Let me analyse your diet

And you’ve been eating a ton of “low” or “no” fat stuff, right? Think again…..Thanks, Dawn for this important information on healthy diet and nutrition.

And you’ve been eating a ton of “low” or “no” fat stuff, right? Think again…..Thanks, Dawn for this important information on healthy diet and nutrition.

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Dancing with the Dead to the Soundtrack of Your Life…

Friday…

I am lying “in the position” at radiation, neatly tucked into my mold, awaiting the first pulse of today’s radiation doses.  The machines robotically swing into place overhead and the red lights blink on.  And then… I hear the familiar falsetto voices of the Bee-Gee’s and the unmistakable disco beat of the ’70s.   I smile and relax.  Music has a way of morphing any event or experience into something else completely. Just a few notes of the Saturday Night Fever  soundtrack, and instantly I am transported to the summer of 1978…

It was the summer my best friend, Mary Beth, and I actually took disco lessons.  We were staying at my sister’s in Massachusetts for a month (I think it was my mother’s plan to put distance between my boyfriend and me.  Ultimately, a failed plan, as he eventually graduated from “boyfriend” to “husband”…and thankfully so!)  My sister knew somebody, who knew somebody…and one evening, after supper, there came a knock on the door.  Standing before us was a mustachioed pseudo-silk (read, polyester ) clad disco-instructor, who in all reality was probably a neighbor’s 23-year-old son who worked at McDonald’s.  To us, 17-year-old discotheque novices, he was as impressive as all-get-out.  We were finally going to graduate from high school dances where the boys shuffled in place while girls who wanted to attempt something more challenging were relegated to flailing about  in their own circle.

After a few lessons, and some hilarious practice sessions, Mary Beth and I were delighted when he suggested we try out our moves at a real disco.  The details of the entire night are now, 30-some years later,  a blur of swirling colored-lights, the relentless beat from the DJ’s speakers, and countless variations on the leisure suit.  But there were moments… when our feet seemed to know the moves without direction and we twirled,  curled and hustled our way across the pulsating floor.  I also distinctly remember being introduced to the “Tootsie Roll” — an alcoholic concoction that remarkably enough did taste exactly like its candy cousin.  The night ended rather uneventfully, but our adolescent egos were bolstered by our entrée into the nightlife of adulthood…and we would never hold quaint high school dances in the same regard.

“…Great.  One last breath and we’re done…” The voice of the technician safely distanced in the control room cuts through the soundtrack of the satellite radio, the red lights blink out,  I can bring my arms down and the darkened room is no longer a disco…and its far from 1978.  As a matter of fact, my 21-year-old daughter is currently boarding with my forever friend and sometime dance partner, Mary Beth, in her Rockland County home for the semester while Emma interns in New York City.  It both amuses and comforts me as the ironies of life play out….

As I mentioned, it’s Friday so I’m free for the weekend.  Time to drive home.  As I motor along, I listen to the 70’s station…and for the first time in a long time, I feel compelled to sing along with the radio.  Loudly. My first week of radiation is complete…and I am positively buoyed by my experiences thus far.  Life is good…and so is the soundtrack.

Saturday (sort of) and Sunday….

The weekend has been about rest, the dogs (who feel terribly neglected though I know Ryne has been as attentive as ever,) cleaning and groceries.  In terms of productivity, I doubt we would rank very high…but, that’s okay.  I’ve been told that life is not a competition.  I remind myself that from time to time.

For all my guilt-less lazing about, Sunday night’s sleep is fitful…and filled with vivid dreams.  One in particular wakes me…a dream entirely cast with the dearly departed.  In this dream, I am dancing with the dead.

The dream commences with my long-departed Aunt Annabelle (a real fire-cracker in her day) and me running down a dark street… when I spy our destination. It is a neon-lit honky-tonk of sorts and bluesy music is spilling from it out onto the sidewalk.  My Uncle Leo (also deceased and a true character in his own right) is out front, having a grand time — his great shock of white-hair is almost fluorescent in its vibrancy and he is dancing a tipsy jig (I have seen him perform this dance at many weddings over my lifetime).  He waves to us and I call to him, “Uncle Leo!”  We are all thrilled to see one another.  Inside the dive, after some weird discussion about the necessity for shoes, we dance — with joyful abandon–  to the blues guitar licks of an unknown band tucked into some dark recess of the dream.

