Yet another direction…

This blog is going to career off in yet another direction. First it was recipes, then it was cancer, now it’s going to be MY BOOK!

Yesterday I completed and uploaded my first self-published book to Amazon Kindle.

It’s a ripping science fiction yarn for 6-11 year old readers, fully illustrated.

Cover of 'The Black Hole in the Beetroot'.I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself from now on. It’s been great getting up really early and immersing myself in an illustration. I got in a routine of doing one a day, preparing it in the morning and colouring in at night in front of the TV.

I’d better make a start on ‘Beetroot II, the sequel’…

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I might be along the right lines after all

I’m working hard at my immune system, especially hoping to get my ‘T Cells’ in fighting order so that they can eat up my cancer cells.

Research publication this week shows that I might be along the right lines:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23646-antibody-wakes-up-tcells-to-make-cancer-vanish.html#.UeJ3tlMyHJIand

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/exclusive-cancer–a-cure-just-got-closer-thanks-to-a-tiny-british-company–and-the-result-could-change-lives-of-millions-8707590.html

So, there’s not only a ‘tiny British company’ working on this, there’s a not-so-tiny, short British woman doing her bit, too.

What am I doing?

  • Good nutrition
  • Daily exercise
  • Extreme cleanliness, with daily ‘Dettol’ baths and saunas a few times a week.

The last bit’s my own invention! I don’t want my T cells chasing common bacteria around when they should be concentrating ON THE JOB IN HAND! Ridding my body every night  of skin-born bacteria seems the way to go.

All I can say is at the moment it seems to be working.

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Bisphospho-bloody-amazing-phates!

As I have bone metastases, ‘bone pain’ was the first symptom I had that showed I was in trouble. Symptoms were a leg that felt strained at the top, and made we walk like a table, and REALLY bad back ache.
I’ve now finished chemo and radio therapies, but ongoing (till it ‘stops working’ – don’t like the sound of that) I’m having monthly infusions of bisphosphonate. I don’t quite understand how it works – it stops my clasts blasting* or something – but the results are fantastic.
The positive effect seems to have built a little with each infusion, and this week I’m delighted to announce that I feel ‘normal’, except that my ‘normal’ is better than it used to be because I’m 70lbs lighter. On Monday I walked 7 miles, and helped to water the allotment, which is a back breaking task even for a healthy individual. Tuesday it was just a 3 mile walk, with more watering. It’s hard to remember I could barely walk across the room a year ago, and couldn’t even put on my own pants. I used to try to don my pants with a walking stick, but it always ended in hopeless twiddling, like one of those plates on sticks stunts beloved by circuses.
I just wanted to put a little positive note up here, because so many of us write about gruelling treatments etc, but rarely write about their effects, and how sometimes they actually work!

*Bone undergoes constant turnover and is kept in balance (homeostasis) by osteoblasts creating bone and osteoclasts destroying bone. Bisphosphonates inhibit the digestion of bone by encouraging osteoclasts to undergo apoptosis, or cell death, thereby slowing bone loss. (Wikipedia)

Quinoa – the revenge of the saponins

My plant-based diet experiments have led me to try a number of different grains, including the wonder-seed quinoa. Last night I made myself a HUGE bowl of quinoa with vegetables and spices, and made a bit of a pig of myself.

Unfortunately it all came out again in the early hours of the morning. My body definitely wasn’t having any of it, and I was wracked with stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting until every little bit was gone. As I fell into a troubled sleep at about 4.0 am, I could almost hear my body saying ‘..and don’t do that AGAIN!’

A quick session with Google this morning showed that this isn’t an unknown problem with quinoa. Apparently the seeds are naturally coated with bitter ‘saponins’ that have to be washed off. Very THOROUGHLY washed off, too; putting the seeds in a sieve and vaguely waving them about under some running water definitely wasn’t thorough enough. I even read that they should be soaked for 7 hours in acidified water.

So, I’m never eating it again. It might be worth a try if I ever find myself wandering around the Andes in a state of extreme malnourishment, but apart from that I’m sticking to rice and pearl barley.

Blessed are the cheesemakers

I’ve opted for not consuming dairy products. They contain IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor) to encourage rapid cell growth. Rapid cell growth is exactly what’s needed for the sustenance of new-born mammals, but isn’t needed by cancer ridden old codgers like myself. The scans show that I can rapidly grow inappropriate cells without any help.
I’ve mulled it over, read a variety of sources, cogitated and meditated on the issue, and it makes sense. Much as I love cheese, it’s had to go.
I’ve really missed it, but at last I’ve found something that ticks all the boxes and hits the right notes on my palette. Fermented nut cheese. The simple nut cheeses I made initially were very pleasant, but didn’t quite quench the cheese craving. This really hits the spot and is well worth the fiddle.
First you have to sprout some wheat, then add water to it and ferment it for a couple of days to make a liquid called ‘rejuvelac’. This is then added to the ground nuts of your choice and fermented in a warm place for a couple more days. I like my cheese quite salty, but I knead the salt in when I shape the cheese after fermentation, as I believe it would impede the fermenting process. The full recipe is here on the amazing Rawmazing site.
This week I’ve made two different cheeses (while I had some rejuvelac on the go). One is almond cheese with a clove of garlic, then wrapped in wild garlic leaves. The other is cashew cheese with a coating of dried apple and beetroot.

