It’s so weird how my life has become dictated by cancer. Even in this relatively healthy place, where I’m going to the gym and buying my own groceries and riding herd over my own kids, there is no aspect of my life that hasn’t changed since my diagnosis. Side effects, neuropathy, crunchy skin, fatigue, etc. etc. And lately, I’ve been feeling a bit put-upon because of it.
Have I reached the end of my sunshine-y outlook? Am I really sick and tired of being sick and tired, or am I just not able to maintain my optimism anymore? I’m probably going to start a cutting-edge targeted genetic therapy trial by early May (I find out on Thursday) – why isn’t my oncologist’s enthusiasm for emerging treatments rubbing off on me?
Not only that, but I find myself extra-nervous about changing protocols. I know, that’s not unreasonable. But not just because of the potential side effects and change in my lifestyle; what if they work? No, seriously. I’ve been grooving along in this mindset of fighting-cancer-fighting-cancer for so long but ultimately assuming that I’ll be checking out before my retirement planning becomes an issue.
I certainly have plenty of reasons to stick around – two of which are currently listening to Captain Underpants and destroying their bedroom at the end of the hall. But the whole concept of winning this battle and returning to life as a human being, not a cancer patient, seems a little unnerving to me. I’m getting quite good at the fight – what will I do with myself if I’m not doing that anymore? Is that it? Survivor guilt? Mid-life crisis? Mid-disease crisis?
Is this like being an empty-nester – when the kids move out, who are you anymore? There are certainly plenty of things I’d rather be doing with my time than running down to D-F every couple of weeks for another dose of x-rays and IV toxins. I’m sure I can figure out a career option or two that could keep me occupied. Is this like the uncertainty that all cancer patients go through during remission – feeling adrift and depressed without that regular touch-base appointment with the supportive medical team, sitting around waiting for the next three-month appointment and blood test and hoping they don’t show a recurrence this time? Seems like I’m sorta putting the cart before the horse.
Whatever it is, I’m grouchy for sure. Sounds like I could use a vacation.
Hey, yeah: some time in my happy place. That’ll certainly help.
You know how once you finally hear the new song everyone’s been talking about, you start to hear it everywhere – in the mall, in a commercial, in line at the supermarket? Since I started this little anti-white-poisons kick a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been hearing a lot more about food as anti-cancer medication than I ever have. And while I’m not sure that I’m onto something unprecedented and groundbreaking, there are links worth sharing, and I’m wondering why more people don’t.
When I wrote that I was cutting out sugar and white flour, one reader encouraged me to look not only at the sugar content of my food but also its place in the glycemic index, or how quickly the body turns it into sugar, and raises blood glucose levels, once I’ve eaten it. Her argument was based on the book Anti-Cancer, by Dr. Servan-Schreiber, which admittedly I’ve yet to read. (As I said before, I’m a little wary of people espousing radical diets as a way to cure cancer, and having been exposed to some more…um, enthusiastic proponents of various whole-hog lifestyle changes in the past [with little or no effect] I’m one to ask questions first and shoot second.)
But I’m an open-minded girl, so I looked into the glycemic index and its effects on the body a little further. [WARNING: scientific content to follow! Bear with me - I'll try to keep it simple.] Raising the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood, which you do every time you eat, triggers the release of insulin in your body. Insulin breaks down and stores the sugar in your body for later use as energy. The higher the glycemic index of a particular food, the higher and faster it spikes your blood glucose level after you eat it. [Still with me?]
An increase in blood glucose also triggers the release of insulin-like growth factors (IGFs), compounds that play a role in the promotion of cell proliferation (more and more cells) and the inhibition of cell apoptosis (a cell’s self-regulating kill switch). In other words, with too much sugar in your blood, not only do some cells grow and multiply much more quickly, their automatic “time to die!” trigger is canceled.
Sound like anyone we know?
I’ve gotten my hands on some journal articles that have drawn a link between tumor growth and insulin-like growth factor (IGF). Some of them discuss the mounting evidence between the western, high-animal-protein, high-processed-carbohydrate diet and the increasing risk of cancer.(1) Others go as far as to draw direct links between high blood glucose, insulin and IGF and increases in tumor growth and decreases in tumor cell death: “Epidemiological evidence is accumulating and suggests that the risk of cancers of the colon, pancreas, endometrium, breast and prostate are related to circulating levels of insulin, IGF-1, or both.”(2)
So the short story is that too much sugar in your diet, and not just the classic “sweet” foods but processed grains, some fruits, basically nearly anything advertised anywhere, will spike your blood glucose, insulin, and IGF. And will fuel the tumors that you know about, if you already have cancer, or tumors you don’t know about, if you haven’t been diagnosed yet.
I’m just curious why my nutritionist at The Cancer Factory didn’t mention any of this when I met with her last year… You might want to pass this along.
[Thanks for hanging on 'til the end! I should probably reward you with a joke or something:
How many cancer patients does it take to change a lightbulb?
No one knows; they're too tired to climb the ladder!]
Tell a friend.
- Nat Rev Cancer. 2008 Dec;8(12):915-28. Insulin and insulin-like growth factor signalling in neoplasia. Pollak M. Department of Oncology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Novartis Found Symp. 2004;262:247-60; discussion 260-68. Nutrition, insulin, IGF-1 metabolism and cancer risk: a summary of epidemiological evidence. Kaaks R. International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.