An apple a day keeps cancer away? What to eat when you have cancer.

October 5, 2011

roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar - yum!

Cancer bursts into our lives ripping away any illusion of  control we though we had in this world.  Suddenly, we find ourselves full of questions and vulnerable to all sorts of “curative” advice – we are willing to do anything to live.  From prayers to potions to Pilates  to what’s on our plates, we plead, Will this be what heals me?”   

Make no mistake about it, our friends and family love us and every healing suggestion they bring is brought with love.  They feel just as powerless against our cancer as we do.  How simple it would be if we could just find the right magic [sprouted, organic] bean so that our cancer would be cured.  Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.  While there is no cure for cancer, there are things we can do to fight this killer disease.  For many of us, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are the first weapons of choice.  Prescription drugs soon follow.  Meanwhile, outside the walls of traditional medicine, we start to dabble with remedies of our own.  Food and supplements serve as powerful weapons in our “Kill Cancer” arsenal.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not a member of the emailing forwarding “You got cancer from drinking out of plastic water bottles” crowd.  I’m also not one to spend $99.95 (plus shipping and handling) on exotic herbal pills offered on late night t.v. infomercials. More likely than not, you can find me sipping a Diet Pepsi or sneaking a cookie instead of juicing a beet/broccoli smoothie. However, I do live in one of the health food Meccas of the United States and did consult with a local dietician post- treatment to get some diet advice. She put together a list of the some of the best anti-cancer foods.  I’m not saying if you only eat these things, you will cure your cancer. And I’m not saying that if you don’t eat these things, your cancer will spread.  What I am willing to say is that these foods are good for you and some have powerful healing properties.  Bottom line?  They can’t hurt and some of these things actually taste good too!

Food ideas from Nutri-Physique, Pam Vagnieres, Boulder, Colorado

  1. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brocco-sprouts, watercress, cauliflower, collards, Brussel sprouts, kale, turnips, radish, arugla, bok chok, rutabga, cabbage…)
  2. Green Tea (Brassica and organic powdered green, Tea Tech)
  3. Berries
  4. Citrus (use the zest)
  5. Asian Mushrooms (shiitake, maitake….)
  6. Flax seeds (fresh ground organic)
  7. Nuts and Seeds (especially Brazil nuts, organic and raw, no peanuts)
  8. Garlic (crushed and raw)
  9. Dark Leafy Greens (kale, collard, mustard greens…)
  10. Legumes
  11. Pomegranates
  12. Dark chocolate (oh yeah! 70% and greater)
  13. Miso soup (yum!)
  14. Wild fish, organic grass-fed lean beef, lamb or buffalo, organic eggs and poultry
  15. Organic veggies (lightly steamed or juiced – especially brassicas, beets and artichokes)
  16. Sea vegetables
  17. Green drinks
  18. Whey protein powders (only processed at low temp)
  19. Pineapple stem
  20. Tomatoes cooked in olive oil
  21. Umeboshi and kuzu 
  22. Organic raw Kombucha tea
  23. Olive, avocado or coconut oil (and coconut milk)
  24. Spices (garlic, lemon grass, cumin, ginger, cayenne, oregano, tumeric, citrus peels, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, black peper)
  25. No sugar of any form (you may have stevia or xylitol)

Pam concludes her list with, “Don’t forget to get some fresh air, sunshine, walk, hike, swim, bike, and lift a few light weights to stay strong.  Most importantly, do whatever it takes to lift your heart and spirits and surround yourself with love!”

As a mother with four years under my belt living with Stage 3c breast cancer, I’ll add in my own words, “Do whatever it takes to lift your heart and spirits and surround yourself with love even if it means having the occasional slice of birthday cake or celebratory glass of champagne.”  Did I say champagne?  I meant Kombucha tea! 😉 Here’s to living well – whether we have cancer or not.

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just slightly below par (by laurie)

September 15, 2011

On the morning of September 7, I had an appointment with my oncologist. I had confirmed that we would do it over the phone and kept my phone handy to await is his call.

 At 11:00, the nurse who works with Dr. G. called to say that I would be hearing him before the end of the afternoon, thus giving me several hours to work myself into a state of high anxiety. I’d had an echocardiogram and two CT scans on August 29 and I knew that my doc would have the results.

