I grew up with amazing grandparents. My Mom's parents were especially a huge part of my life growing up and my memories of visiting them are some of my favorite childhood moments. My entire childhood was filled with fond memories of cooking, crafts, camping and just time spent with these quality people. As a kid, I didn't realize at the time what a gift it was to have the kind of grandparents I did. I took it for granted. However I don't take one memory for granted now.
My parents and 2 younger siblings and I would make our way to Edmonton, AB every Christmas, Easter and thanksgiving to celebrate, as well as spending our summers camping at my grandparents recreation property we called "the farm".
My grandpa, Jens Jensen (coolest name ever!) was an ETS bus driver and my grandmother, Deanna Jensen has her music degree and taught piano to many many students in her 70+ years on this earth. Both my grandma and grandpa would take extra time with us when we would visit and I felt unconditional love from them growing up. My grandpa would sometimes take us early in the morning on his bus route and we would get to sit right behind him and help collect the money from his passengers. My grandma would spend countless hours with us in the kitchen making everything from Christmas crafts to homemade perogies and I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT!
They always worked so hard and I noticed. From having a huge garden to the efforts they put into their family, I took it all in. My grandpa bought one of the first VHS video cameras on the market and so when I was about 8 years old, many of these moments were on camera. Behind the lens was my grandpa, who in his unique interviewing style would capture these memories. At the time I remember often running away from embarrassment, but I am truly grateful now for those clips. When my grandpa would wrap up a video, he ALWAYS ended with "Bye for now!". This tagline has stuck with our entire family, and when I video my kids now, that phrase just spills out of my soul.
In 1997 my grandpa was diagnosed with an advanced stage of liver cancer. I remember exactly where I was when I found out, and how my heart broke. When asked "how long do I have?" his doctor replied "go home and enjoy a steak dinner, because it won't be long". For some reason I've never forgot that extremely absurd response from his doctor. Due to the extent of the disease, the cross cancer institute couldn't help my grandpa so they chose to seek out other routes for healing.
My grandma, being the strong, smart, loving & compassionate woman she is, dove head first with grandpa into the hands of alternative medicine practitioners for help. I remember everything about our visits to their house changing after his cancer diagnosis. Memories of the box of grandpa's supplements on the kitchen table are vivid, as well as discussions around their action plan to keep grandpa alive despite the grim diagnosis. They had turned to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and for the first 18 months after his diagnosis he lived a good quality of life at home with my grandma, even taking some vacations with family.
I was living in Edmonton studying music at Alberta college (I too became a music teacher for 10+ years, likely to due the fact that both my grandma and my mom taught music) in the fall of 1998 when I found out that grandpa was no longer doing well fighting his battle with cancer. I made arrangements to move in with my grandparents and help my grandma take care of my grandpa. I was 18 at the time, and looking back now it was a pretty heavy situation for me and yet for some reason I wanted to be there.
My grandpa didn't complain much. He and I joked around with each other everyday and I worked with my grandma to try and cook dishes that corresponded with his very strict diet: no sugar, no flour, no dairy, no microwave, in fact don't even stand by the microwave! He was a food lover, so this diet was tough and yet I 100% believe (along with my grandma and other family members) that the TCM route afforded my grandpa 18 months he wouldn't have had had he done nothing.
I will spare the details of living with someone who is dying of cancer. Mostly because my grandpa was a big, tough guy and I know that us watching him become frail and weak hurt his pride. He valued his privacy and I respect that.
In June of 1999, at 62 years old, with his family by his side, we said our final "bye for now" to grandpa J. That moment was both horrifying and beautiful at the same time. Cancer is a monster and I loathe the word, yet if I ever have to fight that battle, I pray I die fighting with my family by my side. Losing my grandpa changed my family forever. It changed me forever, and I think its much more than coincidence that those holistic seeds were planted in my life exactly 20 years ago to when I decided to go back to school to become a holistic nutritionist.
So now it brings me to the place where a piece of my life history unfolds a new story where I'm learning the science behind health and nutrition, and how I can help others find their way to feeling better, reducing inflammation, and preventing disease.
Eating well is a form of self respect, and transforming our eating habits is a process. This process is important to help our bodies fight disease, fatigue, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies etc., and although there is no guarantees out there for any of us, I want to give my body the BEST CHANCE POSSIBLE to fight. I want to leave a legacy of health and wellness for my children. What about you?
When looking at our diets as a whole, transformation begins with the following:
- drinking more water / excluding pop, and excessive caffeine and alcohol
- increasing fiber intake / exclude processed foods!
- choosing whole grains / excluding white flour, white rice, processed grain products
- increasing veggie intake / half of your plate should be veggies!