Pandora

Sep 252015
 

I know lots of people who juice apples and oranges along with their veggies, to make the juice taste sweeter. Most juice bars do it, too — the menus hanging over the juice bar include apples in most recipes.

I always say, “No apples, please.” Here’s why:

Fruits have more sugar than vegetables. Yes, it’s natural sugar, but by juicing the fruits, I’m concentrating that sugar in a cup. I’m also removing something super-important that slows down the body’s absorption of that sugar: fiber.

In contrast, if I eat whole fruit, the fiber helps prevent it from causing a huge insulin spike. It’s also a lot harder to eat five apples than it is to drink the juice of five apples — and it takes longer to eat them, which slows down sugar absorption even more!

(As a side note, even one apple has about 15 grams of sugar, which is at the top end of what I like to consume in one sitting. And 15 x 5 = 75, which is way more than I allowed myself to eat in any normal day at the outset.)

Now let’s switch tracks and talk about vegetables. Because they are an entirely different story.

In general, vegetables tend to contain less sugar than fruits and more cancer-fighting compounds. Even beets, which have a lot of sugar, have been shown to help the liver work better. Carrots come with boatloads of natural beta carotene, which I’d much rather have than a supplement (synthetic beta carotene can actually harm smokers, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest). Spinach, celery and lots of other greens have relatively little sugar and are even more packed with cancer-fighters. THIS is the stuff I want to concentrate in a cup.

(Another side note: My doctor advised me it was better to lightly steam cruciferous veggies like broccoli and kale, rather than juicing huge quantities of them raw, because of possible thyroid effects.)

So early on in my cancer recovery, I decided to adhere to a simple principle: Eat fruits, juice veggies.

This simple principle served me well (at least, I think it did, since I’m still here!).

After about six months, I did start including low-sugar fruit smoothies in my program. Smoothies are different from juices because they involve throwing the entire fruit in a blender and liquefying it – but it still contains all of the natural fiber. So I’d go to my neighborhood health food store and order a coconut smoothie with an entire pack of organic red raspberries. This was a delicious treat that didn’t send my blood sugar spiking upward.

There was one exception to my no-fruit-juice rule: Periodically, I’d drink a lot of apple juice in the lead-up to a liver flush, or I’d do a two-day juice fast with orange, grapefruit and lemon juice. Yes, I did liver flushes and juice fasts — and I still do them. But for the vast majority of the time — for 340 days of the year — I eat fruits and juice veggies.

What are your practices? Do you juice fruits and think it’s awesome? Do you have a favorite veggie combo? Let me know — I’m listening!

Sep 222015
 

If you have cancer, this is how I view it: You are in a monster truck rally.

You are a person, and your opponent is a STEAMROLLER.

Warning: Harsh views ahead!

If you think you’re going to take five pancreatic enzyme capsules a day and turn back the steamroller, my view is: YOU ARE SORELY MISTAKEN. If you think you’re going to do a few vitamin C IVs or eat a little less sugar and turn back the steamroller, I think THAT’S UNLIKELY. If you think a few tweaks or improvements to your lifestyle are going to turn back the steamroller, I believe THEY PROBABLY WON’T.

Harsh? Yes. But it’s less harsh than selling the myth that small lifestyle changes will produce big results.

What Is Radical?

Think about how radical chemotherapy is. Your hair usually falls out, you usually feel terrible, and almost all of your body systems are affected. Or think about radiation. You basically damage your DNA to try to kill off the cancer cells, hoping that the normal cells can survive the damage and recover. Surgery is pretty intense, too.

That’s how radical you need to be, whether you’re fighting with chemical weapons or natural ones or both. The book Radical Remission by Kelly Turner really makes this principle crystal clear: The degree of intensity required does NOT change if you opt for alternative over conventional. And that’s the biggest mistake I think people make when choosing alternatives.

There’s a great graphic that really illustrates what’s required, no matter which path to healing you choose: It has a tiny circle labeled, “Your Comfort Zone,” and then several feet away is a HUGE circle labeled, “Where the Magic Happens.” And it’s true, in almost all things in life: No magic ever happens inside your comfort zone or even near it.

If you’re not uncomfortable, if you’re not off the map beyond where you’ve gone before, chances are you’re not where you need to be.

Tough Love

I know that’s hard to hear. It’s an unpleasant message. I didn’t want to hear it when I first finished radiation. I wanted to take a few supplement pills, have a few snacks with healthy nutrient powder mixed in, and be okay. But I wasn’t feeling okay, and I made a serious mistake in trying to take my recovery lightly.

As the great herbalist Dr. Richard Schulze says (and I paraphrase), don’t try to fight a steamroller with a spray of basil oil. You need your own steamroller. For the most part, as Radical Remission shows, people who survive are the ones who take massive action – and keep taking it.

I believe you owe it to yourself to take massive action, whatever your path. What do you think?

Sep 182015
 

I’ve tried a lot of different things in my journey through the crazy world of health and wellness. It’s hard to capture all of them in my 10 Steps, so here are 10 specific things that I believe were game-changers in my success:

1. I learned how to relax and enjoy life in the least relaxing situation ever. Not easy, but until I figured this out, the rest was just slapping Band-Aids on a seeping wound. Life is risk, we’re all here to learn, and I reached out for help when I needed it. Find what works for you to neutralize emotional chaos.

2. I juice vegetables, not fruits. I want to EAT my fruits to get all the good fiber they bring to the table. Fiber also helps slow down my body’s absorption of fructose, so I can avoid insulin spikes.

