Category Archives: Cancer Musings

And That’s What Your Pancreas Did Today

Many regulars to my little corner of Blogandia know that I had Pancreatic Cancer. I have written about it here, and here, and here, and if you have read those articles then you know that I also beat the cancer without chemo and radiation. I used diet and exercise to keep my body clean after my surgery, and I have been cancer free for over two years.

This makes me happy.

I have already discussed my experiences with getting sick, being diagnosed, having a Pancreaticoduodenectomy, and my natural health plan that has kept me healthy. What I would like to discuss today is how diabetes was a trigger that should have alerted the doctors that a tumor was growing on my pancreas.

I am not a scientist or a medical doctor, so this essay will not have a lot of technical jargon, which is a nice way of saying that I have dumbed-down the information for myself. It would be pretentious for me to speak like a lab rat; I can only speak with my own voice.

Toward the end of the summer of 2010, I went in for a regular check-up with my General Practitioner (GP). We were doing regular blood tests at that time because my cholesterol and triglycerides were too high, and I was trying to bring them down with diet and exercise. Unfortunately, I hated exercise, and did it rarely, and my diet, while still better than most Americans, was not great. I was avoiding the usual cholesterol medicines in the hope that I could bring my levels down on my own. It was not working.

But in late August, 2010, my doctor looked at my blood panel analysis and declared that I was diabetic. Huh? I had never shown any signs of being diabetic before. Apparently, though, my glucose levels were a little high; 135 units when it should have been under 105. This was an entirely new development. I was a bit overweight (212 lbs at 6’2), but not too heavy. However, I was 42, and the body changes with age. I guess I was now diabetic.

My doctor prescribed Metformin, which is a first-line drug for Type 2 diabetics with normal kidney functions. It came in tablet form, so no injections for me!! That worked to lower my glucose, so I guess everything was fine, right?

Wrong. Fast-forward to late October and I start showing symptoms that eventually led to the discovery of a tumor on the head of my pancreas. Looking back, it should have been obvious enough for a doctor to suspect something awry with the pancreas since my diabetic symptoms came on so suddenly. Every medical website I visit (again, I’m no doctor or scientist) explains that the sudden onset of diabetes is rarely associated with pancreatic cancer, but only because of misdiagnosis. There is, in fact, a direct correlation between sudden onset diabetes and pancreatic cancer, and doctors need to get in the habit of connecting the two.

One of the main functions of the pancreas is the regulation of insulin, which helps to regulate the glucose levels in the blood. Tumors on the pancreas affect the pancreas’ DNA structure, upsetting its ability to regulate insulin and other hormones.

I have referred to Pancreatic Cancer as “the silent killer”, and that is because it is often unnoticed until too late. I think that not associating sudden onset Type 2 diabetes with pancreatic cancer right away is a big cause for this. I was lucky. I noticed that something was wrong with me early.

Once I had my surgery that removed the tumor from the head of the pancreas, all of my diabetic symptoms disappeared. My cholesterol and triglyceride levels dropped to well-below normal levels, but that may be due to my stricter diet and exercise regimen.

I caught my cancer early, and it was removed before it could metastasize and spread to the lymph nodes. I am a lifelong student, and I like to do my own research, therefore, I now see how so many things could have gone wrong with my cancer scare. I can look back now and see how obvious it should have been to any doctor that sudden onset Type 2 diabetes was a sign of pancreatic cancer. I am blown away that nobody connected the two until after my diabetes symptoms were gone.

I am not the type that likes to tell people what to do, or how to live their lives, but I urge anyone who knows anyone with sudden onset diabetes to have their doctor check for pancreatic tumors. Do some research to find out more about the pancreas and its functions.

When I was sick, my family was together for Thanksgiving and we made up a silly song that you could imagine The Wiggles singing to educate kids on the pancreas. It was fun and ridiculous, but we learned more about this organ that most people only know from Biology classes and dead celebrities like Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze.

Here are some of the functions of the pancreas (from Wikipedia)…

“It is a glandular organ in the digestive system and endocrine system. It produces several important hormones, including insulin, glucagon, somatostatin, and pancreatic polypeptide. It is a digestive organ, secreting pancreatic juices containing digestive enzymes that assist the absorption of nutrients and the digestion in the small intestine. These enzymes help to further break down the carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids in the chyme.”

And here are some of the symptoms to look out for (from Wikipedia). I had all of these…

· Pain in the upper abdomen that typically radiates to the back

· Loss of appetite

· Significant weight loss

· Painless jaundice when a cancer of the head of the pancreas (75% of cases), it obstructs the common bile duct as it runs through the pancreas.

· Diabetes, or elevated blood sugar levels. Many patients with pancreatic cancer develop diabetes months to even years before they are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, suggesting new onset diabetes in an elderly individual may be an early warning sign of pancreatic cancer.

“And that’s what your pancreas did today!”

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How I Beat Pancreatic Cancer

I had pancreatic cancer.  I have written about it here, and here, and here, and I have gotten some nice responses from those articles.  I recently was asked to share my methodology for beating cancer since I did not use radiation or chemotherapy, and now I present that article to you.  I am extremely anti-chemo and radiation and I believe that it does more to kill people than to save them.  There are exceptions, of course, but I have witnessed people getting sicker and sicker after these so-called treatments, and I do not understand why people allow doctors to talk them into doing it.  Well, I guess I do; it is fear.  My own oncologist used fear to try to convince me to go the chemo and radiation route, but I refused, and I am healthier now than I have ever been.

