There wasn’t room for this in the book, and websites and information change all the time, so I thought it would be better to post it on the blog. Here is a regularly updated list of the supplements, therapies and general bits and pieces I found helpful during and after chemo, as well as new things I hear about as life goes on. You can also visit my Pinterest board for new postings. They are not suggestions for treatment and neither do they replace the advice of your consultant. I was incredibly lucky that mine fully endorsed all of the sometimes ‘unusual’ things I wanted to try and he was delighted that I managed to stay so well during and after treatment. I visited several different herbalists and homeopaths along the way and of course used the internet as a resource. I list several websites at the bottom of this article, which I will be adding to when I suddenly remember something else I took! There are differing opinions about many of the products, but I listened to my body to see whether it liked what I was giving it or not. Being in touch with your body is, I think, one of the most powerful healing tools. My personal approach was that if I had to have chemo, then at the very least I would give my body the strongest chance of surviving the toxicity of the treatment. For me there didn’t appear to be the option of avoiding aggressive chemo, but I know it is different for others. If you have decided to take the purely alternative route then make sure you do so under the guidance of a good therapist. Whatever your situation, remember that herbs and natural products can be just as toxic as Western medicine if used incorrectly so pay attention to the suggested dosages and use them with caution and sensitivity.
And finally, I chose organic versions of everything, if there was an option. I avoided anything that had added sweeteners, thickeners or flavourings. If it wasn’t pure, basically I didn’t touch it. You can read more about how processed food feeds cancer here. http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/starve-cancer.html
What follows is a list and discussion (in no particular order) of what worked or didn’t work for me. I hope it helps:
Aloe Vera Juice
I found that 1 tablespoon first thing in the morning, before food, helped to soothe my stomach and allay a bit of the sickness. I took a big bottle into hospital with me whenever I had to stay over. All wards have a fridge and the nurses are more than likely to let you use them for your own stash. In fact I found that they were usually very interested in what I was storing in there. Do your research, but I found Pukka to be the best make as it is organic and they don’t use the bitter part of the leaf so it tastes nice and soothing too.
As chemo gets under way it is very hard to keep your appetite; food starts to taste horrible and you may well feel very sick at just the smell of food – and that is even with the Vitamin A. Wheatgrass protein figures in most anti-cancer diets because it is a powerhouse of nutrition. You can take it several ways:
drinking the juice – it is very hard and pretty expensive to get fresh juice. I didn’t manage it so I tried
the powder – which I found absolutely disgusting. We tried adding it to our home made juices and although Stephen could tolerate it, to me it just resembled pond sludge. So I then tried
the capsules – which are far easier to digest. I took them all through chemo and stem cell transplant.
1 drop a day helps to prevent mucositis, the cause of sore mouth and ulcers during chemo. It is also really good for supporting the immune system, which of course gets knocked for six when you have chemo. I took Vitamin A all through the chemotherapy cycles and stem cell transplant, and I didn’t have a single ulcer. I used to take my 1 drop in a teaspoon of organic Omega oil.
This is incredibly important as it has been linked to longer survival times after cancer diagnosis. I took (and still take) 2 drops a day in organic Omega oil. Read this from Science Daily: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140429133456.htm:
By reviewing studies that collectively examined vitamin D levels in 17,332 cancer patients, our analysis demonstrated that vitamin D levels are linked to better outcomes in several types of cancer,” said one of the study’s authors, Hui Wang, MD, PhD, Professor of the Institute for Nutritional Sciences at the Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai, China. “The results suggest vitamin D may influence the prognosis for people with breast cancer, colorectal cancer and lymphoma, in particular.”
The meta-analysis looked at the results of 25 separate studies that measured vitamin D levels in cancer patients at the time of diagnosis and tracked survival rates. In most of the research, patients had their vitamin D levels tested before they underwent any treatment for cancer. The study found a 10 nmol/L increase in vitamin D levels was tied to a 4 percent increase in survival among people with cancer.
Researchers found the strongest link between vitamin D levels and survival in breast cancer, lymphoma and colorectal cancer. There was less evidence of a connection in people with lung cancer, gastric cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, melanoma or Merkel cell carcinoma, but the available data were positive.
“Considering that vitamin D deficiency is a widespread issue all over the world, it is important to ensure that everyone has sufficient levels of this important nutrient,” Wang said. “Physicians need to pay close attention to vitamin D levels in people who have been diagnosed with cancer.”
There are now many studies that show that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is an incredibly powerful anti-cancer agent. I took it all the way through my treatment, but you need to be careful what sort you buy and of course make sure it is organic. It doesn’t apparently have the same effect just adding the local supermarket’s version to your cooking. It is also a herb that you can’t take long term, so again, check the dosage. I recently discovered, thanks again to our local health food shop, that it is absorbed better when the curcumin is combined with lecithin from soy. I use a product by Naturally Better called Curcumin X 4000 which is from guaranteed non-GMO sources.
