How I Survived Breast CancerMarina Silverio, RHN October 1, 2014
Success Story ~ My Personal Journey Back To Health
This is a topic that’s close to my heart in more ways than one because I’m a two time breast cancer survivor. Over the past several years, I have effectively overcome my adversities through knowledge and acceptance. In the wise words of Eckhart Tolle, “Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”
Currently, I’m cancer free, enjoying optimal health, and not taking any medication. But it wasn’t always that way, and it wasn’t until I got better that I realized how sick I had been most of my life. I no longer dwell on the past, not because I find it painful but because I learned that living in the present is more joyful and the only thing that is real. However, when I decided to share some of my story with you, I agreed to revisit the past because I’m hoping it will inspire you to take charge of your health the way I did, and I want to convey the message that your body can repair itself from just about anything, if given what it needs.
Before you start to think that your case is the exception, and too serious to overcome, please read on. Before my breast cancer diagnosis, I had suffered with digestive issues since childhood; I thought it was normal to be in pain every day. By the age of 16, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) and was put on medication. By the time I was in my 30’s, I had osteoporosis, Graves’ disease, and thyroiditis and was put on more medication. Then I had my first diagnosis of breast cancer – a large tumour had spread to my lymph nodes. I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and synthetic hormone therapy. Because of the multitude of maladies, I was taking up to 25 prescription pills per day, and have had 10 surgeries throughout my life! In addition, I discovered I had celiac disease. This didn’t make any sense to me! How could someone so young have so many health issues? Well, regardless of what I was told by the medical profession, my gut told me there must be some underlying causes and a better solution.
A Journey of Self Exploration
After my medical treatments were completed, I was so sick, weak, depressed, barely functioning and in pain every day, I decided it was time to find some real solutions for restoring my health because I felt that my life depended on it. So I have been on a journey of self exploration and education for the past 11 years, and it’s still ongoing.
Information doesn’t only reduce your fear, the right kind of information can save your life in a multitude of ways! This is what happened for me. When my breast cancer returned ten years later, I knew in my heart that if I hadn’t made the changes that I had during that time, the cancer would have come back sooner and would probably have been much worse. The second time around, I was armed with the right kind of information and able to take charge of my own treatment. I didn’t have to relinquish my power, blindly hoping to be saved. I now have the tools to address my own health and to continue on a journey filled with gratitude and joy.
I made it my mission to help others by empowering them with information and helping them take charge of their health; I became an alternative health practitioner, focusing on holistic nutrition and diversifying to other holistic modalities. My road was long and arduous, but it doesn’t have to be that way for you. I now have a road map and I want to pass some of this knowledge on to you to facilitate your journey towards optimal health. Please read on to become empowered.
The Role of Estrogen in Cancer
Recent statistics indicate that one in nine women in Canada, and one in eight in the U.S., will develop breast cancer. Why is breast cancer so prevalent today? The answer to this question is multifaceted and can include genetics, diet, psychology, spirituality, and environmental influences. One of the primary causes of breast cancer is a hormonal imbalance caused by estrogen dominance.
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones mostly produced by the ovaries (or testes in men), and smaller amounts are produced by the adrenal glands and fat cells. The balance between progesterone and estrogen is important in preventing estrogen dominance. There are three types of estrogens produced by the body:
– The stronger ones are estrone and estradiol; both are linked to a higher risk of hormone related cancers.
– Estriol is the third and weakest estrogen, metabolized in the liver from the other two estrogens; it has a protective effect by binding to receptors and preventing the stronger estrogens from binding and creating estrogen dominance.
Excess estrogens are detoxified by the liver through a process called glucuronidation in which estrogen is bound to glucuronic acid and then shuttled into the intestinal tract to be excreted via the stool or urine. If gastrointestinal health is not optimal, and there is a lack of good bacteria in the intestines, the bond between glucuronic acid and estrogen can be broken – allowing the estrogen to be released back into the blood stream leading to estrogen dominance.
XENOESTROGENS – Estrogen dominance can also be caused by exposure to environmental chemicals which mimic estrogen, and are therefore called xenoestrogens. These chemicals are found in a broad variety of common everyday products and they cause hormone disruptions in men and women, leading to hormone related cancers. Some of the chemicals which function as xenoestrogens include:
– bisphenol-A (BPA) found in plastic water bottles, pill bottles, food wrappers, can linings, as well as cash register receipts and other types of thermal paper;
– phthalates are a group of plasticizers used to make plastics more flexible or resilient, and are used in PVC (polyvinyl chloride) products and many children’s toys. They’re also found in shower curtains and vinyl flooring, adhesives, wall coverings, shampoo, nail polish, hairspray, lubricants, wood finishes;
– dioxin is found in industrial pollution emissions, chlorine bleached paper products, chlorinated pools and drinking water;
– perchlorate and parabens are found in cosmetics, toiletries, birth control pills, tap water, fragrances, vinyl, hair dye, chlorine, and more.
