Tag Archives: Diet

Make juice, not war, unless it is a war on cancer cells . . .

11 May

Nowadays I eat to keep cancer away. Some of the very basics of doing that (keeping cancer away and preventing cancer Рlisten up everyone Рthis is for you) are: avoiding sugar Рin particular refined sugar and processed foods that quickly turn to sugar in your body (like white flour, pasta that is not whole grain, etc.), and eating a diet that is rich in fresh, RAW fruits and vegetables (especially the vegetable part).

Also, to help keep your blood sugar low (this is important to maintain a healthy, low inflammatory diet – helps prevent diabetes, heart disease, and, yes, cancer) include cinnamon and green tea in your diet. Cinnamon and green tea naturally lower your blood sugar (so too do foods that are rich in magnesium, yes, I have been reading a lot this past year plus, you would too if you felt like your life depended on it).

Here is what I fed my juicer this morning . . .

I apple, 1 orange, celery, carrots, broccoli (all organic)

And, here is what my juicer fed me ūüôā This is one of my favorite drinks, super food, super delicious!

Same glass, different view. I mix it up before I drink it.

Gym or no gym

25 Jul

Lisa&AfricansThis was taken at Bower’s Museum a few weeks ago. The current exhibit is “Passages: Photographs in Africa”. I recommend checking it out. Admission to Bower’s Museum is free every first Sunday of the month. I have put a link to their website on my blog, check it out.

Well, no mile walk for today, at least not until it cools down. It was too hot at 7:30 am for me to do it. So now I am off to the office to pick up the fax of my blood work results so I can see where I am at count wise. I have only been anemic once and it was after the fifth chemo. I really felt it. But, I rebounded after about a week (just in time for the sixth chemo). So, I think I am pretty good right now. In three and a half months of chemotherapy I only became anemic for one week and in all that time I never once left the normal range for my white blood count.

I have decided to add a page here about the diet and exercise routine that I have followed. I am able to see what visitors search for on my blog (not who is searching, but what). I’ve noticed several searches with “HER2+” and “diet”. ¬†So I am going to create a few pages here for cancer patients – sort of the things they never tell you about chemo and getting through it. In all fairness to my medical team, each patient reacts differently to chemo. But, still, there was so much that I had to find out on my own through my own research that really should, in my opinion, have been information that was provided. ¬†The first thing I asked my doctor after being diagnosed was what I should do differently diet wise to prepare for chemo. He said to just follow a balanced diet. I switched doctors as soon as I could and found an MD who practices integrative/holistic medicine. And, I did a lot of research on diet and exercise to support chemotherapy. ¬†I am so grateful for the doctor that I found (she is my primary care physician). And, I am also grateful for not listening to my first doctor.

I am just amazed at how apathetic the medical profession is on average. I was constantly met with this attitude that I just had to take it – accept that I would get anemic, weak, sick and be miserable throughout chemo. That with each round of chemo I would get worse and worse and just have to watch my body physically decline during treatment.

There is just this attitude out there that ¬†“well, you have cancer you know, so don’t expect anything better than suffering and pain and anemia and constantly feeling sick.” Well, that is not how it has to be.

I know that the changes I made in my diet made a big difference in alleviating side affects of the chemo. Granted, it has been no walk in the park. But, it really wasn’t until the last two chemos that my body just started to say “Enough!” ¬†I truly did recover from each chemo round and go back to my “normal” level of activity. I believe my diet and getting exercise has made all the difference for me in staying right side up more of the time than not. I also think that working full time (except for this past week) made a big difference. I know that if I just laid around all the time that it would not have been beneficial. That being said, there are clearly times when all you can do is lay around. But, I believe that moving as much as possible really helped me, even if it was the day the chemo hits and all I could do was a few blocks a few times a day, then that is what I would do.

Okay, well, I am off to go get my blood results and see if it is safe for me to go to the gym today! ūüôā

Two thirds of the way done with chemo!!!