After I beat cancer, and after each check up, I tend to get full of myself and talk as if I am indestructible and immortal.  I had a very dear old friend lose her battle with cancer last week, and that has sucked all the bravado out of me.  I have never thought that I was better or smarter than anyone else; just proud of myself for beating what is known as the “silent killer.”

Pancreatic cancer is known as the silent killer because the pancreas is hidden deep inside of us, and by the time that people feel its symptoms, it is often too late to treat.

That is the conventional wisdom offered by the American Medical Society (AMA), but I think that is wrong.  It is never too late to treat.  If you treat your body with whole foods and various supplements, then your body will be more receptive to healing itself naturally rather than perishing from a bombardment of deadly chemicals that reduce your immune system to its lowest levels, thus creating a perfect environment for cancer to thrive.

I would like to stop here for a second and offer a caveat:  What I write here is based on my own research from various books and websites.  I am critical of the AMA’s protocol for treating cancer, but I am not anti-medicine or anti-science.  I love science, and I consider myself a sort of scientist (soft science, if you will), but still trained in critical thinking and the scientific method.  I always say, “If I’m having a heart attack, don’t send me to an acupuncturist; send me to the ER, STAT!”

My problem with science in this case is that I believe that science is way behind in the field of fighting cancer.  I say that because it is focused on new synthetic drugs and not on nutrition as a method of curing cancer.  It is as if the mainstream scientific community thinks that anything to do with nutrition and alternative medicines is whacko-hippy stuff, and not worth their time.

Likewise, there are plenty of self-appointed health gurus who offer what they believe to be conclusive evidence of their miracle cures without any substantial methodology to support their claims.  We hear about these people all the time and we berate them and label them as quacks.  However, nobody ever stands up to mainstream science.

Just because mainstream science refuses to acknowledge any alternative protocol does not mean that alternative medicines are bunk.  It only means that science has its collective head up its ass on this matter!

I am not trying to be a guru in any way, nor am I trying to debunk science as a whole; I only want to share my own success story, and try to offer evidence to how my methodology worked.

Anyway, enough with the caveats.  I already wrote about my experiences with getting sick, discovering the cancer, and having surgery in that first article.  This new article focuses more on how I started the healing process while I was still sick, and how and why I stayed healthy.

This is a long article, so I will offer the short attention-spanned an outline so they may walk away at any time.

1. First Steps – Ph Balance

A.  Cut out refined foods

B.   Juice

C.  Go organic whenever possible

D.  Cut out coffee, sodas, alcohol

E.   Raw Foods and No Meats

2.  Next Steps

A.  Juice, juice, and more juice

B.  Cruciferous Veggies

C.  Graviola and Essiac Tea

3.  Once You Start to Feel Better

A. Exercise

B. Bikram Yoga

There was a seven-week period from when I was diagnosed to the day I had surgery.  During that time, there was uncertainty everywhere.  We did not know if the mass on the head of my pancreas was malignant; we could not do a biopsy, due to the position of the mass; since it was a specialty surgery, we could not find the right surgeon under my insurance plan; and finally, my insurance seemed to stall the process at every turn.

I decided early on that I would take matters into my own hands.  I started doing research on pancreatic cancer, and alternative methods of healing.  My former-wife, fresh from a recent break-up and with nothing else to do with her time, had already been on a living foods diet and started making food for me and teaching me how to prepare my own meals and staples.  Her mother, an avid scholar of alternative medicines—especially for cancers—provided me with supplements and teas that she learned were known cancer cures (in many cases).

My plan was to heal myself from the inside out.  Instead of killing all the cells in the area of the cancer, like with chemo and radiation, I chose to replenish all of those same cells with a living foods diet.  The basic premise of using nutrition to destroy cancer is that one must raise their pH balance to a much higher alkaline level.  Cancer thrives in a low, acidic, blood pH.  Things like sugars, alcohol, cooked meat, stress, and tannins from wine and coffee all contribute to lowering a person’s blood pH.  Raw, living foods like dark leafy greens, sprouted seeds, nuts, and legumes, and fresh fruits all contribute to raising a person’s blood pH.  I still use this chart as a guide.

Image

Ironically, lemons and other citrus, while acidic, actually process as an alkaline once digested, and are very important for raising ones pH.  Want a quick way to raise your pH?  Just squeeze some fresh lemon juice into your drinking water several times a day.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I discovered that I was sick was to eliminate as many processed foods from my diet as possible.  That meant pre-packaged meals (frozen pizzas, frozen taquitos, etc…), and anything with refined sugars or high-fructose corn syrup.  I learned from my own studies that cancer LOVES sugar.  Refined sugars and corn syrups do not process efficiently in your body and can remain there indefinitely.  Unrefined whole cane sugar, or beet sugar, or brown rice syrup are less refined, and the body can process them better.  Putting refined sugars and corn syrups into your body gives the cancer a generous food supply.

I think that the only refined foods I still ate at the time were breads and cereals.  I basically lived off tomato and avocado sandwiches and granola.  It was the only thing my poor stomach could handle at the time.  However, the bread I ate was made from organic sprouted wheat, and the cereal I ate was organic granola.  I had stopped drinking cow’s milk years before this, and was already drinking organic almond milk, but at this time, I started making my own raw milk from sprouted almonds.

