Monthly Archives: June 2013

Different ways of getting victory over cancer

Different ways of getting victory over cancer

Photo by Darcy McCarty (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

When I started this journey with my wife I had only one mental model of what victory over cancer meant. Ideally, of course, it meant remission with no recurrence.

With time and as I learned more about cancer, some through books and some through talking with people and hearing and reading of their stories, I came to realize that there are different ways of beating this illness.
My conversion started by hearing a story by Dr. Patrick Quillen on a CD which accompanies his book, Beating Cancer with Nutrition (book with CD). Dr. Quillen was VP of Nutrtition for Cancer Centers of America for ten years.

He told the story of a lady he met that was diagnosed with cancer and given three months to live. These kinds of predictions can be wrong, as has been proven over and over again, but you have to factor them into your life plans despite that fact.

She took treatment and altered her lifestyle and diet. Her condition began to improve to the point that the illness went into remission. She and her husband decided to travel. They spent three years driving around the country seeing sites and visiting friends and family. Not knowing what the future held she was getting closure. After three years the cancer returned and took her.

Some might look at her story and say she was defeated by her illness. In one sense. But there are other–and I think better–ways to look at it.

Doctor Quillen’s point at the end of the story was that there are many ways to beat cancer.
If my wife were given three months to live I would look on every day past that three months as a little victory, a little gift from God. By that definition that lady was given over a thousand victories–over a thousand precious gifts.

Some might look on this as playing little semantic games–just playing with words and definitions.

Maybe. But if that’s what it takes to face each new day with a little lighter burden on such a long and difficult journey, so what?

Life is precious. We’re in a constant daily unseen battle with nature through trillions of bacteria in and around us trying to return us to dust. If it weren’t for our immune system they would succeed very quickly.

If one of your beloved members of your family were on their death-bed and you were given the option by the doctor of one more day of life or to end it now, most of us would choose one more day to be with them.

Based on what I’ve learned about cancer and given that my wife is stage 4 and her body is seeded with cancer cells, it may take her some day. But we’re doing what we can with diet and lifestyle and conventional treatment to win another day, another month or one more year of life. Each one a little victory and a gift from God for which we’re grateful.

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June 29, 2013 · 10:47 am

Is cancer a rich person’s (or country’s) disease?

Is cancer a rich person's (or country's) disease?

Photo by Will Keightley (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

Capitalism has brought millions of tons processed foods to billions of people. But it may have unintentionally brought millions of cases of cancer to countries with Westernized diets (i.e.diets high in white sugar, white flour, red meat, animal fats, etc.).

In Anticancer: A New Way of Life, Dr. David Servan-Schreiber writes of the research of Dr. Annie Sasco, who spent twenty-two years compiling cancer statistics for WHO’s International Agency for Cancer Research. She compiled these statistics into maps of the occurrence of various cancers in countries throughout the world. Comparing cancer patients of the same age groups with breast, prostate and colon cancers she concluded that these are diseases primarily of industrialized countries and especially Westernized countries.

Could it be our genes? Studies have linked up to 15 percent of cancers to genetic causes. But the spike in cancer over the last several decades can’t so easily be explained away.

While doing her survey in Mainland China Dr. Sasco noticed that she saw few cases of breast cancer. She asked a Chinese colleague why this was. With a smile he responded that she would find plenty of breast cancer in Hong Kong: “It’s a disease of rich women.” Residents of prosperous Hong Kong have a much richer diet and access to more Western processed foods than do their countrymen in the Mainland.

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June 28, 2013 · 4:16 pm

Another very helpful book on strategies to complement conventional cancer care

The second most helpful book I found on strategies that complemented my wife’s conventional cancer care (after Life Over Cancer by Dr. Keith Block) is Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. While not a cancer professional (he is a neuropsychiatrist by profession) Dr. Servan-Schreiber is a scientist and takes a scientific approach to the subject (while doing it in a very readable style). The author was highly motivated to find answers to why cancer occurs (and often recurs) and what patients can proactively do to aid in their recovery (as opposed to passively waiting for conventional cancer care to do it all). He was diagnosed with a walnut sized brain tumor. After conventional cancer treatment alone, it went into remission then recurred.

The author conveys the emotions he experienced on initial diagnosis, during treatment and after recurrence. He also writes of the struggles of people he met during his research on cancer. So the book does a good job of adding an interesting human element to a subject that is often submerged in dry statistics and big words.

It also has a 15 page center section titled Cancer Action that’s filled with condensed, quickly actionable  lifestyle and diet strategies you can consider adopting immediately to prevent cancer or aid in recovery and management of the disease.

While conventional care is valuable in dealing with the symptoms of cancer ( for example by debulking tumors through surgery or chemo) it does little or nothing to permanently adjust the biochemical conditions in the body which caused those symptoms in the first place.

If you don’t like reading or are too weak to read much there is also an audiobook version (Anticancer: A New Way of Life), and a PBS presentation on DVD with the same title (Anti Cancer With Dr David Servan-Schreiber). I bought all three and found each of them helpful in getting a better grip on why cancer happened to my wife and many things we could do to help in managing her illness and extending her life.

