Solving My Cancer Puzzle – Part 1

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As part of healing from my latest bout with breast cancer I recently began working with a naturopathic oncologist. The last question on her intake form was, “Knowing we all have cancer cells and that cancer can take years to appear in the body, why do you think your cells “woke up” and started this process?”


Hmm…interesting question.


A lot of people believe cancer just happens – you’re simply unlucky if you get it. But the truth is cancer is the result of a scientific process and something triggers that process. This trigger is different for different people or one person may have a combination of triggers. Her question got me thinking about what some of my triggers could be.


And just as identifying why someone got cancer can be multi-faceted, so can the healing process. Treatments seem to work best when the cancer is attacked from several different angles. It’s kind of like a puzzle and there are a lot of pieces that are needed before you can create a complete picture.


Back in 2007, when faced with the diagnosis of breast cancer my puzzle pieces were a mixed bag of conventional and alternative methods. While they did include the big three conventional methods – surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, also included were things like diet, supplements, mind/body work, yoga, acupuncture, and high-dose vitamin C.


For almost nine years after treatment I felt great and enjoyed a cancer-free life. But everything changed in June 2016 when I was diagnosed with a recurrence of the same type of aggressive cancer – triple negative – in the same spot in the other breast. Turns out the radiation I had on my spine when I was 25 just may have been the culprit after all – a notion almost every oncologist I asked in 2007 dismissed.


Back in 2007 I had a pretty strong interest in nutrition, health and wellness, but no formal training. (I cringe to think of some of the things I may have posted online when I knew just enough to be dangerous!) Since then I’ve taken many college-level science and nutrition classes (including organic chemistry – yikes!), become a Certified Health Coach and began studying for a Masters in Nutrition and Functional Medicine. I also wrote and published my first book, Leave Cancer in the Dust: 50 Tips to Prevent Breast Cancer and Supercharge Your Health.


Things had definitely changed.


Over these past nine years as I’ve learned more and more, I’ve often wondered what I would do if diagnosed again. Knowing what I know now, would I opt for the same conventional treatments or have the strength to select a treatment plan more in line with my values and beliefs about disease? After all, it’s so easy to say “no surgery, chemo or radiation for me” when not actually faced with the decision. But immediately after my June diagnosis, I truly knew in my gut that going the route of mostly conventional treatment just wasn’t the right path for me anymore.


Since June, many people have asked what I am doing. I’d like to share this information with you. However, before doing so it’s important to state the following: I am not a doctor and am not telling you what to do should you face a cancer diagnosis. I am simply sharing with you the path I took. It is your responsibility to speak to your own doctor about your own treatment path and whether any of these things might be right for you. Capiche?


Great…here goes! (BTW, this is going to be a lot of info so it’ll be split into a multi-part post.)


When diagnosed in June, the primary tumor was a grade three, meaning very aggressive, and was twice the size as in 2007.


(Notice I didn’t say “my tumor”. I refuse to take ownership of it although I have thanked it many times for the path it has brought me on and for what it has taught me. I’ve also cursed it because, well, I’m not crazy. Who wants that noise??)


In addition, there were two smaller tumors. Had I spoken to a traditional oncologist, she likely would have sent me straight to the surgeon. There was no doubt about it – because of the size and the fact there were three tumors, this time around I was facing a double mastectomy and reconstruction. While many women choose that option, it didn’t feel right to me.


However, I also knew I didn’t have lot of time before the larger tumor started to spread due to its size and level of aggressiveness. If not for that, I may have taken the time to review my options and decided on a completely alternative route. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I had that kind of time and believed it was crucial to arrest the tumors’ progress as quickly as possible. Treatment plan number one needed to be powerful enough to do so.


Therefore, option Number One – the big gun – was Insulin Potentiation Therapy (IPT).


IPT is a method of administering traditional chemotherapy drugs in a way that targets cancer cells but largely spares healthy cells. One reason for this is the dosage of chemo used in each treatment is approximately 10 percent of a normal dose. In addition, because of how it’s administered the drug doesn’t target healthy cells.


It’s a complicate process but this is the simplest way to explain it:


IPT works by taking advantage of cancer cells’ love of glucose. The patient’s blood sugar is dropped to a relatively low level using fasting and insulin. While in that state, healthy cells shift from metabolizing glucose (because there isn’t much in the bloodstream at that time) to metabolizing fat.


Cancer cells, on the other hand, don’t have that kind of flexibility and rely on glucose to survive. When blood sugar is that low, cancer cells become desperate for glucose and will open up their cell membranes in an effort to get any that may be in the bloodstream.


At that point, a very low dose of chemotherapy is administered along with some form of sugar. (In my case it was dextrose administered intravenously combined with a carb-heavy meal consisting of fruit juice, a sandwich and a piece of fruit. And yes, sometimes I would use this as an excuse to eat a chocolate chip cookie…). The cancer cells voraciously consume the rush of glucose in the bloodstream. Unfortunately for them but lucky for the patient, the bad cells are also gobbling up the chemo drugs. Winning!


(It should also be noted that IPT does target other rapidly dividing cells such as those in hair follicles. Many patients, but not all, do lose their hair.)


To repeat, I am not recommending IPT; I am only telling you about my experience. This type of chemotherapy is controversial and very few places in the U.S. do it. It is also expensive and in many cases, not covered by insurance. However, for me it was a choice that aligned with my values and it just made sense to me. It also worked – after eight weeks of treatment the three tumors were invisible on an MRI.


Read here for more information about IPT.


Another major part of my healing program was detoxification. However, many conventional medicine doctors dismiss detoxing, insisting the liver is designed to do this on its own and doesn’t need your help. In the next post I’ll explain why I wholeheartedly and respectfully disagree and share several of my favorite detox methods – some gentle and some not for the faint of heart!


Informed. Empowered. FIERCE.





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One thought on “Solving My Cancer Puzzle – Part 1

  1. Julie

    Thank you for sharing! Had never heard of this treatment option before. A fascinating alternative. Sorry you had to go through this, but am grateful you are willing to write about your treatment decisions.

    Wishing you a healthy and happy 2017 and continued success in your pursuits!