cancers. For other types of foods, they taught  me that if it contains more than 5 ingredients, don’t eat it! I also received high-dose vitamin C by intravenous IV infusion. Vitamin C has been shown to slow growth and spread of certain types of cancer. 

Every other day I went into a hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber. This increases blood oxygen levels and is proven to work with a number of illnesses, and will overcome one of the main influences of cancer. Cancer exists in a low-oxygen environment and plentiful oxygen can kill it off. It has the potential to be a simple alternative cancer treatment. I also received another treatment where the doctors took about a billion of my T-cells (a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors) and at the lab they inserted them with new genes that would program the cells to attack my cancer. The altered cells were given to me by stomach injections every other day.  

I witnessed miracles at Sanoviv during my 30 day stay at the hospital. I watched other patients with debilitating illnesses be cured before my eyes! I am a true believer of a holistic lifestyle. When I was 39 years old, near death, it revived me in 30 days and made me feel and look like I was 18 years old again! I still have an oncologist here in the U.S. who orders bone scans yearly to watch for my cancer to return, but I decline all of the pharmaceutical medications they say are required for my survival. I just celebrated 5 years in remission this past May of 2015.  

Each and everyday I thank God for my healing. It is my goal to live each day with true purpose!  

Change Your Mindset

Change Your Mindset - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Getting healthy requires you to completely change your mindset. Be mindful and aware when you go about your day-to-day life. The change of seasons is the perfect time to consciously think about what you’re eating.

The seasons affect the activities we do, the clothes we wear, and the foods we crave. Now that it’s officially Fall, I’m already craving root vegetables, apples, and pumpkins. Whether you make a few healthy changes to your life or commit to a cleanse or the Whole 30, now is the time. Get yourself in a rhythm before the holidays. 

Here are some tips to help you think in the moment and change your mindset:

At the grocery store…
– Don’t reach for what you usually buy.
– Avoid the middle aisles of the store.
– Double the produce in your cart!

When you’re home and hungry….
– Only eat food from the fridge.
– Don’t even open the pantry!

At a party…
– Bring something healthy that you’ll want to eat.
– Skip the chips, crackers, cookies, and desserts.
– Keep a few squares of dark chocolate in your pocket or purse for a treat!

Plan ahead so that you don’t find yourself eating foods that aren’t good for you. It all starts at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Make sure you’re buying enough fruits and vegetables. At home, wash and chop when you have time so that you can grab something when you’re in a rush. Spend some time finding new recipes that you can make from scratch.

Are you already thinking about changes you can make to be healthier? You can totally do this. I made a conscious decision to be healthy for myself and my family and I know you can succeed too.

I’m in it for the long run. I’ve been blessed with the most amazing husband and two sweet little monkeys. I want my girls to grow up knowing what it means to be healthy. I can’t control the choices they’ll make when they grow up, but while they are in my house, I’ll continue to provide healthy food that will nourish their growing brains and bodies.

Cutting out processed foods is a great step towards better health. Let’s do the October Unprocessed Challenge together. Last year over 22,000 people joined EatingRules in this awareness exercise. Read about the challenge here and maybe take the pledge to go a month without processed foods. Sometimes just the word challenge helps to inspire us and keep us on track! Don’t miss the part where they give you good stuff for free (I totally love free!).

Start your journey to health by making a conscious decision to change your mindset. Once you make up your mind, there’s nothing that can stop you! Will you pledge to join me in the October Unprocessed Challenge? 

Simple Shortcuts: Herb Butter

Simple Shortcuts: Herb Butter - Under the Monkey Bars

Even when life is busy, we still need to eat healthy to keep our bodies and minds nourished. Today I’m sharing the first post in a series of simple shortcuts to save you time when you’re in a rush to get dinner on the table.

Who loves butter? I’m not talking about the kind that comes in a spray bottle or those butter replacement spreads. Unless you have a dairy allergy or follow a vegan diet, eat real butter. And not just any butter. Butter from grass-fed cows that graze on the green pastures of small family farms. You can taste the difference — especially in Kerrygold brand, which is imported straight from Ireland.

Why pastured? Pastured dairy cows yield butterfat that’s loaded with vitamins A & D, iodine, and other essential nutrients. Butter is downright delicious, and it’s a good fat for heart, brain, hormone, and cell function. Everything in moderation though, right?

Today’s simple shortcut uses one of my favorite products: Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter. All of our local grocery stores (Market Basket, Shaws and Whole Foods) carry Kerrygold brand, but only Whole Foods stocks the Garlic & Herb Butter. I keep several sticks in the freezer. Yes, you can freeze butter! 

