Cancer Survivor Stories

Surviving Through Cancer

The night our son was diagnosed with cancer, was the first of many nights that I did not sleep. I stayed up that night fervently searching the internet for childhood cancer survivor stories of other children with my son’s same brain tumor. Thankfully I came across other families who had shared their children’s cancer journey online.I even reached out to two other mothers that night to help shine some light on what our journey might entail. Even though I am a registered nurse and spent a year working on an adult oncology unit, any possibly information you may already know goes out the window the moment you hear “your child has cancer.” Both of those mothers replied to me within hours of me sending them a message and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for their words of encouragement, being so open about sharing their own personal journey and being that light of hope that I needed when all else was darkness.

While we were still inpatient with our son, his dad and I found a Facebook support group page called “Parents of kids with Medulloblastoma.” This is a private group of parents all around the world with children who have been diagnosed with this type of brain tumor. This page has served as a platform for parents to share their experiences, fears, valuable information they have obtained,their victories and ask questions. It has been an outlet for so many to be able to connect with other parents in the same situation, because who else truly understands what you are going through than them. Regardless of what type of cancer you or your child may have, I assure you there is some type of support group out there for you to connect with. It does not necessarily have to be online, some you may find within the hospital or out in the community. I highly encourage you seek this type of support, it truly helps to connect with others who are currently dealing with the same diagnosis or have already been through this journey. Although loved ones are always great support and much needed, these individuals will connect with you in a way no one else will be able to. They share your exact fears, questions, doubts, anxiety and so many other emotions.

In the days that followed after our son was discharged home, his dad and I also decided that I would create an Instagram page to document our son’s journey. We decided it would be the best way to be able to keep our family and friends up to date instead of trying to answer hundreds of text messages or phone calls on a daily basis. As much as we wanted to personally thank everyone for all their thoughts and prayers, it was truly overwhelming for us as we were inundated with messages. For me,creating the Instagram page also meant that I would be able to carry a timeline of Anthony’s journey and have it serve as a fragment of my memoir during this time of our lives. Early on we did not realize what an impact our son’s Instagram account would have on others, to the point of reaching thousands of people worldwide who have following his story along with us.

These social media platforms have truly made way for us to connect with other families dealing with childhood cancer. It is honestly one of the things that have helped me cope and hold on to hope and my faith during times fear has tried to settle in. These individuals know exactly what you are going through and will be one of your most important pillars of hope, knowledge and strength throughout this journey. We have even been blessed to meet some of these families and their cancer warriors in person which have become like family.

Once you walk the path of cancer, the journey is truly never over. Now that our son has completed his treatment and is in remission, I feel that it is our turn to pay it forward and be an inspiration of hope to others who perhaps have just been diagnosed, are in treatment,in remission or even relapsed. In addition to that, the next following pages are cancer survivor stories of other warriors. Everyone you meet along the way will leave an imprint on your soul and we all have something that we can take away from others. Sometimes we simply need a reminder that everything will be okay and someone out there has been in your exact shoes. I hope this space serves to give you that extra bit of hope you made need and make this journey an easier one to walk. After all, no one fights alone!

*If you have a cancer survivor story you would like me to share, please send it to me here.

Our Journey Through Cancer

A Mother’s Intuition

It was November 18, 2017. A day like any other, or so I had hoped. Only that the morning had already started out in a peculiar way.

It was the first day of the beginning of Thanksgiving break for Anthony during his fourth grade year of elementary. We had planned to enjoy that Saturday as usual. Only that when he woke up, he sat up in bed and had projectile vomiting. For those of you that are not in the medical field, this is quite alarming as stomach contents are suddenly and forcefully propelled several feet away from you. It was noticeably different than the usual vomiting he would have had as result of an illness. Several red flags came to mind immediately: he vomited shortly after waking up without having had anything to eat or drink, the vomiting was forceful, he had not recently been around anyone that had been sick and most alarming was that he had no other accompanying symptoms like fever, nausea, abdominal pain or anything else that would be present had it been a stomach flu virus of some sort. He only had one episode of vomiting that morning. Its almost as if it had never even occurred. The rest of the day went on as usual.

The following morning, the exact same scenario occurred all over again. The next two days that followed it was as if nothing had ever taken place in the days that had preceded. The vomiting had went away and no other signs or symptoms surfaced. Until the vomiting came back on that 5th day. I took him to see his pediatrician, who was a new doctor to him to him at the time in which he had never seen, and he diagnosed him with gastroenteritis, better known as the “stomach flu” but also suggested perhaps he was stressed. Neither of the two could possibly apply, Anthony had no symptoms of the actual flu and if you know him personally or have come to learn about him through his journey, you’ll know stress has never been a factor. As a concerned mother and applying my critical thinking skills as a nurse, I had asked the doctor if he could order lab tests or imaging studies but he was reluctant at that time “because there are no alarming symptoms.” Well, vomiting alone without any other symptoms is very concerning!

