Although I’m probably best known in the cancer community for my work and “living” of the ketogenic diet, I don’t put my current well-being and recovery from cancer down to this diet only. Cancer is multi-faceted and multi-causal, and I’m of the strong opinion that we therefore also need to address this disease from many different angles.
When I read “Radical Remission” by Dr Kelly Turner, I realized how many steps I actually took on my road to recovery. Many clients also keep asking or e-mailing what exactly it is that I did so that I decided to write about it. I’m sure I’ve probably forgotten some other things but these are the main ones that seemed to make the biggest difference.
Please don’t forget that you can’t “copy” anybody’s recovery programme, that we all come with our own unique “baggage”, especially when it comes to emotions and mental health, that need to be addressed in different ways. I totally agree with this section in Kelly Turner’s book: “Every person may have a different change they need to make in order to heal his or her cancer. For some people, that may mean changing their diets, but for others, it may mean changing their marriages. Western medicine aims to find a single cause for a disease and a single cure for it.”
1. Radical Change of Diet
For me, like for many other people, this was the most obvious initial step I took. A few days after coming back from radiotherapy treatment and surgery, I was talking to a friend and she recommended that I see a nutritional therapist. What impressed me most- and which I didn’t know at the time- was that she didn’t only address dietary aspects but also talked to me about how important stress, the feeling of guilt, exercise (in my case not overdoing it!) and other lifestyle aspects are.
Initially, I included lots of juicing and smoothies in my diet. Although I learned how to cut out all refined sugar and carbohydrates, especially the gluten-containing ones, my diet still included plenty of fruit. I was convinced I needed them for their antioxidant content and I used dried fruit to sweeten my treats. I still had “healthy treats” on pretty much a daily basis. As a comparison to how I ate before my diagnosis, check this out:
|Before diagnosis||After diagnosis|
|Breakfast: Muesli (with added sugar and
dried fruit) with rice milk and lots of fruit. Orange juice to take my iron supplements.
|Breakfast: Porridge made with oats, quinoa and millet with lots of seeds and nuts. Juicing every day|
|Lunch: Big salad and sandwich
|Lunch: Big salad, oily fish or chicken, gluten-free crackers or gluten-free grains|
|Dinner: Homemade hamburgers/meat,
potatoes and vegetables/ Roast root
vegetables and fish/ Spaghetti with pesto
|Dinner: Gluten free grains (quinoa, millet, buckwheat) with chicken or fish, lots of vegetables, legume-based dishes|
|Snacks: Granola bars, coffee, chocolate bars, Jaffa cakes, fruit smoothies at work,
chocolate with nuts, hot chocolate
|Snacks: Oat cakes with hummus or some leftover meat, dried fruit and nuts, homemade biscuits made with dates, energy bars (e.g. Bounce, Trek, Nak’d), dark chocolate|
As you can see, my diet certainly wasn’t the worst before my diagnosis. I always made sure I had plenty of vegetables and whole grains. While my main meals certainly weren’t very balanced and mostly carbohydrate-based, they were okay from a nutrient perspective, i.e. I think I got most of my essential vitamins and minerals. I switched to a gluten free diet because I got bloating from gluten-containing foods, went very low fat, had no more red meat and cut out most dairy as well (also due to digestive issues). My digestion definitely improved on this regime, at least initially. Which wasn’t very difficult because it was really bad beforehand: lots of wind, gurgling, bloating and bouts of constipation.
The one problem was that I had to eat constantly, every 2-3 hours usually. In the morning, I couldn’t function properly until I had some food in me. In April 2012, I started to implement a ketogenic diet, which was very extreme for a life-long low-fat eater.
2. Taking Control of Your Health
According to a preliminary study by Katz and Epstein, people who made the biggest step toward taking an active role in their health were the ones who were most likely to go into remission. Although it’s “only” a preliminary study, I have seen this happen in practice many times.
For me it was certainly a crucial aspect as well and I was so hoping to get some guidance from my medical team. Because their response- taking it easy and going back to my “old life”- didn’t give me enough confidence.In August 2008, I visited a nutritional therapist, followed by enrollment into a nutrition course in September. Initially, I was just going to do one year to gain enough knowledge to work on my own health and it wasn’t necessarily with a few to becoming a fully qualified nutritional therapist. But became more and more clear that a full-time job in the bank where I had to do most of my work on a computer wasn’t realistic any more. And that a total career change was on the horizon.
For me, it’s all about having some control over my health and finding my own “healing mix“. Feeling optimistic and full of hope definitely makes me feel a lot better about myself and my life- I don’t even need research to confirm this.
3. Following Your Intuition
This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way… I had a few incidences where I thought I should stand up more for myself and not “blindly” (literally in my case!) follow orders. An example: The morning after my first operation where a radioactive plaque was stitched onto the back of my eye, I was told at 7am that I had to do some eye tests with a consultant to check whether the plaque was inserted correctly. I felt super groggy after the general anaesthetic. Having a plaque pulling on my eye didn’t really contribute to my well-being either… I asked if it wasn’t possible to eat something small so that I would feel a bit less weak. The short answer was a clear “no” and I had to drag myself out of bed, walk across to the exam room and look into one of these super bright slit lamps. Thank goodness my husband had come to hospital early and joined us. I half-jokingly said he could catch me when I’d faint, which, after looking into the bright light for about 10 seconds, happened… I was brought back to my bed, given some breakfast and then we performed the tests no problem.
I could go on with some other similar incidences, which don’t happen to me any more because I learned that I save the hospital staff- and myself- a lot of trouble if I just stand up for myself. The toughest situation was when I felt that my tumour was growing again after the birth of my first child but the scans were all clear. My instincts told me that there was clearly something wrong, though, and I kept insisting on more tests, which a few months later were then performed. They showed the tumour had doubled in size. It’s not about being an “uncomfortable” patient when you follow your intuition and you think there’s something wrong. Most of the time, signs and symptoms are used by the body to draw your attention to what’s going on and by taking them seriously, you can avoid issues down the line.
I also refused Avastin injections in April 2012 and went on a ketogenic diet instead- under strict supervision and with regular scans. Following my instincts was a big part of this decision because research into the area in my particular case was anything but compelling. But I knew I had nothing to lose and had to give it a go. A decision I’ll never regret!
4. Using herbs and supplements
For a good while, I didn’t go on any specific supplements for two main reasons: First of all, I was told that they could interact with treatment (which of course is true) and I was also pregnant/breastfeeding in between treatments and surgery.
After my first round of treatment, though, I did some adrenal support and also took supplements to support my immune and digestive system. Ideally, this is done after some functional tests show where exactly your weaknesses are.
When I went on a ketogenic diet in April 2012, I started a mult/antioxidant complex specifically for eye health and also some mitochondrial support. In the initial stages, I did also took digestive enzymes and probiotics to help with the transition and the increased fat intake.
Once I was stronger and generally feeling better, I started working with Dr Gabriel Stewart to do some heavy metal tests. I did a challenge test and we worked out a protocol based on the results, which showed elevated mercury, lead, nickel, copper and arsenicum. I used a so-called chelating agent, which I took for 3 days, followed by an 11-day break where I took a good multivitamin, zinc, B-vitamins and liver support. Dr Stewart also prescribed LDN (low-dose naltrexone), which I might write about in a separate blog post. Chelation can be a tricky process and I don’t recommend doing it without medical supervision from a trained doctor. I’m one of those people who respond incredibly well to homeopathic treatment (not everyone does in my experience) and this is also part of my regime.
Read part 2 here where I explore aspects of the mind-body connection- another key area of healing.