The benefits to raw sprouted nuts, seeds, and legumes, is that these items contain enzyme inhibitors which prevent them from sprouting prematurely.  Here is another good explanation of that process that you can read.  With soaked almonds, I am getting the fully intended nutritional value of those almonds.  In addition to almond milk, I used sprouted almonds and cashews to make a variety of what they call in the Raw Foods world as “cheezes” and “patés.”

The next steps I took were to cut out alcohol and coffee.  I felt like crap at this time anyway, so it was not hard for me to stop.  Months later, after my surgery and recovery period, I decided to continue my abstinence from these delicious liquids because I wanted to continue keeping my pH levels high.  Now, more than two years after my surgery, I still have not had any coffee, even though I did finally have a couple of mild cocktails this past New Years Eve, and then not since.

I had already begun a living foods diet regimen where I was eating roughly 70% raw and 30% cooked and processed.  My research led me to several websites regarding beating cancer naturally, and they all recommended juicing.  Even scientists agree that fruit and vegetable juices are good for preventing cancer, even if they say nothing about using juice to cure your existing cancer.

It is important to make the distinction that freshly juiced vegetables and fruits are the better option than store bought juices that have added sugars and have been pasteurized.  I own my own juicer, and have put it to good use over these past two-and-a-half years.

My favorite juice cocktails are blends of fruits and vegetables.  Here is where things get a bit contentious.  Some folks will tell you to never blend fruits and veggies because their respective properties can cancel out their benefits.  I, personally, think that this is hogwash.  I typically make a blend of beet, carrot, and apple or pear juices.  When I was sick, I put every beneficial vegetable and fruit that I could find through my juicers.  I even drank Brussels sprouts and red cabbage juices.  Dear God, that was awful, but let me explain why I did that to myself.

Image

Here is a picture of my son politely declining my offer to share my spinach/carrot/Brussels sprouts juice.

Cabbages and Brussels sprouts are part of a group called cruciferous vegetables.  These vegetables are highly sulfurous and rich in phytochemicals, both of which help to raise pH levels and to repair cell damage by carcinogens.  I learned that these particular vegetables could actually help to shrink my tumor, and so I drank them down.

I drank various juice cocktails at least twice a day, at about 20 ounces at a time.  I wanted to attack the tumor with as much nutrient goodness that I could.  I also took Graviola pills and drank Essiac Tea.  These two supplements have been known to actually attack the cancer and shrink tumors.  Graviola and Essiac Tea are rather contentious; some sources claim that they both work wonders at shrinking tumors, while other sources claim that they either do nothing, or make tumors grow.  Do your own research and come to your own conclusions, but here a hint for you; those that say that Graviola and Essiac Tea do not help with cancer are typically associated with the AMA.

Whatever their effects may be, I took Graviola, drank Essiac Tea, and gorged myself on juices and living foods.  And here’s the result…

BY THE TIME I HAD MY SURGERY, MY TUMOR HAD SHRUNK ALMOST IN HALF!!!

When I was diagnosed, my tumor measured 2.7 centimeters.  When they removed it during surgery, it was only 1.5 centimeters.  My oncologist would later shrug it off and say, “These things sometimes shrink all on their own.”  Oh really, Doc?  I’d love to see those stats!

I truly believe that the heavy juicing and living foods diet shrunk my tumor.  After my surgery, I continued this nutrition protocol and I believe that it is part of what has kept me clean and healthy now for two years.

I refused chemo and radiation after my surgery, mainly because I had done a ton of research which led me to believe that chemo and radiation do more to harm a person that to help them.  Doctors never say that they will kill the cancer and cure the patient.  Instead, they say that they will keep the cancer at bay and prolong the patient’s life.  That is not good enough for me.  My own surgeon, who had done the procedure over forty times, and can be considered an expert, told me that I might get another five years after the surgery.  Not good enough!

My research had led me to testimonies of people who had taken natural approaches to healing their bodies rather than killing the cancer, and there are much higher survival rates than with those who have had chemo and radiation.  Again, I realize that there are some exceptional cases of people living long and healthy lives after chemo and radiation, but I have found these cases to be rare.

The other reason why I refused chemo and radiation was that after the surgery, my margins were clean, and the cancer did not metastasize or even spread to the lymph nodes.  I believe that much of that is due to all the juicing that I did, but also—and I’ll be frank—I was lucky as hell.  I caught it early, before any serious damage could be done.  Even if I did not catch it early, I still firmly believe that I could have cured myself with living foods and juicing.  Looking back, I actually think that I did not need the surgery, since my tumor started to shrink dramatically already, but I am glad that I had it.  I wanted that fucker out of me!

Once last thing to which I credit my lasting health is Bikram yoga.  Really, any heavy exercise will do, but for me, it was all about the Bikram.  This type of hot yoga makes you sweat all of the toxins and impurities out of your body.  The poses are designed to actually wring out your organs like a wet towel and improve circulation throughout the body, which then supplies your entire body with fresh, oxygenated blood.

I hate exercise, and I always have.  I cannot run, I dislike cycling, I get bored at the gym, and every piece of exercise equipment that I have bought for my home eventually became an expensive coat rack.  However, when I discovered Bikram yoga, I found something that I immediately loved!  I started it because I could barely move after eight weeks of recovery after the surgery, and I still do it.  My 12-year old son does it with me, and he loves it, too.  All that sweating just cleans you out.  I recommend it to anyone.

liam bendy 16

Liam is much more bendy than I am.

joel triangle

If you look closely, you can see me praying for death—I mean, I love this!!

