Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Survivor Conference Invites Young Adult Canadian Cancer Survivors

The ad:

Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) is inviting all young adults dealing with cancer in Canada* to join us in Ottawa from November 3-7, 2011 for the 5th Annual Survivor Conference. We will spend four days building our community, sharing our experiences, and learning how to make the rest of our lives the best of our lives with others who truly “get it.” The weekend will feature professional speakers, workshops, small group discussions, and free time to connect on a personal level.

The Survivor Conference is also our annual reunion where past program alumni are encouraged to come back and reconnect with the friends they have made in the past while they’re making new friends.

The program is free for survivors and one supporter, all we ask is that you cover your travel to and from Ottawa. We’ll take care of the rest from your hotel room to your meals. We also have some travel assistance available and great fundraising ideas to help you cover some of the cost of travel.

Please visit our website or contact for more information and to apply!

My two cents:
I am working on my application and so glad something like this is available in Canada. YACC is an amazing organization. I attended their East Retreat in Newfoundland this year and it was much needed during my recovery. I met so many amazing survivors who understood what I was going through and I got to see Newfoundland (my ninth Canadian province, one more to go). I highly recommend the YACC retreat and cannot wait for the survivor conference. Hope to meet some of you there.

*diagnosed and currently between 18-39.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr

April 8, 2011 Funky Sexy Cancer
Girl gets cancer. Girl is dissatisfied with diagnosis and the fact there is no known cause to cancer. Girl seeks answers. Girl reads books. Girl has awakening. Girl changes diet (becomes vegan). Girl focuses on healing journey. Girl does more yoga, meditates more, and looks to food as medecine. Girl reaches out and meets other cancer warriors. Girl turns to alternative medicine treatments. This is my story.

But then I was surfing the net and learned about Crazy Sexy Diet. I go to visit a website called Crazy, Sexy, Cancer and I learn about Kris Carr. Her journey sounds a lot like my journey. ALOT like my journey.

I stop feeling quite so original.

But then I remember TLC's album "Crazy, Sexy, Cool" released in 1994. And I realize that Kris Carr is not quite so original after all.

I chose to reprint my very first Blue Butterfly blogpost above to illustrate how similar Kris Carr's cancer survivorship journey was to my own. And in illustrating how I felt about my journey, beginning a blog, learning how it works, and then going public/worldwide with my diagnosis, I thought I was original, different, and no one else felt this way. How wrong I was! After attending the Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC) East Retreat this year, workshops, and various support groups for young adults with cancer, I have learned instead that my cancer journey was and is very similar to many survivors as Kris Carr illustrates in Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips. When I first learned about Kris Carr, I had my (oh so wrong) preconceived notions of this Budweiser beer babe/model/actress/photographer turned health educator/advocate/cancer activist.

(I give her 'nuff respec' for completing her Health Educator certification at the Hippocrates Health Institute.) I thought it would be all fluff and no substance but boy was I wrong. (I know, I know... you can't judge a book by its cover.) I am so glad that I began reading this book after my survivorship began because now I could really understand and relate to Kris Carr's message more clearly. At age 31, Kris Carr was diagnosed with Stage IV epithelioid hemangioendothelioma (EHE), a very rare cancer with no known cause or cure and very few treatment options. Immediately, Kris began to take her diagnosis and fate in her own hands by going through a journey of self-healing. Although today, at age 39, Kris is technically not cured of cancer (she lives with "indolent" or non-progressive, stable tumors), she takes us on her journey. When I was first diagnosed and going through my surgery and treatments, I was not ready, clear-headed, or prepared to mentally absorb the sorts of cancer tips that Carr describes. I had to figure out my own "funky sexy cancer" tips, ones that worked for me and define my own journey. But I notice huge overlaps with Carr's journey and my own.

Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips is organized into eight chapters that contain almost 80 tips to go from "Cancer Babe to Cancer Cowgirl". I feel that many of the tips have already been a part of my journey such as:
Tip no. 7 Get a shrink! (A counsellor does wonders)
Tip no. 8 Telling people does get easier over time (I decided to do this through facebook and my blog)
Tip no. 12 Don't tell everyone (in some circles, this feels right to me)
Tip no. 14 Find a penpal (I found one through the thyroid cancer forum)
Tip no. 19 Seek second (and third!) opinions (I had four endocrinologists)
Tip no. 22 Create and maintain a medical binder (mine is a really thick purple file folder)
Tip no. 36 Replace the word patient with the word survivor (survivorship is in my arsenal)
Tip no. 39 Make a List of 10 Things You've Always Wanted to Do and Try Them (I made a list of survivor resolutions after I got my great news so Ima' gonna' start on them)
Tip no. 40 Awaken your artistic mojo! (mine are blogging, writing, drawing, music)
Tip no. 42 Take a cancercation (I've taken a couple-- Newfoundland, Montreal, soon New York)

Like Carr, I have also used my "cancer card", gone vegan, and "shaken my ass" (got active).

With colourful, glossy photographs, notable quotes, quirky anecdotes, and profiles and advice from her creative cancer posse, this book was much a joy to read and felt like getting good advice from your big sister or your homegirl. (According to Kris, her oncologist is her homeboy.) Carr tells you how to eat right, look good, and feel like a cancer-fighting goddess as well as other topics like dating, how to "get your freak on", and beauty tips. You too can be a hot crazy sexy cancer survivor cowgirl.

I so much appreciate a profile from the late Oni Faida Lampley, an African-American playwright, actress, and artist who shared her wisdom. Like her, I am a Black woman who has found very few "survivor" stories from women of colour. In African diasporic (African-American in Oni's case, Afri-Jamaican in my case) culture, as in others, it is still quite taboo to discuss cancer openly but I am glad that Oni talked about her search for Black "survivor role models". (For more on the cultural aspect of cancer, read Everything Changes in which one survivor discusses this subject at length.) I loved reading Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips because it reminded me of a cross-between Cosmo and Shape magazines. and cannot wait to read other books in the Crazy Sexy franchise with a dash of Sex and the City. Click here to get a taste of the Crazy Sexy Life by visiting Carr's awesome blog and website. I will be reviewing her other books as well.

