Sunday, March 30, 2014

Take These... You Know You Want To...

Now that I have completed chemotherapy and surgery, I am starting my own ways to help fight cancer. It begins by changing the environment where the cancer grew. It’s intimidating to look at all the supplements out there, knowing they can be powerful, knowing they could make cancer worse, and knowing that they are not approved by the FDA, then to get bombarded with suggestions of everything that is supposed to help.  I can't just guess what to take or go by what someone else took, nor can I sit around and wait for cancer to come back.  

For centuries, people from all over the world have used natural remedies to heal themselves from illness.  There are beneficial plants, fruits and vegetables all around us. But where do you begin? What are you supposed to take? I started reading....and reading....and reading.  I needed to know what will help my specific cancer from coming back.  

Not all cancer is created equal. 

I had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC), Grade 3 (fast growing),  PR+, ER+, Her2neu+ (Hormone receptor positive, which means it grows with hormones).   I know that I am taking targeted therapy, Herceptin, until November, to help my body block estrogen from getting to any cancer cells.  And I will also be taking Tamoxifen for the next five years to prevent my body from making any estrogen.  But there has to be more I can do. I have found that with certain supplements, I may be able to enhance the hormonal treatment of Herceptin and Tamoxifen as well as boost my immune system to fight any remaining cancer cells.  It's all about the chemistry.  

Before, I was unknowingly creating an ideal environment for cancer to grow. I allowed myself to forego breakfast and just have coffee for the first half of the day, which created an acidic environment. I would skip meals, or just eat something fast, like a protein bar, which didn't allow my body the proper nutrition to function. I was stressed, which added to the acidity that cancer loves. I wasn't active, so my body didn't have a lot of oxygen to detoxify and get rid of rogue cells. My hormones were out of whack from my thyroid medication. And I ate sugar, like everyone else. Did you know that when you eat sugar, your immune system basically shuts down? And finally, while I wasn't at all diabetic, my blood glucose was on the higher side. Red blood cells, brain cells, and cancer cells all use glucose to grow. But with an elevated amount in my body, and creating a nice, comfy, acidic place to grow, I was giving cancer a big ole welcome party. I put my body in a situation that it could not fight and kill the free radicals (free radicals are damaged cells that refuse to die, but instead mutate to become cancer cells).

I always thought I was healthy.  I rarely ate fast food.  I rarely drank soda.  Most every dinner was homemade from scratch.  It didn't even matter though, because I was doing too much other stuff so incredibly wrong. 

I was putting everything and everyone else ahead of taking care of myself. No more.

I'm going to do what I can to create a healthy environment. The following is a list of supplements, most I have been taking for just over a month, and some I haven't begun yet.  There are specific supplements that help with the type of cancer/treatments I've had.  There are also links to medical articles and studies that pertain to each supplement or derivative.  In most cases, I have only included one article, but there are many more out there.  I could probably spend the rest of my life reading all of them. But many people have asked what I'm taking and why, and I wanted to be able to back up my choices with useful information. So, here you go!

* Disclaimer-  If you decide to take anything, please do your own research and talk with your doctor to determine if any of these are right for you.  I’m not a doctor.

Bitter Melon/Gourd-
Her2+, inhibits tumor growth, induces apoptosis (normal cell death)


Curcumin (Turmeric)-
Her2+, cell cycle arrest and apoptosis

DHA (when combined with Curcumin)-
Her2+, apoptosis and inhibition of metastasis (spread)

Inhibit breast cell invasion….free radical scavenger
Also prevents and treats Estrogen-dependent tumors

Ginger Root-
Inhibits metastasis and fights cancer

Inhibits cancer cell growth and induces apoptosis in Her2+

Grape seed-
suppresses cell migration and invasion… free radical scavenger

Antioxidant, protects against tumor growth, especially while on Tamoxifen

Vitamin A- (Retinoid)- used in combination with D3
Her2+ and ER+ cell apoptosis when combined with Herceptin

