It’s not a cheerful subject but cancer is something we hear about more and more. I don’t think we should shy away from it. Both my parents have had cancer. My Mum when she was 36, she is now 71, and my Dad a few years ago. Cancer has often been spoken of in our house. My parents survived, my Auntie Joan did not.
I was trawling through a local bookshop the other day, something I love to do, and I came across a book called ‘What you can do to prevent cancer’ by John McKenna he is ‘a scientist, a retired medical doctor who has been practising natural medicine for 25 years’.
Because of my parents experiences I thought I knew a good bit about what cancer is and how it ‘works’ well it turns out I need to correct some of the ideas I have and in doing so could help myself strengthen my own immune system to fight against it. It is no guarantee but now I am in my mid 40’s cancer is something I think about more regularly. I’d also like to try to help my husband stay cancer free too. So, I am reading this book and would like to pass on some things I have learned.
It’s a western disease – African and other non westernised countires have lower forms of cancer: cancers related to chronic infections eg hepatitus.
It used to be an illness of the young and elderly as their immune systems being underdeveloped or in decline.
We develop cancer cells everyday it is a normal process, dealt with by our immune system, it is when this system goes awry problems occur.
A great many cancers are ‘exogenous’ that is ‘external so can be prevented’
Cancer’s main source of energy is glucose so that’s refinded carbohydrates – rice, pasta, porridge, potatoes, bread and – of course – sugar.
‘Genes are only a small part of the picture’lifestyle and enviroment are a bigger factor and it is the ‘interaction between our genes and enviroment that determines’ whether our genes will be triggered.
‘Epigenomes are the receptors in DNA that are a major factor in determining whether cancer will develop’
‘The single major enviromental influence on epigenome is diet’
During the 2nd world war food was scarce so agricultural chemicals were developed to boost crops, these nirtogen fertilisers weakened plants making them ‘susceptible to infection’ so pesticides were developed to ‘strenghten’ them. These chemical are still in our enviroment.
Agricultural chemicals have been around since 1949 younger farmers don’t necessarily know how to farm without them.
Antibiotics are oversubscribed which weakens the immune system.
We should not eat ANY processed foods.
We should not eat anything anything labled low fat as this = high sugar.
Perfumes and body products are still not properly regulated they, like plastic, contain hormones disruptors.
My husband and i live in the countryside and love where we live. We work hard for this to be our home. We are surrounded by fields and nature – agricultural fields. As we are far from the main road we have a well as our water source and the water runs off the hills surrounding us. Hills and fields that are sprayed at various times of the year. The first thing we are having done is have our water tested. I am not panicing but I would like to be better informed.
When I was nine or ten, I went along the road in our village of North Street, Sandwick, to help a neighbour Peggy with her garden. She ran the small post office. I liked Peggy, she was an older lady, probably a little younger than my own Granny, and I became friendly with her as I used to go along to the little post-office to pick up my Granny’s pension. I came back from a long day in the garden, delighted with myself, but one of my eyes was bothering me. I remember distinctly saying to my Mum, who was ill in bed, that I had ‘gum in my eye’. I think at first she thought I meant chewing gum, that wasn’t so but my eye was definitely irritated, something was in it. My Dad took me to the hospital; they didn’t know what it was and I was sent home, thankfully though, that never happened again. When I was eighteen I got a rash all across my body, from my neck down to hips, red, weepy, itchy sores. I was just at that vain enough age to be glad I didn’t have them on my face, my Mother worried about that too and also about my body as she was concerned they would leave scars. They didn’t. I went to the doctor and seemingly it was: ‘a rash that you get in the spring or autumn when the pollen count changes but you’ll only get this rash once in your lifetime’. They were a horrible few weeks but it never happened again. When I was in my mid-twenties I was travelling in England around Yorkshire. I woke up the morning after my travels and my eyes were completely stuck shut. A somewhat disconcerting start to the day but I figured that was a reaction to the myriad of rape seed fields I’d passed the day before. Again that was a once in a lifetime experience.
Would I be this lucky with my trip to the hospital that Sunday afternoon?
About a month after the Sunday afternoon incident I was on a night out with some friends. Not too far from my home therefore, thankfully, not too far from the Western General A & E. It was probably now about midnight and ‘the pain’ started, so did the fear. My friend Malkie ordered a taxi, a black cab, and literally in the time it took to drive the half a mile to the hospital I was doubled over in pain. Malkie waited for me as I again went through the process of test after test, waiting for the results, endless agony. The only other information that I could give them this time was – that this wasn’t the first time I’d experienced this.
I spent that night in hospital, my boyfriend was away on tour so the hospital didn’t want me home alone. It wasn’t a pleasant night; it was morphine induced but at least the pain again abated. No one was able to tell me why I had this second ‘attack’. Again, no one was able to tell me what it was. No one told me what would happen if I didn’t get the morphine and I was really too frightened to ask. In truth; I thought I might die. Anyone who has suffered endometriosis pain will know this is no exaggeration. The next day before I left the hospital, I was told I would receive a letter about an appointment for a follow up consultation. I think I sat by the letter box every day I was home till that letter arrived.
