In the UK, a diagnosis of breast cancer sets off a process of screening and treatment specifically designed to make sure that everyone has the same opportunities, the same care, the same right to an honest opinion from your oncologist. Regardless of your diagnosis, you will be assigned a standard programme of medical interventions, one that errs on the side of over rather than under treatment, just in case. Your prognosis is discussed only in terms of the available medical treatment and known genetic associations. Given the volume of cancer cases in the UK, it’s the best we can do on the NHS. I just wish they would be open to discussing the things additional you can do to help yourself.
Most of us know instinctively that we could and should make diet and lifestyle changes after a cancer diagnosis, even if we don’t know exactly what they should be. Substantial evidence suggests these choices are crucial to risk and recovery, and can help treatment work better too.
People at the leading edge of oncology dream of treating people as individuals rather than as a cohort; most of the current research programmes are facing in that direction. Our current understanding of cancer indicates that personal programmes are the way to increase survival rates. We already understand that cancer is not one disease, it is different for everyone. The future of oncology will acknowledge biochemistry individuality and offer a personal, and multi-factorial approach.
That’s a noble dream unless you are at the sharp end, right now, dealing with a cancer diagnosis. For you looking to the future is a luxury, you need to access the personal approach right now, and the best way to do it is to take advantage of the wealth of dedicated integrated practitioners who already understand the importance of getting your whole body involved with your healing and are willing to help you do exactly that. Organisations like Yes to Life are an excellent way to find the right practitioners to work with and I’m proud to be part of that movement, bringing integrated oncology to the UK.
I was keenly aware of the lack of holism in cancer care when I was diagnosed, 23 years ago. In those pre-Google days I was desperately trying to find information that would help me survive and it sparked a desire in me to make it easier. I’ve devoted the best part of my working life since then learning how to help myself and others to put breast cancer behind them. Along the way I’ve gained lots of qualifications and experience and I’d love to share them with you.
Pimp Your Prognosis
My aim is to help patients join the ‘long tail’ of survivors – that group of happy people who defy the odds by thinking outside the conventional box, embracing their personal power, and recognising that there’s more to life than conventional treatment. I want to help you to do everything you can to survive your cancer diagnosis. After all, your prognosis is based on the average response of the average woman – and you’re not average in any way. The fact that you are reading this page is proof of that.
But I want to be completely clear that the first thing to do is get the best diagnosis and medical help you can as early as possible in the cancer process. Nutritional therapy is a complementary option, designed to work in addition to conventional medicine to improve outcomes, enhance recovery and reduce future risk. Patients who are metabolically healthy respond much better to treatment, experience reduced side effects, recover faster and enjoy improved outcomes.
The Five Frontiers
Although medical treatment is an important part of the picture we all know it doesn’t provide any guaranteed outcomes. In fact, outcomes tend to be random and unpredictable.
When I was diagnosed (back in 1997) I came across some statistics on a phenomenon called ‘spontaneous remission’ – where cancer had magically disappeared without explanation. Except that the patients concerned had changed their diets, taken supplements, changed careers, reduced stress – in fact done a lot of things that make a great deal of sense to improve their health. Inexplicable? I think not. A decade later, Dr Kelly Turner’s project, Radical Remission, documented hundreds of similar cases showing that diet and lifestyle changes can lead to miraculous results, even in ‘hopeless cases’.
The science behind these individual successes is not as miraculous as we might think. There is abundant and significant evidence that medical treatment is only one of the ways we can make a difference to cancer outcomes. It’s not ‘the whole truth’. I have studied the subject for 20 years and I have arrived at the conclusion that there are five key areas that can change cancer outcomes; I call them the Five Frontiers
The evidence is very clear that the way we think, eat and live has a fundamental bearing on the way cancer behaves. Plus we all have genes that change our risk factors – many of which can be coaxed into behaving differently with diet and lifestyle interventions. Each of these areas can also help medical treatment work better. Drawing on 17 years of clinical observation and experience, I support my practice with functional and nutrigenetic testing to help clients understand and improve their health: gastrointestinal function, microbial diversity, hormonal balance and genetic polymorphisms can all help us build a picture of why your body is struggling.