In contrast, vegetables usually pack less fructose and more anti-cancer nutrients into every square centimeter, so I juice them to make that goodness even more concentrated. (Note: I only juice organic vegetables, which have less pesticide on them. Why would I want to concentrate pesticides in a cup?)

Side note: When I juice vegetables, I add beets and carrots to my green juice. I believe in a rainbow of flavors — and colors. I believe adding a beet is a huge benefit for me, because it kicks up my liver and helps it work better.

3. I eat a pack of organic red raspberries whenever I can. I used to be a pack-a-day eater. Red raspberries can shut down the type of cancer I had, so I viewed it as cheap insurance, not expensive berries.

4. I eat watercress whenever and wherever I find it. Watercress is hard to find where I live. But whenever I see it, organic or not, at a supermarket or a restaurant, I snap it up and eat it, because I believe it’s the healthiest vegetable on the entire planet.

5. I take organic dandelion root powder. I want to help my liver be the best it can be. So I take half a teaspoon of this wonderful herb daily.

6. I eat flaxseeds. They pack a punch against cancer in different ways than the other foods I eat.

7. I ate button mushrooms and drank green tea almost every day for two years. I read about this trick in Patrick Quillin’s book Beating Cancer with Nutrition. He’s a registered dietician (there are good ones out there! A few…), and he wrote that eating both foods in a single day could reduce the risk of breast cancer by about 90%. I followed this advice religiously for a long time.

8. I filter my water. I didn’t go crazy with a whole-house filter system, because I was renting a New York apartment when first diagnosed with cancer. Instead, I bought an Aquasana countertop water filter for the sink (which I installed in the bathroom since it wouldn’t fit on my kitchen sink – you do what you have to do!) and an Aquasana shower filter. I also bought a Waterwise water distiller and used it for the first year of my recovery.

Travel tip: When traveling, I use a portable filter bottle, and I drink venti green and herbal teas at Starbucks since they triple-filter their water, sometimes with reverse osmosis!

9. I take a great probiotic. After much research, I settled on Garden of Life RAW Probiotics. I love that they use a wild kefir culture to provide a huge variety of different probiotic strains. These probiotics require refrigeration, so I’m careful about where I buy them.

10. I rebound for exercise. I bought a Pure Fun rebounder from Amazon for about $38 and started bouncing. I love trying to touch the ceiling as I jump, but you don’t have to be an acrobat to use this type of mini-trampoline. When I first started, I did “the health bounce,” which just involves standing on the trampoline on the balls of your feet, with feet shoulder width apart, and bouncing without leaving the surface. Why is rebounding so great? It increases lymphatic flow and gets your whole body moving — much like swimming!

What are your personal game-changers for wellness? I’d love to hear about it- send me a message!

Sep 152015
 

Do you know one of my least favorite words on the planet? DIET.

Why? Because DIET screams UNSUSTAINABLE. It screams TEMPORARY. And a good way of eating is neither.

Sorry for the caps overload. But I feel pretty strongly about this. Sure, extreme diets can produce results fast — but as the unsustainable nature of the diet becomes unavoidable, you can lose many or all of the results you gained.

That’s demoralizing and can create a perception of “dieting” as doomed to fail.

If you went from eating bacon five times a week to drinking nothing but green juice, how long do you think you could keep that up?

Taking massive action to change your lifestyle doesn’t have to mean going on a shock-and-awe diet. What I think is truly super-important is “overdosing on nutrition,” as Chris Wark of ChrisBeatCancer.com puts it. And that can be done in a healthy, sustainable way.

A Gradual Shift

Yes, I did go cold turkey on certain things when I started my food and supplement program — things like refined sugar, cold cuts and factory-farmed meat and dairy. But other than that, a gradual shift helped a lot. Week after week, step by step, I switched to organic, grass-fed animal products and lower-pesticide, organic fruits and vegetables. I ate more vegetables and less protein. I started taking more supplements, doing more exercise, and meditating and giving thanks.

But did I go from slouch to superstar overnight? I certainly didn’t.

It was important for me to accept my mistakes and not let them derail my entire lifestyle by making me feel like a failure. If I messed up, I just had to pick myself up and start eating and living well again the next day. As the great herbalist Dr. Richard Schulze says, “Tomorrow is what you believe and do today!”

To live that mantra is to create a new way of being.

Finding a Sustainable Lifestyle

In my own gradual phase shift, I didn’t go on a crazy 60-day green juice fast; in fact, my test results showed I needed some animal protein to stay alert and strong over the long term. With the exception of short two-day juice fasts, I kept eating fish, eggs and yogurt, though I cut out red meat and poultry.

It was so important for me to view this as a process and find a lifestyle that worked for me – one turned up loud enough to be effective but still containing foods and activities I loved.

One great way to do this was to eat MORE of the healthy foods I already adored.

Some examples: I love avocados, so I made a lot of homemade guacamole with garlic, tomato and Himalayan sea salt. I love nuts, so I ate a lot of almonds, brazil nuts and macadamia nuts. I love berries – good thing they’re super healthy! I ate a pack a day. I love Thai food so I ate fresh-made coconut curry with brown rice and vegetables (There was a takeout restaurant nearby that made homemade coconut curry and used organic ingredients. I got lucky with that!).

