Assessing Life

Sometimes life deals us a hard blow.  It can knock us off of our footing for a while – knock the wind out of our sails, and we fall, stuck – in a seemingly endless, stagnant ocean – unmoving. That happened to me recently as I had to again assess what I could no longer do.

What isn’t obvious to other people is the loss of function that I experienced as a result of surgery for cancer 7 years ago.  The mass was in lymph nodes in my neck, against the sternockeidomastoid (SCM) muscle and internal jugular; thus, along with a good number of lymph nodes, the jugular and salivary gland, a major part of the SCM also had to go. This muscle helps hold up and turn your head, helps you raise your arm, and is one of the primary muscles receiving stress throughout the entire side of the body when you perform tasks ranging from heavy lifting to small motor movements to chewing.  It’s hard to do any bodily movement without engaging the SCM.  So, I have had to learn to manage the pain and loss of function brought on by the muscle weakness and scar tissue.

I grieved for a while, thinking of some of the things I missed like making jewelry, working in the yard, even taking vacations. Then, I thought of my friend Grayce. She became disabled at a young age – half my age – when she had a stroke after delivering a baby. She lost use of her dominant arm and had other problems that made caring for herself and her family very difficult.

What saved Grayce was her attitude. She went to a supprt group, all lamenting over what they could not do, and she said, “If you can’t write a check, get a check card! ”  They threw her out of the group and she said that it was the best thing that could have happened to her – that those people were depressing.

To move forward, we have to assess and reassess our capabilities after a physical problem or just as we get older.  We need to figure out different ways to do the things we love – or learn to love to do new and different things.

I have often said that my experiences with cancer have been some of the best things, best experiences, that could have happened to me because of what I learned and the people who came into my life as a result.  I have some of the sweetest cards from friends and relatives and we have developed some very close friendships and relationships. I appreciate them everyday more than I could have before.

Yes, I have physical problems and pain that I will always have to manage. But, how can I lament and focus on what I lost when I have also gained so much?  I am closing in on 7 years past August 5, 2011 with no recurrences.  I have a wonderful husband who has been and continues to be so good to me through it all, my good friends and mentors Dr. Coleen Smith and Holographic Health® developer Dr. Theodore Baroody who have helped me through the loss and pain into a way to manage day to day.  I use Holographic Health® principles daily to improve my health and stay on track.  And, last but not least, I have three successful and happy children I can be proud of. To top off the blessings, a miraculous new granddaughter was born into our family last year. I have so many blessings and so much to be thankful for.  What do you have to be thankful for today?

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Gratitude

After being through life-threatening illness – twice – I appreciate everything and endeavor to never take anything or anyone for granted. Maybe I go overboard to ensure that I thank everyone; however, I am sincerely grateful for kindnesses bestowed upon me by people and by God. 

Also,  I grew up with love and discipline; but, I didn’t grow up with lots of money. My husband says that I can “out-poor” him anytime – it’s a running joke when anybody talks about things they did without while growing up.  His father was a Methodist minister and my dad was a schoolteacher.  Neither of our mothers worked outside the home – there was plenty to do inside the home. 

I grew up out in the country without running water or indoor plumbing – this was still common in the 1950s.  We heated with wood, didn’t have a heater in our truck – they weren’t standard equipment in the 1940s.  So, I really appreciate being warm, turning up the thermostat, getting into a nice hot bath, and just walking into the other room when I have to get up at night.

I worked hard to put myself through high school and college while juggling married life and parenthood. I have lived through happy marriages – and miserable divorces when they ended. I raised 3 children, juggled all of their activities, while working in corporate America for 3 decades. I cared for and buried my parents. I have faced death through severe illness and now understand that I shall be recovering and working to regain what strength I can for the rest of my life. 

What I have learned from all of this is to appreciate the good days and the good friends and family – they help you get through the hard days.  The good and true ones will stick by your side through it all – and the rest will fall away.  Do your best every day to make a difference – even if it’s just to smile at someone,  you just might change their life.  Life can change and can come or go in the blink of an eye – so, be grateful for today and what blessings you can find in it.  There are still blessings all around – if we just open our hearts to give and receive them. 