Coming up next: Lotus in the Fire: The Healing Power of Zen by Jim Bedard

Monday, July 25, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 8 Rawlicious

(Written in Jamaican English with approximate Standard English translation)

>< >< >< >< >< a dis' ya' top of de' line someting(Outstanding)

>< >< >< >< everyting irie(Good and very good)

>< >< >< alright still(Just okay)

>< >< C'mon man! Unu c'yan do better 'den 'dat(Needs improvement)

>< a what de ras'?(Deplorable)

Taste of the food
>< >< >< ><
Look of the food
>< >< >< >< >< Love the fresh look. No wilted veggies here.
>< >< >< >< >< >< There were reusable utensils, cups, plates, etc. They even get a few extra points for not having air-conditioning (AC). To compensate and cool down our eating space, we ate in the dark with the lights out. How's that for conserving energy two-fold?
Health Savvy
>< >< >< >< Rawlicious aims to be totally organic and raw. Most of their dishes are 100% organic and 100% raw. Since they are gluten free and contain no meat, no dairy, and no refined sugar, they are easy to digest and accessible to most people. Since many dishes contain nuts, some people may not be able to eat here due to allergies.
>< >< >< >< The waitresses were very friendly and busy. They also divided their roles as hosts and "cooking" staff, except there is no cooking and only preparation. They totally kept their cool and were friendly even though there was just two of them and the restaurant was busy.
>< >< >< >< >< I did not hear any music playing in the background by I totally give them five butterflies for style and decor. I wish I could live there.
Added Perks
>< I am sorry Rawlicious. I love the restaurant, food, and vibe but I did not get freebies for writing this article.
Ethical and Community-Minded
>< >< >< Rawlicious is connected to TVA as a listed restaurant. I don't really know the answer to this one.

$20-$29 For this price point, I got the taco wrap and the cheesecake which for today was lemon cheesecake with raspberry and a macaroon ($ 26 includes tip).

It's big, it's green, and it's crunchy! Watch out people. The raw revolution won't be televised but it has touched down at a local raw food restaurant in your city. Why raw food? Not cooking your veggies, means more of the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes remain intact. So more nutritious goodness!!!! I really looked forward to the Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) social dinner group experience at Rawlicious. Boasted as Toronto's "only raw food restaurant to never cook a thing!", Rawlicious is a rare raw restaurant revolution replete with roughage. (How's that for alliteration!) Boasting two other locations (Barrie and the swanky Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto), I went to the location in the Junction, a burgeoning older community "by the traintracks" which streets are lined with specialty shops and restaurants and is quickly gaining a name for artsiness. Rawlicious aims to provide a "clear conscious eating" experience to its clients. (Our goal is to serve healthy delicious food in a comfortable atmosphere ... with a dash of inspiration. There is no wheat (gluten free), no meat, no dairy nor refined sugar in anything we serve.) As soon as I entered this restaurant, I loved it. Built on the main level of a house with different coloured walls, mismatched furniture, funky artwork, and a rustic feel, Rawlicious was as much a feast for the eyes as for the palette. The only downside was that they have no AC (air-conditioning) and on the second evening of Toronto's extreme heatwave, I sat in the backroom with twenty-ish TVA members with the lights out, fanning ourselves with our menu, sipping water from blue glass pitchers that seemed to chip. It was often so quiet back there, between long pauses as we waited for our meals, that I felt monkish. I enjoyed my company though. To my left and right were four older and retired fellow teachers who chuckled when we discovered that the educators all ended up sitting at one end of the table in chairs while the "other occupations" were sitting at low tables on cushions against the walls. Since raw foods tend to be a little on the pricey end, I conserved my order to a taco wrap (a delectable mix of fillings in a crisp romaine lettuce wrapper) and lemon raspberry cheesecake (my very first vegan one made of cashews). I must admit that I ordered the taco wrap mainly to taste the seasoned nutloaf and nut cheese which were inside. (I'm nuts about nuts). What a surprise when I tasted the sprightly salsa which gave the wrap it's zip. What a tiny (I should have ordered it with salad) but tasty taco! Thankfully I ordered dessert too. I loved every bit of it although I'm not too fond of lemon cheesecakes. The other TVA members also seemed to love their meals of tropical pizza, sandwiches, salads, smoothies, juices, and desserts of brownies and maple walnut ice cream (a childhood favourite flavour of mine). Restaurants like Rawlicious make going vegan so easy.

Famous words from Hippocrates.

Yummy taco wrap! Mmmm....

My very first vegan cheesecake made with cashews, nut crust, and lemony raspeberry-y goodness.

The prized macaroons.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stories Lead to Wisdom

I first met Hodgkin's lymphoma-survivor Mike Lang at the screening of Wrong Way to Hope, a film about a wilderness kayak journey with young adult cancer survivors. To read about my experience at the Wrong Way to Hope screening (and the amazing thing that happened) click here.

Mike and Bonnie are making another film where young adult cancer survivors get to tell their stories and they need your help. Please support this wonderful project.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s

Guilt, empathy, and intrigue are some of the feelings that I had as I read Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s by Kairol Rosenthal. However, I needed to ask myself, did I miss something with my cancer experience? As I read thirteen chapters that delved into the lives of young adult cancer patients and survivors in their twenties and thirties, I got into the horrible habit of comparing their experiences with my own. OMG! There were survivors in this book who had it really bad. One turned to self-cutting, others had serial one night stands and slept around, went into deep depression, became suicidal, infertile, or drug addicted. Two had divorces. It was quite bleak! I felt guilty in some way that I did not experience those things and "got off easy". (If "easy" is defined as surgery, hypocalcemia, "going hypo", hyperthyroid, side effects, scarring, radiation, isolation, hormone replacement, long wait times for second opinions, lack of finances, unavailability of medication, uncertainties, loneliness, depression, and anxieties. I had issues with my insurance and getting coverage but it eventually came around, and that is a long eventually. I didn't say the guilt was logical.) I hate to do the comparison game but this is not your typical uplifting or inspiring cancer book in the sense that no one is running a marathon, climbing Mount Everest, or winning seven Tour de Frances but it is very insightful. (Sorry! Lance Armstrong often pops into my blogs lately.) Everything Changes is gritty, seedy, and dark. It is more like a documentary in which some of the characters you get so attached to die at the end (leaving children behind). The book paints a sadly sobering and realistic picture of cancer. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I read this book (and I couldn't put it down finishing the 239 pages in two days). It was refreshing to read real stories about real people. But Kairol's subjects (the young adult cancer patients she interviews across the US) are going through some really tough "shit". Really "tough". Kairol, herself, has thyroid cancer which makes recurrences during the writing of this book. Ugh! It is tough. Kariol is tough too (and extremely opinionated telling off Louise Hay). Full of suggestions to make you into your own cancer advocate, access resources, and deal with "hard to discuss" stuff like sexuality and mental health and wise quotes from cancer survivors and patients, I was waiting for a bright light at the end of the tunnel. It didn't come. What did come is an increased sense of urgency for the plight of young adults with cancer. Since the year that Elvis died (1977, I know because I was born that year), there have been no improvements in the survival rates of young adults with cancer. The survival rates for children with cancer as well as older adults have both improved. Why? Young adults are diagnosed later since their symptoms are ignored and attributed to stupid shit like the flu or "the sexual positions" (page 170) they are using. Many doctors are saying to their sick young adult patients, "It's not cancer, you're too young to have cancer." They get diagnosed in stage 3 and 4 (which is pretty late) and they have different side effects to treatment. They are more likely to not have health insurance, especially since they are too old to be on their parents' and there is a gap of time between this and finding a stable career with health benefits. I also became more aware of the disparity between the US and Canada healthcare systems. Canadians get a minimum level of healthcare and even the drugs which are not covered by health insurance can be covered with a provincial health benefit. The path to get coverage in the US is a labyrinth. Sheesh! This is a desperate situation. No one, especially young adults who Kairol mentions have at least 2 decades of education invested in them with lots of talent and potential, should have to go through cancer alone or broke. This book did not give me "an uplift" like other materials designed for cancer patients yet it reminded me very much of the trenches I was in not too long ago as well as the varied experiences of my friends with cancer. Cancer patients can read this so they know they're not alone. Doctors and other health professionals should read this to learn about the huge psychosocial impact of cancer on young adults. Family and friends of cancer patients should read this to get inside their heads. This book helps me to realize and be so thankful for all of the support, resources, and people I had along my journey.

