Friday, 13 May 2016

'23andme' test

There are 7 billion people on this planet, each with approximately 37.2 trillion cells, a unique genetic code and a myriad of detoxification pathways. I think that we can safely assume that when it comes to healing, what works for one person may not work for another. 

Personalised treatment demands individual testing. My latest exciting insights come from the 23andme genetic profile test. This test shows genetic SNPs - essentially 'mutations' (or more accurately 'polymorphisms') in the gene code. I'm just starting to learn about this, and it's pretty involved. 23andme analyses hundreds of thousands of SNPs scattered across 23 pairs of chromosomes which make up the human genetic sequence. This is just a fraction of the estimated 10 million possible SNPs in the human genome! Gulp. Now think about this - each of our estimated 20-25,000 known genes has a regulatory job. A SNP in a certain place of a certain gene indicates reduced function, and 
can give valuable insight into disease pathways.

The most well understood and important SNP is in the MTHFR gene. This gene instructs the body to make the MTHFR enzyme. This important enzyme is responsible for converting vitamin B9, or folate, into it's active form, Methylfolate, which is a key player in the METHYLATION CYCLE. This critical chemical process takes place billions of times per second in our cells and is fundamental to the proper function of almost all of the body's systems. Here's the science part (I wish I'd paid more attention during chemistry lessons!) Methylation is the process of donating a methyl group (one atom of carbon bound to three of hydrogen: CH3) to a substrate (an end product, ie DNA, RNA, chemicals, neurotransmitters, hormones, immune cells, nerves) to make the necessary biochemical conversions needed for:

     Gene regulation
     Detoxification (Processing chemicals and toxins)
     Building neurotransmitters
     Processing hormones
     Immune System Function (Creating T and Natural Killer Cells)
     Cellular repair (DNA and RNA synthesis)
     Energy production
     Myelination (the production of protective nerve coating)

So you see, if this important cycle is working under par due to a gene mutation, over time it can lead to degenerative disease; breast cancer, MS and Alzheimers to name a few. Around 40% of us have a SNP in the MTHFR gene. A heterozygous SNP (where one allele is affected but the other is fine) can decrease efficacy by up to 40%, and a homozygous (where both alleles are affected) by up to 90%.

And MTHFR is just one gene of around 20,000! I have homozygous SNPs in COMT and MAO-A, two important detoxification genes, both of which are responsible for inactivating the more dangerous forms of oestrogen, and breaking down catecholamines (dopamine and adrenaline). My methylation pathways are compromised with homozygous SNPs in MTR and MTRR genes, and I have heterozygous mutations in 20 other genes. 

My SNPs explain my inability to process B vitamins, my tendency to worry (are you reading this, husband?), my adrenal burn out, heavy metal toxicity and inability to metabolise oestrogen safely - a sure route to breast cancer. 

But there's no bad news here! The beauty of this incredible knowledge is, that according to epigenetics we can switch our genes on or off by adjusting our internal environment. With this information we can gently support the body in the areas of lack, for example by taking oestrogen detoxifiers like calcium d-glucarate and DIM, or bioavailable forms of methyl/hydroxy B12 and methylfolate. 

Information is power, and this test provides another very important piece of the puzzle. I would absolutely recommend everyone who is trying to heal from chronic disease to take it. It costs £125 and is available to order (in the UK) on-line, you simply spit into a tube and post. Results take 6 - 8 weeks to come back, and need to be run through an interpretation programme. I found Nutra-hacker to be the most simple to understand, with elegant diagrams explaining the implication of certain SNPs and how to address them supplementally.  




Friday, 6 May 2016

Dying. And living.

We're all going to die. We know this right? Death is an integral part of life. But how many of us live like we positively embrace and accept this fact? In the past few months so many beautiful souls that I know have passed. I wonder if any of us are ever ready. For some I sensed acceptance that it was time to soar. Others felt that they had more to do here. And yet, our only reason to BE is to Be Here Now, to taste the sweetness of every moment in this physical body.

Death Doulas seem like a pretty good idea to me. Just as birth is an elegant human process, so is dying. What a beautiful thing, to be supported and guided in this experience, with love, knowledge and compassion. I want my children to have this understanding, that at the point of death we can choose to be surrounded by loved ones who peacefully allow us to be released from our physical bodies, knowing they must gently support and allow this progression. That the time is right, that it's OK. 

My reasons to stay Earthbound come in human (and puppy) shaped forms. It's all about love. It's only about love. And yet where we're going after this life, there will be no end of love. My belief is that when we die that's all there is, we assimilate back into the one giant heartbeat that is God, or Source, or whatever word works for you. There is no need to fear death, instead we must surely wholly embrace life.

