Ryan Tucker

Road Warrior.

In 2005, at the age of three, Ryan was diagnosed with a large infiltrating brain stem tumor. A biopsy was performed which indicated that Ryan had a pilocytic astrocytoma. Ryan had an 11-hour surgery on 4/21/05 that removed approximately 95% of the tumor. After surgery, Ryan went through years of physical, occupational and speech therapy. He had to learn how to walk and talk all over again.

Ryan was treated with chemotherapy from December 2007 to May 2008 and again in February 2013. After a year of very harsh chemo treatments, Ryan's tumor was stable. The effects of the tumor, surgeries and treatments left Ryan with many challenges including left-sided weakness, right-sided ataxia and eye muscle deficits that impact his depth perception. He rarely complained about all this and merely longed to be like everyone else. One thing he dearly wanted to be able to do was ride a bike.

Ryan began coming to the Mission Training Center seven years ago. With help from his personal trainer, he learned how to ride a bike. He completed the 10-mile course in his first CT Challenge ride in 2016. In 2017 and 2018, Ryan completed the 25-mile course. Now 17 years old, Ryan is returning to the Mission Training Center to continue to counter the after effects of his battle.

The video below is Ryan's victory lap, shot four years ago when he finally achieved his goal of riding a bike. This is what triumph looks like. It's what happens when hope and hard work meet the resources needed to bring them together, resources like the Mission Adventure Project.


Andres Galarraga

Survivorship in Full Swing.
Tenacious. Ebullient. Comeback Player for the Ages.

This story is a bit of a rewind but it’s worth re-telling. It’s about retired Major League Baseball player Andres Galarraga, a first baseman and one of the game’s top hitters at the time. Winner of the 1993 National League batting title, his nickname was the Big Cat for his defensive agility as well. In 1994, playing for the Atlanta Braves, he hit an astounding 44 home runs and was named to the All-Star team for the fourth time. It also made him the first player ever to hit 40 home runs in back to back years for two different teams. He was 37 years old.

Immediately following that season, his life took a different turn when persistent back pain led to a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Given the location of his cancer, playing through treatment was out of the question. He missed the entire season. Galarragas returned the next year to a standing ovation on Opening Day. In an article that ran shortly after his return, the L.A. Times wrote, “During his six rounds of chemotherapy last summer, Galarraga ballooned to 280 pounds, and he suffered from nausea. When he was done with chemo, he had a month of radiation. At times he could scarcely recognize himself.”

The year he returned to the field, Galarraga played as if he’d never missed a beat, defying all expectations. He was named to his fifth career All-Star game that year and won the National League Comeback Player of the Year award.

In that same L.A. Times article, Galarraga said it was his mission to show other cancer sufferers that the disease can be beaten, that a seriously ill person can get stronger, and even better.

Boy did he ever.

For more on Galarraga, click here.


Paula Recommends ...Black Bean & Barley Salad

Looking for creative ways to use healthy fats like those in olive or canola oil? Packed with vibrant colors and contrasting textures, this hearty salad makes a tasty, nutritious and economical side dish. The optional avocado (one of the few fruits that provide healthy fats) adds 3.3 grams of monounsaturated fat and 0.6 grams of polyunsaturated fat per serving. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Ingredients

3/4 cup quick-cooking barley
1 cup water
1 and 1/4 cups frozen corn niblets
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil or canola oil
1 and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tobasco, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 and 1/2 cups cooked dried black beans OR 15 ounce can black beans, dried and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped  fresh cilantro or  parsley
2 avocado
1 lime

Directions
1. Combine barley and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until barley is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 10 to 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork; let cool. (Pearl barley can also be used -- allow 50 to 60 minutes for cooking.)

2. Meanwhile, cook corn according to package directions. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

3. Combine orange juice, vinegar oil, cumin, oregano, garlic, hot sauce and salt in a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid; whisk or shake to blend.

4. Combine barley, corn, beans, bell pepper, scallions and cilantro or parsley in a large bowl.

5. Add orange juice dressing and toss to coat well. (Salad will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to two days.)

