Macmillan produced a report recently stating that many cancers once considered common in old age are now being seen increasingly in the middle aged. According to Cancer Research 61,000 people in Britain aged between 40 and 59 are diagnosed with cancer every year. All in all, 4 out of 10 of us in the UK will get cancer and some point in our lives. The one in three figure of a decade ago was scary enough but this is heading for one in every two.
So far, so depressing….
But one way to help yourself be the right side of this statistical roulette wheel is very do-able. It is simply to change your diet. Now you might say that my timing is really dodgy. Blogging about a healthy diet with the food-fest of the year coming up on December 25th? Is she mad?
But hang on…there are ways to have a healthier Christmas dinner and still not miss out too much. For example, Dr. Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer, A New Way of Life, suggests the following in his “food rules”. (There are many rules, but I have picked out the ones that most relate to our annual jamboree.) His words appear in green.
1. “Mix and match your vegetables: Vary the vegetables you eat from one meal to the next, or mix them together – broccoli is an effective anticancer food, and is even more effective when combined with tomato sauce, onions or garlic. Get in the habit of adding onions, garlic or leeks to all your dishes as you cook.” We can do that!!! The beloved sprout is a brilliant anti-cancer vegetable and de rigueur on the Christmas plate.
2. “Go organic: Choose organic foods whenever possible, but remember it’s always better to eat broccoli that’s been exposed to pesticide than to not eat broccoli at all (the same applies to any other anticancer vegetable)”. Tick for Christmas! (And of course, you can get an organic turkey too).
3. “Spice it up: Add turmeric (with black pepper) when cooking (delicious in salad dressings!). This yellow spice is the most powerful natural anti-inflammatory agent. Remember to add Mediterranean herbs to your food: thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, mint, etc. They don’t just add flavor, they can also help reduce the growth of cancer cells.” (I’m not the best cook, but I reckon you could chuck some of this stuff around the turkey? Good cooks please feel free to respond).
5. “Skip the potato: Potatoes raise blood sugar, which can feed inflammation and cancer growth. They also contain high levels of pesticide residue (to the point that most potato farmers I know don’t eat their own grown potatoes)”. OK, this is where I would have to deviate from Mr Servan-Schreiber’s good advice. Christmas dinner without roast spuds – sorry, I just don’t want to do that. I’ll get back to restricting carbs on Boxing Day.
(Oh, and remember there are health benefits to single glass of good red wine. As for the demon sugar – after a massive first course my family always used to serve fruit salad for pud, which never felt like deprivation. In fact it was quite a relief to have something light).
There’s more rules I could quote, but these are the ones I picked out for Christmas. However, I did want to keep in his Number 12: “Make room for exceptions. What matters is what you do on a daily basis, not the occasional treat.”
Have a Happy Christmas.
I am fascinated by the power of thought. There is more and more evidence of how we are connected (eg Lynne McTaggart’s new book, The Bond) and how our thoughts can impact others. This makes me ponder on prayer (a prayer is a thought after all) and its power in healing cancer.
There is so much to say on this subject, but for starters I want to consider the impact of prayer at its simplest level – when we pray for ourselves (regardless of religious persuasion or lack thereof).
The act of prayer requires the pray-er to become quiet, release tension and let go of stress. This in itself has a positive physiological effect. Dr James Le Fanu, medical correspondent in the Daily Telegraph describes an extraordinary piece of research by Professor Luciano Bernardi of the University of Padua. “There is a marked similarity in the physiological effects of chanted yoga mantras and the repetitive Latin of the Rosary Prayer, Ave Maria. … Surprisingly, they have a common thread, with the Rosary’s strong repetitive element having been introduced to Europe by the Crusaders who took it from the Arabs, who had in turn borrowed it from the Tibetan monks and yoga masters of India. Professor Bernardi found that the reciting of the Rosary and yoga mantras slows the respiratory rate to six breaths a minute, which coincides with the rhythmic oscillation of nervous impulses controlling the heart rate. This synchronicity of respiratory and heart rates boosts oxygen in the blood, while improving circulation to the brain.”
Cancer cells don’t like oxygen, so this has got to be worth doing.
More on the power of our thinking / praying / sending Light in future blogs.
