Exercising My Power of Psychoneuroimmuniology

24 05 2010

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I was scheduled for brain surgery on 5/21.  However, the neurosurgeon called in sick just as I was being prepped for surgery at 6am.  At the time of this blog entry, I don’t know when it will be rescheduled as his assistant was also on vacation for the day.

(5/26 update: surgery rescheduled for 6/2)

I started to have panic attacks after not sleeping deeply due to the steroids.  My doctor prescribed sleeping pills which I resisted taking, opting instead to lower my night time dose of the steroid.  However, I’m taking the sleeping pills now — and an additional anti-anxiety pill in the afternoon just to get me though to surgery.

Until I actually go into surgery, I’m exploring how to exercise my power of psychoneuroimmuniology.  It’s simple, right?  Fear vs love.  Perceptions of fear lowers our immune response and perceptions of love enhances our immune response.  It’s our body’s perceptions, correct or not, that regulates our immune system.  However, these perceptions of love and fear are mostly part of our habitual mind (aka subconscious).  The habitual mind is just running a recording, like learning to drive.  Once you know how to drive a stick shift, you don’t have to think about it again and can focus your conscious mind on something else while you drive.  To make things even more difficult, the conscious mind and habitual mind work very well independently so as not to drive you crazy.

So then how do I tap into my habitual mind to promote deep feelings of love?  Where do I start?  Considering I spent the last year doing daily positive affirmation work, you’d  think there wouldn’t be anything left — but I have to approach this from a “beginner’s mind”.   I decided to “go within” and meditate on it.

Time dilated.  I must have need to just relax and mediate — without being on any anxiety drugs.  I was going deep.  “You’re not what you do.  You’re not what you own.”  Then a flash off light.  My mom took my picture while I meditated.  How annoying!  I went back to the guest bedroom to escape my singular paparazzi.  All I could do was laugh.  I went back to finish my meditation and remembered how a co-worker teased me about going to lunch at Fat Burger and reveling in the greasy meatiness.  Both him and I had a great laugh — but my next thought was how long it’s been since I’d laughed like that,  not for several weeks at least.  Since then, not for several weeks until today.  I think I had my answer: “Enjoy all the humor around you“.

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Bad News

9 05 2010

I was shocked to see the MRI pictures.  The large empty tumor bed from the original surgery had filled up with fluid and was compressing the left side of my brain in all directions: front, back, and even compressing the very base of my brain.  If I had never seen this MRI, I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong.  I guess I was just lucky to not have any major symptoms yet: seizures, numbness on my left side, etc.   My oncologist put me immediately on steroids to reduce the swelling and I was very happy to take them — although they would lower my immune system which was sort of the opposite thing you want to do when you have cancer.

The following Tuesday, I reviewed the MRI scans with a neurosurgeon and neuro-oncologist.   We agreed on doing an “open incision” biopsy on May 21st to see what was going on with the other side of the tumor bed — it looked massive and angry in the MRI scan dwarfing the original tiny cancer on the opposite side that we had all been focused on for the last two years.  The surgeon explained to me that the best case scenario would be a diagnosis of “radiation necrosis”.  The worse case would be for the biopsy result to be “glioblastoma” — then they would need to go in again and take out about 95% of the tumor.  The difficulty here is that what seems to be angry-looking is very close to my motor-cortex, the part of my brain that controls the my right side of my body.  The surgeon explained that I could be paralyzed on my right side, but I could opt to be awake for the surgery if I wanted to be just to make sure that my motor functions would stay in tack.  “Whatever it takes”, I thought to myself.

Towards the end of my meeting with these doctors, my neuro-oncologist asked if I had read “Anticancer: A New Way of Living”.  I told him I had (didn’t mention this blog) but that I had read an even better book: “The China Study”.  I explained how it became clear that, in a lab mice, you could turn cancer on and off by adjusting the amount of animal protein in their diet.  I noticed the neuro-oncologist shaking his head in agreement (perhaps just to humor me) but the neurosurgeon turn to me and asked: “are you macrobiotic, vegan?”  I looked at him and nodded.  His reply was a comment on how difficult the vegan diet was to keep and that he was a “localvore” himself attempting to grow his own garden.  Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting the topic of plant-based nutrition to come up but the book “Anticancer” seems to have legitimated the conversation on the relationship between food and cancer — even if the “Anticancer” book, which recommends some meat and dairy, did get it wrong.

