This is an article I wrote for the UK-based “Health Triangle Magazine” in July 2022. I hope you enjoy it!
Empowering my clients to take focused action to improve their metabolic health, become the “CEO of their own health” and learn as much as possible about the root causes of their condition is one of my passions. It is at the core of my work.
But in recent years, I’ve observed that this transformation can also- slowly or quickly- morph into an acute state of overwhelm. Don’t get me wrong- it’s fantastic that so many new and old ways of managing cancer are being explored, that there is so much research accessible to the public now and that the options presented to cancer patients seem endless. New emerging targeted therapies, repurposed drugs, adjunct IV treatments, high-potency nutraceuticals are just a few that have become worth exploring. And I applaud every single cancer patient who takes a keen interest in all these developments (and often studies so hard that a science degree could be within reach!).
Back in 2012, I was running out of options to save my eye and, potentially, also my life. I had already gone through two rounds of radiotherapy, had had three surgeries and was offered Avastin injections or enucleation (removal of the eyeball) when facing a third relapse. This is when my consultant finally gave me the “green light” to embark on a journey of metabolic therapy, under strict supervision. I consider myself “lucky” that at the time, the approach was quite simple. Because there weren’t many options available to me- partly also because I had a breastfed baby in tow and was turned down by various clinics- I relied upon a few solid resources to get me on track. I read them thoroughly and completely before starting to implement them. First, I embarked on a radical change of diet from a mostly vegan, high-carb to a more animal-focused ketogenic diet. Once this showed promising effects (thank goodness), I started to slowly add other modalities such as nutraceuticals, fasting, heavy metal elimination, gut work, sauna therapy and, finally, also deep emotional work.
I did all this over the course of 10 years and I consider myself “work in progress”: constantly observing, learning about myself, tweaking and adapting. With lots of patience and self-compassion and, most importantly, without comparing my journey or progress to that of others. “Comparison is the killer of all joy”– this is a quote I use with my young children all the time.
In my opinion, it’s also one of the obstacles on a journey with a chronic condition. I think that having the support of others, being able to share experiences and relying on each other is fantastic unless it ends up becoming obsessive. Trashing out every new study, keeping a keen eye on new drugs and therapies, incorporating every new supplement on the market that “has shown promise”, copying a friend’s treatment plans and thus neglecting our inner wisdom and voice can be detrimental. I often observe that the information overload becomes so big that it leads to complete paralysis, which in turn fuels more anxiety. In other words, the perfect vicious cycle emerges.
The evidence showing that our perception, cognition and psycho-biology has a tremendous impact on our metabolic health and, ultimately, on our ability to recover and regain vitality is becoming increasingly strong. Ironically, I’m going to quote a study to illustrate this point: A 2020 paper entitled “Glucose metabolism responds to perceived sugar intake more than actual sugar intake” shows that 30 individuals with type 2 diabetes had very varying glucose responses to the exact same beverage. What made the difference? The different labels! Blood glucose levels increased when participants believed that their drink had a high sugar content as declared on the labels. In other words, the effects of our thoughts, beliefs and emotions on our physical body are real and impactful.
Scientists like Bruce Lipton, Bessel van der Kolk or Candace Pert have been educating us about this mind-body connection for a long time. Are we taking advantage of this phenomenon? Not enough (yet), in my view. Over the years, I’ve learnt to take deliberate, steady and consistent action towards my goals and, most importantly, put my time, effort and energy into slowing down, tuning in and getting to know my inner workings!
I like the strategy of first collecting data on metabolic health, for instance from a comprehensive blood biochemistry test, nutrigenomic analysis and glucose measurements. This then serves as a compass to build a solid foundation, correct any imbalances and, if having to undergo treatment again, being as well-prepared as possible with a view to making it more effective.
By working in a very intentional, data-driven way on our health fundamentals, we not only have a clear focus but this will- in my experience- also free up the mind. The constantly recurrent thoughts of “what if I don’t do enough” or “what if I’ve missed a crucial paper that will ensure my remission” can’t possibly be helpful for a full recovery. What would happen if we transformed these thoughts into “I do everything I can that is in my control and let go of the rest”? For some individuals, it could be incredibly liberating and healing!