Fighting Cancer. Finding Courage.

“Courage is not always big and bright and loud; sometimes it’s as silent and small as true words, a smile when you’d rather weep, or getting up every day and living with quiet dignity while all around your life rages. You cannot truly love, live or exist without courage. Without it you are simply biding time until you die.”

In 2013 Angelina Jolie made headlines when she announced she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy. One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Approximately 10 per cent of these cancers will be caused by BRCA1 gene mutation. Those who carry the gene have a drastically increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer at a young age. After learning she carried this gene, Jolie made the decision to reduce her risk and removed both her breasts and later her ovaries and fallopian tubes. Although the gene is hereditary, gene testing is the only way to know if you are a carrier. Jolie is an advocate for gene testing, believing that knowledge is power. She encourages women to learn their options.

wendy-mills-author-photoPositively Beautiful by Wendy Mills begins with 16-year-old Erin heading to school on an ordinary Tuesday. She attends class, laughs with her best friend and studies for a physics test. But her ordinary day comes to a screeching halt when her mother announces she has breast cancer. Life is now split into two categories: before the cancer and after the diagnosis. To make the situation even worse, the cancer was caused by the BRCA gene. Erin has a 50 per cent chance of being a carrier of the gene. However, Erin cannot be tested until she is 18. Even then, the healthcare community recommends she wait until she’s 25 and see a genetic counselor before even thinking about being tested.

How is anyone not supposed to think about such a terrifying situation? Erin is consumed with thoughts of the unknown. Will she have to remove her breasts? She bought her very first bra just a few years before. She hasn’t even thought about having children. Now she’ll have to remove her ovaries? Suddenly the everyday dramas of teenage life seem small and trivial. No one her age can possibly imagine what it’s like to be faced with these decisions. Erin reads about a direct-to-consumer company that will conduct the gene test without having to go through a medical provider. Without telling anyone, she jumps at the chance to find out her status.

When her test comes back positive she reaches out to an online forum for young BRCA gene carriers. She meets a young lady named Ashley who helps her find her own inner strength.

There are some very emotional passages in Positively Beautiful. Both Erin and her mother are incredibly strong women. Although cancer is part of the plot, the main theme of the book isn’t illness, it is courage. Erin shows us that courage lives in all of us, we just need to know where to look.

— Lesley L.

In good health

One of my favourite things about working in the library is the treasures I find shelving or among the returns in the book chute. Many times, my interest is captured by an item I would never have thought to search the catalogue for on my own. Hot Detox, by Registered Holistic Nutritionist Julie Daniluk, is new to the library and one of my latest finds. The title hooked me right away, and when I quickly flipped through the book I found lots of beautiful photographs and healthy-looking recipes.

Later, at home, I discovered whole chapters dedicated to cleansing toxins from your “gut”, liver, lymph system, kidneys, lungs and skin. Julie Daniluk, who is also the author of the Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal cookbooks, explains how she suffered from colitis and joint pain for years until she began to experiment and eat foods that reduced inflammation in her body. In Hot Detox, Daniluk takes her experience and learning even further, by using warming spices in all the recipes, traditional Ayurvedic practices from India, and medicinal techniques from China. Hot Detox provides a 3 day, 10 day, or 21 day detox plan, each complete with suggested menus.

I decided to try the 21 day detox. In the first 9 days of the plan (Phase 1) you are weaned from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and caffeine. This sounds way worse than it is!  I did have a bad headache for a couple of days, which Daniluk suggests could be caused by shifting hormones or toxins, dehydration, or caffeine withdrawal. Phase 2 of the detox (days 10, 11, and 12) eliminates animal products and relies heavily on liquids. Phase 3 allows you to choose whether you want to remain vegan or reintroduce animal products again. There is also more of a focus on rebooting and nourishing all the systems in your body.

I have to say I really surprised myself!  Not only did I stick to the plan, but I didn’t feel hungry or have cravings. I tried lots of new-to-me foods, such as hemp hearts, chia seeds, coconut flour, and coconut milk. My whole family found the supper recipes to be especially good, and some even provided leftovers for another meal. I think the only recipe I really didn’t like was called Detox Rocket, which was a smoothie that included boiled beets. Other members of my family, who are counting calories, didn’t like the fact that the detox recipes do not include a nutritional breakdown. To save money, I went to Bulk Barn to get only the amounts I needed of ingredients I wasn’t sure I would use again after the detox, rather than buy them in big bags at Goodness Me or the grocery store. Some of the recipes also require additional preparation time, so I either chopped up ingredients in advance, or tried the recipe on a day that wasn’t as busy.

I lost 12 pounds on the 21 day detox plan. People ask me, “But how do you FEEL?”  Other than the obvious answer, “I feel great!  I lost 12 pounds!” I think the biggest change happened after the detox was over, when I ate a cookie a friend had made. One small taste of refined sugar and I felt very sick for several hours. This has only given me more incentive to carry on, and I have now borrowed Meals that Heal Inflammation and Slimming Meals that Heal. All three of Daniluk’s books are available at the Main Library, and the John M. Harper and McCormick branches.

Hot Detox has been shortlisted for the Taste Canada Cookbook Awards 2017.  Daniluk, who lives in Toronto, has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, is a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show, and hosts The Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).  Daniluk’s blog, free recipes and video cooking classes can be found on her website at http://www.juliedaniluk.com.

-Sandy W.