My Healing Regimen
As I sit here writing this, I am five weeks in to the healing regimen as outlined by my doc and I am amazed at how much I've learned, how mis-informed I was--not just about cancer but about health in general. Up until this diagnosis I thought I was pretty healthy. I ate mostly organic, exercised, meditated once in a while and worked in a pretty healthy environment. So, how--or why--did I get cancer? At first, I really had no idea. Bad karma? The universe is punishing me? My Italian ancestors perhaps knew something I didn't? All the old "poor me" tapes came on to play and then I realized--I was playing victim and this kind of pattern wasn't gonna fly.
Early on as I shuffled from one doctor to the next I felt small- I felt like a patient, I felt their pity and I unconsciously brewed up a potent batch of fear internally that did not sit right with me at all. How in the world would I heal my body while steeped in fear and victim mentality?
I knew then, to truly heal would mean to truly change.
So my journey began.
The first step was finding a good naturopathic doctor with lots of experience and a passion for healing who would be in my corner of the ring. I'm so thankful for my doc, he spent 9 hours with me on our first appointment; in order to provide a healing plan it was essential that he know me. Everything from birth to present. He needed to know the dietary, emotional and life style patterns that eventually led to my sitting in his office with breast cancer at age 40.
One of the most valuable things I've learned about cancer is that its a symptom of a malfunctioning immune system. Our immune system is a key component of our health and vitality. In fact, we all have cancer cells all the time but our immune system--when functioning optimally--takes care of these little guys without our even knowing it. Its all part of the intelligent, intricate, amazing system of our bodies.
Very seldom is cancer a result of just one thing, in fact its most often a combination of factors--emotional/mental, physical and spiritual all play their part in the creation of--and the healing of--cancer.
"Overcoming cancer is a process of reversing the conditions that plowed the cancer to develop. It is critical to note that cancer is a "systemic" imbalance. In other words, it si a problem with the entire "system" of the interrelated parts of the body. This being so, appropriate treatment must be for the total "environment" of the body." (Ty Bollinger)
So here I thought I was healthy--part of the shock that came with my diagnosis was this very belief.
On the surface I seemed healthy but when I sat down and got real with myself, got real with my doc the truth bubbled up to the surface. I do remember saying somewhere along this blogging journey that I was going to be "authentic and truthful" so hey, I am a woman of my word! After going over my health history, I realized I had been ignoring a key health imbalance for years, thinking it was no big deal. I have dealt with chronic constipation for most of my life. Yep, issues with the pooper. Or lack there of--ever since I was 3 years old. My mom tells me stories (of which I don't really recall, thankfully) of me crying my eyes out and sitting on the toilet, drinking prune juice and having quite a rough time of it. This issue would come and go into my adult life and over the years I thought I was dealing with it----but really, I was just medicating the symptoms rather than getting at the root cause.
In fact a very large percentage of women with breast cancer have some significant history of constipation. Those toxins get stuck in our body and are reabsorbed in to the blood stream and settle in to areas where there is high lymph node content and little circulation (the breasts are like a perfect little resting spot for those toxins).
Another very significant factor in my life was stress. I mean in a way, who isn't stressed these days? True. But how are we all dealing with our stress? Are their ways we can reduce/eliminate it for the most part but maybe choose not to? Or maybe we think we can't? As a single mom living in survival mode for 10 years, rest assured I was stressed out to the max and figured "hey life's rough, that's just the way it is." I managed the stress erratically but I wasn't getting at the root of the problem. Did being a single mom mean I had to be living as a victim? Did it mean I had to live with a "lack" mentality? I didn't realize it but those "poor me" tapes were up full volume for many years and chronic stress combined with negative thinking took a serious toll on my immune system.
There were signs my body exhibited along the way and usually that's how it goes. We get small signs from our body along the way, showing us where we need to adjust our "environment"--our life. I was getting sick pretty frequently and it took me longer to get over colds, I would have kidney pain come and go and then I would miss work which then led to more stress. Wine helped me relax at the end of the day and coffee got me going for the day.