Green Tea extract (EcG)-
Antioxidant, inhibits metastasis

Flax Seed- (although a phytoestrogen, it helps in Her2 and ER+)
Reduces tumor growth, sensitizes Tamoxifen and Herceptin

Stop cancer growth and induces apoptosis

Rhodiola Rosea-
Anti-oxidant, protects left ventricle of heart against damage, cell arrest and induces apoptosis

Sodium Bicarbonate and Water Alkalizer drops
Reduces body acidity and balances PH, reduces metastasis

Probiotics 25billion
Beneficial bacteria builds immune system to fight cancer

Omega-3 Fatty acids
Reduces tumor growth and protects against metastasis in Her2

Balances hormones and thyroid function
Antioxidant, antiproliferative (stops cancer cell growth)
Many other articles available, although not many are conclusive either way

Cayenne Pepper capsule
Cancer cell inhibition and apoptosis

Garlic capsule
Enhances chemotherapy response, cancer cell apoptosis, helps liver damage from Tamoxifen

Berberine (barberry)
inhibits growth and spread of highly metastatic breast cancer cells

Chemotherapeutic, antiproliferative, antioxidant

DIM (This affects hormones, so I need to talk with dr before starting)
Enhances effectiveness of Herceptin


The following is a list of things that I would not take very often, especially not daily.  I will update as I find more information.

Vitamin D3- (I only take this weekly)
Prevents cancer (although there are many contradictory studies)

Calcium (weekly)
(contradictory studies)
More research needed

Vitamin C (weekly)
(contradictory studies, may hinder chemotherapy effects)
More research needed

NO NO's!!
Folic Acid- makes ER+ tumors grow

L-Glutamine- makes many types of tumors grow, depending on what the cells consume

Hydrogen Peroxide- contributes to oxidative stress

Related Posts:

Cure Cancer Naturally- Get the Supplements Here
One in Three Will Get Cancer
The Basics of Cancer in Layman's Terms
How Does Cancer Begin?
Do Root Canals Cause Breast Cancer?
How to Kill Cancer Naturally- A Guide

Friday, March 21, 2014

Radiation Debated

I met with the Radiation Oncologist today to discuss whether or not radiation will be the best option for me.  In preparation, I spent hours researching and reading as much as I could to present arguments against radiation.  My hope was that the doctor would be able to quash each argument and explain why radiation was necessary.  I needed to know that it was necessary and why.

First, let me say that I have complete respect for this doctor.  She is intelligent, kind, and understanding.  She knows what radiation does to the body.  She knows the short and long term effects.  She knows the benefits of it's use in cases of cancer.  I absolutely respect her opinion.

As she dutifully pointed out, EVERYONE that comes in there is "cancer free", by chemotherapy and surgery.  So my coming in there with the attitude that the cancer is gone, so I shouldn't need radiation is complete crap in her mind.  Makes sense...even though "complete pathologic response" is not addressed here.

My next argument was, "Now that I'm cancer free, shouldn't I be working on building my immune system, strength, body chemistry, etc to fight off cancer? Won't radiation break down what's healthy and further expose my body to the risk of recurrence?"  But as she explained, they have studies and science-based evidence to prove that radiation prevents recurrence of cancer.

Based on the information that is out there for doctors to use, plus her own experience with my type of cancer and it's staging, she recommends radiation......not strongly though.  She explained that the information doctors have in regard to radiation is outdated, especially when it comes to breast cancer.  Now that there are targeted therapies, like the ones I'm on, and new chemotherapy that offers complete pathologic response, like the ones I took, they don't know if radiation is necessary.  There are no new studies to refer, no previous experience to relate to my particular situation.

The choice to do radiation is completely optional, not necessary.  She even explained that if I were a little older, they wouldn't even recommend radiation for my case.  They just want to take every single precaution to prevent recurrence, and so do I, but how we get there may be different.  I want to include natural ways to create a healthy body, and doctors don't incorporate that or use that in factoring survival rates/outcomes.

