My Plan of Attack

In my own journey I find myself constantly searching for specific information in other blogs and sites about how people are dealing with their cancer…  What books do they turn to?   What does their treatment plan look like?  What actions did they take that seemed to help?

So I’ve decided to add this information to my own blog.  I’ve been getting requests and questions about what I did to keep my immune system strong, how I’ve avoided taking certain drugs, and what i’ve done to kick cancer’s ass.  So here is my “Plan of Attack”…

BEFORE I START…   Let me preface everything with what I believe to be the most important factor in my recovery and healing…  The drive to survive.  I have always believed in my heart of hearts from the get-go that I would beat this.  I am not in denial about the statistics.  But just determined and full of faith and hope that I will be one of the few folks that defies the odds.  In all my reading and chatting with others who have gone on to live long lives with metastatic BC hope, faith, and a commitment to do whatever is necessary to keep on living seems to be a common thread.

So here we go…  In general, this is what I am doing:

EXERCISE  -  I aim for 30 mins or more of cardio every day.  Yes, EVERY day.  Which can be anything from a good walk, hike, swim, or workout on my elliptical machine.  (Because the cancer was in my bones before I’ve been advised to steer clear of high impact activities like running or tennis).  Plus, it is my goal to fit in weekly yoga and strength training sessions in the near future.

SLEEP  -  I aim to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep is extremely important for our bodies to rest and do repair work.  My holistic team told me it’s best to go to sleep at or before 11pm so generally I’m in bed between 10:30/11pm and up around 7/7:30am.

DIET  -  I have pretty much converted to a whole foods plant based alkaline vegan diet.  I’ve given up dairy (milk, cheese, eggs) as well as most animal meat.  But I still eat fish a few times a month.  For the most part, my diet is veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans/lentils, and minimal whole grains (no white bread, white pasta, or pasta).  Plus, I’ve mostly eliminated  sugar (aside from naturally occurring sugar in fruits), I no longer drink alcohol, and I avoid unhealthy fats.  I drink tea from wild medicinal mushrooms that my dear nutritionist friend sends me from Bowen Island.  Plus I avoid processed tofu and soy products because of their connection to estrogen (my cancer feeds on estrogen).  For more on my diet regime see my posts on Healthy Eating.

GREEN JUICING/SMOOTHIES  –   I make either green juice or a green smoothie every day.  My go-to recipe is usually a variation of kale/greens/spinach, cucumber, celery, parsley/cilantro, apple, and lemon.  My usual green protein smoothie recipe is mixed greens, frozen berries, frozen banana, apple, unsweetened coconut, raw cacao nibs, unsweetened almond milk, and protein (hemp seeds, whey, chia).

MENTAL & EMOTIONAL HEALING  -  This includes regular psychotherapy, 10-20 mins of meditation most days of the week, as well as visualization exercises where I do things like imagine my white blood cells growing and squeezing the life out of the cancer cells, and regularly doing things that bring me joy (like trips back to NYC and spending time with positive & uplifting people).

STRESS RELIEF  -  Meditation, focused breathing (in breath for 4, hold for 4, and breathe out for 4), regular cardio exercise, going for walks in nature, listening to the birds, yoga and stretching, reading a good book, dancing around the house with Miss M, blasting my favorite “happy” tunes & singing real loud.

VITAMINS & SUPPLEMENTS   -   Every day I take a whole bunch of vitamins and supplements to boost my immune system, balance my hormones, give me energy, and fight the cancer.   My amazing Naturopath continues to monitor and fine tune the list.  Currently I am taking 30+ pills spaced throughout each day.

ELIMINATING TOXINS   -   Toxic chemicals are everywhere these days.  It is virtually impossible to avoid them all.  But I am trying.  I have switched to all natural makeup, soaps, moisturizers, cleansers, and household detergents.  I have stopped wearing commercial antiperspirant.  I no longer wear perfume.  I don’t use air-fresheners.  I buy mostly all organic non genetically modified foods.  I try to do dry skin brushing.  My naturopath wants me to take regular epsom salt baths.

If you’re interested in learning more about the dangerous chemicals in your everyday life and finding alternatives two amazing resources are:  (1)  the Environmental Working Group has a cosmetics database that rates personal care products and tells you about potentially harmful side effects of each ingredient …  (2)  the book What’s In This Stuff?: The Hidden Toxins in Everyday Products and What You Can Do About Them.

COMPLEMENTARY HEALING TECHNIQUES   -  I am open to trying them all…  I am now a firm believer in the healing power of Reiki and acupuncture (having done both weekly throughout chemo).  Plus I also used principles of Chinese Medicine and some Chinese herbs.  But make sure you do all these with licensed practitioners.

