Sunday, 30 March 2014

Not yet healed

I am not yet healed.

Just as a chronic illness like cancer takes time to manifest and grow (some estimate between 7 - 10 years prior to diagnosis) so does healing. There are many ways in which I've abused my body, and this will take time to reverse. That's OK, because I have time. I've never considered this new lifestyle to be a quick fix.

Illness is the body's innate way of communicating that something is wrong and needs addressing. Taking medication suppresses and masks symptoms, pushing illness further into the body, and creating greater problems in the future. I used to medicate severe eczema with steroid cream. I was treating the symptom, but not the cause, which was most likely a food intolerance borne of leaky gut. ALL pharmaceuticals place a huge strain on the liver. And here's a scary fact; prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in America. 

Colds are often the body's natural way of detoxing, sick bugs can be the same. Sore throats may tell us that our lymph is stagnant. By listening and supporting the body, we can help ourselves to become healthy, to eliminate effectively. And so I'm trying to change the way I react to illness. I want to embrace it rather than panic, observe rather than resist, and provide support with rest and nourishment rather than suppress with medication. 

Since diagnosis I've used many different protocols, from vitamin C infusions to parasite cleanses. There have been long periods where I've focussed almost entirely on my spiritual growth, or emotional wellbeing. Healing does not happen in a straight line. Currently I'm trying to heal my gut - I expect that this will take a while. I'm learning to take it slowly and not put too much pressure on my body. Patience is new to me, and I like it. Even after 4 years of cleansing, I have a lifetime of toxins to shift from my cells. There's work to do, and I'm not shy of it. I anticipate using many more healing modalities over the coming years.

I am not yet healed, but I am healthy.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Why do people die of cancer?

Aged 17, in a beaten up old Morris Traveller I took my first driving lesson. My instructor told me to put my foot on the clutch, and my natural reaction was to ask "Why?" Irritated, he responded that if I constantly questioned him, he wouldn't be able to teach me. I've always needed to know why, and how.

I believe that this mindset has helped me to heal. With regards to my decision about cancer treatment, a simple question changed the course of my protocol. On leaving my breast surgeon's office, I asked myself, "Why do people die of cancer?"

I understood that breast cancer doesn't cause death unless it has metastasised (spread) to a vital organ, and so I learned about micro-metastases. These are the microscopic cells which have shed from the primary tumour and are able to travel through the body via the blood or lymph, and less commonly, peri-neurally (via the space surrounding the nerve).

If the internal terrain remains as it was when the body originally manifested cancer (ie inflamed and acidic, with a weakened immune system) these cells are able to seed elsewhere. Yet even if cells have successfully separated from the primary tumour, survived travelling through the blood or lymph and reached distant organs without having been detected by the immune system, they still need to go through another complex process before they can grow into tumours. To survive they must create a blood supply (angiogenesis).

The most common sites for breast cancer to metastasise are the lungs, liver, bones and brain (one theory being because these organs all originate from the same embryonic germ tissue). When tumours grow big enough to disrupt the normal function of these organs, the body begins to fail. Tumours may also impede detoxification routes, or diminish the immune system to a point where the body cannot fend off a simple virus. But the main cause of death from cancer is simply tumour burden. As metastases grow, they use more energy than regular cells, and eventually starve the body of energy and nutrients, resulting in wasting, or cachexia. 

From those early post-diagnosis days I understood that I had to make my body an inhospitable place for cancer to survive. I knew that I needed to boost my immune system (to try to eradicate any micro-metastases before they could grow) and so I chose not to have chemotherapy, which had a slim chance of destroying circulating stem cells, but a strong chance of wiping out my immune system. I took natural supplements to encourage cancer cell suicide (apoptosis) and to block angiogenesis. I worked hard to reduce systemic inflammation and create an alkaline internal environment hostile to cancer, whilst eliminating cancer feeding substances like sugar.  

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I learned to follow my instincts, ask questions, and listen to my body. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

No make-up selfie

Have you heard of Pink Washing? It relates to the sometimes unscrupulous stamp of the pink-ribbon, associated with raising awareness and money for breast cancer. Often these campaigns are sponsored by the very companies compliant in manufacturing toxic food and cosmetics which are so harmful to our health. And much of the money raised goes straight back into pharmaceutical companies who are searching for 'the cure' in drugs. 

I understand that people who support pink ribbon campaigns, Race For Life and the endless fundraisers do so with love and good intentions. I also understand that social media campaigns such as 'no make-up selfie' and 'where do you keep your handbag' DO raise awareness, and allow people to feel less impotent around cancer. However, I think that they're missing the point! 