6. Just before serving, garnish with avocado, if desired. Serve with lime wedges.

Nutritional information: Makes eight servings. Per serving: 283 calories; 15 grams total fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 188 milligrams sodium; 34 grams carbohydrate; 9.85 grams fiber; 6.4 grams protein.

If dividing into eight servings. Per serving: 377 calories; 20 grams total fat; 2.7 grams saturated fat; 250 milligrams sodium; 45 grams carbohydrate; 13 grams fiber; 8.5 grams protein.


Acts of Kindness and Your Health

 

Did you know there are scientifically proven benefits of being kind?  Among its many benefits, kindness decreases pain, stress, anxiety, depression and blood pressure, as posted by Dartmouth University, citing research published by Random Acts of Kindness.

Here are some of the facts they report:

  • Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins, the brain’s natural painkiller.
  • Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population.
  • A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. University of British Columbia Study
  • Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved. Mortality is delayed, depression is reduced and well-being and good fortune are increased.
  • Committing acts of kindness lowers blood pressure. According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, acts of kindness create emotional warmth, which releases a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates the blood vessels. This reduces blood pressure and, therefore, oxytocin is known as a “cardioprotective” hormone. It protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
  • “About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth”  - Christine Carter, UC Berkeley, Greater Good Science Center
  • Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy.
  • “People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” Christine Carter, Author, “Raising Happiness;  - In Pursuit of Joyful Kids and Happier Parents”

 


Toni Harris

Excelling Beyond Cancer.
Fierce. Game Changer. Conqueror. Legend.

Toni Harris dreams of playing professional football. If there’s anyone who can put a woman in the hallway that leads to the stage and a handshake with the NFL commissioner on draft day, it’s her. Antoinette "Toni" Harris, a free safety, is the first woman to earn a scholarship to play defense in a skilled position …. “a seriously skilled and tough position, no less,” according to a Glamour article posted about her earlier this month.

People along the way tried to stop her from playing the traditionally male sport. "My biggest pet peeve is people telling me that I can't," Toni said in an interview with NBC News. "So I have to prove them wrong."

"I don't let anything stop me. I don't take no for an answer," she said.

It’s an ethos that has served her well, particularly when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer four years ago and started treatment with 16 chemotherapy session, three days apart in the beginning. Her weight dropped from 175 pounds to 90 pounds.

Earlier this year, Toni committed to Central Methodist University in Missouri following two years of breaking the mold playing football for East Los Angeles community college in Los Angeles, after she recovered from cancer. Her level of play there earned her six scholarship offers.

Her motto: Be so good, they can't ignore you.

Find out more about this amazing cancer survivor here:

"Toni Harris Just Made History as One of the First Women Awarded a Football Scholarship," by Abby Gardener, Glamour.com

"College football's first female position player, Toni Harris has beat cancer, critics and wide receivers," by Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports

"Female football star Toni Harris talks historic college scholarship," NBC News


Paula Recommends ...Quinoa with Orange and Avocado

Quinoa is a species of the goosefoot genus, a grain crop grown primarily for its edible seeds. It is similar in some respects to buckwheat. It is rich in the B vitamins, high in fiber and provides all the essential amino acids which is rare for a plant. Add some avocado (vitamin E) and navel orange (fiber, vitamin C ) and you end up with a great tasting, great for you side dish that is ready to hit the table in 30 minutes or less. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Ingredients
3⁄4 cup quinoa*
1/3 cup diced red onion
1 large navel orange
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1⁄2 avocado, diced
1⁄4 cup roasted unsalted sunflower seeds 1⁄2 tsp. kosher salt

*You can use bulgur or whole wheat couscous instead

Directions
1. Pick a firm but ripe avocado. (for Hass avocados, the most common variety, the skin should be black and it should yield just slightly to gentle pressure)
2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions, then allow to cool.
3. Combine the onion and vinegar in a large bowl and set aside until the onion turns pink, about 5 minutes
4. Cut the peel, pith, and outer membrane off the orange, then slice it. Cut the Slices into bite size pieces
5. Toss all the ingredients except the salt in the large bowl with the onion, then season with up to 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt

Nutrition information: Makes 4 (1 cup) servings. Per serving: 260 calories, 13g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat) 30g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 250 mg sodium 


Leg Exercise and Your Brain Health

From:  Frontiers in Neuroscience  |   Reported By:  Science Daily

Excerpt: “Groundbreaking research shows that neurological health depends as much on signals sent by the body's large, leg muscles to the brain as it does on directives from the brain to the muscles.

