I found out I had breast cancer on June 11th 2014. I had a double mastectomy on July 3rd 2014. I am 4 months out from surgery and I am feeling great. However, as you might imagine, it was no walk in the park. Lots of emotional upheaval. Lots of physical difficulty. But with great support from friends, family and good health care workers I’m doing very well.
Over the last 4 months I have spent most of my free time learning about cancer and in particular breast cancer, what causes it and what cures it. Before my diagnosis, it never crossed my mind that I would get breast cancer. Ridiculous! I was healthy, I exercised, and I ate really pretty good. But I got breast cancer. Why,why, why? That was the big question! I think I figured out what caused it. It wasn’t just one thing. It was likely multiple factors. Low vitamin D, xeno-estrogen exposure, unclean water in my youth, chronic emotional stress, poor diet during my formative years. Add that to maybe I was a little more susceptible than the average woman (maybe? who knows?) and add that the breast, being a gland, is very sensitive to carcinogens, all add up to why I believe got breast cancer at age 46.
So why am I writing about this today? I want to share with you the information I wish I had known 10-20 years ago because maybe I could have prevented getting cancer in the first place. I believe YOU can take this information and do just that! You don’t have to get breast cancer. You don’t have to have that low level anxiety about when it might happen to you. You can take action starting today to control the kind of future you want to have.
I’ve put together a list of things you can do to prevent breast cancer in 4 areas: Physical, Spiritual, Exercise, and Diet. All of these factors listed here are important. There’s no one magic bullet that causes or cures breast cancer. That’s why it’s so hard to communicate about how to avoid it. It doesn’t fit into a sound bite.
But I wish I had had the knowledge I now have. I wish I’d had the opportunity to follow this “prescription” so I will share it today for anyone who is interested.
It’s not easy. There may be things you’re not willing to change. But, do your best. Just try changing one thing per week or even per month. Over time if you stick with it you will have made many changes that will greatly improve your health.
The most important things to do are:
- Find some joy each day regardless of your circumstances. (It’s always there if you look.)
- Make sure you have enough Vitamin D.
- Eat lots of a wide variety of veggies.
- Avoid toxins that are right under your nose!
- Move your body daily (exercise) but don’t overtax yourself.
And by the way, I’m still learning how to do all these things, especially the emotional ones. So this is more a coaching sheet for myself, things I don’t want to forget, and not a sermon to others. I hope you find this helpful.
- Exercise but don’t over-stress your body. Translation: keep most of your weekly workouts to a moderate pace or exertion. 1-2 workouts per week can be strenuous, but be sure to have a rest/recovery day (which might be a short/long walk or light jog or yoga or nothing if needed). Here’s why: When you overexert your body your adrenal glands get overtaxed putting stress on all your body’s systems.Two things about this are important:
- Too much adrenal stress will lower your progesterone levels causing you to be estrogen dominant (a sign of this is very emotional/difficult PMS). And when you have too much estrogen your breast cancer risk goes up.
- Too much adrenal stress puts your immune system on hold because the body is triaging, deciding to take care of the most immediate problem first which is all the physical stress from, say, working out very hard 5 days in a row. This raises your breast cancer risk because the immune system is what normally cleans up mutant cells before they can become cancerous.
- Aim for 3-5 hours of exercise per week. (Reduces your breast cancer risk by up to 40%) An hour walk 5 days a week is an easy way to get this done, but do whatever you enjoy. Moving in lots of different ways is very good for your bones and prevention of osteoporosis. Good examples are yoga or dancing or playing basketball. You can be a lifelong runner, but if you never move your spine or do weight-bearing exercise with your arms or swivel your hips, you can get osteoporosis in these areas. Your leg bones will be great, but your other bones won’t be as strong. Bones get strengthened when they get the signal from the surrounding muscles, “Hey we’re being used. Bring in the reinforcements!” And lastly, the exercise doesn’t have to all be done at once. Maybe you walked around the grocery store for 20 minutes and then later did some strenuous house or garden work. That all counts!
- Watch the sports bras. Be sure to only wear the tight bras only as long as you are exercising and then switch into a looser fitting day bra. Constantly wearing a very tight bra can limit the movement of lymphatic fluid which is how your immune system gets rid of mutant pre-cancer cells, metabolic waste, and toxins. Less movement of your lymph system hinders its effectiveness.
- Rebounder: You don’t have to go out and buy one of these, but file the idea in your mind to maybe get one down the line. I’ve read a lot about how jumping on a mini-trampoline has huge health benefits. The main reason is that it really helps the lymph system. Since the lymph system doesn’t have it’s own pump like the heart, it relies on our muscles to move the fluid around. When you jump up and down the lymph fluid is moved around quite a lot which is good for getting white blood cells to where they need to go in order to fight invaders (germs) and mutant cells (cancer or precancer).
