Ten years ago a friend's father-in-law / friend's Dad / friend was given a death sentence on account of an aggressive inoperable brain tumour, for which there was no effective treatment. --- not being really close, I listened from afar for updates.
First it was: “he's fighting it”; Six months later it was: “still alive”-- as in, still fighting it; And another 6 or 8 months after that, it had transitioned into: "he's doing well"-- as in, it's a bloody miracle...
Fast forward a few years and he's fit as a fiddle and telling me: “there's nothing left on the MRI but scar tissue.”
(Bless him -- and his.)
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Not surprisingly his experience really stuck with me.
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More recently, however, I had two very different experiences with conventional Oncology: First, with a very close relative, and then, more extensively, with my Dad.
In both cases trust was placed firmly in the hands of the Oncologists, and treatment advice (though largely hollow) was held to be the letter of the law.
Both did exactly as they were told, and, to my disappointment — and in my dad's case, by the end, borderline despondence [ ‡ ] — both died; sort of 'on schedule.'
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One of the first positive results to come of those unfortunate experiences is this unusual (personally cathartic) and unapologetically piece-meal post.
Food for Thought:
(Optimism, Anecdote, and Abstraction)
“The immune system can respond to cancer cells in two ways: by reacting against tumor-specific antigens (molecules that are unique to cancer cells) or against tumor-associated antigens (molecules that are expressed differently by cancer cells and normal cells). ” ... “If properly activated by immunostimulatory tumor products or other factors in the tumor microenvironment, the dendritic cells induce effective tumor-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells.” ... “A recent study of three multicenter cohorts of 603 patients with colon cancer showed that the presence or absence of T cells in the resected tumor predicted the clinical outcome more accurately than tumor stage and nodal status, the current gold standards...Similar observations have been made in tumor specimens from patients with cervical cancer, breast cancer, urothelial carcinoma, and follicular lymphoma, as well as in lymph nodes draining the tumor site.” ... “A recent study examined 905 recipients of transplanted hearts, lungs, or both between 1989 and 2004 for the effect that immunosuppression, used for preventing graft rejection, had on the incidence of cancer. A total of 102 newly diagnosed cancers were detected in these patients, which is 7.1 times as many as in the general population. The predominant types were leukemias and lymphomas (26.2 times as many as in the general population), head and neck cancer (21 times as many) and lung cancer (9.3 times as many).”- (Cancer Immunology, O.J. Finn, New England Journal of Medicine, 2008.)
Anaerobic–Metabolic Tumour Stage-Setting
(In a nutshell:)
Cancer cells predominantly feed anaerobically (without oxygen), and are very acidifying to the surrounding tissue.
Acidification makes this anaerobic feeding more efficient, conventional respiration less so, and thus reinforces the tumour's ability to feed.
[**see notes 're: acidification' under Dr Russell Jaffe, below]Meanwhile anaerobic feeding is not unique to cancer cells; it's a very useful survival mechanism which many normal cells possess -- and can invoke as needed. i.e When the balance of power (re. ATP production) is tipped away from the mitochondria and towards fermentation. (e.g. In exhausted muscle tissue — starved for oxygen and inundated with lactic acid.)
The mitochondria are the normal 'power plants' (food suppliers) of the cell and, they're essential to apoptosis. (Apoptosis is our body's method of regulating the cell's life cycle -- initiating 'cellular suicide', and cannibalizing redundant or damaged cells.)
When and if apoptosis is functioning properly — executed by strong and healthy mitochondria — cancer is nipped not in-the-bud but, in the seed. (It never gets a chance to start.)
And conversely, when conditions favour anaerobic feeding — the mitochondria are under-powered (for any number of reasons), and apoptosis is undermined (or completely switched off) — the cell can reproduce, and reproduce, and reproduce;
i.e. The stage is perfectly set for epigenetic*, monopolistic, cancerous expression.
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More than 60 years ago Otto Warburg proclaimed he "discovered the cause of cancer" after observing that normal cells "become cancerous" when their oxygen supply is cut off. (They feed anaerobically and multiply uncontrollably...) But because apoptosis wasn't understood until relatively recently, it was impossible for anyone (including Warburg) to explain why the metabolic change (powering-down the mitochondria) caused this uncontrolled proliferation,
And as a result (sadly,) his breakthrough spent six decades relegated to the extreme metabolic margins of cancer research.
[*Remember, every cell in our body is the genetic descendant of a billion years or more of every-cell-for-itself, single-celled survival of the fittest. i.e. before our Great-Great-Great-Great(...) Ancestors began to mutate into more complex organisms (with mitochondrial dna) they were -- for a very very long time -- single-celled, anaerobic, cancer-ish amoebas...]
Dr Russell Jaffe on inflammation repair deficits, and "The Alkaline Way".
[Patient friendly guide, including a ph food-table and a buffered-vitamin-C detox protocol (here), and 'Perque Integrative Health', the company he founded (here).]
[ ** re. acidification: (1) Beware all the fraudulent crap, re. alkalizing "miracle cures". (2) It's important to note that we're not talking about blood-ph (the popular alkaline straw-man); we're talking about tissue/cell micro-environments—and many different kettles of fish....