Okay, so that is my story to the best of my memory.  I realize that some folks are going to cry, “Bullshit!”  Whatever.  This is what worked for me, and I believe that it can work for anyone.  The first step to making it work for you is to not be afraid to be your own doctor.  Do your own research, and find what makes the most sense to you.  Do not simply do whatever your doctor recommends, unless you have done the research and believe that is the best course of action for you.

The second step is accepting that the protocol I described above requires a serious lifestyle change for most people.  I realize that difficult for many people, but, in my mind, changing your lifestyle is a hell of a lot easier than going through chemo and radiation, or dying at a young age.

It just makes sense to me.  Why try to kill cancer cells when you can replenish and revitalize those cells?  Please note the language in that last sentence.  When you kill cancer cells with chemo and radiation, you are also killing plenty of healthy cells, as well.  Isn’t it better to nourish your body and revive the sick cells?

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My Friend is Dying

I am a cancer survivor.  I have written about it here and here, and I plan to write a full essay on how I managed to beat it without chemo and radiation soon, but this particular essay is not really about me.  In a way, I have to talk about my feelings and experiences, because it is all intertwined, but really, this essay is about my friend.

I have known her since we were in fourth-grade, which, by my math, is 35 years now.  My family moved to Fair Oaks from the Oak Park area of South Sacramento in early 1978.  This was about halfway through fourth-grade for me, and I entered a new school as a new student with no friends.  I was able to make friends rather quickly, and I am proud to say that many of us are still friends today.

Well, let me back that up.  Grade school turned into junior high school, and many of those friendships dissipated as new cliques friendships began.  In many cases, we went our separate ways, which is typical in junior high, but some of us remained, at the very least, friendly.  Then, junior high school became high school, and even more cliques friendships emerged, and many (but not all) of the old grade school friends became strangers to each other.

In the high school hierarchy, I was the really weird kid of the lowest castes. I was a band geek, a stoner, a longhaired rocker, and painfully shy and insecure.  It is easy for me to say that the other kids were cruel and that they cast me away, but I am equally responsible, since I made no effort to fit in, or to even mumble an occasional “hello” to anyone.  Sure, I had a few friends, but I think that I was even on the fringe of that little clique of band geeks.

I actually dropped-out of high school one month before graduation.  I felt so alienated from the other kids that I could not bear even one more day there.  Moreover, I had aspirations of being a big rich rock star, so there was that.  When I left high school, I did not look back.  I did not even try to communicate in any way with anyone from my high school, which meant avoiding my old grade school friends.  I literally ducked behind bushes or corners if I saw anyone because I did not want to have anything to do with any of these people.  I believed that they hated me then, and that was something that I did not wish to relive. I had no fond memories of anyone or anything from that time.  I constructed that reality.

Fast forward 20 years, and we had our 20-year reunion in 2006.  A lot of time had passed; a lot of growing, and a lot of healing.  I personally gained a lot of inner wisdom in that time, and I felt no antipathy toward anyone from high school.  I actually wanted to go to the reunion, and when I got there, I found that I was excited to see many people; even the ones that I believed hated me in high school.  I felt that enough time had passed to make none of the old high school angst mean anything.

The most important thing for me was that all of these people had shared experiences with me and that they were a huge part of my childhood, for good or ill.  I did not feel this way in 1986, but by 2006, I thought it was odd that I spent almost every single day of my life with a certain group of individuals, during our most formative years, and then I try hard to forget their existence after high school.  I wanted to know these people again, and share experiences, memories.

This led to a reunion within a reunion.  I, with the help of a few friends, got all of the people who went to our elementary school together for a group photo and chat session, and I found that to be far more rewarding than the actual reunion.

This led to what we call the “Roberts Gang” reunion (named for the school), which was held a few years later at my friend’s house.  We always planned to have them more often, but never have.  Some live too far away, and life gets in the way, etc…

We stay in touch through FaceBook, and some of us meet up occasionally at events and whatnot, and I am glad for the rekindled friendships, however distant they may be.  These people are important to me now, and I hope that we can remain friends forever.

One of our clan, however, is dying.  I do not know the exact details, but it seems as though she will be passing very soon.  Her family is keeping a tight net around her so that she may be at peace, and we get bits of information from time to time.  She could go at any minute, or next week, or it may have happened an hour ago already.

She had breast cancer a few years ago, which went into remission, and then came back about two years ago.  This cancer spread to her lungs, throat, and brain quickly and aggressively.  She tried every single protocol that her doctors recommended, even the experimental ones, and she just got worse and worse.

I tried to help her by sharing my non-invasive protocol of diet and exercise.  I gave her recipes, and even brought her fresh veggies and meals on occasion.  However, my protocol meant a major lifestyle change, and oncologists and western doctors everywhere mocked it.  She was scared, and did whatever her doctors told her that she needed to do to prolong her life.

Note: in these kinds of situations, the doctors never say that they are going to kill the cancer or help the patient to beat it, but only to prolong the inevitable death.  How is that okay with anyone?!?!?

Anyway, I beat my pancreatic cancer with nutrition and exercise and a major lifestyle change.  I did not do the chemo and radiation that my doctor recommended, and I am healthier now than I have ever been.