The research shows that using the legs, particularly in weight-bearing exercise, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells, essential for the brain and nervous system. Cutting back on exercise makes it difficult for the body to produce new nerve cells -- some of the very building blocks that allow us to handle stress and adapt to challenge in our lives.

The researchers gained more insight by analyzing individual cells. They found that restricting exercise lowers the amount of oxygen in the body, which creates an anaerobic environment and alters metabolism. Reducing exercise also seems to impact two genes, one of which is very important for the health of mitochondria -- the cellular powerhouse that releases energy the body can then use.

To read more, click here.

 


Paula Recommends ...Honey Mustard Salmon with Feta Yogurt Sauce

The salmon in this dish is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids that research has linked to cardiovascular health, cell signaling and vitamin absorption benefiting many body systems including the heart, brain and skin.

The sauce contains yogurt, rich with gut-healthy probiotic bacteria. Garlic, from the onion genus Allium has been linked in research to a decreased risk of several cancers. For vegetarians or those who do not eat seafood, the Feta Yogurt Sauce is a delicious accompaniment to spicy Indian dishes.  - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Ingredients

Honey Mustard Salmon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Honey
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 six-ounce salmon fillets
¾ cup Feta Yogurt Sauce (see recipe below)

Feta Yogurt Sauce
2 cups low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped mint or parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
¼ teaspoon of salt (may be omitted for those limiting salt in their diet)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Makes 2¼ cups.

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the garlic, mustard, honey and pepper and brush on the salmon.
3. Cook the salmon for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish just flakes with a fork.
4. Serve each salmon fillet with three tablespoons of feta yogurt sauce.

Nutritional information: Makes four servings. Serving size: 4 oz salmon & 3 Tablespoons feta yogurt sauce: Per serving: 337 calories; 14 grams total fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 258 milligrams sodium; 9 grams carbohydrate; 0 grams fiber; 42 grams protein.

 


Paula Recommends ...Herbed Chickpea Wraps

Red grapes, a good source of resveratrol, a phytonutrient with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, are the sweet, juicy surprise in this delicious wrap. Satiating plant-based protein comes from chickpeas and walnuts, which are also high in cancer-preventive fiber.

Chickpeas, like other dry beans and peas, contain folate, resistant starch and antioxidant photochemicals that qualify them as a "Food That Fights Cancer." Walnuts, known for being a good source of the plant form of omega-3 fat, alpha linolenic acid, make these wraps wonderfully crunchy and their roasted savory flavor is a pleasing contrast to the grapes. - Paula Meyer, Mission Training Center Nutritionist 

Ingredients
1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved*
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted walnuts
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1⁄2 cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper
8 (8-inch) whole wheat or GF tortillas

Directions
1. In large mixing bowl, add all ingredients, except tortillas, and gently combine. (For more cohesive mixture, first gently mash chickpeas with potato masher just to break skins before adding remaining ingredients.)
2. On bottom half of tortilla, spoon 1⁄2 cup mixture in broad line.
3. Fold left and right sides toward center until almost touching. Fold bottom edge toward center. Roll wrap firmly upwards and place toothpick 2 inches from each end.
4. Slice wrap diagonally and place cut side up on plate or platter. Repeat.
5. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate to serve later in the day.

*Large lettuce leaves can be substituted for tortillas and used to “wrap” the salad.

Nutrition information: Makes 8 servings (2 halves per serving. Per serving: 367 calories; 10 grams total fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 58 grams carbohydrates; 15 g protein, 10g dietary fiber, 425 mg sodium.