And (3) just drinking a little more good water (un-softened... every day) — and a little less coffee, booz and fancy crap — is probably the most common-sense thing many of us can (and should) do...
[**Here's a good place to kick-off an academic investigation into the complicated and increasingly fractious science of induced acidosis (not 'acidaemia'): Diet-induced acidosis: is it real and clinically relevant?, Pizzorno (2010).]
For a brief contrarian anecdote re. diets and cancer, see 'a contrarian anecdote', note 'iv', four-fifths down the page. (Below 'an Oncologist talks about nutrition'.)]
[ Peer-reviewed literature generally isn't what it's cracked up to be.]
Dr. Herbert Benson & Allan Greg: Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief (1996)
[ ‘If you think you can you might be right;
if you think you can't you will be.’ ]
Note: Despite Dr. Benson insisting otherwise (then), it's now quite clear that suppression of the immune system from negative stress** and its consequences is nearly as sure-fire a method as there is for giving all diseases (including many cancers) a huge leg-up.
Dr Mark Hyman:
“ The answer[s] to our health care problems are not going to be found at the tip of a needle. They're not going to be found at the bottom of a pill bottle. They're going to be found at the tip of your fork. ”
“ Food is medicine... Your grocery store should be your pharmacy... We have to stop mopping up the floor with symptom controlling treatments. We have to turn off the faucet.”
David Servan-Schreiber (author of 'Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life').
ps: When Dr. Schreiber quotes the calcium & vitamin D study and says "ignore the calcium", personally, I wouldn't. (Calcium—like potassium, magnesium and zinc—buffers excess acids, Which supports the strength and health of the mitochondria; Which undermines the 'Warburg effect'; Which is how most cancers feed — and perhaps, in many cases, get their epigenetic start.)
That said, eating foods naturally rich in all minerals—and again, drinking a little more good water and a little less fancy crap—is probably an even smarter way to go. (i.e. In addition to vitamin D through winter, and into old age.)
[ Again, for a contrarian anecdote on diets and cancer see 'a contrarian anecdote' (note 'iv', below 'Donald Abrams on Nutrition') 4/5ths down the page.]
Tim Harford, trial and error, and 'the god complex' (aka hubris)
[ ‘The difference between learning and wisdom is the visceral
growing-pain that distinguishes the latter.’]
[ ‘The difference between learning and wisdom is the visceral
growing-pain that distinguishes the latter.’]
Dr. Bernie Siegel shooting his mouth off in "Fight For Your Life" (1987)
“God has given us free will to make love and life meaningful. This creates a critical risk because we now have the ability to destroy our universe if we choose not to love.
However, it is only in this critical time that the archetype of the miracle can appear. When one believes in love and miracles divine intervention can occur. We have an infinite number of choices ahead, but a finite number of endings. They are destruction and death or, love and healing. If we choose the path of love, we save ourselves and our universe.
Let us choose love and life.”
- Dr Siegel's strange, abstract (and occasionally wonderful) 1986 best-seller, "Love, Medicine and Miracles"
And here's a much more accessible old classic:
by Norman Coisins (1915-1990)]
Lissa Rankin, TEDx, on Mind Body Healing (2012) | Her best selling book: 'Mind over Medicine'
[Again: ‘If you think you can you might be right;
if you think you can't you will be.’ ]
Finding Hope Over Cancer
[Stephen Harper x Dr Phil, with a liberal education..]
Btw: the so-called "vitamin B17" ("amygdalin" / "laetrile", cyanide) narrative was a really long-running (formerly profitable) ex-bootleggers' cancer scam.
Christina Pirello (and a link to her cooking website)
An oncologist (Dr. Donald Abrams) talks about nutrition.
(i) Cutting down on omega 6 fats (e.g. canola oil, margarine, most vegetable oils, non-O3 eggs, peanuts, soy fat, corn fat...), supplementing O3 fats (modestly -- with high quality refrigerated fish oil, almonds, flax, anchovies, grass-fed everything but mercury laden high-order fish), and switching to a generally anti-inflammatory diet should, if you asked me, be a high priority for the vast majority of us.
[btw: The amount of omega 6 fats in the average 's.a.d.' diet (standard american diet) is so off the charts (thanks to corn, canola, and soy...) most of us can make a HUGE positive difference in o-3 to o-6 ratios just by steering clear of crap vegetable fats (cheap oils), buying olive oil in bulk (o-9) and switching back to traditional (saturated) fats like Canadian butter and tropical coconut oil.) and relearning grandma's scratch-cooking. (Home made dressings, sauces... you name it.)]
(ii) (Thankfully) Bovine growth hormone was not approved for use in Canada — thanks to a couple great scientists at Health Canada who took a principled stand (and were -- revoltingly -- fired because of it.)
[ps: Perhaps because I'm Irish–German Canadian (quarter bovine - ) I'm not the biggest fan of the 'starving Viking, extinction' reduction of cheese, yogurt and cream deliciousness; just fyi.]
