Thursday, December 18, 2014

Using Diet to Cure Skin Cancer

This is the second part in my series about having skin cancer and trying to cure it without having 10 surgeries on my face. If you read the previous post, you know I'm still waiting for my surgery, but I wanted to write this second post, because in addition to using the essential oils on my cancerous spots, I have made some changes to my diet.

First of all, let's get to a couple of theories underlying the idea of using food. The idiom is "You are what you eat." And as that gets to the point that food has an effect on us -- and effect so strong that it shapes our bodies and who we are -- it's true. The second theory is Hippocrates' saying, "Let food be your medicine." I want to use anything I can use to heal this cancer and keep myself out of surgery, and so I definitely want to consider the impact that food is having. Not only am I going to include foods that have cancer-fighting powers, but I also want to remove all the cancer-causers.

If you know me, you are reading this and probably the way everyone that I've told in person has reacted -- completely horrified. Because you are thinking, "What else could you possibly do to your diet?"

So let's back up. Here are the basics:

1. I have been gluten-free for almost 10 years. It was tough going at the start, but now it's totally not a big deal. I don't eat gluten-free bread/ish products, simply because over time I have let them slide effortlessly out of my diet.

2. I have been pescatarian, then vegetarian, then vegan. Almost fully vegan for about 3 years. (The qualifiers are in there, because I would still eat sushi once every couple of months. Because sushi is worth it.)

3. I have been juicing green juice every morning for about 3 years.

4. I have been sugar-free for ... this one is hard to put a year on, because cutting out the sugar was a major battle for me. But I started working on being sugar-free 6 years ago, and probably finally became successful about 4 years ago.

5. I don't drink alcohol.

6. I cook. This means I don't eat processed foods. This again has been the slow evolution like getting rid of the gluten-free bread substitutes. I enjoy cooking, so when I go to the grocery store, my cart is full of real food -- like vegetables.

7. I buy organic food. I try to buy exclusively organic food, but that is a little harder here, so I compromise on the "Clean 15" and try to keep the "Dirty Dozen" exclusively organic.

Wow, that's more basics than I thought, but given all that, whatever label you want to give to my style of eating, the basic idea is that I eat good, clean, unprocessed food that is as chemical free as possible.

And the question again is, "What is there to change?"

For me, 3 major things. 

1. Sugar

I mentioned above that I have a problem with sugar. I cut it out 4 years ago, and finally felt like I had conquered that. But I slipped, and let in fruit, and more fruit, and more fruit, and more. And even though fruit has vitamins and minerals that we need, for me, the amount I was eating was dumping too much sugar into my body. Because even though the sugar in fruit is different, our bodies don't really know that.

The other thing that research about cancer is showing is that sugar feeds cancer. The cancerous cells actually grow more and faster when they are given sugar. I don't want to feed the cancer anything, so I cut out sugar.

Yes, this means that for me, for right now, I'm not even eating fruit. It's been 5 weeks. I plan to get through the recovery from my surgery and then reevaluate.

I'm going to point out how much I keep stressing "for me," especially in this sugar section. But this whole thing is based on what my body needs, and right now, my body needs to fight cancer.

2. Grains

I've been gluten-free for a very long time, so all those grains (wheat, rye, barley) are already cut out. But I was eating oatmeal every morning for breakfast, and I was also eating rice for at least one of the other meals every day. Some days I would get fancy and have quinoa. All of this added up to a lot of grains.

Grains connect back to the cancer research with sugar. Because of how grains are broken down by our bodies, they are basically interpreted as straight sugar. So once again, for me, for right now, the grains aren't working. Just like with the fruit, I cut them out 5 weeks ago.

3. Green Juice Every Day

I mentioned above that I have been juicing every day for 3 years. But this summer and moving was tough on me, and I slipped out of my normal system and routine. And once I slipped, I found it really difficult to get back into. But I talked with a good friend, and she helped motivate me, and I have juiced every single day for the past 5 weeks.

Basic Green Juice Recipe
2-3 stalks celery
1 cucumber
1 lemon (peeled)
Greens -- this could be 1 heart of romaine, 4-5 leaves of kale, 4-5 leaves of swiss chard, 4-5 leaves of bok choy, 2-3 big handfuls of spinach, etc

Assemble the ingredients, peel the lemon, and run it all through the juicer. It usually gives 8-10 ounces of juice, depending. I add filtered water until my 16 ounce jar is full.

