Friday, 12 January 2018

My Story - by The Vinyl Vegan

This week's blog post is written by one of our incredible Yes to Life beneficiaries, Linda a.k.a. The Vinyl Vegan. She tells us her personal journey with cancer and how her health inspired her path to a vegan lifestyle.


For the longest time I debated posting my story. I struggled and went back and forth on it because I didn’t know I’d be perceived. And I realized that it was FEAR holding me back; fear of how I’d look; fear of being weak, fear of perception. Fear of everything!

I decided to push back against that fear. Because innately I am a very honest person and i want to be as transparent and as honest as possible with you all because that is the real me. The more honest I am, the more of my true self I allow myself to be.

So here is my story and why nutrition and wellness has become the passion it has become for me today. It’s a long one incorporating 2 parts….so sit back, grab a cup of tea, and get ready for a long read about what brought me to this place!



Part 1: Manifesting my desire


I came over to the UK from California, my home state in September 2013; it was a dream to come to London to study. For at least 10 years before I had been visiting London and just marvelling at the city, the architecture, the fashion history, the music history, it’s cultural history and prominence and well I wanted to live there. It had literally been a seriously LONG manifested dream.

SO when I received a letter announcing that I had received a full tuition scholarship to my dream university, I knew it was a sign from the Universe. The sign that when you least expect things, that is when things happen! I had been happy working my full time job and selling vintage and records on the side and I loved it but I had a month to drop everything and move out of my LA flat. Which I did with no questions asked. It was the best decision I made in my entire life but this does not mean the years that followed didn’t have their challenges and pitfalls. 

I came to London to study my Masters in the fall of 2013. Studying in London was a lifelong dream which resulted in vision boards covering my studio apartment in LA. I was in constant contact with the course director of the Fashion history and culture program at UAL that I wanted to enroll in. But I knew it was a very difficult path as I wasn’t able to get the student loans I needed to be able to afford the program. I remember however, that I kept relentlessly applying for the program though, first in 2009, then again in 2012 for the following year.

Every day I worked towards to the goal of attending that program and sure enough lo and behold, one summer day in 2013, my dreams came true! Just to set the stage, at that time I was busy growing my side business (or hustle) of an online vintage and vinyl boutique. Anyways doing that I had no idea that my world would change that one fateful afternoon when I opened a mysterious skinny envelope with no return address.

There it was OUT OF THE BLUE….a sign that my dreams had manifested. A one page letter from the University of the Arts London where I had dreamed of going to, stating that I had won an unconditional full tuition scholarship. MY HEART SKIPPED A BEAT. HERE WAS A literal LIFE game changer RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!

OK here’s where it gets even weirder. I hadn’t even applied to the scholarship. It was a scholarship that is no longer in existence even; it was one that the Chancellors had decided to grant to students who they felt were worthy of the opportunity! …………………………….I know, right? Imagine my shock and happiness! I have never been confident about my writing and this application I got a LOT of help with. Writing was not something that I was particularly fond of but I thought the degree, an academic course in fashion history & theory which tied in my interests, would definitely increase my professional profile. And there it was. I had a month to sell/move out of my LA flat and move across continents.

Now the reason I’m sharing this story is because of the incredulity of the entire experience. And also to point out that this wasn’t a mistake. My putting out the intention of it for SO Many years made it happen –working on my goal a little bit every day; contacting the director of the program, etc. It all led me to that point. Add to that, my happiness and contentment doing what I love, also led to my desires coming through. Now this is what Abraham Hicks and other spiritualists talk about, it’s about BEING HAPPY with your situation, and that’s when doors open! My experience taking me to London is proof of that. It’s only when you LET Go and live and are happy, only then is when things come to you. Don’t Force Things. Just be Happy; for that is what we are here for. Now speaking of happiness, that became a bit of a struggle when I encountered the next hurdle I must admit…

Part 2: My path to a vegan lifestyle


The Illness

I started my Masters programme here in London in September 2013. I was so excited to come study in London; as I mentioned it had been my dream for several years now back when I lived in LA. I had a pure fascination with the city; there’s so much culture and art and history on every single street. I knew long ago it was the place for me. So I was over the moon when I came over to start my course. Now, unfortunately the late night studying was taking its toll. I wasn’t sleeping very well and constantly woke up covered in sweat. I was fatigued lots and my stomach just wasn’t right.

Now here’s the thing. Throughout my life I struggled with digestive issues, I was constantly bloated, with constant pain after eating. Even when I was a child I struggled with this issue. My single mum who was working long hours, knew nothing about gluten free/dairy food sensititivies/IBS (as many people didn’t until recently). I continued to drink milk and eat bread as child but was chronically sick with tummy troubles. This continued until I figured out the connection a few yeras ago. Interestingly enough there is correlation between sensitive individuals and tummy issues such as IBS. Also i can tell you that I BELIEVE my years of toxicity: emotional and physically (with my IBS) contributed to the next bit I’m going to tell you. (Probably will do a blog post about this in future because it deserves its own mention.)

