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PREVENTING BREAST CANCER

8 Jul

This is my most important blog post to date.

It’s about PREVENTING breast cancer.   And indeed ANY kind of cancer.

Good food and healthy eating is the key.  I had always known that it was important to eat healthy, unprocessed food, but it wasn’t until I found out I had breast cancer that I began to learn that many foods actually work to prevent cancer and/or assist the body in fighting cancer.   The key is to focus on foods that come from plants (the green growing things, not the factory kind) and especially to eat as many colorful vegetables and fruits as possible.

We can take all the medicine and drugs we can stand; we can pull out the “big guns” of chemo and radiation to fight our cancer; but unless and until we SUPPORT our body in its healing – through good food, healthy thoughts, plus emotional and spiritual work, our chances for true healing will be greatly diminished.

The following is excerpted from a book in process and I want to share it here and now so that you will support yourself in either getting well or keeping well, whichever the case may be.

You can memorize this list (below) or you can simply try to eat a more vegetarian diet.  Please note that I don’t tell people they must be a vegan or vegetarian or raw foodie because we are all different and we each have different body types, different temperaments, different physical demands, and different taste preferences.  However, the more vegetables and fruits, beans, whole grains, and nuts we can incorporate into our diet, the better.

One more thing to remember: if you can, please try to eat organic as much as you can.  Or at least eat food that is grown by local farmers who are more likely to use less herbicides and pesticides than huge industrial farms.  I know it’s usually more expensive.  I, too, was reluctant to spend the extra money because I was truly financially challenged for quite a while.  However, when I realized my health and life were on the line, the choice became clear.  The bonus is I feel better ethically supporting those who are being kind to our planet.

 

 

CANCER-FIGHTING FOODS!

 

(Much of this I got from the website:  http://www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm)

  • All fruits – preferably organic and especially berries which are exceeding high in anti-oxidants!  Grapes can “put primary tumors into remission and prevent recurrences.”  And raisins are “antimutagenic and particularly good at preventing breast cancers that arise with age.”[1]  Apples, raw and cooked, in fresh-pressed cider and in vinegar block the formation of cancer and help prevent recurrences. Apricots, especially dried, are exceptionally high in anti-cancer carotenes. [2] The bromelain found in pineapple “disrupts the glycol-protein shield that tumors use to protect themselves” and has been found to “reduce metastatic recurrence.”[3] Among 1, 271 elderly Americans, those who ate the most strawberries were least likely to develop cancer.[4] (Strawberries should be organic.)
  • All veggies – preferably organic and especially cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, horseradish, bok choy.  Cabbage, broccoli and brussel sprouts are purported to be the best anti-cancer foods. [5]  A compound found in cruciferous vegetables, as well as kale and collard greens, changes the way estrogen metabolizes and makes one’s estrogen less apt to promote cancer.[6] Besides cruciferous veggies, the next best choice is: Dark, leafy greens, which “are rich in cancer-preventing carotenes, chlorophyll, antioxidants, folic acid, flavanoids, and – if fresh and lightly washed – Vitamin C.”[7]  Cucumbers are also anti-cancer (and taste great in smoothies.) Carrots contain a lot of beta carotene, which may help reduce a wide range of cancers including lung, mouth, throat, stomach, intestine, bladder, prostate and breast.  But the carrots should be raw, not cooked.[8] Cancer researchers have found that eating … one raw carrot daily can prevent certain kinds of cancer.[9]  Sweet potatoes can lower cancer risk and “are especially good allies for women exposed to environmental organochlorines and for those wishing to avoid breast cancer recurrence.”[10] “High consumption of tomatoes correlates strongly with lessened risk of cancer.”[11] In fact, all red foods appear to be really good for fighting cancer – red peppers, beets, red grapefruit, red/purple grapes, etc. Turnips and watercress are also very high in anti-cancer compounds.
  • Garlic. “Garlic, the queen of cancer-preventive and cancer-inhibiting foods, counters the initiation, promotion, and recurrence of many kinds of cancer.”[12] Garlic has also “been clinically proven to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells…. Raw garlic is far more effective than cooked or encapsulated garlic; the active principle is linked with the smell.  As little as half a clove of raw garlic a day strengthens immunity and increases the number and power of natural killer cells.” [13] 
  • Ginger.  Used even in small doses, ginger helps prevent the initiation of breast cancer.
  • Legumes.  This includes all kinds of beans – black beans, lentils, kidney beans, split peas, etc.  Peanuts are also legumes but are probably not as healthy as other legumes (or nuts.)  Legumes should be a large part of your protein intake.  They are very high in fiber and very nutritious.  They offer cancer-inhibiting enzymes. Lentils especially are “capable of reversing cancerous cellular changes.”[14]  Chick peas/garbanzo beans are one of the richest sources of protease inhibitors.[15]
  • Nettles/stinging nettles.  You will not find nettles in a grocery store.  But you can find them in many fields.  Or look for an area herbalist to guide you.  Nettles are one of the most nourishing plants we can consume (taken as a tea).  Well-known herbalist Susun Weed says, “Nettle is the world’s riches source of carotenes and chlorophyll, as well as an excellent source of folic acid and selenium.  Nettle is a powerful ally for women choosing chemotherapy, as it protects the blood itself from the mutagenic changes (which can lead to leukemia) caused by the chemotherapeutic drugs.”[16]  Well-known herbalist David Hoffman says that nettles “strengthen and support the whole body.”[17]
  • ·        Whole grains – especially brown rice. (Pre-menopausal women eating the most fiber (>30 grams daily) more than halved their risk of developing breast cancer, enjoying a 52% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women whose diets supplied the least fiber (<20 grams/day). Fiber supplied by whole grains offered the most protection. Pre-menopausal women eating the most whole grain fiber (at least 13 g/day) had a 41% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared to those with the lowest whole grain fiber intake (4 g or less per day). www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=128  Amaranth is also anti-cancer. Oats, barley and rye are also good.  Wheatgrass is extremely alkalinizing and “the enzymes and amino acids found in wheatgrass can protect us from carcinogens like no other food or medicine.”  It is also extremely detoxifying.[22]
  • Mushrooms.  Not the kind normally found in supermarkets, but certain wild and exotic mushrooms like puffballs, reishii, oyster mushrooms, shiitake, straw mushrooms, maitake, Zhu ling, polyporacea, chaga, enokidake, and tree ears are exceedingly healthy and important in the fight against cancer.  However, foraging for these mushrooms is very risky as mistaken identity can lead to serious poisoning or death.  Therefore, buy from Chinese herbalists or other reputable sources who know what they’re doing.
  • Nuts contain the antioxidants quercetin and campferol that may suppress the growth of cancers. (Note: Many people are allergic to the proteins in nuts, so if you have any symptoms such as itchy mouth, tight throat, wheezing, etc. after eating nuts, stop. Consider taking a selenium supplement instead or work with someone on how to eliminate this allergy.)  www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm “All nuts and seeds are good sources of anti-cancer protease inhibitors, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants.” [18]Almonds are especially anti-cancer.
  • Seaweeds like wakame, kelp, and kombu.  Seaweed and other sea vegetables contain beta-carotene, protein, vitamin B12, fiber, and chlorophyll, as well as chlorophylones – important fatty acids that may help in the fight against breast cancer. Many sea vegetables also have high concentrations of the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and iodine. www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm  “Seaweed in the daily diet protects the thyroid, strengthens the lymphatic and immune systems, and prevents the initiation of cancer.”  Seaweed is anti-tumor and helps prevent a cancer recurrence.[19] Kelp also helps protect the body from the effects of radiation, which often leads to cancer.
  • Seeds – especially flax.  Flax contains lignans, which may have an antioxidant effect and block or suppress cancerous changes. Flax is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to protect against colon cancer and heart disease.  www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm  Best of all, flaxseed appears to be anti-estrogenic and quite specific against breast cancer.[20]
  • Tea.  Both black and green tea “checks the initiation, promotion, and growth of breast cancer (and eight other cancers including lung and liver.)”[21]
  • Yogurt.  Christiane Northrup, M.D. says that organic yogurt or other potent forms of Lactobacillus acidophilus help to minimize hyperestrogenism and reduce the risk of breast cancer.[23]
  • A note about soy.  There are numerous studies both encouraging and discouraging the use of soy as a cancer preventive.  I consulted my surgeon as the evidence was confusing.  She told me it was okay in moderation but not as my primary source of protein.