7 Jun

Well this time I am NOT writing at 4:30 am because I haven’t been able to sleep. ¬†Instead, it is because I just woke up after sleeping for several hours, yeah! And, I am sure I will go back to sleep soon. ¬†I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how this chemo round was going.

It has gone well. ¬†First of all, I have had excellent care takers¬† for each round of chemo (I could not do the days of chemo by myself, it’s just too difficult to be on my own and so much easier to have someone staying with me).¬† So thank you to everyone who has been here this time and for the preceding rounds, I owe you so much. My family and friends have taught me from one round to the next that I need to let them do things for me and most of all, I have learned how much I am loved. I am so grateful. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that I am not here alone – that someone is in the next bedroom or downstairs if I need anything, well I can not even begin to express my gratitude.

This chemo round has by far been the easiest. I am not out of it yet, but I feel better than I have in any of the preceding chemo rounds. Which is really kind of amazing. I still have symptoms, and I can definitely still feel it when the chemo hits (which is Saturday morning usually). But, it is much more manageable. And I have gotten used to the fact that that I just have to give into it and ride it out. I do get better and I do eventually resume my “normal routine”.

One of the hardest things about it is not the pain or other symptoms associated with the chemo, but, instead, the inability to do some of the simplest things. ¬†So, rather than try to do these simple tasks and be frustrated that I can not do them, I have someone here do it for me. I have to admit, that at first (especially since I didn’t know I would not be able to open a bottle of water by myself, or simply turn the rod on my blinds to close them or grasp something without dropping it, or just make a bowl of cereal for myself – it is amazing how by mid day on Saturday, I can sometimes no longer pick up a bowl and make some cereal without it involving pain or simply risking dropping it) it was embarrassing to ask someone for help. But, now I know that once the chemo hits, I have to have help with these things. ¬†And, thankfully, I have a wonderful group of friends and family who have come to my rescue. There are shifts so that I am never left alone during the days I am at my worst. I am so grateful for everyone’s help, I could NOT get through this alone.

So, how I am doing: considering everything, I am doing great! The chemo round went an hour shorter this time, so that was some improvement. I have taken as many as 9 to 10 hours to get in and out of there.  This time was the shortest Р8.  It made a big difference lobbing off that extra hour or two. My nurse started me even slower (infusion rate that is) and instead of that causing me to take longer to get all of the lovely chemo drugs into my system, it seemed to make it so that she could gradually speed up the rate without so many symptoms.  All in all, it went well.

My chemo rounds are always on Thursdays. The day after chemo, I come in for a shot of Neulasta. This shot causes my bone marrow to produce white blood cells (something the chemo causes to suppress the production of).  The down side of the Neulasta is that it causes me pretty severe bone pain Рor at least it did.  Amazingly enough, once I switched to my new oncologist, he changed my medications (increased the pre-medications, increased the number of days that I take steroids Рthis lessens swelling and pain as well Рand he suggested that I take Claritin to help with the pain and unbelievably it worked).  I still have pain, but nothing like before and it is tolerable.

I walked a mile on Saturday afternoon. I could not have gone on that walk with out my neighbor going with me (nor could my dog have joined me as I can’t walk her during this time – can’t handle the leash, grasping it and hanging onto her, despite her small size). ¬†I had also gone for a shorter walk in the morning with my friend who stayed the night with me Friday through Saturday. Excercise is so important and I really improve during the chemo days when I am able to get it. ¬†But, the mile proved to be a bit too much as Sunday I was a bit worse off. It is really important to get exercise during the chemo (not too much during the actual days of chemo, just walking).¬† But, the exercise thing is so key.¬† I am not anemic – yet – and hope to never get that way with these treatments.¬† Studies with women who undergo chemotherapy for breast cancer who exercised throughout their treatment had a reduced rate of anemia (the anemia caused by a reduction in red blood cell counts, this is what makes chemo patients so incredibly fatigued).¬† The doctor’s up at UCLA all say to get exercise, that it improves your immune system and reduces anemia.¬† So, that’s what I am doing and so far it has kept me right side up.

But, I did do a little too much on that longer walk yesterday.