So flash forward to February 2014. I had a hard lump on my neck that didn’t go away. I went straight to the GP here in London. Sadly enough, the doctor in LA dismissed it entirely. Here in London, I immediately got an ultrasound and was sent straight to MacMillan. If you aren’t familiar with MacMillan they are a well-known cancer charity. My heart dropped. But I had already known instinctively that something was terribly wrong.

I went in by myself. It was the 26th of February. I was alone and it was cancer or more specifically pT3 (20 mm), N1b (16/48 with extracapsular spread and lymphovascular invasion) M0 papillary carcinoma of the thyroid…..Thyroid Cancer is the ‘best cancer to get if you’re going to get cancer’ Mr Liu the consultant said in a deadpan voice. (Sure, doc, whatever you say!) Why me? HOW? I had always been a pretty clean eater even though I struggled consistently with IBS. I had never had any surgeries or even had an overnight stay in hospital. It was just pure unadulterated horrifying shock and I didn’t know how to process the entire thing. I was in a new country on my own without a real support network..It was all a massive disheartening shock to the system. And I didn’t know how I was going to cope.

After this followed a next frenzied couple of months of treatment. First, I was rushed into into surgery in April of that year, and then a had a starter dose of Radioactive Iodide in July. I had 48 lymph nodes removed and a total Thyroidectomy. As if the surgery weren’t enough, the choice of treatment for this cancer is to lock one up in a room, take a radiation pill and turn into the Incredible hulk for a week away from people because of becoming a radioactive human. Even the nurses couldn’t come near me. I did this once but my very scary and pushy oncologist threatened to kick me out of her clinic if I didn’t opt to have this done repeatedly to my body. Mind you, she didn’t say HOW MANY doses were needed to eradicate the cancer. She said a few doses were needed and even then it wouldn’t be certain that it would get rid of the cancer or that it wouldn’t come back! And I remember looking in disbelief at the yellow form they were going to have me sign stating in black and white that the side effects of the treatment was GO FIGURE…ANOTHER CANCER! 

To me this just didn’t add up. Why submit my body to countless doses of radiation without proof that it was going to work….And thus after yet another follow up surgery, I chose to continue healing on my own. This is to say via a holistic route, via supplementation, exercise, detoxification, etc. (Check out this post about detoxification from two years ago.)

Now this is not to say that I’ve ‘cured’ myself using my own methods. I get irked when I see people claiming they ‘healed’ themselves holistically when they had medical treatment. No way! I committed to an INTEGRATIVE treatment, one encompassing both my medical treatment which I’m very grateful for…and alternative therapies and supplements in the past two years or so. But whose to say that if I hadn’t eradicated the bulk of the tumor load when I did, that it wouldn’t have spread past my lymph nodes? I could never be one of those who would say that I did it all naturally. I was very blessed to have a thorough surgeon and I’m incredibly grateful to the NHS.

And I do want to mention that I powered through my studies and even with treatment, still managed to finish my research and dissertation and even walked with my class. So very proud of myself for getting that done instead of going home back to the States and giving up my lifelong dream.

My transition to a vegan lifestyle 

So if this all happened in the past few years, why bring this up now? Well the reason I’ve brought it up now is because my health issues have brought me to the minimally processed whole food plant based (WFPB) Vegan lifestyle that I currently follow.

When I was diagnosed in 2014, again I had been pretty much been what you would consider a healthy eater, however I still ate eggs and fish. Throughout my life I had been plagued with IBS symptoms however, I didn’t really make the connection until the past few years.

Anyways, after my diagnosis I began wholeheartedly exploring alternative lifestyles.Butit wasn’t until I heard Good Karma Diet author Victoria Moran speak at London’s Vegfest back in October 2015, that my mind was blown. Here was this pint-sized bobbed, super stylish and vivacious woman who at nearly 70 was glowing with health! Wow! I was FLOORED. Honestly I was. The premise that she makes is that if you eat a plant-based diet, not only is it healthy for you physically but it’s also good for you on a KARMIClevel, and well that just HIT HOME right then and there.

I have always loved animals and have always had a very close connection with them, cats especially. I thought to myself why does my cat better than a poor chicken whose had to suffer her entire life to give up her egg for me to eat it or for that poor fish in the (already polluted sea) ? And so right after Victoria’s talk. coming out of the auditorium I burst into uncontrollable sobbing and tears. I had experienced a lightbulb moment and meltdown. I was like I I want to be THAT at that age! And by that, I mean energetic, attractive, youthful and well ALIVE! I want to not feel encumbered by my health issues and lack of energy and depression stemming from a cancer diagnosis. And so I went vegan from right then and there and there was no turning back.

When you eat an organic plant-based minimally processed diets that are full of vibrant colour and flavour you are eating nutrients, antioxidants and an anti-cancer diet at that. When you cut out animal products you are doing your body a favour.