I almost forgot to mention that Kairol Rosenthal has a website and blog for Everything Changes. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Kariol recently and she even responded to my post Money Talks I. I decided to post her comment in a separate post called Money Talks II.

Coming up next: I've jumped on the "Crazy Sexy" bandwagon. See my reviews of the "Crazy Sexy Cancer" books coming soon.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #10


I have not been alone on this journey. From the kind hospital chaplain who chatted and prayed with me before my surgery, all of the prayers of my family, friends, and prayer community, and the blessings that I have experienced, I am so thankful. For some cancer survivors, I know that it causes some for their faith to waver or change. For me, I feel like I can rely even more on God and "let go".

I chose this song because it is one of my favourites from the album "Alone In His Presence" by CeCe Winans.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #9

T.I. - Live Your Life [feat. Rihanna] (Video)

I listened carefully to the intro to this song by T.I. and decided to transcribe it.

"Life is an interesting journey. You never know where it'll take you. Peaks and valleys, twists and turns. You could the surprise of your life. Sometimes on the way to where you are going, you think, this is the worst time of my life. But you know what? At the end of the road, through all of the adversity, you could get what you wanted to be, you remember whatever don't kill you, make you stronger, and now with the adversity it was worth it. On your way to the top, you'd do anything but how do you get your life back when you get there? Yeah, that's my dilemma. What you need to do is be thankful for the life you got, you know what I'm saying? Stop looking at what you ain't got and start being thankful for what you do got."

Wise words.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #8

Mary J. Blige ~My Life~

I f--in' love this song. No matter what. I don't care if it only has life in the title. It is such a powerful tune by the talented songstress and queen Mary J. Blige. I loved this song so much that I made a music video for it in high school as an art project. Too bad it is on VHS. I'll have to look for it.

It is about self-expression, finding peace, having faith, kind of like a mantra and the way I want to live.

I also love the Roy Ayers sample of "Sunshine". I saw him and his band in concert years ago at the Harbourfront.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #7

Erykah Badu - My Life

I love Erykah Badu's songs. It's too bad she is not coming to Toronto on this tour. My favourite lyrics from this song are:

"Can't let nobody kill my soul and bring me down"


"You're gonna go through changes"


"No turning back"

Cancer Survivor Playlist #6

I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor

Damn! I want me some roller skates.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #5

Bob Marley - Survival

My Cancer Survivor Playlist would not be complete without at least one Bob Marley & the Wailers tune. He sang this song about survival, especially Black survivors. (He truly is the voice for oppressed peoples the world over and is often called "The Ambassador of the Third World.") Although Bob Marley died after his battle with cancer (acral lentiginous melanoma, a form of malignant melanoma) at the young age of 36, I could imagine he did not go down without a fight. I feel inspired by his music to continue to fight for my survival, well-being, health, and happiness.

Cancer Survivor Playlist #4

Tim McGraw - Live Like You Were Dying - HQ (Official)

Do you know one thing about Jamaicans that many people don't know? We love country music. When I was in Jamaica, I couldn't tell you how many taxi cab drivers had country blaring from their stereos. You would never expect that given Jamaica is known the world over for reggae music. My discovery of country music happened quite by accident. Years ago, I was sick and for some reason I had the country music station on and I was too sick and tired to change it. I had the country music on for days and got to learn and love these songs about human suffering and triumph and vulnerability. Country music went from disdain to dear in my ears. Country music lyrics are so heartfelt and human and reflect all sorts of experiences.

I chose this song for my playlist since it talks about the kinds of life changes that one man makes after he gets a health scare. It reminds me of how I will continue to live differently since cancer.

WARNING: Get the Kleenex!

Cancer Survivor Playlist #3

Jill Scott Performs "Blessed"


Cancer Survivor Playlist #2

Cee Lo Green - FUCK YOU (Official Video)

I struggled over whether or not I should play the radio (censored) version or the real version of this song. I decided to go with the real version. (There other one is caused "Forget You". It would have inaccurate.)

Whether you swear or not, I doubt there is not at least one time a cancer patient does not want to say, "Fuck You" to cancer. (I rarely swear but I 've made an allowance in this situation.) Sometimes your only defence against this disease and expression about this experience is to mutter expletives. Fuck you cancer! For causing pain and suffering and death among thousands of people each year. For family friends I lost through cancer, I am angry. I say their names: Hilma "Jenny" Walker, Hubert Hawthorne. For another young adults, who I knew that lost her battle: Emily Bender.

"Forget You" would be inaccurate. I don't want to "forget" cancer. I can't. Meaty and taking thyroid medication are excellent daily reminders. This experience has taught me a lot and reminded me of my mortality. I take fewer things for granted and there is so much I look forward to in life. From the date of my surgery, I got seven months (6 are over, 1 more to go) off of work to focus on healing, my dreams, goals, arts, and reassess my life path. I've seen the love shown and expressed by people around me. I made new friends and found a new community. I finally got to focus on the most important part of my journey-- me.

