Make Not-Getting-Cancer a Hobby
Written by Deborah Percival on behalf of a friend.
If you think staying healthy is complicated, try getting cancer. Suddenly, carving out time to exercise and finding money to buy organic food looks like a walk in the park. Instantly, your spouse, also in shock, has to take on more tasks and provide more emotional support. Your job suffers. You can’t tell your elderly mom – it might kill her. You see the worry on your friends’ faces. You’re scared. And you are about to have appointments every single day.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. I was shocked. Until I got that call, I would have told you I was pretty darn healthy (ok, I did not exercise enough). You could have knocked me over with a feather when I got the diagnosis. In the time I’ve spent in medical appointments over the past three months, I could have gone to the gym 3 days a week for six months. And I’m not even half-way through.
And what appointments they are! Biopsies, surgery, radiation. And the money! More than enough to purchase organic vegetables and fruits for the neighborhood and more.
My doctor told me the lump in my breast wouldn’t have been found in a mammogram or a thermogram. And she was right – I’d had both and had a clean bill of health! That’s what technology told me, and I relied on technology! I almost never did breast self exams (BSEs). Lucky for me that I did one when I did – the tumor was stage one. My prognosis is good. I am SO lucky. The appointments, the money, the terror and the disappointment could have been so much worse.
Do Your Breast Self Exams – Women AND Men
I have been to the cancer centers in Plainville and Avon numerous times now, and I have seen FAR TOO MANY people who were not so lucky. I wish you could see their faces and their families. I’m writing this in hopes that I convince readers to live right, and to regularly, religiously, do BSEs – women and men.
Mammography and Thermography Miss Up To 50% of Breast Cancers
According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, mammography misses 16% to 30% percent of breast cancers. Thermography reportedly misses between 9 and 50%.
Approximately 20% of the time, breast cancers are found by physical examination. Some doctors cite a 2008 study that states that BSEs cause unnecessary biopsies! IGNORE THEM! Many doctors, including my wonderful surgeon, and numerous organizations, including breastcancer.org, insist that BSE is an essential screening strategy, and SO DO I!! If you have a false positive that results in a biopsy, you’ve wasted a few hours, and had about 3 minutes of unpleasantness, and you’ll be a little sore for a week.
Find a lump. Go to your family doctor. Go to the radiologist. Maybe twice. Go to your family doctor again. Pick a surgeon. Get a biopsy. Maybe two. Meet with ‘your team’ a few times. Go to the dentist, because dental procedures are a no-go after some cancer treatments. Go to the hospital for surgery. Come home and recuperate. Go to radiation. Every day for probably 4 to 8 weeks. If you need chemo, add a once-a-week, appointment to have poison injected, for several hours, through an IV into your hand or wrist, or perhaps you’ll have a catheter port implanted in your chest, eliminating the need to find a suitable vein at each treatment. Or maybe you’ll get a chemo pill with a list of very undesirable side-effects, including cancer recurrence (no kidding) and sudden death. And then of course there are the meds that minimize the side-effects of nausea, anxiety, and inflammation. With chemo (and sometimes with radiation) comes hair loss and wig and/ or hat shopping if you want to avoid the sorry stares.
Meet with your naturopathic doctor. Integrate the recommendations as best you can, and decide what you are willing and not willing to do. THIS IS HARD. This is why you should make cancer a hobby now.
Pick an oncologist you like; you’ll be with her/ him for the rest of your life, and if you are lucky, that will be a long time.
Planning a Family?
If you are hoping to have a family, you’ll be faced with impossible decisions – decisions that may make having a family difficult if not out of the question, even if your prognosis is good.
Prevention – Make Cancer a Hobby NOW!
You know a lot of the things you should do, and you probably do a lot of them. I did a lot of them!
Eat at least five servings of organic (which inherently means non-GMO, too) fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) a day, locally sourced/ in season if possible, especially cruciferous and bitter veggies. Cut all processed foods. Mind your weight. Don’t smoke, if you eat meat get grass fed and finished, pasture-raised, if possible, and don’t grill it. (Read Animal Liberation). Make your own cleaners and buy organic cosmetics and natural deodorants. Get an organic pillow for your bed. Never use plastic in the microwave (or skip microwaving all together!) Test your water. Know your families health history – get it together now – both sides, as back as far as anyone can remember. If something repeats (lots of cancer or heart attacks in your history) read all you can about prevention.
