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:



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.



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.


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!

Can I keep this up?

When I took on board my cancer diagnosis, I decided to work hard at shocking my body back into good behaviour. I wanted to completely change my chemical composition, as the old one was evidently not working.
We’ve always eaten well, with many veggies from the allotment, but it was all washed down with rather a lot of cider. The pattern of my day would be starting with several cups of coffee, then an ill-considered ‘elevenses’ of something bready, followed by a trip to the pub. The rest of the day would be snoring in the chair in the afternoon, then preparing a good evening meal, accompanied by a few glasses of cider. There would perhaps be some naughty cakey snack in the evening, then a rubbish night’s sleep where I would go out like a light into a cider-induced coma, then awake, full of angst, for an early hours wakeful worry session.
Too many calories (and too many derived from alcohol), not enough exercise, and little good quality sleep.
Not Good.
Now my regime is ONE cup of coffee early in the morning (gets that old digestive track moving!). I have a breakfast of fruit, nuts and seeds. I have several cups of green tea, then a lunch of a huge salad incorporating 5 or 6 fruit and veg. I will walk and/or swim every day. The evening meal is pretty much the same as before, because it was always good quality – a small portion of protein with lots of veg. Then I follow it with more green tea, lots of water etc. I finish with a bath to which I’ve added a few caps of ‘Dettol’, then – because I’ve spent most of the day bathing in one form or another! – I have to apply a body lotion. The bathing ritual takes AGES and some nights I would love to just slip to bed without it, but it has kept me completely free of infections of any sort these last six months. I’ve not had a hint of a cold, and I’m especially keen to avoid the horrendous chest infections I’ve had since I moved to ‘sunny Devon’ (where it ‘rains five days in seven’). After that, I have a great night’s sleep.
It’s all good, and I seem to be getting stronger every day. Something’s working, but which bit is it? Looks like I’m going to have to carry on doing ALL of it for the rest of my life, because I don’t know which is the effective component.
That’s not a problem, because it’s actually all quite enjoyable.
I’m also committed every day to FORCE my body to health. I want every single cell in my body to be perfectly nourished and ready for action, to bop those cancer cells as they rear their ugly heads. Right now, it seems to be working.

Finished chemo! The DLL plan…

I’ve had my last chemo session, and have been pretty good throughout.

I’ve had to wait until now to share my tips of handling chemo side effects, because it seemed like tempting fate to do it earlier; the minute I put it down in blog form I would doubtless get hit with the full works of side effects.

I’m also aware that I’ve had a good ride because I’m lucky enough to be retired, and therefore can live a life without deadlines and duties. It must be so much harder fitting this illness and treatment around family and job commitments. Also, I’m sure there are more vicious chemo combinations than the FEC that I’ve been through.

So, here are my tips for handling chemo side effects… the Vic ‘DLL Plan‘!

The acronym stands for Dettol, Linseed and Liver:

Dettol. This is a disinfectant that can be used for both odd jobs around the house, and personal hygiene. (It’s not available worldwide, but perhaps ‘Lysol’ is an equivalent in the US?). I’ve had a bath every night with a couple of cap fulls of Dettol added. I’ve had a good old soak, making sure I wash my nostrils and breathing in the lovely, disinfectanty fumes, generally making sure that I cleanse away all the lurking germs of the day. I use ‘Simple’ soap products, and apply a body lotion.

I haven’t limited my socialising particularly. I still run my art group, have been on flights and in hotels, and bumped into some pretty germy folk without succumbing to the dreaded ‘neutropenic sepsis’, and I credit the ‘Dettol bath’ with being responsible for this.

Linseed (Flaxseed elsewhere in the world). I’ve been trying to include a couple of tablespoons full a day. It’s quite easy to incorporate it by grinding it up a bit with some pumpkin/sunflower seeds and using it as a sprinkle on fruit and yoghourt, soups and salads. There are also lots of marvellous cracker and biscuit recipes that include it on the Rawmazing web site.

Linseed may possibly help deter estrogen-sensitive tumours, but its really big plus factor is… erm… keeping the bowels regular. And that can be a REAL problem for the few days following the chemo infusion.

YOU MUST DRINK LOADS OF WATER WITH IT! I soaked some seeds for a Rawmazing cracker recipe, and was surprised when I went to drain it that it had turned to a gel, and I couldn’t get any fluid out of it! This is obviously how it works in our digestive system, absorbing lots of water and keeping stools soft and bulky. Great stuff!

Liver. Any old liver will do, but I do enjoy pig’s liver and it does have the highest concentration of iron out of the available types. I make sure I have a good meal of it a couple of days before blood work, and haven’t needed a blood transfusion. In fact, my blood results were commented on as ‘very good’ for my last chemo! I try to have it at every opportunity, perhaps choosing the liver pate as a starter if we go out for a meal, and opting for calves’ liver in posh restaurants! (our new hobby!)

Apart from the liver fixation, my diet is mainly plant-based, aiming at 10 fruits and veg a day, as little salt and sugar as possible, no alcohol and lots of green tea and water. I limit myself to a couple of cups of fairly weak coffee in the morning. I don’t want to give it up because I find it certainly helps with the old ‘digestive transit’ issues which can really make life a misery.

The great thing about forcing all these fruit and veg, linseed, green tea and liver into your diet is that you simply can’t fit anything naughty in! I’ve lost 56lbs in 8 months, and – apart from the twinging bad back caused by the cancer itself – feel better than I have for years. I sleep well, my skin is healthy and smooth, and I haven’t had any infections.

I hope this helps any fellow chemo sufferers out there. It doesn’t have to be that bad.