PHYTOESTROGENS – There is another type of estrogen which has a more beneficial effect – it comes from plants; phytoestrogens are estrogens that can have a beneficial and protective effect by binding to receptors like estriol does. Phytoestogens are found in flax, oats, fennel, chickpeas, alfalfa, rye, lentils, sesame, organic fermented soy, and herbs like wild yam and black cohosh. There is also a phytochemical called indole-3-carbinol found in brassica vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kohlrabi, that can help prevent breast cancer by inactivating harmful estrogens. Another phytochemical called Calcium D-glucarate (found in apples, pears, oranges, grapefruits, and other fruits, vegetables) also binds excess estrogen for excretion.
The human immune system fights cancer cells all the time without us ever knowing; should cancer develop into a tumour, it can be described as our immune system encapsulating the cancer to protect the rest of the body. Our immune system consists of various types of cells with different functions; for example, there are Natural Killer Cells which have the ability to identify and destroy abnormal cells in the absence of antibodies; Phagocytes are immune cells that engulf and digest foreign particles. Knowing that, it is safe to assume that the foundational protective component against breast cancer, or any cancer, is a healthy and strong immune system.
How Stress Increases Cancer Risk
Stress is a major causation for cancer; it’s been shown to reduce natural killer cell activity. Stress also reduces levels of progesterone because the adrenals steal it to convert it to cortisol, the stress hormone, throwing off the estrogen and progesterone balance, leading to estrogen dominance. As well, stress stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more hormones; those hormones, through the action of an enzyme called aromatase, can be converted in the fat cells into the strong estrogens – estradiol and estrone – which can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Strategies to Prevent Cancer
Here is a recap of some steps you can take to help you prevent breast cancer:
• Reduce your stress levels – try yoga, meditation, qigong, deep breathing, walking, and spending time with family and friends.
• Get plenty of sleep, especially during the melatonin cycle of midnight to 2 am; melatonin can help protect against cancer.
• Eat organic as much as possible to avoid pesticides and harmful agricultural chemicals.
• Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the production of estrogen in fat cells.
• Support your liver so that it can detoxify excess estrogen (avoid alcohol, cigarettes, drugs). Vegetables that help to support the liver include dandelion, arugula, artichokes, beets, and cruciferous veggies; also herbs like curcumin and milk thistle help with liver detoxification (please consult a professional).
• Avoid sugar because it’s been shown to decrease the number of phagocytes (immune system defenders) for hours after ingesting.
• Introduce brassica vegetables to your diet because they contain indol-3-carbinol.
• Include foods containing the phytochemical Calcium D-glucarate.
• Use unbleached paper towels, toilet paper, tampons, and feminine napkins.
• Use a filter for your drinking water and shower to remove chemicals found in municipal water supplies.
• Avoid plastic wherever possible (water bottles, food containers, pill bottles, etc).
• Repair your intestinal tract through regular ingestion of probiotics, green foods, and superfoods; this is important for detoxification and a healthy immune system.
• Incorporate garlic into your diet because it contains nutrients like selenium and germanium that help reduce the risk of cancer. Garlic and onions also contain sulfur compounds which can help the liver detox out estrogen through sulfation. This is the liver’s back-up plan if the estrogen cannot, for whatever reason, be detoxed out through glucuronidation.
Finally, I want to leave you with one more important message; the equation is not complete unless you take care of the unresolved emotional issues in your life. Don’t be afraid to get help because there is an essential link between our biography and our physical wellbeing.
Walk with the peace of knowing and the joy of being.
• Pub Med: Stromal effects on mammary gland development and breast cancer. by Wiseman BS1, Werb Z. http://tinyurl.com/oepa5jp
• The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer by Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, ND Visit: http://www.trilliumhealingarts.ca
• Making Sense of Women’s Health by Dr. Marita Schauchnjhn, BSc, ND
To read another personal account of recovery from breast cancer, see our Letters to Editor section in this issue.
Catch Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, at Whole Life Expo 2014, where she will be answering questions and offering resources such as The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer at her booth. As well, she will give a talk at the Expo on Sunday, Nov. 30, on “MIND-BODY APPROACHES TO CANCER: How we can positively affect the mind-body connection through meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and more.” (10:30 am)
For more information visit: www.wholelifeexpo.ca or see the Showguide in the November issue of Vitality Magazine.
Marina Silverio earned her Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) designation at Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. She is also a Reiki/energy practitioner, and a member in good standing with CAHN-Pro (Canadian Association of Holistic Nutrition Professionals). She is also a writer, speaker, and teacher. Marina has a private practice in Toronto. She is a nutritional consultant focusing not solely, but primarily, on cancer clients. She uses an individualized approach that looks at the body, mind, and spirit and how they interconnect, she assesses body systems and how they impact each other to find a nutritional plan that suits the client’s lifestyle, to help reverse, repair health conditions, and optimize health. Food sensitivity, cortisol, and other testing is available; for more information contact Marina Silverio Tel: 647-960-2853; Email: nutrition@marinaRHN.ca; Web: www.marinaRHN.ca