What comes next?

Yesterday morning I visited a clinic in Ottawa that combines medical practices with alternative therapies. For me this concept is far from radical; my parents’ practices involve chiropractic, naturopathic, holistic, and intuitive healing approaches. I grew up learning about craniosacral therapy and homeopathic medicine and how emotions effect our bodies. But this clinic does offer something different: intravenous vitamin C.

From what I’ve researched there’s been evidence showing that intravenous vitamin C can help reduce tumours in the body. Apparently the vitamin C turns into hydrogen peroxide and somehow (can’t remember how, but feel free to look this up if you like) cancer cells fail in that environment. Anyhow, that is the idea. So yesterday we (Marcelle and I) hoped to learn more about this option and see whether I’d be eligible for treatment. I don’t have a tumour in my body, but do I really have to wait until one appears before trying to kill more cancer cells?

After a really long ‘taking of the history’ (about 30 minutes worth of questions where a man stared at his computer and typed in my answers) we met the doctor. He seems a competent fellow.

“First thing, you have to give up gluten,” he tells me. Sigh. Further enforcement that I can no longer eat my pizzas, langos, or molasses cookies from Starbucks. But Mom (Marcelle) has been telling me this all along. Fair enough – during chemo I ate everything and anything, but now that it’s over my diet needs to adapt.

He then proceeded to question why cancer appeared in my body. He has five areas that might cause illness: physical trauma (surgeries, injuries etc), emotional trauma (any big stessors in the past?), infections (do you wake up feeling achy, do you get chills unexpectedly?), toxicity (have you been around any factories lately?), and fifth – the category he thinks I fall into – immune system problems.

And maybe we should add genetics, which can give one  a predisposition to cancer . . .  although, that cancer still needs to be activated, so maybe the question here would be: what triggered your cancer gene to wake up?

Anyhow, why immune system problems? Well I get allergies like crazy, I may have had chicken pox twice, and clearly my immune system wasn’t working properly when it failed to kill those original cancer cells forming in my breast.

Interesting aside: cancer cells are often forming in our body, but a tip-top immune system destorys these rude buggers before they become a problem.

And here is something strange – for about a year before my cancer I had terrible allergies. Frankly, I should have left my apartment ages ago, but the location and rent are both excellent. So I tolerated the allergies. But after my mastectomy those allergies disappeared for months, only returning recently. Was it the strangely dry summer? Was is the shock to my body? Was it because the cancer was gone? Who knows. All I can say is that allergies have always been a problem, and never ever would I have connected them to cancer. In fact, I’d once heard that people with allergies were less likely to get cancer because they react so easily. However, on the other hand (and now I’m rambling) maybe an overworked immune system begins to tire eventually and miss important stuff.

Anyhow, in order to look at what may have caused my cancer he suggested the following (much of which my parents have already suggested, and in some cases done)

First, some tests to check what caused the cancer:

Allergy testing – what foods do I react to?

Hormones – what type of estrogen does my body produce?

Well, this is where Marcelle, my mom, steps in: we’re going to wait on the allergy testing for my body to recover from the chemotherapy. At the moment, I’m likely more reactive to all kinds of things.  And as for hormones, I’ve already had my estrogen tested. Shame I didn’t’ have it tested WAYYYYY earlier, because one of my estrogens – 4-Hydroxestrone (4-OHE 1), which apparently has been connected to cancer development, is really high. Like, really high. It would have been nice to catch that earlier (i.e. before the cancer developed).

But good news: it’s a baseline for me to compare against in the future. We’re working on correcting my estrogen, and so in the future I’ll get tested again and see if the bad stuff has been reduced.

Next: addressing the cancer at hand.

He had a lot of ideas, and I thought, ‘this is good, it’s great to be able to keep fighting even after the treatment has finished.’ And true, Mom already has me doing much of this stuff (even though I didn’t know it) but I think it might be useful to write it down here in case anyone wants to bring it up with their doctor (or their naturopath, or doctor who focuses on alternative therapies, etc).

Read “Anti-Cancer” –  Haven’t read this, can’t tell you if it’s any good. However, the doctor yesterday thought it was absolutely worth a read. I wonder if my library carries the title?

Start exercising – Easier said than done following chemotherapy, but certainly a good idea. I’m starting with Just Dance and will hopefully begin walking when I’m home – then soon Yoga and maybe swimming. We’ll see.

Take anti-oxidants. He gave me some specific ones, though I cannot quite remember why – apparently it will help with my liver, damaged nerves (fingers are still messed up) and address the toxins in the body. How this is specifically cancer-related is a bit confusing to me.

Medicinal mushrooms. Oh man! I just hate mushrooms – but apparently they’re great for fighting cancer. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told to increase my mushrooms. Mind you, he said it might interfere with the tamoxifem, so it was then crossed off the list. However, if I wasn’t taking Tamoxifen, I’d consider these ‘medicinal mushrooms’.

Eat brassica vegetables – this is something my mother-in-law pointed out to me ages ago. Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, etc. Apparently they’re great for reducing the bad estrogen that is so outrageously high in my body.

Melatonin. I don’t know the exact story behind this one. Apparently this is something we produce in our sleep, and a lack of it has been related to cancer. Anyhow, he suggested to take one before falling asleep each night. It’s not a sleeping pill, but does induce deeper rest.