HOW I BOOSTED MY WHITE BLOOD COUNT…

For those of you looking for the specifics behind how I kept my immune system strong and my white blood count up while doing chemo and avoided (for the most part) having to take those painful white blood count booster shots like Neulasta, Neupogen, or Leukine – here is what I think helped:

  • Exercise (I swear it’s a cure-all for practically everything!)
  • Diet (lots of healthy antioxidant rich fruits and veggies plus regular green juicing)
  • Supplements (specifically – Vitamin C, Selenium, Astragalus Root – liquid 3x/day, Ginseng, Echinecia)
  • Acupuncture (weekly)
  • Reiki (weekly)

18 Responses

  1. Terri, when taking any B vitamin, take a balanced complex such as B100 Complex instead of one or a few, which throws the others off balance. Learned to my dismay after being on niacin for two years.

    I so wish I had more to offer! I can only send my concern, sympathy and appreciation for your sense of balance – and writing skills. I’ve now outlived my own life expectancy by just over a decade, and can say: statistics don’t predict; they are only an arbitrary way to view the past.

    Cheers!

  2. Check out the Nourishing Traditions cookbook by Sally Fallon…tons of amazingly basic recipes for healing foods….as well as tons of research about Weston Price’s work with traditional peoples/diets around the world. Enjoy ;)

  3. Hello from a fellow Canadian on a similar journey. First, your blog is a wonderful read, thank you for writing. Second, You asked for other voices blogging about approaches and experiences at stayin’ alive. Here’s my take on it as an alternative: I blog on the joys of living breastlessly since I finished treatment last year with a second mastectomy. As a conflict manager, I believe that our words can create our worlds. So, I don’t use the usual terms like ‘fighting’ ‘battle’ ‘attack’ ‘war on’ ‘weapons’ etc. because those are exhausting images to a peacemaker like me. My preference is peaceful, joyful images (that I distinguish from what I call the twin tyrannies of good attitude and positive thinking). In my quest for more years than my diagnosis may allow me, I’m finding as much humour and zest as I can grab with both arms. Let’s help each other along the way.
    Deborah
    Conflictcompetence.wordpress.com
    Or
    Writing4life.ca

  4. I just wanted to tell you that I follow your blog and find such comfort and inspiration in your words. I am also triple positive, about the same age, married and I have a three year old daughter and one year old son. This is hard on everyone…esp them. I can really relate to what you write about Ms. M.
    I appreciate you sharing your story and your guidance.
    I live in a small town and while I am treated at a facility associated with md Anderson, I find that there is no after care…diet, meditation, supplements…etc. I was wondering if you could share more about supplements with me…I take a lot that you do…but, wonder about amounts…I am also super interested in your diet still…I would love to hear more about it. Oh and those mushrooms that you infuse your tea with…
    Our resources here are limited so I have to rely on the Internet.
    I am so happy that I found your blog. I feel inspired and less lonely in this journey. Keep up the great work…and keep smiling.
    Hugs,
    Jennifer

    • Wow, Jennifer… I am so moved by your comment. Thank you for taking the time to connect. Just sorry to hear there is another young mom like me out there who has to deal with this cancer crap. It sucks!!!
      A lot of people have been asking about my specific protocols when it comes to diet, exercise, supplements, and everything else I do. So I think a few separate blog posts addressing each of these items is definitely in order. I’ll try to get to that next.
      I wish you strength and support in your journey. Remember to keep hope alive & don’t give up! With the right tools & support I truly feel we can manage this disease & go on to live for many, many years.
      Big hugs, – T

  5. Hello Terri,

    I found your post today and truly admire your strength and your determination. I wanted to ask you what dosage of DIM and what brand you take as I am shopping around. Also probiotics how much and how often do you take. I learned that making your own kefir or sauerkraut supplies a much better form of probiotics and works better by having them with meals. I wanted to recommend a few books to you that I am currently reading. The first is Waking the Warrior Goddess by Christine Horner M.D. and Return to Wholeness by David Simon of the Chopra Center for Well Being.

    Hope this can be of help to you, I am on a healing journey of my own and really appreciate your blog.

    • Hi Raffia. Apologies for the delayed response… The books you recommend look great. I went ahead & ordered them & look forward to reading them. Thanks for the tip. My friends back in the Pacific Northwest were making delicious kefir drinks last time I was there… It’s funny that you mention it because I recently started thinking about trying to make my own. Will definitely add that to my ‘to do’ list.
      As for the supplements… I’ve tried different brands of probiotics and haven’t yet found one that I’m in love with. I usually just take them at night – after dinner or before bed (because that’s when I remember). Right now i’m taking Dr Stephen Langer’s Ultimate 15 Strain Probiotic (2 capsules a day). Before that I was taking the generic Whole Foods brand. And I’m not currently taking the DIM (had to stop a bunch of supplements when I went on blood thinners) – but when I was taking it and I had active disease present my holistic team advised me to take 200 MG / twice a day. Not sure what the amount would be now that there is no evidence of disease.

      Hope that helps. Wishing you lots of good luck and strength in your own healing journey. warm hugs, – T

  6. Hi Terri, just got back from Commonweal retreat and met some amazing people there. I was confronted with the issue of not taking Tamoxifen and wanted to ask you what your thoughts were on that. I was prescribed it but do not yet feel it is safe to take for 5 years.
    Would love to talk to you about what you know or what info you may have on the subject as soon as you get a chance. I am curious to find out what you do in place of it as well.
    Your blog inspired me to ask more questions about it….thank you for your help!
    If you would like to talk via cell please call me at 415.305.1437.

