Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Cancer Killing Diet & Lifestyle

I have had a lot of emails about what I did for myself (other than chemo and pharmaceuticals) to kill my cancer.  In lieu of repeating myself over and over again I thought I would try my best to go over everything here.  As always, if you have any more questions please do not hesitate to send me an email asking about them.  I may not always be quick to respond but I promise I will get back to you.

THE EARLY STAGES (right after diagnosis):
 My ex bought me a copy of Kris Carr's "Crazy Sexy Cancer" and I devoured it.  I didn't take every single suggestion in the book and run with it, rather I picked through and found the ones that made the most sense for my condition, my body, my own unique person.  The day after I was diagnosed I ate my last favorite meal; a medium rare steak, baked potato, salad, and a glass of red wine and of course for dessert I had some ice cream.  The very next day everything changed.  I didn't ease into my new diet, I actually sped full steam ahead into it, no holds barred, no looking back, no if's and's or but's about it.  It was definitely crunch time for me.  I felt, literally, like it was do or die and I didn't want to die.  Yes, I thought about all the food I couldn't eat and salivated over watching others eat the things I used to eat all the while being bummed out that now I was different and one of those picky eaters who can't just order from the menu and asks questions like "Are those veggies sauteed in butter or olive oil?" and "is there any milk substitutes available?" etc.  

It wasn't even an entire week after my diagnosis when I eliminated the following foods from my diet:

Dairy (with the exception of cottage cheese and flax oil as per the Budwig protocol)
Animal products (with the exception of a little fish once a week or less)
Sugar (cancer feeds on sugar)
Alcohol (um...LIVER cancer)
Processed foods (anything that is in a package is pretty much a processed food)
Caffeine ( I drank hot lemon water in the mornings and then found an awesome product called Shakti Chai that my naturopath turned me onto because I was craving my tea like beverage)

Basically if I couldn't pronounce or recognize an ingredient on anything I purchased that was packaged I did not buy it.  It literally took me hours to shop.  I read every ingredient on every label and 9 times out of 10 ended up putting it back on the shelf.  Even the bulk food, those ingredients are posted on the bins, please take time to read them.  Don't just assume that because it says "organic" or "non-GMO" or "all natural" that is is good for you.

Most of my groceries were from the produce section and I always purchased organic food.  If I couldn't find the thing I was looking for in the organic section I either went without that certain item or found it at a different store.  While I am on the topic of stores let me just say that it is almost impossible to find healthy options that are not full of sugar, chemicals or other nasties in most conventional grocery store chains.  If you have a Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's (although even the Joe isn't that great either but they are getting better), co-op, or other alternative type market I would go there first.  UNLESS you have access to a farmers market that sells organic, pesticide free produce.  It is always best to buy locally grown foods, not only does it stimulate the local economy and support local agriculture but it also means that you are getting seasonal food. Eating local, seasonally grown foods means you are getting the most nutrients from them as they lose their nutrition little by little after harvest. You aren't getting a winter squash in the middle of the summertime or a cucumber in the winter etc.  You get what has been harvested recently, still full of nutrients, grown locally instead of shipped around the world, and supporting your local farmer.  Better yet, join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and get a box of fresh seasonal produce delivered right to your door! Here is a link to find farmers markets in your area...and HERE is a link to find a local CSA.

At first I ate most all grains including rice, wheat, oats, quinoa, etc.  They made good fillers for my tummy even when I had no appetite.  I would usually accompany them with veggies and EVOO (extra virgin olive oil).  I purchased a masticating juicer (good for juicing veggies and wheatgrass) and I made green juices every day. This is the juicer I have (Sampson 6-in-1) but I have also heard great things about Breville and Omega juicers too, and if your budget can afford it the Norwalk juicer is the way to go.

