Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Unspoken Side Effect- Weight Gain After Chemotherapy

Every six months, I visit the Oncologist to go over bloodwork and make sure cancer has not made a reappearance.  And I'm coming up on being a 3 Year Cancer Survivor within the week.  Yay! I'm excited to be healthy, have great bloodwork, and to get another year under my belt.  But...

There has been a notable downside of going through chemotherapy.  Most cancer survivors I read about have the big issue of fatigue for years following treatment.  And I can definitely see that as a problem, but my issue is something different.  For the past year and a half, I've steadily gained weight.  Not a lot at a time, but a pound here and a pound there.  About 10 pounds up, I asked the Oncologist about it.  His response was that it wasn't a big deal, and I had it in all the right places.  Obviously, that did not put my mind to ease, because I could see the difference in the mirror and the way my clothes fit.

Although I didn't have a "workout" routine since starting full-time work a year ago, I did get exercise throughout the day.  In one year's time, I had given 550 tours of the assisted living community, not to mention all the times I walked the building in anticipation of those tours.  I was getting a good 10,000 steps in daily (in high heels!)  In addition, I ate well.  I never drank sodas, I didn't overeat, and I focused on healthy choices (with dessert sometimes).  Yet, the weight continued to creep up.  And to top it off, I noticed that my body composition had changed.  Cellulite? Sagging skin? Low muscle tone?

It's not that I think I
 look bad, but more about
how my old clothes fit me
By the beginning of August this year, I had gained 22 pounds from the date of cancer diagnosis 35 months prior.  And I had no real reason for the gain, as I refused to believe that it's my age to blame, so I started to research (as you know I love to do). Turns out, weight gain after chemotherapy is a thing.  Apparently it's quite common for women to gain weight 1-2 years after cancer treatment, and it's not due to overeating (see study here).  No wonder my Oncologist was so dismissive about the whole thing.

In addition, it's also common that body composition changes after chemotherapy.  Loss of muscle, loss of bone mass, and an irregularity of insulin, causing insulin resistance, are all expected changes.  Why aren't we told these things up front?  Regardless, what's done is done, and I'm on a mission to fix the issues.

There isn't a whole lot of research on HOW chemotherapy changes someone metabolically, but I can tell from my own body that, despite food intake and physical activity, I will have to do more than just "diet" to make a difference. Knowing that the body's insulin is affected by chemotherapy, I'm also guessing that how the body processes Triglycerides and fat retention is also affected.  I really wish there was more research on these effects.

Anyway, around the middle of August, I started a new regime for getting my weight and skin under control. First, I joined Sparkpeople to track my calories during the day, trying to keep around 1200 a day, with one cheat day a week (so my body doesn't think I'm starving).  Daily, I use organic plant protein meal, organic superfoods, and collagen peptides full of amino acids that spark HGH (human growth hormone) in my morning coffee...along with my supplement regime to include Silica now.

Then I use two things about an hour before lunch and dinner; one is Garcinia Cambogia and the other is Glucomannan.  First, the Garcinia Cambogia keeps your insulin low while you eat, preventing your body from retaining fat.  And second, the Glucomannan is a soluble fiber that has digestive enzymes, probiotics, and helps fill your stomach so you don't eat as much.

Then, when I do eat lunch and dinner, I take CLA and L-Luceine.  The CLA aides in fat loss and L-Luceine helps your body retain muscle mass while losing weight.  I have a tendency to forget the ones before meals, but usually remember to take these two fairly religiously.  I also try to get back to reducing carbs, eating more veggies, and taking a break from dessert, although I do have dark chocolate occasionally, so I don't feel deprived. It really just depends on what my calorie count is for the day.

Now, I realize that this regime seems somewhat intense with regard to pills, but apparently that's what I needed to jump start weight loss now that I know I'm fighting a cancer treatment battle.  And this may not be sustainable in the long run.  But the goal is to get the weight off, build the muscle, and maintain a healthy lifestyle....all without being miserable from not eating the things I enjoy.

So now, 19 days in to my new treatment for metabolic homeostasis, I'm 9 pounds down, and there is a very noticeable difference in my skin.  That's 3.32 pounds lost a week, and my skin is starting to look tighter on my face and thighs, and even my hair and nails are looking better.  I'm hoping to continue this routine for another 20 pounds, and I'll be setting myself up for better success in beating cancer long we all know that obesity is linked to higher cancer rates.

We'll see how it all goes, and I'll keep you updated on the progress!