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Christmas Thoughts

The last few Christmases have been very different. I suddenly became a matriarch – with all of its honors, trials, and tribulations. This year, I have been reminded of all of the blessings over the years, old and new, people who have come and gone, and the massive changes from the way I grew up.

When we were young, we had no responsibilities and fit into the traditions of our family.  We learned  at some point in our lives that some of us were so much more fortunate than others to grow up in a loving family. Maybe we didn’t have a lot monetarily or everything we wanted – but we had love and everything we needed.

My dad, a very educated man who taught English and Science, was also very sensitive and religious. We read a Bible lesson every night as a family and he instilled the real reason for Christmas. Christmas is to honor the birth of Christ. Period. I also learned from my parents to honor this spark of Christ in every living being. The gifts I remember from my dad were things like gloves put in the Christmas tree…things memorable and useful.

My mother, and her mother before her, made sure that everyone felt loved and was recognized and cared for. This was my responsibility for years – decorating, dinners, family gatherings. Now, this torch is being passed to my daughter as we go to her house for holidays. My role suddenly became the matriarch that holds the family together.

There are blessings and trepidations with each new  role we take in life.  Sometimes  we have choice; sometimes life just evolves and chooses us. Whatever the phase, we can focus on the blessings or the trepidations, what we have or what we have lost. Regardless, we still have those precious memories of people and Christmases past and new memories in the making.

I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams by good friends and family, and I wish the same for you.  May God hold you in the palm of His hand this year.  Wherever you are and whatever your situation, I wish you love, blessings and peace in your heart. A very Merry Christmas.

Love, Ann

 

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Halloween

Updated for Halloween, 2015

Balanced Lives Resources - Ann Marie's Blog

My Grandmother's BowlMy Grandmother’s Bowl

Halloween

Halloween comes
on little ghost feet.

It meanders
place to place, ‘Trick or Treat’ing
for candy kisses
and childlike fun.
                                – Ann Marie Byars, 10/27/2015

My grandmother loved Halloween.  She loved all holidays, I think mainly because she loved to entertain, make people feel welcome and loved, and just make people feel good in general – especially children.  My life is richer for having known her and the things she taught me.

I learned at an early age from my parents and grandparents that people don’t always have the same beliefs, even people in the same family; however, one can still honor and respect those individuals and their beliefs – even if one does not agree with them.

My grandfather was a Primitive Baptist and my grandmother was a Methodist.  Primitive Baptists, at least in his church, did not believe in Sunday school.  My grandmother taught…

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Pain

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I have learned a lot about pain over the last 5 years. I always have had trouble with my back and neck; and then, two tongue surgeries and a radical neck dissection 5 and 4 years ago have given me a crash course in pain management and recovery.

I have always been able to handle pain as well or better than most.  I had my first baby with an epidural, didn’t like the results, and then had two more with natural childbirth. When my youngest child was on the way, the doctor and I were having an argument.  Doctor, “We need to give you a local because this baby is big and you are likely to tear.” Me, “No. I’m not having any drugs!”  Doctor, ” This baby is coming, he has a large head, you are likely to tear, it’ll take you a while to sew you up, and the drugs won’t have time to get into his system – we need to do this now and so I’m giving you a local!”  Me, “Ok. Fine!”

I have never been one to complain about my maladies.  My experience and view of the world has always been that nobody wants to hear it.  While this is generally true, if one is in pain and does not share that with people who need to understand what one is really capable of doing or not doing, what sends one into waves of pain, and what helps one to prevent it, then some of this pain is brought on by oneself.  I have pushed though the pain – and it has sometimes brought me to my knees.

I always wanted to help others – and I have had to learn to ask for help.  A dear friend said this to me a couple of years ago and it made such a profound impression, “If you don’t ask for help, you are defying spiritual principles.  What if someone needed your help and wouldn’t ask?  How would you feel?”  So, I now regularly ask for help.  There are distinct differences in 1) being lazy, 2) being a martyr and going through unnecessary pain, and 3) asking for help appropriately when it is really needed.  One does not need to be a martyr and go through unnecessary pain if it can be avoided!

My mother lived with pain.  I saw it start in her 40s and by her 60s, she had a terrible time getting around.  I started seeing a chiropractor regularly in my 30s and she didn’t see one until probably her 60s when I started going.  She had severe deterioration in her hips and some in her spine due to osteoporosis and misalignments.  Now that I better understand pain, I hope that I was kind enough, understanding enough.