I also made smoothies ( I purchased a Vitamix when I still had a savings account) almost every day adding protein powder, green vital nutrient powder, chia seeds, flax seed oil, all kinds of fruit and a hand full of spinach or kale.  Even when I didn't want to eat or when I didn't even have an appetite those smoothies saved me and kept me from losing tremendous amounts of weight.  Again, when purchasing protein powder to go in your smoothie remember to get the organic non-GMO stuff, many are also vegan or vegetarian to suit your taste and/or needs and preferences. 

LATER DURING CHEMO (when I was losing too much weight):
I began incorporating more animal products into my diet, mostly for the fat.  I ate cheese again, yogurt, kefir, and meat.  I also started eating ice cream (probably not the best idea but, hey, I needed to gain weight badly).  I pretty much ate what ever I wanted at this point as I had gone from 141lbs down to 109lbs and looked very sickly.  I still avoided all processed foods and ate mostly vegetables but at this point I really had no other limits.  In retrospect if I had eaten more foods from the beginning instead of letting my dwindling appetite get the best of me I probably wouldn't have had to try to gain so much weight back.  

I always buy organic food.  Always.  I try to eat alkaline foods (great link here to food chart) and here is another great one (cancer loves and acidic body and processed foods and meat is very acidic) so it makes sense to try to alkalinize the body.

I have not had a drink since that last glass of red wine.  I might have the tiniest sip of beer once in a great while just to taste one I hadn't tasted before but that is it.  Having liver cancer is pretty much the only motivation I need to not drink alcohol ever again.  It has been almost 2.5 years since that last glass of wine.  Not only do I save a bunch of money from not buying alcohol, but I save my compromised liver and my waistline too.  BONUS!  More money for veggies!

I have always taken supplements as suggested by my naturopath at The Center for Traditional Medicine in Lake Oswego, Oregon and highly recommend seeking professional advice from a naturopath or natural medicine doctor before beginning any supplements.  You can find my supplement list during treatment and the supplement list I am on now on my previous post here.  I also got nutritional IV's during the 2 years of chemo treatments.  I would get those on the weeks I wasn't getting chemo.  Those kept my body healthy enough to be able to tolerate nearly 50 rounds of cisplatin/gemzar.

I know that a radical diet change is extremely daunting and scary.  Comfort foods are gone! Where is the replacement for cheese?! What about my morning coffee, evening wine, or midnight ice cream craving?  Well, all that I really have to say about that is how badly do you want to live? Does your desire for food outweigh your motivation to be alive?  Most likely not.  I changed my diet in the blink of an eye.  It wasn't easy, it was damn hard! I did countless hours, days, weeks, and months of research to find what worked the best for me.  I am not you, our bodies are not the same.  Yes they have pretty much the same parts but those parts are all different.  Our metabolism is different, our blood is different, our lives are different.  What worked wonders for me may not be a good fit for you.  My best advice is to experiment and take the time to check in with your body to see if what you are doing is helping or hurting.  Getting in touch with your body is so important.  It is also something that is so hard to do when given a cancer diagnosis, especially a terminal diagnosis of a rare cancer that almost everyone dies from.  You distance yourself from your physical body, you have to just to be able to endure treatments.  My body became something that "they" did "things" to.  It was like I was outside of my body most of the time looking down watching them do things to me.  When I lost more and more weight I distanced myself even more from my physical being.  It was only after I voluntarily stopped chemo that I began bringing myself back into my body again.  I still don't think I am all the way there yet but I am more present now than when I was in a chemo induced haze.  