Ending cancer is like ending a relationship (a bad one). There are things to be thankful for the experience (as I mention above) and important lessons learned but you are also sooo relieved to have it gone. You want to kick it out of your life. You don't want the pain and inconveniences or the anxieties it can cause. However you are excited but also still a little uncertain and nervous about the future, thinking, "Now what?"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cancer Survivor Playlist #1

Destiny's Child with Da Brat - Survivor

I remember singing this song to myself in 2001 when I was working for the Francophonie Games in Ottawa and Gatineau. The reason? I was 23 years old and had moved to Gatineau, Quebec, a new city by myself where I knew no one. Since I was hired on Friday and had to start Monday, I had to find housing fast. The first place I found, I stayed for only three nights in what I learned was a rooming house in the rough side of town. (I will never forget the first night I got there when after I bought groceries, I ran onto the bus since there were three guys approaching me, catcalling and whistling at me.) There were a bunch of creepy looking dudes who lived there. (The landlord was a mess.) My room reaked of stale cigarette smoke and I slept with a chair against the locked door to reinforce my safety. Plus there was no air conditioning and I lived on apples, box juices, and peanut butter sandwiches because I had very little money. I had to move. One night, I found a much safer place where I lived in Gatineau with a single mom and her pre-teen daughter. She took my word for it that I would pay after I moved in. She trusted my word that I would giver her part of the rent as soon as I got paid and the rest at the end of the month. Imagine that? I moved in quickly (much earlier than she had planned to have tenants). My new place which was the top level of her house was hot like a sauna (no airconditioning) and smelled like cat pee (she did not have enough time to shampoo the carpet before I moved in. Plus, I worked and lived in an all-French environment which is not my first language. I was forced to adapt, maintained my faith, and I survived as things did improve-- I had fans to cool the rooms slightly, shampooed carpets to alleviate some of the cat pee smell, and an awesome work experience in which I improved my French and worked with talented world musicians.) This Destiny's Child song was really popular at the time and became my anthem for overcoming that adversity.

On another note: I did get the results of my 2 whole body scans and 2 blood tests. Yesterday, I went to see Endo #4 (my endocrinologist) and asked him if I was in remission. He said, "No. It's a cure." Yes! I thought. I see him again in 6 months for blood tests. I asked him if I would need to repeat the radiation again. He said no, but I will need to do blood tests. (I know about the blood tests. They will be a regular part of my life. I'm pretty rehearsed in them now.)

I'm a little hyper ("hyperthyroid", that is) though, according to the results. After this bottle is done, I will have to start a slightly lower dose of thyroid hormone. I have been feeling a lot more energy lately. I asked if that would change. Endo #4 told me that I should not notice any difference.

Nevertheless, I am still processing this whole experience. (Naturally!) Cancer. Survivor. Cancer survivorship.

Was that it? I am reading Everything Changes by Kairol Rosenthal and I actually felt a little guilty since I did not experience all of the difficulties that other young adult cancer patients often experience-- chemo, lengthy radiation program, months in the hospital. I was not single during this process. I have a fiance. I have a job and career. I have lived some and achieved many of my dreams before cancer. I did not deal with cancer through self-cutting or drug abuse or sleeping around... I also did not win 7 tour de Frances like Lance Armstrong or run a marathon (yet, anyway). My experience was very different.

My whole body scan report said "unremarkable" about the residual focus in the neck and "no evidence of metastic disease". That's the clincher.

Yet, I am thrilled to be "on the other side" of my diagnosis. I have learned so much and will continue to learn. I am also thankful to God and my faith has sustained me through this. I am so thankful for the wonderful programs at Young Adult Cancer Canada (YACC), Wellspring, Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH), and Gilda's Place. I will continue to take advantage of them because I understand that cancer-free is still a journey. I am also thankful to my fiance, friends and family who have been supportive and responsive and "there" for me. I am thankful to the many cancer survivors and patients who I have met who have inspired me to live better and more courageously. Thank you so much. Lastly, thank you to all of the readers of this blog (all 8, 765 of you). When I began my blog on April 8, I was so unsure about putting my thyroid cancer story out there yet I was willing to share it with you. Thank you to those who have left comments and others who reached out to me. I am so glad that you are inspired by my journey and even happier it has helped many survivors. I assure you that the blog has helped me too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am deciding today to do a Cancer Survivor Playlist for the next few days as I process my survivorship.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Did I Get Thyroid Cancer?

On this, the day of my follow-up with my specialist (Endo #4), I will find out the status of the thyroid cancer in my body. At the end of April this year, I completed the Radioactive Iodine Ablation (RAI) aka radiation, I have had two whole body scans and two blood tests since then and now will find out the results. I am feeling pretty hopeful. Months ago, Endo #4 said that chances are pretty likely that I will not require a second therapeutic dose of radiation since I am in a low risk group. I have gauged my condition based on his statement, my own readings on thyroid cancer treatment, and the increased sense of energy I feel.

Being an inquisitive soul however I still have questions and concerns about why I have thyroid cancer in the first place.

What is going on here? The incidence of Thyroid Cancer is rising at a rate of 6% annually in the province of Ontario except in the years 1998-2002 when it more than doubled to a rate of 14.5% per year, amongst females. (I borrowed this quote from the Thyroid Cancer Canada facebook page). I've really got ask what is going on. I have met two women. One knows three friends going through thyroid cancer. Another said she knows five people who've had thyroid cancer. I know two other teachers, both of them women under the age of 35 years old, like myself, who work for the same school board. To learn more about these growing rates in Ontario, read the article Thyroid Cancer Incidence Increasing in Ontario.

Thyroid cancer is also labeled as the "good cancer". Who comes up with these bull*&^ labels? According to the Brian Lobel, quoted in the book Everything Changes, "The idea that there are 'good cancers to have' is a disgusting thought." What a piece of propaganda! After reading Thyroid cancer a growing threat for women, you can see that thyroid cancer is no picnic or vacation. You don't say to people that they have the "best diabetes" or the "best heart disease" or the "best stroke". Cancer is cancer. Besides the fact that the radiation from RAI carries a small risk of getting other cancers, thyroid is not completely isolated.

So I decided to do my best and list some existing theories that I have come across about the origins of thyroid cancer. This is not a conclusive or finite list. Given that research is constant and new reports and articles are published, I will continue to update this list. If you come across any articles on thyroid cancer causes, please send them my way.

Environmental radiation exposure theory
The most commonly linked cause of thyroid cancer is radiation exposure. How did we learn this? From environmental catastrophes such as the Chernobyl accident. According to wikipedia:
The Chernobyl disaster (locally, Chornobyl Catastrophe) was a nuclear accident that occurred on 26 April 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (officially Ukrainian SSR), which was under the direct jurisdiction of the central Moscow's authorities. An explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, which spread over much of Western USSR and Europe. It is considered the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and is one of only two classified as a level 7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster).

Given that the Ukrainian (and surrounding people) were not warned about this incident and told to move away in time, this increased their radiation exposure. Through the ingestion of milk (produced by cows who ate radioactive grass) and leafy vegetables contaminated with high doses of radioactive Iodine (I-131, the same isotope used to treat thyroid cancer), children were affected quite early on. Some of these children were exposed while still in the womb.

The environmental impacts of Chernobyl are still felt today. In addition, the Japanese earthquake and the radiation levels emitted from the nuclear reactors have been the focus of news stories for weeks.