That’s all for now, folks.  Enjoy!  Because once you start eating this way, you will feel so much better!  And it tastes good!

Stay tuned for the “cookbook” I’m completing which gives tips on how to make your healthy food more interesting, healthy, and inviting!

Bless you, bless you.


[1] Susun S. Weed, Breast Cancer?  Breast Health!  The Wise Woman Way, Ash Tree Publishing, Woodstock, NY (1996), p.34.

[2] Weed, p. 28.

[3] Weed, p. 39.

[4] Weed, p. 42-3.

[5] Weed, p. 30.

[6] J. Michnovicz and H. Bradlow, “Altered Estrogen Metabolism and Excretion in Humans Following Consumption of Indole-3-Carbinol,” Nutrition and Cancer, vol. 16 (1991), pp. 59-66, as referred to by Northrup, p. 357.

[7] Weed, p. 34

[8] http://www.cancure.org/cancer_fighting_foods.htm

[9] Earl Mindell, Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, Simon and Schuster/Fireside, NY (1992), p.248.

[10] Weed, p. 43.

[11] Weed, p. 44.

[12] “Garlic fights nitrosamine formation… as do tomatoes and other  produce,” Science News, Vol. 145, February 1994, as referenced in Weed, p. 33.

[13] Weed, p. 33.

[14] Weed, p. 35.

[15] Weed, p. 31.

[16] Weed, p. 42.

[17] David Hoffman, The New Holistic Herbal, Element, Shaftsbury, Dorset and Rockport, Massachusetts (1900), p.218.

[18] Weed, p. 36.

[19] Weed, p. 41.

[20] Lilian Thompson and M. Serraino, “Lignans in Flaxseed and Breast Carcinogenesis,” Dept. of Nutritional Sciences, Univ.  of Toronot, 1989, as referenced in Weed., p. 32.

[21] Bonnie Liebman, “Tea  for 250 Million,” Nutrition Action Newsletter, Nov. 1994 (Cancer Research, 52:3875, 1992 and Journal of National Cancer Institute, 85: 1038,  1993) as mentioned in Weed, p. 43.

[22] Ann Wigmore, The Wheatgrass Book, as referenced by Carr, p. 110.

[23] Northrup, p. 357.

