"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase"

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

2nd opinion

Mom and Aunt Barb at The Siteman Center in St. Louis
{standing in front of a tile wall with artwork from cancer survivors and families}

It was suggested by Mom's oncologist that she get a 2nd opinion regarding her options. So Mom, Jen and Aunt Barbar went to a Comprehensive Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. The doctor they met with agrees with the plan of choice and liked the chemo-cocktail suggested. He had never thought to use this particular combo before and mentioned it was a very aggressive approach, which is probably why Mom is a 4-year survivor! They requested a sample of the tumor and will be testing it with 100+ different available drugs to see if a positive response occurs. If the current plan of action is not successful they can easily enroll Mom into their treatment plan/studies and figure another course of action if needed.

Mom is ready to continue her fight! Thank you for all of your love, positive thoughts, support and prayers. We can get through this with love, strength and patience. Keep Calm and Hang On!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What The Lard?

I'm switching gears and we're back on a health kick. It's the time of year for baking and I know everyone loves Crisco. But is it safe? Is it really all that good for us? Let's look into some important reasons why we should go back to basics. In these two articles below I found interesting and helpful information regarding the history of LARD!

FAT FACTS: by Time At The Table 360
I find it super interesting to explore the reasons behind countries traditional cuisines. Particularly countries that have been exposed to war or hardship or to a lesser point media attention – these types of influences have contributed to regional differences.

Lard has been used for thousands of years in Europe and is steeped in the traditions in many rustic regional cuisines. In any culture where pigs were raised, the fat of the animal was usually considered as valuable a product as its meaty counterparts, and was a staple for cooking and baking. Interestingly, the market for lard was strong during World War II, however not for home kitchens – it was used in the manufacture of explosives. During the war, most people had to switch to vegetable oils for cooking as most of the lard produced was diverted to the military. When the war ended, lard prices dropped dramatically (presumably due to an oversupply), and oils were marketed successfully as healthier to cook with, and lard never regained its staple place in the diet.

Procter & Gamble, among others, also contributed their bit to demise of lard by introducing Crisco (vegetable shortening) and did a ripper job of publicising how great it was in comparison to lard (healthier, more pure) and alongside some great branding strategies, dominated the market. In the 50’s, a touch after our European lard story, scientists decided that the saturated fats in lard caused heart disease. This created an industry-wide rejection of poor lard.

Recently, since those great years that were the 90’s, chefs and bakers have started to re-recognise the unique properties and benefits of lard, resulting in a bit of a foodie revolution in the use of lard. They are championing its superiority in cooking, due to its range of applications and taste. Pure lard is useful for cooking since it produces little smoke when heated, has a relatively high smoke point to begin with, and has a distinctive flavour. And as always, the PR machine has come to the party, telling us all about the artery-clogging trans-fats you’ll now find in vegetable shortening.

Back to Europe and in particular the UK, where traditional British cuisine enthusiasts have contributed to a rise in lard popularity, there was even a lard crisis, God forbid, in 2006, when Poland and Hungary were such gluttons for fatty cuts of pork that the UK lard demands were not met. I also read an article some time ago about Ukraine, who serve Ukrainian Snickers – pork fat covered in chocolate!

So it seems that despite lards rough trot, it has come nearly full circle. Though it was obviously never forgotten and remained a favourite of some of the older generation and was passed down.

Conscientious Cook: Alternatives to Vegetable Shortening

Growing up, we always had a big can of Crisco sitting on the pantry shelf. It got used for everything from greasing pans to making the flakiest pie crust ever. Now that trans fats and hydrogenated oils are drawing some justifiable heat from health experts, we're not so keen on using vegetable shortening anymore. But what's our alternative?

For many recipes, what you substitute depends on what your making. Lard is our first choice if shortening is truly necessary. It has all the same properties as vegetable shortening - makes flaky pastries, has minimal spread in cookies, and has a clean flavor. (Lard doesn't taste like pork unless it gets rendered with meat, as with bacon) Lard was the original shortening, after all!

Second to that, we go with butter. It behaves much the same as shortening, and it gives baked goods a rich, buttery flavor. We sacrifice flakiness for a superior creamy mouthfeel. Unlike lard or shortening, butter contains a little liquid, so remember to decrease the liquid in the recipe slightly if you're using it a substitute. Spectrum is a popular brand for these products that we've seen in a lot of health food aisles.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Next Step

After speaking with Dr. Willadsen about the pathology details and options we agree the best plan is more chemo in conjunction with a cancer drug. Dr. Willadsen also supports working with a holistic/naturopathic approach. They will also be looking into clinical trials and do more research.