Do I live any nuclear power plants? Well, there is the Nuclear Power Plant in Pickering, a smaller city located immediately east of Toronto. I have not been to the Power Plant but I learned from a woman at a vegetarian conference, the one who knew five people with thyroid cancer, that the incidents of thyroid cancer are higher in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) than other parts of Ontario. Hmmm... I did grow up here all of my life. I wonder if she's right.

Have I had early radiation exposure? Well I did have many x-rays as a child. I do not know if I was given a thyroid guard to wear during that time to protect me from the radiation. However, I found at a conference that the level of radiation from modern x-rays is a lot less than what was administered in the 1950s and 1960s. Those "old skool" doses were very high and are considered the cause of some thyroid cancer diagnoses.

For more information on the thyroid cancer and Chernobyl, read the article:
Chernobyl's Legacy: Twenty-five years after the nuclear disaster, the clean-up grinds on and health studies are faltering. Are there lessons for Japan?

For more information about the radiation risks from the Japanese earthquake, read the article:
Tainted water raises risk of thyroid cancer

Genetic Theory
Other than environmental radiation exposure, genetic origins are often sourced as the reason for thyroid cancer. However among all of the people I have talked to, including myself, I have not met one who had thyroid cancer in their family. Given that I have a history of hypothyroidism and goiter in my family does predispose me to thyroid-related issues yet I am the first of my relatives that I know has thyroid cancer. According to Richard Beliveau, Ph.D., and Denis Gingras, Ph.D. in Foods that Fight Cancer, genetics only account for 15% of cancer diagnoses. So yes indeed, genetics play a role for some of us.

Early Detection Theory
On the other hand, part of the reason that thyroid cancer rates are on the rise is that detecting thyroid cancer has improved immensely over the decades so the thyroid cancer of our ancestors may have gone unfounded. In a recent Time magazine article called The Screening Dilemma, there is something to be said about early detection. On the last page of the article, I quote:

In a 1985 study, researchers examined the bodies of 101 people who had died of causes other than thyroid cancer and found that a third of them contained cancerous thyroid cells. Because of the sampling method, the researchers knew that they were certainly missing some cases, meaning the percentage was even higher, and yet none of those people were killed by the disease.

This research study indicates that over 30% of people may have thyroid cancer cells in their bodies but it is often not the cause of death. According to David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD in the Anti-Cancer, all of us have cancer cells in our body but not all of us will develop cancer.

Perhaps what the Time article suggests is that for most of us, thyroid cancer is in this undetectable stage which does not develop.

Bovine hormone link
I do not know much about this theory but first read about it in Skinny Bitch. Authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, cite Prosilac, a commercialized form of bovine growth hormone used to increase cow's milk production, as linked to thyroid cancer. Given that this is an American book, this may account for some American thyroid cancer patients. What about us, Canucks? Apparently, bovine growth hormones are not permitted among Canadian cows.

Overweight theory
A few articles have indicated a link between weight and thyroid cancer. In fact, like most relationships, it's complicated. It's kind of a "chicken and egg" scenario. Does being overweight cause thyroid cancer? Consequently, does thyroid cancer cause being overweight? I can attest for the fact that "going hypo" (for us Thyrogen-deficient and 'old skool' thyroid cancer patients) may cause weigh gain. (Holla! I have never been overweight but always a "thick" and "big boned" kind of girl.) When you "go hypo", you put your body in a state of extreme hypothyroidism for several weeks. Side effects of this hypothyroidism are bloating, depression, fatigue, hair loss, and, you guessed it folks, weight gain. In addition, some thyroid cancer patients have experienced hypothyroidism a lot earlier especially if it began before their cancer diagnosis. For more on this topic read, the following articles:
Does Extreme Obesity Affect Thyroid Hormone Metabolism?
Is obesity directly involved in causing thyroid cancer?

Mammography Theory
I just came across this one which erroneously indicates a link between mammograms (scan to test for breast cancer in breasts) and thyroid cancer. I have never had a mammogram (yet) but if you wish to learn more about this theory, read ACR & SBI: Mammo not dangerous to thyroid .

The Ethnic Theory
The theory that Asian people tend to be at a higher risk for thyroid cancer was totally new to me, especially if you are Filipino or Chinese. I first learned about this theory at "Thyroid Cancer: Navigating Support and Education Resources for Patients" presented by Dr. Catherine M. Kelly, MD, FRCPC a Clinical Educator and an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. She is the Division Director of Endocrinology at Women’s College Hospital. Then again, I learned about this theory some more from Kairol Rosenthal, author of Everything Changes, response to my article Money Talks I. So far, I know one person who is Asian and has thyroid cancer. Member of Parliament, Olivia Chow, who I have had the pleasure of meeting on a number of occasions, is Chinese-born. Also, a friend of mine who is Hong Kong Chinese offered to introduce me to a friend of hers who is a thyroid cancer survivor. Lastly, Thyroid Cancer Canada has offered a Patient Forum in Chinese this year. A Chinese language forum would be based on a growing need to provide information and services to this community in their spoken language.

From "The Needs of Canadian Thyroid Cancer Survivors: Building Knowledge and Understanding Through Social Learning",
a report by Patricia Sharkey, I quote:
By publicly sharing her experiences with thyroid cancer, Olivia has been a boundary spanner between Thry’vors and the Canadian-Chinese community, a community where thyroid cancer has a higher incidence. After Olivia’s news release, Thry’vors on-line membership jumped by 15%, many of these new members are from the Canadian-Chinese community.
Amongst all of the thyroid cancer survivors I met and the conferences I have attended, I have not seen a large number of Asians in attendance. However, does the ethnic theory suggest a genetic, dietary, or environmental cause? Hmmm.....

Dietary Theory
Is it quite possible that diet causes thyroid cancer? I recently read the China Study which indicates the Western diet (low fibre, high animal protein, high animal fat) as a major contributor to cancer growths and recurrences in addition to the other diseases. As I read the chapter about autoimmune diseases, which include Type I Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, and lupus, I wondered about thyroid issues. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism (Graves' disease) are both autoimmune disease because they result from a malfunction of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is either underactive (hypo) or overactive (hyper) which results from parts of this organ's function being destroyed. Autoimmune means that the immune system begins to attack the healthy tissues of the body causing them not to function properly. According to T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell III, the immune system can become confused when it cannot distinguish between its own healthy tissue and foreign tissues that are sourced from meat. So, in lay man's terms, if I ate beef that had some piece of cow thyroid tissue in it and my immune system recognized that as a foreign invader, it would start to attack and destroy the foreign meat. What Campbell argues is that the immune system loses its ability to distinguish the foreign thyroid tissue from my own thyroid tissue, hence attacks it as well. Okay, okay, that's good for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. What about thyroid cancer? Campbell's theory suggests that animal proteins and fats (from meat) promote cancer growths and recurrences. You've got to read the book to learn more.

