Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Let the label reading begin (again)

Holy crap. My session with the cancer dietitian earlier today was a wtf situation for so many reasons.

First, I learned I am a baby. I was cooed over by a roomful of women who were 60+ years old. I sat next to an old gal who had partaken of a healthy amount of liquorama the night before (the hour before?) and spent the entire session emanating scotch and asking about the ramifications of mixing anti-depressants and chemo. I sat across from a woman in a lopsided wig who asked, "is the jury still out on whether margarine is bad for you?" Um, not if you think plastic is food. And the rest of the room asked endless questions about mixing cancer with their multivitamins and other endless lists of age-related supplements.

I asked about taking things like fish oil, garlic pills and those green powders that are everywhere and one woman behind me snorted, "sounds disgusting!" Most of the women in the room had no idea whether their cancer was estrogen-receptive or not so the RD kindly read out the results of everyone's pathology reports upon request. She said 70% of breast cancers are estrogen-receptive. Then the scotch drinker beside me barked out "Her-what?!" when our host mentioned there was no research yet about the link between diet and battling Herceptin-receptive cancer (which I have).

The theme of the room seemed to be one of anger that our collective oncologist team neglected to tell any of us which vitamins & minerals to steer clear of taking high doses of during chemo/radiation (C, E, A and selenium, to name the biggies). These are anti-oxidants, which is generally good, but chemo/rad are oxidants, which is generally bad, but not when you're fighting the c-dawg.

Taking anything that thins the blood (Omega 3s, garlic pills) is also not great because it does a number on clotting when your white blood cells are already low. Also found out that osteoporosis is likely in my future but I have to be careful of overdosing on calcium supplements, which can be toxic.

The dietitian did her Master's thesis on soy products and cancer, so had a lot to say about the BFF nature of cancer and soy protein (which is ubiquitous, especially in so-called healthy products), but assured me that soy sauce is thankfully exempt.

She finished by giving us a list of the natural products that contain plant-based hormones, which sent my mind a-reeling. Flaxseed bad, hempseed bad, ginseng bad, sage, tea tree and lavender oils bad. And the list goes on. All this means that my favourite new lemon and sage deodorant will likely have to be tossed. Oy.

Ultimately, the RD recommended 1,200-1,500 mgs/day (including from dietary sources) of calcium and 1,000 IUs/day of vitamin D. She also talked about the most respected/accepted/extensively tested diet for cancer prevention (first time and recurrence) being a high fibre (30-35 g/day)/low fat one. Apparently it reduces the rate of recurrence by at least 35%.

The thing I really took away from this whole shenanigan is that new studies are being confirmed every day - the dietitians at the BCCA have daily morning meetings to discuss new findings and determine what should be discussed with patients - and that we need to all take control of our diagnosis and sift through the research ourselves to stay one step ahead.

All this from a session that was completely voluntary and took me three months to get a seat at. And what did I do immediately afterward? I picked up Stella from after-school care early and came home to make double chocolate chip cookies. Take that, low-fat diet.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking as an old gal who had to listen to the cancer verdict once or twice, I would like to stand up a little for the 60+ women in that room yesterday. We are not of the generation of women who ask questions of Doctors/medical people we just assume they know more than us and care enough to put us on the proper road to health. It is the young women in the world who will have to wake us up to being self responsible. The truth is, if you take responsiblity for your own well being, you also have to take the blame for your health issues. Ouch! Hard to take for us old broads!