Pain makes one want to just sit down and cry.   It’s impossible to think.  That list of things to do today…. some days the list just has to wait.   I have, also, been adamant about a natural approach, only taking significant painkillers when I had surgery.  I saw what happened to my mother taking Loritab – it just took away her will to do anything.  So, getting my neck aligned regularly, getting work on the muscles and scar tissue, and taking vitamin and herbal remedies are my preference. I also use Holographic Health CamphoRub topically to help sooth the area, and ibuprofen when I must.

I have also had to learn to be creative in finding different ways to accomplish tasks: carrying things in smaller bags, getting a vegetable chopper and immersion blender, letting my husband do the dishes…. and some days, just eating out.  To me, life is not about “woe is me because I can’t do that”.  Instead, Life is all about being grateful for what I can do – and doing that with a smile!

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Alkalizing the Body

Remember, I’m the health nut who had cancer – so, I decided four years ago when this happened that I must have been missing something. One friend loaned me Dr. Theodore Baroody’s book, Alkalize or Die, and another friend introduced me to Holographic Health, a system for health developed by Dr.  Baroody.

Alkalize or Die makes one aware of how food acts once it is in the body – creating an alkaline or acidic condition –
and how combinations of foods do this, as well. I have heard many tout the importance of food combining; and yet, their explanations are very complex.  Dr.  Baroody includes a graphical representation of food combining in this book that makes this process quite simple.

For example, Americans love sandwiches and meat with potatoes – combinations that are extremely acid forming. Another misconception is eating fruit for dessert. Think about this: fruit digests very quickly and meat digests very slowly – these do not mesh well together at all.

Vegetables are in the center of the chart where they belong. We need to make vegetables the center of our diets!

There is also a very nice laminated 80/20 chart available that reminds us to eat 80% alkaline forming foods and only 20% acid-forming foods. Lemon, while seeming acidic on the outside, is one of the most alkaline-forming foods available when taken internally. Watermelon is also very alkaline-forming – along with Love, Kindness, Meditation, Prayer,  etc.

On the most acid-producing side of this chart are artificial sweeteners, sugar, meats and Stress, Anger, etc. An Indian mystic once said that if you knew the damage a fit or anger did to your liver, you would never get angry over anything!

Food is your first medicine. Take a close look at what you’re eating. Shop around the edges of the grocery store – and don’t eat from windows!  Learning to eat a better diet is a process – and you and your health are worth it! You carry your health with you every moment of every day in that wonderful body of yours! Make them a priority now – or they will become a priority at some time in your life, maybe in an unfortunate way when you least expect it. Especially, if you are currently facing a health challenge, whether large or small, your diet is extremely important. Remember, food is your first medicine.

If you’re local, I keep copies of Alkalize or Die and the 80/20 Chart for sale.  Or, you can go to www.HolographicHealth.com to order. I also teach classes on low-glycemic impact and alkaline eating.  Contact me for more information.
www.BalancedLivesRs.com

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Using Your Gifts

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It was about this time four years ago that I found a lump in my neck.  I had been through two tongue surgeries for a carcinoma and so I knew what it could be.  But, I only had a 2% chance of it being that, right?

There were many things that went through my mind at that time.  First, there was not knowing.  Not knowing was harder than knowing.  After you know, you can decide what to do.  Before knowing, it’s just harder.

Then, there were decisions – before and after the surgery.  I had to decide whether or not to take chemotherapy – I chose not to.  I had to decide whether or not to take radiation treatments – I chose to.  These were decisions I had to make given advice from my doctors and my own research.  The main advice I can give to anyone going through a life-threatening illness is to do your research and then take it to God, a Higher Power – whatever you consider Him/Her to be – and then make the decision based on your research and what you receive from that faith.  I felt better because it gave me the control I needed in this earth because the actual outcome was in God’s hands.  I was just the voice for what I believed He guided me to do.  Dr. Coleen Smith helped me to muddle through all of the decisions and find that voice, and I shall be forever grateful to her for her guidance.