- Yoga. This will help slow down your mind, reducing internal stress hormones and chemicals, allowing your body to do the restorative work it needs to do on a daily basis: fight invaders, eliminate mutant cells, produce balanced amounts of both estrogen and progesterone, repair cell damage, make new cells, etc. Plus you’ll be strengthening all your bones!
- Time with Pets and Children. When you are truly present with a pet or a child (on their agenda) you become rooted in the present moment freeing you from worry over the past/future. Enjoy the love. Share some laughs. And let your body soak up the resulting good endorphins which send a message to your cells: “things are good around here. Let’s be healthy!” Everytime you hug someone or look into their eyes with love, your body produces oxytocin, which makes you feel good! Oxytocin also reduces inflammation which is the precursor to all major diseases including cancer. Oxytocin creates feelings of contentment, reduces anxiety and fear, and increases feelings of calmness and security. All of this is good for your body! So get lots of hugs and pet your cats and dogs regularly!
- Sleep and rest. Get what your body needs. Usually 7-9 hours sleep per night, although some function fine on less. Listen to your body. Also take a rest or a nap when you feel your energy nosediving. (Naps are good for you!) Your hormones and other biochemistry will be rejuvenated making it easier to carry on with your day.
1. Find a way each day to experience joy and contentment regardless of your circumstances. Think of the things that used to bring you joy in your youth. Rekindle those activities. Reminisce on those times before we “learned” to temper our joy and be so grownup. Use music from those days to stir up those youthful feelings of unbridled exuberance and feel that once again! What do you have to lose?
Stress is not bad. Some stress can actually be good. It can strengthen us when we have time to recover from it, reflect, learn and unwind. Chronic stress is bad, especially when it is unrelenting (bear in mind this can be at a low level and easy to overlook). Feeling hopeless, feeling lonely, feeling like “you’re never winning” are hard on the body when they are felt chronically.
But there is good news. You can change some circumstances. Some things you can’t change. Some things take a good deal of time and effort to change. However, the most important thing you can change is your outlook, how you view each moment. Do you constantly live in yesterday’s arguments & problems, worry over tomorrow’s possible calamities? Pay attention to how much you may be doing this on a micro level all the time.
Take a day to really observe your thoughts. Sometimes our negative thoughts don’t cross our mind even as words. They may be in the form of images or feelings. They may be whispered words, like your mind talking under it’s own breath. After analyzing your thoughts for a day, don’t despair if you notice a lot of negativity. Being aware of your thinking is the first step to making positive changes!
You can change your habits and patterns. This is something you can feel hopeful about. You CAN do it! Take baby steps. Be patient and kind with yourself. Use daily mantras that lift you up. “Fake it til you make it” really works. Pick the thoughts you wish you were having and then repeat them. Pretty soon they will be the new record in your mind. Really!
Bear in mind that you never really “arrive” at perfection, but rather you learn to drive “your car” more skillfully, avoiding the potholes & fender-benders better because you’ve slowed down a bit, you’re paying attention, and ultimately enjoying the ride more!
To use myself as an example, yes, I’m a generally happy person, but I am also an overly ambitious person at times. I allow myself to get upset over timeframes and circumstances I can’t control. I mentally berate myself when I don’t get things right (being on time, saying the wrong thing, thinking I’m not doing enough for others, not remembering an appointment, not finishing my to-do list.) It’s a little embarrassing to let you all into my secret mind of self-torture (LOL).
Seriously I know we all do it to some extent. It doesn’t mean we have to keep doing it. We can do better – and without ridiculing ourselves when we fall down. We need to drive “our car” with more self-compassion, more self-forgiveness, a little less attachment to winning and achieving, and a little more attention to noticing the joyful little things in this very moment! Goals and desires are still good, but try to be balanced about how they affect the quality of your life. (Kristin, are you listening? lol.)
2. Happiness / Joy ideas: listen to music, sing, dance, create something – painting, sculpture, knitting, an organization, a charity, build something, play board games with friends or kids, turn off the TV and play the “Get to know you game”, go for hike/walk in nature, eat slowly, smile at a stranger, help someone that really could use your help, give a compliment to someone, reach out to someone who you know might be feeling lonely, etc. Do something little each day.
3. Meditate daily. This will get you to achieve being joyful. Focus on the breath, a mantra, your heart, whatever method you like, but do it 1-2 times a day for 10-20 minutes. Probably the most useful time to do it is between mid-afternoon and before dinner. Why? This is when our body’s stress level is most high. This is where you can make a real dent in your health all without having to do anything but sit still for a bit.