………HERE’s THE PLETHORA OF research: 

In terms of meat eating and cancer:
There have been several studies showing the link between eating meat and cancer including this Japanese study where the morbidity rates were noted to be 8.5 times higher in women of high socioeconomic strata eating meat daily compared with women of low socioeconomic strata who do not eat meat daily. 

And most of us are aware of this very publicized study by the World Health Organization
In terms of eggs there’s that this too: And then also there are studies on the link between ovarian , prostate, breast cancer and dairy as well that are further documented. 

And in terms of IBS: Dairy is a common allergen for IBS sufferers and so in sum that was was a no-brainer for me! 

The China Study also contains a wealth of epidemiological evidence for the association of dairy foods with many types of cancer. 

In the critically acclaimed Beat Cancer, Professors Djamgoz and Plant discuss the substantial evidence from a wide range of studies that show that too much animal protein is at worst dangerous. This has to do with the fact that evidence from studies in the USA and Asia show that consuming animal products increases oestrogen which is a Category 1 carcinogen. 

Harvard University’s School of Public Health issued a statement that Dairy is not part of a Health Diet back in 2012. And this study goes even further to say that milk may even have deleterious effects even. 

In terms of IGF-1, which is the growth factor found in dairy products strongly linked to cancer. in Beat Cancer Djamgoz and Plant discuss the problem in full. They note that some experts suggest that ‘IGF-1 is to cancer what cholesterol is to heart disease’

Now…after being vegan for over two years now, I can tell you this, last I checked my cancer markers have DROPPED (Keep in mind this was after I stopped all treatment!) And while I haven’t lost any weight, I do feel fairly healthy even though my immunity does tend to suffer and thus that’s why I’ve gotten the flu and a few colds this year. And also I’m still sorting out my gut issues with my friend and nutritional therapist Joan. There are more than likely related to my calcium levels (from having my parathyroids removed) and also due to my hypothroidism issues, amongst other issues, I do feel good for the most part. And I feel GREAT knowing that I’m not only helping my health but also helping reduce suffering of my fellow sentient beings, helping to reduce my carbon footprint and doing my best to help the planet!

But I’m ALWAYS dilligent. With cancer you always have to be. But veganism makes it so much easier to stick to a whole plant based minimally processed foods such as these: AVOCADOS, TURMERIC PORRIDGE and TOFU, BERRY & MATCHA SMOOTHIE BOWLS, COLOURFUL SALADS AND BUDDHA BOWLS………….Check out my instagram for more healthy food porn here:



These were my top 9 most liked on Instagram in 2017!

In any event, in 2018 I plan to keep blogging more timely, promised!


FUTURE TOPICS I’D LIKE TO DISCUSS ARE:



*The Ketogenic Diet


*Cancer charities that have supported me along my journey:


@Together Against Cancer


@Yes To Life


*More of my Detoxification Protocols


*Turmeric and other Superfoods and their role in my healing journey


*Supplements that I have taken through my cancer journey


*Emotional toxicity and its role in disease


and my FAVOURITE topic


*FOOD AS MEDICINE


And perhaps I shall host another workshop and start doing a Youtube channel. I have lots of plans for 2018 and like I touched on in my previous blog post. I’m going to dream big…And why not? …..you only have ONE LIFE so best make it a good one!


Thanks so much for making it to the end!



You can view more posts by The Vinyl Vegan by heading to her blog page here and you can follow her on Instagram here.

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Gut Microbiome, Cancer And Immunotherapy - by Dr Lauren MacDonald

This week we have another insightful piece from Lauren, a 29 year old junior doctor when she was diagnosed with stage IV cancer, who is now celebrating one year NED. Here she discusses her obsession with gut health and why it is so important...


I thought I’d write another post on my favourite subject, “Gut Health”, but this time I’ve gone into the science behind why I’ve been banging on about the importance of looking after your gut microbiome for the past few years. I hope it’s helpful for anyone not yet up-to-speed on this fascinating area of research. 
Over the past few months several human studies have supported the idea that our intestinal bacteria (the gut microbiome) plays a significant role in determining whether cancer patients respond to certain treatments. In the latest research study, Dr. Wargo (a doctor and research scientist in the USA), revealed that the composition of a patient’s gut can significantly influence whether someone responds to the type of cancer immunotherapy I’ve been receiving for the past 22 months (pembrolizumab, an anti-PD1). Interestingly, what seemed to matter most in the studies wasn’t the level of a specific gut microbe, but rather the overall diversity of the gut microbiome. Let’s take a look at the evidence so far…