I had no reason (other than history) to believe that the CTs would reveal anything bad and I’d managed to pretty much forget about the results until the day I was to receive them. On that day, I became a nervous wreck. I jumped every time the phone rang and when the call I’d been waiting for finally came through at around 5pm, I was a mess.

My oncologist apologized for the delay, and, as always when I hear his voice, my annoyance and anxiety dissolved. He told me that both CTs were fine. I have lots of scarring on my liver (from the cancer) and a little scaring on my lungs (from the radiation) but that there was no sign of cancer anywhere.

Excellent news.

Then I asked about the echo, which surprised Dr. G. He didn’t have the results in front of him and had to go look them up. When he did, he sounded a bit taken aback.

My ejection fraction is at 48%. The normal range starts at 55%, so I’m really just below that but it’s enough of a concern to send me to a cardiologist and to cancel next week’s treatment.

My concern is not that there is permanent heart damage (although it’s a bit freaky to think that my poor heart is a bit over-stressed) because Herceptin damage is usually reversible. My fear is the length of time it will take my heart to bounce back and what my treatment options are in the interim. And what if the toxicity has built up to a sufficient level that long term treatment with Herceptin is no longer viable?

This drug has been my magic potion, the one I credit with my remission and the fact that I’m here today. I’m not ready to think about giving it up.

And I don’t have to. Not yet. Going to try and save all my questions for the cardiologist and, in the interim, carry on with my happy, busy life.

Update:  I have an appointment with a cardio-oncologist on October 3rd.

Cross posted from Not Just About Cancer.


A Cancer Survivor’s ABC’s — according to Judy

July 27, 2011

Help me finish my ABC’s. I first just had one word for each letter, but that didn’t seem like enough so I’m trying to include three words for each letter. Some, alas, only have one or two. Those sad little letters need more words.
________________________________________________________________

A is for Arthritis, Arimidex, and _________
B is for Bills, Breasts, and Biopsies
C is for Chemotherapy, Cancer, and Care
D is for Doctors, Denial, and _________
E is for Energy, Emotions, and _________
F is for Faith, Fear, and Family
G is for Gratitude, _________, and _________
H is for Hope, Hospitals, and Health
I is for Inflammatory (Breast Cancer), Infections, and Injections
J is for Joy, Journals, and Judy 🙂
K is for Kids, _________, and _________
L is for Lymphedema, Leukemia, and Legacy
M is for Mastectomy, Mothers, and Menopause
N is for Nausea, Neuropathy, and Neutropenia
O is for Office (Doctor’s), Oopherectomy, and Ovarian
P is for Port, Pain, and Patient
Q is for Quiet, _________, and _________
R is for Radiation, Rest, and Recovery
S is for Surgery, Support, and Survival
T is for Tests, Trials, and _________
U is for Uncertainty, Understanding, and _________
V is for Vitamins, _________, and _________
W is for Warrior, Weary, and _________
X is for Xeloda, _________, and _________
Y is for You, _________, and _________
Z is for Zofran, Zest, and _________

_____________________________________________
Cross-posted to Just Enjoy Him.


Too Moody For This

June 4, 2011

Last night my 12-year-old daughter got in trouble with her father and he just barely raised his voice at her.  Her response to this was to look at him and say, do not yell at me.  I wasn’t sure if my husband’s head was going to explode or not…it was touch and go there for a while.  My reaction, on the other hand, was to cry.  This has been happening more and more often lately.  I went to the grocery store and my husband told me I bought the wrong kind of cheese – I could feel my chin quivering and the tears forming in my eyes.

I’m turning 42 this month.  I know what menopause feels like, because I had the honor of going through it when I went through chemo.  Not only is it my birthday this month, but it’s also my 2 year cancer free anniversary – which means it’s been two years since I’ve had a hot flash or a major mood swing.  So, ok, I’m going through menopause, right?  Am I just starting menopause at the ripe old age of 42?  Is this a carry over from chemo?  Is it cancer?  Is it cancer? Is it cancer?  I get so tired of thinking that. 

