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tennis and brain tumors and green smoothies

By Robyn Openshaw, MSW | Feb 11, 2011

If I’d had my camera with me, I’d have taken a photo of one of my fiercest tennis opponents, whose name is Kristy. I haven’t played her in a long time; she plays for a club in North Salt Lake that we sometimes lose to (whereas we beat everyone else). She’s my age with 4 kids, so we bonded.

The last match I remember with her, we were playing singles and were tied in the second set after I’d won the first one. The rest of our teammates had finished their matches, and we were still going because we’re both baseline players and our rallies were interminable. It began to pour rain, so we had to drive to indoor courts, where our whole teams watched us finish it off. I won, but she is really good and I told her I’d love to play with her, for fun, sometime.

Today she was at my club for a match and she said, “I’ve been looking for you!” She told me that she’d had surgery for a brain tumor just two months ago. A neighbor friend of hers said, “I am bringing you a green smoothie every day for two weeks before and after your surgery.” She did so, and Kristy is playing competitive tennis now less than two months later! She looks healthy and beautiful.

Kristy didn’t know what a GS was, but she’s a convert now. The neighbor sent her to my site, where Kristy said, “Hey! I play tennis with that girl!” She got my course and now has Hot Pink Smoothie for breakfast every morning. (Beets. Carrots. Dates and more. Perfect electrolytes, perfect fat/carbs/protein ratio, all raw, and now I REALLY AM SCARED IF I HAVE TO PLAY HER AGAIN! Might just be the competitive edge she needed.)

Kristi’s neighbor, if you’re reading this, I LOVE YOU. I love love love to hear stories of people helping each other in crisis—rescuing folks we care about with good nutrition. We can’t prop people up forever if they don’t want to own responsibility for their own care. But we can get them started, get them addicted to the way they feel when they get 15 servings of raw vegetables and fruit in their diet every day.

As I’ve written about on this blog before, it’s a great way to serve someone who is facing a scary diagnosis or a surgery: tell them you’re bringing green smoothies every day for the foreseeable future. Last year I did that with my friend Lisa after her shoulder surgery, and with my neighbor Kris after she had brain surgery. My teammate Laura has taken GS to her wheelchair-bound neighbor who has a debilitating disease her sisters and mother have all died of, for a few years now, and she’s far outlived anyone’s expectations and believes that’s why.

Love you all who serve others. Share here if you have an experience with that!

Posted in: Exercise

9 thoughts on “tennis and brain tumors and green smoothies”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This is not about brain tumors, or shoulder surgery but it’s about a dear friend who has recently been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Her doctor phoned her today to tell her that they need to “discuss the options” and you know what that means! My friend doesn’t want to take medication, so I suggested she try green smoothies! I plan to send her a couple of “beginner’s” recipes to get her going and she’s very receptive to the idea. I know some of the greens (collards?) are high in calcium. What’s your suggestion for a beginner’s high calcium green smoothie?

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Kathy, greens in general are the highest sources of very bioavailable calcium!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dear Robyn,

    I found your site in October 2010 after some prayer about how I could help my 14 year old middle daughter. Two years ago we found out she had Hashimotos disease and was pre diabetic after begging the doctor to please check for it. My daughter has always been active but has struggled with weight issues since she was a toddler. I could never understand why. I have two other daughters who are thin and never had weight issues. I put my middle daughter in all kinds of extra dance classes, swim team etc. We looked at our food which was never bad to begin with but could see areas we could improve on. Despite our efforts she was gaining weight with every doctors visit. It was frustrating. I am a nurse and know that nutrition is important but I honestly felt that the way I fed my family was good and nutritious with the evidence that me and my other two daughters were at a normal weight.

    I prayed about about what more I could do for my daughter. There was a time when they were talking about polar bears at school. The teacher was telling the kids that these bears have alot of extra weight to be able to endure the cold environment they live in when one of the boys looked at my daugher and announced to the class that “that is where (my daughter) lives.” It was devistating to my daughter and broke my heart as a mother wondering what more could I possibly do that I hadn’t already tried.

    Hence an internet search and I happened to come to your site. I don’t believe it was just by chance but rather an answer to my prayers. Since we have started drinking the smoothies, taking the medication for her thyroid and keeping her active she has lost 12 pounds in 6 months. This all while puberty was hitting her full force.