Where My Obsession With My Gut Health Began

Prior to 2015 I’d never considered the state of my gut microbiome. I hadn’t tried kefir, I didn’t take a regular probiotic and I’d never experienced the joys of eating Jerusalem artichokes (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve tried them!). Then in October 2015 I was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma, a cancer which is notoriously chemotherapy and radiotherapy resistant, and which previously had a 5-year survival rate of around 15%. Fortunately, a new immunotherapy drug was approved by the NHS at the beginning of 2016, just six weeks after I’d received the stage IV diagnosis. Although this was incredible news – and the idea of a “game-changing cancer drug” made for sensational headlines – it transpired that only a small group of patients had responded to the treatment during the clinical trials. The drug I was about to start had a response rate of around 30-40% (meaning patients had their tumours stabilise or shrink) with only 15% having a complete response (achieving no evidence of disease). I was determined to find myself in the latter group so I began researching how I could swing the odds in my favour.
My research began by examining the gut-brain axis, specifically the gut microbiome and its impact on health. I then looked at the way in which stress and anxiety could be impacting on my immune system. This lead me to further explore the growing field of psychoneuroimmunology and the research highlighting the value of mind-body therapies. It soon became apparent that there was a huge area of medicine that had been largely ignored during my medical degree. I felt relatively knowledgeable about “the mind” due to my Psychology degree and “the body” due to my medical degree, but there was a gap in my knowledge at the interface between the body and mind. I became fascinated by the gut-brain axis and, specifically, the impact the gut microbiome has on both mental and physical health.
Prior to becoming a stage IV patient, I’d already had four operations over the past 18 months in an attempt to “cure” me and prevent the cancer from spreading. Along with conventional surgery, I’d also addressed my diet, started juicing, added in supplements and began a regular yoga practice. But nothing seemed to be helping. The cancer kept coming back, again and again. Over Christmas 2015 I could visibly see new tumours growing above my right breast and a scan had already confirmed I had tumours in my lung and adrenal gland. Consequently I started looking for other ways in which I could support my body to either fight cancer cells directly or slow down/prevent angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels – which helps “feed” tumours).

The Initial Gut Microbiome And Immunotherapy Research (2015)

Shortly after I started looking at the the gut-brain axis I came across some research which had just been published by the University of Chicago (back in November 2015). They’d found that by introducing a particular strain of bacteria into the gut of mice with melanoma, they were able to boost the ability of the animal’s immune system to attack tumour cells. The combination of oral doses of “good bacteria” and infusions with anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy nearly abolished tumour growth. Around the same time another group of researchers compared the effects of bacterial transfer (via fecal transplant) against immunotherapy (anti-PD-L1). They found that introducing the bacteria was just as effective as treating mice with anti-PD-L1 alone – resulting in significantly slower tumor growth. Furthermore, combining the benefits associated with the “good bacteria” with anti-PD-L1 treatment dramatically improved tumour control.

Turning My Attention To My Gut Health Before Starting Immunotherapy

Given these two fascinating studies I decided to do everything I could to get my gut in the best possible shape before starting immunotherapy. During one of my appointments I mentioned the research to my Oncologist (and explained my intention to diversify my microbiome) but, understandably, he was hesitant to support my plan. The microbiome is, of course, inordinately complex – with trillions of bacteria working in tandem to produce multivariate responses. Although the research in the initial mouse studies had been promising, it might have been the case that altering the gut microbiome in humans would have a different outcome – an idea that has recently been supported by a study which found that certain chemotherapies used to treat colorectal cancer actually become toxic to patients in the presence of certain gut bacteria.
Despite my Oncologist’s reservations, I set about diversifying my gut bacteria in the hope that I might help to push myself into the “complete responder” group. Along with having a diverse microbiome, I knew it was also important to have the right cocktail of bacteria. I didn’t have much to go on – just those two initial mouse studies – so I purchased probiotics which contained the specific bacteria which had helped the mice to survive (Bifidobacterium – although the probiotic I took actually contained several other strains too). I also changed my diet to include as many pre- and probiotics as possible.

Key Diet Changes

I know I’ve shared lots of blog posts about this subject during the past two years, but just to remind you once again…
  • The best way to keep your gut microbiome healthy is to make sure you’re getting a healthy mix of probiotics and prebiotics in your diet.
  • Although taking a probiotic supplement is also helpful, there are plenty of studies that suggest oral probiotics struggle to make a huge difference to the microbiome (compared to the impact of fecal transplants).
  • Simply changing our diets to include plenty of fibre, reducing refined sugars and not eating processed foods, can help improve the balance of bacteria in the gut.
  • You can easily load up on probiotics by eating certain foods (e.g. sauerkraut, kefir, miso, apple cider vinegar, sourdough bread).
  • Prebiotics are things like garlic, leeks, chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus and under-ripe bananas.
  • Research also suggests that omega-3 fats (found in oily fish) affect the microbiome in positive ways.
  • It’s a great idea to try and fast for at least 12 hours overnight too. There’s lots of evidence to suggest this helps support a healthy gut microbiome.

