28 Apr 2011

Medicinal Mushrooms

In my recent blog Countdown to Chemo, one of the items on my shopping list was organic full spectrum mushroom powder.  Specifically, I ordered reiki, maitake, shitake and turkey tail mushrooms.  Why?  These mushrooms are categorised as medicinal mushrooms - full of polysaccharides which enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy and contain indole-3-carbonal - an ingredient found in cruciferous vegetables.  All four mushroom types have demonstrated benefits as being  immune system builders, antioxidants as well as having anti-tumour activity.

The secret to these powerful ingredients is how to use them and how much to consume.  Dr. Richard Beliveau devotes a full chapter in his book "Cooking with Foods that Fight Cancer" to medicinal mushrooms - including detailed explanations per type.

Medicinal quantities of these concentrates are usually up to 1 tablespoon per day each.  That may sound easy, but incorporating them in some beverage to make them "drinkable" is a challenge.
I've been successful in masking their flavour in fruit beverages in limited amounts.  In other words, only putting 1/4 tablespoon each in a glass at a time.

My experiment this morning though, was hilarious.  It started with me putting one tablespoon of each - reiki, maitake, shitake and turkey tail into the blender.  Then I added one cup of plain organic Balkan-style yogurt and tasted it ... YUK!  Then I added about 1/2 cup of almond milk and about 6 huge organic strawberries and tasted it ...No, no, no! Then I added about 2 tablespoons of Blue Agave sweetener and tasted it - hmmmmmm - it started to taste like dark chocolate - and then I added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and it tasted again - finally - GOOD!
Necessity is the Mother of invention!

To summarize:
1 tablespoon each of reiki, maitake, shitake and turkey tail mushroom powder
1 cup plain organic Balkan-style yogurt
1/2 cup almond milk
6-10 strawberries
2 tablespoons Blue Agave sweetener
1 teaspoon cinnamon

At Live Superfoods Superstore you'll find Medicinal Mushrooms under their Supplements category.
Live Superfoods - The Raw Superfoods Superstore

Here is another fascinating book written by the foremost expert in mushrooming in North America:

Followup on Sat's R&R

A press release today from The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Britain has recommended that women over 50 automatically be tested for ovarian cancer by using the blood test CA125.  The government is clear about wanting to improve survival rates and the only real method of doing that is early detection.  The CA125 test, although not conclusive, is one of the tools commonly used in diagnosing ovarian cancer.  A doubling in the normal value (normal is 35U/ml) is one of the indicators that ovarian cancer could be present.  Having an elevated CA125 isn't conclusive and in some women isn't abnormal.  The only certainty in diagnosing the disease is through surgery.
The blood test costs about $25.00.
"Nice" to see some action on this front.

23 Apr 2011

Saturday Rants and Raves

I've just finished reading this news article from Calcutta, India: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110423/jsp/nation/story_13891695.jsp
It describes a new initiative by the government to issue a credit card sized device which will contain certain of your genetic information.  Initially, it would have a list of drug allergies and a list of pre-dispositions to diseases like diabetes, heart disease and neuro-psychiatric disorders.  Most importantly though, the organization provides FREE genetic testing for inherited breast and ovarian cancer.
Where are we on this issue in North America?  Nowhere.
In Canada, in order to be tested for free for the BRCA1/2 gene mutation (testing positively increases your chances of developing the disease tenfold) a person requires that two primary relatives - i.e. a sister, mother, brother or father to have had a diagnosis of breast cancer and/or ovarian cancer or two primary relatives with ovarian cancer. 
In my own case, I am one of  9 children.  My mother died of breast cancer and I have ovarian cancer (two primary relatives).  Therefore, I was eligible to be genetically tested for free however, and happily for me, the results were negative.  Where did this leave my siblings?  In limbo.  As I tested negatively, they did not qualify for the same free testing privilege. 
It is extremely important to understand that it is possible that one or more (or none) of them carry these mutations even though my results were negative.  Should they want the testing done, they may request it on a fee basis - something in the order of thousands of dollars!
Some of my family members live in the USA where there is no free genetic testing no matter what your family history.  However, certain insurance companies will pick up part of the expense of the tests with a doctor's recommendation.  Otherwise, there too, one is looking at a cost in the thousands of dollars.
There is no accurate screening test for ovarian cancer.  There is no reliable blood test, no "pap-like" test and sadly, and most importantly in most cases, no obvious symptoms until the disease has advanced.  If one was aware of carrying the mutated gene(s) heightened surveillance and/or prophylactic intervention is possible.
If India, which is long-considered to be a third world nation with a population of 1.2 BILLION people, sees the wisdom in free screening for the most aggressive and predictable pre-dispositions to ovarian cancer, why can't we? 
Noted for our focus on the bottom line, think of the money - not to mention  the lives - this awareness could save.

21 Apr 2011

Run for Ovarian Cancer - May 15, 2011

Family and friends of Sunflower Sisters are pulling together a team to participate in this year's Run for Ovarian Cancer in London, Ontario. The Run For Ovarian Cancer is one of the most successful grass roots organizations in London!

The money we raise stays right in the London community and goes toward funding a research position at London Health Sciences Centre. This cutting edge Translational Cancer Researcher works directly with ovarian cancer patients and oncology doctors as well as spending time in the lab, making this the first local project fully dedicated to ovarian cancer.

This is also one of the first positions of its kind, an innovative type of research position bridging the gap between pure research in the lab and the bedside of the actual sufferers of the disease.

Please help save lives by sponsoring the Sunflower Sisters Team, or by participating in this event!

