This Yellow Powder Shows Promise — And I’m All Over It!

26 09 2011
Turmeric: A powerful spice that shows promise in both preventing and treating cancer. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

It’s a pungent yellow powder. You can buy it at just about any grocery store. It’s been around for thousands of years. And it’s cheap. The bottle I bought two months ago was $5.99, and there’s perhaps still a quarter of it left.

I use it every single day without fail. It’s a spice called Turmeric and it’s been used liberally in Indian cuisine for milleniums.

I consider it a miracle in both the prevention and treatment of cancer. And I’m in good company.

My close friend Scott Orwig, who is a prostate cancer survivor, turned me on to this powerful spice a few months ago. He and I trade recipes and articles on the latest developments in cancer treatments like two kids with a stack of baseball cards.

Over the weekend, he forwarded me an article straight from the research laboratory at the world’s most renowned cancer institute: M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. That’s where researcher Bharat Aggarwal has been studying the medicinal use of spices, like the turmeric he grew up eating in his native India. Much of his research has focused on curcumin, a substance used to make turmeric and a chief ingredient in curry sauces.

Turmeric has already proven itself in studies several times over — and it continues to do so. “There were at least a half a dozen clinical trials that appeared last year alone on curcumin, where as little as 100 milligrams is enough to down modulate all the inflammatory biomarkers in people,” Aggarwal said.

Yes, people. We are not talking about animal trials that have not yet reached the testing stage on humans. We are already there.

I’ve never been particularly fond of Indian cuisine, so until recently, Indian spices haven’t been a part of my regular diet. But they are now — particularly Turmeric. I eat it every single day, 1/2 teaspoon mixed with black pepper and thrown into a bowl of very healthy minestrone soup. (In order to be assimilated by the body, turmeric must be mixed with black pepper).

I make a batch of Classic Minestrone once a week, then put it into my fridge so it’s easy for me to grab a bowl every day. Here’s the recipe for the one I make — quick, delicious and extremely nutricious:

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow sweet pepper, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 14-oz cans beef broth
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, rinsed
8 oz. green beans
1 C dried mostaccioli
1/4 C coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 C fresh baby spinach leaves

In a 4-quart Dutch oven, cook garlic and onion in hot oil until tender. Add sweet pepper, zucchini, broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to boiling. Rinse and drain beans. Add beans and pasta; return to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 10-12 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil, tomatoes and spinach, heat through. Season with salt and pepper. (Recipe courtesy of Better Home and Gardens, October 2007.)

I’m not saying that any single spice is a cancer cure-all. But I do believe in the philosophy offered in the international bestseller, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, by David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph. D. We need to take a multi-faceted approach to cancer treatment — which includes the most effective chemotherapy paired with the best spices, foods and supplements nature has to offer. Schreiber outlines just how to do that and I’m on it. I’ve already made major changes in my diet in the past two months, and will continue to do so.

“Turmeric (the yellow powder that is one of the components of yellow curry) is the most powerful natural antiinflammatory identified today,” Schreiber writes. “It also helps stimulate apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells and inhibit angiogenesis (the formation and development of blood vessels that feed tumors). In the laboratory, it enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and reduces tumor growth.”

Need I say more?

I cannot and would not point to any one thing that I or my doctors have been doing since my January 2011 Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis as the “miracle.” But I can say that I’ve been dedicated to using every available tool out there to bring myself closer and closer to remission — be it chemotherapy, trial drugs like the PARP Inhibitor, foods, spices and supplements.

And something — perhaps all of it, together — is working. My most recent scans were the most dramatic, showing shrinkage of some of my tumors by 3 or 4 millimeters — in just six weeks’ time. That’s a major victory. I also feel dramatically different in the last few months. And time and again, people who have not seen me for two or three months remark that my skin is glowing. I look healthy, not pasty like I did following my diagnosis.

I continue to read everything I can get my hands on in relations to cancer fighting foods, spices and supplements. I also listen to every expert out there. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend, when I will be attending The Pink Fund Annual Luncheon. Keynote Speaker Kris Carr, New York Times best-selling author and Stage 4 cancer survivor, will be talking about how she radically changed her diet to save her own life — and how all of us can follow her lead in living longer, healthier lives, preventing cancer, and fighting it, if that is among the cards we are dealt.