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Confessions of a Yoyo-ing Health Food Convert

28 Feb

February 28, 2012

(Note: A dear friend said he found the following blog entry “more than a little obsessive.”  My initial reaction was embarrassment.  I immediately wanted to delete the post.  However, I’m going to leave this up here  because it’s real.  For those fighting cancer who are educated and somewhat health-conscious, there is a tendency to get obsessive about the foods we put in our body.  It’s one thing  we do have control over and, as research shows, it definitely can make a difference.  So the upshot is, obsessive or not, I feel this is an important blog and I’m keeping it.)

Let me assure you that I’ve always been a fan of healthy eating (aside from when I was a child and didn’t know better – eating Lebanon baloney on white bread for lunch every day, along with a Tastycake for dessert.)  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that eating “foods” that have very little actual food left in them (but tons of additives) are not really good for you. I may not have been as healthy as some of the slim vegetarian yoga aficionados we see trotting around in Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but I certainly knew how to cook a good healthy meal with real food, brown rice, veggies, etc.  However, I do confess that I became much more lax the last decade or so.

Like many people who have busy lives, taking the time to prepare healthy food was not always among the top contenders on my to-do list.   I began eating out more, and more and more often, I am quite embarrassed to say, I would resort to fast food figuring that anything was better than nothing and at least  I’d have some protein or carbs to keep me going energy-wise.  (I hasten to add that I now know that I was deluding myself big-time with that theory.)

Having a cancer scare quickly makes one take stock of delusional thinking like that.  I got myself back on board quickly!  I knew I needed to be more vegetarian.  While vegetarians may not necessarily agree that the vegetarian lifestyle can include the words “more” or “less,” for me it made sense to aspire to the lifestyle without having to be a complete and total purist.

I consider myself fairly well educated in general, and specifically with regard to nutritional issues, I am probably more well-read than most.  However there’s nothing like the big C word to make one read a bit more voraciously on the topic. I quickly learned that there were foods that were not only generally healthy, but specifically important in the fight against cancer.  I strove to incorporate as many of them as possible.

Living in a vegetarian household for which I have agreed to prepare a fairly large percentage of the dinners has helped me to eat quite well for several days of the week. Consider, for instance, my diet today:

  • For breakfast:  Smoothie – almond milk, homemade hormone-free yogurt, kale, half an organic banana, and a teaspoon of organic peanut butter.
  • For lunch: Sesame tofu stir fry with local cabbage, organic onions, organic carrots, and daikon, seasoned with lots of cancer-fighting turmeric, some garlic, and a couple dashes of tamari.  Brown rice cooked in organic vegetable broth.
  • For dinner:  Red lentils cooked in organic vegetable broth and seasoned with turmeric and coriander.  Salad with organic baby greens, shredded cabbage, local organic micro-greens, shredded organic carrots, diced daikon, cucumbers, zucchini, and local organic watercress.  Dressed with olive oil and organic lemon seasoned with tarragon and marjoram.
  • For snacks: One small square of dark chocolate, off-the-charts in anti-oxidants.  A gluten-free peanut butter cookie.

Not bad, right?  I confess, even I was impressed with today’s feast.

Now let me confess to you yesterday’s diet:

  • Small smoothie (See above.)
  • 2 chicken tenders (prepared by Carversville General Store.)
  • One bottle Snapple Peach Tea.
  • Mug of blackberry tea.
  • Brown rice with dribble of chicken drippings.
  • Blanched broccoli.
  • 3 slices of whole grain bread with butter.
  • Purified water.
  • Homemade unsweetened iced tea.
  • 2 large helpings of salad (See above, but without the daikon, carrot, or watercress.)
  • 2 1/2 pieces of iced carrot cake (with only a modest amount of carrot observed in it.)
  • Fairly good-sized bowl of microwave popcorn (with very little butter in it.)
  • Bowl of homemade (by friend’s son Adam) soup with chicken, carrots, rice, and seasoned with sesame oil.

Well, on second thought, that may not be too horrifying, but I confess to feeling no small amount of guilt about the cake and the Snapple.  (I did enjoy both though.  I did, I did.)  Plus, although I don’t have a problem with butter specifically, this was not organic butter and so it no doubt contained the hormones that are very uncool for someone with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer issues to ingest.   The chicken may have had been raised in an unhealthy corporate farm as well.

And while one day like yesterday is not a huge deal, I am chagrined to confess that it followed a week of some indulgence.  I was out of town for 3 days last week. Those of you who travel can attest that it is much harder to eat healthfully when one is on the road.

In the car ride to the destination, I did eat a couple of delicious locally grown apples (from Solebury Orchards) and snack on things like organic nachos, nuts, and rice thins.  And for the first lunch from the small buffet at corporate headquarters I had egg salad on half a piece of whole grain bread with lettuce, spring water, and fresh fruit salad.  But that night at a wonderful and very fine Italian restaurant I did allow myself one piece of bruschetta, two fried risotto balls, a salad, and half of a large plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  (Oh was it ever good.  It was really, really good.)  And the next day I had, among other things, the rest of the spaghetti, the dessert I’d taken home (the best and lightest cheesecake I’ve ever, ever had), and, on the road, some local candied pecans.

