“If I don’t look after my body, I’ll have nowhere to live.”

Monday, January 30

An 87 year old homeless man was interviewed on a television program in Ireland in the 1970s.  He had lived on the streets for many years but despite having neither home nor job, he looked not just ok, but really well and healthy.    The interviewer asked him what the secret was to his vitality.

"Firstly," explained the homeless man, "living on the streets is a choice for me, as I like the freedom that it affords me."

"And," he continued, "I don't eat junk food."

He described how at the end of each day, the market vendors would give him any left over fruit or vegetables that they had.  He was also friendly with a few of the local restaurant owners and they also occasionally provided him with a free wholesome meal.  He didn’t have any way in which to cook his own meals, but he was incredibly fussy as to what he put into his own body.

“You see,” he explained, “The Reason why I don’t eat junk food is because if I don’t look after my body, I’ll have nowhere to live.”

I found this story in Jason Vale’s The Juice Master book and he advises that you read the line again…“The Reason why I don’t eat junk food is because if I don’t look after my body, I’ll have nowhere to live.”  I think that this is perhaps the most profound line that I have ever read.  Having recently felt for the first time in my life the cold fear of the thought that my body might perhaps not be a strong enough home in which I could continue to live, this old homeless man has really summed up why we need to contemplate every mouthful that we eat.

It is usually at this kind of poignant moment in a group conversation that someone says “Oh it’s all very well going on about living healthily, I know this friend/relative/gym teacher who lived so healthily and never smoked and still got lung cancer and died at 35.”  

There is always a second person who throws a “Yes and my Grampa/Great Aunt/Neighbour smoked 40 cigarettes a day from age 10 and lived to 90 with out getting lung cancer and was fine.”

I would have probably shaken my head and agreed a few years ago too, but having worked in multiple health care settings with some very ill people - my reaction now is quite different.
My immediate response is that it was bad rotten awful unfair luck to the healthy person who died young.  But I am sure that the person’s quality of life was significantly better and more enjoyable as a result of having lived healthily.  I know a lady who is 83 years old and currently has cancer in her bones and her bowel and perhaps even some in her lungs too.  She was treated for breast cancer 30 years ago and the cancer has now metastasised to her bowel and bones.  She knows that her cancer is not curable and that her current treatment regime aims only to try to keep it spreading further.  This lady has eaten healthily, everyday of her adult life.  “Before most people had even heard of the word organic” she tells me “I was buying organic food wherever I could.”   The image that comes to mind of an 83 year old with widespread cancer is really quite pitiful and heartbreaking;  especially because she has always taken such great care of herself.  Not so.  She has a more active social life than I do and swims everyday for an hour.  She often summarizes for me what’s going on in the Media, from multiple angles, and has such a great sense of humour that I’ve twice had to go and wash my face after one of her stories because and I could no longer see from tears of laughter running make up into my eyes.  She only learned to swim four years ago (age 79) after having hydrotherapy for knee surgery, and still holds a float for support, but paddles along every day for an hour.

do you eat blueberries?

Saturday, January 28

“Do you eat blueberries everyday?” my Surgeon asked me at my first consultation. When I answered with a vague and surprised ‘no’ she shook her head and said “Eat blueberries everyday, they are expensive, but get over it, buy them and they will help you fight against any more cancer.” This was not what I was expecting to hear from the Dr who was about to remove a chunk of my shoulder tissue.  I had recently had a mole removed that turned out to be a malignant melanoma and I needed more tissue removed to ensure all the cancer was gone. “Get rid of stress and baggage in your life. Maybe you should quit your job? Take a look at your life and ‘clear out’ anyone or anything that causes you stress and doesn’t make you happy.” So much for thinking that all my skin cancer troubles stemmed solely from too much South African sunlight on my fair skin whilst growing up.

The day after my surgery I struggled to move my right arm from where the tissue had been removed on my back.  And I ached from where the second surgeon had removed two lymph nodes in my axilla to check that the cancer hadn’t spread any further. Again my surgeon asked me as she came to discharge from me the hospital, “Do you eat blueberries everyday?” This time I could answer yes and she said “Good. Eat broccoli and spinach too. Learn about superfoods, they will save your life.”

A week later after a painful and emotional but very healthy eating week at home, I went to see my Dr for the follow up. Again she asked about the blueberries and again I answered yes and that I was eating far more fruit and vegetables. “Good” she said, “it will save your life. The statistics for you are good, there has been no cancer spread to your lymph nodes and there is a 75% chance you will be alive from this in ten years.” Wow. I hadn’t expected that.

“I was hoping for a 100%” I replied.

“Well of course, YOU have to be healthy and stress free and make it 100%.  Also, your chances of getting breast cancer are higher now too, be aware of this and we will regularly screen you.  And, eat organic.”

And so has begun my dive into the superfood world.  I’ve always considered my self pretty healthy-but from what I have read recently, I have massive room for improvement.  After discussing some my new found knowledge with all my incredible friends and family who have supported me so much over the past few weeks, I’ve tried to summarise and share some of what I have gleaned. Naturally blueberries are where I’ve had to begin.

  • Small but VERY mighty nutritional force.
  • Combines MORE powerful disease –fighting antioxidants than ANY other fruit or vegetable.
  • ONE serving of blueberries provides as many antioxidants as FIVE servings of carrots, apples, broccoli or squash.
So what are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that prevent damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron, thus are unstable. These free radicals basically steal electrons from other molecules in effort to heal themselves, ultimately creating new free radicals in the process. By stealing electrons, it can cause damage to DNA, leading to the possible development of cancer.

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