Then the healing began and continues to this day.  I lost half of the SCM muscle that goes through my neck to my shoulder.  My neck always was a challenge – and now, even more so.  I have had to find other ways to do things (such as, chopping vegetables), do things in smaller steps (such as, write part of a blog and then finish later), carry half of what I would have carried at one time, etc.  I need regular care from my health care providers – and how fortunate I was to have been introduced to Holographic Health!  Dr. Theodore Baroody and Dr. Noel Baker changed my life, and so much so that I became a Holographic Health practitioner.  My desire is to use this knowledge to pass along to others the health that the Holographic Health system has helped me to achieve.

The main thing is that we all have challenges and we all have gifts.  It is how we overcome the challenges and use the gifts that are so important.  Things that I once took for granted have become so important to me after the surgery and radiation that this causes me to look at these gifts very differently.

One gift that we all have is our voice, our ability to speak, to communicate.  I have given presentations and training sessions throughout my whole career, I always sang in the choir in church – and then, suddenly, I couldn’t talk when going through radiation.  Losing the left salivary gland has made my mouth drier than normal and so I have to be very careful to drink plenty of water and sip on aloe or use lozenges to keep my throat moist.  I am very susceptible to sore throats, I can no longer strain my voice or project it – or I lose it again.  This has happened to me several times over the last four years.  So, even though I must be very careful with it, my voice has came back and I still have it.

I hear people in the doctor’s office from time to time when I go for checkups who have a stoma, the electronic voice.  Yes, they have the ability to communicate, they can talk; however, there is no inflection, it’s robotic. …  It makes me want to cry.  That could have been me.  I am just so grateful to have my voice, with all of its challenges, rather than the electronic version.  Our voice is part of who we are, and those of us  who have used our voice for speaking and singing our whole lives, are changed forever without it.  Can we adapt, as I did to chopping vegetables?  Absolutely!

However, one thing my husband and I have always enjoyed is singing in the choir and honoring God, our Country and our Veterans in the Kingsport Liberty Celebration. Father’s Day reminds me how my dad honored his country by joining the Navy in WWII, and singing in that production was a big part of my life that I so hoped I could continue to do. Three years ago, less than a year after my surgery, I sang in that choir and did so again last year.  Yes, I had to be much more careful with my voice and may always have to – but, I sang!

We all have gifts given to us by God.  These gifts are there for us to use, to share, to make a difference in the lives of those around us.  Use your gifts today, be grateful for them – we don’t know what tomorrow may bring.  Whatever tomorrow brings, have faith – because, as it says in Matthew, faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains!

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Why I’m Vegetarian

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People have asked me why I choose to be vegetarian.  Let me say, first of all, it’s my choice.  What you choose is up to you and I won’t judge you for your choice.

I didn’t grow up vegetarian. I grew up on a farm, we grew animals for food, and we only killed them for food.  I never liked eating something I had seen walking around – I found myself avoiding meat. These animals were my friends, they were living, breathing creatures, and I didn’t like eating them.

Let me, also, clarify one of the jokes about vegetarians – that we’re just poor shots. … Well, I grew up on a farm out in the country and knowing how to use a gun was essential as a tool for survival. We had wild boar, rattlesnakes,  and sometimes people who came around reminding one of a cross between the two.  My Dad taught me how to shoot safely, and I took handgun and rifle as Physical Education courses in college – I made an A. So, I choose not to shoot living creatures.

My parents told the story of killing their pet chicken to eat on the train to New York when they were leaving for their honeymoon. Then they sat on the backporch steps and cried. I remember thinking they could have eaten peanut butter.  There are choices for protein intake.

If you read John Robbins book “Diet for a New America”, he talks about the times in history when meat was less abundant and statistics showed lower rates of certain diseases. Also, from my Holographic Health training, the importance of eating an alkalizing diet is paramount for health.  Thus, as Dr. Theodore Baroody suggests in “Alkalize or Die”, we should eat a diet that is 80% alkaline to 20% acidic. Fruits and vegetables, love and kindness are on the alkaline side of the scale; meat, sugar and stress are on the acidic side of the scale. Especially after my brush with cancer, I do everything I can to stay on the alkaline side of the scale.

Read these books, do your own research, and decide for yourself on the meat issue; however, whatever you do, eat a diet focused on fresh fruits and vegetables for your optimal health.