Perhaps you’re thinking, Cindy, this is not such a big deal. You are allowed to eat real food that doesn’t look like it was prepared at an ashram.  The problem is: once you’ve had a cancer scare, you tend to be a bit more nervous about what you do and don’t eat.  I have several friends who’ve had breast cancer who were/are MUCH more disciplined about their food intake. One dear friend was so afraid to put anything non-organic or unhealthy in her mouth that she was literally afraid to eat for a couple months.  Another ate a strictly macrobiotic meal the whole time she was getting treatments – even taking containers of the “good stuff” with her to parties and social gatherings.  Another friend is able to refrain from putting a single piece of cheese in her mouth.  Her boyfriend confirms that she does not veer from healthy eating.  Ever.  Sadly, I don’t seem capable (yet) of such discipline.

Here is the test to see whether I’ve gone too far off-balance.  A couple days ago I finally received in the mail some pH strips with which to test the alkaline/acid balance of my body.  For those who don’t know, disease of any kind has a much harder time getting a foothold in an alkaline environment.  Sadly, most Americans are way on the acidic side.  I was eager to see how my body was doing.

I returned from my trip on Thursday night.  The next morning I found the mail carrier had delivered my package of pH strips while I was gone. I eagerly opened it and went to take a pee so I could test it out.  The result?  I was one step below the target alkaline range.   In other words, I was acidic, but on the lowest end of the acidic scale. I was pleased.  After a couple days of indulgence, I was close to the alkaline zone.  I could get back on track, I was sure.

The next day, I had the same exact reading.  Okay, so taking my supplements and getting back on track for one day was not going to be enough.  I tried to make up for it by eating lots of salads that day, even though I was out and about and not at home. I began the day with a smoothie and by the time I finally had time for lunch, I was ravenous.  So in addition to a salad, I had another Peach Snapple, some baked potato crisps, a bit of tunafish, and two gluten-free peanut butter cookies.  For dinner I had a Caesar salad (light on dressing, no added cheese) with wonderful grilled chicken.   I was only halfway good. And the accumulation of all of the past days’ dietary digressions led to a more seriously acidic reading this morn.

Let me add here that part of the reason for my added anxiety about my diet is that about two months ago I had asked a professional intuitive/channel whom I know if I was “doing enough” to stay cancer-free.   What she was told was that I was on the right track but that I needed to focus on staying alkalinized. (I knew the importance of alkalinization from my research as well.)

This is why I’m sharing with you the monotony of my dietary dealings.  I want you to learn from me!   If you want to be healthy, stay alkalinized and eat healthy!  Lots and lots and lots of greens, lots of veggies, lots of salads and raw foods. You can do it!  And hopefully, in another month or two, I will be more consistently on track and a living, breathing, beautifully energetic and radiant model of glowing health.

Thanks for listening.  Be well, friends!

PS  In the afternoon on the 29th and in the morning  on March 2, I made it into the “green zone!”   The green colors on the color scale of the pH strips indicate one is in  the alkaline zone.  The optimal  zone is 6.75 to 7.5.  I was there twice! YAYYYYY!!!!

PS2  (Added March 3, 2012)  Rather than write a separate entry, I decided  to add a postscript to this blog.  If anyone thought I didn’t misbehave too badly diet-wise (above), let me assure you, I really really really did last night and this morn.   There will be no dispute about how far off my healthy eating plan I fell.

Let me confess.  I began the morning well – leftover brown rice with spinach and almonds plus red lentils, followed shortly thereafter by one organic egg (from the chickens who live on my property) with red onion, goat cheese and herbs.  I also made a big pot of vegetable soup, but only ate about a cup of it.   All well and good, right?

Well about 3 hours later I remembered the Breyers chocolate ice cream my housemate  had in the freezer.  I indulged in not one, but TWO bowls of it.  (Oh my, it was good.)

Four hours later I am ravenous.  Of course.  I’ve waited way too long for my next good meal.  And  when that happens, look out.

I was craving something salty and crunchy and I had nothing.   So I went to the grocery store and debated between several options before getting a bag of Herr’s popcorn, which my companion and I began eating as  we walked through the store. Then the subject of (yes, I am in confession mode, I have to tell you) McDonald’s came up.  And we ended up going and I had a $1.00 double cheeseburger, a small fries, AND an apple pie.  The only thing I DIDN’T do wrong  was have a small cup of unsweetened iced tea.

Oh, it’s not over, friends.  This morning I got up early and decided to join my parents on their weekly Saturday breakfast out.  They chose Perkins.  Perkins does not have too many healthy options.  I looked over the menu and the only thing that was calling to me was… pancakes.  Ay yay yay, Cindy.  White flour is soooo not good for me.  It makes me bloat.   Syrup is sooo not good for me.  (Or for fighting cancer.   Simple sugars like syrup actually feed cancers.)  (I did have a side of fresh fruit cup.)

And ya know what?  I notice my physical energy is low today.  When I eat healthy food, my energy is usually pretty good.  But I can officially vouch for the fact that junk food, fast food, carbs and sugars will deplete your energy!  Guilt is one thing (and yes, of course I feel it), but low energy is another.  Perhaps I will eventually remember that when I eat this kind of thing  the feel good part is only temporary!  Then I crash energy-wise.

I  obviously can’t do anything about the crap I put into my body the last  twelve hours or so.  But what I can do is eat lots of soup and salad today.  I will also drink lots of water and take extra drops of my detoxifier.   (Pure Body.  Go to http://ToYourHealth.MyTouchstoneEssentials.com)  I also need to  take a long walk and get some extra  exercise and fresh air.

Back on track.  That’s all I can do – get back on track and resolve to go longer before falling off the wagon next time.  I know myself well enough that I won’t be able to be a total purist any time soon, if ever.  But I can go for longer periods before any indulgences….

