Monday, 14 August 2017

Those 3 words: "You have cancer" - Dr Nasha Winters

This week's blog is written by Dr Nasha Winters who we interviewed on our radio show in June about her book “The Metabolic Approach To Cancer” which she wrote with Jess Higgins Kelley.

Coming up to my 26th year out from a terminal cancer diagnosis, I am no stranger to the stigma, fear, overwhelm, confusion and paralysis that can accompany such a life-changing phrase: “You have cancer”. 

I am also hypersensitive to the impetus to jump immediately into treatment with no regard to the individual or to the origins of this process. The real medical emergency of a cancer diagnosis IS the diagnosis itself. How you respond and react to those three words can profoundly impact your therapeutic outcome. 

Rushing blindly in to a surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, alternative therapy, dietary intervention, etc. is a dangerous and slippery slope. There is no reason why you shouldn’t take a moment and breath. 

Those 3 words - “You have cancer”- are simply a light switch coming on. This is an opportunity to start using that light to illuminate what is happening in, on and around you.  What is this diagnosis trying to tell you? This is NOT the time to dive headfirst into any particular treatment approach. It is the time to start your detective work. 

A few life saving and life changing recommendations I would make for anyone on this journey - whether it is your first time or a recurrence, is this:

1)   Stop. Be still. Breath. Turn off the computer. Don’t immediately talk to everyone you know.  This is YOUR body. This is YOUR process. It is a sacred moment to get really clear on how you got here and where you need to go next.
2)   Get a second opinion. Even a third. And from different institutions. You will find, for the most part, the recommendations will vary. Find what resonates with you.
3)   TEST.  BEFORE someone starts any form of treatment get the following:
a.   If you had a biopsy that led to this diagnosis, have it sent off for molecular profiling to a company like Caris, Foundation One, Rational Therapeutics, etc.
b.   If you didn’t have a biopsy, and you want/need one, perhaps meet with an integrative oncology practitioner who can prepare your body for the biopsy to help keep the cells intact with things like modified citrus pectin or scheduling biopsy/surgery and scans around menstrual cycle as your hormonal levels will impact results, and the likelihood of metastasis is higher if biopsy/surgery done during the estrogenic phase. 
                                               i.     Example:  Breast MRI, ultrasound, mammography or thermography is best between day 5 and 15 of menstrual cycle (day 1 is the first day of your period)
                                              ii.     Same holds true for any other biopsies or surgeries in menstruating women for any form of cancer
c.   Get a liquid biopsy to determine circulating tumor cell count and circulating fragmented cancer DNA along with molecular profile on actionable targets.  And use it often to assess your response to therapy and to monitor you AFTER completion of therapy.  This is an FDA approved, insurance covered test and validated for the following tumor types:
                                               i.     Lung
                                              ii.     Breast
                                             iii.     Gastric
                                             iv.     Colorectal
                                              v.     Prostate
                                             vi.     Melanoma
                                            vii.     Renal Cell (kidney)
                                           viii.     Ovarian
d.   You can also look into liquid assays to check for chemosensitivity and response to non-conventional therapies with RGCC out of Greece or BioFocus out of Germany
e.    I would also strongly consider the following tests to have as a baseline to assess your overall terrain and to bring to light triggers to your cancering process:  CBC with diff, CMP, GGT, Ferritin, CRP, Sedrate, LDH, Fibrinogen, Homocysteine, TSH, Total T4, Free T3, T3 Uptake, Thyroid Antibodies, 25-OH D3, HbA1C, Insulin, IGF-1, Serum Copper, Ceruloplasmin, Serum Zinc and any tumor marker testing appropriate to the cancer type.  This information will be useful to understand what patterns you carried prior to embarking on any treatment so you may start to address these drivers from the get go with other means like diet, lifestyle, supplements, etc. To learn more about testing I recommend Jenny Hrbacek, RN book:  “Cancer Free!  Are You Sure?”
f.     Assemble your team!  Your oncologist has likely had ZERO training in nutrition so VERY important to get a therapeutic nutritionist, who is well-versed in metabolic therapies/treatment with diet of cancer (this is often NOT a Registered Dietician RD).  You need someone to support your emotional body as well---a therapist, life coach, support group, or church.  And someone who can navigate the world of both conventional and alternative or integrative approaches such as an integrative naturopathic oncologist or someone well versed in how these paradigms should be woven together.
g.    And, take the Terrain TenTM Questionnaire at the front of our new book:  “The Metabolic Approach To Cancer” (available on Amazon here) to assess your terrain with regards to other exposures contributing to a cancering process.  The book can then guide you on how to make the changes necessary to support your whole terrain.
4)    And, once you have collected all the data, work with someone who can pull it all together and help create a focused plan of action that is specific to YOU! That might include conventional, non-conventional or combination treatments along with diet, herbs, supplements and lifestyle interventions to boost immune function, drive a cytotoxic (cancer cell death) process, encourage a metabolic overhaul, create better response to therapy and with less side effects while enhancing quality of life. 