You can certainly make your own herb butter, but today we are using a high quality product to save time. I love using this butter when I bake fresh fish. Honestly, it’s barely a recipe it’s so easy. Add ingredients based on how much time you have and what you have on hand. My monkeys love garlic so I always add a few shakes of Spicely Organic garlic powder. No need to peel or chop a clove tonight, friends. Keep it simple. You could add extra herbs to compliment the blend in the butter, which includes chives, parsley, salt, dill, pepper, and paprika.

Stay tuned for more Simple Shortcuts. Cómelo todo!

Easy Baked Fish
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. Wild caught fish (flounder, cod, salmon)
  2. 1 teaspoon of quality olive oil
  3. 1/2 teaspoon of Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter per fillet
  4. Sprinkle of sea salt
  5. Squeeze of fresh lemon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Spray a ceramic baking dish with olive oil (I use a reusable stainless steel Misto sprayer).
  3. Cut the fish into fillets.
  4. Add a thin slice of Kerrygold Garlic & Herb Butter, a sprinkle of salt, and a squeeze of fresh lemon to each fillet.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes or until the center of the fish is no longer translucent.
  6. Using a pastry brush, spread butter and herbs evenly on the fish.
  7. Serve immediately with your choice of healthy side dishes for an easy dinner.
Notes
  1. Choose sustainable, wild caught fish from a local fish market.
  2. For the 4 of us, I purchase 1.3 pounds of fish and cut it into 4 filets.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes, zucchini, and/or onions if you have extra time. Make sure to increase the cooking time by 5 minutes.
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Lunch Box Love

Lunch Box Love - Under the Monkey Bars Blog

Bean + Sweet Pea’s lunch boxes from the other day: Grilled chicken, risotto made with homemade bone broth, honeydew melon, yellow peppers, and carrots.

We’re finally getting into a lunch making groove. After 3 weeks of morning chaos, we’ve got this. So I thought it was a good time to give you some lunch box love.

Whether you’re packing a lunch for yourself or someone else, it’s always an extra thing to do when you’re strapped for time in the morning. Some things can be prepped the night before, others not so much. Personally, I don’t like to make lunches at night. After dinner clean up, I’m kind of done. Plus, the monkeys eat their lunches better when the food is fresh.

Our lunch boxes are full of real, whole foods with nothing processed or out of a package. It’s not easy — but it’s worth it! If you missed it, read my post about cutting out processed foods here. It’s all about getting back to basics and nourishing your body with foods that don’t contain ingredients you can’t pronounce. Real food helps your body feel better and your brain think clearer.

I pack my monkeys lunch boxes with organic fruit, veggies, meat, legumes, seeds, nut butters, and whole grains. We try to keep it simple. The night before school, the monkeys look in the refrigerator to see what we have. They use a clipboard and pencil to write down their lunch and snack orders (seriously – it’s all about the clipboard!). In the morning, they help me with little things like peeling clementines, washing grapes, or writing each other notes (we use napkins!).

It has taken me years to figure out how to really pack a lunch box. It shouldn’t be this hard, right? I’ve finally figured out the secret: it’s all about the products! Here’s a list of things we love and use every day in our lunch boxes:

  • LunchBots stainless steel food containers are the best. We like their divided container (the new lids are awesome!), dip condiment containers, and round containers. The divided containers do leak, but work great for solid foods. Dip and round containers don’t leak. These containers last for years and are virtually unbreakable.
  • Try these silicone baking cups to line the LunchBots and add some fun colors.
  • Use a Thermos hot food jar for soups, mashed potatoes, and chili. While you’re warming the food, fill the container with boiling water. This helps to keep it hot longer. Also, be sure you don’t add an ice pack to the lunch box! Plan sides and snacks that don’t need to stay cold, like a whole apple or dried fruit.
  • Kids Konserve sweat-free ice packs are an excellent investment. We’ve used ours 5 days a week for the past two years and they are in perfect shape.
  • Kids Konserve food kozy is a perfect wrap for sandwiches. Gluten Free bread isn’t the healthiest so my girls only take sandwiches once or twice a week. These wraps last more than a year and serve as a placemat when opened. Think of all the plastic baggies you’ll save from a landfill.
  • Cleanwell pocket size hand sanitizer — because my girls eat lunch after recess.
  • Land’s End class mate soft sided lunch boxes are our favorite. There are so many lunch boxes to choose from and lots of them are fantastic. Land’s End has worked the best for us — especially for fitting in all of these containers!
  • Reusable silverware makes it into the monkeys lunch box almost every day. The girls love these sets from Pottery Barn Kids, and I love that they are dishwasher safe.
  • Lifefactory glass bottles are leakproof. We’ve had the same bottles for at least 4 years without breaking the glass and they look new. I fill the bottles with water because the only juice we drink in our house comes straight out of the juicer. Bottled juice purchased at the store has no nutrition and is full of sugar. Not the best choice for a lunch box! 