They signed me up for a special “mapping” MRI of my motor-cortex and a simple MRI for the brain-lab.

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Later, I met one-on-one with the neurosurgeon to review the results of the mapping MRI.  It turns out the risk of paralysis would be low.  The mapping MRI showed my motor-cortex was a safe distance away from the area they were worried about.  However, he wanted a lab tech to wire up the right side of my body during surgery so as not to harm the bundle of fibers that ran from the motor-cortex to the rest of my body.  Nicking these fibers could cause paralysis for about six weeks.  Overall, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.

Looking at the brain-lab MRI, I noticed that the tumor bed was mostly empty, with a combination of protein fluid and blood filling only half way.  So the swelling had gone down, but there was still an angry half-inch margin glowing in the MRI.  Along with a relatively new large area which seems to be the source of the problem.

The neurosurgeon and I had come to an agreement I that could feel good about: he would continue to go in and pull out biopsies and have someone there on-hand to type them.  If they came back, “radiation necrosis” then he’d stop.  If not, then he’d get as much as he could.  That would be the plan.

===

So there I was Friday, May 21th at 6am with my mom, step-father, and my brother being prepped for surgery.  I had to shave my beard off the night before, and get re-aquatinted with the bare face that I haven’t seen since the first incision.  The nurse couldn’t find a vein to tap so she put a warm towel on my arm and left the room.  When she returned, she told me that the doctor was not feeling well and canceled the surgery.

In disbelief, we all went out to breakfast since it was early and I could not have anything after mid-night.

Later, the realization would sink in.  We were going to have to start over: another set of MRIs for the brain lab.  Then there’s the issue of what to do between doctor’s appointments?  Since I’m already doing everything I can with regards to following a strict vegan diet, I’ve decided to focus more on the psychoneuroimmuniology aspects of cancer.  I firmly believe I can shrink, calm down, heal, reverse the angry brain cells.  Where the emphasis used to be green-smoothies, I need to figure out my deeper calling, tap into a deeper meaning, and grab a hold of a deeper passion for life.





Radio Script

14 04 2010

Do you know someone who has been struggling with their obesity?

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Is that someone you?

I’ll bet you didn’t know that obesity, diabetes and heart disease are reversible.

Without drugs.

Research has shown that following a whole-food plant-based diet will free you from your cholesterol medication, reverse your heart-disease, reverse your diabetes and safely normalize your weight.

Interested?

Get started today. Visit: TColinCampbell.org


This was a class project for Diseases of Affluence





Animal Protein “Feeds” Cancer

13 04 2010

Research shows eating a diet high in animal protein feeds cancer.  A study in 1992 experimented with two groups of lab rats.  The first group was fed 20% animal protein which was a little lower than what a typical adult on the Standard American Diet eats.  The second group of rats were fed only 5% animal protein.  Each was exposed to aflatoxin, a known carcinogen in the development of liver cancer.  After 100 weeks, all rats on the high animal protein diet were dead from liver cancer.  The rats on the low animal protein were all alive, active and showed few to no signs of “tumor burden”.  In fact, scientists were able to turn cancer growth on and off just by changing the amount of protein in the rats diet.  [1]

In human populations, a diet high in animal-protein can be correlated with high incidents of cancer.  One epidemiological study done in the ’80s, demonstrated that when Japanese women migrated to Hawaii, their risk of breast cancer tripled.  Other migration studies confirmed that a woman’s risk for breast cancer changes when she moves to a new country.  These type of effects on breast cancer rates could only change if breast cancer is linked to changes in “lifestyle”, not anything else.  Additionally, The World Cancer Research Fund published a report in 1997 that showed plant-based foods protect and animal-based foods enhance breast cancer. [#]

