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Five down, ONE TO GO! Hoooraaaaaaaaaay… I just have to get through the next 10 days or so of horrific pain and self injections but at least the nasty hospital bit is done and there’s only one more session to go – I’ve practically flown through it!

Here’s a couple of pics of me enduring the ice torture with my giant frozen baseball foam hands and feet, which seemed appropriate for election day!

Unfortunately my little finger on my right hand doesn’t seem to have thawed out properly after an hour and is still tingling and red and painful so I’m holed up in my room with an electric heater and the radiators on full blast hoping my pinkie won’t go black and drop off in the next few hours.

In other news, the sugar challenge is going well but I really feel like I could use something sweet right now…

The Big Sugar Challenge

DAY FIVE (Monday)

Pre-breakfast: Four steroids and a banana.

Breakfast: Grilled bacon sandwich with grilled tomato on grain bread. One cup of tea.

Lunch: One mushroom, tomato and cheddar omelette with a bit of salad and balsamic vinegar. One cup of tea. Four more steroids.

Snacks: An apple, kiwi etc smoothie with a little spinach, broccoli and other bits of vegetabley goodness (I’m not sure where the boundaries lie between fruit juice and a natural smoothie…) Another cup of tea with milk.

Dinner: Roasted chicken stuffed with Philadelphia cream cheese (no sugar… am I allowed this?) and wrapped in bacon with a fresh basil leaf. Boiled potatoes with butter and steamed veg. A bowl of blueberries.

Snacks: More cashews and raisins and a cup of tea with milk.

Well done so far to Mum, Dad, Beth, Michelle, Ed (?), Emma, Lucy, Flavia (?), Elspeth (?), Niki (?) and anyone else I’ve forgotten for joining in the sugar-fighting efforts!

P.S. In the below pic you may notice an empty glass dish on the wooden table. I can assure you this was a FRESH FRUIT SALAD and NOT ice cream! I would never lie to you… 🙂

Tomorrow I am having chemotherapy round five. To prepare for the ice torture, I stood outside in a field for a couple of hours last night until my feet felt like icicles. Now hopefully it won’t feel too bad when I have my hands and feet deliberately frozen tomorrow. I have also started taking the steroids again, which has left me feeling sick and even more hungry, making the no-sugar challenge that tiny bit harder.

Day three of the no-sugar diet was a little tough as I went out for a big lunch with family and friends at one of my favourite local restaurants, The Farmer’s Boy, followed by a bonfire complete with cake stall in the evening. Going on any kind of diet can make social situations such as dinner parties and restaurant meals more difficult as you become the picky one who can’t eat most of the things on the menu. It is debatable whether I was allowed to have an enormous battered haddock and chips for my lunch, but I reasoned (with myself) that there is no sugar in it and it was all freshly prepared, so it was probably fine. Chips unfortunately don’t taste quite as nice without ketchup (which contains loads of sugar and is thus on the NO list) but lashings of vinegar did the job instead.

At the end of the meal, the bill came with a few mint imperials. I put one in my mouth as a natural impulse and immediately spat it out on realising I was on a no-sugar diet. This was a bit like the time I did a sponsored silence when I was 8 years old and managed to last for a couple of hours in complete silence before shouting out “Daaaaaad!” from my bedroom in the final two minutes and then cupping my hand to my mouth in disbelief when I realised what I’d just done. So, slightly cheated there, but I didn’t actually eat it.

At the bonfire in the evening, I had to contend with a cake stall that comprised of fresh ginger muffins, coffee cake, Mum’s incredible miniature Victoria sponges, cakes with chocolate icing and smarties on top, parkin… the list goes on! (Thanks Kimm and Howard, for hosting!) But we both managed to say no to all the sweet goods and even my father declared he would start the no-sugar diet today.

DAY THREE (Sunday):

Breakfast: Bowl of porridge with berries, cinnamon and a banana. One cup of tea.

Lunch: Small bit of salmon mousse with cucumber, a large bowl of artichoke soup with tomato bread and butter and a huge battered haddock, chips, mushy peas and vinegar (no ketchup!). One cappuccino. A highly regrettable, momentary lick of a mint imperial.

Snacks: Two cups of tea with milk. A handful of raisins and cashew nuts and one solitary strawberry.

Dinner: One hotdog with some onions, two extra sausages (compliments to chefs Howard, Tim and Dave!), half a burger in a bun (STILL NO KETCHUP – a travesty). One cup of tea with milk.