And don’t worry about a racing mind. That’s normal! You’re not trying to stop the thoughts. Just notice yourself having them and go back to your meditation focus: the breath, a mantra, sounds, etc. Check out books or CD’s by Jon Kabat-Zinn (I really liked Mindfulness for Beginners) or Pema Chodron (I really liked Meditation: How to Meditate and Getting Unstuck. They are so helpful in getting this. And they are so healing to read and listen to.
4. “Get to Know You Game”: Sit in the room with 2 or more friends or family members. Make up questions either as you go or ahead of time and then ask each other these questions, like you’ve never met them before. (Click on the link for question ideas)You will be surprised how much you didn’t know about those closest to you! And it’s fun too! They can be easy like what’s your fav color? Or tough like: What’s your biggest fear? Pretend you’re interviewing the most interesting person in the world and you want to know everything about them.
1. Take time for yourself to renew your spirit and tap into the greatness you may call God or the Universe or Mother Nature. Find those things you make you feel good. What creative things do you like to do? How do you like to enjoy music? What makes you feel good physically? Write down some ideas and plan them into your day or week.
Women especially put themselves second, taking care of children, friends, parents, before ourselves. Well you need to put your own oxygen mask on first or else you’ll pass out before you can help anyone else. You may think, “I’m fine. I don’t need anything special.” But you do. It doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t have to be outside the home, but it should be some time that’s just for you – to read, to exercise, to dance, to paint, to write, to contemplate. When you take this time for yourself, magnify it in your mind by noticing how you feel, and be grateful for it, you’ll be able to give so much more when you do.
2. Helping Others. I know you are all doing a lot of helping already, but maybe some of you would to reach out and help others in a new way. You can do this in small or large ways and both are Equally valuable. Remember that. What you can do IS enough and of big value even if it is just a phone call or complimenting an elderly person at the grocery store. If you want to fit this into your life, take it small and slow to start. Helping others can benefit us more than we know. We can learn things from seeing another person’s life and perspective. Maybe this can help with some loneliness you may have that is just below the surface.
3. Alleviating Loneliness. You don’t have to live alone to feel lonely. Feeling lonely can simply feel like you’re not connected. So whether you live alone or with others seek out connections with others. Turn off the TV, turn off the screens, and talk. Call an old friend. Make a new friend through a group or through volunteering. Set an intention to rekindle your connection with your spouse or your children. We live in our own little “screen” silos these days. So more talking, less screen time is the antidote.
1. Eat lots of veggies and fruit. If you can buy organic especially the dirty dozen of produce (just google it). Especially good for breast cancer prevention are the cruciferous family because they have compounds that help your body balance your estrogen more toward the “good” kind of estrogen vs. the stronger estrogens, all of which your body produces. You can also supplement with DIM or Indole-3-Carbinole which are the compounds in these veggies that facilitates this good balance of estrogen. Also drink your green tea!!!
In order for your body to do all its jobs, for your cells to have the energy and building blocks they need, you need to give it as much veggies as you can – especially the greens, the colorfuls, and the onion family. And fruit too. Veggies/Fruit are the most nutrient dense.
Some people say no meat, no dairy, etc. I say just make sure you’re filling up with around 9 servings of produce a day. That’s going to naturally edge out too much of the meats, dairy and grains. You don’t have to give those up, just make produce the main squeeze of your diet.
Veggie/fruit smoothies are a great way to accomplish this. Also if you’re feeling like you want to go a little further, try juicing multiple veggies/fruits together (kale, celery, carrots, beets, apple, grapes, cilantro, wheat grass – that’s my mix). (This is the best juicer) Like all things in this list, start slow and small and build on your new habits over time. You will feel your energy grow and grow!
2. Vitamin D. (Really wish I had known this one!) Vitamin D is extremely important to your immune system which is the system that eliminates “bad cells” whether cancerous or pre-cancerous. Get 10-15 minutes of sun daily and/or supplement with Vitamin D3. Also critical to D3 is Vitamin K1, K2. Without Vitamin K, Vitamin D can’t do it’s very important jobs. (Vitamin D is a workhorse for us!)
If you’ve been wearing a lot of sunscreen or not getting much sun, there’s a very good chance you could be low on Vitamin D. The normal range is 30-100. 30 or below is low. You will do well to be at 50-70. Talk to your doctor about your level. It takes a lot of supplementation to move the needle on this measurement for some people. You may need to take 2000-5000 IU per day until your level is good.
Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with higher risk of cancer. Don’t overlook this. I was low on Vitamin D a few years ago and I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t know how important it was for the prevention of cancer. I personally think this was one of (many) of my personal factors in getting cancer.
3. Eliminate toxic burdens. There are many toxins that can contribute to getting cancer. Many you have control over.
a. Alcohol increases breast cancer risk. Sorry to bring that news. If you don’t need it, pass on it. If you want a glass of red wine, try an organic brand.
b. Clean Water. Make sure you are drinking clean water. I was drinking filtered water, however I’m concerned that the water in my area may be contaminated from a local military base that is close by. I can’t know for sure so I’m switching to Poland Springs. The place where I live has a higher incidence of cancer and this may be one of the reasons.
c. XenoEstrogens in cosmetics. Scary news. This should be big big news but it’s not. There are many chemicals that are in our cosmetics (deodorant, lotion, shampoo, makeup, lipstick, perfume, hair spray, styling gel, body wash, insect repellant, nail polish & remover, shaving cream, detergents, sunscreens) that mimic estrogens. When we have too many estrogens in our body this contributes towards breast cancer. Estrogen is an important and healthy hormone that our bodies need for many functions, but xeno-estrogens can raise your estrogen levels to up to a million times normal and that is not good. (This was found in an Italian study) On top of this it’s hard for our bodies to rid itself of excess estrogen when it is overburdened by so much of them. Think of a filter that gets clogged. That’s what it’s like for your liver trying to get rid of all these xeno-estrogens. So read the labels and avoid these:
1. Parabens (examples: butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, you get the idea)
2. UV SunScreens (sorry time to those out those spray sunscreens) examples: benzophenone-1, benzophenone-2, oxybenzone, homosalate, and more
For more info do a search on xeno-estrogens or here is a link: http://womeninbalance.org/2012/10/26/xenoestrogens-what-are-they-how-to-avoid-them/
For healthy cosmetic choices check out my cousin’s blog on safe cosmetic choices: http://www.thegreenproductjunkie.com/ You don’t have to give up quality or functionality of your cosmetics. These safe products are just as good if not better!!! And well they are better because they’re not poisoning you and giving you cancer! (dramatic? Yes. Appropriately dramatic. Yes.)
4. Support Your Liver. This is the other half of eliminating toxins. Toxins get in. That’s a fact of life, especially modern life. Our livers are what filter and remove them. So anything you can do to reduce their workload (less alcohol consumption for example) or support their functioning (providing helpful herbs and supplements) will increase your liver’s ability to get rid of toxins and also get rid of excess estrogen too! Some herbs/supplements to consider
Cilantro and parsley. These are excellent detoxers especially heavy metals.
Milk Thistle helps support the liver so it can do it’s job.
Dandelion Root Tea. This is very bitter but when you add lemon it is nice, especially iced.
MSM is an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant that supports overall health including the liver. (good for joints and
5. Mushrooms! Mushrooms have anti-tumor properties. Eat lots of them and in a wide variety. If you like mushrooms, this is the excuse you’ve been waiting for to eat a whole bowl of them. (At least that’s how I felt! I saute mine with a little white wine, lemon juice, and pepper. Awesome! )
6. Acid vs. Alkaline pH. Your blood is kept at a fairly steady alkaline level of about 7.35. When you eat different foods, your body will move minerals in and out of your tissues in order to maintain this level which is critical for life. Since most of us eat a very acid-forming diet, over time our tissues become quite acidic. This is not good.
Cancer develops and thrives in an acid environment, so keeping your body more alkaline is a good goal to work on. How? You can review the list of acid/alkaline foods. (see link below) Try to eat 60-80% alkaline producing foods.
Generally speaking most fruits/veggies are alkaline producing. Meats, sugar, salt, alcohol, dairy are acid forming. Some things may shock you too. Lemons which are acidic actually leave your body more alkaline. In fact they are one of the most alkalizing foods you can ingest. So lemon water is great!
Here’s a site you can review if you want to get into this more. http://www.rense.com/1.mpicons/acidalka.htm
7. Supplements. These would be optional, but good if you want to try them. And of course, I’m not a doctor so only take them under the guidance of your doctor. Make sure they don’t interfere with your personal health circumstances. (I’ve included links to the brands I currently use.)
Turmeric/curcumin – antioxidant. In the top 5 superfoods. Taking this Indian spice as a supplement makes it easy to get working for you on a daily basis to reduce inflammation and even boost your mood as well as Prozac according to a recent study.
Vitamin C. And oldie but a goodie, vitamin C is good for your immune system.
Baby Aspirin. There are tons of studies that show many benefits of taking this daily. One of them is lowered risk of breast cancer.