Anthony returned to school after Thanksgiving break on November 27, 2017. He had felt well that morning to go to school and again no other symptoms had developed. If anything we would have hope that at that point whatever virus that had possibly came and inflicted Anthony with this peculiar vomiting, as the doctor suggested, would have cleared his body. Unfortunately that was not the case and the monster that we were actually dealing with was much larger than we could have ever imagined.

Over the course of 12 days Anthony had intermittent episodes of vomiting. His dad and I also started to notice he was losing weight rapidly as witnessed with his shirts fitting quite loosely and his collar bone starting to protrude. Anthony has always been slender, so his weight loss was quickly noticeable in that short time frame. His dad and I knew it had to be something more than just a typical “flu.” 

The night prior to taking Anthony in to the hospital his dad had informed me that Anthony had an episode of vomiting about an hour after dinner. This is what would now be the twelfth day. Suddenly my anxiety escalated and what was just a mother’s intuition of knowing something more than just vomiting was occurring with my son, turned to my critical thinking skills of a nurse. It was the night of November 29, 2017 that I lay in my bed with my eyes glued to my computer monitor and my heart racing. Despite how many times I have told my family and friends to not google their symptoms on the internet, because chances are it will be false information or a worse case scenario of what may actually be occurring, I did just that. I kept googling “acute onset of vomiting upon wakening with no other symptoms” and “intermittent episodes of vomiting in a child with no other symptoms.” Both of which resulted in possibly being brain related and worst case scenario a brain tumor.

That would be the first of many nights that I would not sleep. That night I asked him to bring him over in the morning prior to taking him to school so that I could assess him in person. That next morning I had already sent out a group text to my fellow nurse coworkers letting them know that I would be calling out sick from work that day and proceeded to let them know what had been occurring with Anthony. They concurred that the best thing would be to have him evaluated in the Emergency Room.

The next set of publications serve as a memoir of the timeline of events that we have lived and our journey through cancer from my perspective, as a mother and nurse.

Warriors With Wings


“Emily was diagnosed 11/26/14, the day before Thanksgiving, at age 4 with a SPNET (Supratentorial Primitive NeuroEctodermal Tumor). Emily had been misdiagnosed with allergies after suffering debilitating headaches for a few months, we pushed the pediatrician until she agreed to order a CT scan. After her CT scan Emily was sent straight to the emergency room. Emily had a brain tumor and was transported via ambulance to Kaiser Sunset, where she had surgery the day after Thanksgiving.”

“Thankfully there were no complications and by the grace of God, she was talking, walking and was discharged.  Three weeks later, doctors found the tumor had grown back.  Emily started chemo on New Year’s Eve, having a total of 6 rounds of chemo at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and 30 rounds of radiation to the brain and spine. She was in remission for almost 2 years when she had scans in July of 2017 showing an area of enhancement.”

“On August 16, 2017, after having a seizure and being airlifted to CHLA, the area of enhancement showed growth causing her to relapse. Emi had a resection August 2017 in hopes that an immunotherapy trial with the University of Florida would save her life. While awaiting for her life saving shot, she reoccured 4 months later, the 4th tumor bled in Dec 2017 and she was put in observation. She had a 4th resection and started the immunotherapy trial. Just 3 months later she reoccured for a 5th time. During that 5th and final surgery, she suffered a stroke in the operating room, they induced a coma in hopes that the swelling in her brain would go down. During surgery the surgeon found out that the tumor had spread and there were now multiple tumors causing blood to be pulled to a different part of the brain and that caused the stroke. After a week of tests after tests, they declared her brain dead and she had to be taken off life support.”

“Emi gained her wings on March 27, 2018 at age 8, leaving us all heart broken and lost, but her legacy will live by inspiring others to love the way she did, to #LoveLikeEmi”

Story told by mother: Olivia Jarquin



Skin Care

Safety in the Sun ☀️

As much as we love to spend time in the sun, with our son’s sensitive skin post radiation we have to take extra precautions 🧢☀️⛱

It’s also not just about applying any type of sunscreen. You want to make sure what is being applied to your skin, especially that of your child’s, is safe and non-toxic since it will be absorbed through the skin.

Ways to reduce the risk of sunburn, skin aging from sun and most importantly skin cancer:

☀️Make sure to always evenly apply sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes prior to sun exposure.

☀️ When shopping for a sunscreen opt for ones that are water resistant, have SPF of 30 or higher and are “broad spectrum”, which means the product has ingredients that can protect you from UVA, as well as UVB rays.

☀️ Most dermatologists will say you do not need SPF greater than 30-50. Very high SPFs often create a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer and may skip reapplying simply because they think they are better protected. Which in turn puts them at risk for more UV exposure, which, of course, then defeats the purpose.

☀️Reapply according to package instructions (at least every 2 hours)

☀️Regularly use broad spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF (exposure to UV rays during winter put you at the same risk as during the summer).🏖

☀️Wear sunglasses (this applies to children as well) They help protect your eyes from UV radiation!

☀️Wear added protection with wide brim hats (If you’ve lost your hair due to chemo, make sure to wear a hat out in the sun to protect your scalp. For added protection still apply sunscreen), pants or long sleeve shirts when possible 👖🧢🕶 Keep any surgical scars covered from the sun (If you cannot cover with a hat or clothes, once they are completely healed, you can apply sunscreen over them.)