The Latest Research (2017)

Dr Wargo teamed up with Gopalakrishnan and other researchers to collect faecal samples from more than 100 people with advanced melanoma before they began treatment with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy drugs. The scientists found that those who had the most diverse gut microbes were most likely to respond to the immunotherapy. The type of microbe was also linked to differences in responses to treatment. For example, people whose guts contained a lot of bacteria from a group called Clostridiales were more likely to respond to treatment. A second study showed that people who received antibiotics to treat infections shortly before or after starting immunotherapy did not respond as well to PD-1-blocking therapies. The researchers also found that the presence of the bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila was linked to better responses to immunotherapy. Responders had a far greater density of killer T cells – which are largely responsible for attacking cancer. The researchers found that the presence of the Faecalibacterium and Clostridiales bacteria seemed to account for the difference in T cell density. When these bacteria were given to cancer patients via a fecal matter transplant, they were more likely to respond to treatment and live longer without their tumour recurring or worsening.

The Microbiome: The Future Of Cancer Treatment?

I am under no illusion that the only reason I’m sitting here writing this post is because I’ve been on the receiving end of cutting-edge cancer treatment. I started immunotherapy in January 2016 and by August 2016 my scans revealed “no evidence of disease”. During the previous 10 months I’d become *OBSESSED* with looking after my gut but, of course, I have no way of knowing whether this made any difference to how I responded to immunotherapy. It might have been that I would have responded in exactly the same way, whether or not I’d changed my diet and started taking a daily probiotic supplement. Having said that, the 2015 studies and the new 2017 human studies suggest a big role for gut microbes in determining the cancer-killing potential of immunotherapies. Yet there are still plenty of questions, namely how, exactly, certain bacteria may help the immune system to fight cancer and if there are side-effects or potential dangers of manipulating the microbiomes of cancer patients. It will be fascinating to follow this research in the future. WATCH THIS SPACE!
I hope I’ve inspired you to look after your gut health – whether you are a fellow cancer patient or just someone looking to support their health and wellbeing.
Sending you lots of love and good health.
Lauren x

You can read more inspirational and informative posts on Lauren's blog, www.laurencara.com.

Please make sure you tell your own doctor before you start taking a daily probiotic – especially if you are undergoing cancer treatment. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Medicinal cannabis oil in the fight against cancer - by Pauline Lomas

This week's blog is another from Pauline Lomas, author of And So We Heal, who beat breast cancer using no orthodox therapies and only non-invasion alternative therapies. Here she discusses her experience with medicinal cannabis oil.