Which brings me to the emotional aspect of my friend dying; I cannot help but to feel shame and bitterness that she is dying while I am healthier than ever.  Why am I okay and she is dying?  She does not deserve to die so horribly, so why do I deserve to live so healthfully?  She is a good person who has done nothing but work hard and do right for her family.  I also cannot help but be a little angry at her for not really taking my advice seriously, just as I am also deeply saddened by her sickness and loss of life.

I am also ashamed that I could not do more for her.  Our friends have done all sorts of things to help her and her family from buying groceries to paying bills to raising money for funeral costs.  My financial ruin in the past couple years prevented me from doing much for her, and I feel guilty about that.  I want to do more, but I have been so limited in my capacities.

And when she passes, I feel like a link to my childhood will also pass.  Another friend from our elementary school recently passed from a sudden heart attack, and I could not help but feel that loss, as well.  I am not ready to lose another childhood friend, for her sake as well as my own.

I never realized that loss could be so selfish.

She and I were not best friends, but she was a good friend.  She is a kind soul that loved her family and all the people in her life.  She is an important memory—a link to my past—and she is a significant participant in my reconnecting with this past and all our friends.

And of course I never told her any of this, because that is not what I do, so I also feel a little shame that I did not try harder to be a better friend when there was time.  And so, with what time is left, I write this meaningless tribute.

I love you, Connie.  Thank you for being my friend.  Rest well, and be at peace.

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The CT Scan

I had pancreatic cancer.  I have written about some of my experience with it here, and here.  I beat it, but I get regular CT Scans 2 or 3 times a year since my surgery two years ago just to check up and make sure that nothing is coming back.  So far, so good.

Yesterday, I had another CT scan.  Since I started writing a few weeks ago, I find myself deconstructing every little event in my life, and when I started to really think about the process of having a CT scan, I just about giggled throughout the whole experience.

CT scans are just the best!  First, they make you drink a gallon of water over the course of the day, making sure to have another 32 ounces 1 hour before the procedure.  Then, they make you wait.  You have to strip down to your undies and socks and wear a ridiculous gown that guarantees a peep show for everyone else in the lobby.  Then you sit where the thermostat is set for 42 degrees and wait…and wait.

When they finally call you in, the excitement is palpable, because you were just about to go to the bathroom for the fifth time in the last 20 minutes, but you decide to hold it in since you are going in for the procedure.  Except that you are not going in for the procedure; you are just getting your blood pressure checked, and you have to answer the same exact questions that you answered on the intake forms, and to the first two lab techs that greeted you before this point in the process.

Once this is done, then you get to pee, and wait…and wait…and pee…and wait some more.  After about an hour and about a dozen trips to the bathroom, it is finally time to go in for the actual scan.  And guess what?  They want you to drink another 20 ounces of water.  This is to fill the stomach so that they can discern all the other organs.  They are trying to find the pancreas, which is very difficult to locate, and all the extra water is meant to help their process.  I think they just want me to pee myself.

Once the water is guzzled, then they lay me on a long table that will insert me into a gigantic magnetic donut.  Once I am comfortable and ready for the scan (and another pee), they ask me another set of the same exact questions that I have already answered three times already in this one visit—and this is not even my first visit to this lab, so I know they already have all of this information.  They just want to stall, I am sure of it.

Then it is time to stick the lawn dart into the crook of my arm.  This injects the dye into my bloodstream so that they can get the magnetic imaging.  This dye is part iodine, part radioactive death.  It is called “nuclear imaging”, after all.  Now, I have to hold my arms over my head for the entire procedure.  I already have to pee badly again.

Now the actual scans begin.  I enter the giant donut and a robotic voice yells at me to BREATHE IN…HOLD IT…BREATHE OUT!!!  This goes on for a few minutes, and then they exit me out of the donut.  Finally, I am done, and I can go pee.

Nope!  That was just the control scan.  Now they release the dye for the real scan.

When the dye is released, there is a strange sensation all over the body starting with a warm gagging reflex in the throat, and then all the way down to the bladder, where it feels like I am actually relieving myself.  Then it is back into the donut for more scanning and yelling.  This goes on for another few minutes before the exit me out of the donut again, but I am still not done.  There is one more round inside the donut, just for funsies, I think.  But I think that it is to make me hold my bladder beyond what is healthy, ensuring an explosion from within.

I think that the CT scan does not officially end until I have wet myself.

I must have fooled them somehow, because they did let me leave the donut for good.  The whole process probably only lasted 20 minutes, but it felt like an eternity at the time.  They wanted to ask a few follow up questions but I ignored them and abruptly bolted out the door and down the hall

I had to pee, you know!

I know that the scan will come out clean.  I feel fine; this is just a formality.  But I also know that I will have several more of these to go in my lifetime.  The CT scan is a part of my life now.

I think that next time I will just not hold it so long, even if it means relieving myself of my dignity, as well.

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Pancreatic Cancer, part 2

I had pancreatic cancer.  I have written about it before, and I will probably write more about it in the future.  It was a significant event in my life; not the kind of thing one can simply say, “I had pancreatic cancer.  I’m over it now. The end.”

After my surgery, which is now two years in the past, I was assigned to an oncologist who immediately wanted me to have chemotherapy and radiation as a preventative treatment.  The thing was, all the cancer was gone.  The tumor had never metastasized, and no cancer ever entered my lymph nodes.  I came out of it clean as a whistle—sharp as a thistle.