☀️Limit time directly in the sun when possible from 10am-2pm (when UV rays are at their strongest)

☀️If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at its strongest!

☀️Some prescribed medications, especially chemo and radiation, make you at higher risk to develop sunburn (make sure to take extra precautions as the skin will absorb more UV rays under these conditions. Always carry sunscreen on-the-go.)

California Baby has this perfect “Fun In The Sun Essentials” organic tote bag for your outdoor fun with your kiddos! It includes
1.8oz Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion,
2oz Natural Bug Blend Bug Spray,
0.5oz Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Super Sensitive Sunscreen Stick,
0.5oz California Kids Supersensitive Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion,
California Baby® Designer Sunglasses and a make-up sponge to assist with a smooth and even sunscreen application.

Their mineral sunscreen goes on very light and blends well. A small amount goes a long way!

If you would like to try out California Baby products, click here to take a short quiz and claim a free prize! Hope you love their products just as much as we do!

For a full list of my recommended sunscreens go to:

Healthier Home

Non-Toxic Laundry: Dryer Balls

Although they make your clothes feel soft and smell “fresh”, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products. They add toxic chemicals to your laundry and, consequently, your body. Our skin is our largest organ and has a transdermal effect, so what we put on our body is just as important as what we put in it, which chemicals like these that stay on your clothes and have contact with your skin the majority of the day will have some effect on your health. Since fabric softeners are designed to stay on your clothes for extended periods of time, such chemicals can seep out gradually and be inhaled or absorbed directly through the skin. 

According to Scientific American, some of the most harmful ingredients in dryer sheets and liquid fabric softeners include: 
-benzyl acetate (linked to pancreatic cancer)
-benzyl alcohol (an upper respiratory tract irritant)
-ethanol (linked to central nervous system disorders)
-chloroform (a neurotoxin and carcinogen)
-limonene (carcinogen)
-surfactant nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) (reproductive problems)

The benefits of using dryer balls:
-reusable, can last up to 1,000 loads (once they start to unravel its time to replace)
-helps separate the clothes while in the dryer allows additional air flow through to dry clothes faster
-helps reduce wrinkles and static of clothing
-save you money on fabric softener and dryer sheets

How to use:
-use 2-3 dryer balls depending on size of load (they will work more efficiently with small to medium loads allowing the balls to bounce around and do their job) You will need more for larger loads

Most dryer balls are made of wool or bamboo fibers (these are the ones that you want to look for to purchase)

If you are looking for an added scent to your laundry, after the load is completely dried, take out the dyer balls and apply a desired amount of essential oil to each ball. Toss the dryer balls back into the dryer and run the load on “Air Fluff” for 10 minutes (no heat), so that the delicate essential oil is not damaged. 

I have created a list of recommendations of non-toxic laundry products with pictures of a few of my favorites here. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent is my most used detergent as it is the most economic of the non-toxic brands and does a great job!


Jessie Rees Foundation: Courageous Mama’s Luncheon

Today I had the honor of being in attendance of some of the strongest women I will ever meet. Although our stories are all different, our first chapter all started out with hearing the words “your child has cancer.” Words that will forever be imprinted into our hearts. We are part of a group that we never signed up for. Yet we are bonded in a way no one else can understand. We are a team and although this journey can sometimes be scary and lonely, no one fights alone.

7 years ago, one courageous mom lost her child to brain cancer. This courageous mom is Stacy Rees, mother to Jessie Rees for which the foundation is named after. This mom, the Rees family and Negu team put this first annual Courageous Mama’s Luncheon together so that other courageous moms can connect and be an additional source of encouragement to each other. This family lost their child and yet they fight so hard to encourage other families to Never Ever Give Up. I am still at a loss of words when I try to think of what they have endured and how amazing it is how they keep their daughter’s legacy alive by helping bring joy to other courageous kids and families.

Today we shared hugs, stories, laughs and many tears. We enjoyed a delicious brunch and if that wasn’t already enough, we were each gifted a special boost of love with this lovely Negu bag filled with thoughtful items for parents to use along the journey. 

So grateful to have been able to be a part of this amazing event and have been brought together with other courageous moms. Thank you Jessie Rees Foundation for all the love you showed us today and everyday for all that you do!

If your child has been diagnosed with cancer, I encourage you to join Team Negu. No one fights alone… we are a team, we are family!💙

For those of you who are not familiar with the Jessie Rees Foundation, it was created in honor of Jessica Joy Rees, better known as “Jessie”.  She was a 12 year old girl who courageously fought two brain tumors (DIPG) from March 3, 2011 to January 5, 2012. During her courageous fight, she decided to focus on helping other kids fighting cancer that couldn’t leave the hospital. When Jessie learned that some kids never get to leave the hospital after their treatment she asked her parents “How Can We Help Them?” This desire led to the creation of her fun-filled JoyJars® and the Never Ever Give Up (aka: NEGU®) message.