Ignorance is definitely not bliss when it comes to a cancer diagnosis. If you don’t know that, for example, lifestyle is the most significant determining factor in getting cancer, then how can you know how to address it?
Hence, I am a big fan of reading everything and anything on the subject. And I thought it might be helpful to pass on some of my best reads.
Please do add your own favourites.
Anti-Cancer – a new way of life by David Servan-Schreiber. The author is a physician himself who has also recovered from cancer. A huge amount of research has gone into this book and it is packed with scientific references for his suggestions on everything from diet to holistic practices.
The Rainbow Diet by Chris Woollams. Now in its second edition – masses of diet information.
Cancer as a Turning Point – Lawrence Le Shan. This has been in print since 1989, and is an enduring classic – an insightful and compassionate exploration of all the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of a cancer diagnosis. His self-described method is using “psychological change to mobilize the compromised immune system”.
Grace and Grit by Ken Wilber. An autobiographical account written by philosopher Wilber and his wife, Treya, who had breast cancer. A huge book, incredibly moving and informative as Treya works to heal herself. Although she does ultimately die, the book is not gloomy in any way. I have read this book at least seven times for the insights it holds into thinking about and experiencing cancer – from the point of view of the person who is ill, but also from the one closest to them.
Embrace, Release, Heal by Leigh Fortson. A great survivor’s story with excerpts from some of today’s foremost consciousness teachers and writers, including experts in psychoneuroimmunology and the power of faith.
And I couldn’t do a cancer book list without my own book! So here it is:
Overcoming Cancer: 24 true stories of triumph and hope, edited by Ginny Fraser. Twenty four inspiring recovery stories that will bring hope and a sense of possibility to anyone with cancer.
I had a tooth out yesterday. It was great! It didn’t hurt at all and was really quick and such a relief that my weeks of anxiety and pain were over. Not quite sure why I sang (well, ahhhed) The Farmer’s in his Den throughout – loudly enough, apparently, for the waiting room to hear. But anyway – it’s out and I’m happy.
The cancer connection is that initially I was offered a root canal, but on checking this out discovered there is a potentially serious impact on the immune system – because the inside of the tooth is dead and all the cavity is completely filled, it becomes a perfect breeding ground and safe haven for microbes (viruses, yeasts, moulds, fungus and bacteria) and the immune system can’t get to them because they are cut off from the blood supply.
The blood can’t get in but they can get out. Every now and again they go out on a trip around the system and re-infect other parts of the body, really challenging the immune system. Dr Thomas Rau, who ran a Swiss cancer clinic called Paracelsus for many years, discovered that of 150 women at his clinic who were treated for breast cancer 147 of them had “one or more root canal teeth on the same meridian as the breast cancer”.
Weston Price started this research back in 1920. He would take a person who had had a heart attack, take out the tooth with the root canal, take a little segment of it, put it under the skin of a rabbit. In about 10 days that rabbit would die of a heart attack. And you could take it out and put it under the skin of another rabbit, and in 10 days he would die of a heart attack……he would do this to 30 rabbits and every one of them in 97% of the cases would die of heart disease. Horrid for the rabbits but helped me decide I didn’t want one in my mouth.
This blog contains unashamed, unadulterated hero-worship … for the integrative doctor who played such a massive role in my recovery. I had lunch with him last week – in a fabulous Spanish restaurant and we ate and drank well.
He is a genius. And for someone who has described himself “socially autistic” he is bloody good company. His name is Dr Etienne Callebout and he is incredibly qualified – as a medical doctor, in homeopathy, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, metabolic typing, neural therapy and loads more. He is very successful at helping people get better from cancer. When he isn’t practising in the Hale Clinic in London he travels around the world studying other approaches to health. He is totally eclectic and will learn from experts in institutions like MD Anderson in Texas or just as likely a shaman – he is a glutton for medical knowledge. Which is fab for people like me.
But maybe what might interest readers who don’t have a personal interest in cancer is the fact that he also works in regenerative medicine. It grew out of the illness-related research but is basically an anti-ageing programme. We can slap on all the fancy creams we want but unless we address the internal imbalances and deficiencies then age will continue to trample our cells unabated.