The closest thing to a concern that the oncologist used to try to convince me to go the chemo and radiation route was that there was a perineural invasion; meaning that the cancer cells had spread to the space surrounding a nerve.  I can never be sure, but this sounds like double-speak to me.  First, he says that my margins were clean and nothing had spread, and then he says that I had a perineural invasion.  So, which is it, Doc?

Either way, I am not worried about it.  I have taken my own health into my own hands.  I eat foods that I know will heal my body, and I do Bikram Yoga, which I believe also heals the body.  I see my oncologist four times a year just to make sure that nothing is stewing inside of me, otherwise, my health is in my own hands. When I see my oncologist, I have a blood panel done before each visit, and I have a CT scan twice a year.  I have a CT scan scheduled for tomorrow, even though my next appointment with the doctor is not until the end of next month.

After my last CT scan in September, the scan showed a strange spot on what is left of the head of my pancreas.  The oncologist was unclear as to the nature of that mysterious spot.  It could be a new tumor growing, or it could be a thumbprint.  Who knows?  Even though my blood work came back perfect, the oncologist decided that I should have a full PET scan right away to double check.  That scan still showed the mystery spot, but also showed no signs of any malignant hot spots.  In other words, everything was still inconclusive.  Aside from the mystery spot, I was still clean.

And now it is time to do it all over again.  I will do my blood work next week, I guess, even though I had not planned to do it until next month closer to my appointment date.

I am not at all worried about the results.  I feel great.  The main reason for my healthy state right now is my diet.  Even though I am not as careful about my diet as I was in the first year after the surgery, I still eat healthier than most Americans (I know that does not say much).  My meals are healthy, but I have been eating a lot of sugary sweets of late, and refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are big no-no’s when you want to keep the cancer away.  I even had a couple cocktails on New Years Eve (gasp!).  Alcohol is another big no-no.  If I were to go get a Latte right now, I could have the Hat Trick.

The other factor to my sustained health is Bikram Yoga, but I have not been able to go as often as I want lately.  I firmly believe that the Bikram Yoga is one of the key elements to my recovery after surgery and in my overall health.  All that sweating and detoxifying makes me feel clean inside and out.  I know that it helped me to clean-out all the harsh drugs that stayed in my body after the surgery (anesthesia, morphine, vicodin, etc…), and it made my compromised body feel so much better.

I will definitely need to do some Yoga this week after the CT scan since I have to take the dreaded Prednisone for the scan; not to mention the radiation from the scan itself.  After my very first CT scan, even before the surgery, I developed a horrible itching that began about four days after the scan, and lasted for two days.  I scratched until I bled; it was that uncontrollable.  Although no doctor or lab tech can tell me why this happened, we believe it may be a reaction to the iodine that is injected as part of the scan.  Since that one reaction, I take Prednisone as a precautionary measure.  I only take a small amount, two 40 mg tablets twelve hours before the scan.  That is not enough to cause any of the side effects associated with long-term Prednisone use (risk of infection, liver damage, cataracts, thinning of bones and/or skin, etc…), but I still do not want that poison in my body!  The Yoga will help to sweat that crap away.

I have grown complacent about my health recently.  I have gone maverick and decided that I am indestructible, and that the cancer will never return.  It is almost as if I am challenging it to come back.  I do not know if that is common amongst survivors, but I literally have no fear of its return.  I think that since my surgery and recovery were so easy, and I became healthier than ever afterward, I do not associate any dread to having the cancer at all.

I also believe in the human body’s amazing powers of healing.  I know that the Living Foods diet that I adopted after the surgery helped to restore my body’s cells to a healthier state than they ever were before. I also believe that by refusing chemotherapy and radiation that I helped to prolong my life by not destroying my organs and cells in the process.  I mentioned this in my last essay about pancreatic cancer, and I will iterate what I said then: My campaign against chemotherapy and radiation is the subject of its own essay, and I will not go too deeply into it here.  Nevertheless, I do believe that chemo and radiation does more to harm people than it does to help them.  Ask any oncologist if they would recommend it to themselves or their children if they had cancer.

I say that having pancreatic cancer was a significant event in my life, and I suppose that is true, but I guess that I have never taken it too seriously.  Even when I was sick, with no idea whether the tumor was malignant or not, I did not worry about it.  I wanted results, and I wanted to get past it, but I did not worry about dying.  Call it pragmatism, or perhaps you can call it naiveté, but I always saw it as a hassle beyond which I needed to move.

I think that is still my mentality.  I got past it too easily, and if it does come back, I will just do that again.  I still live with the faint notion that it could come back, but I have a much stronger sense that it will not.  And maybe the power of my positive thinking is keeping it all at bay.

So, I go through the motions.  I do my CT scans and my blood work, and I visit my oncologist.  Actually, the oncology visits are a pleasure for me since I am still so healthy even without the chemo and radiation that my doctor insisted was necessary.  Before he realized that I was never going to see the radiologist that he referred, my oncology appointments were tedious and thorough.  After the first three check-ups, when I was still healthy in spite of his warnings, my oncologist became cold and the appointments barely last ten minutes.  I get great satisfaction in that!