Mistletoe shots. Ewww, more needles. Apparently there is evidence that this can help, even though it’s not a shot any oncologist has mentioned to me.  I want to look into this more before deciding whether or not to move forward.

Intravenous vitamin C – the entire reason for my presence at this clinic, because honestly my parents are aware of all of the above for fighting cancer. Apparently they administer this treatment and tumours can (not always, but can) shrink. However because I don’t have a tumour it seems slightly unclear about how he would proceed.

Now here is the thing. It’s great to have these lists and all the ideas for fighting. After the treatment I think – apart from tamoxifem, because my cancer was estrogen positive – we patients are kicked out of the nest and expected to fly. “Go forth into the world, my patients, and live!” (i.e. keep being alive, and then in five years if no reoccurrence has developed you are cured! Yay!)

BUT regardless of this list with proactive initiatives, I’m still exhausted. It is EXHAUSTING to navigate through the shock, the coping, the chemo, the therapy and then, of course, the suspense. Anyone who has been sick can understand – and I do not only mean cancer, but the kind of sick that kicks your ass and slaps you down.

And frankly, without my parents and husband pushing me along –getting me these tests, checking on my diet, encouraging me to exercise, helping me cope with stress – all this ‘fight fight fight’ would deflate into ‘sleep sleep sleep’. Lucky for me that my parents are health care practitioners, lucky for me that my brother is an acupuncturist, lucky for me that I have people who know what to do next.

But if I didn’t have these incredible resources, it’d be worth seeking them out. After all, I’m only 28 years old  – there’s a whole life ahead of me and I don’t want to miss a thing.

What the doctor told me yesterday helped solidify the efforts that my parents have all along been promoting. Therefore, it was a worthwhile visit. After all, it isn’t instinctual for a kid to listen to their mom and dad. Doctors yes, parents . . . not so easy.

One more thing for the list (to cope with the fall out of chemo, and something that’s unique to my parents because this doctor didn’t mention it at all): detox. That’ll be coming up soon, but not until the radiotherapy is done.

Anyhow, it was a really interesting visit.

* Another thing to consider, did birth control play a role in my getting cancer? I was on the thing for seven years, it’s connected to my hormones . . . funny the topic didn’t arise during my consultation.  Anyhow, it’s done with now, but I’m still curious. I guess there will always be questions.

Better than 50%

On special request from my grandmother, Lulu, I will attempt to write more often.

alternative cancer treatmentShe put it to me quite nicely yesterday: “I don’t want to bother you, but I worry!”

Well don’t worry Lulu, because I am fine – Je suis tres bien aujourd’hui. J’ai travaille avec ma mere pour etre “okay” avec ma chimio, j’ai aussi commence a faire un menu pour que Zsolt puisse me faire de la nourriture quand je suis fatigue* – and I am writing.

I was just saying to my mother the other day, ‘Who are these people coping well with chemo?’ because I hear of them, but haven’t actually met any of them – nor have I see their blogs online.  So, that started the google search mission. Both she and Zsolt have managed to find stories where people cope with the treatment and do not suffer any treacherous side effects. Mind you, each chemo approach is different depending on the cancer. For instance, one lady had chemo every three to four weeks. I’ll be having chemo every two weeks, later followed by every week. However, I’m trying to ignore that side of their good news and focus on the positive stuff – people cope well, and are able to carry on with their lives.

And on that note, Mom found an interesting website. There was a little boy – three years old – who was diagnosed with a cancer that has a survival rate of about 3%. Now that’s scary. But his parents took it upon themselves to give him every fighting chance possible. Years later he is cancer free. His dad ensured that every possible option was explored – and while there was probably an element of miracle in his great recovery – watching this father speak was a source of inspiration for alternative ways I can better prepare and protect my body**.

But you see, it’s not that I want to turn away from the medical advice provided. The doctors I have worked with are very experienced, specialize in breast care, and know what they know. So that isn’t it. I’m still having the chemo. I’m still having the radiation. I’m still doing the hormones. But . . . I still want to do more. I want better than 50%.

A long time ago I worked for PWC, and while working there – during a purge of office clutter and clean up – I acquired several pads of PWC note paper. On every page of this notepad it reads: ‘Have I explored every angle?’

Apart from loving to have that sweet copywriting opportunity, I admire the statement.

Have I explored every angle? Not yet, but I’m trying. Today I went to the acupuncturist. In a few weeks I’ll start treatments. A while back my breast was removed. In the meanwhile I’m taking supplements. On top of that I’m lessening estrogen-encouraging food in my diet. Tomorrow I’m going to the shop and buying glass containers to replace my plastic Tupperware (though I do love my Tupperware). Tonight I’ll try to meditate. And all the while my air filter is running, getting rid of mould and mite crap from the air.

Why not fight from every angle, what’s so wrong about that? Nothing.  Not a thing.  Nada.

So, that’s encouraging.  🙂

* Thanks for translating, Mom.

** Watch Bobby’s father describe their efforts to beat cancer and reduce the side effects of chemo treatments. It’s broken into parts. Click here for Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four. You can also visit their website, where proceeds go toward supporting other children in a similar situation: http://www.bobbyshealthyshop.com/