So if what Campbell is saying is that a Western diet which is higher in animal fats and animal proteins increases the incidence of cancer, why are Asians getting thyroid cancer at a higher rate? Campbell claims that most of the participants in his China Study ate typically less animal fats and proteins and high plant-fibre. This is complicated. The details of the Asian study, according to Kairol Rosenthal, come out of Washington state. So these Asians would include recent immigrants as well as first-, second-, and third-generation individuals. According to the research, when immigrants leave their country of origin, they often adopt a more Western diet and hence increase their chances of cancer diagnoses. Is this the case for the ethnic connection of being Asian? Hmmm....

For more information about the dietary causes of thyroid cancer, read:
FDA Urged to Prohibit Carcinogenic "Caramel Coloring"

Environmental Chemical Exposure Theory
Okay so I'm reading Kairol Rosenthal's Everything Changes and I come across another theory which I forgot to mention. How could I forget? Starting on 108, she interviews Richard Acker, an environmental lawyer, who at the time of interview was 36 years old, a father of one, and a patient of stage IV colon cancer. He mentioned the fact that we are exposed to environmental toxins on such a regular basis. He also indicates that there are one to two hundred synthetic chemicals in the average person's bloodstream. These are in our clothing, materials, foods, cars, plastics, containers, etc. Who knows the biological and physiological impacts of having so many chemicals in combination with each other inside of our bodies? Acker states that "each chemical" individually "poses a minimum risk", so if you have 150-200 things swimming around in your system, who knows the greater risk they can pose when they get together?

Two resources come to mind on this topic.

First, a book on my reading list is called There's Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in our everyday body care and how to avoid them by Gill Deacon.

Plus, there's a little local organization in Toronto called the Women's Healthy Environment Network (WHEN) which focuses on environmental links to health.

Occupational Stress Theory
When I got diagnosed for my cancer, I wondered if it was caused by the stresses associated with my work. I have been a teacher (elementary, middle, and high school) for the last seven years. Being a teacher can be a high stress position. I know, I know. Many people do not see it that way because they think teachers get two months of summer vacation plus two weeks of March Break and Winter Break as well as statutory holidays. This is true and a great reward but teachers do have a tough job. There are all the other tasks that one does not see. Yes, the school day is roughly 6 to 6 1/2 hours long but (a big but here), you are in front of an average of 16-34 students during that time. (These are the sizes of the classes I have taught.) You are not in front of a desk or a computer during this time where you can hide, you're "on". If you are working with younger children, you are more intensively involved with their care. High schoolers are more laid back. I have taught in a variety of schools. I have experienced violent students, hostile parents, slander, harassment, physical assault, you name it. Teaching is not what it used to be. I experienced all this and then you add on the other challenges which include report cards, plans, meetings with staff and parents, extracurricular activities, new initiatives by the province and school board which equals more work, overtime, etc... etc... Don't get me wrong but there are many aspects of teaching to love as well. (Through my twenties, I also busied myself with my Master's degree and founding and running a nationally touring film festival for three years.) So when I was first diagnosed, I felt guilty and thought I caused my cancer somehow by leading a busy lifestyle and stress. (I learned since then that there are other cancer patients who felt this way.) During my recovery period over the last several months, I met 3 other female teachers under the age of 35 (like myself) who work and live in the same city and have been diagnosed with cancer. Two of them have thyroid cancer (like me), one has lymphoma. I have also met retired teachers with cancer. I wondered if the occupational stress related to teaching caused the cancer but then this logic does not add up. Teaching is a female dominated profession and there are lots of teachers out there. (Like nurses and I have met a few nurses with cancer.) Teachers are great about educating themselves, researching, and accessing resources which explains why I met these women through the support groups and activities in which I participate. I do know that some occupations, such as mining and welding, have some health hazards which may lead to some forms of cancer because of the exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. However I do not believe this is my case. Cancer does not discriminate by occupation.

Past Lives/Karma Theory
On August 1, I began to read a book called Lotus in the Fire: The Healing Power of Zen by Jim Bedard. The book describes the his healing journey from acute myeloid leukemia or AML. As a practicing Buddhist, Bedard believes in the concepts of karma and "past lives". Karma meaning that things do not occur by chance but by causation. Before diagnosis, the author who led an otherwise very healthy life as a former martial arts instructor, athlete, and vegetarian found himself sick and weak undergoing intensive care as well as severe side effects from his chemotherapy. Essentially he believes the cause of his cancer is deeds caused in "past lives" by those who came before him. Suffering and death are inevitable in life so Bedard interpreted his cancer as an opportunity to experience his karma and hence a blessing. I am still reading the book nor am I all that familiar with Buddhist philosophy so I am not sure if I am quoting this all correctly. However, I will add some more to this theory as I continue.

Mind-Body Connection
There are a whole school of theorists who believe that cancer is a manifestation of stressful live events and/or mental states. It is similar to the Past Lives/Karma Theory. I have read a few books by these theorists and reviewed them. See my book reviews of the Anti-Cancer David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD , You Can Heal Your Life by Louise L. Hay, LOVE, MEDICINE & MIRACLES: Lessons Learned About Self-Healing from a Surgeon's Experience with Exceptional Patients by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D., and Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing by Carolyn Myss, Ph.D. This is quite a popular school of thought as I learned and perhaps one of the most popular proponents of this theory is Louise L. Hay who claimed that she cured her cervical cancer through positive thinking, affirmations, and forgiveness. Hay has built an entire industry on these theories including books, CDs, DVDs, and workshops. In the beginning of my diagnosis, I found these types of theories quite encouraging and useful on figuring out how to treat thyroid cancer. According to Hay, cancer is caused by deep resentments that stem from childhood and eat away at the body. Thyroid ailments are caused by humiliation and lack of self-expression. In Everything Changes: The Insider's Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s by Kairol Rosenthal, the author who is a thyroid cancer survivor claims that she has never had a problem with self-expression and does not agree with Hay's theory. Similarly, Dr. Myss also links thyroid ailments to emotional issues. Myss associates the thyroid with the fifth chakra— the will and the sacrament is Confession. This has to do with having faith, giving up one’s fear, and surrendering to God’s will. She suggests that the greatest act of will in which we can invest our spirits is to choose to live according to certain rules including making no judgments and having no expectations. Hmmmm.... food for thought.

