" I implore you, my child; observe heaven and earth, consider all that is in them, and acknowledge that God made them out of nothing (ex nihilo), and that mankind comes into being in the same way..." 2 Maccabees 7:28

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The check is in the mail

Well, yesterday I received my economic stimulus check, and I already know where it's going... mushrooms. Yes, you did read that right, mushrooms. And parent essential oils. And a couple other things that I doubt the president was expecting. You see, last week I went and saw a cancer specialist who specializes in Eastern medicine alternatives; I was very eager to see him because he had come highly (if slightly grudgingly) recommended even by the nurses and doctors at Kaiser.

It was not easy to get in- I had to first turn in all my surgical and biopsy reports, blood work and list of medications before I could even get an appointment. But on the day I finally received all the paperwork from Kaiser and turned it in to his secretary, there just happened to be a cancellation for the following day so I didn't have to wait the usual month to see him. Nice!

After seeing the waiting room with it's heavy Eastern decoration and that twangy kind of music that you hear in Asian restaurants (you know, the stuff that sounds like two people tuning their guitars- bong BONG bing BING and then some reverberations) I wasn't sure what to expect. A whole wall full of jars full of curiously lumpy things that I couldn't identify (I swear there was one with wasps nest in it) and a heavy, pleasant odor of earthy herbs thick in the room. I had been told that his reputation was going to his head, however when I finally met him I thought his head to be very well proportioned to the rest of him, and did not get the impression of any swelling. It was a head that was no more Asian than my own, however, which surprised me. I had noticed that his last name sounded more European than Asian so had assumed his mother must have been the Asian one. When I finally met him face to face, he was as Caucasian as I was (although no on is really as pale as me) although he did take all his notes in Chinese.

In talking, it felt like he was really in between both Eastern and Western medicine- he was certainly very respectful of and knowledgeable about all the cancer treatments I had already received, and didn't seem to find one type of medicine superior to the other, but complimentary. I actually had to swallow my disappointment, though I appreciated his directness on the topic of Tamoxifen (which I've mentioned a few times in previous posts); I had hoped he could recommend some alternatives but he was very clear that although I could go the "natural"route on this one, Tamoxifen, even with all its undesirable side effects, was my best chance for keeping cancer in remission. He also drew up a plan of herbs and supplements to take for the rest of chemo to boost immunity and make recovery faster once I finish (hence the mushrooms).

He did mention some very interesting factors that have come to the front in cancer research; many have easy and practical applications. I'll share a few of them here, so if you're not into this stuff, you can stop reading now (but remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...). Or you can google them yourself.

1. Iodine- can't remember what this does in relation to cancer, but it is an essential nutrient. It has been added to salt, but our culture is moving away from eating home- cooked meals towards more pre-prepared foods and restaurants. Sea salt is not iodized. Restaurants do not use iodized salt because it changes the flavor of food, I don't know if canned foods use iodized salt or not. Regular old Morton's iodized salt is easy to get. There is also a simple and fairly inexpensive test you can take to check your iodine levels; some places offer it free to cancer patients for compiling research. You take 50 mg of iodine and then collect your urine for the next 24 hours in a big jar (sorry to those reading this while they are eating). Then you send the whole 24 hours worth of wiss- wiss to some big lab somewhere and they tell you how much your body retained; if your levels are normal you would pass about 90% of it back out in your urine. This is called the iodine load test, done through FFP labs if you're interested.

2. Melatonin: a hormone that regulates sleep patterns, now known to also be a tumor suppressor. It is produced in darkness, the more complete the darkness the more melatonin produced. Studies done on people who are completely blind show that they have an almost non-existent rate of breast cancer due to the fact that their bodies are producing melatonin 24 hours a day. Best to sleep in pitch blackness or wear a mask and not turn on lights when getting up for bathroom breaks if possible (my dad says it's not) to avoid interrupting the production of melatonin. Many people who have difficulty getting or staying asleep have low melatonin; we also live in a culture where people stay up until late at night and then sleep in late the following morning when the sun is out. Streets are also lit 24 hours for safety which makes it hard to get into a truly dark environment. I found online that there is a saliva test kit available to check melatonin levels (more bodily fluids in a jar), but the specialist didn't mention this to me so it I'm not sure how reliable the results are. I'll ask him when I see him in a few weeks.

3. Vitamin D- This was a biggie, another tumor suppressor. Although some comes from food, we get the bulk of our Vit. D from exposure to sun. In fact , people who get skin cancers have a lower risk of other types of cancer, presumably because their Vit. D levels are higher. Sunblocks also block out Vitamin D absorption, but this is NOT to say throw out your sunblocks. Limited amounts of sun exposure a day (I 've read about 15 minutes) can give you sufficient vitamin D. Milk now comes fortified with vitamins A& D but many individuals or ethnic groups don't drink milk. Your regular doctor can test you for deficiency (blood test) and supplements are available over the counter.

So that's it. The whole thing was a positive and enriching experience, really; not the first time that It's dawned on me how these unexpected life changes open our horizons to so many new things. I'm even considering, in a few months, going to a special retreat house where you stay for a week and bond with other former chemo patients while juicing wheatgrass and doing yoga. Heck, maybe I'll even do a colonic cleansing someday! Well, maybe not. But it would be a great blog post, wouldn't it?

See ya.


Colleen said...

Wow, these things have been mentioned in relation to MS too. I guess it's the autoimmune thing. But it's thought that those of us with MS had less sun exposure in our youth. And I'd also heard there could be a lack of iodine in the soil in the areas MS is most prevalent. And melatonin is recommended for our sleep problems.

Interesting and coincidental.

But you are sounding great Faith!

hopeyg said...

Too funny papes! But what about the mushrooms. Maybe we could make a family outing of mushroom collecting with Trinxs and BJ and they could bring their special identifying books. Love ya and see you soon.

Br. Robert, OP said...

Remember, the redder the mushroom, the happier it will make you feel.

I'm looking forward to the post on the colonic. But, um, no pictures for that one, please.

datatech57 said...

When I took Tamoxifen, I had no side effects. Maybe two hot flashes in the whole time. It didn't stop my periods, but it didn't stop my cancer, either. I am just trying to tell you not to pre-judge the drug. You might have no side effects!


Danae said...

Hi Faith! Charity's been keeping us all updated on you, but I googled you to see if I could find a way to send you a note, and I came across your blog! Wanted to wish you all the best- we've been sending good vibes your way! Now that I've found this, I'll check in with you more often! I know you've got TONS of support, but if you ever need anything, don't hesitate to get in touch...I'm living right around the corner from your parents! My email is danaeouteiro@yahoo.com...and I have a blog also: danaenae.blogspot.com

Take care,

CHairs said...

I meant to ask... Did you ask Mr. eastern medicine about the kambutcha mushroom and what did he say? He took notes in Chinese?!! Thats so cool! -Charity