As a cancer survivor, I would wish for no more support from friends, family (and the wider community), than that they educate themselves about the many natural ways in which they can improve their health and stave off cancer. That would make me far happier than a Pink Ribbon cake sale (a SUGAR sale, for cancer??????)

So, instead of shaving our heads in sympathy for a friend enduring chemotherapy or taking a selfie without makeup, maybe we should start a 'campaign' to drink a green juice or smoothie every day. This would show support for those with cancer, educate those without cancer, and demonstrate that there are choices within the world of healing.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Fats and Oils

Recently I went to a lecture given by Barbara Wren where fats and oils were discussed at length. The shocking conclusion was that none of us should be eating 'processed' oils (no, not even olive, coconut or flax) particularly not breast cancer patients for whom it clogs the lymph and is challenging to assimilate. Instead we should be eating only natural oils (ie those found in whole foods like avocado, whole olives, and oily fish). The further surprising statement was that we should also avoid nuts and seeds as a natural oil source, as they're too high in protein and are actually, next year's seed store. Historically, what decadent farmer would eat next year's crop? Gerson famously banned nuts from his healing regime as they're too high in protein, squandering valuable enzyme energy which could be better used to break down tumours. (As an aside, nuts and seeds contain high levels of phytic acid, a substance which reduces mineral bioavailability. To aid digestion nuts should ideally be soaked prior to consuming).

I came away feeling overwhelmed with this information, and slightly sceptical. Science has proven that fats (lipids) play a vital role in the functioning of the body. Lipids are necessary to form and maintain cell membranes and are needed for brain and nerve functions. Fats are also crucial for absorption and transport of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, and our energy resources are based on lipid metabolism. I believe that there are some health giving oils which we can safely eat, should we choose to, but the key is in moderation.

My favourite of these is raw, organic coconut oil. It's antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial. It's also rich in lauric acid (an effective immune system booster) and high in omega 3, a potent anti-inflammatory. (The omega 6:3 BALANCE is vital for good health. Ideally the ratio should be 2:1 but in most Western diets it's closer to 25:1!). Coconut oil has a high smoke point, so is safe to cook with. I use it every day - from roasting potatoes to baking with the kids. I'm often asked if it mars the flavour of dishes, but I find the flavour to be delicate and I really like it. (Off topic, coconut oil makes a fantastic natural make-up remover and moisturiser)

My other go-to fat is butter. Raw un-pasteurised is the king of butters because it's full of beneficial good bacteria and fat soluble vitamins. It can be hard to find, so second best is organic butter, ideally sourced from grass fed cows. In the UK Rachels Organic and Yeo Valley are probably the best shop-bought options as their herds are at pasture for 60% of the year. Ghee is butter's clarified sister, and has a high smoke point so is another great oil to cook with. Remember that any product derived from animal milk will contain oestrogen and Insulin Growth Factor (IGF). IGF makes those baby animals grow but also encourages cancer growth, so is best eaten in limited amounts.

Flax oil has a place within a cancer diet. It's rich in Alpha-linolenic acid (a plant based omega 3 oil). Use it in salad dressings mixed with apple cider vinegar, or to dress cooked vegetables, but never heat it. Johanna Budwig recommended flaxseed oil in conjunction with cottage cheese, the premise being that protein and fat should always be combined in order to facilitate absorption. (Lipids are only water-soluble, and therefore utilizable, when bound to protein).

Cold pressed oils (olive, avocado, walnut etc) should NEVER be used in cooking as they're unstable when heated. They lose their vitamin and mineral content when heat damaged, and become toxic and carcinogenic within the body. Instead, enjoy them cold and in moderation. I occasionally use organic olive oil drizzled over cooked vegetables or in salad dressings. 

The oils to totally avoid are trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. These processed fats are highly unstable, and oxidise in the body causing cell mutation and inflammation (the pre-curser to all disease). In arterial cells this inflammation can clog arteries, whereas in reproductive tissue it can create problems like polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis. Also avoid canola (rapeseed), sunflower and other chemically extracted, heat treated oils, which are often produced from GM crops, full of pesticides, toxins and deodorisers which are harmful to the body. These oils are prevalent in modern convenience foods. Read labels to avoid them in processed cakes, cookies, pastry, bread and condiments. 

We need good quality fats. We've long been sold the myth (no doubt through clever marketing by margarine companies) that natural fats like butter are cholesterol inducing, and can cause heart disease. The reality is that our bodies need a certain amount of good quality, unprocessed fats to operate optimally.