UPDATE 9/5/16: I'm down 12 lbs!!

To read more about weight gain after chemotherapy, just type this into your google search box...
weight gain after chemotherapy treatment pubmed

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Susan G Komen Survivor Spotlight

Cancer was just one battle this stay at home mom had to fight

By Katrina Daniel
2013 and 2014 was a bad time for Ann Peart. And that’s an understatement.

She was divorced, no longer able to care for her two children, she had no job because she’d been a stay-at-home mom of her medically-fragile child for 10 years, she had no health insurance. And she was diagnosed with an advanced and aggressive form of breast cancer.

“It’s been…challenging,” Ann says now.

She was 39 in August 2013 when she felt a sharp pain in her armpit. That “led me to do a self- exam. I found a hard lump in my armpit and another in my breast, so naturally I panicked,” Ann recalls.

Her cancer spread quickly, going from one lump in her armpit to four, and six in her breast in about two weeks.

Her panic didn’t last long, however, as her natural resilience, curiosity and drive kicked into high gear.

“Not having insurance, or even a family doctor, I started to look online for options. South Carolina has free mammograms but only for women over 45, I was only 39 so I didn’t qualify,” she says. “I finally found the Susan G. Komen Foundation and called my local chapter (the SC Mountains to Midlands affiliate). Within a week I was at the Breast Health Clinic, and by that time had two more lumps in my breast that seemed to show up overnight. I felt that having the local Komen Chapter and being able to talk with someone was the most helpful.”

“I was scared, looking for answers and guidance, and they were able to produce results. A phone call to my local chapter was all it took. However, with it being so late in the year, the grant funds for my local hospital were already gone. But I persisted, knowing that I couldn’t travel out of state due to my kids. Luckily the local chapter gave me someone to talk with at the Breast Health Clinic who could help me. They took pity on me, heard the desperation in my voice and I was able to be seen with an emergency stash of Komen grant funds.”

Shortly thereafter, Ann underwent seven rounds of chemotherapy and five surgeries, including reconstruction.

At the same time, she was dealing with an acrimonious divorce and she had to give her husband temporary custody of their two children – a 10- year-old daughter and 8-year-old son –while she was undergoing chemotherapy and surgery.

“I have the best of situations, and I have the worst of situations,” Peart says. Her daughter has tested in the top intellectual tier of children in the country and goes to the School for the Talented and Gifted. Her younger son, however, is severely disabled and will never talk, walk, or graduate developmentally beyond the level of a 2- year old.

After she underwent several surgeries, she says she put her pride aside and asked for help.

“I applied for Medicaid for insurance, a hospital sponsorship to pay for surgeries and treatments, food stamps, and the program that pays your mortgage while you have temporary hardships. I also had friends and family hold a fundraiser to help me get through all those months of treatment. I managed on $800.00 a month for two years.”

“One thing I’ve learned through experience is that nobody is the same when it comes to cancer. When you have cancer you get bombarded with advice, cancer stories, book suggestions, diet suggestions, alternative cures, and the list goes on. My best advice is to think for yourself. Figure out what works for you and you alone. This is a journey towards health, and it will take time and different strategies to get there.”

After she was forced to go to court to get her children back, Peart also needed to get a job.

“I remember standing at the Social Services office, waiting to get food stamps, with hair an inch long and scars still fresh on my body from breast surgery. I was going through the work training program with recent criminals by my side, and thinking to myself ‘How did I end up like this?’”

“And now, after clawing my way back up, I’m the sales director at a health care facility. I am able to provide for myself and my children. I’m able to leave the strife in the past and pay it forward to others. I don’t take any of it for granted.”

Sunday, May 15, 2016

My Health Protocol

Many people have asked what I take to maintain my health.  And I've spent two years experimenting to come up with what works best for me. I'm happy to share it with you.  However, each person will have their own combination of factors that work best.  You will need to listen to your body and figure out your protocol.  Just remember, this is about total body health, not treating symptoms.  

Because I had chemotherapy that destroyed my immune system, I've had to work extra hard to build it back up.  I'm happy to say that I have only been sick one time in over two years, and that was with a minor cold that only lasted two days. I've not even had allergies. Prior to cancer, I was sick with colds, flu, allergies, and respiratory infections.  What a change it's been to feel so good! 