Please disregard my lapses, dear body.  I want what’s best for you.  I will try to consider your needs more diligently next time!

Playing the Second-Guessing-Myself Game

11 Feb

January 26, 2012

Fighting Doubts

So, here is the latest.  I went to pick up my radiology report at the hospital. As I suspected, they rated my most recent mammogram results a BI-RADS 3.   This indicates that the one microcalcification they found near the site of my surgery is “probably benign” but that some follow-up with my doctor would be wise.

I looked at the digital image of my films.  I am clearly not an expert at reading films, but I did see one big bright white spot, which is what I assume is the calcification to which they were referring.

How interesting:  “one bright white spot.”  So what is the bright side of all this?  The bright spot is I am more acutely conscious of my health and have made significant lifestyle changes as a result. The bright spot is I am learning a lot and I have the opportunity to share some of that knowledge with others.  The bright spot is I AM ALIVE and I have both my breasts and I feel quite good!  I can’t ask for much more than that, can I?!

Here, however, is my current challenge:  to stay in this place of gratitude and trust, even when I am the recipient of someone else’s fears and concerns for me.   I am noticing that when I read a message that is fearful, it takes great will for me to stand balanced in my own internal knowing and not get knocked off-course.  This does not mean that I am unwilling to consider alternate points of view, however I truly don’t want to “catch” other people’s fears or projections. I don’t believe that serves me..

Here are a couple examples of messages I have received recently:

  •  “From someone who has used diet for cancer for over 35 years … the people with the greatest success use a combination of standard treatment, meditations for guidance (spiritual help), and clean diet. Especially when caught early and handled aggressively. Once certain cancers get a foothold it is very hard otherwise. (Emphasis mine.)  If I had it to do over I would have had a complete mastectomy like I was guided to to do with my visions back in 2003 instead of the skin sparing one I opted for. So here I am dealing with it a third time. It is my diet and chemo that helped keep it local though. Don’t mess with breast ca, it ain’t leukemia that has been documented to go into remission with dietary changes alone. :)”
  • “I too was diagnosed with DCIS. That was 5/1/2008. Because by accident the US tech found another suspicious area on the day of my biopsy, that also turned out to be cancer, I decided to have a mastectomy. Good thing, the pathology study found that my entire breast had DCIS. A lumpectomy and radiation would not have been a cure for me. That was my left breast.
    I have to be honest, I worry for you. Lumpectomy without radiation is not standard treatment for DCIS. The radiation is done to kill any cells left behind. Since nothing showed on my Mammo for the second spot on my left breast, and nothing at all on the MRI, but pathology provide my entire breast had DCIS, I believe we need to go the full course. (sic)
    Certainly healthy eating will help, but I worry about you using that as a cure.
    When any woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, all women are affected. Just want you to have a long, happy life.
    Be well.”

So, just reading these comments, my guess is that you, too, will start worrying for me.  Fear is insidious, isn’t it?

Here is what  I told  myself  after reading the above comments from  very well-intentioned friends or  readers:

  1. Obviously both these women have had more aggressive or widespread cancers.  And, I believe in both cases (but I could be mistaken), the technology used originally missed something important.  Understandably, these women therefore have a greater fear of cancer and are in favor of more aggressive treatment.
  2. There are untold numbers of women who treated their cancer conservatively – with surgery alone, and survived/thrived.  So one could argue either way.   ie, Either be safe and fight this with all the tools the medical establishment throws your way, or take your time and choose what feels right for you because most cancers are slow growing and some never do  threaten  our lives.

Here are some reasons I am suggesting moderation is also an appropriate tool FOR ME:

First of all, ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is not considered life-threatening. The problem with DCIS is sometimes it develops into a more invasive form of cancer and sometimes it doesn’t.  Approximately 80% of the time, it never escalates into a more serious form of cancer.

One site says the following:

“DCIS is considered noninvasive (meaning it has not spread), but does have the potential to spread to other parts of the breast if not treated. (Usual treatments include lumpectomy with or without radiation, use of tamoxifen after lumpectomy, or mastectomy.)” (Italics mine.)  http://health.msn.com/health-topics/breast-cancer/breast-calcifications

Meanwhile, an article about UCSF breast cancer oncologist Shelley Hwang, MD says the following:

“…(U)nlike invasive breast cancer, DCIS is not life-threatening.

Unfortunately, women who are diagnosed with DCIS have a higher than average risk of developing invasive breast cancer later – although some never will. (Italics mine.) As it stands, there is no proven way to predict which women diagnosed with DCIS will eventually develop invasive breast cancer. But because of the elevated risk, surgery to remove DCIS – generally a lumpectomy with radiation, or mastectomy – has become standard treatment. Treatment options are the same as for early-stage invasive breast.”  (Italics mine.) http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2009/03/8165/dcis-not-invasive-breast-cancer-and-might-not-require-surgery

I think most people consider radiation following a lumpectomy standard treatment.  However there are most certainly many women who choose not to go the radiation route.

I do want to mention that I am very grateful I got the lumpectomy.   It does give me an element of piece of mind.  It’s everything else the medical establishment recommends after the surgery that I personally have concerns about, although if I had a more aggressive form of cancer, I would likely consider them much more seriously.

