Feeding your tumor Twinkies - think again

Two (2) phone calls within the course of 1 day, and it were enough to make me want to have a stiff drink! Breast cancer – stage 3 -- with one friend, multiple sclerosis or brain lesions (we’re not sure – still) with the other. And both happening to woman under the age of 40!

It’s not important how “I” felt, or how devestated “I” was to hear of such problems. It’s not important how many calls I made, or how many contacts I was attempting to create through my vast network of doctors, surgeons and people in the field.

What truly is important is how my friends deal with bad news, disease and uncertainty.

This is where my story within today’s Blog begins. The other day we invited Julie to our home for swimming, dinner and drinks. Her husband, her kids (a boy, 6 and a girl, 8) came to our house to go swimming and have dinner. Not 5 minutes go by, and Julie asks me if I want to have a sneak peak under her hat.

Her gorgeous hair was gone, her head totally bare. Julie stating proudly that she was able to donate 12 inches of her thick, beautiful hair to Locks of Love, a charitable organizations that takes donated hair and makes wigs for children who have cancer and need hairpieces. I thought to myself how incredibly generous Julie was, and how she turned a negative experience into a positive one. It was interesting to note that her entire family accompanied her to the hairdresser to get her hair chopped off. Her 8-year-old daughter did not take it so well, and began crying hysterically, uncontrollably. Julie’s comment to me during dinner was, “It’s funny, as a Mom, I totally forgot about my sadness and my feelings of loss, and instead concentrated ONLY on helping my daughter get through this. Once I explained to my daughter that we were “donating hair” to help other children who were sick, she immediately stopped crying and was happy that we were doing something to help others.”

Though Julie already was receiving chemotherapy to shrink the tumors before surgery and even though she lost her hair, she looked great. She attributes her feeling of wellbeing partially to her complete change of diet. When diagnosed, she became thoroughly proactive, with her oncologists and her team of oncology nutritionists. She told me so many interesting things: such as, processed sugar is not good for people undergoing chemo. Who knew? She also told me about the benefits of eating only whole grains that sprout (like alfalfa sprout breads, barley bread) and she would ONLY buy organic vegetables, organic fruit and organic poultry & meat. FYI, Bulk Foods and Hodgson Mills sell mailorder organic food & ingredients.

I was so interested in what she told me about nutrition that I did some research and found that chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery can temporarily reduce tumor burden, but these therapies do not change the underlying causes of the disease. Comprehensive cancer treatment must include an aggressive nutrition component, which can increase life expectancy by 12 to 21 fold along with better chances for complete remission. According to Kathy Summers at HeatlhSmart Magazine Today, “Up to 80 percent of all cancer patients develop some form of malnutrition and about 40 percent of all cancer patients die from malnutrition, not from the cancer itself, so good nutrition is essential.”

I ran across an interesting write up on a book by Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, CNS, clinical nutritionist at the Center for Advanced Medicine in Encinitas, Calif. Quillin, who lists hundreds of nutritionally oriented doctors in his book, Beating Cancer with Nutrition (Nutrition Times Press, 2001), recommends trying to find a healthcare team that will work together to meet your nutrition goals. As the former director of nutrition for Cancer Treatment Centers of America and organizer of three international scientific conferences on the subject, Quillin sees nutrition as a vital part of the process of regulating cancer, helping to reverse it, and counteracting the ravages of conventional treatment. “A well-nourished cancer patient can better manage and beat the disease and better tolerate conventional therapy,” says Quillin, who points out that while supplements can help, it’s more important to have good food than a belly full of pills.

I guess it all comes down to having a good medical team on your side—one that recognizes the importance of ALL aspects of your treatment.

Some helpful sites to get information on are:
The American Cancer Society
MD Anderson Hospital - Cancer Wise
National Cancer Institute
Center for Advanced Medicine
Association for International Cancer Research
The National Institute of Health

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