As I've explained on my Anncredible Facebook page, I don't rely on diet alone to beat cancer (or build my health). I think it's more about finding the source of what caused cancer. Then, the cancer stem cells that are left from conventional treatment can be beaten with natural treatments (not just a clean diet). For me, cancer was a combination of the wrong diet, years of estrogen dominance, and a root canal infection that had gone to my lymph system. It took a change in diet, tooth removal, and taking a number of natural medicinal plants to treat estrogen dominance and kill cancer stem cells.

According to the studies, 70% of women diagnosed with ER+/PR+/HER2+ breast cancer, and go through conventional treatment as I did, are then diagnosed with aggressive recurrence at an average of 30 months past original diagnosis. That is due to the cancer stems cells growing resistant tumors. I am now at 32 months post cancer diagnosis, and have had many recent scans, bloodwork, and an MRI just last month, all showing no evidence of cancer. I'd like to believe I'm on the right track with my thinking. 

Yes, I did do chemotherapy and surgery that killed the very advanced and fast growing cancer. But at the same time, that chemo did a lot of permanent damage to my body, and it created the potential for stronger, resistant cancer recurrence by leaving the cancer stem cells. I think the main thing to remember is that cancer treatment shouldn't rely on conventional therapy. And there are thousands of people that cannot even make it through the harsh chemotherapy to begin with.

First, I will say that I take one prescription, Levothyroxine 75mcg for Hypothyroidism.  I have been on it since 1997, and have not been able to change that with Iodine.  Personally, I think it's from extensive Fluoride exposure as a child due to a spill in the city water, but that's a post for another day.  

Anyway, without further ado, this is what I take to keep my body healthy:

Daily supplements:
Gold Blend Supplements* (quantity 4 capsules every morning. If exposed to illness, bump up to 6 twice a day)
- Black Cumin Seed- 340mg
- Indian Long Pepper- 340mg
- Mangosteen- 500mg
- Dandelion Root- 48mg
- Turmeric Root- 380mg
- Bitter Melon- 320mg

Silver Blend Supplements* (quantity 4 capsules every morning)
- Resveratrol- 170mg
- Taurine- 900mg
- Indian Ginseng- 400mg
- Green Tea- 640mg
- Rhodiola Rosea- 950mg
- Gotu Kola- 950mg

Hormone Balance Supplements* (quantity 2 capsules every morning)
- MSM Organic Sulphur-1200mg
- Peruvian Maca Root- 600mg
- Lutein 5%- 170mg
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid- 90mg
- CoEnzyme Q10- 90mg
- DIM extract- 90mg
- Zinc Gluconate- 50mg

Other supplements taken every morning:
Quercetin- 800mg 
Bromelain- 165mg
Vitamin D3- 5000mg
Magnesium- 200mg
Selenium- 200mcg
Biotin- 10,000mcg

Other supplements taken weekly or as needed:
Probiotic 10Billion- 2 capsules 
Digestive Enzymes- 1 capsule weekly or as needed
Baking soda

That's about it!  I know it seems like a lot, and it probably is, but it's the natural things my body needs to function properly.  It's an ongoing learning process.  But I can tell a huge difference if I go a day or two without these.  I immediately feel drained and sluggish.  And the bloodwork says it all.... I'm healthier than the average person.  The doctors have commented several times that my bloodwork and scans show that I take care of myself (ie no fatty liver, low cholesterol, no diabetes, etc).  The goal is to continue to maintain optimum health!

I hope this helps some folks figure out their own journey!  

* Yes, I make and sell these supplements.  Don't click if you don't want to be sold anything. I just buy organic powders and I encapsulate them so that I know they are safe and without fillers.  I sell them out of convenience since I'm making them anyway.  However, I encourage others to take charge and do the same for themselves.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Health Update on Breast Cancer

It's been just over two years since I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  I went through seven rounds of chemotherapy, five surgeries, and 22 infusions at the hospital.  I went on to turn down Radiation Therapy and a five year sentence to Tamoxifen (a hormonal treatment).  I opted instead to treat my body holistically, and I created a perfect combination of natural supplements to build my immune system.  This is what happened...

I remember a year ago, I had just finished my last infusion at the hospital, and I was starting to grow concerned about a recurrence of cancer.  I had been feeling a small lump in my armpit on the same side I had cancer.  It was just like when I first felt it the year before.  As November and December passed, the lump grew larger, almost the size of a walnut.  I asked the Oncologist about it, who also felt the lump, but he tried to ease my fears by saying it must have been from the fat grafting on the new breast (even though no fat was injected into my armpit).  He said that we would keep an eye on it though.  And by January, it had grown to the size of a golf ball and I could no longer sleep on my right side due to pain.

