Wow! It is nearly a year since I was diagnosed with DCIS (stage o-1 breast cancer). October, breast cancer month, is here - I never really took notice of breast cancer or breast cancer month as no one in my family or immediate friend circle had breast cancer. In fact, no one in my family even had any form of cancer.
Here is an update of how I am doing (so we can talk about other things when we see each other - my health status seems to dominate most conversations and I want to get on with living now!):
MY PHYSICAL BODY:
1. CANCER MARKERS:
My cancer markers are all normal. I test these myself every 3 months. Now that I happy with the results, I will start spacing the tests to every 6 months.
The main reproductive cancers to test for include:
* Breast Cancer: CA15-3
* Ovarian Cancer: CA 125
* General Cancer Marker: CEA
* Pregnancy test: this is a very old method to show to rapid division of cells somewhere in the body. Cancer is the rapid division of cells. The test can't say what type of cancer may be present, or where it is in the body, but just that there are rapidly dividing cells.
2. 2:16 HYDROXY-ESTRONE METABOLITES RATIO:
My liver is now metabolizing estrogen much better than it did in the past. The liver needs to be working optimally excrete all toxins, including hormones after they have served their purpose. It is most important that the 2 strong forms of estrogen (estrone and estradiol) leave the body directly after exerting their action to avoid re-stimulation of breast and other estrogen sensitive tissue in the body.
There are 2 main pathways in the liver along which the liver detoxifies the body: Phase I and Phase II. To facilitate these pathways, the liver needs certain catalysts (vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other substances). If either of these pathways is not working properly, a build of toxins, including estrogen, can result. Every day, I take a handful of supplements that are catalysts (facilitate reactions) for these pathways to ensure they are working optimally.
There are main metabolites (breakdown products) of estradiol that these pathways generate that provide valuable info about how the liver is excreting estrogen called: 2-hyroxyestrone and 16-alpha-hyroxyestrone.
The ratio of these metabolites is very improtant as it has been shown that 16-alpha-hyroxyestrone can stimulate breast tissue and breast cancer tissue; while 2-hyroxyestrone inhibits the this action. The ratio needs to be above 2 to be out of risk of breast cancer.
The ratio of these metabolites can be seen by doing a urine test. Currently, this test can only be done in the USA so the urine sample is sent overseas - it, therefore takes around 2-3 months to get the results.
I wish I had done the urine test last year, before I started taking all the supplements, but the lab botched my test and so I only did the test 3 months after starting the supplements.
My first reading was 3.4 and my most recent reading was 7! I am thrilled! This is in just under a year and with the help of a certain supplements each day. I would ideally like to get the ratio to 9 to be safely out a breast cancer recurrence risk zone.
As part of my breast cancer prevention 'campaign', I would like to see a future where every woman does this test from puberty (although I know most Dr's would say this is too early-my focus is on prevention and prediction of breast cancer so the further back a person starts understanding their estrogen breakdown profile amongst other things, the easier it is to take preventative steps to prevent breast cancer and other illness.
I am committed to campaigning that this test becomes as commonly accepted as a breast self-exam, an ultrasound, and a mammogram. The 2:16 hydroxyestrone ratio test may show a risk for breast cancer long before the above tests do.
3. BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONES:
While I would love to be on more bio-indentical hormones, after a diagnosis of breast cancer, there are more if's/and's/but's and Dr's get quite nervous of giving hormones until more research is available.
I have been taking bio-identical (same molecule structure as in the human body) progesterone for the last 6 months: I tried the cream for the first 2 months, and then moved onto the oral form for the last 4 months. I have almost found my ideal dose.
How I feel from the progesterone?:
Calmer and with more energy - progesterone can replinsh cortisol. Also, more peace of mind that I am opposing my body's estrogen so it remains in balance and can not just stimulate cells to divide unchecked.
