Sunday, 26 January 2014

The placebo effect

It occurred to me last week that maybe the only thing that every cancer survivor has in common is belief. Pure belief that healing is possible and that their chosen treatment will work, be it down to faith in God or trust in green juice. Whether on the Gerson protocol, having chemotherapy or in spontaneous remission, what if people survive purely because they have an inherent belief that they're not going to die of cancer?

What does the word Placebo mean to you? According to the dictionary it's "a medicine or procedure prescribed for the psychological benefit to the patient, rather than for any physiological effect." In other words a sugar pill. But the startling reality of the placebo effect is that people often experience beneficial health due to positive belief or expectation. In short, the power of the mind can actually influence the body.

Many studies have been carried out to try to understand this positive effect. It can be caused by belief in a treatment plan, the relief of being in the capable hands of a trusted caregiver, or the administration of medication. (So we must also ask, how much of mainstream medicine's success is due to the placebo effect?) The allopathic oncologist whom I sought out for my second opinion was frank in his statement that if I was vehemently opposed to chemotherapy, if I believed that it wouldn't work, then it probably wouldn't.

I'm very excited to hear Bruce Lipton speak in May. He's a stem cell biologist who has studied the power of belief and how it is able to change us on a cellular level. If you've been newly diagnosed I would 100% recommend his book "The Biology of Belief". Positive belief has been proven to change the way our DNA behaves, and the micro-environment within our bodies. Equally, negative thoughts, and negative belief can create disease!

Friday, 17 January 2014

Bad habits

Last month I got the results of my latest Minimal Residual Disease test. I take this test annually as a way of monitoring microscopic changes in my circulating cancer stem cell count. And I really do mean microscopic. Until now my results have consistently shown 3.8 cancer cells per 7.5ml of blood. Think about how many red blood cells there are in 7.5ml (around 35 billion I believe) and you will understand that we're talking about tiny numbers of cells. However, when that count starts to increase, or rises above 5, then there are changes happening within the body which need to be addressed.

My last count came in slightly elevated, and I have to be honest; it floored me. My doctor isn't concerned about these changes because certain markers within the cancer cells which predict metastasis are still switched 'off'. However, I'm a proactive kind of a girl (I think this also means impatient!) and watching and waiting are not my strong points. I decided to re-evaluate. What have I changed over the past year? Where have I become lazy? Where am I cheating.

The positives are that I've removed my amalgam fillings (more on this in another post), I've introduced a daily, good quality vegan protein and I've increased my green smoothie and juice intake. So far so good.

However, the negatives, when I really think about them, are shocking. I've been very stressed over the past year with the trials of moving house. The kind of low lying, rolling-wave stress, which over time becomes 'normal', increasing adrenal fatigue and depleting the immune system. Because of the stress and subsequent tiredness I made some lazy food choices. Certain foods crept in, and became 'OK" simply by regularity; gluten free, shop bought bread and 'foodie' sugar in the form of maple syrup, coconut sugar, date syrup and fruit leather. Whereas once I wouldn't even have licked the spoon when making cakes for the kids, I found that I was eating the occasional (who am I kidding) gluten free, 'sugar free' cupcake. I suspect that cancer cells are pretty indiscriminate - they love this high fructose diet. And finally, I'd gone from being a full vegan, to eating butter and eggs, and occasionally having yoghurt and goats cheese when I was craving a quick protein fix. All of these foods were feeding my frenzied lifestyle. Too much convenience, too little time devoted to food preparation. And how quickly the palette becomes accustomed to, and demands more fat, sugar and salt. This was why early on I vowed to give these foods up only once.

I mentally stacked this Not Healthy food onto my kitchen table. It piled up into quite the shocking cancer treat.

So it's back to being more Aware. The first step was to totally eliminate sugar in all its forms. And no more bread, cheese or yoghurt.

I revisited my functional doctor. My blood shows signs of leaky gut syndrome. We're working on this, and in 6 weeks when I'm more stable I intend to have a full allergy test to see which foods I'm intolerant to. I'll also re-take the Nutreval test which is a comprehensive nutritional evaluation test, checking on (amongst other things) levels of vitamins, enzymes, hormones and heavy metal toxicity.

For now I'm back on a high dose vitamin C protocol, combined with Alpha Lipoic Acid (which re-circulates the vitamin C rather than allowing it to be eliminated via the kidneys).

Cheating is only cheating yourself, but there is something else to learn from this. I'm hard on myself, I take responsibility for my actions, but as my functional doctor says, this beating myself up is 'an old way of thinking'. I'm dedicated to getting that cancer stem cell number back down, but I'm also devoted to being less tough on myself when I make mistakes.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Positive Imperfection

Tonight I connected with someone who has chosen a similar healing path to mine. We've read many of the same books, and have been influenced by many of the same people. We discussed the ideal post-cancer world that we're supposedly inhabiting. One with no wine, no dairy, no sugar, and certainly no errors. And we both admitted that it's not always like that, but that we're maintaining health despite the odd slip (be it a single mouthful, or more prolonged self-sabotaging behaviour) What a revelation.

We talked about how isolating it can be (socially) to live, eat and breathe cancer. And we made a pact to become juice buddies; to compare notes about what we have juiced each day in an effort to encourage each other in the right direction. This makes me feel happy! A buddy. Someone who understands how it feels to try hard, but not always achieve. Who understands WHY we should not eat certain foods, yet still sometimes gives in to a craving, stress, or a moment of social pressure. Someone who understands the constancy of cancer, and the need to keep trying. Let's not underestimate the power of support - be it in the form of a practitioner, or a fellow cancer survivor.

Is it the case of the cancer personality to always assume that everyone else is doing better, being stricter, more perfect?

And what if Belief was the main component of healing? Pure belief that it IS possible to heal, no matter which modality we choose?

So I'll tell you something which is not a secret to those close to me; my diet is not always perfect, my thinking not always positive. I make mistakes. Then I alter my path, listen to my body and make changes.

Never suppose that you know what everyone else is doing! Resist the urge to compare. 100% perfect does not exist (and our needs are all different anyway). Our being human does not fail us. Maybe the lesson is to be gentler on ourselves. And to find a buddy!!!!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year

My short and simple post this New Year's Day is that you not WISH for a better year ahead, filled with love, health and happiness, but that you MAKE it happen. 

All of these things are available to us if we are conscious about what we want. Saying I WANT to be healthy creates a want, a desire, but does not necessarily create health. For many months following diagnosis I told myself "I want to live". Finally I realised that I AM living. I AM alive. I shifted my thoughts from desire to gratitude, and in the process I got happy.

BEING love attracts love. Conscious eating, being present, enjoying the now (and gently being open to the lessons in the harder moments), these are the thought patterns which create happiness.