Sunday, 28 October 2012

Emotional healing

I'm at a wonderful stage of my healing, and it's taken me almost 3 years to get here. Now that a clean diet, regular juicing and specific supplementation are second nature to me, I feel ready to tackle the big stuff. This has come to me in the surprising form of a holistic dentist, who is replacing my amalgam fillings with clean composites. Through kinesiology he has got the full measure of me. He's challenging how I think in the most beautiful way, and it's unlocking some powerful responses in my healing. On my first visit he told me that I don't want to heal. That stung a bit, but for me it was true. Having cancer had given me a voice, one which I was subconsciously not ready to give up. There have been many other 'Aha' moments, but the best thing he's taught me is that 'It's OK'. It's OK? Wow, no-one has ever told me that before. It's incredibly liberating and I've learned to be so much kinder to myself.

To return to health from cancer we need to change the internal environment that lead us to disease. This can come in many forms: detoxifying and re-nutrifying through diet, removing heavy metals from the body and addressing candida or parasite overload. Emotional beliefs are just as important to address. Negative emotions (held on-to hurts, feelings of not being good enough, jealousy etc) are toxic, and create acidity within the body.

In his book "Messages From The Body" Michael J Lincoln talks about the emotional origin of all disease. It makes for an interesting read! Healing at a physical level is so important, but for ultimate healing we need to look at our emotional patterns to see how we manifested illness in the first place. It can be a painful but liberating journey. Uncovering limiting behaviour, skewed self-protection mechanisms and wonky self-beliefs is truly enlightening, and from there real healing can begin. Once we become conscious we can start to unlearn unhealthy habits. 

Since I've started really working on my emotional self, my energy has begun to flow - I've literally been cleansing my body of old rubbish. On a physical level I've experienced a challenging healing crisis as my cells have been throwing off debris through every elimination channel imaginable. On an emotional level, I find myself observing situations and seeing what I can learn from them, rather than judging or using old behavioural responses. The best bit by far though, is that I'm no longer motivated by fear, but rather by this exciting story which is rapidly unfolding.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


I remember so clearly the moment I was diagnosed. The sense that it wasn't real, it couldn't be happening to me. The feeling of deep shock as I was ushered into the waiting room, a totally different person to the one who had been sitting there ten minutes earlier. The tears whilst waiting to have a blood test. 'True' cancer. What did that even mean? Within a day I had the measure of it. Although the tumours were small, my breast was littered with calcifications, and I understood that I would almost certainly need a mastectomy.

The following 5 weeks were the toughest. There were grim diagnostic tests - nuclear medicine bone scans, CT scans, MRI's. Tuesdays meant results. Usually there was a long wait as the doctors ran over their appointment times. Waiting to see if the cancer had spread to my bones (it hadn't) or to distant organs (it hadn't). 

I was a 'good' patient for a few weeks, and then I started asking questions. The answers didn't add up to me. By what percentage did chemotherapy improve my prognosis? Between 5  and 7 percent of surviving five years. I had just turned 40. Making it to 45 didn't feel much like 'survival'. What of the possible secondary cancers that chemo can cause? Was it true that radiotherapy had the potential to cause lung damage and cancer? Yes. Or that neither of these modalities could kill cancer stem cells? (these 'mother' cells are the micro-metastases which the oncologist was talking about 'mopping up'). Yes. What percentage chance was there that Tamoxifen would work for me? 12%. And what of the fact that almost 50% of women give it up within a year of starting because the side effects are so horrible? I'd been seriously ill prior to diagnosis, and was shockingly underweight - I didn't believe that I would survive chemotherapy. The statistics became meaningless. I am not a statistic. I am a unique individual who developed cancer by a unique route. I decided to find my own way back to health.

Writing a diary helped me to understand my fears. It made me realise how resiliant I was, and how hungry for knowledge. I tackled my feelings about death. It was a good place to collate answers to my many questions.

The impact that my cancer diagnosis was having on the people who love me was overwhelming, but it was strangely calm in the eye of the storm. In my little family, we were busy Doing. It seemed that more tears had been shed for me than I had cried for myself. Self-pity wasn't for me, and I refused to 'own' my tumours or let them define me. 

I started to read. A lot. I found people who had beaten cancer naturally. I felt sad and amazed that there were basic concepts about nutrition that I hadn't understood. As I became empowered, my fear disappeared.

I decided to have the mastectomy to remove the tumour burden. I couldn't conceive that my breast would be cut off. I would stare at myself in the mirror - what would this 'new' me look like. Strangely, the night before the operation, I realised that I would recognise my flat-chested self from when I was a girl, and found that thought comforting. 

