Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Life With Books Part 1

     While in the process of reading Pat Conroy's "My Reading Life," it got me to thinking how books have shaped my life.  Books have played an integral role in my life.  This topic will cover several blog posts covering the different stages of my life while growing up.
      My mom and dad were the first to introduce me to the world of books.  My earliest memories are of my parents reading me picture books such as The Berenstein Bears, Golden Books and much much more.  The Berenstein Bears were my favorite series.  They helped me with different scenarios growing up, including starting school, learning to share and play well with friends, my first doctor's visit and so on.  I remember one book very vividly and that is the one where the two cubs go to the dentist.  This book was especially special to me, because my dad is a dentist.
      From the age of four years old, I underwent reconstructive surgery, and I remember the Care Bears book where they were helping this little boy who had had his tonsils taken out.  My mom read that book to me at least a 100 times in preparation for my first surgery.
      When I was between the ages of 4-6, my mom signed up for this book club for kids, and every month I would get this huge box of books.  We would sit for hours going through them and reading them.  I remember the hardcover book of Alice In Wonderland (it had an orange cover), and my dad would read that book to me every night.
       My mom and dad paved the way for me to fall in love with books.  No matter where I was going, I always had a bag of books to take with me.  While other kids were content to run wild, or plop in front of the television to watch Sesame Street, I was content to pick a corner or a spot on the couch and lose myself in my books.  I remember that I wasn't content to just look at the pictures, but I longed to be able to read those books by myself.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Best Foods For Cancer Patients Undergoing Treatment:

     Today, my family and I said goodbye to a good friend of the family, who lost her 3-4 year battle with cancer.  I thought in her memory, I would try to help someone who might be going through treatment for cancer.  I recently wrote an article on the best diet for those patients undergoing cancer treatment.  A key ingredient in beating cancer is maintaining a healthy diet.  I've listed the article below.

     So, you're sitting in your doctor's office, and they mutter the three most dreaded words you'll ever hear, "You have cancer."  Right about now, there are a million thoughts racing around your head.  What you need to do is take stock of the situation, and figure out a way to get through this.  A good starting part is to plan on the ways you can make yourself as healthy as possible as you undergo treatment, whether it is chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery.
     To further aid in your recovery while going through treatment, you will want to eat as healthy as you can; even if you are already a healthy eater.  Whether you're recovering from surgery or being treated regularly with chemo or radiation therapy, it is more important than ever to make sure you're getting the nutrition you need to stay strong.
     "Cancer treatments often cause nausea in patients, which adversely affects their appetite.  Less than adequate per oral intake can result in the patient not receiving enough calories or protein for the healing process.  Chemotherapy and radiation therapy not only kill cancer cells, they also kill healthy cells (e.g. muscle, skin, mucous membranes, blood cells, white blood cells, etc).  Therefore, it is vital for the cancer patient to consume adequate calories and protein for the repair of damaged cells; as well as for the production of new healthy cells," explains clinical nutritionist, Dana M. Scruggs, MS. RD.
      Cancer treatments not only cause nausea, but also can make you extremely lethargic, and zap your strength.  During this time, your body is craving protein, which helps you to heal faster.  Great sources of protein can be found in meat, poultry, and fish, but since these types of foods can be a little hard for some people to keep down, it's recommended that you get your protein from natural food sources.
     "Other sources of protein include eggs, cheese and milk.  When beans, peas or lentils are combined with a grain (e.g. red beans and rice), they count as a complete program," adds Dana M. Scruggs MS. RD.
       If you are having trouble keeping the above mentioned foods down, try adding protein powders like whey, soy or powdered milk to your diet.  Since chemotherapy and radiation therapy can sometimes inhibit your ability to swallow, you can always mix the powdered supplements in with soft foods such as soups, mashed potatoes, or milkshakes.
      Protein is not the only nutrient your body needs while undergoing treatment for cancer, carbohydrates, fat, water, vitamins and minerals are also essential to helping to keep up your strength, fight off fatigue and nausea, and maintain a healthy weight.
     Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy.  Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are good sources of carbohydrates. 
     When you hear the word fat, you may conjure up images of foods that are processed, deep fried and dripping in grease.  Not always so, as there are some fats such as monounsaturated (vegetable oils like olive, canola, and peanut) and polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils like sunflower, corn and flaxseed) that are actually good for you.  In reality, your body breaks down fats and uses them to store energy, insulate body tissues, and transport some vitamins through the blood.
      Dana says that she does not worry about her patients' cholesterol level while they are receiving treatment, because they are too low anyway due to the chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
      "It is best to have a 1:1:1 ratio of saturated fat (fats that raise cholesterol), monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat in one's diet.  If you eat meat and/or cheese and dairy products, you are certain of getting plenty of saturated fat in your diet. "
      So, now you know what you should be eating, how do you now include these nutritional elements in your daily meals, while both fighting off the need to vomit and making sure you maintain a healthy weight?  Chemotherapy and radiation therapy will undoubtedly change the way you have been eating.  Meaning that, instead of consuming three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), try eating several small meals throughout the day, and snacking in between those meals.  Don't wait until you feel hungry, this may not occur for a few days until after treatment or surgery.  Instead, eat every few hours, and when you are at your hungriest, eat your biggest meal.  Drinking a lot of fluid during cancer treatment is key to maintaining the health of your kidneys.  It is recommended that you drink 8-10 ounces glasses a day.  Staying hydrated will help you replace the fluids lost during bouts of vomiting and diarrhea.  You will want to make sure you have something to drink not only with your meals, but in between as well.
     Between 70-80% of cancer patients going through treatment suffer from nausea and/or vomiting.  Foods and beverages that help control nausea include: soda crackers, regular ginger ale (not sugar-free), and ginger (which can be eaten in the form of "pickled ginger" or dried ginger, which can be chewed or sucked on.  Also some of your starchier foods such as pretzels, dry cereals and white rice can help calm your stomach.
     Clinical Nutritionist, Dana M. Scruggs goes on to add that, "The most common between meals snacks for cancer patients are high calorie/high protein supplements such as Ensure Plus.  These supplements are often mixed with ice cream to create tasty milkshakes.  However, if the cancer patient is 'burned out' on drinking these supplements, then other good snack choices include anything that is calorie and protein dense.  Examples of such foods include: a grilled cheese sandwich, a meaty sandwich, a hamburger or cheeseburger, or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."
     There is no single cancer diet, so your approach to nutrition during treatment depends on the type of cancer you have, and the kind of treatment you will need.  Eating a proper diet that contains a variety of foods will provide your body with the nutrients needed to help fight cancer.
      "By keeping the chemo therapy or radiation therapy patient's weight within a healthy range, we optimize the ability of the patient to heal.  By ensuring that these patients have adequate protein in their diets, we reduce the risk for infection and opportunistic organisms from doing further harm to the patient," says Dana M. Scruggs MS. RD.
       And remember, just because treatment is over, doesn't mean you should go back to your old eating habits.  Keeping up your healthy lifestyle should be your goal.  This means decreasing the amount of saturated fat in your diet, avoiding salt-cured, and eating plenty of high fiber foods.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Catching Up.