There are still a few tickets left for Saturday’s event. If your debate is over the ticket price, keep in mind what someone once told me: You can either learn how to take good care of yourself right now and buy and prepare better quality — and likely more costly — foods, or you can pay it out in medical bills later.

Hope to see you there!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson

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Meltdown in the Grocery Store Parking Lot

9 08 2011

We're about to have some fun, you and me. Remember that Sesame Street game titled, Which One Doesn't Belong Here? Here's your chance to play the adult version. Pick the one that doesn't belong in our everyday diets. I went easy on you this time. No guarantees for next time. Photo by Amy Rauch Neilson.

Last Saturday morning began easy and laid back. All of us slept in til about 9:30 — quite unusual for Theo. We three then snuggled up on the couch and watched the World Premiere movie of Phineas and Ferb in the Second Dimension. I’d tivo’d it the night before. By the time the movie ended, the decision as to whether it was breakfast time or lunch time was a bit nebulous. We decided to move on to lunch.

I opened the fridge. Not a lot to choose from as I’d only dashed into the grocery store once that week, after returning from our trip to Indianapolis, to pick up some basics. Today was going to be the Big Grocery Shopping Day. But first, lunch.

Ewww. The contents of the fridge were not an appealing sight. Not because there was anything wrong with the food that was in there, but because of the type of food that remained. Our best option for sustenance was hot dogs. Don opened the package and threw them on the outside grille. Usually, I find them quite tasty. Today, the thought made my stomach turn. All I could think about was the nitrates they contained and how bad those nitrates are for my body.

He brought them in and fixed them in white buns. I tried to save the day (or at least, the meal) by slicing up some peaches. They were mealy and inedible. Don and Theo wolfed down their dogs. I squirted mustard on mine, took a bite, and couldn’t go any further. I had an aversion to hot dogs and pretty much everything else left in our kitchen.

“Is there something wrong with your hot dog, honey?” Don asked.

“Nope. It’s me, honey. Sorry.”

The “something wrong” was a culmination of months of reading various opinions by holistic and traditional Western medical doctors alike, finally coming to a head that morning in our kitchen. I had nearly finished the book Anti-Cancer, the one that of all the books I’ve read since my diagnosis, truly makes sense. It’s well balanced. It doesn’t pooh-pooh Eastern Medicine or Western Medicine, but illustrates how each of us can tap into the benefits of these different approaches to healing as complements to one another.

The author of Anti-Cancer, who is both a biochemist and an MD, figured out how to heal his own brain cancer through a combination of chemotherapy, supplements, and nutrition. The book not only follows his journey back to health, but he describes how he’s never been so healthy in his life.

I can’t do this book justice in six blog posts, let alone one. But I will say this — the changes in our food production and the increasing incidence of a wide variety of cancers, striking people who are younger and younger, is a major problem that we need to address in our country’s food supply. And if we can’t at this point address it on a national level, we can certainly start at the grassroots level — our own food choices.

Some of the changes that have brought us the most harm post World War II:
1. The staggering amount of refined white sugar in our diets, which grows every year;
2. The processed, bleached foods and preservatives we eat, like the bleached white flour that we can find on the ingredient panel of so many of our foods;
3. The changes in how our chickens are fed and treated (think egg supply), as well as how our sources of meat are fed and raised.

When you read about this and the long-term studies that back up how these changes are affecting our health, it’s not only staggering, it’s nauseating. This is the very same message that the doctor from Indianapolis is sharing with me. If I want to get healthy, I’ve go to change my diet, take the supplements that my specific body needs, continue chemotherapy (the diet and supplements dovetail nicely with my chemo regimen), and walk 30 minutes a day, at least six days a week. That’s for starters.

Sound like a lot to take on? It’s not. As I explained it to my friend Jennifer Amprim Wolf today, it’s all about the source of your motivation. For example, following the above protocol might be a passing thought if I was looking to drop 10 pounds for an upcoming wedding or high school reunion. But when it literally is a matter of life and death, well, it takes on a whole new meaning.