The fear and anxiety leading up to the mastectomy were uncontrollable. I was wheeled into surgery in tears, holding myself - I literally wanted to hold onto my breast. It was surreal to wake up in the recovery room knowing that it had gone. There was no bandage, just a sticky plaster, and some drains, which I needed to carry around in a bag. The smell of the wound was disgusting to me - like an animalistic signal that something was wrong. When I finally looked in the mirror I felt faint, more from seeing the drains which were visible under my skin, above my ribs. 

Two weeks later I was back at the hospital. Another Tuesday, more results. One lymph node showed positive for disease. This indicated that cancer had potentially spread through my body via the lymphatic system. (What I later learned was that by the time a tumour is 2mm it needs its own blood supply, and from that point it's possible for cells to shed from the primary tumour into the blood system. These circulating tumour cells and circulating cancer stem cells are what gives cancer the potential to spread to distant organs).

The next part was the most difficult in terms of decision making. I felt very resistant to having another operation, this time to remove my axillary lymph nodes. I sought a second opinion which confirmed what I knew about chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but I was stuck. I finally decided to have surgery, to remove any further cancer burden. But somewhere in between the 1st and 2nd operations something had changed. I had begun to take responsibility for my health. I'd already started to make dietary and lifestyle changes, and had decided that I would not be having chemotherapy, radiotherapy or tamoxifen. I knew that boosting, not destroying my immune system was the way forward. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

The Importance of Being Alkaline

The link between acidity and cancer is well documented. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment and most cancer patients measure around 5.5 on the pH scale. Once established, cancer adds to that acidic burden by producing lactic acid. A healthy body is slightly alkaline, measuring a pH of 7.365. Changing the internal environment back to alkalinity is an essential part of returning to health after cancer.

The body will always work in our favour - it will neutralise acidic blood by depositing toxins into our fat cells (in fact the opposite should be happening - our cells should be depositing THEIR toxicity into the blood for elimination via the liver). Toxic cells become oxygen deficient and need to change to survive. Cancer cells are able to function anaerobically, (using sugar to metabolise), meaning that they can function in this oxygen depleted environment. In addition, calcium is pulled from the bones in an effort to alkalise the blood. This can lead to low bone density and osteoporosis. 

Our modern diet is extremely acidic; meat, dairy, sugar, grains, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods and medications are some of the worst offenders. At the other end of the scale are the extremely beneficial foods which are highly alkaline: potassium rich greens, most organic fruits and vegetables. But it's not so clearcut. Even some foods we would perceive as healthy are acidic. The key, as always, is in balance, and we should aim for an 80:20 ratio of alkaline:acidic foods.

It's easy to check and monitor your PH with PH strips using either urine or saliva - ideally they will match. pH varies at different times of the day, depending on what you've eaten, whether you've exercised, and stress levels (!). The best way to test is several times a day over a 5 day period. The first urination of the day is not representative of your normal pH because it contains all of the acids filtered out through your kidneys during the night, so test your second urination of the day, then again before lunch, and then before dinner. It's important to check pH before meals because it will vary considerably depending on what you've eaten or drunk (try experimenting with green juices which are incredibly alkalising, and will change your PH almost immediately - a good reason to work up to 3 or more juices a day).

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Immune System

Did you know that we each have a sophisticated cancer defence system? Every one of us has thousands of cancer cells in our bodies at any one time. The immune system is our body's first line of defence against these cells, and it works constantly to target and eliminate them via the liver and spleen.

When we are toxic, acidic, have candida, parasites, viruses, or are stressed, our immune system is overwhelmed. It can't work fast enough to remove pathogens, let alone deal with cancer. This imbalance (the amount of cancer cells being produced by the body vs the amount of cancer cells being eliminated by the immune system), is what leads to a cancer diagnosis. A tumour with a billion cells is roughly the size of a pea, and by the time it's been found has usually been growing for somewhere between 5 and 12 years. These cells have evaded a compromised immune system. 

T killer cell attacking a breast cancer cell

Now, maybe I wasn't paying attention during biology at school, but prior to finding out that I had cancer there was an awful lot that I didn't know about the immune system. Like the fact that over 70% of it is housed in the gut. It's a body-wide network of cells, tissues and organs, highly specialised in seeking out and eliminating foreign bodies.

There are 6 main cell sub-groups in the immune system: T cells, Natural Killer cells, B cells, Granulocytes, Macrophages and Dendritic cells. Their jobs range from killing tumour cells, parasites, viruses and fungi, to scavenging for invaders. Some cells produce antibodies to alert other immune system cells to the presence of pathogens, others co-ordinate and regulate the entire system.