The scene shifts, as dreams do, to a funeral. I am singing the mass and I’m anxious —  I don’t know the music and am having trouble seeing the words.  Oddly enough, it seems the Catholic Church has written a less-secular rendition of Elmore and Jake’s “Soul Man” from the Blues Brothers soundtrack and there in the monthly missal, the original words have been scratched out…and underneath,  carefully printed in pencil, are the new lyrics..  I am trying my very best… I feel the weight of responsibility.  In the dream I know how important the music is to the family and friends gathered to mourn their loved-one and send her off properly equipped for the afterlife.  In the end, I know the tune and when the time comes, I valiantly struggle to line up new lyrics and old melody.  The dream dissolves into morning…

and, finally, a return to Monday….

I wake with the phrase, “dancing with the dead” and the strains of “Soul Man” cycling through my brain.  It is Monday morning.  I need to drive back to Burlington for week two of my cancer treatment.  I’ll figure it out later, I tell myself.

After breakfast, I gather my weekly supply of hugs and kisses from my husband and critters.  It is a beautiful morning — the sun is shining, the roads are dry and clear of any snow or ice — perfect traveling conditions. I crank the tunes; too early to sing along.  I swill my coffee and let the caffeine do its trick.  And suddenly…there it is….

Kansas ties it all together in a song I have often sung and seldom truly considered, “Dust in the Wind…”  I turn it up.

“I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, all your money won’t another minute buy

Dust in the wind, All we are is dust in the wind”

From the Bee-Gees to the Blues Brothers, from the warblings of our first nursery rhyme to the organ’s rumbling funeral dirge….such is the soundtrack of our lives.  The music remains the same, but we, alas…do not.  Oh, we like to believe the song plays for each one of us alone, but when we are gone…the music shall certainly continue without us.  And though we may often dance with partners, in the end we dance alone. With tears streaming down my face, I refuse to see this as the evidence of life’s futility. I am not daunted by this truth because it starkly reminds us to celebrate the music; join in and heed its call to dance.  We’ve got to feel the relentless beat deep within us, let our feet fly where they will, and our arms reach up in exuberant joy — dance with abandon, dance with passion, float on the melody and let our voices full-throated sing out the chorus.  For today we dance with the living…too soon, we shall dance with the dead.

Burlington 10 miles.

And the beat goes on…

Cypress

We spend an awful lot of time and energy fighting change…when accepting the constancy of change and exhibiting resilience in the face of it….may be the secret to longevity and contentment. Let’s explore the notion in the Forest Garden….beautiful photos and thoughtful prose…

Forest Garden

January 9 2014 ice on Parkway 045

All things are constantly changing. 

Gardeners both take this change in hand to guide it along; and also observe how nature keeps the world constantly changing around us from moment to moment.

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Some changes please us, others don’t.  Our opinion is rarely asked.

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These ancient cypress trees probably sprouted here on the bank of the James River over a century ago; their roots still deeply embedded in the sand.

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Wind and tides try to move them from time to time, but their hard, heavy wood has withstood years of weathering, and will lie here many more.

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These trees are a touchstone for the changing light of day; the changing seasons of the year; the changing contours of the bank carved by the wind and tides.

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This week icicles grew on their roots, and their wood was glazed in ice reflecting the morning sun.

January 9 2014 ice on Parkway 048

Trees of great beauty, in all its…

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Wanderings

Thursday…

 

Last night, I was introduced to a woman about 10 years my junior.  We both hail from the same region of New York so everyone assumed we would have much in common.  She is short (as I am)…she is pretty extroverted (as I might be described by a few…) She is also a breast cancer survivor.   As a matter of fact, she and I were both diagnosed with similar cancer and each in just one of our breasts.  However, when it comes down to it… we have chosen very different paths…at least, when it comes to treatment.  Within a few minutes of introductions, she tells me that she has opted for a double mastectomy and reconstruction.  (By the way,  I would never have known…there’s not a single giveaway).