For me, the realisation that this life is a Good One, has been immense. I'm living in a state of abundance, blessed with a healthy family, a roof over my head and food on my table. I don't live in fear or poverty, and so I believe that I have an obligation to do the work in this lifetime - to grow spiritually. Cancer has been my biggest teacher, I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I'm so grateful to have woken up. That I've been able to live every day since diagnosis wholly is a blessing. Sometimes it's felt onerous and intense, but I've never wanted to go back to sleep.

This week I bought a waterproof box. I put all of my cancer journals into it, and only on placing it in the loft did I realise that I'm ready to put cancer behind me, rather than being immersed in it, surrounded by it. I live by it's lessons, but I release the fear. 


For Karl, Hannah, Janet, Rosa, Grant and Maria: 

Raymond Carver - Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so? 
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.



Sunday, 7 February 2016

Puppy Classes



I'm simplifying my life. An unintentional cliched Christmas puppy has forced my hand. He's made me realise that everything can be as sublime as sniffing the invisible. I've been thinking about my approach to health, and I realise that it comes down to these three things:

Addressing the underlying imbalances that lead to cancer 
For me, this means balancing a wonky endocrine system, healing my leaky gut, nurturing & nourishing myself, exercising and getting good quality sleep.

Changing the external environment which lead to cancer
No more living the life I don't want whilst yearning for the one I do. I'm making it happen the way I want it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Reversing any cancer in my body.
I have a strong rotating protocol of anti cancer supplements which work by cutting tumour blood supply, encouraging cancer cell death and strengthening my immune system.

And that is it! Simple!






Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A love letter to my greatest teacher

Dear Cancer,

Thank you for teaching me that I don't need to be CURED to be healed, that I don't need to prove that the path I chose was the 'right' one. Now I understand that cured or not, it was always the right choice for me. You've taught me not to judge the individual ways that people approach life changes - there is no right or wrong way. I've learned that there is simply an ebb and flow to health and disease. Nothing is permanent.

Thank you for being my biggest catalyst for change. You forced me to create the life I always hankered for. I now have more freedom, more space and less conformity. You have given me permission to be myself.

I'm grateful that you taught me to be kinder to myself. To let go of the feeling that I was not 'good enough'. Thank you for allowing me to see my full potential, to understand that this life is a good one, and I can live it wholly. Thank you for showing me that there are no guarantees for tomorrow. I've stopped putting things off, and living in the present is proving exhilarating.

Thank you for teaching me that I have a choice in the way I react. Understanding that even the most challenging situation is a potential for growth is very empowering.

Without you I would not have tuned into my body's innate wisdom. It's a gift to feel the ways in which it guides me. I feel better when I eat well, sleep well, exercise and live consciously. It's good to be awake.

Thank you for showing me that acceptance is a comfort.

Thank you for teaching me about life....and death. I found faith in you. It holds me and teaches me to trust. For me, this has been a game changer.

With sincerest gratitude,

Nicola.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hormones

As incredible as it may seem, only now, six years on, am I addressing the intricate state of my hormones. My body is pretty frustrated with me about this tardiness, and has been screaming at me with some rather obvious signs to SORT IT OUT!

Where shall I start? A recent ultrasound showed numerous tiny cysts in my remaining breast. That, coupled with heavy, painful periods and pre-menstrual migraines is a clear indication of oestrogen dominance. Hmmmmmmm, oestrogen dominance eh? No big surprise there. If you go on the contraceptive pill at 15 tender years old (for painful periods, which could have been quite beautifully managed instead with magnesium!) you can bet your arse you're setting yourself up for a lifetime of hormone imbalance. Now, listen to this for a catastrophic cycle. Excess oestrogen (as found in the contraceptive pill) supports the growth of candida. Systemic candida causes leaky gut and malabsorption, which inhibits the excretion of unwanted oestrogen from the body, promoting it's reabsorption and contributing further to oestrogen dominance. Candida depletes gut production of B vitamins, which have a role in metabolising oestrogen to it's safer, weaker sister. To compound these issues, a recent 23andme test shows that I have skewed genetic pathways in both oestrogen and B vitamin metabolism! 

As with all hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are synergistic. As we head begrudgingly towards menopause, progesterone levels decline, and the delicate balance between oestrogen and progesterone becomes skewed, leading to hot flushes, etc. Enter Serenity Bio-identical Progesterone cream which naturally rebalances oestrogen levels. I've been using this for about 4 months with quite amazing results. No more pre-menstrual migraines. No more flooding or blood clots. Good. 

Back to my body, which has been yelling at me with textbook signs of hypothyroidism: cold hands and feet, dry skin, weight gain, low libido, tiredness. Tick, tick, tick....you get the picture! Recent blood tests backed this up, highlighting a low white blood count, low ferritin, low platelets, low T3, high cholesterol, all of which points to a deficient thyroid. And guess what? Thyroid deficiency also has a role in oestrogen dominance. Or oestrogen dominance has a role in thyroid deficiency. You see how easily this delicate hormone dance can become imbalanced? To complicate issues, adrenal insufficiency is fairly common due to to constant low level stress, and we need fully operating adrenal glands if the thyroid is to respond to any medication! Let's come back to candida, again. Leaky gut causes autoimmune disease, the thyroid gland being a common target of the misdirected immune system. Convoluted but all beautifully tied in. Of course it is, every cell in our body is connected through a system we can only hope to try to understand!