4. A Little Bit of Organic Meat

This is tough. Have you had the experience of getting labeled -- labeled with anything -- and maybe at first you think, "Pfftt, no. That's not me." And then because that is so consistently your label, you start to own it. And then it really is you more and more, and more people notice and label you that way, and you decide you're ok with it. And then you change. Have you had that experience? It's kind of hard to get rid of the label.... Or at least it is for me.

My label is vegan. Vegan meaning no animal products or by-products. And at first, I was like whatever. I just eat what I eat. And then I started to own it. And I was like, yeah, I'm just me, but I am vegan. And now, I'm changing that, and it's hard to drop the label. Especially because we live in a society that is so centered around food.

The basic idea here is that there are vitamins and minerals that are present in meat that you can't get in plants. Some of these vitamins and minerals are important to killing cancer. Now, to be clear, I'm not talking about the macronutrient protein -- you can get plenty of protein from plant sources, and humans need less protein than Americans are led to believe anyway. What I mean is micronutrients, especially B vitamins, and those just aren't present in plants.

In order to get these benefits, I'm eating eggs for breakfast. This made it a little easier to drop the oatmeal that I had been eating. I also bought an organic free range chicken and made chicken soup. It was hard for me to deal with the bird (I'm trying not to be gross and call it a carcass), but the soup sure tasted good.

I'll point out that this is a very small amount of meat. It's not necessary to eat a huge amount to get the micronutrient benefits.

I thought this would be really difficult. I've had people talk to me about the paleo diet many times, and my reaction has always been, "No." Just no, because I need carbs. So I thought that cutting out all the grains and all the fruit would be really difficult for me.

It hasn't been.

I've had no major physical reactions. I have had no major cravings. There was one week that I was having a difficult week with work, etc, and I wanted something sweet, but it went away when I stopped feeling so depressed.

I don't know what impact this is having on the cancer yet, but I will be updating with another post after the surgery. I do believe that what we put in our bodies is incredibly important to our health. So even if the effect isn't huge, I am at least not continuing to fuel the cancer.

I have been doing this diet thing for years. If you are interested in trying this, and are thinking about cutting out sugar for the first time, it will be huge and very difficult. It was horrendously difficult for me the first time (which is why it took about two years to complete). But on the positive side, there are a lot of really good books to support you in cutting out sugar now, like Dr. Mark Hyman's Blood Sugar Solution series, JJ Virgin's Virgin Diet and The Sugar Impact Diet. I recommend getting some books as tools to help, and enlist a good friend to help you. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Using Essential Oils to Cure Skin Cancer

This is not the space where I generally write about these things, so if you want to just move on, I completely understand. Come back later for even more book reviews!

I have skin cancer. It's a bit of an on-going saga, but with the latest rounds I have been trying hard to use natural solutions to kill the cancer, because I just can't have 10 surgeries on my face. That is unacceptable.

As I've done all my research on ways to cure skin cancer, I kept coming across using essential oils including Frankincense and Myrrh. Although there are other options (including coconut oil and baking soda, and iodine), the essential oil route is the one I chose.

After deciding, I found myself becoming slightly frustrated because I could not find any information online of what to expect as I use these oils. I did find testimonials, but all of them said things like "I made my elderly mother use this. It's a miracle." With no further information. Because I want the information so much, I decided to write down my experience, and maybe it will help someone looking for the same thing.

The Diagnosis
Before I started using the oils, I had a large scabby spot on my forehead close to my hairline. This is the main spot I was concerned about. It would scab up, then the scab would slough off, and then it would reform. And it was getting worse.

The biopsy came back that it was basal cell carcinoma, the non-fatal form of skin cancer.

When I consulted with the surgeon who will perform the surgery, she began examining the rest of my face. As she looked, she started drawing circles, then she handed me a mirror. She had 10 circles on my face around different spots. All are a variety of sizes, what they have in common is that they are red patches. Some could be described as scaly, but that doesn't apply universally. Half are sites I have previously had treated for cancer and had been told they were clear. As I explained that, the surgeon said that none of the treatments I have had will work, the only treatment is surgery.

Lovely comment, but I don't want to have surgery on my face 10 times.

Allow me to emphasize that. I will not have surgery on my face 10 times.

And so the exploration began, after they sent me home like this:
Displaying IMG_20141013_162225.jpg

I started my research with essential oils. I've been using essential oils for the past year or so, and have really liked the impact that they have. I knew that Frankincense has been studied as a cancer-killer and had read the good skin properties of other oils like sandalwood and lavender.

I started on this website, dedicated to essential oils. And indeed, the main recommendation is Frankincense.

Then a friend posted this article, and I read about Myrrh.