All of these waste free lunch products are non-toxic, BPA free, reusable, healthy for your kids and the environment. It’s expensive to buy everything at once. Pick up new products here and there, and always fill the lunch box with love!

How do you pack a lunch box? What works at your house?

Blender vs Juicer

Blender vs Juicer - Under the Monkey Bars

People ask me all the time which I prefer: blender vs juicer. They say, “Which should I buy? Which one is healthier?” Both appliances will boost your fruit and vegetable intake and add more nutrition to your diet. It’s tough to eat six to eight servings a day without a smoothie or fresh juice. Let’s break it down to help you decide which appliance is best for you and your family.

Blending produce into a smoothie preserves the beneficial fiber of the fruits and veggies. You might hear nutritionists say that fresh smoothies are healthier for this reason. I find it easier to pack a smoothie to go because most recipes keep for several hours and sometimes even overnight. These mason jar tops are perfect for traveling with smoothies! 

Smoothies are a great way to hide veggies! Sometimes smoothies can be more fruit based, obviously depending on the recipe. Be mindful to add at least one veggie to every smoothie. Cucumbers taste so fresh in a smoothie and avocados will  make your smoothy really creamy. No excuses! You can add healthy fats, seeds and protein to your smoothies, like coconut oil, almond butter, chia seeds, ground flaxseed and natural protein powder.

Beware that smoothies can increase the sugar in your diet if you use sweetened yogurt, store bought juice, frozen yogurt, or ice cream. That’s called a milkshake, people!

Juicing can help you transition off store bought juices. This totally worked for us so it can be done! I haven’t bought juice at the store in 4 years. To maximize the nutrients of your fresh juice — especially green juices — drink them within 15 minutes of juicing. And fresh juice is best on an empty stomach, like first thing in the morning or 2 hours after a meal.

Juicing is better at getting larger quantities of veggies into your belly. I’ve never sat down and eaten a raw beet, 8 raw carrots, an apple, 2 celery sticks, 4 leaves of raw kale, and a slice of fresh ginger — but I can drink it in my juice! My monkeys love fresh apple and ginger juice when they’re sick. Much better than a bottle of chemicals (not pointing any fingers but you know what I’m talking about!).

You may have heard that some of the fiber is removed from the fruit or vegetable in the juicing process. This is true. However, you can use the fiber-packed pulp for other things. I don’t like to waste anything so I frequently use my juice pulp to bake, add to soups, rice, or meatballs. When you pay extra for organic produce, don’t waste it!

Which appliance will you will use more often? Don’t let a big blender or juicer take up precious space on your counter if you’re not going to use it. I juice about twice a week and make smoothies at least 4 to 5 times a week. I also use our blender to make sauces, soups, pesto, and pancake mix.

Which appliance will you be willing to clean? My blender is super easy to clean. Fill it half way with cold water, add a drop of soap, and let it run for a minute. It literally cleans itself! On the other hand, juicers are a little more complicated to clean. I rinse the juicer parts off immediately and then wash them by hand when I have a chance, usually a few hours later. It’s not hard to do, just takes extra time. I’m willing to clean it because fresh juice makes me feel so good.

What kind of blender should you buy? I can’t recommend one over another because I have not tested them all. But I can say that I totally love my Vitamix! I have this model. Make sure you buy one that fits under your counter (some don’t!). You can use a high-speed blender to make juice, but it will be very thick and pulpy even with extra ice and water.

What kind of juicer should you buy? I have a Breville Juicer. It’s one of the fastest on the market because of it’s wide feed tube. I can literally drop a whole apple in there — no chopping required! This high-speed juicer leaves less pulp in your juice (perfect for little monkeys!). You do loose a smidgen of the fiber and nutrients with a high-speed or centrifugal juicer, but I don’t have the patience for the slow or masticating juicers. A few of my friends have this juicer and love it. I’m willing to loose a bit of nutrition for speed. It’s literally only a small percentage.

The Verdict? Both appliances serve a purpose in our home. They allow me to mix it up on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis. We can make a breakfast smoothie one day, a green juice the next, and a chocolatey treat smoothie another day. Ask yourself: Which would you use more? Do you have room for both? Blending and juicing your fruits and veggies will make sure you get your six to eight servings per day and leave you feeling healthier than ever! You’ll have extra energy and less cravings. Either way, you can’t go wrong.