This one was sent to me by fellow Thy'Ca survivor Lindsay. She says that in Europe fluoride is used to suppress hyperthyroidism. In Canada, fluoride is present in our drinking water and many brands of toothpaste. There is an article about a link between thyroid issues and fluoride. Here is the link:

Fluoride & the Thyroid

Monday, July 18, 2011

Vex in the City: Part 7 Festival of India

Over the past weekend, I am getting vex' at the fact that it is feeling more and more difficult to find vegan fare. I've been to some establishments which do not have vegan fare clearly outlined on their menus (nor vegetarian items for that matter). After a long search for breakfast establishments in my area on the web, I called Boom Breakfast to ask if they had vegan food. I was passed from one person to the next on the phone and then told "no". Then I asked if they had soy milk, fruit, and oatmeal. He replied, "Yes". "That is vegan food," I replied. But when I got there for breakfast and placed my order, our waitress went to check and found out that there was no oatmeal. (*&^! Very vex' indeed. This was frustrating and I felt like pulling out my inner Colleen Patrick-Gaudreau and become an activist advocating for plant-based diet and for animal rights.

I must say that there were a few other establishments that I went to that I could actually eat the food. These are not vegetarian restaurants, mind you, but they do cater to both omnivores and herbivores alike. (Now that's what I'm talking about.) Unfortunately, I ate the food so quickly that I forgot to take photos of meals. (It was that good!)

Spring Rolls is advertised as a "Pan-Asian zensation" (Ha! Get the pun? Zen is part of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhism is an Asian belief system) but I know it best for Thai food. Spring Rolls is a successful restaurant chain in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and even has a location in Waterloo (I know it's probably popular with a lot of UW students. My alma mater, holla!). But don't let the "chain concept" fool you. Spring Rolls does not skimp on style. Full of red and white decor, natural woods, sophisticated black floors or walls (depending on the location), flowers and Buddha statues, this restaurant sets the perfect ambience for your dining experience. It was also the first restaurant I thought to call after I completed my Low Iodine Diet (and ended my radioactive isolation) for scrumptious goodies. (Click here to read my post about my failed taste buds in End of my Isolation. Spring Rolls does home delivery too.) I was so pleased that the entire last page of their menu was not only vegetarian (but VEGAN at the same time). I know this because the waitress directed me to this page and she did not look at me like an alien when I asked her if there were vegan dishes. I could select anything on the menu so I ordered vegetable spring roll, a vegetarian pad thai (skip the fish sauce which I am allergic to anyway), and a delicious dessert of sticky rice with mango. Yum! My appetite definitely peaks when I get to Spring Rolls and I had no trouble finishing the whole meal. I also had amazing company with a Meetup group I joined.

Another veggie gem is Little India located on Queen West. I have been to this restaurant for years and loved the fact that the waiter was not intimidated (or ignorant) but veganism. Plus, the waiters know me and my fiance since we have been going for so long. In fact, when I ordered the Vegetable Thali (a smorgasbord sampler of Indian vegetable dishes) and I told him I was vegan, the waiter did not look at me like I was growing a horn out of my head. Instead, he suggested making switches for the naan (a flat Indian bread which contains dairy cooked in a tandoor oven) to the paratha (another flat bread). I loved my meal which included such samples as chana masala, mango salad, and pureed spinach (minus the paneer, a type of Indian cheese). Delicious!

I love Toronto for such affordable and diverse cuisine. You can really travel the world on your palette.

Did you know that Toronto has an island too? A few in fact. I had not gone in a few years. As a youngster, I would go for the amusement park rides mostly and then when I was older, I took my youngest sister for the rides. (Although, I got on a few myself.) So on Saturday, I was on my way to another Meetup (bicycle riding on Centre Island, my fave) and totally missed the folks I was meeting. I was late and panicked and got on the ferry to Centre Island. I figured I'd see the members of this group by the bike rentals but I didn't so I decided to turn the afternoon into a "date with myself". I rented a bicycle and had a lovely hour-ish long ride around the island. I rode further than I ever walked (even to the easternmost tip where there was no railing and a sudden drop into the lake that is 300 feet deep in some parts!) and discovered a Strawberry Festival at one end (but I was so broke. What can you get for $ 1.75 and a bus token? I asked the elderly ticket holder. "Punch," she replied.) On my return back, I discovered that there were two other main events going on at Centre Island. Parks Canada was celebrating was celebrating its 100th birthday with a full fledged concert (that I did not discover until I was boarding the ferry to leave). The second main event (which totally stole the show, I think) was the Hare Krishna organized Festival of India.

I haven't seen to many Hare Krishnas on my trod. Not knowing much about the Hare Krishnas, other than the Beatles' references and the orange robes and the chants, I did get to visit Toronto's local Hare Krishna temple with my fiance as part of the Doors Open Toronto festival last year.

Some things that the Hare Krishnas are known for which I love: yoga, meditation, vegetarianism, spirituality, and making sure that no one goes hungry. They are also pretty happy people which I love. Another thing I love is the equity and diversity of their group. Everyone got a free vegetarian feast that day and I saw multi-ethnic Hare Krishnas-- Indian, South Asian, Black, white... no matter your walk of life. It was beautiful.

This was my tenth attempt of getting a photo on my rented bicycle. Some kind unsuspecting folks snapped this shot. Poor Meaty (my thyroidectomy scar) was drenched in sunscreen.

By the way, I did eventually see some of the ladies from the Meet-Up but it turned out that they were trying to message me back and I didn't get it. They got on a later ferry (after me) and were approaching the bike rentals after I finished. Since I needed to leave early, we decided to part and have our own days. I'm cool with that and can't wait for the next Meetup.

I'm going to have some free vegetarian food!

Free free free! One of my favourite words.

Really long line-up!

Volunteers hard at work!

My beautiful meal presented on the grass ("the cheap showiness of nature" from the Simpsons). This meal was vegetarian and unfortunately the folks dishing it out could not tell me if it had dairy (milk) or not. I was not sure all of what I was eating, to be honest. Some of what I could identify was some sort of curry/sauce with green peas and paneer (Indian cheese, I know, I know, I ate the cheese), basmati rice, yellow stuff (I was told it had beans in it and I'm thinking turmeric too, it was very creamy), and suji (my brand new favourite Indian dessert which tasted like a really sweetened flavourful cream of wheat) all washed down with some mango juice (from a huge vat). All of the food was tasty except the "yellow stuff" which was bland. We even got free watermelon!

These vegan samosas were actually advertised as vegan samosas and prepared by Govindas restaurant. I actually had to pay for these ones though. 2 for $ 3. The sauce is sweet chili and so good that I ended up wearing some of it home.

I visited the vegetarianism tent for a bit to read reasons for becoming vegetarian. Hare Krishnas have religious reasons for practicing this "act of mercy on animals". Many religions also share this philosophy besides Hindus, there are Brahmins, Rastafarians, and others. To learn more about this topic, check out my review of Veganist.

The multicultural, multi-ethnic Hare Krishnas.

