My health and wellness journey started in 2015. After giving birth to our first child, Mary Harper, I fully expected to be able to lose the pregnancy weight quickly. Clearly I did not know what I was in for. I never really had any trouble losing weight in the past, but I also never really tried. Six months after MH was born I was still 20-25lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight and most of my clothes that I had been holding on to for when I got my body back, were slowly moving further and further back in my closet. My husband and I decided to watch Forks Over Knives and Hungry for Change. I highly recommend these documentaries to anyone who is thinking about making a significant change in their diet and lifestyle.
That night I made the decision to go fully vegan. I cut out all meat and dairy immediately. Truth be told, it wasn’t has daunting as I thought it would be. I was fully vegan for a solid three months. I lost 25-30lbs in that time. I was feeling great! We discovered ways to substitute meat for veggies or meatless products and we found ways to substitute our dairy intake with non-dairy products. We enjoyed finding new ways to cook. Cooking became a significant part of our relationship. It brought us closer together as a family.
While on this journey I’ve had my fair share of weak moments. But I believe those moments are good for you. If you constantly crave something but tell yourself you can’t have it, then you will continue to think about that one thing. I had to change my mindset a lot and start telling myself “I choose not to have it.” That made a difference in how I perceived my cravings. Trust the journey. It takes time. Nothing worth having comes easy or quick.
2015 went smoothly with my new lifestyle change. Not only was I mostly vegan (vegetarian all the time and vegan as often as possible), but I also had started running at the beginning of the year. That became my outlet. Running was a way for my husband and I to destress and unwind at the end of our work days. Our family runs were an event we looked forward to each weekend. We were feeling great about ourselves and our family lifestyle choices as we entered 2016.
This was our year as a family. We had been enjoying our new lifestyle change for about a year. We bought our first house and were excited to get moved in. In October we found out we were going to be having another baby! I was determined this time around to eat better and stay active. Although MH was born healthy and I had no major problems throughout her pregnancy, I was always tired and I ate everything I craved. I wanted to do better this time. But I decided to eat meat and dairy on occasion. I still focused on organic and local products as much as possible.
My pregnancy with Allison (AJ) went great! She was born a healthy 8lbs 6oz and I was able to deliver her naturally, another goal I had set for myself this time around. Things were going great! I started to lose my pregnancy weight quickly. About 6 weeks after her birth I was about 145lbs, only 10lbs from my pre-pregnancy weight. We had our family of four, a house we were updating and calling home, a crazy energetic dog who loved his new yard. Our lives were perfect.
And just when we thought we had everything figured out, our lives were turned upside down.
Six weeks after AJ was born, we noticed a large mass sticking out of Mary Harper’s stomach. We took her to the doctor where they immediately sent us to the hospital for scans. The scans revealed a 6.5 inch tumor covering the entire left side of her abdomen. The scans looked like a black hole had swallowed her left abdomen. After her 8 hour surgery, the doctors were able to remove the tumor in her abdomen, along with her left kidney and adrenal gland. More scans revealed she had dozens of tumors on her lungs as well. She was then diagnosed with stage 4 Wilm’s Tumor, a rare childhood kidney cancer.
Immediately we were put in a position to question every choice we had made for our family. Come to find out that Wilm’s Tumor develops while the child is in the womb. When I heard that I felt apart. I felt like I was drowning. I kept thinking about my pregnancy with Mary Harper and I couldn’t stop blaming myself. I ate like total crap and I didn’t exercise at all. Although there is no test to prove the origins of this cancer, there are several studies to support that meat and dairy are linked to causing cancer. Talk about mom guilt…
We immediately decided to get serious about our diet and lifestyle. As a family we were full vegetarian. We eat vegan when we can and always look for the healthiest option. This diet change has made this experience a bit easier to deal with. MH is handling her treatments like a champ. The doctors and nurses are constantly surprised by her progress and energy levels.
As of now, MH is halfway through her 9 month chemotherapy treatment. She has completed her two rounds of radiation. Her tumors are disappearing and shrinking. She’s been feeling amazing! She has so much energy and positive spirits! We are scheduled to end treatment in April 2018.
As parents we just want to do what is best for our kids. Our decisions on how we have raised and will continue to raise our children were not made quickly. We did our research. We read books, listened to podcasts, talked to pediatricians and MH’s oncologists, watched numerous documentaries on health and where our food comes from. We made decisions for our children that would ensure a long life filled with true health and wellness, compassion for people and animals, an understanding of how the world works, where their food comes from, their environmental impact, and most of all, love. Our daughters truly understand the meaning of love. And that will be my greatest parenting win.
I hope you enjoy my blog. I’ve put my heart and soul into it. I hope you are able to find inspiration to guide you towards being your best self and achieving your goals.