Piqued your interest? He doesn’t have a website, but google him for articles.
So great to have a doctor who likes red wine ….
I really don’t like the way the papers do that “Big C” scare story thing.
They did it today about Chris Evans, the Radio 2 DJ who had a minor procedure to check out some pre-cancerous cells in his bowel. It was thought to be a wise thing to get checked out as there was a genetic pre-disposition to this type of cancer – his father died of colon cancer.
Dramatic headlines then in the body of the copy the truth emerges. Not such a big deal after all. And when I heard Chris on the radio this morning he sounded pretty perky and strongly advising anyone who has any concerns about “down below” to get it checked asap. Bowel cancer is extremely treatable when caught in the early stages.
There is a test you can do called a FOB test which stands for faecal occult blood (occult in this sense is not referring to the spooky, but meaning when something abnormal is present that is only discernible microscopically). So when you are offered screening you get a testing kit through the post. You then smear three separate lots of poop onto the card and return in a hygienically sealed, prepaid envelope. Only two out of every 100 people tested are likely to have a positive result and a positive result simply means go back for further tests – usually a colonoscopy where the colon can be examined further to find the cause of any bleeding. It can easily be harmless polyps or, like Chris Evans, pre-cancerous cells that can be easily removed.
Because there is a strong genetic link with bowel cancer (hence Chris’s concern) if you know it has been in your family it definitely worth getting the FOB test. Bowel cancer in its early stages is symptomless and painless, so good to take early action if you think you are at risk.
In my book Overcoming Cancer you can read about Tim Barnes’ experience of recovering from colon cancer.
Last week I went to a talk by a chap called Dr John Veltheim, founder of the BodyTalk System – an alternative therapy that assists the body energy systems to be re-synchronized. He had lots to say but what particular struck me was what he was saying about our Band-Aid approach to life and to health. In politics what our government seems to be doing is just reacting to the latest crisis and putting in place some kind of palliative measure than doesn’t address the fundamental issue that caused the problem in the first place.
It’s the same with healthcare. I’ve long thought that that is what most conventional cancer treatments do – radiotherapy, surgery and chemo attack the symptom (the tumour) and not the cause. But what Veltheim said that made me sit up was how herbalists, acupuncturists and naturopaths were often doing the very same thing – what herb, what acupuncture point, or, to what supplement should be given to fix the presenting symptom! Made me realise I can get a little proselytising about natural approaches to health, making conventional medicine the baddy whilst idealising anything natural. Good wake up call for me ).
The other thing he said which I liked was how many of us have lost our own intuitive wisdom about our bodies – that it has been educated out of us. We are now conditioned to look for an expert to “fix” us. I’d love to get more tuned in to what my body needs – but to be honest, I know I often ignore its messages. The slight headache that tells me I’ve been sitting at my computer too long, the stiffness in my back that tells me I need to exercise, the muffin top that tells me to eat less.
Maybe if I started to actually act on the messages my body is already giving me, it might feel a bit more listened to and let me in on a few more useful bits of information!
(Don’t know enough about BodyTalk to promote it here, but if you want to check it out - www.bodytalksystem.com).
When I was diagnosed with melanoma it wasn’t a hard choice to opt for the naturopathic route as the drugs for melanoma were basically pretty useless. Even my doctor at the Royal Marsden said as much.
However, the are now two new drugs being hailed as the next big thing for people with advanced melanoma. The two drugs are vemurafenib and ipilimumab and the studies show that they can extend survival time from a few months to as much as five years.
On the TV last night I saw the Medical Director of the Marsden Hospital, Professor Martin Gore speaking enthusiastically about this new development. (Another lovely doctor and my consultant when I was a patient at the Marsden).
My own enthusiasm is a bit more muted. While of course I am happy that someone could possibly get another five years of life (but I wonder how often it is more like months) when there is so much more that can be done naturally with melanoma. Although the Gerson Therapy didn’t do the trick for me, it has for many. For example, Beata Bishop who has been clear for over 25 years. (You can read her story in Overcoming Cancer: 24 true stories of triumph and hope available from www.canceractive.com). I cleared tumours in my lungs, spleen and stomach with diet, rigorous supplementation, juicing and coffee enemas. There ARE other ways not just to prolong life but to get rid of the cancer once and for all.
