Friday, 9 November 2018

Medical Cannabis legal but only in very restricted cases - Gill Smith

This week Gill Smith, stage 4 secondary breast cancer survivor and author of Because You Can, discusses the recent change in the law of medical cannabis in the UK…
On 1stNovember the law changed to allow the prescribing of medical cannabis. What will this mean in practice?

What is clear today is that the use of medical cannabis will be extremely limited.

From The Times

Doctors advised to refuse cannabis for MS sufferers

Thousands of people with multiple sclerosis will be denied cannabis medicines despite the drug being legally available for the first time today on the NHS.

Guidelines issued to doctors said that cannabis-based medicines were “not recommended” for chronic pain sufferers such as people with MS.

The MS Society condemned the guidance for being too “restrictive” and “ignoring clear evidence”. Genevieve Edwards, of the charity, said: “Today should mark a key milestone for people with MS. 

However, we’re really concerned that nothing will change in the short term for the one in ten people with MS who could get relief from pain and muscle spasms by using medicinal cannabis.


As of 1st November cannabis-based products can be prescribed, but only by specialist hospital doctors in a small number of cases, and not by GPs.

New NHS guidance for doctors in England says it should be prescribed only when there is clear published evidence of its benefit and other treatment options have been exhausted.

The treatments can be prescribed in cases of:

§  Children with rare, severe forms of epilepsy
§  Adults with vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy
§  Adults with muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis

If a patient is not already in touch with a specialist doctor they can be referred to one by their GP if the doctor deems this appropriate.

I wonder who these specialist doctors are? How many? Will medical cannabis be approved for a wider range of conditions in future. 

Again, it comes down to what is accepted as evidence of benefit. Thousands of patients in the UK and other countries can provide testimony of how cannabis has helped them. But these are not clinical trials. For cancer the only allowable treatment is for vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy – but there is plenty of “evidence” to show that patients have benefitted in wider use. Similarly pain relief for other conditions. And what about Parkinson’s?

It seems that in the UK medical cannabis will be so tightly controlled that thousands of patients will be disappointed by not being able to access it.

Gill has published a book, Because You Can, which you can purchase here. Learn more here.

If you have any questions around medical cannabis, we are running a talk on 20th November in Nottingham. Find out more here.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Can we starve our cancer? – Philip Booth

This week Philip Booth (My Unexpected Guide; learning from cancershares his thoughts on Jane McLelland’s new book, How to Starve Cancer

Oh my... this book so resonated with me and was a great read. I learnt lots more about cancer and it's helping me rethink my approach - but more of that in a moment. I first heard Jane McLelland speak at Trew Fields then again met her in Guildford. You can see my short film below of Jane outlining her approach.
At both these talks and in her book Jane shares her amazing story; how 16 years ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 (terminal) cervical cancer and used a combination of cheap, easy to use drugs with minimal side effects - many of these are off label drug combinations. Off label as they are not prescribed for cancer, for example Metformin is used for diabetes while Statins are for people with high cholesterol. Jane hasn’t had a cancer ‘episode’ for years. 

Jane writes that there are around 60 drugs with anti-cancer effects and that certain combinations of these are proving to be extremely powerful. Furthermore new studies are showing remissions with late stage cancers and raising the possibility of cures, especially when the drug combinations are used at earlier stages. We have also seen that their appears to be no genetic answer to cancer; instead altered metabolism, the increased uptake of glucose and/or glutamine has been found to be common to all cancers.

The idea of drug combinations makes sense. This approach is used with HIV and AIDS. Cancer cells are constantly adapting and in order to grow they need sources of energy, mainly glucose with access to proteins and fat. If you starve a cancer cell of its energy from glucose then it redirects to other sources of energy like glutamine and fat. So we need to see how we can block the ‘fuel pipelines’ with our own drug cocktails. 

Jane has produced an easy-to-follow ‘Metro Map’ that shows how this can be done using diet, supplements, off label drugs and exercise. This is the main part of her approach although there are other key elements that need tacking into consideration. I would strongly urge getting hold of Jane’s book. Here are a couple of key things I learnt which now seem common sense;

1. Cancers can be fuelled in different ways. For example brain cancer and colorectal cancer are particularly responsive to glucose while prostate cancer is fed by fat and protein. This fits with a story I heard about a guy with prostate cancer who followed a Ketogenic Diet (i.e. a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet that mimics the metabolic state of long-term fasting). He found his PSA climbing but when he looked more at reducing fats, that led to his PSA falling again. It would seem those with prostate cancer (and those with breast cancer) should perhaps avoid a Ketogenic Diet with it’s high fats(i)? Or perhaps take more care over the fats we eat? That of course doesn’t mean stopping a low glycemic diet so sadly Millionaires slices, Victoria sponges, white rice and more are not in my diet! Virtually all cancers respond to a reduced glucose intake. More on nutrition and diets in a future blog.