 

I, on the other hand,  have opted for breast-conserving surgery, followed by radiation, and hormone therapy for the next 5-10 years.  Hmmm….that’s where our paths decidedly divide.

 

She confides that she is thrilled with her decision because the pathology report that followed her surgery revealed that cancer was found lurking in her previously undiagnosed breast.  She must read my face, because she emphasizes that other options, like mine, are also valid.

 

“Of course,” I agree.   I am happy to have met her and I wish her well on her follow-up procedure the next day.  Despite my smile as I bid her good night, I can’t help but wonder…did I make the right decision?

 

Breast cancer statistics assure me that the option I have chosen will result in almost identical chances of a recurrence…slim to none.  Maybe it’s just treatment paranoia, but, the mastectomy people always seem just a little bit more self-assured than “conservation” folks that they have eradicated all chances of cancer taking root in them ever again…

 

As I shut off the light, I try to equally shut out the nagging little voice who questions just about every little thing I do — from my choice of socks for the day to the cancer treatment I have chosen.  Eventually, I succeed.  After all, I do respect and trust my treatment team…and besides, what’s done is done.  Just gotta play the cards at this point…

************************************************

The puzzle begins to take shape

The puzzle begins to take shape

Today started bright and early, and following a nutritious breakfast, the sun began streaming into the gathering room.  I simply sat — like one of my tabby cats —  sat, mind you, soaking up the rays and drinking in the quiet.  Everyone had dispersed…whether it was to the hospital for appointments, or behind closed doors for a much-needed nap as a result of yesterday’s treatment…and only the muted ticking of the mantle clock broke the still.

 

I wander to the puzzle closet.  The empty card table beckons.  I make myself a mug of chai and pull my chair up to the task.  Sky blue, barn red, the rich leafy greens of a summer scene of Americana …it could be Vermont.  I start with the sky and lose myself in the simple act of sorting puzzle pieces.

 

I seriously can’t think of the last time I gave myself permission to sit in silence and work on a puzzle.  No text messages, no television blaring in the background, no pile of papers needing to be graded.  Such a simple pleasure.  Of course, there is still the guilt, lingering — always lingering.

 

Intellectually, I know that I’m here to focus on healing.  I’m here to ensure the cancer never returns.  I’m doing my work…everything my doctors tell me to do.  But, still…

 

I walk to the hospital again for treatment.  The sun is brilliant and the wind has finally stopped its blustering.  I know in an instant what I will do when I return from lunch…

 

Today, I wander.

This doorway has welcomed visitors throughout for over a century.

This doorway has welcomed visitors  for well over a century.

When I was a kid, I wandered all the time.  I would dilly-dally, saunter, stroll, skip — you name it.  I seriously doubt my parents ever knew just how much distance I could cover in a short period of time.  I would amble through graveyards, explore side streets,  clamber awkwardly over fences and slink through alley ways.  Sometimes, my wandering took me along the railroad tracks…sneaking into the empty playground after-hours, or peeking into the thick wavy-glass windows of abandoned houses.

 

As I wandered, I would imagine the people who had lived in these once-grand houses, drove carriages down these narrow streets, or traveled in fancy sleeper cars where only freight cars bounced along now.  My mind would be abuzz with their stories….I could almost see myself riding along side them, or leaning on those burnished  maple window sills spying for the ice man, or weeping beside the monument newly dedicated to the soldier who had not returned as promised in the letters he faithfully wrote from the front every day.

 

As an adult, I rarely have had the luxury of wandering in just this way…there’s work of course, and usually a meeting, a meal to cook, kids to transport, a couple of dogs looking for some exercise.  All proper obligations and attended to without a shred of regret or resentment.  But, aimless wandering?  A pastime for fanciful girls with overactive imaginations…

 

I can see Lake Champlain shimmering in the distance.

I can see Lake Champlain shimmering in the distance.

Except for today.

 

Once properly bundled, the adventure begins.  Hope Lodge is bordered not only by the hospital but all of the University of Vermont, as well.  As I stroll along, I admire the beautiful architecture — a striking testament to the value of higher learning.  Gleaming spires catch the sun, massive edifices of stone and brick stand squarely side by side, soaring columns bracket impressively thick and oversize doors — it’s a virtual feast for my eyes and imagination.