I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become – Jung


DCIM100MEDIA“Plunge in then,” ……says a faraway voice.
…well hardly a voice, but that familiar inner whispering that comes with a reminder to get a move on and put my thoughts down in writing. No more procrastinating – May is on the horizon for God ‘sake and the ‘blog’ is very much behind schedule. You get the picture? Not that I ever promised to write daily – phew!
But months behind again this time! Oh well…..no excuses…we do our best!
So much going on as always in this inquiring mind of mine, but never so much as since I started my new ‘regime’ – the long sought after ‘Rick Simpson’ medicinal cannabis oil. It came out of the blue in a chance encounter; but then I have been actively enquiring after procuring some – so be careful what one asks for eh!
It had been years since I had seen my doctor at the Biomedic clinic in Malaga, Spain.   The wonderfully passionate Doctora M.Eudoxia Lopez Peral, had been at the helm during my ECT treatments in 2005, and since Javier and I had decided to rent a small apartment this winter in Almunecar, Andalucia for three months, I could finally manage to see her again. And thanks to ‘New Approaches to cancer and the beloved Dottie I was able to have some Vitamin C infusions in Spain, as it has been a while since my regular trip to ‘Vision of Hope’ clinic in Brighton. It’s quite a struggle going back and forth, as flights are expensive and I really want to fly less.
Doctora Doxi highly recommended a homeopathic protocol from the ‘Hildegard pharmacy’ in Brussels, and I take the remedies twice daily for a few months, so more on that soon.
But back to the cannabis oil, the black gold:
One of the doctors that share the clinic space in Malaga suggested I do the Vega machine test as I had recently had a hair analysis which showed elevated lead and cadmium and low zinc, and so since I am following all leads as they come to me I was keen to do it. He then added “It’s a bit controversial, but have you considered medicinal marihuana –RSO, Rick Simpson oil, in particular?” Errrr…..Yesssssss!!! The tides were indeed turning – I felt to have won a health jackpot that day…As I have mentioned before, this beautiful cannabis plant is one of my ‘medicines of choice’, and I am grateful to be able to discuss it openly now without feeling that I am some kind of drug- addict looking for a high.  I was sad not to include the subject of medicinal cannabis in ‘And so we heal’, but at the time it took every ounce of strength to publish the book and I did not want to add the possibility of more stress with a likely stab from the media, or anyone, for my daring to even suggest that having an innocent puff on a pipe to see me through when times were quite frankly – I won’t use the word ‘horrendous’( let’s reserve such vocabulary for those being hung, drawn and quartered) but I have suffered a monumental wound to my torso nevertheless – and am in continual ‘treatment’, to hold things at bay.
Since no one was talking about cannabis oil back then in 2001, inhaling was the only alternative to increasing the cannabinoids in one’s system. Time and again over the years I had asked my doctor if there was any medicine that included cannabis, and could I possibly be prescribed ‘sativex’ perhaps which is a licenced cannabis medicine for MS patients. ‘No’ was the answer and not unless I had MS on the subject of sativiex.
But, times are changing …and fast…all over the world in fact. One only has to type in ‘medicinal cannabis’ on Youtube alone and you’ll be reading open-mouthed at the truth.  There is a wonderful revolution happening – and I am happy to be a part of it, although at the current price, who knows how long I can continue.  my only real hope would be to make my own but I wanted to avoid the hassle.  For the moment – thank God for credit cards when you need them, as when I left the clinic in Malaga that day I had my very own tiny bottle of the sticky black gold – RSO. It is very messy, be warned, but there are lots of different ways to administer the tiny dosage which begins at the humble size of half a grain of rice gradually increasing the dose. Since the bus ride along the Andalusian coastline was ninety minutes, I decided to take my first dose of my new found medicine and see what the effects would be. Certainly the beautiful landscape needed no help to appreciate, and I enjoyed a most blissful state, reminding me of something I read recently about the award winning Israeli scientist, Raphael Mechoulam who is almost universally referred to as the father of research on cannabinoids. In 1992, almost three decades after synthesizing THC, Mechoulam identified anandamide, a naturally occurring human cannabinoid neurotransmitter, (translation: the stuff that makes you feel high when you haven’t ingested anything.)   Given the opportunity to name it, Mechoulam turned to the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning supreme bliss……
It’s been 2 months now since beginning my regime with RSO (Rick Simpson oil.) I do need another bottle which has just arrived luckily as I am down to slim pickings with the original bottle. The idea is that one tries to take on board as many cannabinoids as possible, and so one has to experiment as to tolerance levels and particular strains.
In Israel at Tikun Olam – they have developed a strain called Avidkel which targets breast cancer cells in particular which i would like to look into.
And so…..by the winds of serendipity I can now speak from experience, and although it’s still early days, I will keep a diary on the subject. The first thing to note in my case is that ingesting RSO, which is an oil extract, I am experiencing a nauseous sensation which has been gradually diminishing. It helps to eat a little something as a chaser, or inhale vapor. With the advent of vaporizers one can now bypass ‘smoke’, and furthermore juicing the plant is a viable option for those lucky enough to grow. I am still quite novice and the vaporizer I bought has possibly short circuited, but what I did experience was my idea of an acceptable medicine, and much preferred to what is on offer from the big pharma I just ask that I am given free choice and access to it, and the right to grow it for myself and my family. With all the evidence it seems absurd that I’m not.
But let me tell you how nicely the universe works – as quite by chance whilst looking to find the RSO, I stumble upon ‘the cannabis club of Almunecar.’ Another jackpot! Although they still do not have oil available it surely is only a matter of time. My membership allows me to purchase what I need ‘legally’ and hopefully continue to document my use and speak up on the subject as are many. A dear friend from Belgium who is suffering with painful fibromyalgia vaporizes the plant in a special device easily available, in all shapes and sizes.
Looking back on my particular journey has been …ahem!…’wondrous’ in many ways these last thirteen years, teaching me much about all manner of things really – survival, heading the list needless to say, or there would be no list. Illness needn’t be all doom and gloom. Far from it! Of course it’s still too early to say how the RSO has affected things with my health as I am awaiting new blood tests. I do remember that first night’s sleep being quite tormented with a lot of what was to become severe leg aches which have lessened greatly. What I have found is that I am much more at ease about the things I used to worry about, I laugh a lot more easily, and in the beginning cried some too! Perhaps the biggest reward is that I sleep like never before which gives my body time to sort out its complex machinations. I feel so lucky in any case having been so close to the sea, to the water and the climate there on the ‘costa tropical’, as it is known. There was an exotic touch of the ‘multinational’ blending in with nature’s wonderful vibrant colours and the Phoenician-Arabic influence. A perfect winter choice.
That ‘time out’ has allowed me to re-connect with the elements. To absorb the power of the sea that I had longed for even though the water had not yet warmed up enough for submersion. Lately I do try to find much more enjoyment in life and have a new sense of hope for the future of my own health, and for that of others. How lucky I am to be  transported now as if in a dream back to this idyllic paradise that is Asturias. Back amidst the apple trees and wonderful green pastures, and even though I miss the wonderful sea being at my fingertips the truth is I have to start harvesting the red clover, not to mention the dandelions, nettles, etc. The garden is so wild with all the winters rain. It will soon be time for getting back to the UK so I must try to make the most of it. I continue with infra red saunas and ozone, as well as being beneficial, feel so warming to the bones as the air is still chilly up here.
DCIM100MEDIA

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Cancer the Life Changing Pause: Wake Up and Live - by Anjana Nathwani

Today's blog post is written by Anjana Nathwani, a Business Psyhologist and two time cancer survivor. She believes that the pause of cancer opens new avenues to thrive in life...