Since posting this I discovered that our local health food shop sells organic turmeric root. It should be peeled, grated, then added just in the last few minutes of cooking. Perfect in all kinds of food (especially curry!) it is more easily absorbed with food than when taken in powdered form. It makes your fingers go really, really orange as you grate it, so be warned!
This was – and still is – a beautiful balm for my stomach. Take a couple of tablespoons full of organic linseed and add about half a litre of boiling water. Bring back to the boil, watching it like a hawk, as it turns into a really gloopy mixture that is a nightmare to clean up when it boils over – which it does really quickly and without warning. Once you have got it under control, allow to simmer for about half an hour then strain. I think some people use the seeds for baking afterwards but I haven’t tried it. Drink a mugful while it is still hot then allow the rest to cool and store in the fridge. To reheat put about half a cupful in a saucepan and gently bring back to the boil. Top up with boiling water and a slice of lemon and your body will be deeply grateful. We are told to drink lots of water to flush the chemo through, but the reality is apparently that the water just goes straight through the body if it is parched and in trauma. Which mine definitely was. The linseed tea lubricates the gastro-intestinal tract and allows the body to absorb more water. Here is a website from an ayurvedic herbalist that explains it beautifully http://keithonfood.com/2011/04/15/how-to-make-super-hydrating-linseed-flax-tea/
This is something I only heard about comparatively recently. Dandelion tea has long been known as a diuretic, and I must admit I had never tried it. However, once it was mentioned in the same breath as cancer, my ears pricked up. You can read more about it here. http://www.livestrong.com/article/241852-benefits-of-drinking-dandelion-tea/ I really like it made with the dried root as it tastes woody – did you ever chew real liquorice root? It tastes a lot like that, and unusually for a herbal preparation, it really has quite a pleasant taste. Clipper teas make a nice teabag version of it which is obviously much handier.
Pearl Barley Water
While we’re on the subject of dehydration, I found my body also became very acidic during treatment, and my old arch-enemy of cystitis sometimes came back for a visit. Avoid sweetened cranberry juice ‘drinks’ like the plague as the sweetener just contributes to the problem and the cranberry content is minimal. Likewise over-the-counter remedies. Natural cranberry juice from a health food store can be helpful if diluted (it is extremely bitter) but top of my A&E list is something that is as simple to make as the linseed tea and it cures the problem almost immediately. Make and use in exactly the same way as linseed tea only using organic pearl barley; this one is very well behaved and doesn’t need watching like a hawk like linseed does. Put the lid on and allow to simmer very gently for about 20 mins. Strain the resulting water and drink with a slice of lemon. Repeat as often as required but it soothes the bladder and reduces the acidity in the body very quickly.
And Talking of Acidity
Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, so it makes sense to do as much as you can to make your body less acidic. Again, the jury is out on this one but there seems to be an increasing body of evidence that lemon in particular is very effective at doing so. A mug of hot water with a slice of lemon first thing in the morning is a good way to cleanse and de-acidify your system, and it is also very refreshing if you are finding it hard to tolerate any other beverage. I found it very hard even to drink water because it tasted really horrible, so the lemon was enough to make it tolerable. Another remedy which has been hitting the headlines is lemon juice and bicarb. Take a quarter of a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, mix it with half a lemon and top up with water. It is said to be extremely powerful against cancer and I still take it almost every day. The one proviso I would add with drinking this amount of lemon is that it could affect your teeth. Chemotherapy depletes the body of minerals, amongst other things, and I found my teeth became increasingly sensitive as time went on. A visit to the dentist confirmed that I was losing enamel – something the lemon clearly wouldn’t help, as it is only once it gets into your body that it becomes alkaline. I now make sure that I either clean my teeth after taking it or do some oil pulling with coconut oil to make sure it doesn’t stay on my teeth. (See below)
Yeast Infections – Beating Candida
Yeast infections are a sign that the body is out of balance, even in someone who is apparently healthy; if the gut flora is compromised then the immune system becomes weak and that is how cancer can gain a foothold. For patients going through chemo the balance of the gut is even more important. Here is an excellent article that tells you the easiest way to regain control: http://bit.ly/1IXdZei
Eat Your Greens!
So everyone knows they should eat their greens – and usually don’t – but this is a time when you really, really need to. Most green vegetables contain powerful antioxidants and believe it or not they are an easy way of getting some nutrients into your body when it is laid low by chemo. I found I could only eat really tiny, tiny portions during the later cycles of chemo and especially after the stem cell transplant. And I mean tiny, like maybe 2 sticks of broccoli and maybe a large spoon sized heap of spinach. Once my body could tolerate more solid food my favourite meal at any time of the day was a weeny portion of steamed fish on a weeny pile of spinach. I found that I needed to eat as soon as I was hungry or the Great Sickness would kick in, and this was very quick to prepare. A man I met in the outpatient’s clinic after the transplant swore by eating huge amounts of watercress. It is usually very pure as it only grows in fast flowing spring water and he used to make a soup out of huge handfuls of it and drink some every day. I have to say he looked amazing.