Promoting your innate healing
Given the right conditions, your body has more healing power than the whole of the NHS put together. If you look beyond the conventional narrative you will clearly see that there is no grade or stage of disease that cannot be reversed. Even though we don’t understand ‘how to cure cancer’ your body does. Your body is always trying to heal and there is always something you can do to support your own healing process. But everyone’s cancer is different, and personal programmes are the best way to leave no stone unturned. The power of food, sleep, fasting, exercise, sunlight and joy may be just as important as surgery, radio- and chemotherapy.
It is based on this understanding that I offer a clinical nutrition programme for breast cancer clients. I aim to identify the imbalances that are part of your personal biochemistry and support you to function at a more optimal level. Underpinning our work is the assumption that there is something about the way you were living and eating before diagnosis that was increasing your risk. It might have been the way you were living or eating, or it may have been environmental or genetic. Whatever the reason nutritional therapy can help you to manage the situation for better health outcomes in future.
I want to be clear about what nutrition can and can’t do: for example there is no evidence that you can cure cancer with diet alone, but it’s possible that you can create such a healthy tissue environment – or cancer-hostile microenvironment – that your body can mobilise its healing potential against the identified ‘hallmarks of cancer’ and inhibit, destroy or transform the rogue cells. Nutrition can also help other therapies to work better: for example it can improve the effectiveness of chemo and radiotherapy, and work in synergy with pharmaceutical protocols, whether with licensed or repurposed drugs.
Get With the Programme!
My Power Through Breast Cancer programme is designed in two distinct stages, designed to work together and build your understanding of how to eat to beat cancer and how to support your own individual health. In my view it’s easier to make life changes when we understand why as well as what, so I will take the time to explain the theory as well as the practice, and each of the two steps comes with a comprehensive personalised report to expand your knowledge. In step one we will look at the basics of anti-cancer nutrition, designing a diet that has the right energy balance to support you without promoting your cancer, and containing the known nutrients and phytonutrients that are active against your cancer and receptor status. In step two we will look at the genes which dictate your personal food and nutrient requirement for optimal functioning in order to understand individual genetic variations which may have increased your risk in the past, and which can be supported nutritionally to reduce future risk.
Step One – The Power Plan
CONTENT: In our first appointment we will take a look at the fundamentals of diet, lifestyle and supplements for your personal situation. I will assess your health using the Functional Medicine model: analysing your health from birth to the present day, reviewing the balance of your body systems, and looking at the diet and lifestyle factors that we know are linked to breast cancer to understand the areas that are important for you to focus on.
OUTPUT: Following the meeting I will send you a personalised diet and supplement plan tailored to your lifestyle, diagnosis and receptor status.
WHO FOR: This session is the ideal starting people for clients who are looking at their anti-cancer diet for the first time from an independent, evidence-based, functional medicine perspective. Follow-up support sessions are available and the ability to carry out in-depth functional testing.
If you have already done a lot of functional medicine based nutrition you may prefer to go straight to Step Two – All Bases Covered.
Step Two – All Bases Covered
CONTENT: For those looking for the ultimate in personalisation (and maybe searching for additional clues as to why you are dealing with a cancer diagnosis) DNA testing allows us to apply the science of Nutrigenetics to your health profile. A range of test panels reveal your individual genetic variants that may impact your cancer risk. For example, the way you digest and absorb nutrients, process and break down hormones, neutralise toxins, manage inflammation, handle stress, and protect and repair your DNA. There are many DNA services on the market; most of them will give you an idea of how your genes work but can’t relate them to the details of your diet and lifestyle. I understand my All Bases Covered service to be unique in that it not only relates your genetic results to your individual diet and lifestyle but also looks at them in the context of breast cancer research.
OUTPUT: Following the meeting I will send you a comprehensive genetic report highlighting key pathways, foods and nutrients to support your long term health in the context of breast cancer. If you have previously completed the Power Plan I will also update your supplement plan to reflect the results.