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My Recovery from a Cancer Imbalance

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Ann Marie Byars, 2014

There was a time after I had surgery in August, 2011, that I thought I would never go without a turtleneck again.  I had a radical neck dissection to remove a cancerous growth – to be safe, they removed 19 lymph nodes, part of the muscle going to my left arm, my left salivary gland, and the internal jugular.

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Ann Marie Byars, 8/16/2011 – the day stitches were removed from surgery 8/5.

Then, I had radiation later that year and I was sure I would never show anyone my neck again. I refused chemotherapy – I talked with my doctors, researched the pros and cons, and made the decision.

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Ann Marie Byars, 10/2011, After Radiation Treatments

Because of my excellent nutrition program and, thus, general health status, I would go in for checkups and the receptionists would ask me if I was a patient! That really made me feel good. I was often told, “You don’t look sick!”

My daughter is a Speech Pathologist and gave me exercises to strengthen my swallowing reflex.  I still have to be a bit careful when I eat and I lost my voice for a while – but, it returned and sounds normal. I was in the doctor’s office for a checkup and a fellow came in speaking through a stoma, an electronic device implanted in the throat.  I wanted to cry – I was so grateful because that could have been me.  The stoma creates a voice that is like a robot with no inflection, no feeling.

My supplement regimen:

I used Market America Isotonix (TM) supplements exclusively during radiation because I could not swallow pills or anything grainy. Isotonix supplements are powders mixed with liquid to form a solution that is the right pH and pressure that does not require breaking down by the body. This means that the body receives close to 95% of what is in the bottle. I used Isotonix Beauty Blend/nutraMetrix Skin Health Formula  (2 caps 3 times per day), which is a potent antioxidant combination of pycnogenol, calcium, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid which are all good for the skin and tissues. I took Isotonix Multivitamin and Multimineral, CoQ10 (2 caps), lots of extra C (1-3 grams daily – 2-6 caps), Vitamin D with K2 (15,000 units – 3 caps), Activated B-Complex (1-2 caps), Calcium Complete (2 Caps), Ultimate ORAC (1 cap), Resveratrol (1 cap) and Acai (1 cap) for energy. I sipped Ultimate Aloe all day mixed about half with water – it comes in natural as well as nice flavors that are quite pleasant. My favorite flavor is strawberry-kiwi. It coated my throat so that it wasn’t as dry and sore, and boosted my immune system. I still had to use the “magic mouthwash” that the doctor prescribed to coat my throat, however, because of my body’s internal reaction to radiation. Now, because my mouth is dryer due to the loss of one salivary gland, I drink more water, run a humidifier at night (the Crane Drop Shape Cool Mist Humidifier is very quiet and works well), and I still use aloe daily to coat my throat. I have learned that it helps to use more aloe the day before I will be talking more than usual, as well. Aloe comes in dry packets that I keep in my purse, too, so that I can put it in water when we go out to eat or in a bottle of water when I will be talking.  My latest finding is that misting the throat with aloe from a small spray bottle will keep the throat moist when singing, speaking, etc. and is easy to carry in the pocket or purse.

My skincare regimen:

I used and still use Pentaxyl on my face and neck twice daily. Pentaxyl contains botanical ingredients to help to calm the skin and to soften scar tissue. While I was going through radiation, I used a Cellular Laboratories mask every evening on the radiation area. This helped to calm and hydrate the skin, and removed burning. I followed the mask with aloe and then Pentaxyl. I only had one small spot in the very center of my neck that peeled, much like a bad sunburn.  My skin also recovered very quickly and today, I wear whatever I like and sometimes even wear my hair up!

Pentaxyl is also great support for people suffering with rosacea and psoriasis! My clients with rosacea say that Pentaxyl works better than prescription medications and is cheaper.

Everyone is different and may have different nutritional and skincare needs. I provide complimentary consultations to folks with cancer or other life-threatening conditions. I know how hard it can be to find the right products that are gentle on the skin and body and so I work with individuals to find what works for each of them.

I work for myself and am so fortunate that my office is in my home so that I don’t have a job that I have to go to every day. My friends who have recovered from cancer and other life threatening conditions have had a very hard time trying to keep up with the stress from jobs, careers, and families.  During my recovery, and even today, I can plan and take days off when I need rest. 