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The leaf wrapped one is my version of Cornish ‘Yarg’. As ‘Yarg’ is actually the maker’s name, Gray, spelled backwards, I suppose I should call mine ‘Seriuqs’, but it doesn’t really trip off the tongue. I’m very pleased with the taste of it. It packs a real garlic punch, but the almonds give it a slightly crumbly, clean tang.

The cashews in the beetroot-coated cheese give a creamier texture. The apple and beetroot flavours are difficult to identify, but give it a dramatic appearance.

I’m going to try a cheese made with Macadamia nuts next. That should be ultra creamy, but I’m tending to feel the almonds give the nicest result so far.

I made the biscuits as well – dehydrating a ground mix of almonds, linseed etc. So the whole plateful is really just nuts in different guises!

I’m really impressed with how cheesy these fermented cheeses are. Hubby loathes cheese and allied lactose flavours with a vengeance, and he hates my cheese, too. A very good sign that I’m achieving true cheesiness!

My only worry is that the ‘rejuvelac’ contains the IGF that I’m mustn’t have. What if I’ve carefully recreated a vegan form of the very substance I’m trying to avoid? These are questions I’m constantly bumping into these days as I get further and further into ‘alternative’ cancer treatments. I’ve just started analysing my diet with ‘My Fitness Pal’, and my Calcium and Iron intake is running at about 20-30% of what it should be. Even on the day I had half a pound of liver my iron intake was only 77%. This raises the question of where the hell do I get those minerals from if I don’t drink milk/eat cheese/stuff myself full of red meat? In fact, looking at ‘Healthalicious’, a handy tool for analysing nutrition, how does anybody get the right amount, whatever diet they follow?

It’s one of life’s mysteries. If you have any ideas, let me know.

I’m there

It’s nearly 6 months since I finished chemo.

Yesterday I felt that I’m back. I’ve arrived. This is it. My energy levels are back to normal. In fact, better than that because I’m 70lbs lighter than what I remember as ‘normal’, pre-diagnosis.

I got up at 6.00am, made the daughter’s packed lunch, did two loads of washing, got the dehydrator whizzing along with two sorts of crackers, made bread. Then, ‘speed-walked’ with the dog 4 miles round Berry Head. (I don’t mean to speed-walk – it’s just that I can’t control the dog.) Popped into the allotment and picked herbs for dinner. After a cup of tea (green, natch) I prepared a stupidly complicated dinner which required 2 hours of standing in the kitchen. A year ago I couldn’t even stand up for 10 minutes, and needed painkillers every 4 hours.

I ironed the linen and made the bed. I washed up, and FINALLY sat down in my super sleepy old person’s motorised chair at 8.00pm, and DIDN’T doze off! Amazing!

I had a slight backache off and on during the day,  but that’s going to be ongoing because the cancer is in my spine and has caused ‘instability’, but nothing worth worrying about. In fact, I haven’t taken a single painkiller in 2013. Isn’t that wonderful?

I’m never going to be in the clear waters of NED (No Evidence of Disease), but I wonder how long I can stay in this blessed space? I believe the chemo and radiation restored me to a state of health where I could be empowered to improve my own health, and I’m going to carry on with that. I’m still munching through mountains of fruit and vegetables, raw when possible. I’m increasing my exercise every day, swimming and walking further and further. I’m still keeping insanely clean with my daily ‘Dettol’ bath. I’ve also added a daily ‘core temperature raising’ sauna whenever possible. The body raises its own temperature when fighting disease, right? So perhaps raising my core temperature for a few minutes a day can help those jolly old Natural Killer Cells charge around and tackle stray cancer cells? Just an idea of mine, and very pleasant to carry out, so worth a try (and, yes, the incidence of cancer is slightly less in Scandinavian countries where saunas are popular.)

Well, must dash. I’ve got to have a juice (carrot, apple and ginger) before I dash off to the spa for a swim and a sauna, then dog-walking around the beautiful Devon Coast this afternoon. Life couldn’t be sweeter!

I want to be in the tail

No, that’s not in an aircraft on my next holiday – though that would be good, too, being statistically the safest.

Statistics. Usually a dirty word, but I’ve found a fabulous piece of writing by Stephen Jay Gould about his cancer and how he interpreted the statistics. Everyone with cancer ought to read The Median isn’t the message. This backed up some of my own thinking.

Just to give you a bit of an introduction, the scientist Stephen Jay Gould was diagnosed with cancer in his thirties and given 8 months to live. He lived a further 20 years, and died of another cancer unrelated to the first.

You’ve probably seen charts, like the one I’ve roughly mocked up here, showing life expectancy on diagnosis of various cancers?

Mock up cancer life expectancy chart

Mock up cancer life expectancy chart

The natural assumption when viewing one of these is to go for the ‘median’ (shown as A). On diagnosis we’ve had a terrible shock, and to err on the glum side is only natural. So, we’ve only got five years to live – or have we?

What about all those people way down in the blue section? Hey – hang on a minute! Down at ‘B’ everyone has died of the cancer, but we’re talking 20 years hence. Time to get another deadly disease altogether, or get run over by a bus!

My ambition is to push my personal profile down into what Stephen Jay Gould calls ‘the tail’ of the chart, by really pushing my personal fitness to as perfect as I can get it i.e. correct BMI, good mental attitude, plant-based diet and as few pollutants (caffeine, alcohol) as possible.

Please read the article, The Median isn’t the message. It’s full of hope, and written by a world renowned scientist, so I feel if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me!

I don’t believe I can cure my cancer, but I DO believe I can control my position in the chart. It’s in the ‘tail’ for me!