Refusing To Be A Breast Cancer Statitstic
Let’s rewind. My mother was very much ahead of her time as her three children grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. She was an up and coming African-American career woman that would eventually make her way into several Chief Audit Executive roles for fortune 100 companies. Despite career advancement, she still managed to be a phenomenal mother and wife, cook home-made meals, oversaw her parent’s estate, and was a significant role model for friends and family. All of this, of course, was not without a price. My mother’s first health scare came in 1995 when she suffered a cerebral aneurysm while at work. She required emergency neurosurgery and came out of this without a single scratch (no neurologic, functional, or mental deficits). Although I couldn’t have comprehended this at the time (as I was in college and to wrapped up in myself to think of anyone else), her next health scare would prove to be the start of a long journey for our family.
In 1996, during a routine breast examination and mammogram, a lump was discovered in my mother’s right breast. My mom says she felt very optimistic with this news and never thought that she would have prolonged illness from it considering she had done so well with the recent aneurysm. She had a lumpectomy followed by radiation to remove the lesion and went on about her life. Unfortunately, this demon was not finished haunting my mother and revisited almost 15 years later, when a similar lump was discovered in the same breast. At the time, she was advised to have a mastectomy. I hated the thought of this but also felt helpless in my ability to advise my mother on the best course of action. At this time, I was still trapped in the conventional medicine arena and was barely beginning to understand that there were alternatives to cancer that may have been worth trying (things like Cantron therapy, The Kelley metabolic therapy, detoxification techniques, oxygen therapy, ozone therapy and nutrient support). She underwent the mastectomy and did very well, considering. She complained, and still complains, of post-mastectomy pain, sometimes in places that didn’t seem to be related to the breast or her surgery. I took some time off of work to care for her during this ordeal and think it was the first time I saw my mother as vulnerable. Again, I felt helpless, not knowing what to offer or where she could turn. This was right around the time that I was completing my board certification in Functional and Regenerative medicine, so I started turning to some of my professors for help in understanding what could be done to at least prevent any further recurrences and possibly help with her pain.
We started really simply. First, we addressed her very poor diet. My mom was being treated by her primary care physician for high cholesterol, so she was eating what she thought was the right diet for someone with high cholesterol- whole grains, replacing fat with so-called “heart healthy” fat substitutes, meats, and vegetables. She still enjoyed breads, pastas, wine and sweets. As I began to understand more about nutrition, I imparted this wisdom onto my mother. Slowly, she began incorporating more good fats with omega-3 fatty acids into her diet. She ditched the bread, pasta and sweets and added 100% grass-fed beef and pasture raised poultry and eggs. In addition, she increased the amount of green-leafy, cruciferous and root vegetables that were on her plate. She gathered greater inspiration and momentum from a book by a woman who shared her breast cancer journey and was able to avoid losing her breast by implementing detoxification techniques. I remember having a discussion with my mother about this book and she noted, “Had I only known that there were alternatives, maybe I could have tried them.” I think part of our role as healthcare providers is to be armed with these alternatives, so that our patients have a chance to make the best and most informed decision that they can.
Despite some pretty significant dietary changes, my mother still complained of joint pain, severe fatigue, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and increasing cholesterol levels. We had to dig a little deeper and be a bit more aggressive. I recommended my mother talk to her primary care doctor about stopping her statin drugs as many of her symptoms could have been attributed to this and it didn’t seem to be working anyway. I also knew that she had become more nutritionally depleted with this drug and just preferred she not take it. I also recommended she talk to her oncologist about stopping the estrogen-receptor blocker, Anastrazole. Most, if not all, of her complaints could certainly be attributed to this guy including joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, elevated cholesterol levels, insomnia, and on and on. Her primary care didn’t want her to stop the statin drug but she made the choice to do it on her on, while her oncologist agreed that the estrogen-receptor blocker wasn’t really providing much protection and appeared to be interfering tremendously with her quality of life and agreed to discontinue it. Interestingly, this is when the veil was lifted! My mother almost immediately began to feel better. She had more energy, the joint pain went away as did the insomnia and anxiety. We continued to work diligently on her diet and at this point started adding detoxification techniques. She began doing coffee enemas daily. We altered her exercise regimen to one that focused primarily on more relaxation and less stress (she does light cardio and weights, with longer session of stretching and breathing).
We have recently introduced nutritional balancing into her health regimen. This is the scientific method that I use on all of my patients but was a little intimidated to try this in my mom- the breast cancer survivor (Don’t ask me why- it’s a combination of her being my mother and the disease being cancer). Since the start of her journey, my mother has tightened up her eating significantly, adopting more of a ketogenic style diet with very low sugar, carbohydrates primarily coming from cooked vegetables, good-quality proteins and absolutely no gluten or soy. Her life with cancer now consists of a well-balanced diet, nutritional supplementation, gentle detoxification and lifestyle management and NOT with pharmaceutical medications, pain, fatigue and poor-quality of life.
I recently saw my mother when she came for a visit and I almost cried. I am so proud of her. She is losing weight, her skin is glowing, she smiles more than she frowns and declares that she feels great. This is the quality of life that she wanted and expected after her mastectomy- why should she settle for anything less. We still have much work to do but I know she will succeed. My hope is that by sharing this, other breast cancer survivors will realize the importance of nutrition and lifestyle in healthy recovery, healing and life.