Online donations can be made here: Sponsor the Sunflower Sisters Team

Thank you for your generosity!

20 Apr 2011

Countdown to Chemo

As some of you know, we returned prematurely from our vacation on Cat Island, Bahamas because of a medical emergency.  Emergency indeed, I underwent major surgery four days later. 
Yesterday was my post-op checkup with the surgeon and visit to my medical oncologist.  All is well in the surgical department - the wound is healing nicely and I was given the OK to resume gentle yoga.  However, with a slightly elevated CA125 and a chronically manic form of ovarian cancer, my med onc and I agreed that it would be in my best interest to resume chemotherapy. 
As a veteran of chemo - I know what to do...but in light of the recent surgery, it's going to take a lot more effort to prepare for this two-week countdown. It goes without saying, that one's spiritual practice is the most important resource in your cancer healing arsenal. 
Secondly, as I've lost a great deal of weight, I need to pack on the protein; I need to up the greens - both juicing and raw; I need to assess what supplements are necessary to boost the immune system and I need to physically prepare my body for the onslaught.

Today's shopping list includes:
  • organic hemp protein
  • maca-root
  • bee pollen
  • Vega whole food optimizer
  • Vitamin D3
  • organic full spectrum mushroom powders - reiki, maitake, shitake and turkey tail (to boost chemo effectiveness)
  • omega3 capsules
  • Vitamin B12/B6 and Alpha lipoic acid
  • blueberries and mango
I have a tray of wheatgrass growing and seeds soaking for the second batch...
Now to try a few gentle yoga stretches...ohmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...did I say ouchhhhhhhhhhhhhh??
Maybe I'll just stick to chair exercises today...I'll try the cat/cow again tomorrow.

Here are links for the above-mentioned products:

Nutiva Organic Hemp Protein 50% Protein Per Serving, 3-Pound Bag
Sunfood Maca (Organic, Raw), 8-Ounce Bags (Pack of 2)
Bee Pollen (USA) - 1 Lb. - Bulk
Roland Dried Shiitake Mushrooms, 12-Ounce Package
Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer, Vanilla Chai Flavor, 34.9 oz
NOW Foods Vitamin D3 5000 Iu, 240 Softgels,
Natrol - Omega-3, 150 softgels
Nature Made Vitamin B-12 1,000 mcg Time Release - 300 Tablets
Source Naturals Vitamin B-6 Pyridoxine 500mg Time Release, 100 Tablets (Pack of 2)
NOW Foods Alpha Lipoic Acid 250mg, 120 Vcaps

19 Apr 2011

The volunteer sunflower

For Christmas 2009, my husband and I decided to give each other a very fancy bird feeding station to try to attract our feathered friends to our 10th floor balcony. Needless to say, it was a dismal failure. Even the common house sparrow had more sense than to fly up 10 stories to find food. All that succeeded in happening was a big mess from the wind blowing the seed out of the feeders and onto the patio.

In the summer of 2010, we decided to build a patio garden. Of course, filling up all those containers involves mess and cleanup and somehow or other, seed from the bird feeder must have made it's way into the containers.

And so, amazingly enough, and before the idea of building the SunflowerSisters.ca website was even conceived, a real sunflower sprung up all by itself in one of the containers on our patio. It had several sisters in other containers which also did well.

The SunflowerSisters.ca logo is a genuine photograph which I took of the first and most beautiful volunteer sunflower grown in our patio container.

Deepak Chopra would refer to this chain of events as "synchronicity"...the connection of coincidences, events, themes and images... very appropriate indeed!

Dr. Deepak Chopra's book on the subject of synchronicity is "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire:Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence"

18 Apr 2011

Bahamas Bush Medicine

While on a recent vacation to Cat Island, in the Bahamas, I noticed a little shack by the side of the road that was selling the usual assortment of straw hats, purses and dolls along with homemade hot sauces. However, much more interesting than all that - the sign on the shack also said "Bush Medicine". That was enough to get me out of the car and at her doorstep. "Miss Emily", herself a breast cancer survivor, heard my story, reached under her counter and handed me a plastic grocery bag containing a branch with dried leaves attached. She said to boil this up and take three sips a day. I asked her what it was and she said she didn't know but that her cousin sends it from Nassau as it no longer grows on Cat Island. She said she drinks it herself everyday and believes that it's kept her in remission.
Not one to shy away from anything new, I boiled up the branch and leaves and let it steep for a few hours as per the instructions. I strained the "tea" into a container and braced up for my first sip. First sip indeed - it was absolutely VILE!
In the meantime, my husband had found a book on bush medicine in our rental home and identified the plant as a common anti-inflammatory. It has indeed been used for centuries to treat anything from the common cold to cancer. I lasted about 8 sips or three days and decided that I'd stick to ibuprofen if I needed that kind of relief!

Here is a good book on the subject:
Bush Medicine in Bahamian Folk Tradition - Martha Hanna-Smith

15 Apr 2011

Welcome to our New Blog!

Dear SunflowerSisters, family and friends: Welcome to our newly created ovarian cancer blog! There are so many breaking news items, issues of common concern and helpful hints that we'd like to share with you in a more up-to-the-minute format. We'd also really appreciate hearing from you about what's on your mind - and of course, if we can, try to help. Everything is strictly confidential - no names are shared, no information or addresses used or sold.

Today's headlines include the results of a study on the long-term use of talcum powder in the genital area and the increased risk of ovarian cancer - 30% increase - check out this article -http://www.preventcancer.com/consumers/cosmetics/talc.htm What do you think - should all talcum powder manufacturers be subject to government regulation or at the minimum, labelling as to the grade?