When you are diagnosed with breast cancer you will rapidly find yourself moving down the tried and tested conveyor belt of conventional treatment with all your important decisions taken out of your hands – until you tumble off at the far end and try to pick up your life again. Chances are you’ll also be given some sort of prognostic indicator to quantify the potential benefit of treatment and your odds of recurrence. Unless you are very lucky you will not be told about any of the complementary therapies available to you, despite substantial evidence that diet and lifestyle changes can significantly improve your overall health and help treatment to work better too. Nevertheless, most of us know instinctively that we could and should make diet and lifestyle changes, even if we don’t know exactly what they should be.
Twenty three years ago I was in the same position desperately trying to find information that would help me survive. 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 it with you.
Pimp Your Prognosis
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. 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.
But I want to be completely clear that the first thing you must do is get the best 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 pretty random and unpredictable.
When I was diagnosed (back in 1997) I came across some statistics on a phenomenon called ‘spontaneous remission’ – cases where cancer had magically disappeared without explanation. But the curious researchers who examined the case histories found that patients 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. That was a revelation to me. A decade later, Dr Kelly Turner’s project, Radical Remission, documented hundreds of similar cases showing that diet and lifestyle changes can eat to miraculous results, even in ‘hopeless cases’. The science behind these individual successes is not as miraculous as we might thing. 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 treatment to work better to create a powerful treatment plan.
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, hormonal balance and genetic polymorphisms can all help us build a picture of why your body is struggling.
Building a Personal Protocol
Given the right conditions, your body has more healing power than the whole of the NHS put together. If you look at the anecdotal stories you will clearly see that there is no grade or stage of disease that cannot be reversed – your body is always trying to heal – even when the mechanisms behind these transformations are not properly understood. But everyone’s cancer is different, and personal programmes are the best way to leave no stone unturned. For some of us, the power of food, sleep, fasting, exercise, sunlight and joy may be just as important as surgery, radio- and chemotherapy.
Based on this understanding I offer a clinical nutrition service for breast cancer clients. 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.
What exactly happens?
A one-to-one consultation is the ideal starting point for all women seeking to make personally tailored, evidence-based diet and lifestyle choices for breast cancer, before or after diagnosis. Although you will be booking a 90 minute consultation you are, in effect, reserving 4 to 5 hours of my undivided attention.
- When you make your appointment I will send you a questionnaire which will ask for a lot of information and require a certain level of reflection on your part to help me understand how you got to this point in life.
- Before we meet I will plot this information on my specially designed analysis form to help me understand the areas we need to focus on.
- During our 90 minute meeting I will aim to deepen my understanding of your situation, your diagnosis and your treatment to improve the level of personalisation of your programme, and take the time to explain the basics of the programme.
- After our meeting I will spend two or three hours using what I have learned about you to design a personal protocol. You will receive a meal and supplement plan together with a personalised plan that explains my analysis, outlines your recovery programme and recommends areas for future exploration.
- The report will cover diet, fasting, supplements, genetics, digestion, hormone balance, detoxification, environmental concerns, stress, sleep, exercise and more. There is a lot of information (the equivalent of a small book!) encapsulating a couple of decades of study and experience knowledge and, more importantly, carefully tailored to your situation.
- Where appropriate, I will recommend functional and nutrigenetic testing to help us understand your situation more fully and include advice on further reading and resources.
- It is important that you give this report 4 or 5 hours of your undivided attention too, to get the most out of it.
To make sure I have time to stay up to date, support clients individually, and take care of my own wellbeing I limit the number of new clients I take on each month so please bear with me if there is a delay before our first meeting.
Recently, a client wrote to say: “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.”
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 very strong instincts and convictions about the path they want to take and the things that are important for healing. My practice is firmly evidence-based but I always encourage clients to tune into their inner voices and intuitions, I believe there’s knowledge there that we ignore at our peril. In fact most of us were ignoring it for a long time before diagnosis!
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 you have to be 100% convinced about the path you’re choosing. 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 it is much more 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 not work well 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.
How do I know it will work?
Cancer is an unpredictable condition and, 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. Despite our intention to be evidence-based, beliefs play a very strong part in recovery. 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.
Leaving no stone unturned
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. For many clients – especially where there is confusion about how it all started – I may also recommend functional or nutrigenetic testing to help us understand how to promote a complete return to health. I also 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