Oh dear.  Guess what.  I was doing research to try to back up my point of view.  And in the process, I am finding that I really am going against the grain of  recommended treatment.  Here is something I just read which is concerning me:

“Of all the debates surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer in recent decades, the most persistent and perplexing one involves a very early cancer called D.C.I.S., or ductal carcinoma in situ.

This cancer is noninvasive, confined to the milk duct where it arose. Some of these cancers will eventually become invasive, others never will. In autopsies, about 10 percent of women are found to have a ductal carcinoma that never became evident.

Then it is up to the pathologist to determine whether cancer is present, and if so, what type of D.C.I.S. it is. There are two main categories, a more aggressive type called comedo, which resembles a blackhead because it contains a core of dead cancer cells, and noncomedo. The comedo type may become an invasive cancer and, thus, less curable in three to five years; the noncomedo type may not progress to invasive cancer for a decade. (Italics mine.)

The guide continues, “Lumpectomy without radiation therapy is usually considered an option only for women with small areas of low-grade D.C.I.S.” An eight-year study of 814 women found that radiation after lumpectomy significantly reduced the risk of recurrence. Radiation also greatly reduced the risk of a later invasive cancer.  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/22/health/22brod.html

And this:

“In the case of DCIS, cells multiply rapidly and are different from normal ductal cells—they’re different in size, shape, and architectural arrangement and more closely resemble invasive cancer, says Arnold Schwartz, professor of pathology at George Washington University Hospital in Washington and a member of the NIH panel. Not all DCIS is alike; there’s a spectrum. The less closely the cells resemble their normal parent cells, the greater the potential danger seems to be, particularly in the presence of necrosis (dead cells) and in younger women (among other risk factors). All those factors suggest a potentially more-aggressive form of DCIS that may recur or become invasive cancer, says Schwartz.”   http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/cancer/articles/2009/10/22/the-confusion-over-dcis-what-to-do-about-stage-zero-breast-cancer

I confess “my” DCIS is the comedo type.  And it was not graded a 1 but a 2-3 out of 4.

So in the process of writing this blog I find myself, once again, faced with some nagging doubts.

Can I fight cancer with diet, herbs, and supplements alone?  Actually, that’s not my entire plan of attack.  I have heard multiple stories of advanced cancer disappearing when the person chose to live the life they always wanted to live.  There are certainly emotional/psychological factors that affect our healing and I will continue to work on these issues as well.

My current intentions include the following:

  • Eat a primarily vegetarian diet.
  • Strive to make 75% of my diet vegetables and fruits.  (I’m not there yet.)
  • Eat as many greens as possible.
  • Eat more raw foods.
  • Keep my body in the alkaline zone.
  • Take the following supplements, all of which aid in preventing cancer, inhibiting tumor growth, eliminating toxins, helping to neutralize the effects of radiation, and/or aiding in the proper metabolism of excess estrogen (The cancer I was diagnosed with was estrogen receptor positive.)  Vitamin D, Vitamin C, flaxseed, DIM-3, kelp, curcumin, garlic capsules, a mushroom product called Agrigold, and a product called Natural  Cellular Defense are all now a part of my health regimen.
  • Exercise more.

In addition, I am going to a healer next week.

So, friends, the process continues.  Can I trust my intuition to guide me?  Can I get healthy following my own instincts?  Am I doing enough to prevent a recurrence or a more invasive cancer?  Or  (I am challenging myself to be brutally honest here) was I perhaps more afraid of the treatment than the disease?

Whichever is the case, I am determined to not let fear rule my life.  I am claiming good health.  I will feed myself not only with healthy and healing foods, but with success stories.  Stories of people who have healed themselves of cancer abound.

I think I will save that for another blog.

As always, thanks for “listening.”  May you be blessed with abundant health and happiness.

Options for Treatment and Prevention of Recurrence

8 Sep

The Breast Blog #16

Drugs, Good Food and/or Other Options for Treatment/Prevention

September 4, 5 and 8, 2011

So…  it’s been five days since I got the good news – a pathology report saying I was clear of cancer – and I find I’m still kind of having trouble believing it.  After that first day of relief and gratitude and mild euphoria, I have had more several days in which I doubted the news.  Did they really find everything?  Is it really true?  Dare I believe it?  Can I go back to living a full-throttle life?

I feel a bit crazy for asking these questions.  I feel like my doubt is dishonoring the gift.  But I just want to be honest that those feelings are there.  A large part of this doubt is, once again, because of dreams I’ve had which indicated that something serious was going on.  I acknowledge, of course, that the dreams were probably pointing to this early cancer that was found and treated.  But the imagery was so disturbing sometimes that I felt like they were pointing out something more serious.

These dreams included things like: hundreds of rats pouring out from under a sheet on the floor, and really ugly rats bobbing in the ocean, and three large black spiders the size of my hand, and streams of red ants crisscrossing the countryside – too many to do anything about, and lots of baby tarantulas pouring out from the sleeve of my shirt.

I acknowledge that these dreams could have been this intense because they knew they needed to get my attention before my situation did become more serious.  However, until I have some dreams with really healing imagery, I’m afraid it could take a while for these doubts to totally fade.

Today I went to a spiritual gathering called A Circle of Miracles.  At the end we always form a circle and we share miracles.  I knew I had to verbalize my good news in order to help make it more real.  And before I could even speak the words, I had to struggle with emotions that had welled to the surface.  In spite of the excess of “free time” I’ve had in recent months, I seem to have kept myself sufficiently busy to avoid feeling this deep well of emotion that was obviously still under the surface of my outward calm.  Even now, two hours later, I feel emotionally fragile.

