Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sugar and cancer

My fused glass horse. Sort of pricy but still a fraction of its original cost

interesting sculpture in a Dexter alley

Last night I went to Dexter, where I haven't been in a while. As Dexter was fairly close to my grandparent's place, I visited it a lot as a child even when I was still living in New York. The Dairy Queen and this bakery are still here. In college on, I would bike to Dexter and back either stopping for an apple fritter here or a malt or the nearby Dairy Queen. Isn't a wonder I had cancer? During my marathon days, I would run to Dexter and back, 20 miles for training runs and I usually did the Dexter Ann Arbor half Marathon. Later Josh and his ex-wife moved here. His ex had a puppy boutique across the street from this photo where Naomi worked. But Josh and I have since moved further away so no more Dexter.

Sugar and its closely related high glycemic starches (think potatoes) are the new dietary villains versus fat, which gram for gram has more calories. Sugar consumption in the US (and probably elewhere) especially in the form of 'high fructose cornsyrup" has gone way up leading to increased obesity and diabetes. Also certain cancers are occurring sooner and more frequently than in the past. 
Not long ago (Oct 2018) there was a symposium in NYC hosted by the Cornell Medical School and its associated hospital New York Presbyterian entitled Not so sweet: The hidden Cancer Risk of Sugar and Inflammation.  The premise is as follows: eating sugar increases blood glucose levels which triggers insulin production in the pancreas  An enzymeP13K produces a lipid PIP3 that moves the insulin and glucose to be used in the liver and muscles. However if levels are too high, PIP3 can cause cancer itself. If there is any tiny tumor in the body and if there is a genetic mutation in the PIP3 pathway, the glucose will be driven into the tumor, not the muscle. Tumors take up more sugar than normal cells enabling them to be visualized by PET scans, which use a labelled sugar to visual where the sugar goes. Tumors especially vulnerable to this pathway are uterine, breast, colon, ovarian  and bladder. There are drugs such as metformin used for diabetics that lower glucose levels.

Excess body fat also triggers certain cancers in several ways. First fat cells produce estrogen which feeds hormone dependent cancers such as breast and uterine. But it can also trigger inflammatory processes. Enlarged fat cells outstrip their oxygen supply and die.setting off release of cytokines which lead to more inflammation. Even people who have chronic inflammatory conditions such as H. pylori are much more susceptible to cancer.

What to eat then? Certainly not sugary and starchy stuff. If one is hungry, high fat nuts and cheese will satisfy hunger for longer. We do need the vitamins that are in certain starches and fruits. It is suggested eating only slow glucose starches such as oats and that whole fruit paired with fat such as whole milk yogurt or cheese. Also high fructose corn syrup alters the flora in the gut in ways more conductive to cancer. Colon cancer has suddenly become more common among the young. Could it co-incide with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup?

Do doctors ever tell their patients to lose weight if they don't want cancer. Not mine. When I was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, I was overweight. I had broken my arm the year before which could not be set, so I could not exercise at all leading to a big weight gain. . Also for menopause I was taking Prem-pro which I found out later that my body lacks the enzyme to metabolize estrogen leading to high blood levels of estrogen, food initially for breast tumors. My cancer morphed into a non hormone dependent type.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to do something about being fat. Aside from not looking good, there are numerous health risks with being obese. I am most afraid of my cancer returning. Recent events have made that fear more intense. I did drop almost 80 pounds in a year. I have gained about 4 of it back and that will be gone in a month. I still fit into my size 4s though right now they are annoyingly snug.  I didn't eat much sugar but I did have a weakness for carbohydrates such as pasta, bagels, crackers. For a year, I hardly ate any of them. I did eat nuts and cheese even though they have more calories. I did not count calories. Hardest was limiting my wine intake. I allowed myself one glass for social occasions. Now I am back to drinking too much. Need to stop that. I filled up with fruit and vegetables. For protein, I would make a big veggie omelet (I have a garden) though eggs again are some sort of villain. My cholesterol and triglyceride levels are low or normal.. I do eat lean meat occasionally and tofu (estrogen!!!). I have a weakness for expensive chocolate and will eat it hoping its high fat moderates its sugar. I also exercise at least an hour a day if not 90 minutes. In warm months, I will be biking for more than 2 hours so it is easier to be thin in the summer. Still I surprised myself and others that I was able to lose the weight without drugs (unless you count coffee, sometimes if I felt especially hungry between meals, some coffee would satisfy me) or having my stomach stapled (which chunky as I was, I still wasn't considered obese and not a candidate not that I would as in the long run it causes health problems and people gain the weight back). I regularly train with weights to keep my muscle mass high.

