I've been doing lots of reading and research into food/environmental links to cancer and cancer growth, as well as fighting cancer with food. Since Kol's diagnosis, I've learned about the role inflammation plays in cancer growth, the processes of apoptosis and angiogenesis, and how cancer cells subvert or take advantage of these natural processes to survive. I guess I need to know that I am doing as much as possible to increase Kol's chances of survival. I've always questioned things, never been content to accept it when people say "That's just the way it is." I need to understand why it is that way. If you can explain it to me, then I'm happy. I think I drive Kirk crazy sometimes when I'm talking to salespeople, because I really make them back up their claims, and explain themselves. However, in this case, I think that's a good quality to have.
I find it difficult to believe that there is nothing we can do, in addition to the radiation / surgery / chemotherapy, to combat cancer. I know the doctors aren't very supportive of dietary and lifestyle recommendations - there is little evidence to show whether it is helpful or not, so they dismiss the possibility that diet and lifestyle can influence both our chances of getting cancer, and of surviving it. At the very least, they are hesitant to make recommendations, because they don't have the research to back it up. Unfortunately, food and lifestyle choices can't be patented, so there is little demand for research into their connection to cancer. There is starting to be some research, but it's not enough to convince doctors of it's usefulness yet. I think, too, that people don't want to admit that they may have done something that might have contributed to their getting cancer. I know I don't really want to face the possibility that something I did, as Kol's mother, contributed to his cancer. Since the specific causes for brain cancer are still relatively unknown, I won't be too hard on myself yet, though. In the meantime, I want to know what I can to do improve his/our chances now.
I was given a book called Foods That Fight Cancer: Preventing Cancer through Diet. It is fascinating. It was written by researchers in Montreal who are researching the connection to food and cancer - and are finding that there are many foods that are as effective as pharmaceuticals at killing cancer cells in the laboratory. At one of the Brain Tumour Support meetings, someone recommended Anticancer: A New Way Of Life. This book was written by a doctor who discovered his brain tumour by accident during his research into brain functioning. I highly, highly recommend these 2 books to anyone with cancer, or to who knows anyone with cancer. Read them both. There is overlap between the two books, but they also complement each other well. They are full of suggestions of things we can do to boost the chances of survival. As I read these books, I became more and more impressed with the way God created all things to work together, and how things stop working when we deviate from those plans. There are so many different components of each food that we eat - chemical compounds, vitamins, minerals, acids, proteins, enzymes - many of which aren't even named yet, let alone studied. It amazes me how the components of one food all work together to strengthen the body, and keep us healthy. Not only does each food have vitamins our bodies need to stay healthy, but they contain all those vitamins in the proper proportions for our bodies to effectively use. Each food, in it's natural state, contains the enzymes our bodies use to break down that food. The problems come when food is processed and filled with chemical preservatives and fillers, when food is grown on depleted soil, when animals are force fed corn or soy rather than the grass that they were intended to eat. When this happens, the food we eat doesn't have the nutrients our bodies need, and we get sicker.
As a result of all the reading, we've been trying to change our diets, to reduce the risk of anyone else getting cancer and to improve Kol's chances of survival. We've incorporated lots of the recommendations from the books, and have cut out things like sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed food, white foods (flour, rice) and have cut back on red meat, eating only small amounts of grass-fed meat. It's kind of like living in the "olden days." Before Kol's surgery, I had begun to suspect that he was sensitive to gluten, and was going to try cutting out gluten in his diet, but we never got around to it. Just after Kolbjorn's birthday party, we started him on a gluten free diet. It was fun and challenging trying to learn (very slowly) about gluten free cooking and flours - like quinoa, chickpea, brown rice, millet. I still have lots to learn. Kol has been very co-operative, but not always happy about the changes. He was gluten free for almost 2.5 months, and ate a much greater variety of foods. We stopped the gluten free diet just before Christmas, because I thought it would be too hard to keep it up when we were away. I also wanted to see how Kol's body reacted to gluten once it had been cleared from his system. He's been eating more fruit, and has started enjoying smoothies again, which has been great, and has even been willing to try juiced vegetables. He doesn't always like the juices, but he'll at least try them. He's even started searching online on his own for recipes for gluten free pizza crust and gluten free, sugar free cookies. He doesn't like chickpea pizza crust. He likes Boston Pizza gluten free pizzas.
Modern medicine has come a long way. Doctors and researchers have learned lots, and are capable of healing and curing many diseases. I'm thankful for the doctors who were able to find Kol's tumour, and who were able to remove it. I'm thankful for the care that he has received. But, I think, in some ways, modern medicine has missed the point. They see that people feel better when they eat oranges, decide it's the vitamin C, and then people in their infinite "wisdom" start isolating the vitamin C, and learn that it's not as effective alone than it was when it was consumed with the rest of the orange. I love that God has given us everything we need to be healthy. We just need to learn (re-learn) what those things are, and to learn to trust in God's wisdom, not man's. It's a hard lesson, but I think it'll be a rewarding one.
Since I'm recommending books, one other book that I liked was Cancer: 50 Essential Things To Do. I found this at the resource center at the cancer clinic. The author interviewed thousands of cancer survivors - many of whom were only given weeks or days to live - about the strategies they used. This book is a collection of the dominant themes that arose from those surveys.
Kol is still on house arrest until we get bloodwork done on Wednesday, His white counts were slightly lower last week (on his day 7 treatment) than they have been after other cycles, so we have more G-CSF injections this month and we have to wait longer to get off of house arrest. Hopefully, they will be in the safe range by Wednesday. We have an appointment for a family portrait sitting on Thursday, so I hope he'll be able to go out by then.