That brings me to what happened in the Meijer Parking Lot last Saturday morning. I drove in, parked, and began sobbing out of frustration and confusion. What am I supposed to be eating? How will I know when I get in there what to choose and what not to? Where’s the hidden refined white sugar, bleached flour, nitrates, poorly fed beef and poultry, eggs from caged chickens, organic vs. non-organically grown fruits and veggies? I was overwhelmed.

So, I called my cousin Lori Parker. Sobbing uncontrollably.

“What’s wrong, Aimers?” she asked.

And I’m quite sure that my response was anything but what she was expecting.

“I’m afraid of food!” I told her. And I went on to explain, as rationally as I could, that what I was about to put into my cart felt like a matter of life and death. Yet, I’m new at this and I’m not sure how to go about it.

We had a long chat there, me sitting in the Meijer Parking lot. And when we were done, I’d calmed down considerably and felt I’d gained back a little of my control. We brainstormed some ideas for good choices I could make in each department. With a new sense of confidence, I got out of the car and headed into the grocery store, where I found that I naturally gravitated toward the “good stuff” about 80 percent of the time.

I’ve never been a junk food eater, so it was no problem to pass up packages of Chips A Hoy, pastries, potato chips. I found myself naturally reaching out for fresh strawberries, organic peaches, blueberries, a seedless watermelon. I also craved green pepper, cucumbers, organic carrots. Mushrooms would also be of great benefit to me, but I loathe them, always have. So, we’ll work on that aspect of my diet some other day.

As I made my way through the store, I realized how many good choices I could make and how easy it really was. Whole grain pasta. Grass-fed beef. Organic eggs from free-range, properly fed chickens. Whole grain bread. Organic milk. I checked out and left the store feeling a bit more confident that slowly, I will learn how to choose and eat the foods that nourish my body, build my immune system, strangle off the blood supply to my tumors. I’m on a roll.

But you just can’t learn enough about this life change and how important it is to each one of us, whether we’re fighting cancer, another disease, or are enjoying a healthy part of our lives. That’s why I can’t encourage you enough to consider, really consider, attending The Pink Fund Luncheon on Saturday, October 1. I’ll be there for the full sha-bang, from the yoga class in the morning to the luncheon, the premiere showing of The Pink Fund national awareness and donor video that I was a part of last week, and the book signing by Kris Carr in the afternoon.

Author Kris Carr, a NY Times best-selling author of the Crazy, Sexy Cancer series, wellness warrior, filmmaker, and an irreverent foot soldier in the fight against cancer, will be the featured guest speaker. She has kept Stage 4 cancer at bay for many years and if you have not yet read her books, check them out. She has acquired an amazing knowledge of food, diet, nutrition, the mind-body connection — you name it — and the impact on the short-term and long-term health for each and every one of us. She is spunky and beautiful, and she’s put a whole new face on what it means to have — and live an amazing life with — Stage 4 cancer.

I urge you to attend. For more information, check out The Pink Fund event info. Tickets are going fast, so don’t dilly-dally.

P.S. The answer to the question posed in the photo caption is the bag of pure, refined white sugar. But you probably already guessed that.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson





What Do Miracle Cancer Survivors Have In Common?

19 05 2011

Image courtesy of The Pink Fund.

Since my Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis in January, lots of people have asked me if I know my odds of survival. Most don’t come right out and ask me directly, but come at it in a roundabout way. I know that most people who do ask me this question have likely already seen the statistics and know that they are grim.

Back in 2006, when I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, I knew my odds of long-term survival were 98 or 99 percent. Those are the kinds of odds that a cancer patient should be aware of, should focus on, as they serve to buoy the spirit when the going gets tough during treatment.

Then there are the odds at the other end of the spectrum — like those for Stage 4 breast cancer patients like myself. In the first two or three months after my January 2011 diagnosis, I purposely did not look at survival statistics. Instead, I asked my close friends and family to act as “filters.” If they found promising treatment information or any articles that offered hope, they were to send it on to me. But the dire statistics — I didn’t need to see them. What could possibly be gained?