Spring is finally here (sort of..tomorrow back to coldness cancelling a hoped for bike ride). One night this week, it was actually 67! and a friend and I were able to sit outside with wine (too much!) In the past 2 weeks I've biked 80 miles. In the wetlands, I hear the peepers. The cranes and vultures are back. The goldfinches are getting their breeding colors. Some people have crocuses in bloom though I must live in a colder zone but I am sure they will come out next week. This winter has been especially tough and I do look forward to being in the sun.

My friend is back in the hospital initially unable to move even when on oxygen. She has influenza A despite having a flu vaccine. Presumably a flu vaccine is considered effective if it protects 60% of those who get it which sounds low to me. I get the shots yearly. I've had the flu only once and that was well before vaccines so I am either lucky or have a strong immune system. When I saw her a few days ago, she finally was able to walk a few feet without collasping. I will help her next week at home when she is released. I will whine (to myself) how long it takes me now to do my 6 mile run versus when I would place high in my age group doing races in the past but not being able to walk because of non-functioning lungs puts things in perspective

Saturday, March 16, 2019

tornado warning

Our outing to the Purple Rose. Why do I look so damn big?

This has been in Ann Arbor forever Have I ever been there? Not until yesterday. Signature dish: hippie hash

Shanna's mother in law's orthodox church back in Syria  Very old.   Christianity spread there first, not to Europe

these are my northern lights night light that I put up in my hall. Different light patterns slowly emerge. Would love to put it in my bedroom but my light sensitive husband who has already removed additional lights I put up so I don't stumble at night would object

my mom's dad. I don't believe I ever heard him speak as Parkinson's made that impossible

This has not been a good week. On Xmas eve, a heard of deer ran into Naomi's car totalling it. The insurance gave her enough money to buy Josh's car, a considerable upgrade for her so that worked out. She had this car only for 5 weeks before a car ran a red light into her. Fortunately lots of witnesses came forward to prove it was not her fault (but it wouldn't have hurt to look before going into an intersection..she claims the car came out of nowhere) Lots of damage. Will they total this car too? We know the estimate but what will they give her. At the very least it will take 3 weeks to fix and she has our extra car so our mobility is somewhat reduced. I had thought about taking a trip somewhere without Steve but that is now out.

It was almost 7 years to the day that the Dexter tornado hit swirling over Josh's house. He chose to outrun it, not a good idea. It hit the subdivision just north of him reducing several houses to piles of lumber. He had almost bought one of those houses but I could tell they were shoddily built. As it turns out, the framing was not connected to the foundation as it should have been so that's why they so easily collasped. No one was hurt but some were trapped in their basements for a  while. His trees were covered with pink insulation from the destruction. Looked like cotton candy. I was away in Massachusetts for the month waiting for Tessa.

The other night I get a call from Naomi who just had gotten a message on her phone  to take cover immediately as there was a tornado 'in the area' Sirens screeching all  over the place. But what does 'in the area' mean? In the same county which in her case was 25 miles away. Where was this tornado? Scheduled to hit approximately where I was with the Moms on one of their farms. She has lots of windows so we could see lightning and hail all over the place. My former hairdresser, five miles away from the farm, claimed to see the funnel cloud. We lost power for awhile. At the same time, we were to go see a play in town about 15 minutes away. The playhouse said the performance would be delayed and  that all the patrons who got there early were huddled in the basement. It would not have been a good idea to drive there in the storm but eventually there was a lull in the action so we got to the play. We missed the first 5-10 minutes of it.