    We still have a ways to go and I haven’t done every step on your 12 steps but we eat alot more vegetarian meals and I am constantly thinking how I can turn a favorite meal into one with a high veggie ratio. I am grateful for this GS idea, it is easy, simple, quick and something that my kids will drink.

    I also have used the book Deceptively Delicious to add veggies where I didn’t realize I could. I don’t really do the deceptive part because they are teenagers and help me with the cooking but any way I can add more vegetables I am doing it. Thanks for the inspiration and a way to make it doable for a working mom with alot of balls in the air.

    Penni – Mesa AZ

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Penni, thanks for writing us your story—that is exciting! Keep up the good work and let us know how it’s going! Much love,


  3. Anonymous says:

    Robyn, I have been a lurker here for over a year now and I enjoy reading your blog regularly. The sucess stories are really inspiring but I am experiencing a lot of frustration trying to convince my mother that she needs to stop taking prescription medication for osteoporosis as well as another one for high cholestrol. My father has high cholestrol too. She says what I expected her to say which was that I’m no doctor, and that doctors know what they are talking about since they went to school for that sort of thing, so she should listen well to them.

    How do you reason with someone who is convinced that they can’t get better on just whole foods and need medication? I fear that her health will just become worse on those medication but I can’t convince her to stop taking those and get started on green smoothies and whole foods unless I make it for her but that’s not possible because I don’t live near/with her. I feel so angry at her because she seems unwilling to consider what I am telling her about the dangers of drugs but at the same time, I can understand her skepticism because not long ago, I thought doctors were gods and milk was good for you. It’s ironic because my mother tries to drink milk or soy milk daily because she hears that milk is soooo good for you and your bones.

    I wish there was a way I could convince her to give it a try and I’d buy her the 12 step program but English is not her native language. Do you have any advice for people out there who are very worried about one of their family member’s health that is deteriorating? Thanks for your wonderful site.

    1. Robyn Openshaw, MSW says:

      Sophie, that is a tough one. What I’ve found is that people will hear only when they’re ready. And sometimes that is never. (You might suggest she google “soy danger” though–that topic is easy.) The older generations believe very deeply in doctors having all the answers. Perhaps you could just “drip” information (in very small amounts), and send her to third party sources that give her alternatives to the drug approach?

  4. Anonymous says:


    I have dealt with the same issues with my parents. A few years ago when I started to research food from a nutritional standpoint I would share some of that with my parents. They were not receptive to it at all to say the least. They used their prescription drugs proudly and visited the doctor regularly. It took about 4 years of regularly sharing with them what I have been learning when they started to ask me what they should do about certain health issues. They have seen definite results and now “believe.”

    It’s hard with family, sometimes they are the hardest to get to. Don’t give up!

  5. Anonymous says:


    For your daughter please look into the effects of gluten possibly causing her symptoms. It is a very common (if not the MOST common) cause of Hashimoto’s. Best of luck to you in finding a treatable cause.

  6. Anonymous says:

    A friend of ours has been fighting cancer for the last 10 years. We have known him for 6 of those years. After his cancer bout 5 years ago we began talking to him about improving his diet. He would just laugh and tell us he ate healthy enough–as he was drinking a sugared energy drink! “It is fruit juice!” Then cancer hit again. He called and asked us if our vegetable diet could cure him in a day. We told him it would take time, but if he was ready, we would work with him. Instead of that, he opted for chemo. He ended up going through 3 different chemo trials, having his bone marrow destroyed and being given a death sentence of 2-12 weeks.

    With his family all gathered for a last meeting with him, we stopped by with an all-green smoothie. He tried it and didn’t like the taste, but his children teased him enough that he finally ate the whole thing. We took him over another one the next day. The day after that he had some blood work done. For the first time in two weeks his cancer count went down–something the doctors said could not happen. We have continued on with the smoothies and have got him to follow a mostly plant based diet. The count continues to stay low.

    He continues to struggle with infections that the doctors say should kill him, but is still here more than 4 months later. Right now he has an infection in his mouth, so we have switched to juicing as the smoothies were gagging him. For the 1st time since we started, his immune system count went up. We are hoping over time his bone marrow will start to re-generate.

    The doctors are still giving him antibiotics, which we feel are fighting with the good, alkaline foods that are trying to heal him. On top of that, he still feels that he needs more protein and carbs!! It is hard to get people to see that when they are eating “close to dirt”, their bodies will make what they need to survive and thrive!!

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