What can I say, we all have the power to make different choices for ourselves and I ignored the wisdom of my body for far too long. Eventually my body had to scream to get my attention.
In essence, to truly heal I know I need to commit 100% to completely changing my life and this includes not only diet, lifestyle but also emotional/mental health.
After the first meeting with my doc, I left with "prescriptions" that included major diet change, meditations, emotional work, affirmation, therapy treatments at a nearby clinic, exercise, supplement list, herb tincture list and a huge amount of hope and inspiration.
My doc would usually start his breast cancer patients with a detox but in my case wanted to take time to strengthen my system since stress had left my nerves and major organs depleted. There is a lot of natural detoxification occurring just from the diet change and some of the therapies he recommended to me.
We immediately eliminated sugar, dairy, coffee, and alcohol. Sugar and dairy both feed cancer cells ( this is why they use glucose (sugar) in a PET scan. The cancer cells are attracted to the glucose/radioactive solution and they "light up" showing where the cancer is in the body). In addition these things create acidity in the body and a vital part of healing is alkalizing the system.(cancer can not survive in an alkaline environment).
"Cancer cells are obligate glucose metabolizers, and as they metabolize glucose, they excrete a lactic acid by-product which further increases the acidity in the body creating an ideal environment for the cancer to grow and spread." (cancercompassalternateroute.com)
In addition to removing the foods that increase acidity/feed cancer cells its vital that I flood my body with organic, nutrient dense foods that will nourish all my hard working healthy cells and give them what they need to go after the unhealthy cells. There is a chemical called sulforaphane largely present in leafy greens and cruciferous veggies that when chewed, alters gene expression and clears carcinogenic substances from the body. The more I've learned, the more profound my respect for this amazing earth and the healing foods she provides us grows. Studies on broccoli consumption (also very high in sulforaphane) have revealed its effect on directly attacking breast cancer stem cells as well as helping the body metabolize excess estrogen. The list goes on….but you get the idea.
My regimen includes a very nutrient dense diet that will simultaneously work to nourish my entire system while starving cancer cells. In addition to this I am also juicing daily which is the most effective way to get large amounts of "live foods" (enzyme rich) in to the body to heal cancer. In addition to a largely raw, plant based diet I'm taking a slew of supplements, herbs and teas, but rather than list them all here I've highlighted a couple of my 'favorites' :)
Apricot seeds---(vitamin B17 aka: Laetrile) I munch these through out the day, no more than 15-20 or so a day. Each molecule of B17 contains one unit of hydrogen cyanide, one unit of benzaldehyde and two glucose (sugar) molecules. For the cyanide to be dangerous it needs to be unlocked by a specific enzyme, glucosidase. This enzyme is present in our body in small amounts but largely present in only one place: cancer cells. So, essentially the cancer cell is attracted to the glucose molecules but unknowingly unlocks the cyanide molecule which destroys the cancer cell. Our healthy cells metabolize laetrile molecules and continue on their business.
Wheatgrass-- I juice it daily and this contains a chemical called abscisic acid which has been shown through countless studies to break down and "digest" tumor cells.
This is partially why detoxing is so important, because the waste from killing off cancer cells is extremely toxic to the body and must be flushed out.
Mushroom extracts-- the studies are extensive and far too much to expound here but the medicinal power of mushrooms is astounding and I am taking a potent blend of Maitake, Turkey Tail and Chaga
Green Tea-- compounds in green tea have the ability to locate and destroy cancer cells that 'hide' from the immune system
Enzyme therapy-- enzymes are essential for the break down and assimilation of food intake but in addition, pancreatic enzymes work to digest/break down the protein coating surrounding cancer cells thereby making those cells vulnerable to the flood of anti-cancer compounds circulating my system. They are taken through out the day, in particular on an empty stomach and will move through out the entire body and digest and break down unhealthy tissue so the body can remove it.
