Updated: Apr 3, 2020
My body was exhausted and depleted from years of stress. Rushing into cancer treatments would be even harder on a system as sensitive as mine. I chose to first rest, strengthen my body and shore up my defenses. Like preparing for war. I remember a wise yoga teacher once saying how our lives would be so much easier if we just took time to just pause-even just a minute.
Well, I was taking three weeks.
After my diagnosis, I radically changed my diet and had researched an army of supplements to build immunity and fight cancer. I brought them all to my appointment with an Integrative Medicine Physician with the Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. The center was created to provide a holistic approach to medicine with an emphasis on research and education.
Integrative medicine supports the body’s natural ability to heal and reduce stress with practices and techniques such as acupuncture, reiki, hypnotherapy, culinary medicine, and massotherapy, to name just a few.
Spending Time in Nature is Healing Energy
As much I was looking forward to my visit, my spirits were down that morning. But I refused to feel sorry for myself. It did no good. The cancer happened for a reason: I needed healing emotionally, spiritually and physically. Someday I would be well.
Even so, there was an underlining sadness.
This all changed when I escaped the bustling freeway and arrived at the Lyndhurst campus of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. I had entered an oasis of tranquility. Once the headquarters for TRW, the campus sits on ninety-four acres. The driveway to the main building took about three minutes! As I drove through tranquil green vistas with winding walking paths, I felt my body start to relax.
The building was nearly all glass with massive windows. Once inside, I felt like I was overlooking a Zen paradise. The sense of peace and serenity was overwhelming. I wanted to live there! Most importantly, I was feeling happier.
I am in gratitude to those who bravely blaze a path before us. The clinic was named after Dr. Tayna Edwards, a champion for alternative and integrative health. In September of 2004, Dr. Edwards opened the first center for Integrative Medicine in Broadview Heights. It eventually grew to five locations, and finally consolidated into the sprawling campus on which I stood. Dr. Edwards had the foresight to create spaces of wellness and respite.
According to Dr. Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer, Tanya’s lasting legacy was in helping the Cleveland Clinic-steeped in tradition-embrace newer medical approaches.
As relaxing Zen music drifted through the quiet halls, I was shown to the office of one of the physicians.He greeted me warmly and asked the nature of my visit: I wanted to holistically compliment my medical treatments. I showed him the recommended list of foods from my wonderful acupuncturist and health coach, Malerie Giamo. I had only met Malerie a week ago, and she would continue to be an integral part of my journey.
The physician was in agreement with my seeing an acupuncturist and her suggested diet that was based on principals of Chinese Medicine. I was eating a tremendous amount of raw foods (and tiring of it). Malerie suggested a diet that was gentler on the digestive system-mainly healthy cooked foods. Digestion takes a lot of the body's energy, and when fighting disease, she wanted optimal energy to be directed towards healing. We also included super greens for red cell formation and functioning.
Next, he checked over each of my bottles and vials of supplements. I will go into the merits of these supplements in a later post. (On a quick note, when available, a liquid form is better for absorption. I am still taking all of these supplements today with the addition of Juice Plus).
Flax Seed oil,
Dr. Linus Pauling Super Multi Vitamin.
Cancer-Fighting Vitamin D
The doctor was OK with my supplements, but I needed to increase my dosage of vitamin D to 4,000 mg a day. There are many videos and articles related to Vitamin D and breast cancer prevention/healing. I had been deficient in Vitamin D -particularly when living in NYC. I wonder if this was because of the lack of ample sunlight from those towering skyscrapers?
A video on the cancer-fighting merits of Vitamin D.
His one exception to my supplements: the Chinese medicine which worked to rid the body of toxins. Although he agreed with the health merits of the herb and why it had been chosen, there wasn't enough data. He suggested stopping just before I started treatments. And as I would soon be experiencing more and more, doctors traditionally advise patients based on data. As my journey progressed, I would continually question and not veer down the road most traveled.
On a side note, I did eventually start taking the herb again. My body needed help detoxifying from the bombardment of treatments-and I wasn't on chemo. I felt the benefits of the Chinese medicine outweighed the lack of data. I knew it was working for me.
Heal Thy Gut and Boost Immunity
The physician spoke at length on the importance of gut health. 70% of our immune tissues are found in our gut. Extensive research was being done linking gut health to disease. A healthy gut fights infection and disease by keeping the contents of the gut from escaping into the bloodstream. Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged, causing undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria to "leak" through the intestines and into the blood stream. Not good.
100 trillion bacteria reside in our gut biome. In that gut bacteria is our DNA. He said the advanced technology wasn’t there yet, but in the future, analyzing stool samples would determine disease in the body.
He wanted me to stay off gluten, refined sugar and dairy. I already knew the answer why: All those foods could lead to a leaky gut, inflammation & impaired immunity. There is a strong correlation with chronic inflammation and cancer.
I was to add a probiotic to my list of supplements. Simply, probiotics are good bacteria that balance your microbiome and stop harmful bacteria from inhabiting the colon. My upcoming cancer treatments were going to alter my gut bacteria. The probiotics would help to counteract the effects.
I looked further to see what else adversely affected the gut: chronic stress, over-medicating with antibiotics, antacids, etc, and exposure to environmental toxins, to just name a few. There are thousands of articles related to leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. I will also add here that in my early 20's I was diagnosed with Hashimoto Disease, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. More on that in another post.
My childhood friend, Jodie Skillicorn, now a psychiatrist, recently published the book,
Although I don’t suffer from depression, the book is a wealth of knowledge for empowering others to be agents of their own healing. I am already benefiting from the stress-reducing breathing exercises. Here, Dr. Skillicorn speaks to the importance of a healthy gut:
“The balance of our inner flora largely depends on the food we eat.The gut and brain form a biochemical network that continuously conveys information back and forth via the vagus nerve, neurotransmitters, hormones and messengers of the immune system. Each mouthful of food shifts the balance of microbes in our guts, influencing our moods and behaviors…"
The physician recommended the following article by Dr. Mark Hyman- internationally known author, speaker and advocate for Functional Medicine. It's an eye-opening article heralding the right kind of foods for optimal gut health.
I left the appointment invigorated by my surroundings and empowered with new information for my cancer arsenal. Gut health!