Natural healing, natural wellness

Archive for April, 2010

Slash And Burn?

There it was again – the “M” word. The last time he brought it up was a year ago. I was surprised that he should mention it again, as I’ve been doing rather well. The approach I took towards treating my Stage 3 estrogen-sensitive breast cancer was unconventional, as my dear oncologist said recently. He knew of very few Stage 3 breast cancer cases which had healed so well, even with the best that modern medicine could offer. My chosen course of action was slow and steady, with no surgery or radiation but only the mildest form of chemotherapy, using oral chemo drugs, followed by an aromatase inhibitor drug, Letrozole (Femara). The AI has some pretty aggravating side effects, but it’s doing its job of inhibiting the estrogen well.

A healthy diet, lifestyle and family environment which includes daily exercise, juicing, various health supplements and the love and support of my wonderful husband, Andrew, helps keep my body relatively free from cancer, except for the tumors which grew and acted up in my breast. Thankfully, the cancer has not spread to the rest of my body. My onco says that my organs and blood are remarkably clean and healthy.

The tumors have shrunk dramatically and I feel as strong as ever, and almost as energetic. So I was perturbed when the subject of masectomy was recently revived. Such major surgery often brings a whole host of other problems, and it’s also no guarantee that a recurrence will never happen again. I’m encouraged by my healing progress, and I’m exploring adding other things to my cancer-fighting arsenal, so I’m in no hurry to have myself cut up. Somehow, I just feel that I’m on the right track.

Fight Breast Cancer With Cruciferous Vegetables

Green cabbage was very cheap at the supermarket nearby a few days ago so I bought two – one to make sauerkraut and the other for general eating (coleslaw, sauté, soup etc). I would have bought more had my fridge had the space. I couldn’t resist buying a nice head of purple cabbage too. I’ll use that as well as some green cabbage to make coleslaw. That night, we enjoyed a big plate of braised cabbage with onions and dried prawns. The vegetables had been cooked slowly to coax out the sweet flavors. Absolutely delicious!

It’s a good thing I like cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables, as phytochemicals such as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and sulforaphane are components of cruciferous vegetables which exhibit antitumorigenic activity. In the digestive tract, indole-3-carbinol produces a metabolite (product of metabolism) called diindolylmethane (DIM), a new class of antiestrogens that inhibit breast cancer growth. DIM also encourages cells that are abnormally multiplying to stop reproducing and die.

Research shows that it is possible for the stronger and more dangerous form of estrogen (estradiol) to be converted into the weaker form (estriol) without using drugs. As all women who have had breast cancer know, estradiol fuels breast cancer. For this reason, aromatase inhibitor drugs (Ais) were invented to block the production of estrogen. Unfortunately, like most drugs, aromatase inhibitor drugs have serious side effects. Also, not all kinds of all estrogen are harmful. Estriol is a weaker and relatively harmless form of estrogen. Being less active than estradiol, it is desirable for it to occupy the estrogen receptor as, by doing so, it effectively blocks estradiol’s strong “grow” signals.

In 1997, researchers at Strang Cancer Research Laboratory at Rockefeller University discovered that diindolylmethane or DIM can change “strong” estrogen to “weak” estrogen and, when this happens, it stops human cancer cells from growing and provokes the cells to self-destruct, a process known as apoptosis. Subsequent studies done at the University of California at Berkeley show that DIM inhibits some human breast cancer cells from growing by as much as 90% in culture.

Apparently, DIM is the most active phytochemical in promoting the synthesis of protective hydroxylated estrogen (2OHE). Also known as 2-hydroxyestrone, 2OHE and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone (16OHE) are metabolites of estrogens. 2OHE is biologically inactive, while 16OHE is biologically active meaning that, like estradiol, it can send “grow” signals. In cases of breast cancer, the ‘bad’ 16OHE is often elevated and the ‘good’ 2OHE is decreased. Studies show that people who take DIM not only have beneficial increases in estriol, they also have beneficial increases in 2OHE. Low levels of the 2OHE have been linked to breast cancer (in both women and men), uterine cancer, cervical cancer and lupus.

If you’ve had breast cancer, regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, green cabbage, collard greens and mustard greens is a very good idea. While cooking such vegetables, creating mild acidic conditions by adding some lemon juice or vinegar helps convert indole-3-carbinol (I3C) to the active cancer-fighting substance DIM. No wonder fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi are recommended cancer-fighting foods. Go ahead and indulge in these vegetables!

Making Right Choices

Cancer is a cruel joke. Why is it that some people who have wonderfully healthy habits get cancer while others who have terrible habits don’t? Why do some people live to a ripe old age in spite of unhealthy practices like smoking, bad diets and a sedentary lifestyle, while young people who have barely had a chance to develop bad habits die? Why do vegetarians get cancer although they shun meat, while voracious meat-eaters get away seemingly scot-free? Why do people who try to live as organically as possible, including eating primarily organic food, still succumb to cancer? Why are the cancer statistics in Asia climbing, considering most traditional Asian diets are generally healthier than modern Western diets? Why do people who believe that God will heal them die, while unbelievers live?

We’ve all heard of people who followed everything their oncologists told them to do, and still died of cancer. They suffered through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, even mutilating procedures like masectomy, only to succumb to the dreaded disease. Of course, there are also many cases of people who chose an alternative cancer treatment approach – generally gentler, free of side effects and not harmful – who also lost the battle. Clearly, there’s no one approach – whether conventional or unconventional – which can guarantee a cancer cure.

In a forum thread which I stumbled upon recently, one person wrote about a friend who “lived’ an extra couple of months following the traditional medical route for cancer, but suffered terribly during those last days. Another person wrote about a friend who had rejected allopathic cancer treatment, opting instead for an alternative approach. He felt great on this natural path and enjoyed a good quality of life until he felt unwell about a year later, when the cancer was found to have spread. He died within a week. So which of the two cancer patients had made the right decision? There’s no simple answer to this. After all, both ultimately passed away. However, the fact that one enjoyed a better quality of life is important.

I had a friend called Lesley once. She developed breast cancer when she was in her late thirties. She had tremendous faith in God’s healing, so she refused all conventional medical treatment when she was diagnosed. She went on to follow an alternative cancer treatment approach which included eating healthily and taking health supplements. Within two years, the cancer spread down her body to her hips and her legs. It ate away at the bone and walking became difficult for her. Reluctantly, she agreed to chemotherapy but rejected surgery, as she did not want her body to be mutilated. The chemotherapy caused her a great deal of suffering, but the cancer retreated and she went into remission. Her immune system had been severely weakened, though. That Christmas season, she left her home for a rare outing and contracted flu. Shortly thereafter, she was found in the toilet, dead. Officially, it was recorded that the flu had caused her demise, not the cancer or the toxic and aggressive conventional cancer treatment.

What to do, what path to take – there’s no easy answer. I can’t say that I always know for sure that I’m doing the right thing to try to keep breast cancer at bay, so what helps me decide? Mostly it’s whether I have a sense of peace. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for me to follow something through if I don’t have that. I don’t know how long I’ll live – nobody does – but as long as I do, I need to feel comfortable with myself. Nobody else can live in my body but me, and no-one can experience what I do.