I guess speaking the words aloud really makes the whole thing – all of it – feel more real.  And I think the tears were an expression of the fear I had felt and the relief that maybe things really are going to be okay.

I imagine I am not alone in being leery of celebrating too soon.  I’ll have to do some research and ask other cancer survivors about their experience.

Speaking of cancer survivors, as I share my story with others, I hear about more and more women who have had either breast cancer or biopsies.  It really has begun to feel like an epidemic.  I’ve been keeping track of only the people I personally know.  I’m not writing down friends of friends or sisters of friends, I’m just writing down the names of people I know.  And there are now over 20 who have had breast cancer.  The good news is that the vast majority have survived.  I am learning that breast cancer is most definitely a treatable disease – especially when it is caught early and the woman chooses appropriate treatments and/or lifestyle changes.  (Of the three I know who succumbed from the disease, one had refused any conventional treatment and another refused any lifestyle changes – continuing to smoke, eat poorly, etc.  My humble guess is that the third, whom I once knew well, had unresolved emotional/psychosocial issues which may have compounded her physical issues and contributed to her death.  But that’s just me trying to make sense of her death.)

So, what next?  I had a follow-up appointment with my surgeon last Thursday.  My wounds are apparently healing nicely and she was pleased with my pathology report.   She did recommend 1) that I up my intake of Vitamin D, as that helps prevent cancer, and 2) that I consider taking aromacin (also spelled aromasin.)  She reported that it cuts the incidence of recurrence 60%.  She also said that it can greatly reduce the possibility of cancer arising in my left breast.

Aromacin is one of two drugs recommended for women with estrogen-positive receptors.  (The other is tamoxifen.)  I asked her about the side effects.  I knew there were quite a few with tamoxifen.  She said that aromacin had many fewer side effects.  However I just did some research and am quite concerned.

Some of the side effects include: hot flashes (in 33% of the women), hair thinning/loss (in 15%), debilitating joint and muscular pain, fatigue, insomnia, nausea/abdominal cramping/diarrhea, etchttp://www.livestrong.com/article/224531-aromacin-side-effects/

Okay, I am all for a 60% decrease in the possibility of a future cancer, but these are very unpleasant side effects.  I have experienced hot flashes, thin hair, and abdominal cramping, as well as insomnia, and I’m not a fan of any of these!  I know there are herbs I can take that have counterbalanced some of these symptoms in my past (black cohosh for hot flashes, mint and licorice for abdominal discomfort, and various herbs for better sleep) and I assume these would work even if the symptoms were chemically induced.  However joint and muscle pain that makes it challenging to move/get out of bed is a rather significant factor.  If one cannot move without pain, one become less likely to move, therefore one gains weight – which is not a good thing if you’re fighting breast cancer because estrogen grows in fatty cells, and increased estrogen makes one very susceptible to breast cancer.

Here is more on the drug: Aromacin.

“Aromasin (exemestane) is an anti-estrogen, or estrogen suppressor medication, taken as a 25 mg pill. Aromasin is a steroid. This medication helps lower your risk of breast cancer recurrence, and improves your chance of survival.

The enzyme aromatase is present in fat tissues, such as breast tissue. Aromasin inhibits this aromatase, which converts pre-estrogen to active estrogen. This is how Aromasin suppresses estrogen levels after adjuvant chemotherapy treatment for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer and in women with advanced (metastatic) disease.

Aromasin is given to female breast cancer patients to lower estrogen levels and prevent recurrence of breast cancer. Patients who take Aromasin must be post-menopausal, have finished primary treatment for estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer, and have already taken two or three years of tamoxifen. This drug is also given to patients with advanced breast cancer, when tamoxifen has not halted the spread of cancer.” http://breastcancer.about.com/od/treatments/p/aromasin.htm

Interesting.  My doctor/surgeon is recommending Aromasin even though I am NOT post-menopausal nor have I taken tamoxifen.

I found quite a few sites where women taking Aromasin complained of debilitating leg, feet, and joint pain.   I am realizing the side effects can be quite awful.   And as I am theoretically clear of breast cancer at the moment, perhaps I can find more natural ways of preventing a recurrence rather than subjecting my body to this heavy-duty drug.  (I have never been one for pharmaceuticals.  Except for an antibiotic a few times in my life, occasional Tylenol, and the pill, I have been basically drug-free my whole life.)

So I find myself thinking, How can I prevent more estrogen in my body without taking one of these drugs?  I know that one of the big answers is to cut out meats and cheeses.  The cattle industry especially, but also most commercial meat operations, add hormones to the feed.

“Why are hormones used in food production? Certain hormones can make young animals gain weight faster. They help reduce the waiting time and the amount of feed eaten by an animal before slaughter in meat industries. In dairy cows, hormones can be used to increase milk production. Thus, hormones can increase the profitability of the meat and dairy industries.