 

Decorative winter grass frames UVM's stalwart buildings.

Decorative winter grass frames UVM’s stalwart buildings.

In the distance, I see the shimmer of Lake Champlain…looking chilly, but rollicking along seemingly unencumbered by ice.  Academic buildings give way to the wide verandas, cupolas, and whimsical turrets of family homes and well-tended student housing.  At the bottom of the hill, where College Street collides with the commercial district, I browse shops with names like “Trinket” and “Old Crow Bookstore.”  I pop into a consignment shop and ogle vintage purses  (the leather “like buttah”)…and wander into a shop where I can’t help but carefully cradle the heft of hand-thrown pottery.  Violin music settles on the passersby like snowflakes as we walk along the open-air marketplace of curio shops, cafes and restaurants.

 

I wander between the stacks of "The Old Crow."

I wander between the stacks of “The Old Crow.”

When I finally turn toward home, I realize I have wandered for hours…  Needing nothing, I have bought nothing…leaving nary a McDonald’s or Wal-Mart in my wake. 

 

Legs a little shaky, feet sore, I climb the last incline toward Hope Lodge.  There is still daylight, even though we’re closing in on 5:00, and as I look out at the chimneys of the lodge, I notice for the first time the mountain peak towering just beyond the city…white with snow and dotted with pinpoint lights I imagine mark ski trails and cabins.

 

I realize I have not even thought about breast cancer for the entire afternoon.  I have not had to explain the pathology of a tumor, the history of my diagnosis,  or taken my gown off in a room full of strangers. I have not been a patient, a parent, a wife or a teacher.

 

I have been just me….a wanderer.  And, now exhausted and completely satiated, I’ve finally come home.

Another Reason to Remember Your Annual Mammogram

Another great source of information regarding breast cancer….

MammographyKC.com – breast health, breast imaging, breast knowledge.

There’s more than one way to say this, because there’s more than one way it’s true: early detection saves lives. What causes us to say that today?

A new study helps emphasize this point. A recent study in Chicago evaluated relationship between breast cancer diagnosis, frequency of mammograms and lymph node involvement in cancer.  The study showed that women who had mammograms every 1-1.5 years had a lower risk of lymph node involvement in their cancers. There cancers were more commonly localized to the breast tissue.  What does this mean? It means their cancers were caught before it spread to the lymphatic system. Just to walk that back for a moment– the more localized a cancer is, the better the chances of successful treatment.

We recommend annual screening mammograms (even when there’s no outward indicators of cancer) – as does the Society for Breast Imaging and the American College of…

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Beginnings

The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.

Alan Watts

The view from West Cotter Road...

The view from West Cotter Road…

Monday….

Tonight, I’m propped up next to one slumbering husband, one cat, one dog (wonder what the other dog is up to?) and my bag is mostly packed.  Tomorrow is the beginning of my radiation treatments in Burlington and my 7 week residency at Hope Lodge.

I hear that crazy wind roaring around the trees and I know those temperatures are falling. The wind is representative of my feelings right now — I am a maelstrom of conflict, resolve, cowardly trepidation and brazen optimism. I feel like an 18-year-old preparing to experience dorm life…

The front door of Hope Lodge invites us to make ourselves at home.

Tuesday…

I would have written yesterday, but once I arrived at the Lodge..unpacked and enjoyed both an excellent dinner and conversation…I discovered that I did not know the magic incantation to get the wi-fi to work.

First on my agenda, I went to the hospital for my radiation trial-run.  I love that everyone introduces themself to me  by their first name — the personalization of my care throughout this journey instantly makes me feel welcome, like I am with friends, rather than nameless curators simply performing their jobs.  After being properly arranged in my “mold,”  I relax and hear music piped into the room.  “We have satellite radio.  Do you have a request?”  At first, I’m tempted to just listen to whatever is playing, but on a whim I mention, “Well, I do like the 70’s…” and there is enthusiastic agreement that this is an excellent choice.  Strains of “The Midnight Special” fill the room, and we get down to the business of walking through my treatment.  This is a high-tech dress-rehearsal.  We are using a “breathing technique” to shield my heart and lungs from the radiation.  I am pronounced a “consistent breather” and pass the test with flying colors.  We will fire with live ammo tomorrow.