Then there are the organs of our immune system: the bone marrow, thymus, lymphatic system, spleen and of course the gut. A healthy adult has up to 2kg of healthy flora in their gut, providing a natural barrier which protects against bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and fungi. This 'good' bacteria plays a crucial role in keeping the immune system active. An imbalance in the gut flora (often caused by anti-biotics, sugar and grains) can create tiny holes in the gut lining. Once the integrity of the intestinal lining is compromised, there is a flow of toxic substances "leaking out' into the bloodstream, causing inflammation and creating extra work for our immune systems.

It may sound simplistic, but boosting your immune system, whilst reducing your toxic burden can help to keep cancer at bay.  As always a multi faceted approach is needed. 
  • Reduce the burden on the immune system by improving gut health: eat probiotics and fermented foods (like kefir and kombucha) rich in good bacteria. Reduce the intake of sugary foods and grains. 
  • Alkalise by eating a predominately plant based diet, rich in potassium (for example, dark leafy greens). 
  • Find ways of de-stressing: meditate, practice breathing exercises or yoga. 
  • Exercise daily to encourage lymphatic movement. 
  • Supplement with high dose vitamin D3 during the winter months. Cancer patients may need up to 10,000 iu's a day. Blood tests are an important way of monitoring levels.
  • Get enough sleep. Melatonin plays an important part in immune system function, and this hormone is produced when sleeping in a darkened room. 
  • Avoid anti-biotics.
  • Finally, boost your immune system through good nutrition; garlic, cartenoids (as found in orange/red foods like carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes), selenium, omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and bioflavenoids (obtained by eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables) are amongst the best.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The cancer personality

There is such a thing as a 'cancer personality'. Who knew! Being a people-pleaser, needing approval, and suppressing toxic emotions, notably anger, are all traits of of the cancer susceptible personality. I used to start nearly every sentence with the words "I'm sorry". Now I rarely do, and not because I'm never in the wrong, I just don't apologise for myself any more. Cancer personalities take too much on, and find it hard to say 'no'. Well, surprise, that was me! I just didn't recognise myself as that person. 

In addition to the emotional stereotype, most cancer patients (particularly those with hormone driven cancers) are deficient in vitamin D3 (the highest breast and prostate cancer rates are in countries with low annual sunlight) and have poor sleep patterns (people who work night shifts, such as nurses, have almost double the risk of breast cancer). Of course our bodies are intricately woven organisms, so if you're not getting enough sleep, not enough melatonin is produced, which in turn disrupts hormone production and regulation, which in turn creates imbalances in every other delicate system of your body. Melatonin and D3 are incredibly important for a healthy immune system - the body's innate cancer defence.

I take full responsibility for having had cancer. Every choice I have ever made brought me to that point. I was driven by fear... fear of failure, fear of not being liked, fear of being perceived as selfish. The fear of my children dying kept me up all night, and I attended to every whimper well into their 3rd year. I was chronically sleep deprived, which lead to a compromised immune system. I was constantly ill and became depressed. I then chose to take anti-depressants - could I have tried any harder to tune out what my body was telling me? What a mess. 

Guess what. As soon as I was diagnosed I mysteriously managed to make time for all of those doctor's appointments, hospital stays, and subsequent therapies of my own choosing. It proved that time WAS available to me, I just hadn't been prioritising myself. Now I make time for seminars, private doctors, raw food classes, yoga, juicing, enemas, meditation and for generally filling myself up. My children have no complaints about this new and improved Mummy - in fact my 9 year old son has commented that I am much calmer since diagnosis.  

It's OK to love yourself. When I was at school "You really love yourself" was bandied about as an insult! What a thing to un-learn. It took me a long time to truly understand what self-love means, and it has nothing to do with vanity. The more you love yourself, the more centred you are, and the less you care about pleasing others, but conversely the better person you become.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

What I did do, what I didn't do - an overview.

Almost 3 years ago I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast. Two tumours measured a combined 2.4cms. They were oestrogen and progesterone positive and HER negative. I had widespread calcification and onset of Pagets disease of the nipple. I had a mastectomy, and a full lymphatic clearance which showed cancer in 1 of 32 nodes.

I didn't do chemotherapy, radiotherapy or Tamoxifen.

What I did do was read, research, take responsibility, change my diet and become proactive. I learned what it meant to love myself, I changed into my best self. I began a journey into health and consciousness.

I un-learned what I thought I knew about cancer, and I now firmly believe that it's simply the outward symptom of a toxic and deficient body.

What follows is an overview of what I did, with links to doctors and practitioners where possible. I'll go into more detail in later posts. 

My initial focus lay in detoxifying and re-nutrifying my body, and in re-booting my immune system. I'm an impatient person, but I understood that it would take time to restore my body's homeostasis. It had potentially taken up to 7 years for those tumours to grow in my breast, but it had taken a lifetime to create the right environment for cancer to develop in the first place.