Zero Binging Through Abundance

By eating foods I loved, I didn’t binge at all for a year and a half. 18 months of no binging. Zero. When I craved empty calories, I ate something I loved. Because it was a sustainable lifestyle, it didn’t leave me desperate for something enjoyable.

Instead, as I felt better and better, my lifestyle itself became enjoyable. I loved rebounding because it gave me energy and I got to rock out to my favorite songs while soaring through the air. I loved eating well and juicing because I felt amazing. I loved detox baths because my skin looked great. I loved my lifestyle because it made my LIFE more awesome.

That’s not a diet. That’s a massive-action sea change, and it can last for decades.

Decades are what I want. How about you?

Sep 112015
 

Something I called an “Hour of Power” was key to my cancer recovery in the first couple of years.

The reason why is that when I started my alternative program with my great doctor-ally, I was working full-time in an office, so time at home was limited. And my morning schedule was peppered with to-dos: take supplements; eat a giant breakfast; do qigong; exercise; do skin brushing; breathe deeply. Add to that the usual routine like showering and getting dressed, and I was overwhelmed.

So I developed the “Hour of Power.” When I woke up, I started my day with an affirmation. I’d look out the window and yell, “It’s GREAT to be alive!”

Right after that, I’d take pancreatic enzyme supplements and then spend the next 60 minutes before breakfast doing everything I could think of that was healthy. I crammed it in like a student studying for finals.

Exercise, Tea and Hydrotherapy

First I’d do a 15-minute qigong routine while staring out my window at the sky and the trees below in the courtyard. This routine learned from my tai chi teacher consisted of eight different positions that I held for about 2 minutes each while breathing deeply.

Then I’d hop on my mini-trampoline and rebound for another 10 minutes to get my lymphatic system moving.

After that I’d boil water for tea and brew a pot of Chinese Sencha (it was still too hot to drink, but I wanted to make sure it would be cool enough to drink when I was ready to drink it!).

I’d use a natural bristle-brush on my skin as a quick lymphatic massage and then hop in the shower. After showering for 15 minutes with alternating hot and cold water (hydrotherapy!), I’d get dressed, cook the rest of breakfast, and pack my supplements for the day.

The Breakfast Scramble

At the end of the Hour of Power was the Half Hour of Frantic Eating. I’d wolf down as much breakfast as possible (I couldn’t always finish everything!). If I wasn’t in a serious rush to make it to a meeting, I’d catch up on news and email while eating. If I was in a rush, I’d eat standing at my breakfast bar, inhaling 14-Grain cereal, yogurt mixed with flax oil, a soft-boiled egg, an apple, and raw almonds.

Lastly, I’d take all of my breakfast supplements, from liver powder to vitamin C, and then rush out the door: well fed, well exercised, and ready to heal another day.

My point in describing this routine is that YOU CAN DO IT. Even if your time is limited, even if you work a full-time job, one hour a day doing good-for-you things can have huge benefits in your life.

What would your own Hour of Power look like? How would you design it for maximum benefit?

Sep 082015
 

I’m lazy. Juicing, to me, sounded like a major hassle: washing vegetables, chopping them up, feeding them piece by piece into the juicer, and cleaning the juicer. Doing it multiple times a day sounded awful.

I did buy a juicer when I began my recovery period, after traditional treatment (surgery and radiation) ended. It was a Champion juicer, and I fully endorse it. It’s an awesome juicer.

But I’m lazy. I didn’t like the juicing process.

Profit Calculations

I did some quick calculations in my head. Organic health food stores near me would juice fresh vegetables on-the-spot for approximately $5 to $6 per 12 ounces. On the diet prescribed by my doctor, I was supposed to drink 24 ounces of juice per day.

Buying the vegetables and then juicing them myself would cost less than simply buying juice in the store — but not that much less.

Based on the prices at the store, I calculated I’d save about $1 to $2 per juice by buying vegetables and juicing them. But I’d also spend at least 20 minutes, twice a day, on food preparation and juicer cleanup.

It was a no-brainer. I bought the juice.

The Routine

Every day, for years, I bought two juices from organic health food stores scattered around NYC. Sometimes beet-carrot-ginger, sometimes beet-carrot-celery, sometimes green juice with a beet added, sometimes celery juice for a little bit of a change. It was all organic, freshly made and not that expensive. It was part of my routine, something I’d do while walking between meetings or home from the subway.

(Note: This was before the huge popularity of cold-pressed, bottled juice that’s shipped from a processing plant and stored in a refrigerator case. That type of juice often costs $8 or more. Now several of the organic stores where I bought juice have gone out of business — this makes me sad.)

I still buy fresh-made juice whenever possible (though with traveling, it’s harder to do it every day). If I can’t get fresh-made juice, I’ll buy bottled juice, but I prefer the taste of fresh-made juice. Occasionally, I break out the Champion juicer, but it’s a rare event.

Defeating Guilt

At first, I felt guilty about buying all my juice instead of making it — like I was not a “real” juicing superstar, or not really committed to my health.

Then I realized IT DOESN’T MATTER.

What the heck is a juicing superstar anyway? I got well buying juice at the health food store, and that’s as legitimate as getting well by juicing at home.

I did what worked for me and my lifestyle, and that’s my philosophy: Do what works for you. It doesn’t matter how you do it — just DO it. Get it done and move on and kick ass.

Sep 012015
 

I reject the phrase “the new normal” because to me it means “the less-good-than-before.” That’s almost always the subtext when this phrase appears.