2. There is a distinction between supplements that prevent cancer and those that treat it. Some antioxidants are useful for prevention, like low oral doses of Vitamin C and E. However, there is a tipping point in cancer progression when, in Jane’s words, they ‘switch allegiance and support the enemy; they help promote and fuel cancer’s resistance to apoptosis (death). I’ve stopped low dose oral Vitamin C supplementation! I did have Intravenous Vitamin C (IVC) following my Transurethral Hyperthermia in Germany, which behaves in a completely different way to low dose - and would consider it in the future if part of a whole plan to tackle my cancer. IVC has been shown to be very effective at killing cancer stem cells, at high dose it is a pro-oxidant producing hydrogen peroxide around the tumour, so stem cells cannot survive, but as Jane warns, it is risky if not part of a combination strategy. Indeed I recall mixed information regarding IVC and prostate cancer - probably because IVC can push the cancer up the glutamine and fat pathways instead?
It is interesting to notice my first reactions to this approach. Drugs?! I wanted to take a more natural approach to healing and didn’t drugs have nasty side-effects? However the more I’ve read the more I consider this integrative approach to have value; drawing on the best of orthodox and complimentary medicine. This seems to me another example of the mind-body revolution that is underway.
Next steps for me include some more reading then finding out more about treatment (ii). See more of Jane when she spoke at Trew Fields in 2017 before her book came out:

You can purchase a copy of Jane’s book here.
(i) See "Dr. Gonzalez Dismantles the Ketogenic Diet For Cancer” including short film interviewing Dr Gonzalez:  
(ii) See Jane's great Facebook group at:

Friday, 26 October 2018

A practice for difficult times - by Clare McLusky

This week’s blog has been written by Clare McLusky, trained mindfulness teacher with a Masters in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy from Oxford University. She shares with us her practice for difficult times…

A practice that I have to share because it helped me stay together during a very traumatic period comes from an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion.  It is a simple but transformative practice for staying with painful feelings and for reducing feelings of isolation.  I am grateful to Pema Chodron whose teachings on this, and all things, I find profoundly helpful.

The last year has been a difficult time for our family culminating in a period of crisis at the beginning of the Summer.  Saying the word crisis, I have come to see a crisisas challenge and opportunity and over the years come to trust the process, however painful.  Loss and change inevitably become turning points when we allow life to flow and the opportunity to reveal itself.  But how do we not get stuck in the painful and difficult feelings that are part of loss and change?  We are so programmed to avoid difficult emotions and we all have our particular ways like getting very busy, zoning out, drinking too much or getting very caught up in our heads trying to solve things.  With the latter, I have noticed that the more caught up in my thoughts I become, the more cut off from the world and others I begin to feel.   It is a really isolating feeling which compounds the pain.

As I was going through this period of crisis I was experiencing strong feelings of confusion and fear and an intense sense of loss, but I had to act and make difficult and painful decisions on my own, a long way from home.  I did not have the luxury of falling apart which is why I am so grateful to have had this practice to support me.  The practice is simply this, when you are in pain, breathing it in and thinking of all the other people in the world who are experiencing the same thing.  Then breathing out compassion for yourself and everybody else.  Allowing the in breath to open your heart.  It is a practice to do the right in the moment of feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions whether of sadness, fear, anxiety, anger whatever. A great practice to become familiar with so you remember it at times of need, like waiting for test results or to have an uncomfortable medical procedure. It is described more clearly below.

Things don’t really get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. 
Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. 
The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: 
room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Life is just this way. Sometimes the ‘crisis is the healing.
Pema Chodron

A Practice for Difficult Times

Step One: Breathe in Suffering – yours, others’ and the world’s 

Breathe in for yourself and say these words to yourself, lots of other people are feeling like thisand imagine all the other people in a similar situation.  Acknowledging what you are feeling; the fear, the panic, the tension and this helps to understand what others are feeling.  Breathe in all the pain, all the darkness and heaviness weighing down on you, the suffering, the anguish.  Bravely, breathe it in for yourself and others allowing yourself to open up to it all as though your heart could become as expansive as the sky, giving the pain a lot of space.  We tend to push away pain so know and feel that breathing it in is good for you.

Step Two: Breathe out Compassion – for yourself, for others and for the world

Breathe out with the intention of healing the situation for yourself and others. Breathe out your hopes, best wishes, prayers, dreams. Let each exhale expand light, cool, fresh outward and outward into space.

The idea is to open as you breathe in and to open as you breathe out. That is to say, feel your body relaxing, softening, opening.  The opposite of closing in on yourself and tensing. Keep going as long as it feels helpful.  It may take a few breaths to get into it but let go and keep your intentions focused.  See what happens, be curious and stay with the non-verbal feeling.  I find that thinking of all the other people around the world in a similar situation and feeling the same pain, it becomes less my pain and more the painand easier to open to.  I hope as I did, you experience more compassion for yourself and an opening to your own healing and a greater connection with others.  

We can see that self-compassion is mindfulness; recognising how we are feeling without judging ourselves.  It is self-kindness, being understanding toward ourselves, like we would be towards a good friend.  And it is connectedness, thinking of all the other people in the world struggling and suffering in the same way.