I want to say a bit about attitude.  I know that just having a positive attitude isn't going to get rid of your cancer or solve all of your problems BUT I also firmly believe that what you focus on expands and that your thoughts and feelings and words can and will manifest into reality.  Don't get me wrong, there were plenty of days, or even weeks where I threw my own private pity party and I didn't invite anyone else.  There were those days that I thought to myself that it would be much easier to just give up than to continue on.  There were even a couple of days that I would have rather just been dead, but those were my low points, really low points.  Other things than just the cancer contributed to this (dysfunctional relationship, crazy alcoholic ex-boyfriend relatives living with us in a house that was too small mooching off of us, cheating, lying, and being told by the person I loved that I had lost too much weight and was no longer attractive, etc.) and feeling like I was all completely alone and that no one really understood how I felt, not even me.  I feel it is important to give in every once in a while and throw your own pity party.  Cry, scream, punch pillows (or other soft things), play loud music, whatever it takes, BUT then move on.  Keeping all of those negative feelings and emotions bottled up inside is not healthy for you or the person who is unlucky enough to be in the path of your rage when you do snap.  So let it out, and let go of it.  Then as Peter Tosh says "Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again." Having a positive attitude is a good thing.  You must feel good about your choices otherwise you wont stick with them.  Before I made the decision to get chemotherapy I had to make sure I felt good about it first.  Any chemo is scary stuff.  I didn't want to have to get chemo just because they told me to.  I wanted to make sure that I felt good about it and wanted to get chemo so that I could imagine frying those little cancer cells as the poison coursed through my body.  If you are going to chemo with the attitude that it isn't going to help then it probably wont.  Worrying about something is like praying for what you don't want.  Try to focus on all of the things you do still have left instead of worrying about what may happen or what you have lost.  It is not always easy, but I am certain that you can find at least one good thing every single day to be happy about, even if you have a terminal illness.
Right from the very first moment I heard the doctor say "you have cancer" I immediately decided that I was going to kick its ass.  The very next thing out of my mouth after I heard those words was "tell me everything, I need to know as much as possible to be able to do as much as possible to kill it".  I have said this many times and I am going to say it again because it is just that important!  When you life is spiraling out of control and you are given a diagnosis of cancer and all the statistics say you only have a 2% chance of living 5 years it is time to take your control back.  In this place where you feel like your life is so out of control it is so empowering to be able to control something.  I took control of my diet, eliminated every single chemical from my home (laundry soap, bathroom cleaners, shampoo, soap, makeup, hair products, household cleaners, everything!).  I drank filtered water (and if I could have afforded it I would have gotten a filter for my entire home).  I took hot epsom salt and essential oil baths or cellular detox baths almost daily.  I got acupuncture (great link for cheap acupuncture here), acutonics, massages, reiki, other alternative healing methods, did yoga, used gemstones and crystals, exercised, got sunshine and fresh air, I did what ever made me feel good that wasn't bad for my health.

What is in my fridge right now
All of the chemotherapy, antibiotics from rashes from chemotherapy, years and years of birth control pills and other pharmaceuticals left my digestive system in pretty bad shape.  I was tested for candida at my naturopath (a simple blood test) and the results came back showing that I had a HUGE candida overgrowth problem.  My doc said that he has probably seen worse cases but he couldn't remember when.  Candida is always present in the body, it's not necessarily a bad thing, but when it takes over and grows like crazy it prohibits all of the good gut bacteria from doing its job.  Eating things like sugar and wheat or white rice only exacerbate the growth of the candida making your digestion suffer, thusly making your health suffer.  I have been on an anti-candida diet for months now and I am still not over it yet.  If you think that changing your diet to a more plant based diet is hard then you have no idea how hard it is to eat an anti-candida diet.  It is by far the hardest change I have made.  I have eliminated every grain except amaranth, quinoa, millet and buckwheat.  NO BREAD! lame! I love bread!  No oatmeal in the mornings...booo!  Even all of those "gluten free" mixes and products out there contain either sugar, rice flour, spelt (wheat), or all of them.  Yes you can take antibiotics to get rid of candida, but antibiotics must be followed by a thorough course of probiotics and taking antibiotics to rid your body of something that antibiotics most likely caused in the first place is kind of counterproductive to me.  There is no quick fix for candida, only band aids that mask your symptoms.  The only way to control candida overgrowth is through your diet and after all, isn't that what this entire post has pretty much been about anyway?