    • Raffia & Cindy… I am by no means an expert on this topic… I did chose not to take Tamoxifen or Aromatase inhibitors. But I am still learning about ways to balance my hormones the “natural” way. In general, I have found that the steps I take to stay cancer free also help regulate my hormones – A whole foods, plant based diet, daily exercise, stress relief, avoiding chemicals, limiting caffeine & alcohol. It’s also VERY important to keep your weight in check. Estrogen LOVES fat. So even though my weight is technically fine right now I’m trying to still lose a few more pounds of fat – just to be safe.
      My naturopath has me on DIM (100 mg/daily) and Calcium D-Glucarate (500 mg/2xday). Both are the Source Naturals brand.
      She also ordered urine & saliva tests to check my hormone levels (progesterone, testosterone, & 3 different estrogens) as well as ratios (the 2/16 Hydroxyestrogen Ratio is especially important). All of which looked good.

      I also found this blog post that speaks about natural alternatives to tamoxifen: http://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/natural-alternatives-to-tamoxifen/

      I can’t stress enough how important it is to avoid chemicals (which is nearly impossible these days). But endocrine disrupters and estrogen producers can be found in everything. Especially avoid BPA, plastics, non-organic fruits & veggies or animal products, dairy (or if you must eat dairy make it full-fat organic), cleaning products (i make my own now), and personal care products with parabens & other ingredients you can’t pronounce (makeup, lotions, shampoo, sunscreen, antiperspirant, etc. – I’ve stopped using most of these.) Check out Environmental Working Group’s database to find least damaging personal care products.

      I firmly believe that when we treat our bodies with respect and give them the tools they need for wellness then they can do what is necessary to heal and stop cancer & disease in its tracks. Unfortunately, going the ‘natural’ route takes A LOT of time & energy & focused dedication. It’s much easier for most people to just pop a pill & call it a day. But that doesn’t feel right to me.

      Hope that helps. hugs, – T

      • What natural makeup do you use? Do you like it? Would love to share my retreat experience with you and I took recently had my expander replacement surgery so I can be of some help with how that is going….you are awesome!

        Sending you healing thoughts and hugs!

        Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2013 18:20:01 +0000 To: r_bufano@hotmail.com

      • Most days I don’t wear makeup anymore. When you exercise regularly and eat a whole foods plant based diet and change your body from within your skin starts to glow and look radiant on its own. So now I only wear makeup occasionally. Even then, I stick to organic tinted moisturizer by Physician’s Formula and a mineral based blush from MAC. Plus some tinted lip balm from Burt’s Bees. Done. Easy as 1-2-3.

  7. Hi Terri,
    I am tagging along to the last post. I want to quit Aromatase Inhibitors due to pain everywhere impacting my life in general and have been researching natural alternatives. DIM is at the top of the list. I would love to learn the brand you use. Also, Artemisinin is apparently effective against ER positive breast cancer. This is a wonderful link chock full of alternative treatments along with her wonderful book The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer. This doc is somewhere in Canada. I am in the states otherwise I would be on her doorstep. Anyway, DIM and Artemisinin are two things waiting in my arsenal, for the courage to get off these AI’s. I am looking for a naturopath to monitor urine estrogen levels. I would love your take on any of the above. Sending you golden healing wishes on your journey.

    PS I have heard probiotics are best taken first thing in a.m. on an empty stomach with 8 oz of water with lemon a half hour before eating :)

    PPS you can also make your own kefir. So easy and fun. Check out http://www.kefirlady.com

      • Wanted to ask you if your Naturopath can recommend someone in Northern California for me. Have been having a difficult time finding one here and I am unemployed so may have to wait until I start working. I too feel that we can balance our hormones naturally and therefore have a better quality of life, I do not so well on meds either.

        Thank you for all your input…helps me a great deal to know there are other women who are on the same page as me….it has been hard to find!

        Raffia

        Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2013 18:21:43 +0000 To: r_bufano@hotmail.com

      • I will ask my Naturopath if she knows of anyone in Northern California. Other way to search is through good ol’ Google. That’s how I found my naturopath (who was originally in Columbus & has since relocated to NYC). If I hear of anything I’ll let ya know. Peace.

  8. I am on Long Island and am looking for a naturopath who works specifically with Breast Cancer/hormone management. Can u let me know who you r using? Thank you so much! Andrea O’Halloran (stage IV, estrogen +)

    • Hey Andrea,
      My naturopath is Dr Erin Kirwin. She’s originally from Ohio but now working at Remede Naturopathics in the city. Their office is in the village – right by Washington Square Park. Although she is not specific to cancer per se, she does specialize in hormone management (which is why I chose her as well). She’s a total sweetheart & really good at what she does.
      Good luck my dear! Thinking of you.

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