Jessie personally sent over 3,000 JoyJars to kids during her fight.  Now over 250,00 JoyJars have been stuffed and sent to courageous kids nationwide and in 41 other countries thanks to events like this one, along with the many donors, supporters and volunteers. Her family along with many volunteers and donors keep her legacy alive and continue to encourage other kids and families while they battle childhood cancer.

You can watch the video about Jessie and how the Jessie Rees Foundation was all started here:

Cancer Survivor Stories

Article About Childhood Cancer Survivors from Caring4KidsCancer

It is often believed that childhood cancer is ‘rare,’ and that it doesn’t affect many people. However, according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, there are thousands of children between birth and 19 years old who are diagnosed with pediatric cancer annually. It is a much more prevalent issue than perceived, and this lack of awareness is what leads to the lack of funding. Only 4% of Federal government research funding goes to study pediatric cancer, so many children are forced to endure the harsh effects of adult therapies. In order to increase awareness on this issue, we are providing a platform for people to share what they have gone through and inform others. The people we have interviewed are Kyrell, Lovely (his mother), Ellie, and Carolina

Could you please introduce yourself and talk a little bit about your experiences with childhood cancer?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): My name is Kyrell, and I have been battling cancer for a year now. I first realized something was wrong when I was at a soccer game, and my leg cramped up. It got worse and worse, and eventually the doctors diagnosed that it was cancer.                         

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My name is Carolina Valls. I am a registered nurse and a mother to an 11 year old boy who battled Medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, for the past 16 months.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): My name is Ellie, and I was diagnosed with childhood cancer at the age of 14. There was a bump in my leg as well as pain, and doctors thought it was just muscle pain, but later I was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma (a type of tissue cancer).

What qualities in your child do you admire as he/she faces obstacles?
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): He looks on the positive side. He is able to see the good in everything, and always seems to have a smile on his face. He has actually brought our family together because even though we might be going through tough times, he remains positive and happy. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): My son is resilient beyond measure. He has overcome every obstacle that has come his way with the most positive and calm demeanor. 

What or who has helped you the most as you/your child undergoes treatments for cancer?

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): The doctors and nurses were very kind and supportive. The other families that we met were helpful, and hearing the inspiring stories in a community brought everyone together. 

Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I was fortunate enough to have a strong support network, since I had a lot of friends and visitors who would come by daily. I also lived in a ward full of people my age, so it helped me feel less isolated. 

What “words of wisdom” and/or advice would you give any young kids/families facing cancer or another difficult struggle?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): When I first found out I had cancer, I cried.             

  But when I was told that there are a lot of kids out there who are like me, I felt better. Just feeling like I was not alone, and there are others made a difference. 
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I think just accepting that you do have cancer, goes a long way. Staying in denial won’t get you anywhere, and if you keep feeling sorry for yourself you’re going to feel depressed. I’d say accept this happened, and do what you can now. 

How did your child/you having childhood cancer change your outlook on life?
Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): It truly made me realize how precious and fragile life is. You always hear the saying “Life is too short,” but you do not come to realize how true that is until your life, or especially that of your child’s is threatened.
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I don’t really worry about the small things anymore. Too many people stay focused on little problems, but I honestly think if you’re happy and healthy, then it’s going to be fine. I also learned to be more grateful for what I have, and that life is too short to waste it. 

What words would you NOT want people to say to you as your family faces challenges?
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): We want to be treated normally. We do appreciate the kind gestures people show, but when you’re treating us like we’re disabled, it kind of gets old. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): “I’m sorry”, “It could be worse”…

What things should people say/do to best support a family with a child with cancer?
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): Just be there. And visit often, because when I was first diagnosed, everyone would come by to visit. But as time passed, less people showed up. 

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Be who you were to us before the diagnosis. Don’t change and act different. Just be there for us when we need you. 

What kinds of changes do you want to see in the society we are currently living in regarding childhood cancer?
Kyrell (11 year old fighting cancer): [smiling] I don’t know, just talk more about it. 

Lovely (mother of Kyrell): People need to be made much more aware about this topic. I was a cancer nurse for more than 10 years, and I didn’t even know someone in my own house had cancer. I was taught all the signs and symptoms, but just not in kids. So when my son was complaining about a cramp in his leg, I had no idea it could be related to cancer. Even though it was my career, and I knew so much about it, I wasn’t educated at all about pediatric cancer. There is a lot of funding and education for adult cancer, but kids need proper treatment too. If my son was diagnosed 3 years ago, he would have been forced to endure harsh adult therapies. But because more research had been done, he was able to have a better experience, and that’s all because of awareness!

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): Most research funding is geared towards adult cancers. That needs to change. Our children are our future and deserve more than 4%! We also need to educate ourselves better as a society on ways to reduce our risk of cancer and live healthier lives. 
Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): More funding and less ignorance. People’s’ attitude towards childhood cancer is that it’s rare, and it really isn’t and you see cases increasing year upon year. Companies don’t really see childhood cancer as profitable so they don’t invest as much of their resources in that aspect. And as a result of this children have to be treated with adult treatments, and this leads to a lot of long term side effects.