With that information under my belt, I set up a plan. I would use frankincense and myrrh on each spot on my face, once in the morning and once at night. I also decided to get empty veggie capsules and take a pill with three drops of frankincense in it twice a day.

Starting the Process
I began using the frankincense and myrrh on November 11, 2014. In the morning, I apply the oils after I finish my shower and get dressed. I get dressed first because I don't want to smear them on my clothes. But I make sure that my face is clean and I don't put any moisturizer on it before the oils.

I drop about three drops of frankincense into the palm of my left hand and use my right index finger to rub a dab on each spot. Because I have so many spots, it usually takes 4-5 drops of frankincense to get them covered. Then I drop 3-4 drops of myrrh into the palm of my left hand and repeat the process. This is called "layering" in the essential oil world, and according to my research is the better approach to this than "blending" or putting both oils together in a jar or the palm of your hand and then applying them.

You'll notice that I am putting the oils on directly without any carrier oil. This makes them undiluted and more effective. After I finish putting the oils on my face, I do something else for a moment -- brush my teeth or put on deodorant -- and then I moisturize my face. I am using organic grapeseed oil as a moisturizer, and again I just dab my fingers in a wipe it on. I go and eat my breakfast to give all this a minute to soak in and after breakfast, I blot any excess off of my face with a washcloth. (Side note: the oils can stain cloth, so my washcloths and pillowcases are a wreck. I am just using old ones and not worrying about it).

I have almost the same process in the evening. I wash my face. Then I have my vitamin C routine: I use a powdered vitamin C because it's good for your skin. I mix 1/4 teaspoon of powdered vitamin C with about the same amount of water. I like a slightly thick paste. Then I use a cottonball to apply it to my face. I wait 3-5 minutes and then wash it off with warm water. After I dry my face, I apply the essential oils and the grapeseed oil. You can use other oils as a moisturizer, including olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil. They all have different qualities, so it's about picking what you like, but the good news is they are all non-comedogenic, meaning they don't clog your pores and cause acne.

Seeing Changes
As I said, I started using the frankincense and myrrh on November 11. Two days later, all of my spots had flared bright red. The best way to describe them is angry.

And I pressed on.

At the end of the week, most of the spots had started forming crusty skin that then sloughed off really easily, usually as I was applying more oils. The point of this post is details, so even though I think it's gross, I will attempt to describe this more.

You know how your skin usually peels when you have a sunburn? It's soft and when it gets wet it forms back into the rest of your skin as a mushy lump? That is not what is happening here. These patches of skin are hardening and drying out. They are solid, like scabs, and really crusty is the best adjective for them. When they get wet, these crusty bits of skin don't change. They just hang out as their own crusty selves.

Generally as these are still part of my skin, they are just white-ish, slightly whiter than my regular skin. And they stand out from the red patch that they are part of. As I said they come off very easy, usually just by brushing over them and without causing me pain. When they are off, they look like scabs, slightly yellowish and almost like you can see the surface texture of skin.

This is still happening. It is now December 10, and I have been following the protocol for a month. I am still getting these rough patches and having them slough off. I am hopeful that these patches are the cancer cells and that they are dying and then the oils can go deeper to the next layer of skin.

The other change to occur in the past month is the redness has faded. The spots reacted so strongly and so quickly, but now that angry red has faded and everything looks a little chilled out.

A Word of Warning
As you apply them, the frankincense and myrrh hurt. They cause a burning feeling that can be uncomfortable. This is important to be aware of because you don't want to completely freak out when this happens the first time.

The other side effect that I am experiencing is my skin, my non-cancerous skin around the spots, is drying out. It is very dry and now that it has been a month, is getting kind of peel-y (normal peel-y, not cancer-scab peel-y).

A Couple Changes
After I had been doing the protocol for about two weeks, I read another article that talked about using sandalwood and lavender as well to kill skin cancer. Over Thanksgiving (November 27), I started rotating in these other two essential oils. In what I have read about using the oils, one thing that was mentioned was to use helichrysum halfway through the treatment to help prevent scars. With the redness and the scabbing, I think that these spots may leave marks. My only hope is that the marks will be less than a surgical scar (and really how could they be worse than that). But I decided that rotating in sandalwood and lavender would still work on killing the cancer, but might also help to soothe the skin.

I continue to use frankincense twice a day, but I took three days and replaced the myrrh with sandalwood, and then for the following three days I replaced the myrrh with lavender. After that I returned to using myrrh for a week, and then repeated the three days.

Again the previous warning applies. Lavender hurts when you apply it. It feels like it is burning and can continue to do so throughout the day.