Bye bye island in the sun!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The China Study

The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell III

Why did I become vegan overnight? What made me say goodbye to fried chicken, ice cream, and milk chocolate? (Confessional: Although, I did have a few "cave ins" for Red Velvet Cake, peanut butter brownie, and cheesecake.) What evidence compelled me that being vegan was the right decision? Well, much of it began with the evidence presented in The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell II (father-son team). Be warned! This book could change your life. From The Kind Diet to the Anti-Cancer to Skinny Bitch (all three book titles are reviewed on this blog) to Bill Clinton (click to see how Clinton became vegan to combat his heart disease), The China Study has been cited as a "breakthrough" in preventive nutrition. "Preventive" is only part of the fun. We are talking about regressing and reversing disease too. Author T. Colin Campbell, primary researcher of the China Study, discusses the significant evidence that a whole foods, plant-based diet can prevent and slow growths of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. The preliminary studies for the China Study began while T. Colin Campbell was researching the incidence of liver cancer amongst children in the Philippines. He discovered that there was a higher prevalence of this disease among more affluent communities (where a more Western diet was consumed) than among the poorer. In addition, he learned about an Indian study that showed rats who received higher doses of animal protein developed cancers when a carcinogen was administered. The rats who did not develop cancer received far less animal protein. The cancerous tumour growth rates in the rats could be "turned on and off" by adjusting the animal protein intake. (I do not promote for studies on animals.) These results were so impressive to Campbell that he decided to repeat the India study. Enter the China Study. Often genetics are designated as the primary causes of many chronic diseases. What Campbell is saying is that heredity accounts for a much smaller source of chronic disease than we originally thought. Campbell claims that it is diet that has far more influence on the outcomes of chronic diseases and by eating a whole food plant-based diet, we get sick a lot less than a Western diet which consists of high amounts of animal protein. In order to "rule out" the genetic factor (and building on the earlier work of Chou EnLai and 650, 000), Campbell joined forces with Dr. Junshi Chen and thousands of researchers in China, where the genetic population is 87% homogeneous (genetically of the same ethnic group, the Han people, in other countries like the United States there is more genetic differences), to research dietary correlations with disease. Selecting China for this study means that for a large part, the genetic influence on the occurrence of disease is eliminated. The whole study took over twenty years. What did they find? Over 8, 000 associations between dietary factors and disease. (All of which are too voluminous to mention in this book.) To embrace the China Study, you got to throw out everything you learned in health class. First of all, Campbell claims that most of the health curriculum that is taught in public and medical schools is a result of a corporate agenda. (I recall coming up with milk advertisements to be read over the public announcement system as a student council executive in high school.) Second, you got to accept and see evidence of the conspiracy in place to keep people sick and make profits for the pharmaceutical industries and technologies. Third, you got to try out a whole foods plant-based diet for yourself and watch your bones get stronger, your blood sugar-levels normalize, as well as your cholesterol, blood pressure, and cancerous tumours regress, and your weight drop. Fourth, you have to understand the mainland Chinese diet vastly differs from the Western diet. The Chinese diet is high-fibre, high-calorie, low-fat, high plant-protein, and predominantly plant-based. However this is changing in some areas of China and as those diets become more Westernized (high-fat, high animal protein, low fibre) so are the increased incidents of chronic disease. In fact, there have been studies suggested by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and others which show a much higher increase of chronic diseases among third and fourth generation Chinese and Japanese living in America than those individuals who still live in China and Japan. Note: Most of the world lives on a plant-based diet which is why you can find awesome vegan dishes at restaurants of the Ethiopian, Thai, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, etc. variety. Lastly, you got to read the book The China Study. Why haven't you heard this information before? Well, when you have an unpopular idea, against the status quo, and especially when your evidence is so compelling, you get shunned. Campbell, Esseltyn, and others have been accused of quackery and "false miracle cures". Campbell provides several negative examples of the repercussions of speaking your mind and showing compelling evidence. Unfortunately, there are not enough practitioners in the medical establishment who want to change their methods. And not enough medical practitioners have a sufficient knowledge of nutrition which is still considered a "soft science". Most medical practitioners rely on "hard science" surgery, technology, and pharmaceuticals but these often have side effects (which is why other medications or treatments are prescribed) and do not offer cures. A serious and sobering statistic: Twenty percent of all new drugs have serious unknown side effects, and more than 100, 000 Americans die every year from correctly taking their properly prescribed medication (page 335). Alternative medicine is still seen by some as uneffective and airy fairy although our ancestors understood the importance of these methods. (I experienced this as I told my endocrinologists and anathesiologist that I see a naturopath.) Campbell (and Esselstyn) experienced such resistance from his colleagues about recommending plant-based diets to heart disease patients because they claimed that people do not want to change. Please Note: I am not knocking the use of medicine or technology here. I am advocating for the implementation of nutritional prevention which will aid the healing process and decrease the need for invasive methods such as surgery and medicines. I believe in multi-faceted approaches to attack disease. I myself have integrated surgery, radiation, Traditional Chinese medicine (cupping, herbs, and acupuncture), naturopathy (homeopathics, herbs), counselling, art therapy, Reiki, community/social/church support, my faith, yoga, and dietary changes into my own healing program. These all have been helpful in making me feel healthy and stronger. Ironically, it was these same colleaguessaw Campbell and Esselstyn for preventive nutritional voice on their own heart disease (and sent their families to them). Another thing I learned is the importance of eating whole foods as opposed to everything in itemized vitamin and mineral tablets. This was also mentioned in Foods That Fight Cancer. How does this all relate to the origin of my thyroid cancer? Well, you will find out some of my thoughts in my upcoming article, Why Do I Have Thyroid Cancer? In the meantime, spend the $ 20 and read the almost 400 pages of The China Study. It is worth it. For the movie version, watch Forks Over Knives playing at an independent theatre near you. You know when you find out something so amazing, some wonderfully great news and you want everyone to know, yeah, well this is it!

Coming up next: Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Painting at Princess Margaret Hospital

I attended a Painting Workshop at Princess Margaret Hospital, a cancer research hospital located in Toronto. It was organized by Youth In Time, an organization which provides creative workshops and classes for young adults with cancer, and the Art for Cancer Foundation. I learned about it first from Paulene Harvey, facilitator of Youth In Time. The lovely thing about this program is that it is free.

I loved this opportunity to express my creativity. Cid Palacio, our instructor, encouraged us to pain abstractly. I experimented, played, and imagined with the colours-- first, in black and white and then in colour paints.

Here is a video about this experience:

Creating from Within-workshop of July 12,2011

Experimenting with splashes of value

I loved using the knife to slather on paint like butter on bread.

I experimented with different ways to apply the paint and mix colours.

Then we were to imagine a garden. I painted one with pink and coral flowers and bright sunshine. I imagine myself walking on a path and soaking up the sunshine, feeling the warmth on my skin.