How do you plan on creating these changes? 
Lovely (mother of Kyrell): Ever since Kyrell was diagnosed we’ve been trying our best to make an impact. We’ve been going to interviews, sharing our stories, and supporting people like you who aren’t affected but want to help. 

Carolina Valls (mother of child who survived cancer): I have created a website and Facebook page where I plan to continue to share our journey with cancer.

Ellie (18 year old childhood cancer survivor): I’ve done a lot of campaigning. Whether it be on YouTube or Instagram. And I’ve attended interviews, so spreading the word about this issue is really important. 

A common theme that surfaces throughout the interviews is a lack of awareness. The perception of childhood cancer being ‘rare’ leads to less research and funding. Children are forced to be treated with harsh adult treatments, and this in turn causes side effects that will affect these kids for the rest of their lives. The key to improving the lives and experiences of pediatric patients is awareness.

        Be informed, spread the word!

For more information go to:

Healthier Home, Nutrition

Reusable Non-Toxic Straws

🥤Reusable Non-Toxic Straws🥤

Some benefits:

🥤They are reusable! Not only is that good for the environment, saving our sea life from the pollution of plastic straws that ends up in the ocean but they are also good on your pocket! It will save you money in the long run if you are used to buying disposable straws.

🥤Plastic reusable straws start to build a film inside of them that are hard to clean and can build up bacteria or mold, can’t go in the dishwasher or they melt.

🥤Plastic leaches chemicals, even more so when exposed to extreme temperatures like freezing or heat, acidic beverages or UV light which of course posses a risk to our health since it can disrupt our hormones but even more so cause cancer. Most single-use plastic straws are made from polypropylene, a type of plastic commonly made from petroleum. 

Options for non-toxic reusable straws: glass, stainless steel, bamboo and silicone (which are perfect for small children or people with disabilities that need a bendable straw). 

🌾If you are needing single use non-toxic straws, for lets say a party or an event where you will need a great amount of straws, I recommend using these natural Hay Straws that are made from wheat stems. They are 100% compostable, so you can throw them in the compost and they will break down completely.

Personally, I like to use glass straws because I like to be able to see thru them and make sure that they have been fully cleaned out on the inside. Good quality straws are made sturdy enough where you do not have to worry about your children using them or breaking them. My favorite glass straws are from GlassDharma. I love that their glass is thick and very durable. I also love that their cleaning brush handle is made from stainless steel. Perfect combo with their soft hemp sleeve to hold the straw and be able to take it on the go! Glassdharma creates a variety of glass straws, including a nice collection of etched straws with inspirational words on them. They even make custom sized straws if you have a container you would like a specific length of a straw for. Best part is they have a lifetime guarantee!

⚠️Tip: make sure with any cleaning brush that you use, that the handle is all stainless steel (no aluminum). 

This reusable monkey print travel pouch is from Marley’s Monsters. The pouches are perfect to take your straws on the go! I also store my straws in the pouch inside my kitchen drawer to keep them clean in between uses. This pouch even has removable and washable interior wet bag to keep your dirty straws in. They have a wide variety of adorable prints to choose from, as well as different sizes to match the length of your straws. Their site has a variety of great non-toxic, reusable items aside from straws ranging from kitchen towels, napkins, facial washcloths, nursing pads, bibs, washable duster, dryer balls, shopping bags and food containers.

Here is a full list of my recommendations:


Cooking in Cast Iron

Healthy eating is not just about the food itself that we ingest, it also matters what you use to cook it in!

I have always loved using non-stick cookware for the ease of cooking and the cleaning portion that comes thereafter but truly never realized that in order for it to be made that way it takes harsh chemicals like perfluorooctanoic acid, that eventually leeks out into our food. According to the American Cancer Society, “PFOA has the potential to be a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time. Studies have found that it is present worldwide at very low levels in just about everyone’s blood. Animal studies have also presented a link between PFOA exposure and cancer development. Of course, something else that can cause cancer!

After Anthony was diagnosed with cancer, this was one of the simple changes that I made. I stopped utilizing all non-stick cookware and started slowly changing out items in the kitchen, beginning with purchasing a cast iron skillet which I now use to cook all of his meals in. Because I knew that Anthony would start have iron deficiency anemia related to his cancer treatment secondary to reduced appetite, poor nutrition, potential gastrointestinal mucosal damage that results in blood loss and bone marrow suppression I resorted to using cast iron cookware. Iron is an essential nutrient for all the cells in our body. Iron’s main function in our body is to help transport oxygen through hemoglobin in the blood and myoglobin in muscles. 

As a registered nurse one of our education instructions to our patients is to use cast iron cookware to cook in as a way to help increase their iron levels and prevent or improve their iron deficiency!

Safe, non-toxic types of cookware include: cast iron, stainless steel, glass and copper. One of the cast iron skillets that I use the most, which is also incredibly priced is from Lodge. Taking it way back to one of the oldest, yet safest ways to cook!