I have recently added estriol (the weakest form of estrogen) as well. I want to use estriol because it is the weakest form of estrogen and is known to be breast cancer preventive. It, amongst other things, occupies the estrogen receptors, especially on breast cancer cells, so the stronger estrogen forms can’t. Western women (who have a higher incidence of breast cancer) tend to have less estriol and more estradiol and estrone, while Asian women (who have the lowest incidence breast cancer), have the highest estriol levels. Women with breast cancer have been to have low estriol levels. One theory believes, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) should include estriol along with estradiol. If you choose HRT, please check out bio-identical hormones first.
How do I feel on estriol?:
Definitely better than on no estriol - less mid month 'PMT' before ovulation, and more peace of mind that I am taking something that is similar to Tamoxifen but without the harmful side-effects.
I have been taking Melatonin, post my diagnosis, for nearly one year now. I can’t say enough good about this hormone! Since I started taking it, I sleep like I did when I was a child. I have wonderfully vivid dreams and wake deeply rested.
I am also calmer in the day as melatonin reduces cortisol levels. It has helped me rest my burnt out adrenal glands. This does not happen overnight because I did not become exhausted overnight - it took 3-6 months plus supplements but has been well worth the wait!
Melatonin also opposes estrogen at the estrogen receptor site so it is a valuable aid to prevent and treat breast cancer. So many of the women I spoke to the breast cancer ward in the hospital were not sleeping properly, and had not been for sometime. Correct sleep patterns and correct circadian rhythms are so critical to a healthy body.
Melatonin is non-addictive, is claimed to have no side effects (although my plastic surgeon believes taking melatonin the night before my Feb 09 operation caused me to bleed after the op. I stopped taking it 1 week before my Aug 09 op and I was fine), it boosts the immune system and is a wonderful anti-oxidant – so many reasons to try it!
My bio-identical hormone tips related to breast health are:
* Find a doctor trained in anti-aging medicine and have them look at all your hormone levels.
* Use bio-identical hormones ONLY!! to balance your hormone levels.
* Have your estrogen urine metabolites tested to see how you liver is breaking your estrogen down.
* Remember, a female can start testing her urine and balancing hormones as young as puberty.
* Ensure your body’s estrogen is opposed with progesterone.
* The contraceptive Pill contains a synthetic form of progesterone called ‘progestin’ - this compound is not the same as bio-identical progesterone so it can sit in the cell's progesterone receptors and not allow your body’s natural progesterone to get into the cell. The Pill keeps the body in a state of delayed menopause, and that, along with progestins, have been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. Get off the pill or synthetic HRT if you can. The risk is not worth the convenience.
4. ESTROGEN-FREE ENVIRONMENT:
I try, as much as possible, keep my, and my family’s environment as toxin and xeno-estrogen free as possible – I am always trying to find toxin-free food, toiletries, household products, and general products. This becomes easier as more brands become available on the market.
I am exercising every day or every second day. I do spinning/weights/walk or run around the block.
Just 4 hours of exercise per week can reduce your breast cancer risk and reduce your risk of recurrence.
* Helps burn fat; the place where most estradiol is made after menopause.
* Helps reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels –> which means better sleep -> which means more progesterone and more efficacy of progesterone -> and means more melatonin opposing estrogen in the body.
* Reduced cortisol also means less cortisol occupying progesterone receptors – cortisol competes with progesterone at the progesterone receptor. Correct progesterone levels are vital to oppose estrogen - estrogen stimulates immature estrogen-sensitive cells to divide, while progesterone slows this process down and allows the cells to mature. If these 2 hormones are not in balance, estrogen is left unchecked and breast cancer can result.
* Reduced cortisol levels also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels – vital in cancer or pre-cancer states as sugar helps feed the rapidly dividing cells of the tumour.
* Allows cells to get fresh oxygen and nutrients, and promotes a more alkaline cellular environment - cancer thrives in an anaerobic (without oxygen), acidic cellular environment.
I take a handful of supplements once or twice per day. My main focus is on my anti-oxidant levels, ensuring my liver is working properly so it can rid my body of excess estrogen, and on keeping certain other critical ingredients at optimal levels.