Perhaps, though, this time will be different, there will be a new tumor, and I will get sick again.  Perhaps my lapse in healthy eating and lack of Yoga classes will catch up with me and I will no longer be able to ward off the Specter of Death.  Perhaps even now, there is a malignancy eating away at my once healthy body and it is too late to reverse it.

However, that would mean that I would shuffle off this mortal coil too soon, and leave my son without his Papa.  And that is something that simply cannot happen.

But, I think that is the subject of another essay.

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Pancreatic Cancer, or How Dominos Pizza Saved My Life

It seems almost impossible to think of it now, but I had cancer.  Pancreatic cancer.  You know, the kind that likes to kill you quickly and without warning.  Two years ago this month, I had a malignant tumor removed from the backside of the head of my pancreas in a procedure technically known as a Pancreaticoduodenectomy, but more commonly referred to as
“The Whipple Procedure.”  If you are the morbid type (I’m not), you can watch a video of the surgery here (this is not my actual surgery, BTW)… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LpPoE6tK0SY.

It all started in the wee hours of October 27th, 2010 when I woke up with a sharp pressure and pain under my sternum that felt like a gas bubble ready to burst.  I had no symptoms of feeling ill before this point.  Actually, in August of 2010, during a routine check up and blood tests, my doctor announced that I was suddenly diabetic, even though I had never shown signs of being one before.  My glucose levels were in the low-range of being high (135), and so he did what any Western doctor of any merit would do; he gave me a prescription for Metformin and chose not to investigate it any further.

Once I got news that I was suddenly diabetic, I decided to take action for myself.  I began to exercise more consistently, change my eating habits, and lose weight.  I was a little overweight at the time—212 lbs in a medium, six-foot two-inch frame.  I was not exactly obese, but I had little extra padding.  However, I figured that it was enough to warrant the diabetic diagnosis, and with the history of diabetes in my family, it certainly did not hurt to change my lifestyle for the better.

I should mention that I felt fine this whole time and did not suspect any major health concerns around the corner.  My cholesterol was high, but it had always been high.  Same with my triglycerides.  I had always figured that those issues were also hereditary, and that I would have to live with it in spite of my best efforts to lower them.

Well, my best efforts were going to get better. Even though I hated exercise, I trundled myself off to the gym about four days a week.  My son and I would play racquetball and speed walk on the treadmill.  I also chose to drastically change my diet.  My son’s mom (my former wife) had recently gotten into the Raw Foods, or Living Foods, diet, and I started to steal recipes from her.  It was a change to be sure, but I was determined to live a much healthier life.  I gave up refined sugars and fast food years ago, except for pizza, and so I already felt as though I ate better than the majority of the population anyway.  Going Raw was just another step toward making my life healthier, thinner, and cholesterol and diabetes free.Image

I have always hated taking medications, and I would rather fix any existing problems in my body with dietary changes than with harsh, synthetic chemicals.  Even more than that, I have always thought that preventing illness and doctor’s visits by keeping your body strong and healthy was better than waiting until you were sick to see a doctor.  Nevertheless, I had diabetes, and I needed to fix the problem.

I spent the next two months eating a diet that was roughly 50% Raw and 50% cooked.  I tried to eliminate as many processed foods as I could, and just cook fresh when I cooked at all.  I stopped dining out altogether.

On the late afternoon of October 26th, 2010, I came home from work tired, and to a house full of chores.  I had cat boxes to change, bunny cages to clean, dishes to wash, and laundry to fold.  I also had schoolwork to complete, and most importantly, a live stream of the Phish concert to listen to over the internet!  I really did not feel like cooking dinner, and so I ordered a pizza.

After eating like a saint for two months, I did not take into consideration that eating a cheap delivery pizza would bother me in the least.  I guess old habits die-hard.  However, the pizza went down well, and I did not think anything of it.

However, I did wake up in the middle of the night in severe pain and tried to relieve it with a baking soda and water cocktail.  It did not help, but I made it through the rest of the night in and out of sleep.  By morning, I knew that the pizza was a bad idea.

I remained nauseous, with bouts of sharp stabbing pain under my sternum for about two-and-a-half weeks.  I figured it was just a bad reaction to the pizza after having been so good with my diet prior to all of this, and that it would go away soon enough.

I did not go away.

So, on Sunday, November 14th, 2010, I checked myself into the Emergency Room at Mercy San Juan in Carmichael, CA because I did not know what else to do.  I had never been sick like this before, and so I figured it was time for the professionals to have a look at me.  I felt silly, since it was probably just a lengthy bout of nausea, but it was starting to affect my work.  I could not sleep well, or eat well, and I was weak from feeling sick for two-and-a-half weeks.  I was desperate for any type of relief, even if it meant taking harsh, synthetic chemicals.

When I got to the Emergency Room, they took one look at me and admitted me right away.  Apparently, I was yellow from jaundice all over.  I have crappy lighting in my apartment, so I had no idea that I was tuning into an Oompa Loompa.  After a series of blood tests, CT scans, and Ultrasound scans, the doctors finally explained that there were only two reasons for my symptoms and jaundice: gallstones, or a tumor on my pancreas.

I was rooting for gallstones.

After all, there was clearly something blocking my Common Bile Duct, which explained the jaundice and the nausea (plus other symptoms too nasty to describe here).  Now, the doctors only needed to discover what was causing all the commotion inside of me.  I went in for an endoscopy the next day, and they discovered the tumor on the backside of my pancreas.  Unfortunately, the location of the tumor was such that they could not do a simple biopsy to check for malignancy.  We knew that the tumor was there, but we had no idea if it was benign or malignant.