(iii) re: the value of intelligent vitamin supplementation: (in case you missed it) a recent study found that vitamin D and calcium lowered cancer rates by 60-77% in 1100 post-menopausal American women.
If vitamin d and calcium could be patented (monopolized), and sold for $1500 a bottle, they'd easily have been branded the most revolutionary cancer breakthrough in history. (Along side vitamin c, garlic and good friends.)
(iv) A personal contrary anecdote on dietary prescriptions, vis-a-vis cancer:
(Take with a silo of salt:)
My Dad, at first, made something of a 'miraculous' recovery.
After a few days in the hospital (stuck in bed), and quite a few bags of much needed blood, he began to develop an "I can do it; To hell with it; What have I got to lose" attitude towards his otherwise bleak predicament.
The odds weren't good for his particular sub-type of acute myloid leukemia. And yet, while others with similar or better prognoses — but much more solemn dispositions — ate by the book and got worse (failing to achieve remission), my dad, with his "I'm going to beat it", relaxed earnest optimism picking-up steam, ate whatever he felt like (literally), and recovered.
[ E.g. a large Tim's morning coffee (first thing, every morning); tons of chocolate milk and orange juice; caesar salad, bacon, rhubarb pie, lasagna, summer sausage, roast beef, fruit salad, ice cream, schnitzel on a bun, 5 year old cheddar... you get the idea...]
***His health lasted every bit as long as his optimism.
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( Fyi / btw: [ ‡ ] We had more than cancer to resolve. )
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Long story -- you almost certainly don't want to hear.
William Donald Kelley* (a patient's memorial)
Kelley was an obsessive, half-crazy, (southern Pentecostal or Baptist) Orthodontist who 'found' religion (again — scared sh*tless) while waging and ultimately winning a lengthy battle with untreatable pancreatic cancer.
He went on to make remarkable strides by trial and error, and developed an individualized, dietary / metabolic / detox / immunological / everything AND the-kitchen-sink approach to treatment...
After attempting to treat Steve McQueen's (the 1960's Hollywood star's) terminal cancer, he became a whipping boy for the popular press — and was irrevocably branded as a quack.
This despite (1) there having been no conventional treatment available for McQueen's cancer; (2) McQueen actually having died of a heart attack, under anaesthesia; And (3), McQueen's surgeon (whose operation precipitated the heart attack) having reported that McQueen's tumour had, in fact, significantly decreased in size...
By the 80s Kelley was dividing his patients into some 9-ish different metabolic / disease profiles, and at least three of them he'd begun to regard as "definite meat eaters"; recognizing meat protein and animal fats as critically important to their health / disease profiles...
The pancreatic enzyme theory was based on the work of a Scottish Embryologist, John Beard, who observed (a century ago) that (1) the growth of a baby's umbilical cord 'resembles that of cancer'; with its rapid growth and "invasion of the mother, in search of a blood supply." And (2) it ceases to grow, in his words, "precisely when the baby's pancreas begins producing enzymes".
Beard's theories were published in 1905 as "The Trophoblast Theory of Cancer", and in 1911 as "The Enzyme Treatment of Cancer".
Presumably Kelly stumbled onto Beard while trying to save himself, and latched onto it as the best (believable) theoretical framework around. (One that appeared, then, to have been largely ignored...)
For what it's worth, believe it or not: Last I checked Beard and Kelly's unlikely successors, Dr Nicholas Gonzalez and Dr Linda Isacs, still had the best clinical and published results of any treatment protocol for inoperable pancreatic cancer.*
And — just as unlikely: It turns out Drs Gonzalez and Isacsons' standard dietary prescription for blood and immune cancers, like my dad's leukemia, includes "high animal protein and high fat."* (Which he, of course, thoroughly enjoyed during the to hell with it, smorgasbord days that kicked off the better part of his last year of life.)
Again, *take all this with an appropriate silo of salt.
(e.g. mineral rich sea-salt, on veggies, nuts, and greens; with a kelp supplement for iodine — and washed down with a tall drink of Ontario ground water.
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[ For more on crazy Kelley, and Gonzalez, see the intro to Gonzalez's book on Kelley.]
“Kostoglotov [said], "All I'm saying is that we shouldn't behave like rabbits and put our complete trust in doctors. For instance, I'm reading this book." He picked up a large, open book from the windowsill. "Abrikov and Stryukov, Pathological Anatomy, medical school textbook. It says here that the link between the development of tumours and the central nervous system has so far been very little studied. And this link is an amazing thing! It's written here in so many words." He found the place. "It happens rarely, but there are many cases of self induced healing.' You see how it's worded? Not recovery through treatment, but, actual healing, See?"
There was a stir throughout the ward. It was as though "self induced healing" had fluttered out of the great open book like a rainbow-coloured butterfly for everyone to see, and they all held up their foreheads and cheeks for its healing touch as it flew past. "Self-induced," said Kostoglotov, laying aside his book. He waved his hands, fingers splayed..."That means that suddenly for some unexplained reason the tumor starts off in the opposite direction! It gets smaller, resolves and finally disappears! See?”
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(Thanks for your interest,
and all the best.)