 I see my oncologist every 4 months now.  It’s been 5 months since my last appointment.  Putting off going to the doctor doesn’t change what the outcome is going to be.  Intellectually I know this.  When they found the lump in my breast, they told me to trust them, because it was probably nothing.  Boy, were they wrong that time.  If I hear that again this time, I think my head will explode.


Five Years…by mary beth volpini

April 28, 2011

Five years ago this morning I heard those dreadful words… “You have Breast Cancer”. My world stopped and I am sure I was walking around with what I call the “deer in the headlights” look for quite a while. I gathered all of the information I could… I made some hard decisions….I did what the doctors told me to do. I have reached some of the milestones that my doctors said were important… One year of survivorship, two years of survivorship and now five years of survivorship. Is it a guarantee that my cancer will not come back? NO …no one can give those guarantees, but today I am not going to think about that. I am going to celebrate that I have reached this milestone.

On Monday, I went in for my yearly breast MRI. I tried to cheat and make the appointment right after that with my breast surgeon… hoping that she would be able to read the results right then. She did try, but not all of the information was available. But she is a woman too and she knows how we worry. She did her physical exam and took a preliminary look at the MRI results and said she was “happy“ . Yesterday I received a message from her office, it was “good news, call us back“. The nurse said “Dr. Police is happy we will see you in a year“…well if Dr. Police is happy then mb is happy!

So I will raise my glass… or cookie in my case and take a bite out of life for as long as I can!

cross-posted at marybethvolpini


mixed. but good. i think. (by Laurie)

March 10, 2011

And I’m not talking about the weather, which while it has been mixed, has been pretty consistently bad for the last twenty four hours. We had a big dump of snow (the photo above was taken from my front door), followed by freezing rain, which will be followed by ordinary rain.
Good thing I just bought rain boots.

My GP called me last week to let me know the results of my endoscopy (I won’t get in to see the gastroenterologist until March 21st). All my results were negative – no celiac, no bacterial infection, no cancer. It’s all good.

Then I talked to my oncologist on Friday. We discussed my scope results and my digestive symptoms (diarrhea, heartburn, abdominal pain). He expressed surprised that I was still feeling lousy on Friday after a Tuesday treatment. I told him that my recovery time had gone from four to six days and that last round, I’d felt sick for a week (this ended up being the case this time, too).

Then my oncologist said, “It’s time to take a break.”

I was floored.

I had been hoping to hear these words for months (years even) but when I finally did, I definitely had a mixed reaction. I’m being taken off the chemotherapy not because I’ve been in remission for a while (although I have) but because the chemo has started to take too big a toll on my body.

As Dr. G. said, “You can’t stay on vinorelbine forever.”
I’m going to continue with the Herceptin but take a break from the chemo for at least three months. Herceptin is also known to induce flu-like symptoms but I don’t think it has the lasting toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. I’m likely to bounce back more quickly after treatments.

So we’ll see what happens. There are no guarantees of anything and no promises. Every change involves risk.

But the next few months will be devoted to healing.


Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.


Neutropenia and motherhood

February 23, 2011

Neutropenia is a common but yucky side effect that affects about half of cancer patients on chemotherapy or treatment with a biological agent (like Nexavar).  When a cancer patient is neutropenic, it means that her white blood cell count is low and she is much more suceptible to infection.  She is given direction to avoid possible sources of infection, to stay away from crowds, to wash hands and insist that others wash hands before coming into contact with her, and to change her diet to avoid the risk of infection from food. 

All foods must be freshly cooked.  None can come from restaurants or uncontrolled sources.  Bread must be bagged and not homemade.  Cutting boards must be changed between preparation of meats and other foods.  No deli meat.  No deli cheese.  No hand-packed or soft ice cream or froyo.  No soft cheese.  No popcorn.  Nothing from a bakery.  No raw veggies, fresh fruits, except those with a very thick skin (oranges and bananas), or dried fruits.  No spices, salad bars, buffets, or restaurants.

I’m pretty sure the guidelines would say no contact with little children who bring home infections from preschool, but what can I do?  I have two who need me, and one is home sick today.

Originally posted at Toddler Planet, February 22, 2011