Snacks: Some more handfuls of raisins and cashew nuts. One green tea and one camomile tea.

Not the healthiest day of my life, but still no sugar!

How is everyone else getting on?

I woke up on day two of the no-sugar challenge with a headache, though it’s hard to say whether it was from the lack of sugar or just a general effect of the chemo. Nevertheless, it was gone after a quick cup of tea – I don’t know how I’d cope if I had to cut out the caffeine as well. (I may try it after two weeks).

I didn’t have any major sugar cravings for the rest of the day but I did feel constantly hungry and finished off all the remaining sugar-free items of my Graze box – i.e. a possibly unhealthy amount of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, but I guess it’s better than the chocolate I would’ve eaten otherwise.

In the evening I went to a public bonfire and had a fairly unhealthy large hog roast sandwich, though at least it was sugar-free. It was difficult to say no to the parkin (a traditional Yorkshire cake made of treacle and oatmeal) though. I’m told it keeps for a good while so I’m saving a piece until Nov 16.

Mum has found some novel ways around her no-sugar diet. She came home on Saturday afternoon and declared she had signed up for it, to support me, but there was a catch:

“I’m going to give up chocolate, sweets and cake,” she said, sheepishly, “But I’ve decided I’m allowed scones. There isn’t much sugar in them anyway and I don’t have butter or jam with them.”

Fair enough, I said. (I inherited my love of sweet foods from her and she is known to hide large amounts of chocolate buttons in secret places about the house.)

When I arrived back home from the bonfire later that night, I found she had adopted some interesting alternatives to sugary drinks.

“I read the label on the Horlicks packet, just to check whether that had sugar,” she said. (Of course it has plenty of sugar). “And it did. So then I just thought I’d check the label on the Options [hot chocolate!!] packet to see if that sugar… And it did…”

“So what did you have instead?!” I asked, thinking ooh… maybe peppermint tea?

“I had two spoonfuls of cottage cheese [with pineapple chunks] from the fridge,” she replied.

So there you go! Next time you feel like reaching for that Mars bar, just try cottage cheese instead! The perfect substitute, brought to you by Pricey’s Mum.

DAY TWO (Saturday)

Breakfast: Porridge, berries, a banana and cinnamon. Two cups of tea with milk.

Lunch: One boiled egg, a slice of grain toast, fresh buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, lettuce and tomatoes. One punnet of black pepper pistachios. One cup of green tea.

Snacks: Two punnets of berries and dried fruit. One handful of nuts and raisins. One tea with milk. Half a glass of red wine.

Dinner: One enormous hog roast butty and a cup of Bovril at the bonfire (which turned out to be just a beef OXO cube…)

Snacks: A bowl full of grapes. Another tea with milk.

Back in 2005, in my final year of university in London, I attempted a complete detox. This meant going from drinking several cups of tea a day and eating a lot of chocolate and sweets (pretty much all day long to get me through exam revision and freezing cold temperatures at my Wolfson House halls of residence and the King’s College library), to living off fruit and veg.

The sudden cold turkey was a terrible shock to my system. As many of you know, I am pretty obsessed with food. I go to bed thinking about what I’m going to have for breakfast, wake up thinking about lunch and then obviously spend the rest of the day thinking about dinner. So, when I took away all the amazing stuff I usually ate (toast, pitta breads, cheese, meat, rice, potatoes, not to mention the chocolate, tea, coffee, sweets), the obsession was amplified to the power of 10 and I literally could not stop thinking about food.

Instead of finding something else to occupy my mind, I ate everything in sight, as long as it obeyed the list of “Yes” foods. This meant that I ate 6 bowls of pure-vegetable soup in one day, 5 bowls of porridge with honey, oodles of cups of fruit tea and plenty of extra veg. My 5-a-day became 25-a-day, and my concentration went out the window.

They say if you can get past the first 24-48 hours of a detox, you’ll suddenly feel like the most energetic, spritely elf in the world and will start bouncing around like a 3-year-old. Unfortunately, I didn’t get further than about 13 hours, at which point I vomited everything up, popped a few pills for my splitting headache and promptly gave up.

So I’m pleased to say that it’s been a little easier this time. Nothing like a bit of chemotherapy to prepare the system for all kinds of shocks! Here’s my food diary so far: (And I realise this is probably incredibly boring for some, so don’t feel the need to read on if you’re bored already).