Of course I started to panic, and I looked back over my year of research on natural strategies to fight cancer to come up with a plan. I had already been taking probiotics and vitamins, but I hadn't really started to take the things that I found would actually kill cancer.  I guess I was just waiting to see what happened with my body first.  Well, that lump was inspiration enough to start on my list of natural supplements. 

I hadn't gotten to the point of making the blends yet, but was taking the ingredients individually.  The main one I took at the time was Mangosteen.  There was SO much evidence, and so many clinical studies on how Mangosteen kills cancer cells, that I tried it without hesitation.  I started with taking about two teaspoons a day of Organic Mangosteen powder that included the pericarp (rind).  By day four, I was in so much pain that I could barely move my arm.  I almost went to the emergency room it hurt so badly.  But I just continued taking Mangosteen and drinking lots of water.

By day nine, I was still in pain, but was shocked to feel that the lump in my armpit had shrunken by half.  It was odd shaped, not round, and was still very painful.  By day 14, it was gone completely.  NOT A TRACE.  Was it cancer?  I honestly don't know. But whatever it was was gone!

I went back to the Oncologist in March for another checkup and he asked about the lump in my armpit.  I told him that it was gone and what I had done with Mangosteen.  He scoffed at first, and then was shocked to find that I no longer had a lump in my armpit.  He looked at his notes from last time to see that he did in fact say I had a lump there in December.  But he never really acknowledged or congratulated me on fixing it myself. I suppose it doesn't matter though. I know he hates to admit natural stuff works.

Anyway, now, I am right at the time that breast cancer recurrence is at it's highest likelihood, the 1.5-2 year mark.  Many women go through all the horrible treatment, only to discover that cancer has returned and is now resistant to chemotherapy and radiation.  It's a terrifying time.  This past month, I was having some heart palpitations and new fatigue, so I ran back to the Oncologist.

Update on the above fatigue:  I was low on Potassium, and Maca Root was affecting my thyroid.  A month later and I am back to normal.

First, the doctor said that my bloodwork is better than his.  That thrilled me!  Second, I had an abdominal ultrasound, which not only was normal, but the technician said, "Wow, you must really eat healthy food, you have no signs of Fatty Liver!"  Apparently most of the population has that issue.  And lastly, I bit the bullet and did a PET/CT Scan to see if there was any cancer in my body.  Did I mention it's terrifying to worry about cancer?

Side note: The way the PET/CT scan works is, you are injected with a fluorescent radioactive glucose.  Once in the body, the glucose immediately heads to highly active body tissue, inflammation, and cancer cells.  Any highlighted areas on the scan are called "uptake".  The higher the uptake in non-active tissue the more likely it is to be metastatic cancer.

When I was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer in September 2013, I did a PET scan then, and it showed uptake in my left humerus.  They weren't sure at that time if that was metastatic cancer or not.  The only definitive way to know is to do a biopsy, which would have been extremely painful.  So we just left it and treated cancer as if it were Stage II, not knowing if it was IV.  Although a recent peek on my online patient access to the hospital shows my medical history as Stage 4 breast cancer.

Anyway, when I did the PET/CT a couple weeks ago, they found that I still have what they think is some kind of tumor in my left humerus/shoulder in the bone marrow (See image below).  The good news is, it has not changed in two years, and whatever I am doing is keeping it completely under control. I also have mild uptake on my right chest wall where I had cancer, but the doctor says that is most likely just inflammation from all the surgeries.

But since I have palpitations and some fatigue, and we know it's not from cancer, the next step is checking my heart.  I had some serious issues with my heart during chemotherapy, so it's likely just a bit of damage from the conventional treatment.  I will know more once I do the echo-cardiogram in a couple weeks. Oh how I wish I had never done chemotherapy!  (Update:  It was low Potassium causing the palpitations)

Other than that minor hiccup, life is wonderful!  This has been a very good year.  I'm working full time and loving my job (see my office below).  I'm actually really good at my job too!

The view from my office

Where I spend my days

The children and I are catching up on our time lost during the past two years.  We are so happy to be together again!

Natalie showing off her new skills

And Tim, that amazing man I've been seeing for over a year, makes my heart so happy.  My friends are still so amazing to me.  Molly the dog is still alive, going on 4 years!  And I could not feel like a luckier person!  What a difference from two years ago.  Having it so bad for so long just makes these moments so much sweeter.  I'm beyond grateful for my life and my health this year.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!