Why are consumers concerned about hormones in foods? While a variety of hormones are produced by our bodies and are essential for normal development of healthy tissues, synthetic steroid hormones used as pharmaceutical drugs, have been found to affect cancer risk. For example, diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen drug used in the 1960s was withdrawn from use after it was found to increase the risk of vaginal cancer in daughters of treated women. Lifetime exposure to natural steroid hormone estrogen is also associated with an increased risk for breast cancer (see BCERF Fact Sheet #09 Estrogen and Breast Cancer Risk: What is the Relationship?). Hence, consumers are concerned about whether they are being exposed to hormones used to treat animals, and whether these hormones affect human health. We try to address this complex issue based on scientific evidence that is currently available.” http://envirocancer.cornell.edu/factsheet/diet/fs37.hormones.cfm

So one thing I can definitely do to decrease my chances of getting breast cancer in the left breast, or getting a recurrence in the right, is to eat a more vegetarian diet.  Those who know me from Facebook know that I have been working hard to change my diet.  I do not intend to be fanatical about it.  I don’t want to become “afraid of food.”  However, if I do feel the need for meat once in a while, I will endeavor to find organic hormone-free meat.  And if I feel the need for cheese, I will choose goat cheese because goats are usually not part of the huge corporate meat industries hellbent on maximizing profits even at the expense of public health and safety.  I do know there is a wonderful local place that sells good healthy chicken and turkey.  (Bolton’s in Sellersville, PA)

When the doctor’s office discovered I did have positive estrogen receptors, they were happy about it actually because it gave me another option in my cancer-fighting tool kit.

But I am very resistant.  I was given the card of a hematology oncologist with whom I’m supposed to make an appointment to talk about Aromacin.  I am not feeling the urge to do that.  I am worried he’s going to aggressively promote this drug and be unsympathetic to my concerns.  (And of course, he won’t ever have tried it himself…..)

Is there anything else I can do to fight this cancer?  YES!  Exercise more and lose weight.  Consider the following:

“Breast cancer survivors whose bodies make the least estrogen have the lowest chance of breast cancer recurrence, a long-term study shows. Estrogen levels — measured soon after initial breast cancer treatment — were twice as high in women whose breast cancer returned as in those whose breast cancer did not come back.

Nearly all the women in the study had already gone through menopause, and most took the estrogen-blocking drug tamoxifen. So where did their estrogen come from? Fat tissue, says study investigator Cheryl Rock, PhD, RD, a professor in the cancer prevention program at the University of California, San Diego.

All this is good news for breast cancer survivors, Rock says. It means that by exercising and losing weight, they can cut their risk of cancer recurrence.”  http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/news/20080307/estrogen-brings-breast-cancer-back

Herbalist Susun Weed reports that “Women more than 25 percent over their ideal weight have a 30% higher risk of recurrence.”  (Medical Tribune, October 1992)  She also reminds us that exercise tonifies the immune system and that several clinical trials have shown that regular exercise is strongly linked to heightened immunity and resistance to cancer.  She emphasizes the word “regular” saying that it “is better to walk one mile four times a week for a month than to jog 16 miles once a month.” (Breast Cancer?  Breast Health!  The Wise Woman Way, by Susun S. Weed, p. 89)

There is an interesting recent study just published less than nine months ago, the Nurses’ Health Study, that suggested after a diagnosis of breast cancer, exercise can reduce the risk of recurrence. For women who walk at an average pace three to four hours a week, reduction in deaths from breast cancer were found. It’s encouraging that there may be less recurrence and death from breast cancer by exercising.

The study reviewed here found that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer that came back (recurred) had higher blood estrogen levels than women diagnosed with early-stage cancer that didn’t come back. Estrogen can encourage breast cancers to grow, especially cancers that are hormone-receptor positive, so the link between higher estrogen levels and breast cancer recurrence makes sense.  http://www.breastcancer.org

  • Make exercise a part of daily routine. Regular, moderate exercise (brisk walking, for example) has been shown to lower estrogen levels.
  • Eat a diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, and maintain a healthy weight. Having extra body fat may contribute to breast cancer recurrence risk, in part because estrogen can build up in body fat.  http://www.breastcancer.org

By the way, it is now September 6, 2011 and I am feeling better (more hopeful; more on board with the “clear of cancer” report) than I was just a few days ago.  I guess it has to do with feeling proud of myself for the changes I’ve made in my eating habits. Also, I’ve been taking a product which detoxifies the bodies of heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides, etc.  It relieves me that there is something safe out there to detoxify me so that my body has a chance to get well. Everyone of us can surely benefit from that in this day and age, right?

As far as healing from last Monday’s surgery?  The scars at my incision points look really good.  The swelling has gone down and the heat has diminished.  I know there is still healing taking place internally.  When I asked the surgeon to clarify what exactly took place inside my breast, she drew me a diagram showing a slice of pie pointing toward the nipple.  She had cut out a pie slice of tissue in order to get as much of the duct and surrounding tissue as possible, and then she sewed together the sides of that slice.  (That’s my take on what she said, anyway.)  So, there is still healing and mending going on inside.  If I take off my bra, even for a short time, I feel a pulling and tugging and weight that is uncomfortable.  It is true that at this time, the more support I can give my breasts, the better.  Even the sports bra doesn’t feel sturdy enough at times.  But the surgical bra is not that comfortable as it smushes me across the nipples.  I was given a prescription for a custom-made bra – on site at Comprehensive Breast Care Surgeons.  I look forward to having a bra that works for me during this time of healing!

I will be scheduled for another mammogram in December, after my breasts are likely to be fully healed.  (I hope so!  I don’t want to get mashed before they are healed!!!) And then I have a follow-up appointment with Dr. DuPree in March 2012.

So friends, you are now caught up with what is going on for me at this time.  Stay tuned for more information regarding herbs and foods that are particularly helpful in preventing cancer.

Be healthy, y’all.

Rich blessings to each one of you,

Cindy