In addition to adding those two oils, I made a blend of essentials oils that is a "Scar Reduction Blend" from this site. I put this in a rollerbottle and apply it to my spots when I first get up in the morning before I go to the gym. This give about an hour with that on, and then I have a shower and do the cancer-fighting oils.

Recipe for the Scar Reduction Blend
6 drops Helichrysum
6 drops Frankincense
6 drops Lavender
6 capsules of Vitamin E oil
To the top with Fractionated Coconut Oil

The Big Spot
The large spot on my forehead, near my hairline, has reacted a little differently to all of this, and is still the main area of concern. When I began using the oils on November 11, I had a thick reddish brown scab covering most of the area (at least 65%). I applied the oils right on top of the scab and all around it, rubbing and applying a little extra hoping that it would soak in and get to the skin below the scab.

On November 24, thirteen days later, the large scab fell off. What it revealed was red skin with a few divots that were more open wounds and slightly bleeding.

I have continued to apply the oils, and have been relieved that I can apply them more directly to the skin now with the large scab gone. The same thing has happened to that patch. It has gotten redder and then calmed down, but continues to form crusty skin that then sloughs off. There have been a few areas that have had skin peel off that is the more normal type, not the crusty, scabby type.

Here's what it looks like right now:
Displaying IMG_20141209_212303.jpg
(I hate all pictures that attempt to show the cancer spots. Please be forgiving. And notice that I don't have black eyes, that's the shadow of the cell phone.)

I have MOHS surgery scheduled for the large spot on my forehead on December 22. I have 12 days and will continue to do all I have been doing, and then I'll report back on what the surgeon says about the spots.

Essential Oils
Finally a note on essential oils. It is extremely important that you use really high quality essential oils. This is generally called "Certified Therapeutic Grade." Personally, I use the Doterra brand of essential oils, but I know that the Living Young brand is also considered very good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What was the best book you ever read?

And Now! Drumroll, please! What are the best books that I read this year?

First, feel free to take a look back at previous years:
See the list from 2011 here
See the list from 2012 here
See the list from 2013 here

I read a total of 67 books this year. If you took a look at previous years, you'll see that I generally had three categories: Fiction, Classic Fiction, and Non-fiction. As I looked at all the books I read this year, (by the way, please friend me on Goodreads. I like seeing what other people read), I felt like those three categories weren't working. Where do you put a book like Let's Pretend This Never Happened? Sure it's technically non-fiction, but... not really. So I've sorted the list into a bunch of additional categories. This is also better for me, because I can have more "Best" books.

Without further ado:

Best Fiction
As I looked at the list, the three top contenders for Best Fiction are:
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

And the one I will name as Best is:

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

This is the entire list of fictional works for 2014:
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Blameless by Gail Carriger
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
The Story and Its Writer by Ann Charters
The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Red House by Mark Haddon
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
How to Love by Katie Cotungo
Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King
Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Longbourn by Jo Baker

Best Classic Fiction
The next category is Best Classic Fiction. This category seems slightly slimmer than it was in previous years, but I still had some standouts. The winner of Best in this category is:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The 2014 list of Classic Fiction:
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Best Memoir
Three books also made the top of the memoir list.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
My Life in France by Julia Child
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

I chose this as the Best:

My Life in France by Julia Child

The full list of 2014 Memoirs:
Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
My Life in France by Julia Child
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Best Non-Fiction
I read a lot of really good Non-Fiction books this year. It was really hard to narrow down the list and choose the best. These are the five that I thought were the best:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
The Story of the Human Body by Daniel E. Liebermann

For ultimate best I chose:

The Story of the Human Body by Daniel E. Lieberman

The full list of 2014 Non-Fiction:
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
Book of Ages by Jill Lepore
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup
The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey
The Story of the Human Body by Daniel E. Liebermann
The Perfect Theory by Pedro G. Ferreira
32 Ways to Outsmart Cancer by Nalini Chilkov
The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons by Sam Kean

Best Self-Help
Although I read a lot of good self-help style books, there was an easy winner for best book.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Here is the full list of 2014 Self-Help:
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
10% Happier by Dan Harris
Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson

Best Spirituality
It was also easy to choose a best book for the category of spirituality.

The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

The rest of the Spirituality category for 2014:
The Heart of Christianity by Marcus J. Borg
Plan B by Anne Lamott
An Illustrated Outline of Buddhism by William Stoddart
What is Tao? by Alan W. Watts
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Dhammapada translated by Gil Fronsdal

It was a good year for books.