I reject it because, yes, I made adjustments after I had cancer. I’m not the same person I was before. But my “new normal” is AWESOME.

It’s awesome because I didn’t let others dictate how my future health would be. Because after I finished initial treatment, I balanced my vitamin, mineral and hormone levels. Because I repaired DNA damage and my radiated breast became soft again. Because the new dark spots that my dermatologist said would get worse have disappeared. Because the tingly irritation on my scar disappeared. Because a nodule disappeared. Because I feel great. Because I rarely get colds anymore. Because I’m in better shape. Because I put better fuel into my body, I drink better water to refresh my cells, I sleep better, I enjoy sex more, I enjoy life more, and I feel comfortable with myself for the first time ever.

Because I overcame. I learned that when I am pushed to the wall, I will always find a solution. It will be a solution that I am comfortable with, that I have researched, that feels right at a gut level and at a logical level. I learned, firsthand, that waiting for scientific studies is great when you have plenty of time. When it’s just you, right now, with the resources at your disposal, you do the best you can with what you have. And sometimes THAT IS GREAT. But it’s a decision that only you can make, in your moment.

Finding Peace – the Hart Part

Knowing that I will find a solution puts me at peace. And part of that solution — and this was the hardest part, the absolute hardest part because it didn’t involve any tests or supplements or nutritional-balancing — is to trust in the universe. This one’s a bigger leap of faith than all the others, a dive off a platform into… who knows?

But it’s the best part of the solution I found. Because now I can just breathe. I never could relax before. In my “old normal,” I’d sit on the couch to watch movies for a day and panic. My mind would conjure scenarios that would set me pacing around the room, worrying and worrying, until I created something for myself to do and never got to watch that movie. If I wasn’t producing, I couldn’t breathe. I got a lot done. But this was unhealthy. I never felt at ease. It was always, “What if? What if?”

Well, “what if” happened. (Yes, cancer was one of my what-if scenarios.) And I freaked out. I hated how I felt, how powerless and pathetic and pushed into decisions I felt not-right about, and I decided this was not going to be my future.

Less Stress, More Time

Now I am sometimes less productive. I don’t feel driven to stay up until 3am. I don’t produce, objectively, as much output as I did before. And sometimes that’s frustrating.

But the output I do produce is better thought-out, with a stronger foundation. The projects I take on make sense from a strategic perspective. I get more bang for my buck and have a better-balanced life.

I make time to eat real food instead of skipping meals. I try to sleep 7 hours a night. I nourish my relationships, because they are what’s important in the end, not how many hours I spent at work. I nourish my goals — the really important ones. I let the less-important ones drop by the wayside. I try to serial-task, not multi-task. Sometimes I really do just breathe, and relax. It takes time, but if it gives me more years on the earth, then I have gained time by doing less each day.

Never Give Up

Some things still suck. Because I allowed, against my better judgment, a sentinel node biopsy 1, I have trouble at high altitudes — and even not-so-high altitudes. Although I feel totally normal at sea level and have no problem lifting heavy things, exercising, taking hot baths/saunas or anything else, I notice a weird sensation in my arm above 1,000 feet (EDIT: 2,500 feet. Hurray!). I haven’t ski’ed in five years. I haven’t been to the mountains (EDIT: Yes, I have.). I wear compression sleeves and fingerless gloves when flying because I don’t want to risk lymphedema, though I bought black ones that look more ninja than medical. I try to limit my flights per year to a reasonable number. I HATE this problem. It limits my life. But I also am 100% convinced that, ultimately, I will solve it. And when I do I will feel SO much better about myself than I ever did before. That’s just how I approach things.

I already found a few limited solutions. For now, here are the tools in my toolbox: Lymphdiaral drops, which work for me within a few minutes. Cleavers Tea. Indigo Drops if I need them.

My goal is not just to muddle along as a shadow of my former self, but to KICK ASS and project GRATITUDE, LOVE, and JOY. Every day, no matter how many days. That’s my “new normal” — my new life.

Notes:

  1. This is a procedure where one or a few lymph nodes are removed to check if cancer has spread. I didn’t want to have one because the type of cancer I had almost never spreads.
Aug 312015
 

I took supplements 15 minutes ago. Sixteen pancreatic enzyme capsules, along with magnesium and bromelain.

I’ve taken these supplements thousands of times in the past four years. Sometimes I’m religious in taking them, and sometimes (especially lately) I’m lax. But I always return to the path. Because if I don’t, I’m toast.

That’s a fairly sobering thought. It might not be entirely true — I’m confident I could find another solution to stay well, because I don’t give up — but having found something that works for me, I’m reluctant to deviate from it. I’m happy to adjust, to dial up or dial down depending on how my body is responding, but the idea of discontinuing my supplement program never crosses my mind.

I’m dedicating the next two weeks to getting entirely back on track.

So this will be my schedule:

Upon arising: 2 beta glucan capsules.
Five times per day: 16 enzyme capsules with magnesium and bromelain.
Once per day at bedtime: RNA/DNA capsules with magnesium.
With meals: “Regular” vitamins and minerals, plus two RM-10 caplets with breakfast and dinner.
Once per day before breakfast: Garden of Life Women’s RAW Probiotics.
Once per day: Half a teaspoon of organic dandelion root powder.

In addition, I’ll be doing some detox procedures (a.k.a. my home spa-time). These will include:
Once per day: Lymph stimulation with a natural bristle brush (this is a nice skin massage!).
Once per day: Foot soak with mustard and cayenne.
Twice per week: Baking soda and sea salt bath (fantastic for skin!).