So now we come to the fun part. Yesterday I met my newest doctor. I always fall in love with the best ones, and I am pleased to say that I have a new crush! Dr Barry Durant-Peatfield is a retired NHS doctor. He resigned after a forced suspension, having upset the British Medical Council because he refused to prescribe the synthetic drug Thyroxine, over the natural version (which is dessicated bovine or porcine thyroid gland.) He's an old-school doctor in the best sense. He relies on old fashioned testing: pulse, reflexes, and basal temperature (this is your temperature on waking, before rising. The ideal body temperature is 36.5 degrees. Those with hypothyroidism often measure around one degree lower. Women who are still menstruating should take their temperature on days 1 - 4 of their period). His clinical diagnosis suggests that I have thyroid and adrenal insufficiency. His common sense (and that fact that Serenity has worked so well for me) suggests oestrogen dominance. My coated tongue tells him that I still have some work to do on overcoming candida.

My new protocol involves taking Adrenal Support, Thyroid support, Serenity cream and continuing to work on candida (I'm using caprylic acid, Pau Darco, oregano oil and cinammon). He anticipates that within a few weeks I'll be feeling great. His parting words? "You all get better" I can't wait!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Shift

The reality of living with cancer, is that my feelings toward it are different from one day to the next. While it's true that I wouldn't change my life-giving diagnosis, it's also the case that some days are tough. In these moments there's a gnawing fear that something is growing, insidious and unseen, beyond my control but within my body. It manifests as a darkness and is overwhelming. This is when meditation comes into its own. Breathing brings me back to peace. There's a deep reassurance in reclaiming just an element of control whilst releasing all control! Of knowing that I'm doing my best, and that my best is good enough. Meditation has brought me an understanding that I'm here purely to experience, to play. We humans are powerful beings and whatever the outcome of disease, living in the moment is the key to absolute happiness. 

I've always believed that cancer could be shifted in a matter of hours, or even minutes, if the mindset, no, the whole environment, was right. I've sensed that I was tantalisingly close to that place, and yet I held on to cancer, enjoying the ride, loving how much I was learning from it. 

And now something beautiful is happening. After almost 6 years of living with a degree of fear and uncertainty, something is changing. I am well. I feel well. I have no symptoms of cancer, and despite my incessant detective work, peering into the microscopic realms of my body, I find that the more I know, the less I really know. I'm starting to trust in something greater. 

Faith. What a companion. It makes everything so much simpler because with faith comes a heightened sense of guidance and intuition. I feel tuned in to a bigger voice, my inner voice. Cancer has brought me here and I am grateful.



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Australia

For a long time we've put off travelling. We've postponed it because we spend all of our available money on my health. On organic food, supplements, doctors appointments, scans, tests and treatments. After my last disappointing test result in February we decided to stop procrastinating and get on with living. I am, after all, alive!




And so, we've just spent the last month in Australia, catching up with family and old friends, revisiting places that I loved when I lived there in my twenties, soaking up the sun and immersing ourselves in glorious nature. 

There's been something incredibly healing about this trip. When I was first diagnosed, I spent a lot of time visualising myself on Bondi beach, arms around the shoulders of slightly-more-grown children. Do we manifest our reality because that's where we put our energy, or do we move towards a future which we are able to visualise purely because it's our destiny? Either way, I've spent the past month feeling very blessed, very present, and very healthy. 

I packed the most basic supplements: magnesium, DIM, calcium d-glucarate, iodine, colostrum, probiotics, krill, frankincense and IP6, alongside my trusty enema bag. I ate fantastically well thanks to a burgeoning health scene - chia pudding and a protein ball at the airport? No problem! Vegan? Gluten free? Easy. Every apartment we rented had a blender, and every cafe had a green juice or smoothie on the menu. 

I meditated on ocean-washed rocks and remote palm-fringed beaches, went for massages and practiced yoga under paperbark gum trees. I rode a bike, walked, ran, kayaked, swam and snorkelled. I watched the sun rise and contemplated my beautiful life.

During one particularly potent meditation came the words "cancer is fear", and I knew this to be true. I know that I carry fear like a shadow. But not on this holiday. A month away from fear must surely be the most powerful form of healing.

I felt fully guided throughout the entire trip. Everything felt easy. On our last day in Sydney I woke early to watch the sun rise. A photographer sitting behind me captured my moment and sent me the picture. It felt like the perfect confirmation of being in exactly the right place at the right time.