On the 27th of September I was shocked to see the first headline in The Guardian newspaper was: “Endometriosis: the hidden suffering of millions of women revealed” Wow! This was front page news? Most recently there had been pieces about Jeremy Corbyn which I gladly read – even the crazy allegations – or the desperate stories of migrating refugees, but this was a front page article about Endometriosis. Unheard of! I had to read on.
‘1 woman in 10 of reproductive age has endometriosis’ and approximately 176 million women around the globe may be suffering from it which are similar figures, according to this article, to the number of cases of diabetes but still very few people know about this disease. However Endometriosis is not unheard of to me. I’ve suffered from it since 2000, well actually I’ve probably suffered it since well before then but that is when it really raised its ugly ‘freaking’ head.
I had always had painful periods. I considered it my norm. My Mum had painful periods before me and told me stories of Feminax tablets being passed to her under toilet doors as she crouched, doubled in agony. We girls compared stories in school but I just accepted that periods were painful and that you just got on with it. While growing up I don’t remember them ever being so painful that I was unable to do things – once I had pumped myself full of painkillers at worst – but then maybe I’ve blocked those instances out. I think we have a habit of blocking out physical pain, as well as emotional pain, I mean why would you ever wish to remember such things?
The path to my diagnosis was not a pretty one and began one Sunday afternoon in my, then, flat on Church St in Glasgow’s West End. I was making some food, it was early afternoon and felt that telling abdominal pain that my period was likely coming soon. That dull ache. Nothing serious, at first, but over time the pain intensified. I began to pace about the flat unsure of what to do. Sitting down didn’t help, lying down was useless. My boyfriend at the time was with me and was concerned, never having seen me like this before. I felt like an injured animal, bewildered by the pain, pacing and pacing. As it was Sunday I couldn’t just pop into the doctors which was only fifteen min walk away and by this time I was in so much pain I was obviously not thinking straight as I phoned the emergency doctor to ask how much pain you have to be in before you can go to accident and emergency. Gosh we women are strong when it comes to pain! I mean you can’t go to A&E for period pain?? I was in and out of the toilet. I wasn’t quite able to explain to my boyfriend what was happening to me. I remember he genuinely, helpfully and well meaningly told me through the toilet door at one point (this was probably after my sixth visit there in 40mins) that I ‘probably needed a good fart’ and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. (Oh I wish that I were that genteel). You have to laugh, if you don’t laugh you’d cry….though I don’t remember crying with this pain, that day. Again another thing I may have blocked out. What I hadn’t told my boyfriend was while I was in the loo I was bleeding from both orifices – yes endometriosis is a very attractive disease! – but I didn’t tell him as I couldn’t compute it myself. The blood itself, was black.
Thankfully though I eventually figured out how much pain you need to be in before you go to A & E, that’s when you begin ‘involuntary’ projectile vomiting; which happened most spectacularly in the stairwell when I thought maybe I should begin my journey to A&E. (Actually writing this it just occurred to me did I ever clear that mess up? At the time, however, I realised the seriousness of the situation and just kept going). When I got to A & E, an aching three minute walk across the road to the Western General Hospital (and to think if it had been a weekday I’d have walked the fifteen mins to the GP’s) I was not triaged. The nurse took one look at me through the glass at reception and said the words I will never forget ‘we’re taking you in straight away, you’re grey’. I was in too much pain to care, the way I looked didn’t register with me at all, I was just relieved she said ‘straight away’.
Now when a nurse says ‘straight away’ you think: ‘Oh thank God, any minute now this will be over’ but that wasn’t to be. The symptoms of endometriosis are similar to many other illnesses such as gall stones, urinary tract problems, bowel problems, so I began a series of tests and the tests could not happen quick enough neither could the waiting for the results of the tests. I was roaring with the pain.
I am probably perceived as a fairly chatty person, who is noisy when laughing mostly, but I’m a very good patient. I become very ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ as I have the utmost respect for hospital staff and the job they do and don’t wish to cause them any more trouble than they may already have, but I just could not stay quiet. I felt like a thousand knives were stabbing me repeatedly in the stomach. Stabbing and twisting and ripping themselves out then entering again harder, meaner than before. It was endless. It just got worse and worse. The dull ache was long forgotten. Eventually, I don’t know how long it was but it felt like days, I was given morphine and finally, slowly, the pain began to ease. ‘Yes, Doctor, thank you Doctor’ returned and I was told to sleep. I was out for a few hours and when I woke my ‘vitals’ were taken and shortly after I was told I could go home. That was it. 3 mins back across the road. Home.
By this time it was early evening and that night I was sitting on the sofa, doing what I had always intended to do that night, watching ‘The Royle Family’ on TV. Except, this was different. I had just been through the most excruciating pain I had ever in my life experienced, a life changing pain, yet here I was sitting on my sofa pain free, as if nothing had happened. There were no external signs. I don’t think I felt dopey or anything. Everything was ‘normal’.
Yet no-one had been able to tell me what happened, why it had happened and, most importantly, if it would happen again.