I kept waiting for March. I have old photos showing all my crocuses in bloom by now. That didn't happen yet. There is a thin, slippery layer of snow on the ground. I am waiting impatiently for it to melt. Back  in the year of the Dexter tornado, magnolia and cherry blossoms were in bloom now due to the early warming. But April came and all the fruit blossoms froze wrecking Michigan's fruit crops. Peaches managed to survive.

After the weather cancelling February's classes, I went to the cooking class the other day. Healthy breakfasts. Hope my 'healthy' eating delays this dreaded thing from coming back

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Orchids versus dandelions

One of my friend's creations. She invited me over for a fancy lunch last week that she spent much effort preparing. She is quite talented but I feel guilty that she does so much work when she has very limited energy

My daughter and her daughter

I bought this homemade paper collage

and this stylized kitty

and this silver and abalone ring

My mom would have turned 92 yesterday if it were not for Alzheimer's

According to a podcast I listened to in the middle of the night, kids according to pediatrician and behavioral psychologist Dr. Thomas Boyce kids can be divided into two, not equal groups: dandelions and orchids. Dandelions are common and will thrive in about any condition whereas orchids are rare, very sensitive but also very special. By administering a few simple very mildly stressful tests, the kids can easily be distinguished from each other. How to raise your ultra sensitive orchid? With a lot of care. Lots of set routines and comforts as orchids adjust poorly to new situations. Hmmm. My gut feeling would be to help these orchids adjust. I've run across too many adult orchids.

Orchids definitely would not have lasted long in my childhood house.  All I will say about that is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I was counting down the days until I could be on by own.

It seems that orchids are becoming much more common these days. Someone calls child protection services because a nine year old girl was allowed to walk her dog around the block (in a 'good' neighborhood). I walked a few blocks to kindergarten by myself. My kids usually went in groups to a school that was almost a mile away. I didn't worry about abductions, just the nature pond that Josh loved to break the ice on. Now the woods they crossed through has a deer culling program in the winter. There are signs for the kids not to cut through (and walk considerably further) but do they pay attention? although judging from the parking lot when I pick up Maya, no kid seems to walk anymore.

Winter may be finally disappearing though I had to wait for the strong sun to melt a path in the bit of snow that fell last night on the bike path and it was a not so toasty 20 degrees. For the three days prior, I worked out on our elliptical machine, boring but my heart rate goes even higher than running so I guess I am getting a workout. Plus I lift weights.

Still learning Dutch. In Spanish, there are two verbs meaning to be (estar and ser). One describes a temporary state of being such as I am happy. The other is a more permanent state of being such as I am tall.  This could be tricky as what verb do you use to describe a generally happy baby, not just one that is happy for the moment? Well Dutch doesn't seem to have temporary and permanent states of being but they have a new one for me: positional states of being. Words aren't just on a page, they stand on a page. Amsterdam just isn't in the Netherlands, it lies in the Netherlands. And you are not just in prison, you sit in prison. Sometimes it is tricky deciding if an object is sitting, standing or laying. Flat objects lie, vertical stand and things inside sit but balls are tricky. And the language isn't so pretty. Van Gogh sounds like one is expelling mucus from ones throat. Some of the words sound obscene as Ik hoor het vaak. (I hear it often). Hopefully keeping all these rules straight will keep me mentally alert longer.

The other day I was helping Maya with her homework which was to write a letter to her principal to persuade her to give kids more recess.

But I don't want more recess. I stand outside freezing just waiting for the bell to ring so I can go inside where it is warm.

But lets pretend it is warm out and actually have fun outside. What would the advantages be?

So hard.


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