Hope Lodge borders the hospital grounds, so it was a quick spin around the corner and I arrived at my home-away-from-home for the next couple of months.  From the front door, throughout my tour, I was and am amazed at how thoughtfully Hope Lodge is designed and decorated.  I instantly feel at home and comforted…yet there is an energy, a creative buzz, that travels hand-in-hand with the zen calm of the fireplace, the nature paintings and arrangements, the natural light that streams into each room through the oversize windows and french doors.

In my room, I lay out my personal items…the cinnamon flameless candle instantly changes the atmosphere of the room from “anyone’s” space to mine.  I place it on one of the bedside tables…I have brought a few comfy throws and I place them on the back of the rocking chair in my sitting room.  There is a delightful quilt on the back of the couch and I love the splash of color it lends to its neutral upholstery.  It’s already feeling (and smelling) more like home.

In the hallway, I meet Irma.  She identifies herself as a caregiver at Hope Lodge — which means she is there to support her husband.  She reminds me so much of my deceased mother-in-law — impeccably dressed, friendly, slightly hard-of-hearing, but sharp as a tack  — she has been folding her laundry and is now heading back to the suite they share.  He is suffering from throat and stomach cancer, she tells me.  She asks me why I’m there, and when I tell her she says I look great and then confides that she too is a breast cancer survivor. “They’ve come so far now from where they were years ago…”

I am thankful for this too…

Dinner is served at 6.  I head to the kitchen early to see if I can help.  Paul, the associate that will manage the Lodge tonight, tells me that since it’s my first night, I’m not allowed.  Instead, I’m invited to visit with the volunteers preparing dinner tonight; affectionately and collectively known as “The Lab.”  There are steaming swedish meatballs and buttery egg noodles, homeade soup, ziti smothered in mozzarella, a vibrant salad of greens, peppers and tomatoes…and desserts.  One of tonight’s volunteer chefs is known for her baking ability — she has made a flan, pumpkin squares, and a raspberry swirl cheesecake.  Everyone loves it when The Lab is in the house.

We visit over coffee as they busy themselves in the kitchen.  They’ve been doing this for years.   It started when the hospital split the lab between two floors — it became more difficult for long-time colleagues to stay in touch.  They decided, as part of an initiative, to donate their time and talents to Hope Lodge and spend time together doing it.  When they embarked on their Tuesday night culinary adventures, Hope Lodge was in a much smaller location.  It was just a family home, not the specifically dedicated facility it is today, and they laughed about the old stove.  “It was about yea wide,” one of our chefs indicates a width of about two feet with her hands, “and it was slanted — so you had to hold onto the pans to keep them from sliding off onto the floor.”  Everyone laughs.  “It was nothing like this….”  She means the gleaming oversize kitchen with rows of refrigerators, a couple of cooktops, granite countertops and gleaming cabinets full of anything and everything anyone would ever want or need.  It is impressive.kitchen

Folks filter into the dining room from their respective suites, everyone eating together in the glow of new and old friendships and a kinship  — after all, there is something that unites us…cancer.  Everyone there is either undergoing treatment or caregiving for someone who is.  So, no matter where the conversation may wander — family, pets, travel, work —  it tends to drift back toward cancer…what causes it, can it be avoided?  How the treatments have changed.  Everyone seems so satisfied with their doctors, so impressed with their credentials and skills, equally touched by their humanity.  We all seem to have the home or cell phones for our surgeons, oncologists, radiologists — we shake our heads in amazement at such generosity, compassion, dedication.

And each conversation, from group to group, all seem to culminate in the final agreement, that at the end of a day spent at the hospital — whether it be for chemo, radiation or surgery — we are all blessed to have Hope Lodge to call home.   We universally concur that the tangible evidence of the great goodness of the human heart is everywhere in this house — and for those of us grown cynical or beaten-down by the barrage of negativity played out in the workplace, the politics, the nightly news — this is a paradigm shift of major proportions.