Many cancer patients share their stories and there is a mutual message that the journey has changed their perspective on life. Amidst the treatment and chaos, there is a mental numbness, and this numb position feels comfortable! During my second journey of cancer, these 'numb moments' were pauses from the everyday thoughts of hopes, fears, anxieties and joyous moments. The 'pause of cancer' as I call it was an opportunity to 'Wake Up and Live! 'Waking up to purposeful Living is a continuous journey! For me there were three key phases.
1. Cultivating a zest for life. Energising the mind and the body to feel life is precious. Whilst I had always paid attention to diet and exercise - I became more alert and changed my diet. Green juices, avocado smoothies and one hour in nature are my ingredients as daily. This has continued and the revitalisation has helped me to redefine goals that are more purposeful and each day in life feels valuable. Meditation, mindfulness and yoga are also integrated to sustain my well being. I find my energy levels are balanced and the alertness supports me in making wise choices. This new self empathy and compassion is energising to explore new avenues that are more fulfilling.
2. Resilience! Resilience is said to be a quality that allows people to bounce back from knock downs. I found that my resilience transpired as the spirit of Entrepreneurship. The energy to live creates a sense of impatience and wanting immediate results. I dived into starting a retreat programme for cancer thrivers and survivors, soon to discover there was a learning phase and being resilient enabled me to take a tour to build my confidence and to deepen my resolve. I took on a role at a Business School, this experience was phenomenal. For 18 months I taught five different subjects, marked 500 assignments, worked as Postgraduate Academic Adviser and mentored 20 research students. Working to tight timelines, exceeding quality standards and engaging with different stakeholders were amongst the challenges. This academic journey enabled me to think differently, learn fresh perspectives, and more importantly that I have the confidence and courage to begin a new phase in my career. This fall I revitalised my business dreams and rebranded my business and will be launching new service lines in 2018. Aligning intent, purpose and action are crucial. This new focus opens fresh doors each day.  
3. Optimism! Being positive about today and feeding forward has become the motto! Curiosity is my key to being positive and each day I challenge myself to do something I have not done before. The benefits are immense.  The brain is kept active and the intrigue helps with taking risks. Being with people who nurture my optimism is important and I therefore choose networks and social activities with this mindset. Yoga is a passion and my yoga companions are my fuel for optimism face to face and remotely.
This December is very dynamic for me, as I manifest my goals. I am very grateful for the opportunities the recent 24 months have given me. I am applying my experience, newly learnt skills and zest to encourage organisations and people to BeHuman by promoting and facilitating Well Being.              

Friday, 15 December 2017

Starting the Conversation - By Robin Daly, founder of Yes to Life

This week's blog post is written by the founder of Yes to Life, Robin Daly, about the charity's recent sell out annual conference which took place on Saturday 25th November 2017, entitled 'Starting the Conversation - exploring ways in which integrating conventional cancer care and lifestyle medicine can improve outcomes’.


 

In any conflict, there are forces at work maintaining division, suspicion and mistrust in order to keep the sides fighting and true to the cause. There are a myriad of ways to do this with propaganda, disinformation, fear-mongering and more. It’s really not that hard to create division in the world.

And then there are forces working to bring peace, resolution and reconciliation. For these there really is only one tool at their disposal: dialogue. It may seem a poor balance of odds, but this one strategy really is a powerful one. If the foot soldiers on either side of a struggle should ever get to talk to each other, they quickly find that, contrary to the propaganda, the enemy are simply other people with similar concerns, needs and hopes to their own. They quickly discover that both sides have been puppets of powerful forces at work to actually gain in some way from the continued struggle, and for whom they have been paying a high price, at times the highest price - their life.

Medicine is one such conflict, with the forces of conventional medicine ranged against ‘natural’ approaches in a struggle that seeks to force people into taking sides, to box them into the simplistic black and white, propaganda-driven world of good versus bad, science-based versus ‘dangerous’, proven versus ‘no evidence’. And people are paying a high price, sometimes the highest, for forsaking all the resources only available from the ‘opposition’. For example, conventional techniques can be life-saving for people with cancer, but all too often the accompanying side effects create new forms of suffering both in the short term and sometimes for life, for which there is little on offer. In contrast, the world of ‘natural’ and ‘lifestyle’ medicine excels at protection against damage, and prevention and management of side effects.

As in war, dialogue is the only way out of this tragic state of affairs. As long as nutritionists and oncologists keep each other at a safe distance, then they can continue believing the quackbusters’ tabloid-style characterisation of nutritional science as ‘nutribollocks’ (yes that is a direct quote!) and the conspiracy theorist’s labelling of conventional oncology as just ‘cut, burn and poison’. But start a constructive conversation, one that centres on the common ground they share - the wellbeing of patients - and you could soon be generating some mutual respect that might even lead to useful collaboration.