For food, I’ll eat organic, relying primarily on the following staples:
Organic raw almonds
Organic raw brazil nuts
Organic yogurt with flaxseeds
Organic raw multi-grain cereal with honey
Organic apples and berries
Organic pasture-raised eggs
Organic black rice
Organic whole wheat pasta with olive oil and butter
Organic garlic
Wild-caught fish (twice per week) or organic grass-fed beef (once per week)
Organic carrots, yams, salad and other veggies (beets if I can find them)
Organic green tea
Purified water: 8-10 glasses per day

I’ll report on how I feel after following this “reset program” and sleeping at least 7 hours per night.

It’s a trek. Time to keep trekking.

Jun 112015
 

It’s time for my 2015 self-assessment. To be honest, I’ve slipped in the past year. If I’d written this self-assessment last year, in spring 2014, I’d have given myself stellar marks almost across the board.

In the past year, I quit my job, began traveling a lot more, went through a breakup, and let my diet and nutritional program fall by the wayside a bit. I gave in to my sugar cravings more, even if that means organic ice cream instead of Hostess Cupcakes. In other words, I was human.

This doesn’t mean I feel like an awful person — I’m a little anxious about not being on track, but I know that any day is the day I can turn it up full-volume again. Health is the sum of 100 little decisions we make each day, plus luck. This year, I’m making about 70 right decisions and 30 wrong decisions per day, instead of holding a 98-2 record. I need to step it up.

Enough excuses, here’s my self-assessment:

1. Neutralize emotional chaos.
Assessment: Fair to good. After completely mastering my emotions and embracing life for its awesomeness in the present, I got knocked back by two breakups (with the same boyfriend) and all the accompanying worries and insecurities. I found myself wallowing a bit, especially the second time, and failing to see the good all around me. I’m still able to feel and focus on my inner light, but it’s harder than before, and I hope this cloud passes soon. I also spend some time stressed about the future, even though I know I’m working toward my long-term goals and this requires a step back from “conventional” measures of success.

2. Sleep early and well.
Assessment: Fairly awful. The same thing I wrote in 2013 applies. I sleep well when I go to sleep early. I still stay up later than I should, often till 1 or 1:30 a.m. My goal should be to go to sleep around 11 p.m. This rarely happens, and it’s an obvious place to try for improvement.

3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones.
Assessment: Good until recently, then fairly awful. I don’t drink alcohol much, usually once a month or less. I also try to avoid conventional dairy. But I often drink tap water when traveling, and it contains hormone residues. None of this is the elephant in the room: I froze my eggs in April, so I endured a short-term bombardment of hormone shots. The shots contained recombinant FSH and human LH, not estrogen or progesterone, but the FSH and LH stimulated my body to produce more estrogen than normal. (Edit: I told my doctor about this in advance, and he okay’ed it as a short-term procedure. I didn’t just go rogue!) I accepted this as a short-term hit to my health, but its effects lasted longer than I expected, stretching through the next cycle (hello, heart palpitations!) and even beyond. I feel like my body is still getting back to normal. If I could do it over, I’d make the same decision, but I knew when I started the process that I was only doing it once. And I’m sticking with that call: It’s too risky for me to do it more than once. On the other hand, I feel much calmer and more in control of my own destiny as I head toward forty.

4. Eat organic whenever possible.
Assessment: Good. I eat organic at home and buy organic groceries when traveling. I try to buy organic vegetable juice whenever possible (i.e., at a health food store) and minimize organic fruit juice, since I prefer eating whole fruit to get the benefit of fiber and minimize sugar. I also seek out organic restaurants as much as I can. When I go out with other people, I eat more conventionally, though I try to stick with vegetarian or fish entrees. My biggest weakness is pasta with cheese, technically a “vegetarian” entree (doesn’t mean it’s healthy!). I do best when I can talk my dinner companion into sushi. I’ve been eating way too many sweets. Even if they’re organic, they’re not good for me.

5. Get moving.
Assessment: Pretty good. I walk a lot, especially when traveling in cities. I wish I had my rebounder, but I got rid of it when I started traveling. If I needed to, I could order a rebounder fairly cheaply in the places I visit for a month or more, but I haven’t done it yet.

6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D.
Assessment: Good. I take 2000-4000 IU of vitamin D daily, plus iodine in the form of Atlantic kelp. I’m taking more iodine than I used to (up to twice as much), which is a tweak to my supplement program.

7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter.
Assessment: Fair. At home, I have an Aquasana countertop filter for drinking water (I got rid of the distiller when I moved) and an Aquasana shower filter. On the road, it’s a different story: I often end up drinking Brita-filtered water, and there’s rarely a shower filter. One thing that helps is getting tea from Starbucks (Starbucks uses triple-filtered water that sometimes includes a reverse osmosis process), but I’ve stopped lugging around glass bottles of water.

8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment.
Assessment: Fair. At home, I’ve replaced my own cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics with organic and/or green versions. However, I’ve slipped back to using regular deodorant (I just couldn’t find an alternative deodorant that was truly effective), and when traveling, I often pack my own soap and shampoo but sometimes skip it for short trips. I think the worst thing is that I’ve slipped back to using regular laundry detergent. I’d like to try to use more “green” laundry detergent like 7th Generation, which makes individual-size packets that I could bring along on trips.