The important things start going through your mind when you get a life-threatening diagnosis. Will I be here to spend Christmas with my family? Will I be able to watch my children have children of their own? Will I be there for my children when only a mother’s love and help are enough? Will I be there to take care of my husband the next time he is sick as he is taking care of me now? Will we ever be able to go on that vacation we have had to put off because of my illness? We all know that we are going to die one day. But, when you face cancer or some other life-threatening illness, you come face to face with your mortality today.

At first, you’re just numb. It’s like living in a dream where things just happen and nothing seems real . . . Then, you find out your diagnosis, decide what you are going to do, and you start working with it. Make sure that YOU make the decision on your path forward – this is YOUR life.  This is the point where you really start living day to day.

Every day becomes the most important day of your life, every moment the most important moment. The things that you really want to say to your family and friends, you say them today. The things that you really want to do and accomplish in your life change. You assess and reassess your goals and really think of what you most want to accomplish while you are here. You start living in the present and living each day to the fullest because tomorrow really is a dream out there in the future that may never become a reality.

Do what you love, be who you are, and really LIVE each and every day.

Web: http://www.BalancedLivesRs.com  Shopping: http://www.AnnByars.com

 

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The Importance of Vitamins D and K

When I was diagnosed with cancer 3 years ago, I decided that I must be missing something.  As I worked through my nutrition, one thing that really jumped out were my Vitamin D levels – they had consistently been too low.  You really don’t want something such as cancer to come along and hit you over the head with a scary diagnosis to think about supplementing with Vitamin D.  Recent research has shown that most people are deficient in Vitamin D.

As I began to research Vitamin D and my family history, some things became more clear  to me: Vitamin D is linked with the immune system, bone health and heart health – my family has a history of osteoporosis and heart disease and, lo and behold, cancer.  So, the genetic predisposition to these diseases was there as was the deficiency. Because of the predisposition to cancer – especially skin cancer, I have a light complexion, and so being in the sun is not a viable method of obtaining Vitamin D for me.  I had also struggled with calcium absorption for most of my life until Isotonix Calcium returned my bone mass to normal – and, I realized that I also was getting Isotonix D, which was enough to rebuild my bones but I needed more for my immune system.

Vitamin D3 is the metabolically active form of Vitamin D, is water soluble, and, therefore, does not have the toxicity issues that one has with other forms of D.  Then there is  Vitamin K, specifically K2, that supports vascular health (elasticity of blood vessels) and calcium utilization.  K2 is also the form of K that does not interfere with anticoagulant medications.  So, the forms of Vitamin D and K are very important in the supplements you take!  You can take calcium all day, even a good form, but it won’t work if you don’t have the Vitamins D and K to go with it.

I use isotonic supplements whenever I can (Isotonix from Market America) because of the bioavailability: this means that they come as a powder and when mixed with the right amount of water make a solution that is equivalent to one’s body fluids.  They go right through the stomach with no digestion needed, are absorbed in the small intestine almost immediately, and with very little loss.  So, what is in the bottle is very close to what I get in my body.  Tablets contain binders, fillers, and unless it is a professional supplement line like Market America’s, potency is not guaranteed.  I also hate most Vitamin D supplements because they taste fishy – I’m a vegetarian and so that is not something I enjoy.

The great news is that when I began supplementing with Isotonix D3 with K2, my blood levels became good for the first time in my life.  I started with 15,000 units and have since dropped to 5,000 units.  This is just a 2 ounce serving for me and actually tastes good.  My doctor is happy and tells me to keep doing whatever it is that I am doing.

I feel great, have lots of energy and, most importantly, cancer is something in the past that I plan to do everything in my power to keep in the past.  We have lots of carcinogenic elements in our lives today: stress, toxins in our food/air/water, food that is deficient in nutrients compared to what we had 50 years ago.  It is hard to eat right all the time with our busy lifestyles and, even when we do, most of us just cannot get everything we need from our food.  Our health is something that we carry with us every moment of every day and we don’t realize what we have until we lose it.  Fortunately, I have had the chance to regain my health – and not just for my sake, but for my family, as well.   If you have questions or if I can help you to stay healthy, please contact me.

http://www.BalancedLivesRs.com    http://www.AnnByars.com

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