I needed a special kind of biopsy that my cheap-ass insurance did not cover.

Now that we knew that I had a tumor on my pancreas, and that it needed to be removed, I only needed a surgeon to remove said tumor.  Not so fast!  Apparently, the procedure to remove said tumor is a specialty surgery, and no surgeon in that hospital would touch me.  In fact, with my cheap-ass insurance, no surgeon on my plan would touch me.  I now had to wait for my insurance to find a surgeon to do the procedure, which meant that time now moved at bureaucratic speed, while to tumor continued to grow.

So, I took matters into my own hands once again.  With the assistance of my former wife, Heather, I went on a full Raw Foods diet.  There are probably dozens upon dozens of blogs out there that could explain how Raw Foods heals the body by providing the necessary enzymes and nutrients that are lost when food is cooked and processed.  I do not need to go into it here.  However, I will say that after drinking tons of beet/red cabbage/carrot/apple juice and eating various Living Foods concoctions, my tumor actually shrunk by the time I had my surgery.Image

Again, my tumor shrunk while I was waiting for all the bureaucratic bullshit to lead me to a competent surgeon.  Overall, it was only a month-and-a-half, but it sure felt like an eternity

When I had my endoscopy and CT scan in November, my tumor measured 2.7 cm.  When I had my surgery on January 3, 2011, it was only 1.5 cm.  I absolutely credit that to the juicing and Living Foods diet.  In retrospect, I wonder if I needed the surgery at all.

I am glad that I did have the surgery.  The tumor was malignant, and the cancer was classified as between Stage 1 and Stage 2.  I could have killed it with the juicing and Living Foods, but I wanted that fucker out of me!

It was an odd feeling to not know what was happening inside of me.  I cannot say that I was scared; rather, I only felt apprehensive at not knowing what my future held.  Until the surgery, we had no idea if the tumor was malignant or not. I kept telling myself that if I did not know, then I had nothing to be worried about.  When I knew, then I could worry.  That is the same exact advice that I gave my 10-year old son.

The Pancreaticoduodenectomy is a harsh surgery that takes weeks from which to recover.  I had my entire first section of the small intestines removed (the duodenum), my gall bladder, my common bile duct, part of my stomach, and most of the head of my pancreas removed.  They actually had to remove my stomach like an engine block to get to the pancreas before reconnecting it.  Overall, that is a multitude of stitches reconnecting my parts.  My abdomen had twenty-nine staples to zip me back up.  My niece called it “Frankenbelly.”

Image

The surgery was a wonderful success.  All of my margins were clean, and the cancer had not spread to any lymph nodes.  There was a peri-neural invasion, meaning the tumor had brushed against one of my nerves, so my oncologist pushed hard for chemotherapy and radiation.  I refused because I do not believe that those methods are helpful at all.  In fact, in my own research, I could not find a single doctor who would recommend chemo and radiation for themselves if they were battling cancer.  Without going too deep into it here, I found that chemo and radiation lowers a person’s immune system to its lowest levels, which only makes their bodies the perfect environment for cancer to return and thrive.  I chose to continue with the Raw Foods diet.

Along with the Living Foods diet, I started Bikram Yoga as soon as I could walk again.  I mentioned earlier that I never liked to exercise, but I connected with the Hot Yoga immediately.  The extra sweating and purging of toxins in my body, as well as the promise of a more flexible and strong body made me want to go to class every day.  I could feel myself not only recovering from the surgery and the cancer ordeal, but I could feel myself getting stronger—invincible, even.  With the healthy diet and the yoga, I was detoxifying my body in a way that I was certain to keep me cancer-free forever.  In addition, all of my diabetes symptoms were gone.  My glucose went back down to a healthy 97, and my cholesterol and triglyceride levels are well below the danger zone.

Two years later, I am still doing the yoga, but I have lapsed in my diet.  I eat whatever the hell I want, these days, although that usually means fresh and organic foods. I still juice semi-regularly, and eat some Raw Foods.  I have gotten complacent since my check-ups are always clean, and there is no sign of the cancer coming back.  I feel healthier than I have ever felt in my life.

All told, I lost 53 lbs, before gaining about 8-10 of it back.  I lost 20 lbs when I was sick before my surgery. I then lost another 20 lbs in the hospital, since they would not let me eat for an entire week before my digestive tract proved it would work again.  Then I lost another 10 lbs at home during my recovery.  It was a great weight loss program, but I do not recommend it for everyone.

My oncologist is cold to me now, and cannot wait to get me out of his office these days since my check-ups are always good.  He hates that I refused chemo and radiation, and I can almost see a look in his eyes that says that he wishes me to relapse.

But hey, I am indestructible!

So then, to recap: I had a tumor growing on my pancreas for a couple of months before I realized it.  This first manifested itself as diabetes (the pancreas regulates insulin), but had otherwise not shown itself in any obvious way.  I have had several doctors tell me later that pancreatic cancer is especially sneaky, and that by the time that most people realize that they have it, it is too late.

When I ordered that pizza on that tired and lazy afternoon, the fat from the pizza actually caused my pancreas and liver to inflame, which forced the tumor over onto my common bile duct, which then caused all of the symptoms that led me to the hospital.

So yes, Dominos Pizza saved my life.

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