31 Jan 2012

Remembering David Simon, MD

It was a great honour and priviledge to have studied with this man, a great physician, gifted healer and above all spiritual teacher who changed my path forever.  Thank you, Davidji.
You've more than earned your wings.

Dear Chopra Center Community,

It is with a heavy heart that I share with you today the news that Dr. David Simon has passed away. David has been my friend, partner, teacher,
trusted colleague, and younger brother for more than twenty years. He has touched my heart, influenced the way I think, and expanded my spirit. David approached life from a place of pure potentiality and unlimited possibilities. His wisdom, courage, and love will continue to inspire all of us for decades to come.

In his books and workshops, David loved to share poems from spiritual masters who lived many centuries ago yet whose beautiful insights into love and our eternal nature continue to resonate with so many people today. David's favorite poems were reminders that while we appear to be separate, limited individuals, we are all expressions of an infinite divinity. Here are a few beautiful lines from the poet David called "my beloved Hafiz":

The Sun Never Says

all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
what happens
with a love like that -
It lights the whole world.

As a talented physician and author, loving father, husband, and dear friend, David shared his unique gifts with the world. Through his dedication and authenticity, he helped so many people go beyond their limited perspective of themselves and reconnect to the love, joy, and peace of their true selves.

I have felt privileged to work closely with David for many years, and I am grateful that we have had the opportunity to develop seminars, retreats, and programs on mind-body healing and spirituality. While David, as he would put it, has now let go of his temporary human disguise to merge again with the unbounded ocean of consciousness, the gifts that he gave so freely during his life will continue to benefit and inspire everyone he touched through his words, wisdom, and heart.

If you would like to share your thoughts, prayers, and intentions for David's family, please visit lovefordavid.com.

Love, Deepak
Deepak Chopra, M.D.

29 Jan 2012

Dancing With N.E.D.

N.E.D. means no evidence of disease - the sweetest words any cancer patient could ever hear.  N.E.D. is also a band - a rock band composed of six gynaecological oncology surgeons who got together in 2008 for a one-time gig playing for other surgeons. 

Dancing With N.E.D. is the title of a documentary film which follows the band from operating theatres to concert stages in their work to raise awareness nationwide of gynaecological cancers. You can read about it here: http://dancingwithned.com/

Dancing With N.E.D. is also about women living with gynaecological cancer - their real life traumas, heart-wrenching journeys and joys. 

The band, N.E.D., continues to perform across the USA bringing attention to the cause, spreading healing through music and hopefully raising badly needed research dollars.

Some months ago, I contacted the producers of the documentary requesting their permission to use the expression Dancing With N.E.D.  We received a warm and overwhelming "Yes" to our efforts to continue the awareness campaign.

We have linked our creation of N.E.D. with their website - he's pretty darn cute, don't you think?

23 Jan 2012

Friendly Flora

A year and a half ago I attended a lecture given by the Head of Medicine of India.  One of the most important things that I took away from his presentation was his comment that the ancient Sanskrit texts contended that every millimetre of bowel has a purpose.  This was an amazing statement considering how many feet of bowel we each have.  Some of us have heard patients who have had bowel resections say that they can't eat certain foods anymore.  Is it a bacterial imbalance or missing links?

Until recently, the function of our digestive tract was understood to be just that - digestion.  It is now known that the presence of friendly bacteria in the bowel is vital to fighting pathogenic bacteria and viruses.  According to Dr. Richard Beliveau, who holds the chair in the Prevention and Treatment of Cancer at the University of Quebec at Montreal, a stunning discovery has been made in the role of intestinal flora's impact on the brain.  Scientists have observed that the composition of the flora affects the levels of certain cerebral neurotransmitters and can modulate feelings such as anxiety, stress and depression.
Intestinal flora is controlled by diet type.  Diets rich in protein and animal fats have flora mainly composed of bacteria called bacteroides.  Diets rich in fibre - vegetables and fruits - have flora containing prevotella.

Dr. Beliveau states that modification of the flora from protein and animal based to plant based requires long-term changes to our diets and is frontline in maintaining good physical and mental health.

Many of my Sunflower Sisters think they are prevented from enjoying raw fruits and vegetables because of disease encroachment or partial obstruction.  The Advanced Disease Dietary Help tab in our website will give you instructions on juicing as well as a list of superfoods and helpful books.  The body's ability to rebound is assisted greatly by opting for natural ingredients.
Researchers have also observed that products with many levels of probiotics - which are nondigestible food ingredients that stimulate "good" bacteria in the colon - are associated with a protection of the intestinal mucosa and a reduction in the development of colon cancer.  There are two main types of probiotics - lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.  Another probiotic is  - saccharomyces boulardii - which is actually a yeast.  Thanks to a great marketing effort, most people think that milk/yogurt products are the only source of probiotics and a great number of cancer patients and vegans totally avoid them.
If your diet is not primarily vegetable and fruit based, Dr. Beliveau suggests that "regular consumption of organic supplements containing probiotics is a great way to improve the effectiveness of intestinal bacteria allowing them to positively influence the way the body works". My personal favourite is New Chapter Organics - Probiotic Colon. The label lists 10 types of probiotic species - none of which is lactose based.

One last reminder that January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. Are you or one of your loved ones "Dancing with N.E.D."?

9 Jan 2012

Food Ideas 2012

So many people start the New Year with resolutions.  Quitting and dieting are two of the most common "ing-words" in the resolution lexicon.  Out with resolutions I say and in with new eyes!  Go to the grocery store and shop by colour.  Look for bright colours - see all the new fruits and vegetables - know that where there's colour - there's benefit.