The doctor does want to get new information in the works for other doctors to utilize going forward.  She asked if I wanted to be a part of a study of women in my situation.  I qualify with the type of cancer, treatment, and outcome.  In this trial that starts in the next two weeks, half the women will receive radiation, the other half will not.  I won't know which side I would be chosen for until after I signed up.  Their health will be followed for the next ten years to determine if radiation was necessary.  That would leave the decision to someone else on whether or not I receive radiation.

Over the course of the past couple hours, I've struggled, thought, prayed, and then decided to just get practical.  Maybe this decision can be made with one simple question, "Can my body take the radiation?"  It's been proven that large amounts of radiation can cause cancer.  We know that the amount used for breast cancer is considered safe.  But what about the cumulative effects of years and years of exposure?  Just with my son, Eliah, I was exposed to more than 17 CT scans in the past few years.  That doesn't include all the tests that I've done in the past year.

I decided to do the actual math.  With the help of the American Nuclear Society, the National Institute of Health, and a website called, that calculates your radiation exposure based on the medical tests performed, I was able to come up with my radiation exposure for the past few years.

The following chart does not include exposure before few years ago, nor does it include environmental exposures.  This total is medical tests alone.  And these are only MY tests.

Add in Eliah's 17 Brain CT's with me in the room = 34 mSv.  Then add in 30 breast radiation treatments at 1 mSv each = 30 mSv.  All totaled, I would now be exposed to over 130 mSv (just in the past few years).

What do these numbers mean, you ask? I will tell you. Based on the following chart, which I realize is a guide only, the EPA says the average person safely absorbs about 3.65 mSvs (or 0.00365 sieverts) of radiation annually. The above calculated amount is far above that. But the issue is not the immediate consequence. The issue is the long term exposure and the cancer risk. And we already know that I will have CT scans and PET scans in the future. The bottom line is, it's just too much. MUCH too much for me to be comfortable doing something "optional".

If this chart is too small, there is a link at the bottom of the post to a larger version

Now I realize that was a lot of numbers, new information, and assumptions I made regarding radiation exposure. I hadn't even considered this risk before now.  No doctor has asked what I've been exposed to before.  Nobody tracks that information.  We know radiation causes cancer, but who makes sure you don't get too much?  Right now, I have to do that for myself.

One thing the doctor said that stuck with me, "Whatever decision you make, do it with no regrets.  Don't look back and wonder."  And I didn't feel comfortable making this decision on just a gut feeling.  I needed information to make the decision.  Unfortunately, the only facts that were offered by the doctor were outdated and not ideally related to my situation, so I was on my own.

I feel that, based on the above information, and what I have learned over the past six months, I have made an educated decision that I am comfortable with.  I have thoroughly weighed all options.  I will forego radiation.  I will have a week to mull over my decision before I call the doctor and tell her.  But I feel I am making the right decision for me and my personal case.  And going forward, I will do everything in my power to make my body healthy and create an environment that naturally eradicates any future cancer.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pathology is Back....

Today I met with the breast surgeon and the medical oncologist to discuss the pathology report from the surgery and plan future treatments.  Based on the full report, my breast tissue and nine lymph nodes were sent for complete testing.  NO CANCER CELLS FOUND.  

Now, based on this information, the doctors are at a crossroads, "Do we do radiation or not?".  Standard practice is to do radiation based on the initial diagnosis of cancer.  It's based on the fact that I had more than 5cms combined of cancer.  That's more than 5 billion cancer cells.  It makes sense to radiate that.

However.... I have had complete pathologic response to treatment.  Not only is that unusual, but the type of cancer I have is unusual.  And not only that, but the treatment I received was not typical either.  As I stated at an earlier time, I received a hybrid therapy of chemotherapy.  The doctors do not have experience with this outcome, nor do they have literature or testing of any kind to relate.

I understand that radiation ensures that the cancer will not come back.  However, if there are no cancer cells left, then radiating my body only damages good tissue.  There are short term and long term effects to radiation.  I just want to make sure that everyone involved, myself and the doctors, are all making the best decision based on ME and my needs, and not just going with what they are used to doing.