Juicing is a fabulous way to get a lot of nutrients into the body in a very short space of time. Well – OK – the juicer does get in a bit of a mess and you do have to scrub all the produce first, but, for the patient, drinking freshly prepared juice is much easier than trying to eat a ton of carrots etc. My favourite was a combination of apples, carrots, celery, spinach, beetroot, watercress and cucumber. There are lots of good websites that offer menu suggestions and a huge number of anti-cancer diet books around, so I won’t take up space here. Needless to say, buy organic. No point drinking concentrated pesticide is there?
This is a very old Indian technique I discovered after the stem cell transplant when I was trying to detox my system. Although the chemo had finished months previously I could still smell the drugs and Stephen could too, so it wasn’t that my palette had changed which is what the doctors kept trying to tell me. I knew I had to get my body back to optimum health as quickly as possible and I really liked this one. I prefer coconut oil but you can use several different oils – just a matter of taste. Take a nice big spoonful of coconut oil and once it has melted in your mouth, slosh it around for about 15 mins. It takes a while to build up to that time but it is worth it. Your mouth will feel all silky and clean at the end of it and the coconut will have absorbed a lot of the toxins from your mouth. Spit the liquid down the toilet rather than the sink when finished (it will solidify when it gets cold and block your sink), then sloosh your mouth with fresh water to remove any traces. This website explains the reasons it is so good for you much better than I can http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/oil-pulling
Dealing With Sickness
I didn’t like any of the drugs I was given to help the sickness; they all had side effects which usually included a pounding headache, and once the drugs wore off the sickness came back even worse. As soon as I got home after the stem cell transplant, which is when the sickness got seriously debilitating, I investigated other methods of alleviating it. In homoeopathy I found Cocculus to be very effective. That is specifically for feeling very hollow and empty with the sickness, which of course I was, because I was hardly eating anything. There are several remedies, so read up on which one may be most appropriate for your symptoms. As a child I suffered from migraine headaches, and I always felt very sick with them, so I knew the link between stomach and head was important. I found that if I could keep my stomach calm I didn’t get bad headaches, which could also have been due to dehydration from being sick…. a vicious circle as you can see. I found mint tea to be really soothing, and I also took L-Glutamine when my stomach was particularly sore. That is another supplement which has mixed reviews: some say it can reduce tumours, others say it can increase them. Do your research and see where your particular cancer falls in the findings. I used it very sparingly but it helped immensely.
Epsom Salts Bath
While we are on the subject of detox Epsom Salt baths are amazing. Take about 4 handfuls of Epsom Salts (you can buy great big tubs of it) and add to running water along with a few drops of your favourite essential oil. I like lavender. Have the bath as hot as you can bear it and stay in for at least 20 minutes. I had several a week when I was detoxing and still try to have at least one a week – especially if I feel I am coming down with a bug. Here’s a nice explanation of the benefits
Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBO)
Cancer cells need an oxygen-deficient environment to flourish and studies have shown that techniques like yogic breathing that help to circulate more oxygen in the body can help defeat the disease. HBO treatment involves sitting in a ‘diving bell’ which is then pressurised so that the body absorbs more oxygen. To get the maximum benefit it is best to have 20 sessions of HBO as close together as possible. I had several and it is the weirdest experience. It is also very cold, so wrap up! You can read more here http://www.naturalhealth365.com/natural_healing/oxygen_cancer.html
Sound Therapy/Singing Bowls
Chemo is a dehumanising experience and it is very easy to feel that your body has let you down, when actually what it needs is a lot of TLC. Any therapy which helps you to become whole, and feel less fragmented, will aid your overall health and road to recovery. Sound therapy (as I experienced it – thank you Crispin) involves laying on the floor surrounded by crystal or Tibetan bowls. The bowls have different tones which resonate with different chakras so the therapist can tailor the treatment to your needs. It is the most beautiful experience, and I truly feel I have drifted into a concert of heavenly voices when I have a session.
Just wanted to post the link to a Ted Talk that shows how sound vibrations can kill tumours. I’m fascinated to find out whether my sound therapist can create the 11th harmonic with his signing bowls! I will let you know. http://tv.greenmedinfo.com/shattering-cancer-with-resonant-frequencies/
Emotional Freedom Technique
Communicating with your body is so important through all this. This powerful technique helps you to clear blockages, release emotions, and allow your body to tell you what it needs. It well and truly opened the floodgates when I used it. There are many different videos on youtube that show you how to do it, but I liked this one
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWu3rSEddZI . Judy Hall also shows you how to use it with crystals in her book Good Vibrations.
Food for the Mind and Soul
Books were my lifeline – as well as writing the blog of course. On the one hand I had an astonishing amount of ‘chick lit’, for which I thank Lindsey Kelk, Milly Johnson and Lucy Diamond in particular. And Stephen of course for finding them. They were very necessary for the long hours attached to the drip.
For my more serious and soul searching dark nights of the soul, I found a whole load of books brilliantly supportive and sometimes challenging. Of course when they were too challenging I spilled it all out on the blog… I’ve moved the list to its own page called Book Blog as it was threatening to take over. As books do :-)
And here are a couple of websites I found useful
Hope this helps you in your journey to health,