9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement.
Assessment: Very good. I still take most of my prescribed enzyme supplements and about half of my meal-time supplements (I’ve gotten less strict about taking vitamins while eating out — I used to step into the restroom and take them before the meal). I could do better with this but am still doing reasonably well.

10. Get outside during the day.
Assessment: Good. I spend a lot more time outside since I left my job. One thing I could improve is to remove my contacts and use glasses more when I go outside, since allowing sunlight to reach my eye directly could help me produce more melatonin at night and balance my hormones (source: John Ott has a great book about Health and Light). As we head into summer again, I’m going to try to do a better job of this.

May 172013
 

A post on breastcancer.org caught my attention, and I responded to it, but wanted to share my thought process here as well. I’m aware that my decision to have radiation treatment will be the most controversial part of my story for some readers, and the least controversial part of my story for other readers. So, for all readers:

I do not regret my decision to have radiation treatment. But I took control of my treatment, and I took steps to repair the damage afterward.

After an inconclusive needle biopsy (which I will never do again), an inconclusive MRI, an inconclusive excisional biopsy, and a lumpectomy that finally determined I had a non-aggressive mucinous carcinoma (not as bad as it sounds), I did a ton of research before meeting with the radiation oncologist. I determined that I would do radiation ONLY in the prone position 1. I also wanted partial breast radiation. She convinced me to do whole breast radiation, but we did it in the prone position. My heart and lungs were not in the radiation field. I insisted that the sentinel node biopsy site be removed from the field, because the sentinel nodes were negative. We argued, until I stated I was out unless the site was out. Then they agreed that this made logical sense. I also had them use 3D-CRT instead of IMRT to reduce the risk of a second malignancy from distant scatter 2.

Because I knew I was not going to take tamoxifen 3, I waited a minimum amount of time between surgery and radiation — 4 weeks 4. I had 16 treatments, for a total dose of about 42 Gray. A long-term study showed that this particular regimen was actually better for my particular tumor characteristics and my age 5. Also, this left me with sufficient headroom that if this ever happens again, I can have another lumpectomy and partial-breast radiation.

I used Boiron calendula lotion during radiation, which worked great to prevent any awful skin issues, and had some effects that proved to be temporary. I had a light sunburn that took a long time to fade. And a few months after treatment, my breast became harder. But around then, I got on my vitamin, mineral and hormone balancing program with a well-known doctor-ally. My results have been amazing, and my life has been amazing, since then. I have repaired DNA damage, and my breast became soft and normal-colored again. The dark spots that my dermatologist said would only worsen over time, have disappeared.

So, I found that I COULD recover from radiation damage. I didn’t know that when I made the choice to have treatment, but I made the decisions I felt were best with the information I had at hand, I was strategic and took control of my health decisions, and I do not regret it.

Would I do it again? I have no idea. With my health and wellness program, which gives me meaningful data every 3 months so I can see when and if I need to course-correct, I’m trying to put myself in a position where I will never have to make that decision.

Notes:

  1. Lying Prone for Radiation Best for Breast Tx, MedPage, 2012.
  2. Radiation-induced second cancers: the impact of 3D-CRT and IMRT, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, 2002.
  3. Caveat: Tamoxifen was later deemed “optional but preferred” for me by three different oncologists. I declined it.
  4. Delaying Post-Surgical Radiation Increases Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence in Older Women, Study Finds, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute via ScienceDaily, 2010.
  5. Long-Term Results of Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer, The New England Journal of Medicine, 2010.
May 132013
 

Two years ago, I wrote about 10 Changes I was making in my life. Here is my 2013 self-assessment:

1. Neutralize emotional chaos.
Assessment: I’ve done astonishingly well on this front. At first, I used The Healing Code. This helped significantly with some old traumas, less significantly with others. I did the program spottily, a couple of weeks here, a couple of weeks there, one memory at a time. I also gained a great deal from hypnosis — at a time when I was desperate and searching for anything that might help, I did a past-life regression and a life-between-lives session. I was shocked to find that these two sessions put to rest some uneasiness I’d never understood and helped me become comfortable with letting my inner light shine. (I realize this sounds new-agey — I don’t care.) I feel comfortable in my own skin now, in my own soul. I’ve learned not to question why certain things work, but to accept and be happy that they do. On a similar note, I went to see a man named Braco, an energy worker from Croatia. Once again, I don’t understand why this worked, but it did. Before seeing Braco, I was an extreme Type A and could not relax. After seeing Braco, I am still Type A, but I found I was able to relax and really do nothing for the first time in my life. To just sit on my couch and breathe. To feel the flow of the universe and the many creatures in it.

Only when I was truly able to love myself, did the ultrasound nodule they wanted to biopsy disappear. Yes, it disappeared. I’ll talk about it more later.

2. Sleep early and well.
Assessment: Fairly awful. I do sleep well — when I go to sleep early. I made significant progress (no more 3am work binges) but still go to bed much later than I probably should. If I needed to “turn up the volume” in my wellness program, this would be one obvious place to do it. I aim to go to sleep around 11 — it’s usually more like midnight or 1. This is bad because the adrenals re-charge mainly between 11pm and 1am.

3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones.
Assessment: Very good. I had champagne on New Year’s Eve and it was the first drink I’d had in years. I may now begin enjoying a rare glass of very good red wine. But alcohol is essentially out of my life. So are artificial hormones — no more birth control pills, ever. I probably still get a little hormone residue when I drink green tea made with unfiltered tap water at work, or when I don’t realize there’s conventional dairy 1 in something I order at a restaurant. But I’m doing well overall in this area.

