In regards to Breast Cancer, Diet and Nutrition there seems to yet again be different opinions & recommendations as what the right approach is, depending on whom you speak to. No matter what topic I discuss with other breast cancer patients, or different Doctors and Nurses it seems that conflicting opinions seem to present themselves, once again proving that there is no linear path but rather an array of viewpoints one must navigate through in order to choose and follow.
For instance, the first breast surgeon I was referred to by my GP said that I’d just need radiation for treatment, chemo might not being a necessary. She also said I could eat and drink (booze included) whatever I wanted and not to worry too much about diet and nutrition,”if you want donuts, eat them!”
Wondering what cancer looks like? Well there you have a 2.8cm x 2.2cm tumour dissected in three. If that doesn’t make you question that unnecessary extra spoonful of sugar in your tea then I don’t know what will.
Being told by a Doctor that diet and nutrition wasn’t really an issue was really confusing and alarming as I thought cancer was fueled by sugar? Alcohol and donuts certainly would fall under that umbrella of being high in sugar right? I mean, a PET scan is used to determine if cancer is present in the body by using radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar-hungry tumor cells!
The second breast surgeon I saw (whom I decided to move ahead with for surgery and treatment) was appalled and gobsmacked that the first surgeon had suggested that chemo might NOT be an option. My grade III aggressive breast cancer pathology report screamed CHEMO! And yes, as you guessed she was shocked about the approval of the Crispy Creams consumption as well.
Google is a great tool, but perhaps not for a cancer patient trying to find the right answers and path when it comes to nutrition, and treatment options! There are so many articles that are ANTI CHEMO: CHEMO IS TOXIC POISON etc. yadda yadda. And of course, many websites with endless “do and dont’s” when it comes to what kind of foods to eat.
Being 31 yr old faced with a life threatening disease is hard. This isn’t made easy by reading articles that tell you that chemo can kill, and cause cancer and that rather, you should have Vitamin C injections and eat turmeric until the cows come home as a form of cancer cure and prevention. Naturally, confusion and distress hit home.
My thinking was that if I managed to get cancer despite having being a healthy and a relatively clean eater prior to my diagnosis, then how would continuing to eat healthy and taking ONLY natural supplements, as some websites suggest, actually cure me? I guess now knowing I am BRCA1 carrier also affects the outcome as I was predisposed at at higher risk already… but still.
I wonder how many of those ‘authors’ have actually been in my shoes with 2/3 of their life ahead of them and the choice between medical science such as chemo vs Only natural foods and supplements as treatment options? Would they be a judgemental as they appear?
My treatment choice: Integrative / complementary medicine. It combines conventional medicine such as chemo with evidence-based complementary medicine such in my case, acupuncture and natural supplements to help support my healthy cells and immune system. Rather than choose one treatment over the other, I choose combining forces with conventional and complementary in the hope of beating the Bitch Tit.
Due to the fact that I was at my peak fitness and health when I was diagnosed, I feel that it has definitely contributed to putting me in a better position to fight off the chemo side effects. I had completed a Purium 10 day Transformation reset/cleanse/detox mid last year and felt better than I ever have. I continued using the products after the cleanse on a daily basis to keep optimal health ensuring I was getting top notch protein, veg and fruits.
My oncologist, her registrar, nurses, and my surgeon all told me to eat well! Lots of veg, fruit, whole foods. Naturally I wanted to continue following my daily routine of Purium as this is all about natural organic wholefood nourishment. However I was surprised that they then told me to STOP taking my Purium Green Power Shake (Veg component) and the Apothe Cherry Drink (fruit component) because they could be counterproductive to chemo. I was confused. They want me to eat well, but not that well? They said the Purium products were amazing for average Joe Blow, but for a cancer patient like me, they were in fact too high in vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients. Go figure- They’re too healthy for me! The purpose of chemo is obviously to kill fast growing cells such as cancer so the fact these products regenerate and repair cells so quickly would be an issue in my case as they would be counter productive to the chemo. Fair call.
Cutting this out of my daily routine was hard, but at least I’m reassured that I’ve got the best chance of bouncing back and helping my body heal and flush out all chemo toxins on a cellular level as soon as I wrap up my last chemo session. Even if I put on more weight, I’m not concerned as I know I’ll shed it easily afterwards by smashing out a 10 day Transformation. My priority is killing the cancer for now, so I trust the fact my body can heal and bounce back later when the time is right.
My naturopath and oncologist agreed that I could at least continue taking the super amino 23 which was a huge relief as this is a pure source of vegan protein and essential to keep strong and fight off the anemia which was threatening my blood count half way through my treatment. And also to help reduce weight gain by reducing fat, whilst maximizing muscle mass which is great too for patients trying to increase weight. So works both ways.
It’s not just hard being faced with losing your hair but then you have to witness your eyebrows and lashes disappear, whilst your appetite does the opposite! Not only that, but your face starts blowing up from the drugs (and increased food consumption) and you feel inflammed and yep, fat. Its a bit of a myth & misconception that most chemo patients lose their appetite and shed weight. Nope, quite the opposite for me! Thanks to the unpleasant steroids that not only make me wired & unable to sleep well for the first few nights after chemo (hence late night/early morning blog post) they also make you wanna chow down. And yeah, I’ll admit, I’m certainly not racing for the steamed broccoli 100% of the time or easily avoiding the carbs as per my naturopaths request to follow a ketogenic diet. It comes down again to balance and moderation. I mean, if I’m pumping my body with hectic chemicals like chemo, then surely a few pieces of dark chocolate to break the ketogenic diet won’t kill me?
Seeing chemicals (toxic yes) being pumped through me every week has been really challenging. So knowing I’m taking natural supplements to help support my body combat the harsh side effects and assist gut health, immunity and overall balance creates a sense of control, gives me feelings of faster healing hope, and also creates a sense that I have a greater personal power and involvement.
By integrating Chinese medicine such as acupuncture twice a week I am helping improve red and white blood cell production, which is essential to keep my immune system from crashing. It’s purpose is also to help reduce hot flushes, nausea, pain, digestive problems, anxiety and stress. Perhaps this is contributing to why I am not suffering such severe side effects and tolerating chemo much better than I had expected? At least I like to think so.
What is fascinating, but more so confusing and upsetting is how another similar aged patient who I met last week is suffering the same kind of cancer (Triple Negative & BRCA1) yet has been advised by her oncologist NOT to take fish oils or ANY natural supplements. This a prime example of how crazy and confusing it can be with conflicting advice from medical professionals. Two patients, two exact cancers, two oncologists and yet two different opinions.
For now, I’m going to trust I’m on the right path and will keep trying to do Pilates and exercise between kips when I can, follow my ketoegenic diet, have acupuncture twice a week by embracing those little needles, and yes, smash the odd cacao bar when I feel like it!