First step: change of diet. I had been a vegetarian for 25 years, but had no idea about nutrition. I was so lucky to be re-educated by my close friend Tea, who is a nutritional therapist I cut out alcohol, sugar, caffeine, salt and gluten. Eggs and dairy went last, and a year after diagnosis I became a vegan (although I'm now eating organic free-range eggs again). I stopped heating any oil other than coconut. It's the only oil that is stable at high temperatures, and that the body can easily assimilate. I began using only cold pressed flax oil for salad dressings. Flax oil is rich in the right balance of essential fatty acids and phytoestrogens (healthy hormone balancers). I think it's worth stressing that what is added to your diet is just as important as what is eliminated. A toxic, acidic body finds absorption difficult, so your diet needs to be as nutrient rich and unchallenging as possible. I started eating whole, unprocessed food, like short grain brown rice (which holds a lot of water, and is hydrating for the gut), nut milks and masses of organic vegetables and fruit in the form of juices, salads and smoothies. 

I invested in a reverse osmosis, alkalising water filter to avoid the many toxins in our water from fluoride and chlorine, to residues from drugs such as birth control pills (full of oestrogen) and Prozac.

Coffee enemas were an important part of my detoxification. Coffee stimulates the bile duct and helps to flush the liver of toxins. I supported my liver with regular castor oil packs and took epsom salt baths to further aid detoxification. I supplemented with magnesium, B vitamins, D3 and Krill oil taken with protein (the only non-vegan part of my diet). More supplements came as and when I felt my body could cope, and after intensive blood and urine sampling with a functional doctor, Robert Jacobs to determine exactly what was needed.  

I had vitamin C infusions with hydrogen peroxide and hyperthermia. Vitamin C at high doses acts as a natural cytotoxin, in much the same way as chemotherapy, but without targeting healthy dividing cells (and on the up-side it makes you feel amazing!).

Hypnotherapy helped me to address a deep underlying fear that I wasn't 'good enough'. I didn't want to sabotage all of my efforts with a belief that I would fail. I read books about emotional healing, spiritual development, the power of positive thoughts and affirmations.

I saw therapists as and when things resonated with me: homeopathy, (Penny Hill), acupuncture, reiki, lymphatic drainage At times it felt great to have a massage based upon a loving touch, rather than an invasive prod from a surgeon.

Instead of mammograms I opted for safer thermo-scans with Dr Nyjon Eccles

Nicola Hembry recommended minimal residual disease testing. This measures the levels of circulating cancer cells in the blood, which can then be tested against natural compounds to see what is most effective at stimulating apoptosis (cell suicide) or inhibiting angiogenesis (stopping the development of new blood vessels).

With the financial help of Yes2 Life I bought a FAR infrared sauna which I used daily as an aid to detoxification. Infrared saunas can also tip cancer cells into apoptosis.

Because I believe that cancer is caused by a cumulative burden it has been important to address every area of toxicity. For me that meant buying a unit to neutralise electromagnetic pollution from WIFI, mobile phones and computers in my home. It also meant changing all of my skincare, make-up, toothpaste, and cleaning products for clean, organic, natural versions.

Finally (although she came somewhere near the beginning!) is Patricia Peat, an ex-oncology nurse, and a fantastic resource, who can direct you to treatments (allopathic, complimentary and alternative) specific to your cancer.

It's hard to understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis unless you've had one. For me it was an enormous wake up call. It forced me to un-learn lots of things which I had believed as truths my whole life. It encouraged me to learn about how my body works and to listen to it, to face my fear of death and to become present. Nearly 3 years on, my health is still a work in progress, and the best bit is that there is so much more to learn.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

First post ...

First post …. Here’s some background info. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2010, just after my 40th birthday. I can’t deny that it was a huge shock, but looking back there had been enough signs that I wasn’t well – I just wasn’t listening. And then I woke up. What has followed has been the most amazing journey, which I will gratefully be on for the rest of my life. 

I’m fascinated by how little I knew… particularly about nutrition. But I’ve also addressed 3 other important areas of my life – my mental, emotional and spiritual health. In taking responsibility the rewards have been huge. I’ve never been ‘weller’. I’ve cured myself of  chronic conditions, which I had lived with for many years (migraines, painful periods, gum disease to name a few).

The interesting thing is that I now know how I came to cancer. Years of stress, poor sleep, eating badly, drinking alcohol, being hard on myself, never saying ‘no'. It was a cumulative burden, and my body was deficient in every way. When it comes to cancer we are so unique, so individual ... we each have a different series of events which lead us here, and for me the key to my healing has been to retrace those steps, to re-evaluate what I know, to constantly question and research, and to see what resonates.

This blog is an effort to catalogue my journey and to share what I've learned, in the hope that it will plant a seed of interest in others so that they too can grow.