Chapters that I found especially helpful:

Chapter 2: Escaping Statistics

Chapter 4: Cancer’s Weaknesses

Chapter 6: The Anticancer Environment

Chapter 8: Anticancer Foods

Chapter 9: The Anticancer Mind

Chapter 11: The Anticancer Body

Some quotes from the book:

All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer. (From the cover)

When Richard Beliveau talks about Western diets in light of these finding, he is distressed.”With all I’ve learned over these years of research, If I were asked to design a diet today that promoted the development of cancer to the maximum, I couldn’t improve on our present diet!”

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The vital role of nonprofits in the battle of many cancer patients

The vital role of nonprofits in the cancer battle

Some of the Guam Cancer Care staff left to right: Christina Martini, Conchita “Bobot Nelson (my wife), Ellie Ongrung, Olynne Rhoads and Honlein “Tillie” Ngirachelsau (not shown Lucy Joo Castro, Chalorna Lauron, Karina Quito and Terry Quabo).
Many families and individuals are just one catastrophic illness away from financial ruin. I have a cousin who has no insurance and is battling advanced stage IV lung cancer in United States. At this writing his bill for testing and treatment comes to about a half million dollars. It’s through the work of nonprofits that many people, like my wife and my cousin, are able to continue their battle as long as they do.

When my wife was prescribed Tykerb (aka Lepatanib which came to $11,000 for a month’s supply of a bottle of 120 tablets) it was through the work of a local nonprofit (Guam Cancer Care) that we were able to wade through the maze of paperwork and the large bills.

Fortunately my wife did have some insurance but GCC was a lifesaver on the portions not covered. They also acted as a go between with pharmaceutical company to get some contributions in the form of price concessions from them. Plus they were of invaluable assistance on two trips we took to the US Mainland for testing.

On behalf of my wife and cancer patients everywhere our thanks go out to the many people in nonprofits everywhere quietly doing such vital work.

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June 24, 2013 · 3:30 am

A few tips on discouraging cancer or slowing its growth with green tea

Green tea time means cancer prevention time

Photo by Kanko (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

*All green teas are not equal. There are many varieties of green tea based on what country and region they are grown in. The book Foods to Fight Cancer ranks seventeen varieties according to amount of epigallocatechin gallate (known as EGCG, the main cancer preventive factor in the leaf) by weight. The eight varieties containing the least EGCG are grown in China. Of the top nine varieties of green tea, eight are grown in Japan. The top five varieties are: 1. Sencha-uchiyama 2. Gyokuro #1 3. Sencha #1 4. Sencha #2 5. Gyokuro #2. (Source: Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential foods to help prevent cancer by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.).

*Brewing time matters. First bring the water to a boil then turn off the stove. After dropping in the tea bag if you only allow it to brew in the hot water less than five minutes only about 20 percent of the anticancer catechins  are extracted compared to letting it steep for eight to ten minutes. (Source: Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential foods to help prevent cancer)

*EGCG is “one of the most powerful nutritional molecules against the formation of new blood vessels by cancerous cells” –David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D. (source: Anticancer, A New Way of Life, New Edition by David Servan-Schreiber, M,D., Ph.D.)

*Commercial bottled green tea isn’t the same as fresh brewed (beside the large amounts of sugar and whatever else they put in bottled teas). Don’t store freshly brewed green tea for longer than an hour. The beneficial polyphenols are lost after one to two hours. (Source: Anticancer: A New Way of Life, New Edition, by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D.)

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June 22, 2013 · 1:21 am

Jacki Glew, Clinical Nutrition Manager

Jacki Glew, Clinical Nutrition Manager

My wife with Jacki Glew (MS, RD, CSO, LDN), Clinical Nutrition Manager at The Block Center.

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June 11, 2013 · 1:47 am

“Do I have to visit The Block Center in order to benefit from integrative cancer care?”

At the Block Center at Skokie, Illinois April of this year.

At the Block Center at Skokie, Illinois April of this year.

“Do I need to visit The Block Center in order to benefit from integrative cancer care?” Someone asked me a similar question at an online forum for patients and families dealing with stage 4 breast cancer.

My personal nonprofessional opinion is that, for many people, I’m inclined to say no. But the bottom line is that decision will depend your particular situation.

I was able to use some of lifestyle and dietary strategies recommended in Dr. Block’s book, Life Over Cancer (to complement my wife’s local conventional cancer care and) to first help slow and then to help shrink many of the approximately thirty lesions that had spread to her lungs and which were causing her to waste away from cachexia.

Everyone’s situation is different. Some have money, physical or other limitations that prevent travel. But my experience with my wife’s health demonstrates that it’s possible to experience significant benefits despite such limitations. We only made the decision to travel to the Block Center after my wife had experienced shrinkage to the lesions.

We were so impressed with what had happened that we wanted to have additional testing done to see what other recommendations we could get for my wife’s specific biochemical conditions existing in her body that were contributing to her illness. But we had significantly benefitted before the trip.

The bottom line is not being able to visit the Block Center is no reason to avoid learning some of the basic principles of integrative cancer care and doing what you can, where you are, with what you have.

That said, we were finally able to take a trip to The Block Center. We met with a staff oncologist, nutritionist, psychologist (to discuss psychological factors that may contribute to cancer) and Dr. Block himself. They ran extensive blood tests to clarify the exact biochemical conditions existing in my wife’s body that, according to the integrative cancer care principles as outlined in Life Over Cancer, have likely contributed to her particular cancer and emailed me an extensive report of the results with their comments and recommendations.

We have no regrets that we went, but each person has to make that decision based on their particular situation, resources, limitations, desires and needs.

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