General status update
Hair: demanding to be re-snooded – it’s the only part of me that’s looking forward to FEC4
Nausea demon: still away
Chemo Muse: she wants me to keep more regular desk hours, and stop finishing off blog posts late at night, and I do see her point. R feels much the same.
Chemo Brian: chilling on the sofa on a great big heap of cushions.
Fatigue/weakness: much stronger now.
Anxiety level (1-10): I had a blood test this afternoon to check the state of my neutrophils; fingers crossed they’ll be OK for more chemo on Thursday.
State of mind: Trying to think beyond chemo, far off though that still seems,
Back in September, there are 4 weeks to wait until my surgery, and I have a month to get through, knowing that the tumour is inside me, growing; growing slowly, but growing nevertheless. There is a power in naming things, and I name my tumour, so I can visualise my enemy: he is Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice, short, fat, pompous and self-satisfied. He is greedy, and he wants EVERYTHING.
Jane Austen’s Mr Collins sits there complacently waiting for Mr Bennet to die so he can evict Mrs Bennet and her daughters from Longbourn, and take possession of the estate. My Mr Collins is equally greedy, but more active; he doesn’t want to stay in my breast, he is Napoleon, looking for an empire. He wants to battle his way into my lymph nodes and then colonise the far flung parts of my body – the bones, the brain, the liver. The places where breast cancer likes to go.
To do that, he needs to be fed: my reading leads me to understand that some foods will feed your cancer, and others will hinder its growth, or help to prevent it from returning. Refined sugars and white flour, in particular, help cancer grow by increasing blood levels of glucose, leading to production of insulin and IGF (insulin-like growth factor 1) , which stimulate cell growth and inflammation, effectively acting as fertiliser for tumours.
Mr Collins loves pizza and bacon sandwiches, lemon drizzle cake and custard tarts, salami and prosciutto (he’s particularly fond of processed meats, apparently). He doesn’t like fruit and vegetables, especially brightly coloured ones: red peppers, broccoli, carrots and cabbage, raspberries and blueberries, plums and red grapes.
What he hates most of all, apparently, is green tea, the anti-carcinogenic properties of which are so strong that it is Kryptonite to a tumour like Mr Collins. On finding this out, I immediately buy some green tea, and with every mug I drink I imagine Mr Collins, shuddering and squirming as it hits him, beside himself with impotent rage:
‘How DARE you!’ he splutters ‘How dare you insult me with this inhospitable beverage.’
Writhing in discomfort under the shower of green tea he begins to shrink, and behind the bellicose pomposity his fat little red cheeks are starting to pale and deflate.
Mr Collins and I are in a fight to the death: I know that once he has been cut out of me he will have left traces, cancer cells circulating in my bloodstream, looking for a safe harbour in which to plant themselves and grow. He will be able to regenerate, reinvent himself in my body, unless he is killed in one of several different ways: the treatments that the doctors are giving me – surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and the hormonal drug Tamoxifen - are the heavy weapons, but I can help myself by not giving Mr Collins the food that he craves.
It’s almost never too late, apparently, to start eating yourself well: our bodies provide the environment in which cancers grow, and other diseases develop, and we are what eat. The more refined and processed foods we eat, especially sugar, and the more meat, the more we are prone to a wide variety of chronic diseases. The more we eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, pulses, olive oil and fish, the healthier we are likely to be. Eating well won’t cure my cancer, but it may play a significant role in stopping it from coming back, and from stopping me develop other diseases as I get older.
I’ve known this for years, read about it dozens of times, as I’m sure have you: it all becomes a lot more vivid though, when you think that your bacon sandwich is going to be feeding Mr Collins.
P.S. There’s a lot of scientific research been carried out in recent years on the extent to which specific foods, or chemical compounds within them, promote or hinder the growth of cancer cells. I’ve read two excellent summaries of this research: Anticancer: A New Way of Life by Dr David Servan-Schreiber, a doctor and professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh who was diagnosed with a highly aggressive brain tumour in 1993 but survived against all the odds for 18 years, much of which he devoted to researching cancer prevention and inhibition through stimulation of the immune system via nutrition and psychological techniques. He was not looking for a ‘cure’ for cancer, or to replace standard cancer treatments: he was intent on finding ways to complement the external treatments of chemotherapy and radiotherapy by strengthening the body from the inside.
The other book is Foods to Fight Cancer , by two Canadian biochemists at the University of Montreal who run a laboratory of molecular medicine devoted to research on this subject. This provides a comprehensive guide to scientific research on foods with anti-carcinogenic properties.