Well, it’s back to bed for me.¬†¬† My parents are here with me tonight and then tomorrow it is back to some light work from home.¬† But, my power cord on my Mac (or maybe it is the battery on my Mac) has suddenly gone bad.¬† So, working from my bed (which I enjoy when I am up to it and NEED to be able to do – as much for sanity as finances) is not an option tomorrow. I would just go and buy another power cord, but don’t know whether it is the cord or the battery.¬† Aaargh.¬† I will have to find a friend with a matching cord to test it out I guess.

Please forgive my slow return on calls this week, after Chemo on Thursdays it can be a bit rough to take calls, make calls, write emails etc.¬† I so appreciate the support though, so please don’t stop praying for me, calling and checking in with me.¬† It is NEVER a bother and it is always appreciated.

Love to you all!

Treatment Plan

26 May

Well, this is the crummy part. ¬†I can not sleep. ¬†It is three in the morning and I still can’t get any sleep. ¬†Last night was the same, so I am going on two days without more than an hour or two of sleep. ¬†And I was doing so well there for a while.

I will get back on track.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

So, since I am still awake, I might as well write.

Treatment Plan: So here is the treatment plan that I was given.  I am to have a total of six chemotherapy rounds.  In addition to the chemo, I am also on a targeted therapy called Herceptin.  Herceptin works on HER2+ cancer (the kind I have).  It is an amazing drug and I am so grateful that Dr. Slamon at UCLA developed it.  He has saved the lives of so many women, curing a type of breast cancer that once was really not curable. The chemo will be followed by surgery and then, most likely radiation. Reconstruction will fit in there somewhere Рbut, I am still doing research, interviewing plastic surgeons and learning about the different reconstruction options (especially given the likelihood that I will have radiation as part of my treatment).

Neo-adjuvant Treatment: When chemo is given prior to surgery it is called neo-adjuvant.  In some cases chemotherapy precedes surgery in order to shrink the cancer so that surgery can even be done.  That is not the case with me.  My tumors are small and as a result I could have surgery at any time.  However, the reason to do neo-adjuvant chemotherapy in my case is to see if we can watch the cancer shrink.

The advantage of doing chemotherapy prior to surgery is that we can watch and see that the chemotherapy is actually working.  If I were to have surgery first, followed by chemotherapy later, then there would really be no way of knowing if the chemotherapy was effective with my cancer because we could not watch it shrink during chemo since it would already be removed.

This is significant for me and was a major reason why I chose to do the chemotherapy first. Everyone responds differently to treatment. And while it is more likely that the chemotherapy will work, I will have a greater peace of mind if I can know for sure.

For me it is all about making sure that I do everything I can to fight this disease now, stop it in its tracks and prevent it from coming back.  If we can watch the cancer shrink, then we know that the chemo is working on my cancer and that it is then also killing the microscopic cancer cells that are floating around in my body (that without successful treatment, would come back).  The kind of cancer I have Рinvasive breast cancer, that is HER2+, has a very high reoccurrence rate.  That is why the treatment is so aggressive even though my tumors are very small.  By adding radiation to my treatment plan, I can further reduce the chance of having a reoccurrence.

The other possible (hopeful advantage of having chemotherapy first is that I could have what they call a “complete response”. ¬†About 40% of women with the kind of cancer that I have, who undergo the kind of neo-adjuvant therapy that I am doing, experience a what is called a “complete response” – meaning that prior to surgery the cancer is eliminated.

If there is a complete response, then when I have surgery the surgeon is removing dead cancer. ¬†This would be best. It doesn’t change the need for surgery. But, it makes the surgery easier because there is no risk of infecting healthy breast tissue with cancer because the cancer is dead. ¬†So, that is what we are hoping for.

I am nervous about the upcoming breast MRI. The specialist I met with at UCLA said she would not do one until I was done with all six chemotherapy rounds. She said that she would not interrupt the chemotherapy. When I asked her what if I was not one of the 40% that has a complete response prior to surgery, she said “You’ll be on Herceptin for a year, what are you worried about?” ¬†Um, dying . . . that’s what I am worried about.