No matter how advanced your cancer is or what cancer treatment you are on, starting a whole-food plant-based diet will benefit you today.  When you first switch to a plant-based diet, you will most likely feed terrible — but it’s temporary and necessary.  Your body is simply re-calibrating itself.  Later, you’ll discover that your body is renewing itself: your sense of smell is stronger, your sense of taste is broader, your body has more energy and is more agile, your eyesight will improve, and on and on.  You’ll also find that your weight will being to drop slowly and safely.  If you are on drugs for diabetes or cholesterol, you’ll need to visit your doctor to see, not if, but when you can stop taking them.  The benefits are numerous and if you are struggling with cancer — a whole-food plant-based diet will give you the upper hand you’ve been looking for.  You have the power to turn off cancer, and it begins at your fork.

1. Youngman LD, Campbell TC. Inhibition of aflatoxin B1-induced gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase positive (GGT+) hepatic preneoplastic foci and tumors by low protein diets: evidence that altered GGT+ foci indicate neoplastic potential. Carcinogenesis 1992;13:1607–13


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WTF MRI

19 02 2010

Frustration.  That’s the “F” in title.  MRI’s are not the most clear-cut tool but it’s better than the alternative: opening one’s head up and poking around with a knife.  I can tell my doctors are getting frustrated with me as well — they don’t like working with ambiguity either.  My doctors clearly want me to have surgery to cut out the “enhanced” (MRI lingo for “questionable”) parts of my brain so that they can examine it more closely.  I’ve been through brain surgery hell before, and I’m not about to go through it again — only as a last resort and my doctors know that.  With that said, here’s my latest MRI results.

1) The “tumor” continues to regress, two doctors have told me this.  I’m putting the “tumor” in quotes because as the “tumor” regresses the doctors seem to also be changing their diagnosis to “radiation necrosis”.  You see in their experience cancer just gets worse, not better.  If the “tumor” regresses then it must be “radiation necrosis” from my radiation treatments 8 years ago.  And yes, “radiation necrosis” just goes away on it’s own after a time.

2) There’s a new area of “enhancement” about 1cm wide and .5cm deep directly across the old tumor bed.  This the doctors suspect as “tumor” or “radiation necrosis” and they’d like to have surgery on me to figure out what it is.  Not so fast, I think I want to wait for another scan for three reasons: 1) there’s no inflammation (a sign of cancer), 2) there’s no blood leaking out into old tumor bed cavity (a sign of cancer) and 3) I’m not having any symptoms.  If two out of three were true, then I’d definitely think it was cancer.

If you haven’t been following along in this blog, the “tumor” regression started as I started transitioning to a vegan diet.  I have to say after 7 months going vegan, I haven’t felt this good in at least 10 years — before the original brain tumor.  My blood pressure is perfect.  I’ve lost 20 lbs.  My strength is great and my energy is good.  I feel healthy and happy and I have a difficult time believing that what the MRI is showing is disease progression — maybe what we’re looking at is simply the body healing itself. Hopefully, the next MRI in two months will be a bit more definitive.





4 Keys to Natural Healing for 2010

29 12 2009

With the start of the New Year, you are going to be bombarded with ads for weight-loss programs.  Gyms everywhere will be deluged with people looking to burn off all those holiday meals and deserts consumed since Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, the period between Thanksgiving and New Years is known for the greatest number of heart attacks all year.  So if you’re looking to make a fresh start this year and are determined to have better health this year than last, allow me to make a few suggestion that will turn up your body’s natural healing processes.

1. Transition to a whole-food plant-centered vegan diet. T. Collin Campbell, PhD describes in his book, “The China Study“, the ability of a whole-food plant-centered diet to reverse cancer at any stage.  One study which seems to put this to the test showed that men with prostate cancer realized an improvement in their PSA tests after one year on a vegan diet[1].  Additionally, a vegan diet has been proven to reverse heart disease[2] as well as diabetes[3].  Three good reasons to go vegan!  Want to get started?  Here’s a website to help you out: 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program

2. Consciously change how you think. Researchers in the field of pyschoneuroimmunology study how the mind regulates the immune system.  For example, if you feel hopeless, your immune system is weakened.  If you feel hopeful, your immune system is strengthened.  Yet both feelings are simply subjective states of mind which you have complete power over.  In the book “You can heal your life” Louise Hay, a cancer survivor, talks about how anyone can rewire their brain to heal their body through the use of affirmations, such as this one for cancer:

I lovingly forgive and release all of the past.
I choose to fill my world with joy.
I love and approve of myself.