Shoo! Such a big topic for me! Sometimes I just want to run away and stop dreaming about my diet! My kitchen is always undergoing some experiment or other. I have eaten a 90-95% raw diet for the last 2 years now – I do still eat a small bit of fish and a few organic eggs. Right now, my focus is on maintaining balanced blood sugar levels and the protein helps me to achieve this.
My objective with food is to keep it in perspective - it is just food after all. Orthorexia is not appealing! I aim to make the most healthy choices with the food available to me at the time. The 5% of my diet I leave open to try new things and listen to my body before all else. I think raising my raw % each day will be easier once that are raw vegan restaurants and fast/snack foods available, and once my organic veggie garden starts producing produce!
I have however recently made a breakthrough about the percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates I need to eat every time I ingest something. I need more protein per meal/snack and I am experimenting with various raw vegan protein options. I feel much better since starting this and I find I crave the flesh foods much less.
I downed gluten overnight in Feb 2009 as an iridologist and energy healer independently both said it was carcinogenic for me. Although, I miss bread and crackers, I fortunately knew how to make raw crackers and breads so I had a new options to substitute these with. I feel so much better now and have managed to loose a few kilo’s that were very hard to shift while eating gluten.
Early next year, I plan to start teaching classes on how to increase your percentage of raw food every day. I will focus on people just wanting to increase their raw quota per day, people who want to prevent or who have breast cancer, and how to feed children more raw food. I feel strongly about teaching our children how to eat properly as prevention of degenerative disease starts from young.
Stay posted for the launch of my Heidi's Health Digest early in 2010! Join my FaceBook group to stay updated: search 'Heidi van Loggerenberg' on FaceBook.
I may drink a glass of red wine every month – but now I take 800mg of folic acid, along with my other liver detoxifying supplements, before and after to ensure my liver quickly gets rid of any harmful estrogen metabolites.
Red wine is better than any other alcohol to reduce the risk of breast cancer as it results in decreased aromatase levels and increases testosterone levles - which is another estrogen antagonist!
9. MY EMOTIONAL BODY:
Daily, I work on my emotional issues like practicing expressing my emotions more. This sometimes feels like one step forward and 2 steps back but I feel I am making progress slowly but surely. I now say ‘No’ to people, events, my kids and my own ideals without guilt. I rather want to live my best life possible and I need to be alive to do that!
After thrashing out whether or not I have the mother archetype earlier this year, I realize now that I was mostly just burnt out. Now that my adrenal glands are rested and restored, I feel like ‘mom is back in the house’!! I will never allow myself to get that burnt out again but will rather take preventative steps before I get to that point.
I am looking at my kids with new eyes. I feel so grateful to be alive and to be able to spend every precious moment with them. Yes, there will still be moments when they push my buttons but overall the are more precious wake than asleep!
10. MY MENTAL BODY:
I am very conscious about relaxing and practicing letting things go. I tend to want every to be perfect and I am learning to accept the process of life and my human imperfections.
I have wanted to meditate for so many years but could just never do it. Many of the complementary practitioners I saw said it would benefit me greatly but still I could never do it. So I did the NLP ‘Mind to Muscle’ technique and I now meditate 5 mornings a week! The state of meditation is a wonderful state to return to at any time in the day to bring me back into the present moment and to make me mindful.
11. MY SPIRITUAL BODY:
I am actively pursuing my spiritual goals – I hope this will remain life-long. This is really hard and slow sometimes. I am also learning to trust my intuition, as it is always present and always right.
I still see 2 energy healers every month. I derive so much benefit from seeing them that I will continue until my intuition tells me otherwise.
My focus for the rest of 2009 year is on moving and settling back into our house - under a month to go! Our garden has just been re-landscaped in only edible and medical plants and I can’t wait to get growing!!
I am also busy planning and putting together my practice, which I will open early next year. I will focus on sharing what I have learnted regarding breast health with others, as well as teaching people how to add more raw food to their diet. My classes will be aimed at anyone wanting to add more raw to their diet, how to add more raw to children's diets, and teaching women how to eat a diet that promotes breast health.
As I have mentioned above, my focus will be on breast cancer PREVENTION mainly as I believe every one can do so much to prevent this disease.