It was good to hear that she was so confident. But, unfortunately I don’t get that kind of reassurance from my actual team. ¬†Instead, I am told that I have a good prognosis. But, I am also told that the kind of cancer I have has the highest reoccurrence rate. ¬†I am also told that some patients come back with brain cancer. ¬†It’s not all rosy sounding. ¬†Well, okay, none of it is actually. ¬†But, I cope and I am grateful, so grateful that there is a drug that targets the kind of cancer that I have. Not all women respond to the treatment, but hopefully I will.

My Own Treatment Plan: In addition to the treatment plan that my oncologist and surgeon have put together, I have also put together my own “treatment plan” that includes a very changed diet and as much exercise as I can.

From the moment I was diagnosed I changed my diet. I considered myself pretty healthy before, even was a vegetarian for a number of years (although not most recently). But, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I immediately changed my diet.  I knew that my cancer was hormone responsive Рmeaning that in the presence of hormones, my cancer flourishes apparently.  So, I decided to eliminate sources of hormones in my diet.  I had also heard that sugar feeds cancer.  I got a lot of information in the beginning (some of it pretty wacky) that made me pretty crazy.  But, after doing a lot of my own research I chose to make changes that to me make sense.

I don’t know about whether sugar feeds cancer or not. ¬†But, I don’t get a lot of sugar anyway, so that wasn’t a big issue for me.

I have eliminated all dairy products and all meat except for some chicken and fish.  Because my cancer grows with hormones, I have chosen not to get any (at least as little as possible) in my diet.  I was told to avoid soy for the same reason because it is a plant based estrogen and would only encourage the growth of my cancer.

I have gone to a nearly completely organic diet.  I do go out to eat and enjoy that still. But, I make choices that are lower in risk Рfor example potatoes are very high on the pesticide index Рso these are pretty bad unless organic.  But, broccoli, avocado and other vegetables and fruits are on the low end of the pesticide index and so are pretty safe to eat even if not organic.

No doctor has told me that I need to go organic. ¬†But, for me it makes sense. ¬†And, my doctors can’t believe how well I am doing – my white blood count has never left a normal range (normal, as in a normal person who is not going through chemotherapy) and my red blood count (something that typically gets low, causing anemia and pretty bad fatigue in chemo patients) is also within normal range. ¬†I think this is due to my diet and exercise (maybe more from the exercise, I don’t know). ¬†All I know is that so far, I am doing really well with the treatments (except of course for the time my first oncologist – who has since been fired – tried to kill me . . . I will save that for another separate post).

I have also eliminated caffeine.  I was told that caffeine was okay.  But, it is not.  I stopped having coffee months ago. But, only just yesterday found out that the drug Herceptin does not interact well with caffeine Рthat caffeine reduces the effectiveness of Herceptin. This was in a study, not even all that recent.  Yet, my doctors were not aware of this at all.  Amazing. There must be so much to keep track of I guess, especially if you are a doctor treating many different types of cancers.

Still, I am just so glad that I had eliminated caffeine. I would have been devastated to learn that caffeine reduces the effectiveness of Herceptin if I were still drinking coffee. I wish I could tell every woman that is getting Herceptin treatments about the bad interaction with caffeine.

In addition to diet, I have begun an exercise plan too.  Recent studies show that exercise during chemotherapy increases T cells and reduces the rate of anemia (caused by a reduction in red blood cells).  70% of chemotherapy patients get anemia.  But, for some reason those that exercise regularly throughout their treatment, have a lower rate of anemia. So, I am trying to prevent anemia by getting as much exercise as I can.

Obviously some days are simply not an option. But, I try to get in a one mile walk every day.  I was able to keep that up this past week. I plan on going to the gym next week (after the MRI and before my next chemo on June 4th). Assuming, of course, that the MRI results are good and that I am then still going ahead with the fourth chemo round.

Well, I think I have had enough, it is 3:40 am.  Maybe now I will be able to get some sleep.