The pathology gallbladder report showed it was the same tumor found in stomach. Dr. Willaden saw this as a positive because we are dealing with the same monster. The gallbladder tumor did spread to the wall/lining and beyond. Which means there is no way to tell where the "seeds" are right now or where they will land. The 2 nodes/lumps removed did not have clear margins. The node/lump on Mom's face remains untouched at this time and could be a good indicator of success during additional chemo treatment.

They plan to start chemo in 3 weeks once Mom has healed from the surgery. Just before chemo they will do a CT scan followed by PET scan and then Bone scan to see if anything shows up or has changed.

Tests are taking place now using the tumor and determining it's reaction to the cancer drug. They say the drug is used to target specific genetic cancer cells that can be identified and attacked but still leave healthy cells alone. This works along with chemo and helps draw it to the bad cells.

Dr. Icaza (her surgeon) was very warm, caring and wants to do whatever he can to help.
Dr. Willadsen always makes us feel so hopeful, positive and optimistic about treatment and the outcome. We have a great team of doctors, family and friends!

We were reminded that it's actually been 2 years since last the last 6-mo round of chemo so we know it worked! Mom feels good and still looks like a million bucks! She's still ready for the fight!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pathology Results

The pathology results did not give us good news today. It was more than we were expecting and words no one is ready to hear. The gallbladder removed came back as cancerous (the original gastric cancer type) and the 2 nodules/lumps removed where also cancerous. Mom has an appointment tomorrow morning with her oncologist. We'll keep you posted. It's a quiet night.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Know About GMOs


What are GMOs?
GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights.

Are GMOs safe?
Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In nearly 50 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.

Are GMOs labeled?
Unfortunately, even though polls consistently show that a significant majority of Americans want to know if the food they’re purchasing contains GMOs, the powerful biotech lobby has succeeded in keeping this information from the public. In the absence of mandatory labeling, the Non-GMO Project was created to give consumers the informed choice they deserve.

Link to Learn More About GMOs | Non-GMO Project Website

Beware Cookware

When heated, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces emits fumes that can kill birds and potentially sicken people. You can avoid exposures to the fumes from Teflon and other non-stick cookware by phasing out your home use of these products. If you can afford to replace your non-stick cookware now, do so.

Statistics reported by the Cookware Manufacturers Association indicate that 90 percent of all the aluminum cookware sold in the United States in 2001 was coated with non-stick chemicals like Teflon (Cooks Illustrated, September 2002). Chemicals and tiny, toxic Teflon particles released from heated Teflon kill household pet birds. At least four of these chemicals never break down in the environment, and some are widely found in human blood. Consumers concerned about the effects of Teflon on human health and the environment should consider these alternatives:

Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a terrific alternative to a non-stick cooking surface. Most chefs agree that stainless steel browns foods better than non-stick surfaces. In their 2001 review of sauté pans, Cooks Illustrated, an independent publication, chose a stainless steel pan over otherwise identical non-stick models. They also recommended stainless steel pan roasters over non-stick.

Cast Iron
Cast iron remains a great alternative to non-stick cooking surfaces. Lodge, America’s oldest family-owned cookware manufacturer, refers to their cookware as “natural non-stick.” Cast iron can be pre-heated to temperatures that will brown meat and will withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick pans. Cast iron is extremely durable and can now be purchased pre-seasoned, ready-to-use.

Other Cooking Surfaces
Because Teflon coated non-stick surfaces fail to brown foods there has been a push to find other “non-stick” cookware coating that will allow the use of higher temperatures and still clean up easily. Some examples include ceramic titanium and porcelain enameled cast iron. Both of these surfaces are very durable, better at browning foods than PTFE (Teflon) non-stick coatings, and are dishwasher safe. In her New York Times piece, "In Search of a Pan That Lets Cooks Forget About Teflon," Marian Burros recommends Le Creuset enameled cast iron pans with a matte black interior. Anodized aluminum is another alternative, but some people question its safety, citing evidence in some studies linking aluminum exposures to Alzheimers.

Link to Article | Environmental Working Group