A constructive conversation is exactly what we had in mind for this year’s Yes to Life Annual Conference, ‘Starting the Conversation - exploring ways in which integrating conventional cancer care and lifestyle medicine can improve outcomes’. The morning sessions featured a formidable lineup of forward-thinking NHS health specialists, people who have themselves already started to explore the wealth of resources for patients that sit outside of conventional thinking and practice. And the afternoon showcased many of those resources, alongside some inspiring projects where collaboration is already well under way.

‘Integration’ is the aim of the conversation and the collaboration. Integrative Medicine, or, in the specific area of cancer, Integrative Oncology, aims to bring together the best resources from the widest possible spectrum of approaches, and to combine them in ways that exceed the potential of any one approach alone. It’s a powerful formula that has the potential to fill some of the most glaring ‘gaps in care’ that our NHS suffers from. Successive governments have, for decades, been pressing for ‘patient-centred care’ and ‘patient choice’. But step into a modern oncology unit, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything even vaguely approaching this. It seems that, on its own, the NHS simply can’t escape the old ‘Doctor as God’ model. In contrast, approaches such as Naturopathy or Functional Medicine are the very embodiment of a person-centred approach. Here you will find ready antidotes to the criticisms most often levelled at the health service: scarcity of time and attention, lack of care and compassion, conveyor belt treatments, toxicities and side-effects of treatments, and so on.

In Britain, we are shockingly far behind some other countries in embracing integration. The ability to stoically resist this patient-driven revolution seems to be a negative aspect of our national healthcare system. We may pay for our care in the UK, but we are far from being customers with expectations of personal service. Fortunately though, we are blessed with some pioneering doctors who are paving the way towards a new kind of medicine in which patients are equal partners in the quest for health and wellbeing. Leading the vanguard is Dr Rangan Chatterjee, GP, Functional Medicine Practitioner, and BBC TV Doctor in the House. Dr Chatterjee is singlehandedly opening up new avenues to health for viewers across the nation and simultaneously inspiring GPs to respond to their patients’ needs in an entirely different way. We were extremely fortunate to be able to interview him for an exclusive video for the conference.

The conference ‘hit the ground running’ with a talk from the passionate and inspirational patient advocate and bestselling author Sophie Sabbage, giving the patient perspective on the need for integration. Her talk titled ‘Caught in the Crossfire’ outlined clearly how it is patients who pay the price for the continued hostilities between professionals.

We were also fortunate to be host to the UK oncologist who is leading the field in the adoption of lifestyle medicine, Professor Robert Thomas. A genuine trailblazer, Prof Thomas offers all his NHS patients a lifestyle consultation. In his presentation, he demonstrated his clear understanding of, and support for nutritional and lifestyle approaches, bemoaned the unscientific messages from mainstream medicine regarding the role of sugar in cancer, and introduced us to some of the high quality trials of natural approaches he has initiated.

Two other GPs presenting at the conference are also engaged in tackling the status quo. Dr Rupy Aujla is passionate about cooking and nutrition and is starting an approved training course for GPs to raise their understanding of the direct relationship between food and health. Dr Malcolm Kendrick chooses to ignore the divide between conventional and other approaches, instead relying on his own assessment of the evidence and the balance of risk to benefit, a position that is entirely in tune with patient-centred care and patient choice.

The potential for integration was laid out in the afternoon sessions, with expert input from Nutritional Therapist Liz Butler, Medical Herbalist Claudia Manchanda, Food and Environment Scientist Dr Robert Verkerk, Functional Medicine Practitioner Meleni Aldridge, and a presentation on the benefits of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) by Mark Boscher of Herts MS Therapy.

Alongside these presentations we were introduced to two examples of integration at work, clearly to the benefit and the approval of patients:

The NHS PREPARE for Surgery programme is a collaboration between exercise specialists and oncology staff to improve the results and the experience of surgery. Lizzy Davis of CanExercise joined NHS colleagues Hayley Osborn and Maria Halley to share their passion for the scheme and its successes.

Dr Catherine Zollman, Medical Director of Penny Brohn UK and Oncology Nurse Susie Budd introduced us to the working partnership developing between the charity and oncology services in Bristol that is bringing a marked improvement to the patient experience of undergoing conventional care.


The conference set out to demonstrate that the aims of integration are directly in line with established government policy, that integration  works for everyone involved, and that movement towards integration is finally under way. It was also to provide inspiration to the many who have yet to experience firsthand any progress towards those elusive goals of patient-centred care and patient choice, from some real-world pioneers and working examples within the NHS. Change is indeed afoot, and we are all needed to maintain the momentum that has been generated. The battle certainly isn’t over yet, but the conversation has begun.