And that’s why I set up this website, why I coach people with cancer, why I put together the book I mentioned above. Because we don’t have to rely on the latest “breakthroughs”, we can take our healing into our own hands and we can get better!
PS A course of the new drugs is reported to cost £73,000 – compare that with a bunch of supplements and some veg. It still astounds me that the NHS doesn’t get this. But I guess vegetable stalls don’t pack the same punch as Big Pharma.
In my youth I was an avid sun-worshipper, slathering myself in baby oil (and Jif lemon in my hair to blonde it) and really loving having a tan. The fact I am very blonde with albino eyelashes and a pale skin didn’t hold me back – I looked better brown. As most of us do.
Then I got bloody melanoma and that was it – my love affair with the sun was definitely off.
In fact, on a recent holiday to an Italian hotspot I was the only person to go home whiter than when I arrived – thanks to the spray tan I had before I left that gradually wore off as my days under the umbrella went by.
But now I am happy to hear the latest research on sun and melanoma shows that it might actually help prevent cancer to get a reasonable dose of the yellowy stuff. That’s if because the sun on our skin helps our bodies produce Vitamin D – which is being hailed for its cancer-protecting properties. The lovely* Prof Angus Dalgleish, who has specialised in melanoma at St George’s in Tooting has written in the Daily Mail that “Lots of sun actually means lots of Vitamin D and potentially a lower risk of melanoma”.
Nobody really knows how much sun or how much Vitamin D is optimum for each individual. But the chances are that living in a country like England where the sun doesn’t have much D-producing oomph for six months of the year, we should probably all be taking a supplement.
So am I prone in my garden now, soaking up the rays? Sadly not. I will be gulping down the vitamin D and continuing to cover up. Why?
It’s not melanoma that worries me now – it’s wrinkles!
If you’ve had melanoma I would love to hear how you do or don’t do sun.
*I describe him as lovely because when I was ill I went to see him to try and get the melanoma vaccine. (This was after a year of rigorous naturopathic therapy and doing pretty well but wanting to get an insurance policy against further disease.) I was really thrilled when Prof Dalgleish turned me down, telling me I just wasn’t sick enough. In fact, I was well and didn’t need the vaccine. Just what you want to hear from an oncologist!
While you have probably got the idea that coffee enemas played a big part in my recovery from melanoma, they were just part of the picture. In addition to the de-toxing they provided I also did masses of nourishing and supporting of my immune system with diet but also with an array of supplements. These were not your regular high street jobbies but very sophisticated blends of substances with very specific purposes.
At one point I was taking 122 a day – and I know they played a big part in my recovery.
However, I am not sure how many of those substances will continue to be available as a result of the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, which came into force at the beginning of May. Because of this, thousands of herbal products are technically becoming illegal “simply because they cannot negotiate the regulatory minefield build by the EU over the last ten years or so”, says the Alliance for Natural Health. The ANH is a fantastic organisation fighting this crazy legislation, which is putting at risk the health wisdom of many traditions that has worked for hundreds of years.
Before you start to glaze over and sigh that it is all too late to make a difference and maybe wishing you had done something earlier, fear not! It isn’t too late to take action! The ANH is challenging the directive on the grounds that it is “discriminatory, disproportionate and non-transparent” and taking the challenge to the High Court here in the UK. They really need our continuing support and one of the ways we can still do that is to sign the Avaaz petition. Go to www.avaaz.org. Do this rather than fill in something you might find in your local health shop, as apparently there is inaccurate information being circulated which although well intentioned harms the effectiveness of the main petitions. As I write there are around 800,000 signatures on there and the goal is a million.
The ANH website is brilliant and has so much information on this and other challenges to our right to choose our own routes to health. They have a template letter you can send to your MEP and all kinds of ways you can make your voice be heard at www.anh-europe.org.
With polypharmacy (taking a mixture of pharmaceuticals) is a significant cause of death in the USA, it does seem bonkers that innocuous substances like cat’s claw or raspberry leaf should be outlawed. And personally I am outraged at the idea that some bureaucrat in the EC can tell me what I can and can’t take for my own health.