Superfoods--To my smoothie each day I add a variety of 'super foods' photochemical and anti-oxidant rich nutrients in a powder form including pomegranate, acai, goji, matcha.
Fiber-- get things moving!
In addition to the above therapies, exercise is key--in particular oxygenating the system (cancer cells can not survive in an oxygenated environment) and sweating. (Cancer cells are also heat sensitive where as healthy cells are heat resistant). So I sweat through running, HIIT, rebounding and of course yoga. (Yoga deserves its own post, stay tuned for more on that!) as well as infrared sauna which is a great way to detox and heal the body.
There are additional therapies that greatly assist the body in detoxing and cleansing which provides a much more healthy and vibrant foundation for which the body can heal and restore on. These include many but some I will be doing are colon hydrotherapy and Intraveneous Vitamin C.
People have asked me how I'm feeling physically and I will briefly note here, that I feel great. This is such a dynamic question really because I am processing a lot on all levels. I don't miss my glass of wine or my coffee. I feel more connected and grounded. Also, I'm practicing being present with my body and my experience as it unfolds and learning to listen. Tuning in to what my body needs, not what will give me the tightest ass or most toned abs. All of this is about tuning in to the healing process which is dynamic and changing the further along I go. This also includes knowing when to slow down and get quiet; something this society desperately needs to practice daily.
Emotions and healing
I've shared a LOT here about diet and all the amazing healing foods that grow in nature and are available to us anytime!
However the other component to healing that I never expected to delve in to so much is addressing the internal emotional environment and how that contributed to my getting cancer. Perhaps this too is better suited to another post because I believe this is the more subtle work I need to do in order to truly heal---to get at the root cause of the cancer--its not about getting rid of the lump (a symptom) or focusing on just healing my breast; rather its about addressing the entire body/mind/spirit because once the entire system is balanced, the body will restore itself to true health.
I don't feel like I have this awful horrible "thing" inside me that I have to "hurry up and get it out". Its all ME. Its all my cells communicating with each other and this is scientific truth--our cells communicate with each other. And where in our body are our cells located? Everywhere.
Our thoughts affect the chemistry of our blood which then pumps through out our entire body. If you do something long enough it WILL have an impact on the body. Fear is one of the strongest immune system suppressants and is something I lived with for a very long time.
This is where I really understand healing cancer naturally to be a largely personal journey and one that can't be done half-assed. You either put your whole ass in or not at all. My doc, through spending all that time with me, was able to recognize that I have a compulsive tendency to put everyone else's needs before my own. (That's what mom's do, right?) Well, as he says " 'No' is a complete sentence". Its ok to be there for others but a very common tendency in those who develop cancer is they (we) tend to put their own needs last and what message does this send to ourselves? He also recognized that I was likely harboring a lot of old resentments, (he was right), and still playing a lot of "victim" tapes in my head.
"To allow the deepest level of healing to occur and to support ourselves fully, its critically important to patrol the thoughts that enter our mind. Even though fear, doubt, anger and other emotionally laden thoughts will come knocking its up to us who stays and who goes. These emotions are normal, so entertain them for a time and then boot them out like a cadre of drunks who have crashed the party. Invite healing thoughts to stay in their place. Build them a room in the house of your mind. Make them very comfortable. Listen to them often." (Leigh Fortson)
I knew that I couldn't only juice my way to health, but also needed to start communicating with the true Jen, the self within me that was hurting, wounded and sick. She didn't need to be blasted with fear tactics, shame or chemicals. She needed to be recognized, listened to, hugged, told she is beautiful, told that I am proud of her, supported, celebrated, held and truly, unequivocally, unconditionally loved. There is a power that ignites when we can drop the bullshit, drop the story, look at ourselves and say with an open heart "I love you. I really, truly love you."
And so, my journey continues….XO