Buy pomegranates - a super food - and experiment with them.  Add the seeds to a smoothie, on top of frozen yogurt or in a peppercorn sauce for some excitement and contrast to a meat or chicken dish.
Try cactus fruit - it's extremely beautiful and delicious.  It's said to have special qualities which help fight cancer of all types.  The skin is the colour of a rainbow and the insides are the most lucious magenta.

Buy red kale instead of plain old green.  It's been taken up a notch in the benefits scale as a result of its red pigment.  Kale is rich in anticancer nutrients called glucosinolates which are very difficult to find elsewhere.  Hot on the "foodie list" these days are kale chips.  Simply wash and dry the leaves, toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Yum!

Black garlic.  It's a month-long fermented product that Livestrong says that has twice the antioxidant potency of regular white garlic - double yum.

Heritage tomatoes of odd and exotic coloration - yellow, black, orange all rich in vitamin C and lycopene - two very powerful antioxidants.

What about making a unique pesto using beet greens instead of basil and Brazil nuts instead of pine nuts.  This is a potent combination for my fellow Sunflower Sisters.  The beet greens have the added benefit of helping with constipation and the nuts contain selenium and omega 3 fatty acids - said to be ovarian cancer inhibitors.

I'm sure my winged food guru - Julia Child - would approve...Bon Appetit!

Don't forget - January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

2 Jan 2012

Getting Their Wings

I once heard a beautiful guided meditation that goes like this:

"You are called to enter a forest - a very dark and scary place.  Even though you're really frightened, the trees and birds are beckoning.  So you go in.  You are in bare feet and the branches are touching your face and the leaves are wet and slippery on the ground but you must go on and somehow you know you can.  The most fearsome snakes slither by but you keep going and going somehow knowing that you can.  And then you see light in the distance.  As you approach, you see that it's bright and it's shining over a sparkling calm lake.  There's a small boat with a sail at the edge moored in the sand.  You know you can't sail the boat but you get in anyway.  Magically the wind lifts the sail and you're out on the calm, sparkling water bathed in sunshine and looking towards the opposite shore.  What is it?  Who is it?  Why, it's everyone you've ever known shouting, cheering, clapping and screaming "You can do it! Hooray!"  Everyone is there - your entire family, aunts, uncles, classmates, former employers, people you met on the subway, everyone who's ever touched your life - all laughing and patting you on the back, welcoming you as you arrive.  But soon the group parts, showing you a path to continue on.  It leads to the most beautiful cottage - the most incredible place you've ever seen.  Inside is everything you could possibly imagine - all set out for you.  On the wall is a safe and somehow you know the combination.  Inside is a small chest which you take with you and sit by the fire.  You open it and in the chest is the light - the all-knowing, eternal radiance, all-loving, perfection, serenity, only thing that ever mattered and ever will.  You are filled with remembering.  You are filled with the knowledge of your own true original self.
You close the lid and return the chest to the safe - knowing it will always be there for you.  The crowds cheer you back to your little craft and you make your way across the lake, through the forest, back to your life."

This meditation is to honour all the family members and all the people that touched the lives of two Sunflower Sisters who got their wings on New Years Day 2012.  May you know that even though the forest is scary - you can do it - and that the light is always, always there for you - you only have to remember.

1 Jan 2012

Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month in the USA and Australia - a "sister" cancer to ovarian cancer in that it's a member of the gynaecological cancer family.  It differs vastly from ovarian cancer as it is readily detectable and often preventable.  If caught at an early stage, it's curable.

Cervical cancer is detectable by the Pap test which highlights cell abnormalities and allows for early treatment.  According to the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, most women whose cells progress to cervical cancer have not had a Pap test in the previous 3 to 5 years.  The majority of these women are 35-55 years old.  There are two main types of cervical cancer - adenocarcenoma of the cervix and squamous cell carcenoma.  Certain studies report the former to be much more aggressive than squamous cell - which is the more common (80%) of the two.
Two types of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are found in 99% of cervical cancers.  HPV is considered the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US.  For 90% of women, this infection clears up on its own within two years.  Those subject to persistent infection have a higher risk of developing abnormal cells.  Other risk factors include - high parity (large number of live births), smoking and multiple sex partners. A publication in the Lancet 2002 states that there is solid evidence that long-term use of oral contraceptives is associated with 3-4 times increased risk of cervical cancer.  Long-term is defined as 5-9 years (3 times the risk) and 10 years plus (4 times the risk).

As stated above, the best and simplest way of detecting cervical cancer is with a Pap test.  Secondarily, an HPV test may be recommended.  Symptoms of cervical cancer can include abnormal bleeding, pelvic pain not related to your period, increased urinary frequency, unusual discharge and pain during urination.Today, there is an HPV vaccine available which is said to have a 70-80% effectiveness in preventing cervical cancer.  Many States in the US and most Provinces in Canada encourage and/or require girls to be immunised before starting Middle School or High School.  This is not without controversy.  All inoculations have a potential for side effects.  However, the bigger issue seems to be one of morality.  In certain views, the vaccine is regarded as a green light for sexual permissiveness in teens.

Caught at an early stage, cervical cancer is often treated with surgery and perhaps pelvic radiation.  The protocol for advanced cervical cancer includes the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy after a radical hysterectomy and lymphadenectomy.  Recurrent cervical cancer lesions can be re-treated with radiation and chemotherapy with a very poor prognosis.

On a personal note, we have a family member who is in palliative care - at the end stage of her struggle with cervical cancer.  As a nurse, she followed all the rules but sadly ended up with the short straw.  She is accepting, courageous and at peace.  One of my girlfriends has an  Irish grandmother who would say "her place in heaven is assured".

Awareness and prevention of this dreaded disease is everything.  Absent overt signs and symptoms, women up to the age of 70 are encouraged, even after having been vaccinated, to have a Pap test at least every 3 years.