4. Eat organic whenever possible.
Assessment: Very good. I eat organic at home. I juice organic vegetables only — why concentrate pesticides in a cup and then drink them? I strive to eat organic at restaurants, and I choose my restaurants carefully. I eat as-organic-as-possible at other people’s houses, without being ridiculous.

5. Get moving.
Assessment: Good but not great. I walk a lot — probably at least a mile per day, often two miles. I use a rebounder (mini-trampoline), but not consistently. If I could consistently use the rebounder for about 15 minutes per day, I’d meet all of my exercise goals. This is a goal for 2013.

6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D.
Assessment: Excellent. My doctor determined my optimal vitamin D intake (it was lower than I expected — about 3000 IU. I wasn’t absorbing higher amounts before, because other nutrients/minerals were out of balance) and iodine intake (again, lower than expected). I have normal levels of iodine and vitamin D now.

7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter.
Assessment: Very good. I use a distiller at home and drink truly pure water whenever possible. I also have an Aquasana countertop water filter for cooking water and for times when I don’t have time to make distilled water. However, I need to change the filter frequently because of high sediment levels, and I’m not sure of the quality at all times. I use an Aquasana shower filter and it works great. When I’m not home, I try to drink tea made with filtered water (Starbucks uses triple-filtered water that includes a reverse osmosis process!) or bottled water in glass — but I only succeed about half the time. The other half, I confess I’m drinking Brita-filtered water (not as good) or tap water.

8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment.
Assessment: Good but not great. I’ve replaced my own cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics with organic and/or green versions. However, at work and when traveling, I use what’s available for soap, shampoo, etc.

9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement.
Assessment: Excellent. After stumbling on this front initially, I found a great doctor-ally and got great results. All of my deficiencies are now corrected, my toxicities are under control, and my body is getting healthier and healthier. My one great supplement is pancreatic enzymes, and I also use beta 1,3 d-glucan.

10. Get outside during the day.
Assessment: Fair. I do a better job in summer than in winter, because there’s more benefit from being outside during summer months (from a vitamin D perspective). But I still spend too much time inside, tied to a computer, in all seasons.

May 122013
 

Happy 2013! I spent the past two years focusing on my own health, and am happy to report I am happy, healthy, and followed my 10 Steps pretty well. I also made some important changes, since my original 10 steps left out what I learned is the most important element for my wellness recovery: a competent doctor-ally who has done this thousands of times before.

That’s right. I thought because I’d read, researched and scoured the corners of the Internet that I could put together an optimal program — but, although my 10 Steps are exactly what I ended up doing, I also needed some fine-tuning, and I couldn’t do that without a medical professional.

In other words, I needed to customize — to find the right program for me. This involved tests I couldn’t order myself.

I was missing another important piece too: I was a sample size of one. I had walked this path to wellness exactly once, and I didn’t have the broad experience base of knowing that if patient X is feeling this way, and tests show Y, then Z is required. Whereas if patient X is feeling that way, then it’s likely that tests will show A, and then B is required. That’s knowledge built over time, by seeing thousands of patients.

So, I need to edit Step 9 of my 10 Steps, because it was non-optional for me to: a.) Find a competent doctor-ally who has helped thousands of patients; and b.) Commit to the program for a reasonable period of time, to determine if it worked.

My original Step 9 post said: “Rest assured that there are great supplements for you — so, if you feel the need, find at least one with the help of a qualified health-care professional and then take it consistently.” I’ve edited this to remove “if you feel the need,” because I needed to — period.

More details will be available in an upcoming blog post: how I realized I needed to see a doctor, what my test results showed, and how I addressed my (many!) deficiencies and toxicities. And, to see my 10 Changes self-assessment for 2013, click here.

Jun 062011
 

Some tempered good news: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last month that the USDA must produce an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for genetically modified sugar beets, prior to granting them permanent approval for commercial use. A full press release is posted at the Center for Food Safety website.

However, GM sugar beets planted last winter are still in the ground. Moreover, the USDA on April 7 announced a pilot program that could allow agribusiness firms to directly influence the content of Environmental Impact Statements. The Federal Register notice states:

“The pilot project will explore two voluntary mechanisms: (1) A petitioner-submitted environmental report based upon which APHIS would develop an EA or an EIS; and (2) an EA or EIS prepared by a contractor, funded by a cooperative services agreement between the petitioner and APHIS.”

(Note: The “petitioner” is the firm seeking approval for a product.)

So, although the court ruling mandating an EIS seems like progress, the independence of the EIS itself does not seem assured.

In the meantime, until full, independent, objective safety studies are available that counter the limited animal studies showing negative outcomes such as liver and kidney damage, I strongly believe that the best defense against GM foods is to avoid them whenever possible. Buying organic is one way to avoid GM foods, but if that’s not possible, avoidance of processed foods or careful label-reading can help.

No, GM foods are not specifically labeled as such. But the main GM components of the food supply — what I like to call the Four Horsemen of GMOs — are:

  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Cottonseed
  • Canola

That damns a lot of processed foods right there, because they may contain all sorts of derivative products: high-fructose corn syrup, cornstarch, soy lecithin, soybean oil, canola oil, and cottonseed oil are among the most common. If a food package lists any of these ingredients and doesn’t say non-GMO, chances are that it contains GM ingredients.