Kelp. This will help you get the iodine that is necessary for a healthy functioning thyroid.
Magnesium. This is good for your bone health, good for your heart, and good for alkalinity. Take it before bed for a more restful sleep.
B-Complex. All the vitamin B’s are critical and important for carrying out our cellular functions all day long. A supplement will make sure that you’re not missing out on any. And they are water soluble, so any excess won’t build up.
Fish Oil or Krill Oil. I take Carlson’s Cod Liver oil – Lemon flavor– 1 tsp per day. There is ZERO fish taste. The Carlsons will give you the Omega 3’s that are so healthy as well as a bio-available form of Vitamin A and Vitamin D.
8. Avoid or eliminate sugar. Cancer feeds on sugar. It doesn’t use oxygen well or at all for metabolism, so if you can cut out sugars beyond what are in fresh fruits, you can turn off their only supply of energy.
Early detection is good so please do your weekly self-breast exam. That’s how I found mine. How do you tell a problem lump from all the other lumps in there? If you are doing your self-exam regularly you’ll notice when there are differences that are not normal. If you have something that seems harder than other lumps (cysts – which come and go with your monthly cycle) and if it doesn’t move around, then get it checked out by your doctor.
Listen to your intuition. When in doubt get it checked out. Your doctor can always check it with an ultrasound machine first to see if it is just a cyst. (ask for that, because if it’s just a cyst and you’ve already had your annual mammogram, you might not want the extra radiation.)
Are mammograms good? Yes, but they do give out radiation which is not good. But this is the trade-off for detecting early breast cancers. On the other hand mammograms are not good at detecting breast cancer in dense breasts so find out if this is you (40% of all women.) Some states require the doctor to advise you of this.
But please know that your doctor can also use ultrasound which is very effective at determining suspicious lumps vs. benign cysts. That’s what they used to look at the lump I had found with a self-exam.
Another thing to keep in mind is that there are some rare breast cancers that only show up on a CT scan which is not standard for screening. Listen to your intuition. If you feel like something is not right in your breasts and mammogram and ultrasound don’t show anything, ask for the CT scan.
Should you have a mammogram every year? Or would an ultrasound be sufficient? Only you can make this decision. It’s worth it to do the research, talk to your doctor about dense breasts if you have them, and make the decision that feels right to you.
Here are some articles you can read to help understand this topic in more depth:
Early detection is not the same as prevention. So take action to lower your breast cancer risk with these suggested lifestyle changes. You can do it!
Whether you’re going through cancer or want to avoid it, these are books that I have gained a lot of help from. I used conventional treatment, but I also am using complimentary ideas. I believe that everything we put in our bodies, how we think, how we move our bodies all contribute to our health or dis-ease.
Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber
Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing by Bill Henderson
You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
Also I found this video very uplifting about the power of healing we hold right inside ourselves: http://youtu.be/LWQfe__fNbs
Here is her book:
Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself by Lissa Rankin
Well friends, I hope that you’ll print this out and choose a couple things to start on. Then post it on your wall and come back to it to add more changes. When you read this the 2nd time or the 3rd time you’ll notice more things that you didn’t before. This post could be a whole book, but I just wanted to give you the most important things to do.
We all have mutant cells in our bodies everyday. When our bodies have what they need, this is usually not a problem. Our bodies know how to handle them. The problem comes when the body is both deficient in building blocks and overloaded with toxins and stress hormones – all on a chronic long term basis.
You have the power to stop cancer in it’s tracks.
Yes you do!
Your body knows what to do. This is great news!!
Follow the above prescription and you can live a long cancer-free healthy life.
If you have cancer already and you know it, you have the same power. I’m not saying don’t use conventional methods. That’s totally up to you, but know that you have so much power still in your hands to re-capture perfect health by making diet and lifestyle changes.
Always work alongside your doctor with the things you are doing and you’ll make more gains than with either alone.
Remember the most important tips:
1) Discover joy each day. Release fear. Hand fear over to God or to the universe or to the garbage can. You don’t need it. Trust that good things are coming your way. None of the above things will help if you are cultivating fear and anxiety. Make a choice today to start small to find happiness and release fear. Be kind with yourself always. Love is always the answer to any problem.
2) Make sure your Vitamin D is at a good level.
3) Eat lots, I mean lots, of veggies and fruit – organic preferably. Build up how much you eat over time. Discover all the delicious vegetable based recipes out there!
4) Avoid xeno-estrogens and toxins and support your liver to get rid of the buildup that’s already in your body.
5) Move your body daily.
Wishing you all excellent health and happiness!!