Today’s headlines across all newspapers read:
” Getting cancer mostly down to environmental factors, not bad luck”
I’m glad this is making news. Far too many people still have the assumption that cancer has more to do with an unavoidable intrinsic risk. The study, conducted by doctors from the Stony Brook Cancer Centre in New York, disproves the “bad luck” theme, which suggests that two-thirds of cancers may be attributable to random mutations in genes, the risk of which strongly correlates to the number of times a cell divides. So according to the bad luck theory, it is not something that our actions or circumstances can have any effect on.
But now the Stony Brook study argues that there is a link between cancer and environmental factors such as toxic chemicals and radiation to name a few. So then in my mind if this is the case, it means we can do more to prevent it but also to tackle it and reverse it. As with any study like this, I think it’s important to remember that cancer is multi-faceted and very complex but it’s good to see that research is coming out that looks at it as beyond pure chance and luck. If I had seen the headlines a few weeks ago, I would have probably plagued myself with thoughts of all the different things I may have done to develop breast cancer. Seeing the headline today makes me optimistic that if we can take care to reduce some of these factors, we have a better chance of preventing recurrence as well.
Since meeting the oncologist on Monday evening, I had some ups and downs and have continued to read a lot. I’m still making my way through Cancer Concerns by my nutritionist Xandria Williams though finding some of the chapters hard to understand and quite technical but persevering. I’ve also started reading ‘Mum’s not having Chemo’ which was another title that kept being mentioned in different places. Interesting to see that books written by people who have gone through or going through similar situations all highlight similar clinics, resources and approaches.
My CBT practitioner Kim recommended looking into a different type of therapy called compassion focused therapy. So I went to see Dr. Chris Irons yesterday in Islington for a first session. I’m looking forward to exploring what comes out of this and have a feeling it will prove helpful. I would like to work on developing a ‘best friend’ in me who is supportive, gentle and helpful (compassionate) – both to guide and strengthen me but also to counter the little gremlin in me that preaches self-criticism.
I came home from the session to find an email from my oncologist to my surgeon with me in copy just recapping Monday’s conversation and to my surprise she also referred to radio therapy as something the committee suggests, even though her earlier view on this had been that I won’t be needing it. Not sure what to make of that and will have to discuss it further. I sent her some further questions on the side effects of Taxol, mainly around neuropathy.
I felt unsettled by the email and opted to clear my mind with a 5km run. 29.02mins- getting faster! After my run I tried out a 10-minute super hot bath in sodium bicarbonate water. Apparently a good way to detox. I managed to stay in the water no longer than 7 minutes as I was worried about dizziness. From the running and no doubt the bath, I felt hot all night and sweated like a bastard. I suppose all good.
Earlier today, I went to see Andrew Flower in Primrose Hill who is an acupuncturist and herbalist. He came recommended and I’m open to exploring all avenues at the moment. He specialises in support for people dealing with cancer, amongst other things. He was recommended to me as someone who can help support me with regards to strengthening me and reducing potential side effects from future treatments. I warmed to Andrew very quickly. We sat for a long time and discussed my situation including the decisions around chemo or no chemo. He’s very up-to-date with research into the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reiterated something I have been reading over and over again which is that it is for sure effective in certain cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer and leukemia. He seemed to understand why I struggled so much with a decision. He is not against conventional medicine and pro-surgery but said he’d probably struggle to comprehend the concept of chemotherapy for the same reasons if it was him.
He then examined my tongue and pulse and asked me general questions about health. He said he felt that I was quite tense underneath the calm, composed persona and that this is something that could be subconscious and not necessarily related to the current situation but an underlying thing.
Following more conversations, I had acupuncture done to stimulate the liver function but also balance out the chi and increase mind-body balance. I’ve never had an issue with needles and having hit the right points, my body reacted quite quickly with gurgling sounds in my stomach while the rest of me was covered under a thick blanket of relaxation. Great feeling. We discussed herbs and he has prescribed me two weeks of daily chinese herbs designed to boost my immune system and get chi flowing. Apparently they taste terrible – I don’t mind. Let’s see. Andrew is happy to support me throughout any other treatment I do.
I left Primrose Hill feeling calm and good about yet another way to take my health in my own hands. I think both Chris and Andrew will form part of my healing team.