Other GM products may include papayas, alfalfa sprouts, and, yes, sugar beets. It’s a jungle out there. But there are ways to make a difference.

May 222011
 

This post is in initial build-out status and may change.

General Information: Wikipedia and the EPA.

General Mortality

Mortality Evidence Summary - Ozone - https://sheet.zoho.com

Overall Score: -4.61

Behind the Score: There are almost no clinical trials related to air pollution, of course, but prospective and retrospective studies show a small but significant risk of increased mortality, especially from respiratory causes, due to high ambient ozone levels. 1 2 3 (Ozone is good in the upper atmosphere, not in the lower atmosphere where we breathe.) Although the relative risk of death differs only slightly for higher ozone exposure, the huge numbers of study participants or individuals in the time-series data pool make the conclusions statistically significant.

That said, other studies showed more inconclusive results on ozone or even no effect. 4 Notably, some studies indicated that fine particulate pollution, among other types, was more harmful than ozone. 5 6 7

Warnings and Special Notes: The EPA has a page on indoor air cleaners that produce ozone, warning against their use.

What Now? Human clinical trials related to air pollution are virtually impossible since they are ethically indefensible. Even the prospective studies that showed an increased relative risk of death found that the increase was quite small.

What Can I Do? Moving seems like a drastic step for the small but significant risk posed by ozone. You can check your area’s ozone levels at AIRNow for the U.S., at the European Environment Agency (EEA) site for Europe, and at Environment Canada for Canada and the rest of the world. The EEA also has some tips on what to do to avoid peak ozone levels and minimize the effects of ozone.

Also, if ozone levels are high in your area, building up your body so it can deal better with pollutants is one option, along with taking individual action and supporting environmental initiatives to clean up the air we breathe.

 

May 082011
 

This post is in initial build-out status and may change.

General Information: Although typically used for headaches and cardiovascular issues, studies also continue to determine if aspirin could reduce risk of developing various types of cancer. More about aspirin in general is available at Wikipedia.

Cancer

Studied Uses: Cancer prevention and recurrence

Cancer Evidence Summary - Aspirin - https://sheet.zoho.com

Overall Cancer Score: 5.48

Behind the Score: The score for aspirin is positive, but the picture presented by studies is actually mixed, with several studies showing no effect or a negative effect, most notably for breast cancer prevention 1 but also in one study for kidney and colon cancers 2. One study even showed an increased risk for ER/PR negative breast cancer, a type viewed as aggressive. 3 (Ibuprofen also showed an increased risk of breast cancer, especially “non-localized” tumors, in that study.) That said, the picture appears to be more positive for some colorectal cancers (especially if a family history is involved 4 5 and other digestive tract cancers 6, as well as for lung cancer. 7 As noted earlier, the picture is somewhat mixed even for colorectal cancers, with an earlier randomized trial showing no benefit. 8

Notably, despite the lackluster results seen for breast cancer prevention, one prospective study reported dramatically increased survival after breast cancer among aspirin users (relative risk of death=0.29), especially for use 2 to 5 days a week, regardless of “stage, menopausal status, body mass index, or estrogen receptor status.” 9 This effect may be due to COX-2 inhibitor (anti-inflammatory) activity of aspirin.

Warnings and Special Notes: One study of elderly individuals showed an increased risk of kidney cancer corresponding with aspirin use, especially for men (although the total number of kidney cancer cases was only 35 among 22,000 study participants). That same study also showed an increased risk for both sexes of colorectal cancer corresponding with aspirin use, whereas other studies generally have shown a decreased risk. 10 A different study of women showed an increased risk for ER/PR negative breast cancer. 11

What Now? Studies continue on the effects of aspirin in cancer prevention. It should be noted that the studies showing decreased risk were mainly epidemiological/prospective studies, which rely on participant reports of use of aspirin. On the good side, these types of studies tend to involve a large number (e.g., many thousands) of participants and a long follow-up period. It is possible that there is an unidentified co-factor (such as lifestyle choices) causing the decreased risk seen in prospective trials.

What Can I Do? Aspirin is widely available over-the-counter. Bear in mind that although some studies support its use for cancer prevention, others do not and in fact show an increased risk. Use caution and make your choice based on your own individual situation and medical history.

Notes:

  1. Low-dose aspirin in the primary prevention of cancer: the Women’s Health Study: a randomized controlled trial., Journal of the American Medical Association, 2005.
  2. Aspirin use and chronic diseases: a cohort study of the elderly, British Medical Journal, 1989.
  3. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use and Breast Cancer Risk by Stage and Hormone Receptor Status. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2005.
  4. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Prevention Trial of Aspirin and/or Resistant Starch in Young People with Familial Adenomatous Polyposis. Cancer Prevention Research, 2011.
  5. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs and Colorectal Cancer Risk in a Large, Prospective Cohort. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2011.
  6. Aspirin, Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs, and the Risks of Cancers of the Esophagus. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008.
  7. Regular Adult Aspirin Use Decreases the Risk of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer among Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008.
  8. Low-Dose Aspirin and Incidence of Colorectal Tumors in a Randomized Trial. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1993.
  9. Aspirin Intake and Survival After Breast Cancer, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2010.
  10. Aspirin use and chronic diseases: a cohort study of the elderly, British Medical Journal, 1989.
  11. Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use and Breast Cancer Risk by Stage and Hormone Receptor Status. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2005.