Am I in a state of denial? Nope. I wouldn’t call it that at all. Rather, I’m on a mission that I’ll call “re-lial” — relying on myself and any positive sources and role models I can cull to show me how to increase my odds of long-term survival. To show me what I can do and what I can be. Here’s my theory — If I can be one of the 2-5 percent of women who can get breast cancer after her breasts have been removed, then I can also be among those who survive it.

As I’ve said before, I believe beating cancer requires a multi-faceted approach: diet, exercise, spiritual life, medicine, support from loving friends and family, positive attitude. So, when I came across this post this morning — written by a Stage 4 breast cancer survivor — that pulls together all of these ideas so beautifully and poignantly, I felt compelled to pass it on.

Check out this post by Pink Fund Blogger and Stage IV Cancer SurThrivor Tami Boehmer. It is a must-read and great advice for all of us. Trust me.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson





Where to Find Financial Assistance

18 04 2011

If you’ve ever been through cancer treatment — or are close to someone who has — you have likely witnessed not just the physical and emotional strain of the disease, but the financial fallout as well.

Thank God there are lots of organizations out there who have made it their mission to help cancer patients navigate these rocky waters. Good people. Really good. I know because I’ve talked with many of them first hand. They are top-notch, compassionate, and willing to help in any way that they can. And they’ve offered me help. Real help.

My blog post for The Pink Fund this week is dedicated to those organizations and people who are devoted to reaching across that great divide, grabbing hold of a cancer patient’s hand and helping to guide him or her to the other side of impending financial crisis.

If you or someone you know is battling cancer and needs financial assistance, be sure to pass my blog post from The Pink Fund on. You’ll give them two gifts — the chance for help when they need it most and the opportunity and ability to focus on Job #1: Getting Better.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson





Does That Make Me a Fraud?

22 02 2011

It’s Week 2 in my new official role as a regular blogger with The Pink Fund. Look for me there every Monday.

Check out this week’s post:
Does That Make Me a Fraud?

Then, help me to answer that question.

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson





Red, White, and Pink

14 02 2011

Me, holding the Art Bra that I designed and modeled for the Bras for a Cause Event, Royal Oak Music Theatre, September 18, 2010. Photo Credit: Trish Baden MacDonald.

I suppose I couldn’t have picked a better day to make my debut as a regular, weekly blogger for ThePinkFund.org. After all, Valentine’s Day is indeed a holiday that’s all about red, white, and pink.

I met Molly MacDonald, the founder of The Pink Fund and a fellow breast cancer survivor, a few weeks ago. But only after she had tried to reach out to me via e-mail not once, not twice, but three times.

That’s because I knew why she was contacting me. I wasn’t being rude. I was being stubborn.

The Pink Fund is a Michigan-based organization that provides short-term financial assistance to women and men in Michigan who are going through breast cancer treatment.

Molly encouraged me to fill out the application to see if there were some bills The Pink Fund could help us with while I’m in treatment.

At first, I didn’t want to.

“There must be people out there who need this more than me,” I said to her, noting the roof above my head, clothes on my back, and food on my table.

“Maybe,” Molly said. “But that’s not the point. You’ve got to help yourself.”

I thought about what she said and the lesson that Don and I regularly try to convey to our five-year-old son, Theo. “It’s OK to ask for help. Everyone needs a little help sometimes,” we tell him.

If I’m going to talk the talk, I also need to walk the walk. So, I filled out the application.

A few days later, Molly called to let me know that my application had been considered by The Pink Fund Committee, and that they had decided to cover our DTE Energy bill and phone bill for the month of February.

I’m very grateful. Because, even though I continue to work as I’m able, and my hubby continues to work, too, a little help relieves a lot of pressure. It means that if, on the days I’m truly not up to working, I don’t have to. That’s a little thing that is very big.

So, hats off to Molly MacDonald and her team at ThePinkFund.org. Five years ago, when I was first going through breast cancer treatment, they didn’t exist. Now they do.

What a giant leap forward for breast cancer patients and their families.

Check out my first blog post.

And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson








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