Sunday, August 08, 2010


A coworker of mine came back from reserve duty last week and took up residence in his brand new office across the hall from me. I enjoy having him there, he is a nice guy I get along well with and enjoy working with. We also see eye to eye on a lot of things in life - religion, family values, etc. It has been a different week with him back and there in his office... for example, I hear my name yelled spontaneously in our wing pretty regularly.

He spent some time in my office catching up earlier this week whereby we talked a fair amount about my mom's "Celebration of Life". He asked me the million dollar question then.

"Since your mom was diagnosed with this cancer at such a young age, do you worry about whether you will get it as well?"

Anyone who answers no, is lying.

It crosses my mind nearly daily. And since I am also a scientist with a wealth of journals at my fingertips, I will admit to staying on top of cancer studies and the current state of the art. When someone is diagnosed with cancer it is often a shock, a surprise and followed by a lot of time trying to understand 'what next'? And is what my doctor telling me the right course?

We had a lot of this with my mom because she was diagnosed with such a rare and often unrecognizable cancer. It wasn't until 6 months after we knew she had liver cancer did anyone dare label it with this rare name... cholangiocarcinoma. A cancer that only about 4000 people a year are diagnosed with in the US.

Yes, I think about it often. Will I get this cancer? Will my sister? Will my kids? My daughter's tummy ache the other day, is it cancer?

Present day medicine does not have a means to genetic test us to see if we will get this rare cancer. What medicine could tell us (if I understand it correctly) if we carry a gene that makes you more susceptible to cancers of this family. Taking this test? I haven't gotten there in my head yet.

What I can do, as I am learning in Anticancer, is to take steps to ensure that my body can fight cancer and make myself less susceptible to cancer. I like this book because as a scientist myself, it isn't telling a person with cancer to abandon all conventional treatment, it tells us to supplement your treatment. I believe there is merit to alternative medicine, but I also believe in scientific reasearch. As a Ph.D. chemist I "grew up" learning "better living through chemistry". And to a large degree I believe this, but I also understand that we don't know it all.

The book was recommended to my mom by a close friend who battled lymphoma successfully nearly two years ago. My mom downloaded it onto her Kindle and now I am reading it with rapt attention.

I am learning (after being only a third of the way into it) that we aren't terribly far off base in doing things to prevent cancer.

  • We don't eat red meat more than 3 times a week.
  • We only use olive oil or canola oil.
  • We eat and push fresh fruit and vegies on our children (despite one of them having a weird aversion to fresh fruit that I do not understand - or accept - for the life of me)
  • We drink red wine with dinner.
  • We eat loads of blueberries.
  • We all eat broccolli at least once a week.
  • We eat fish and a lot of that is salmon.
  • We shop local for local produce when possible.
  • We make our own spaghetti sauce, thereby eliminating sugar in a routine dinner meal at our house.
  • We have drank organic milk since my son started on milk.

Things I need to do better:

  • Not drink so much coffee... (I gave up Pepsi two years ago and switched to coffee - and I am fully addicted to coffee now.)
  • Pay better attention to use of plastic - I tend to look for BPA, but not always. I need to work on our use of Ziploc bags for everything - not only for health but also for environmental reasons. Example - when I buy meat in bulk and repackage and freeze, I need to wrap in parchment first... parchment isn't bad... is it?
  • Watch the sugar. I like desserts on occasion, and that isn't going anywhere. But I have a new rule regarding fruit snacks (you know the ones in the cereal aisle), I am not buying them. If the kids want stuff like that they can come with me to the grocery store and ask. So it isn't that I am cutting them cold turkey, but I personally, am not going to enable it. If no one comes to the grocery store with me than I buy what I want. Simple as that. This is made easier by the fact that the kids are both head over heels and have been for some time for these fruit crisps. I buy them at Costco and this is lately Skadi's source of fruit (other than bananas and apples, which she will eat).
  • Work towards cutting back on white flour. This is one we will work at, but frankly, I like to bake simply with white flour. I am open to alternatives, but pie crust just isn't the same.
  • Get more exercise (no need to explain - I just need to get back to getting up every morning and working out - this would be greatly enabled by a daughter who slept through the night.)
  • Check out "grass-fed" dairy products, this may be difficult in our small-ish town.

I believe in everything in moderation really. I am not necessarily looking to cut any of this out completely, and I don't think that is realistic for our family. But I will be trying to make some changes.

1 comment:

vanessa said...

Great post. We're a lot like you in our practical and grocery habits. Regarding the white flour - it is a battle I've struggled with simply because I can't stand the taste of whole wheat flour (I'm a "taster" - and whole wheat tastes really phenolic to me). I've started replacing about 20% of the flour in most of my baking (cookies, loaves, pancakes) with king arthur flour's harvest grains blend ( to add more fiber. Of course I can't do it with pastry, or "fine" baking, but I replace 25-30% of the flour in my regular breads with it. It is really yummy. Mail-order only, but so worth it for us.