     It's been a long while since I posted anything.  The truth is that, after the holidays, I gave up on my writing career and decided to focus my time working at my dad's dental office full-time.  BIG MISTAKE!  I quickly found that writing is like a drug, no matter how hard I tried to quit, I just couldn't.  There was this constant voice in my head that kept telling me to "Just write something!"
     Why did I quit you ask?  I became so disappointed and frustrated with the writing process that I decided that it was easier to make steady money at a "real" job.  I got tired of the rejections and waiting months for a paycheck.  I got tired of writing at night and getting very minimal done.  For the last three years, I had promised myself that I would have a novel finished by Fall that year.  Never happened.
     I must say that I got used to having my nights free to read and go to bed at a reasonable hour.  It wasn't until my dad had a long talk with me about my real career as he put it.  Even though he loved having me work with him down at the office, he told me that he didn't want me to settle for being a secretary the rest of my life.
     So, a few months ago, I put pen to paper and began working again.  I started sending out queries to magazines again, and when I received a rejection, I sent out another query.  Late last year, I put 9 chapters on a YA novel, and then I didn't touch it for quite some time.  Last week, I took it out of the proverbial drawer and began work on it again.  I figured I would start over from scratch, and so I started rewriting it from the beginning.  Two chapters in, I scrapped it.  I just couldn't see it as a book, and I had no faith in its potential to become one.
     So, instead of letting this little set back get me down, I went back and read some of my story ideas out of my journal.  I found a story idea that I thought my work, and spent two days mulling it over in my head.  And I am happy to announce that, late last night, I started work on a novel that I think has real potential.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Hi, my name is Sara and I am a writer."

     Which is exactly what I would say if there ever existed a meeting for writers who are absolutely in love with their craft.  Because, let's face it, writing is addictive.  I started writing in 2007, but my love of fiction began the day I was born.  My parents swear that I was born with a book in my hand.  Books have always been a form of escapism for me.  I never leave home without one.  But since I've started writing, not just fiction but my freelance articles, I've come to the conclusion that I cannot get enough of it.  I find myself daydreaming about writing when not doing it.
     Mondays are the only time that I can fully devote an entire day to my writing, since my day job begins on Tuesday.  During the week, I diligently work every night from 8:00-10:30 on my writing.  Unfortunately I have to get up early to go to work at my dad's dental office, so I'm not always able to work later into the night like I would like to.  Once I put the pen and paper away and turn out the lights, I find myself fighting the urge to turn the lights back on and hit the power button on my computer.  I have to force myself to lie there and wait for sleep to take me.
     I don't know if anyone feels the same way, but I find it hard to shut off my drive to write at a certain time at night.  It's like a drug.  Creativity feels good.  You are in another world, you're interacting with these people that are so three dimensional to you, and sometimes it's hard to say goodbye.  Maybe you had a bad day at work, and writing fiction is your escape out of reality.  Well, sometimes I find it hard to shut everything off and leave my world of characters to go to sleep and face reality again in the morning.  During the day I find myself wondering, "what is so and so doing?"  I can't wait to get home and get my fix.

Monday, January 16, 2012

They're Just Not That Into You

     Let's face, as writers we experience a certain amount of frustration on a daily basis.  Whether it's trying to meet deadlines, tracking down contacts for an article, or trying to get a speedier response from an editor. A good portion of our time as freelancers is spent querying those potential one-time employers, who will let us write for their magazine.  But, sometimes, we don't always hear back from those editors.  It can be frustrating as Hell.  We send our follow-up queries every week like clockwork, never thinking that we are maybe being too pushy, or coming off as needy.
     Just as in relationships, we are left wondering "why won't they call me" (or in our case, "why won't they email me back)?  "  We begin to question ourselves as writers, and then out comes the chocolate and that quart of Cherry Garcia ice cream.  When in reality, there are probably a myriad of reasons why that specific editor hasn't gotten back to us.  Maybe what we queried them with doesn't fit the theme of their magazine.  Maybe our query got lost in the hundreds of other emails they receive on a daily basis.  Or maybe they just didn't like what we had to query them with, and they don't have the common decency to email us back to let us know.  I mean, they can at least do that can't they?!
     So, as in the dating world, if you haven't heard back in a certain amount of time, then maybe that editor wasn't worth working with after all.  There are plenty of other editors in the literary pool, perhaps one of them will buy your idea.