The best part about a cast iron skillet, other than the health benefits are that it will last you a lifetime. That is of course, if you take care of it appropriately:

Cleaning Tips

  1. Wash cast iron by hand (avoid putting in dishwasher or using any metal scrubbers). For extra sticky situations, simmer a little water for 1 minute, then scrape after cooled.
  2. Dry promptly and thoroughly with a lint free cloth.
  3. Rub with a very light layer of oil, preferably while the cookware is still warm.
  4. Hang or store cookware in a dry place. 

Cooking Tips

  1. The great thing about cast iron is that it can be used on all types of stovetops, including in the oven!
  2. Cast iron heats up very quickly, so make sure to use a lower heat setting to pre-heat prior to adding food and to also prevent food from burning or sticking. 
  3. You can use any utensils you like on cast iron, but avoid using anything plastic or aluminum for toxic purposes! Bamboo utensils are always a great option as they are organic and will not scratch any surface.
  4. Make sure to use a hot handle mitt (remove if placing in oven!).

Seasoning Tips:

  1. Seasoning is a very important part of keeping your cast iron cookware working to its optimal state and preserving its condition. It is the act of baking oil onto the iron.
  2. Using the cookware regularly will help maintain its seasoning but if it not in use often, you will want to make sure to season it if you start to notice it is getting dull.
  3. Although essentially you can use any type of cooking oil to season, it is not recommended that you use any animal based fats as they can go rancid quickly which is a health concern.
  4. It is important to maintain the seasoning by applying a very thin layer of oil after each cleaning.
  5. At some point you may need to completely re-season your cast iron cookware, if so follow these instructions.

Purchasing all new cookware can definitely be a financial burden but it is a lifetime investment for your health and in the long run can save you a lot of money on potential medical care related to health conditions that may arise from using alternative cookware that expose you to hazardous toxins. Lodge has a nice array of cookware to choose from which is reasonably priced.

Health tip:

*Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion.Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.Please consult with physician prior to use.  

Healthier Home

Radon Exposure and Risk for Lung Cancer

Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless naturally occurring radioactive gas that can seep through cracks in the foundation of your home and its walls which can then diffuse into the air. Radon is present is most of the air around us, so we are actually exposed to it at fairly low levels on a regular basis.

It is when radon is trapped in your home or a confined space where you spend a relatively good amount of time, where it can eventually build up to a toxic level which can cause lung cancer. Although cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, it is found that radon comes in second. In the Iowa Radon Lung Cancer Study the risk estimates obtained indicated that cumulative radon exposure presents an important environmental health hazard.

“Radon decays quickly, giving off tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these radioactive particles can damage the cells that line the lung. Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, the only cancer proven to be associated with inhaling radon. There has been a suggestion of increased risk of leukemia associated with radon exposure in adults and children; however, the evidence is not conclusive.”-National Cancer Institute

Significant radon exposure can cause symptoms such as a persistent cough, coughing up blood, hoarseness, shortness of breath, frequent infections with pneumonia or chronic bronchitis. If you have any of these symptoms without any known potential causes, it is highly recommended that you test your home.

Steps to take to combat radon exposure:

  • Start by testing your home. You can do it yourself with a kit or hire a professional. Basement and first floors typically have the highest radon levels because of their closeness to the ground, so you will want to make sure you test the lowest floor in which you are occupying. You can find a radon test kit or professional here.
  • If you find a radon problem in your home, you will want to take steps to fix it depending on the result of radon level.
  • If you smoke, take active measures to stop smoking. Smoking a health risk on its own but combined with high levels of radon exposure it posses a much greater hazard and increased risk for lung cancer.
  • If you have any questions you can call this national hotline at: 1-800-55RADON (557-2366).

Radon levels can vary depending on different factors like weather, humidity, wind, precipitation. Therefore a long term test might yield more accurate results versus a short term test which may be affected by one of those conditions. A short-term test will yield faster results, but a long-term test will give you a better understanding of your home’s year-round average radon level and exposure risk.

Below I share with you the results from my own personal home. I did a short test which is recommended to test for 48 hours or at least no more than 96 hours. I did not have a chance to stop the test right at the 48 hour mark and ended up running the test for a little past 60 hours, which was still okay. However, because my result came back at 2.4pCi/L I am going to conduct another test, this time utilizing a long-term test kit, to compare the results. I want to ensure that the level is below 2.0pCi/L, so if the second result comes back higher I will look at measures to reduce it.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a Citizen’s Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family from Radon. They also have more information about residential radon exposure and what people can do about it in the Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.


The Grind on Flaxseeds

“According to the WHO, approximately one-third of the deaths caused by cancer are due to bad eating habits and lack of physical activity. By improving eating habits and increasing physical activity, more than 30% of the cancers diagnosed could be avoided. Thus, with the increased risk, a proper nutrition intervention is necessar. Nutrition plays a fundamental role in cancer, as it can reduce complications that happen during treatment and can contribute to the patient’s well-being.”-National Institutes of Health

With that said, a simple yet nutritious superfood to add to your diet are flaxseeds! These small seeds are loaded with essential nutrients, have tons of health benefits and can be easily incorporated with a variety of drinks and meals.