Don’t underestimate the power of your mind over your body’s ability to heal.

3. Meditate. Mediation when done properly harmonizes the organs in your body and relaxes the mind.  However, turning off one’s inner dialog and entering a space of deep meditation is easy for some and very difficult for others.  If you’ve never done mediation before, please start by taking a little bit of time on a regular interval to mediate.  You’ll see the benefits of meditation begin to show up soon after and there are many books on the subject to get you started.  One place you might want to visit is UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center to download free guided meditations.

4. Moderate exercise.  In the book “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD says:

Studies show that physical exercise helps the body fight cancer.  But the required dose isn’t the same for all cancers. … For breast cancer, there seems to be a measurable effect after three to five hours a week of walking at normal speed.  For cancer of the colon and rectum, twice as much is needed to have a comparable effect. … Finally, to have an effect on prostate cancer … the equivalent of three hours of jogging spread out over the week. [p.189]

Exercise is a powerful weapon in the fight against cancer but it is so simple and basic, it is easily over looked.  So find a yoga class that’s right for you.  Find a martial arts class that fits your schedule.  Find an indoor rock wall to climb or a public pool to swim, just find a way to move your body and build your endurance — pick any activity you enjoy.  Get out there and get your heart pumping!

Footnotes:

1. INTENSIVE LIFESTYLE CHANGES MAY AFFECT THE PROGRESSION OF PROSTATE CANCER

2. http://www.heartattackproof.com/

3. http://www.rawfor30days.com


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Survivor angst?

14 12 2009

This weekend marks an anniversary of sorts. December 12th 2008 was the day I started Temozolomide (chemo) treatment for a recurrent brain tumor.  After years of MRIs showing nothing, I was told in July ’08 that something was starting to show up.  In December ’08, there was now inflammation in the brain where the tumor was growing and my doctors wanted to do surgery — I bargained for the chemo option and started 12/12/08.  However, after six months of chemo and no improvement in my MRIs, I asked to stop.  Two months off chemo, the “tumor” regressed.  I explained to my doctor I was transitioning to a vegan diet and just finished one month of daily green smoothies.  My doctor looked at me as if looking at a space alien.  Two months later, the MRI came back as “interval decrease” which the doctor interpreted as “ongoing regression”.  I explained that I was following a vegan diet with green smoothies every other day, if not daily.  My doctor was intrigued and expressed interest in reading “The China Study”.  I’m continuing on a 95-99.8% vegan diet with green smoothies a few times a weeks.  My energy is increasing and I’m feeling healthy, but I’m also feeling what I’m calling survivor angst:

1) I feel the need to really kick my health into the highest gear possible.  After 9 months of feeling like crap, I’m ready to take full advantage of my improving good health.  I’m looking for a goal to accomplish to prove to myself I’m reaching peak health.  I’m kicking around a two year goal: marathon,  ironman, strongmans, or what?

2) I feel the need to get the word out that a vegan diet is a significant tool which can help reverse cancer.  I’ll continue writing this blog, and I’m planning on getting a “certificate in plant based nutrition” from Cornell University, but I feel the need to do something more, much more. Do I write a book?  Do I create a video blog?  Do I run around the US interviewing vegans who reversed their cancers?  Do I run around the US interviewing successful athletes who are vegan?  Do I get a PhD and do research in nutrition?  Do I purchase a ‘roach coach’, drive around and serve vegan meals to whomever wants it?

3) I feel the need to strengthen and solidify my vegan cooking skills.   I need to take more cooking classes — it’s as simple as that.  I’d really like to learn how to make raw vegan dishes as well as live food.

I’m a bubbling mixture of angst, and the holidays are magnifying my situation.  I’m leaving all this out in the open, tossing it into the capable hands of the universe.  …but I want to put this question out to you: where do you think all of this will lead me?  Place your bets now.