DAY ONE (Friday)

Breakfast: One slice of grain toast with margarine and marmite. One cup of tea.

Mid-morning beverage: One flat white (espresso + milk)

Lunch: One of slice of serrano ham, 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 slice of grain toast no margarine, a pile of lettuce and vinaigrette (may have to check the label on that for next time), a pile of mozzarella balls, roasted red and yellow peppers and sun-dried tomatoes from Morrisons deli counter.

Snacks: Two bowls full of salted microwave popcorn (with no added crap) and two cups of green tea. And two slices of taster cheese from Morrisons. One normal cup of tea.

Dinner: Two homemade Jamie Oliver salmon fishcakes, minted peas, basil, tomato and chilli sauce and mashed potato. The rest of the packet of microwave salted popcorn and another cup of green tea.

Snacks: A handful of nuts and raisins.

The verdict:

I didn’t crave sweet stuff much at all today, but funnily enough I kept craving salt, hence finishing the entire 4-person bag of salted popcorn.

I realised later on that the salad dressing I used at lunchtime had a tiny bit of sugar in it, so I may have ever-so-slightly cheated there, but I’m switching to balsamic vinegar from now on.

So far, so good…

Can I survive two weeks without sugar and processed foods? That is the question.

What on earth would prompt me to even consider doing such a thing? I hear you ask. (And if you couldn’t care less, then don’t read on.)

Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have had nutritional advice thrown at me from all sides. (Apart from the oncologist, whose main advice is that I can eat pretty much whatever I like, provided my diet is fairly balanced and healthy.) My mother has read many a book on nutrition – eating during chemotherapy, eating for breast cancer, etc. And I have heard, for the first time in my life, about Functional Medicine – the study of why we get diseases such as cancer and how we can prevent them, rather than just looking at how we can cure them.

I have been looking for a Functional Medicine specialist who I could see in London for the past few months, and it has been a difficult task because there are relatively few of them in the UK, partly because the concept of Functional Medicine was only created 22 years ago. A couple of days ago, I got to searching again, and found a practitioner in the UK called Elizabeth Butler, who runs Body Soul Nutrition and focuses specifically on nutrition advice for cancer patients.

While reading Liz’s blog, I came across the following article: Have Your Cake and Eat it! and decided to take on a personal nutritional challenge while waiting for an appointment with Liz to discuss how I can keep cancer at bay for the rest of my life by obeying certain nutritional advice. That’s right, I am giving up sugar.

THE CHALLENGE

So, the challenge, which I have already accepted, is to go for two weeks, which started this morning, without sugar or processed foods. See below for my self-imposed list of yes and no foods.

NO

Chocolate

Sweets

Crisps

Biscuits

Cake

Added sugar in coffee and tea (but coffee and tea themselves are allowed)

Microwave meals or other processed meals

Fruit juice

White bread

White rice

Sugary cereal

YES

Fruit

Nuts, seeds, dried fruit

Veg

Meat, fish, poultry

Porridge

Pretty much everything else that’s not on the NO list.

 

A few things to be aware of:

* The challenge ends at 07:00 on Friday 16th November.

* There will be regular updates on my progress in this blog.

* I am aware that I am to have chemotherapy on Tuesday and this is probably a very, very, very bad idea, but I figure it can do me no major harm, plus I stop craving half these things during chemo anyway.

* If I relapse at any point, I will let you know but I will pick myself up and carry on.

* I know it’s Friday afternoon and the weekend’s about to start but, as with everything in life, there’s no time like the present. 

**THE IMPORTANT BIT: How YOU can help!**

1. Please don’t send me any more sweet stuff in the post! (But thank you so much for everything you’ve sent me thus far).

2. Feel free to join me in this endeavour! I know plenty of my (mainly female) friends have done this or thought about doing this in the past, so here’s an added incentive to try it now, while we can all go through the pain together!

(So far I have think I have recruited Beth, my Mum is thinking about doing it after she finishes the flapjack she’s just made (which is delicious and I’m sad I can’t help with it, but at least I had some last night) and Michelle, once she finishes off the banana loaf she’s just about to make…). No pressure, girls – just a public name-and-shame, that’s all! 😉 

Finally, thanks to Saz for the wonderful package of thoughtful presents below, received earlier in the week. Fortunately most of it has already been consumed so I won’t be too tempted by amazing chocolate for the next two weeks!

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