After dinner, we linger over coffee and tea; realizing we are all bound by this invisible thread.  Eventually, I turn in…check my messages…and drift into a sound, restful sleep.

bedroom

Wednesday morning…

My eyes open at my usual time, 5:18.  I have been waken by the spectre of a ghost cat that I swear tiptoed up my side, just like my Bootsie would at home.  In my sleep, I reached out, but there was no cat.  I awoke confused and disturbed…I could swear that he had been meandering over me.

After a quick shower, I dress and head to the kitchen…where I meet Will.  He is vigorously scrambling eggs.  I quickly gauge that he is about my Emma’s age and younger than my son, Jon.  He is wearing a woolen hat, pulled down tightly over his ears, a t-shirt, jeans….at first I wonder if he is here with family. But, the truth is, every Wenesday, Will prepares his specialty — cheesy eggs (my personal favorite) — for the residents of Hope Lodge.  They are delicious and we invite him to join us.  I wonder if he is in college, but he responds — almost sheepishly — that he is not…right now.  He is a pizza maker and shift manager at a local pizzeria.  But, he quickly adds that he is about to begin an EMT class.  Will is originally from Charlotte and he listens kindly as I gush over the brick store that I love to stop at. He knows it well.

I ask him why he gets up early Wednesday mornings to do this. After all, the temps were in the single digits today and the wind has been brutal. He could be back at his warm apartment sleeping in after a long day at the pizza shop. He says, “My older sister was doing it first for school…then I took over.  I guess I’ve been doing it for about six months.” He smiles and finishes his coffee.  “I like to cook.” We thank him…and then he is gone…off into the streets where the puffs of exhaust hang like thin balloons in the anemic sunshine of early morning.

As I write,  the intoxicating aroma of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies wafts into the room…A new crew of volunteers have arrived with tasks to complete.  I glance at the clock and realize its time to prepare for my trek to the hospital for today’s treatment. I have discovered that Hope Lodge is so much more than a place to stay while going through cancer treatment.

This oasis heals much more than the incisions and wasted frames of cancer patients; it salvages the muddy soul and restores one’s faith in humanity.

These Hips Will Never Be 15 Again

Thanks for bringing us back to the best of the ’80s…roller skates, disco on the “stereo” system, and Love’s Babysoft…. I’ll be smiling all day. Thanks, Mother….

Baddest Mother Ever

roller bookWhen I stood up after a one-hour meeting this morning, my hips popped and cracked so loudly that my coworker and I had to laugh about it. But I’ll take the creaking bones and sore muscles in exchange for the two hours of roller skating joy I felt yesterday afternoon.  Those sounds were just one more reminder that these hips will never be 15 years old again.  For that, I am grateful.

Back in middle and high school, roller skating was a thing.  It was The Eighties, so we skated in Gloria Vanderbilt jeans with a plastic comb sticking out of the back pocket, sequined leg warmers twinkling in the disco lights.  On a Friday night at the Skate Inn, the air hung thick with Aqua Net, Love’s Baby Soft and Polo.  I didn’t live close enough to The Big City to get to go skating every weekend–only about 3-4…

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Something Blue …

What a beautiful sight for sore eyes….I can almost smell the fresh earth and sweet blossoms. Thanks for the pick-me-up, Dorothy.

Eyes to Heart

Something Blue

The weather brains say that temperatures tonight in southern Ontario will plummet to -40C.

This makes me feel a bit blue.

[Sigh …]

Still, let’s turn that blue into something beautiful.

Here’s some lovely hydrangea ~ one of my favourite summer flowers ~ to help ease the pain.

Just eight weeks, or so, until spring. 😉

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy 🙂

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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#1 Anticancer vegetables

This is perhaps the very best (and scientifically based) explanation of the power of diet in cancer prevention. It will be worth the minute or two it takes to view…promise! Thanks to Michiel Floris for sharing this.
(Although the image didn’t come up…follow the link…its a great little video and will only take a few minutes, but provides a wealth of important nutritional information).

michiel floris

Which vegetable is healthier??

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