The horse died with chemo.  Then we cut it up and threw it out with the mastectomy.  Do we really need to burn the ground it died on??

Anyway, it will take a lot of reading, asking questions, and frankly talking with all the doctors involved in my care.  I will meet with the radiation oncologist next Friday before my hormonal treatment of Herceptin.  And the decision will probably not be made right away, as it will likely take some time for everyone to agree.  I'm not against it if it's necessary.  I just want to make damn sure it's necessary.

As far as other treatments at this point, the oncologist wants to put me on Tamoxifen soon.  This will ensure my body stays in a state of menopause so that no estrogen is being produced.  Because my cancer grows with estrogen, all bases will be covered, no body parts producing it with Tamoxifen, and no cells receiving it with Herceptin.

That's all for now.  I'm winning at cancer.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Once I was done with chemotherapy, I knew the surgery to remove my breast would be the next step.  So my friends and I threw a "Going Away Party" for my boob a few weeks ago.  My friend Deana made the most spectacular cake for the party. We even sang, "For it's a jolly good boobie" before I cut it.  Then I saved and froze one of the breasts of the cake to eat on my one year anniversary.  Afterwards, my friends all took turns trying on wigs.  We all had a blast and it completely lifted my spirits about this aspect of the treatment.

Then came surgery day (yesterday).  I had trouble sleeping the night before, because this is such a big deal for me.  Yes, other women have gone through this.  And I know it's shallow, but similar to losing my hair, my breasts were part of my identity.  And with a slight tendency towards the OCD side of things, having only one breast and being lopsided is a little difficult. :)  

Driving to the hospital at 6am
Anyway, my friend Karen flew in to care for me this week, and we were up before dawn to head to the doctor's office for my sentinel node mapping injection.  Did you get all that?  It's an extremely painful shot of radioactive dye that highlights any lymphnodes that contain cancer.  They did the shot directly into my breast, right below the nipple.  That pain was almost unbearable.  I even yelled, "Son of a B*tch!" in the woman's face.  

Look how calm and relaxed I am!

Wore my Wonder Woman socks too

Waiting for the injection...  I may have stolen that robe too

Painful shot in my breast

The next stop was the hospital across the street where I got in my gown, met with the surgeon, and got a shot in my stomach, an iv full of sleeping drugs, and compression sleeves on my legs.  

The surgeon was completely kind and wonderful 

I spent most of day sleeping and wanting to throw up


Doesn't get much cooler than being bald, lopsided and have drains hanging off me!  

I don't remember much of yesterday.  But I do recall the surgeon coming to talk with me about the surgery and what she found.  So here it is...   The injection I got at the doctor's office was a blue dye that collects on the lymph nodes that have cancer, or more accurately, the main gatekeeper lymph nodes.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, they found it in at least three lymph nodes (according to the PET scan).  When they did the biospy, they left a metal marker in the lymph node that had the largest tumor (about 2cm).  

During the surgery, the surgeon took out a few lymph nodes to be tested then and there to determine if there was cancer still in any of them.  It's like they just cut a big piece and test it there, but it's not as detailed and thorough as the pathology they will do later.  Anyway, she took out about 8 lymphnodes, including the one with the metal marker.  NONE of them had cancer.  She said it was remarkable that even the one with the largest tumor showed no cancer.  That is not to say they will not find it later when they do full pathology on my breast and lymph nodes.  But based on the samples, there is no cancer.  The doctor said was unusual, remarkable and only seen about 20% of the time.  Yay!

In addition, I'm off pain meds, other than Tylenol.  And I'm able to get almost full range of motion with my arm.  The physical therapist came to show me what to do, and she was shocked that I was already doing what the goal was.  Go me! :)  

Me taking a walk with the Physical Therapist

There WILL be reconstruction, but not for a while.  Depending on the pathology, if all the cancer is really gone, I may not have to do radiation.  But that won't be decided for at least another week or two.  Once radiation is done, and my skin has healed from that, then I can do reconstruction.  

The incision

And the best part was my view from the hospital room.....

I see you Five Guys Burgers!!