  • lignans (a class of phytoestrogens which act as antioxidants)
  • alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid (essential for energy, brain function, cell maintenance, heart function and anti-inflammatory. ALA is an essential fatty acid, which means that your body cannot naturally produce it, so you need to obtain it from the food you eat.)
  • thiamine ( vitamin B1, essential for normal metabolism and nerve function)
  • magnesium (important for bone health, calcium absorption, heart function, metabolism)
  • phosphorus (important for bone health)
  • selenium (assists with cognitive function, helps lower oxidative stress in the body, which reduces inflammation and enhances immunity)
  • copper (It helps maintain healthy bones, blood vessels, nerves, and immune function, and it contributes to iron absorption)
  • folate (support brain health, important during pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects, needed to make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow)
  • iron (a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood)
  • potassium (regulates fluid balance, muscle contractions and nerve signals)
  • zinc (plays a role in our immune function and wound healing)
  • protein (helps build and repair tissues)

Benefits of ground flaxseeds:

  • Help lower the risk of different types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease
  • Reduce oxidative stress with its antioxidant properties (high in polyphenol antioxidants)
  • Aid in gut health (support the growth of probiotics in the gut and may also help eliminate yeast and candida in the body.)
  • Aid in preventing and relieving constipation (one of the major side effects endured during cancer treatment, make sure to take with plenty of water!)
  • Good for colon detoxification
  • Help reduce overall total cholesterol and bad cholesterols: triglycerides and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol
  • Help balance hormones (bind to estrogen in the bowel and help eliminate it which might help reduce the risk of breast cancer and aid in mood regulation)
  • Help regulate blood sugar levels
  • Promote healthy hair: nourish the hair follicles making them stronger, shinier, help improve elasticity of hair and aid in hair growth.

There are studies that also show that flaxseeds have an effect on breast cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health “α-linolenic acids have been shown to be able to suppress growth, size, and proliferation of cancer cells and also to promote breast cancer cell death. Additionally, some clinical trials showed that flaxseed can have an important role in decreasing breast cancer risk, mainly in postmenopausal women.”

Lignans are considered natural “phytoestrogens,” or plant nutrients that work somewhat similarly to the hormone estrogen. Phytoestrogens in flaxseed can alter estrogen metabolism, causing either an increase or decrease in estrogen activity depending on someone’s hormonal status (in other words, flax has both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties). For example, in postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less active forms of estrogen, which is tied to increased protection against tumor growth.” -Dr. Axe

The best benefits of flaxseeds has been found to come from ground flaxseeds over the consumption of whole flax seeds (which are not easily absorbed by the body and you will likely pass them whole in your stool) or flax oil (which lacks fiber and protein).

The freshest flaxseeds will be buying whole flaxseeds and grinding them right before use. You can use a mortar and pestle , coffee grinder or a blender. You can also buy flaxseeds pre-ground.

Health tips:

  • The fiber in the flaxseed may also lower the body’s ability to absorb medications that are taken by mouth, so avoid taking it at the same time (take at least 1 hour apart).
  • Freshly ground flaxseeds should be used shortly after grinding or stored away in the refrigerator immediately. It is best to add to cold beverages like smoothies or sprinkle on top of food like yogurt, fruit, açaí or salads.
  • Flax seeds have a mild nutty taste, so if there is a bitter taste then your flaxseeds have gone bad and should be tossed out.

Ground flaxseeds are best stored in an airtight container kept in the refrigerator. When I buy my already ground flaxseeds I transfer them from their bag into a large glass mason jar and cover them with a bamboo lid (avoid using aluminum and plastic) and store it in the refrigerator. It typically lasts up to a year when refrigerated but make sure to check expiration date on package and always look out for that rancid smell.

Here are a couple of ways that I have been able to incorporate flaxseeds into my sons diet (mind you he is a very picky eater and has not noticed the ground flaxseeds or their taste used in these methods):

  • Adding to homemade pancake mix! Pancakes have also been one of the easiest ways I have been able to pack in nutrients and calories to help my son battle his weight loss during cancer treatment. Our favorite are making Golden Milk Pancakes:
    1. Start out with your favorite pancake mix (I love Birch Benders!)
    2. Add a tsp of golden milk mix (I use Zen’s Tea House Golden Milk mix)
    3. Add milk of choice or alternative
    4. Add a tsp of ground flaxseeds with lignans (great way to add fiber and omega 3)
    5. Add an egg (farm fresh eggs are always the best, if not look for organic eggs with the highest omega 3 and DHA) or you can substitute for banana
    6. Cook in butter (my favorite is Kerry Gold or Organic Valley) in a cast iron skillet (as a way to increase iron levels, unless contraindicated)
    7. There are so many other things you can add to the mix, some of my favorite are: coconut, dark chocolate chips, walnuts and blueberries
    8. Some tips that helped me add calories to my son’s pancakes were adding: a tsp of almond butter or any nut butter, dash of heavy cream or whipped cream
  • Adding it to homemade baked cookies
  • Adding it to ground meat when making meatballs, meatloaf or burgers