Please know you are far more powerful than you are led to believe on this journey. Do your due diligence to take a thoughtful, researched approach to your wellbeing.  Know you are a divinely unique individual with particular epigenetic hiccups, biochemical processes and life circumstances that impact how you will respond to any given treatment and adjust accordingly.  And may you thrive, not just survive!

You can listen to Nasha being interviewed on our radio show here.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Horses Help with Healing

Today's blog comes from Sarah Stevens, Director of Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Therapy Centre CIC, who's giving us an insight into how horses can aid rebalancing and help coping with a cancer diagnosis.

In May 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 3 triple negative breast cancer. I was 27 at the time, have limited family history of cancer and was very healthy and active. I was very lucky that I found the lump early. I was never one of those people that checked themselves, so I’m very grateful that it was in an easy to feel place. After mammograms, they found another lump in my breast, and at that point things got a little more serious. Following discussions, the treatment plan was 8 rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy and then a bilateral oophorectomy. Alongside this I had fertility treatment and froze my eggs as I didn’t have children. 
I couldn’t really explain how it impacted me, as I seemed to just go into the mode of ‘let’s get on with it’. Everyone around me worried and panicked, and I just seemed to freeze. What a whirlwind really, happily going along with life; just bought my first house, had just secured a really good promotion, and then all change within the space of a day.
Whilst everyone around me was getting upset and emotional, I decided to go and sit in a barn with my horses, I spent a morning there as they just lay down with me. My 16hh horse had his head over my legs. They gave me the quiet time to be able to process this chaos I had just been plunged into.
 I started my treatment and along came all the side effects, and this is when I started to realise how fundamental my horses were in keeping me upbeat and happy through my journey. If you speak to anyone that knows me, they all say how well I dealt with it, I never once complained or moaned about it and I stuck to my routine as much as possible. My horses gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They offered me an opportunity to be me still. This is something I found very powerful, as regardless of whether I had hair, breasts or felt ill, I was still me, and they treated me like I was. They were a place where I didn’t feel judged, or like everyone felt sorry for me (as I hated this). Then I started to realize that actually they were my therapy. They could immediately sense how I was feeling and they acted accordingly. If I was feeling stressed and angry they would put me in my place, if I was anxious they would push me, when I just needed peace that was my peace.
I started to explore what was out there for people using horses, and realised that horses can be used for therapy and learning. My background is working with people to help them facilitate change in their lives, so it made sense for me to help people using horses. I started to spend my time during chemotherapy, planning, training and starting this dream of mine, which would be to help people overcome obstacles in life using horses, especially those affected by cancer as this is close to my heart. I had seen the benefits if it personally, so asked myself ‘why can’t it work for others?’. I spent most of winter training the horses and ensuring they were safe to be working with people. A few days following my bilateral mastectomy, my organisation received its not for profit status, and a few weeks following my operation we moved to our amazing new countryside site in order to start work.
Helping other people overcome difficulties is so rewarding. One of my first cancer patients who I worked with was a 7 year old boy. Being able to offer him space to understand his emotions and his diagnosis was so fulfilling. My own experiences, although nothing in comparison to some, mean I can help and understand how people feel when faced with challenges. It also means that I don’t take a ‘softly-softly’ approach as I think people still need to be treated like people. What my journey and the journey of others has taught me is that most people’s underlying issues are the same, and when you take away the label (e.g. illness, disability, mental illness) people develop their core selves. This is equine assisted therapy is so effective, since horses don’t sense peoples ‘labels’, they sense the emotions and the feelings which deep down people need to work on. Horses act as a mirror to how we really feel. They are so incredibly sensitive and aware of how we are feeling and our intentions (sometimes more than we have recognized in ourselves), that they act as fantastic additional therapists. Horses allow us to uncover inner obstacles, explore these and the work on overcoming them.

What I’ve learnt from the last 18 months of my life:

  •       Life’s too short (cliché but true!), dare to dream, help others and enjoy life don’t waste any of it.
  •       Forget the word ‘ill’ or whatever label you have and work on being you.
  •       There is ALWAYS someone worse off than you. I was pretty lucky.
  •       Mind-set is everything, if you think you can cope and are fine you generally are. Don’t allow yourself to wallow in your own pity.
  •       Body parts are just body parts; you can lose a few and still function perfectly well.
  •       Be grateful for everything.
  •       Everyone needs horses in their lives!

Following my own journey and launching Spirit and Soul Equine Assisted Activity Centre CIC, we now work with a range of people, including people affected by cancer, offering equine assisted therapy to help them overcome challenges and obstacles in life.
If you would like to know more about any of the above, please feel free to contact the centre, who will be very happy to answer your questions.
They can be reached at 07837257813, or you can email them at You can also find out more on their website.