Eat an organic apple and raw carrots every day. Get pH strips and use them. Take curcumin and reishi mushroom supplements. Eat white mushrooms as often as possible. Keep learning and exploring. Find doctors who care about your health, and who give you advice, even when you don’t ask for it. If you are worried about breast cancer, and maybe everyone should be, I like Dr. Mercola’s advice: Google “Mercola top tips to reduce your breast cancer risk.”
Make sure you have good insurance. Buy a good juicer.
Read books on cancer treatments. Figure out what’s available and what you believe in. Because once you get the diagnosis, you are in the storm. Learning to work in the rain is hard. There’s no time.
Wonderful Surgeons, Doctors and Nurses
Every single caretaker I have met has been not just kind, but capable and downright lovable. The field seems to be full of skilled, compassionate people. Another positive note is that there is a lot of information on the web (but it takes time to find it). And there are many many books. Read as many as you can. Your knowledge will assuredly help someone, and maybe that someone will be you (I hope not).
Amazingly, I’ve found that there is debate about what is safe to do during radiation. I want to take antioxidant supplements, but there is concern among my healthcare providers that antioxidants might reduce the effectiveness of the radiation. It is OK, I’ve been told, to eat antioxidant-rich foods though, so I do that. Based on my research, I plan to argue with them about the supplements, as well.
What I currently do is put maca in my morning smoothies for energy. I do arm exercises to try to avoid lymphodema. During radiation, I visualize my healthy cells popping up tiny umbrellas to protect themselves, while cancer cells lay out on their beach towels! Right before radiation, I visualize my skin temporarily turning to mesh, to let the radiation pass through (radiation causes the breast to shrink, become harder, darker, and leathery. Lovely. My own built in catcher’s mitt.)
Calendula lotion is recommended; I keep it in my purse and schmear it on as soon as I get back in the dressing room after radiation. I also use other lotions throughout the day, including aloe vera and Medicine Mama’s Bee Magic.
I take 600 mg of silymarin, a probiotic, and 20 mg of melatonin daily. I have a spoonful of Nature’s Way organic raw coconut and a spoonful of chawanprash daily. (Garden of Light in Avon carries chawnaprash – I haven’t checked Whole Foods.) I have a spoonful of honey before radiation, another spoonful as soon as I get home, and a third spoonful 6 hours later. I also have a spoonful of manuka honey a day. I eat a lot of protein (mostly beans).
I meditate most days – sometimes for just a few minutes but I do it. I will forever-more spring for reishi mushroom capsules (which might have prevented it if I’d taken them all along, FYI). I drink organic green tea with lemon.
I exercise (brisk walking usually) 30 minutes most days, and when I can possibly make time I have a Epsom salt lukewarm bath, with baking soda and organic lavender essential oil. And I do oil pulling.
There are so many more therapies – I plan to explore them and hope you will, too. One interesting site is http://www.lifeextension.com/Protocols/Cancer/Radiation-Therapy/Page-07.
I’m looking into the following alternative therapies, and will run them by my doctor. Pentoxifylline, EFAs, taurine and L-arginine; gauze soaked in 10 percent N-acetylcysteine; vitamins A, C and E, N-acetylcysteine; glutamine, and glutathione; CoQ10 (200 mg); Sodium selenite; and selenium.
I hope you’ll tell your sisters – and your brothers – to do their BSEs!
I pray you never have to go through any of this, but if you do, please work with your doctors and caregivers, ask every question you can think of, and do your own research. Every case is different, every doctor is different, and new information comes on-line every day.
Because my family has decided it is best not to tell my parents about this diagnosis, I am writing this anonymously. However, if you have questions, write to Natural Nutmeg, and I will do my best to answer.
Deborah Percival happily served as editor of Natural Nutmeg for six years, and also wrote the Natural Planet column for several years. She has decades of experience in strategic communications, having worked at advertising agencies, owning her own ad agency for 14 years, and now working for clients whose missions dovetail with her own. She is especially interested in promoting natural health, healing the planet, advancing women’s causes, and defending animal’s rights. She can be reached at 860-677-5076 or at email@example.com.