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Consuming flaxseeds, especially when first introducing them to your diet, can cause bloating, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and/or nausea. It is recommended not to consume more than 4-5 tablespoons daily. Because it is considering a bulk-forming natural laxative it can block the intestines if you are not taking in enough fluids, so make sure to have an adequate water intake.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking flaxseed by mouth during pregnancy is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Flaxseed can act like the hormone estrogen. Some healthcare providers worry that this might harm the pregnancy, although to date there is no reliable clinical evidence about the effects of flaxseed on pregnancy outcomes. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking flaxseed if you are breast feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Bleeding disorders: Flaxseed might slow clotting. This raises the concern that it could increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders. Don’t use it, if you have a bleeding disorder. (Take precaution when platelets are low during chemotherapy)

Diabetes: There is some evidence that flaxseed can lower blood sugar levels and might increase the blood sugar-lowering effects of some medicines used for diabetes. There is a concern that blood sugar could drop too low. If you have diabetes and use flaxseed, monitor your blood sugar levels closely.

Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction: People with a bowel obstruction, a narrowed esophagus (the tube between the throat and the stomach), or an inflamed (swollen) intestine should avoid flaxseed. The high fiber content of flaxseed might make the obstruction worse.

Hormone-sensitive cancers or conditions: Because flaxseed might act somewhat like the hormone estrogen, there is some concern that flaxseed might make hormone-sensitive conditions worse. Some of these conditions include breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer; endometriosis; and uterine fibroids. However, some early laboratory and animal research suggests that flaxseed might actually oppose estrogen and might be protective against hormone-dependent cancer. Still, until more is known, avoid excessive use of flaxseed if you have a hormone-sensitive condition.(Consult with oncologist)

High blood pressure (hypertension): Flaxseeds might lower diastolic blood pressure. Theoretically, taking flaxseeds might cause blood pressure to become too low in individuals with high blood pressure who are taking blood pressure-lowering medication or individuals who already have low blood pressure.L

*Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion.Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.Please consult with physician prior to use.  


Life Element’s CBD Products

Prior to my son being diagnosed with cancer, I did not really know what CBD, short for Cannabidiol, was. I had heard of it but just figured that it was some form of marijuana.

So what is CBD? Unlike THC, CBD is inert and does not produce any psychoactive effects. With CBD you are able to reap the benefits of cannabis without the actual high. Leaf Science does a great job in explaining what CBD is and how it has an effect on our endocannabinoid system here.

During his initial course of chemotherapy, he started to suffer from bilateral lower extremity neuropathy. He would have intermittent episodes of pain in his legs that unfortunately later resulted in foot drop. Because of his Vincristine chemotherapy drug he started to have difficulty in lifting the top part of his foot, in addition to having the muscles in this legs tighten up.

In researching alternatives to pharmaceuticals for providing him with pain relief from neuropathy, rather than loading him up with more medications that ultimately just have more side effects and put more strain on the body, we started looking into CBD oil and CBD products. While looking for CBD products it is important to look for full spectrum, hemp derived CBD. You want to make sure the CBD is pure, not synthetic or mixed with any other chemicals that would defy its benefit for use.

I came across Life Elements products and it was love at first try! Their CBD & Honey Ache + Pain Relief stick has been such a blessing to Anthony with his neuropathy. We have used it to rub all along the bottom of his feet and legs which also makes for a great massage. His dad and I then started using it on ourselves for our own back pain issues and it is officially a staple in our households. I love that you can apply it directly from the stick without having to use an applicator or dipping fingers in a cream, which makes it great for on-the-go. You’ll feel a slight warming and cooling sensation upon application to help relieve pain, while treating your skin to the benefits of a blend of beeswax, honey, propolis, royal jelly and pollen.

Not only do Life Element’s products work so well but the founders, Martha and Curt, are truly amazing. They have followed my son’s journey and have been an exceptional resource to have. Their level of customer service has far exceeded our expectation and they have gone above and beyond to connect on a personal level. We are so grateful they have been a part of my son’s healing process and helped him thrive through cancer.

We have never given Anthony any pain medication during the course of his cancer treatment. We have been blessed that he has achieved full pain relief and relaxation through the CBD products we have used, including Life Element’s CBD bliss ball bath bombs, warm magnesium salt baths, massage and essential oils.

I love that their CBD bliss bath bombs contain no toxic or harsh chemicals, preservatives, aluminum, color dyes, foaming agents or synthetic fragrances. They are naturally scented with flower extracts and essential oils.

The Everyday Skin Repair stick has also been amazing on Anthony’s skin when it is irritated or dry. A single application of this and his skin has been fully repaired by the next day. Goes on so smooth and is very nourishing to the skin.

Life Elements has a wide array of CBD products including tinctures, salves, body scrubs, lip balms and bath bombs! We have tried them all and they are truly great! If you are interested in trying any of their products, you can use code “AJ15” at checkout to receive 15% off of your order! We are sure you will like them just as much as we do!

*Any application of the recommendations in this website is at the reader’s discretion.Information is provided for informational  purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.Please consult with physician prior to use.