The two sessions work in synergy together to build a highly personalised programme. Depending on your situation, your age and stage at diagnosis, your receptor status, your previous health and lifestyle patterns, I may suggest digging deeper to get to the root of the problem. This may involve functional testing to help us both to understand your personal biochemistry in order to support recovery.
“All of your literature – your meal plan, your supplement plan, your website etc, are so beautifully designed and put together. And they also exude a real warmth and sense of thoughtfulness. They must have taken a long time to get right, but having worked with quite a few people in the health industry, I can tell you that it makes a HUGE difference.”Joy, London
Will we work well together?
In my experience, tackling cancer in this way attracts exceptional people and it can bring exceptional results. It’s not unusual for the people I work with to have strong instincts and convictions about the path they want to take. My practice is firmly evidence-based but I always encourage clients to tune into their inner voices and intuitions.
It’s a great privilege to work with the clients who choose me and I am getting used to hearing the phrase, ‘my oncologist can’t believe how well I’m doing’. However, it’s a demanding approach that may be overwhelming for some, and requires a deep level of commitment and a form of belief. For that reason I will only work with people who contact me directly. Please don’t contact me to ask me to help your mother, or your best friend: no matter how much you love them if they are not fully on board and driving the process this is not the path for them.
In recent years the challenge of food and planetary sustainability has added another layer of complexity to our food choices: a plant-based diet is at the core of all my food plans and I work with a range of omnivorous, pescatarian and vegetarian clients, but in my view it is difficult to achieve a nutritionally optimised anti-cancer diet as a strict vegan. If you have immovable beliefs or preferences around food that will be hard to change, then nutritional therapy will be more challenging for you. The whole idea of nutritional therapy is that you need to find a different diet to the one you’re eating in order to change your health.
Will it work?
Since almost all of my clients are having treatment at the same time as working with me, it’s impossible to make any claims about the effectiveness of my work. In my view it’s the whole combination – medical treatment combined with a synergistic diet and lifestyle plan and your own drive and determination – that is the key to recovery. Correcting nutrient deficiencies, rectifying hormonal imbalances, gut disorders, calming inflammation, improving detox and repair and addressing sleep and stress issues can help treatment to work better and help you to stay healthy to withstand more treatment. It’s a winning combination that makes all the difference.
Everyone, no matter what your diagnosis or stage of disease, can benefit from a nutritional protocol aimed at supporting metabolism, hormones, immune, digestion and detoxification – to improve general health and create a more cancer hostile microenvironment. Sometimes, despite excellent medical care and monumental personal effort, cancer remains unstoppable; it’s something that we just don’t understand. While nutrition can help at all stages of the process, it is important not to see this as any sort of personal failure.
When you’re ready, please book a Planning Meeting so that we can get to know each other and discuss how nutritional and nutrigenetic therapy can help you regain your health and happiness. Then we can book an initial consultation which will lead to a comprehensive, evidence-based diet and lifestyle programme based on your diagnosis and individual circumstances.
More to Explore
For patients who have been through conventional treatment and have no detectable disease this protocol provides a blueprint for recovery and may be all you need. I offer a follow-up consultation service to support you through the different phases of treatment and recovery. Most clients have 2 or 3 appointments with me; some clients come back year after year to stay up to date.
For patients dealing with active cancer nutritional therapy is still relevant. There are several well-researched nutritional approaches that may help to potentiate cancer drugs, support immune function, regulate gene expression and support your body to deal with treatment. Oncogenic testing can help us to be more specific about remedies and, when combined with functional and nutrigenetic tests, it’s possible to build a programme designed for maximum nutritional impact.
For all clients, it is important to approach nutritional therapy with an open mind; while we will work with your preferences, you need a flexible attitude to food, willingness to change drinking habits and meal times, and scope to address sleep and stress levels. So… if you’re still reading, if you’re prepared to work with me in a space of uncertainty, and in a spirit of partnership, then please book a Planning Meeting below or jump straight in and book an initial consultation:
If you decide that the clinical approach is not right for you please have a look at my workshops – they may be just what you’re looking for.
Picture: Artwork by Tracey Emin from a photograph by Dawn Waldron