PLAYING WITH FIRE

CHEMOTHERAPY

I have locally advanced cancer, which means that it has grown outside the organ it started in but has not yet spread to distant parts of my body.

BRAF mutated cancers cannot be cured. They can be treated with chemotherapy to shrink tumours, slow cancer cell growth, help relieve symptoms, and help you live longer.

The type of chemotherapy prescribed by my oncologist is the FOLFOX 6 MODIFIED protocol. The drugs are infused through a port embedded under the skin of my upper chest. A numbing patch placed on the skin in the location of the port prevents any pain when the needle is inserted.
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Port-a-cath

FOLFOX 6 MODIFIED uses a combination of Fluorouracil, Leucovorin, and Oxaliplatin to target fast-growing cancer cells. These powerful drugs can damage healthy cells as well, which is the likely cause of the awful side effects associated with chemotherapy.

Why did I agree to the treatment? Because, as my oncologist says,“You have to have hope,” and because there is a cunning strategy you can use to eliminate most of the side effects.

STRATEGY

This section presents short term fasting as an adjunct to chemotherapy, and its effects on chemotherapy induced side effects.

Fasting is part of many spiritual traditions including Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam. It is also one of the oldest therapies in medicine. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, believed that fasting mede the body heal itself.

In clinical studies fasting appears safe as an adjunct to chemotherapy. It suppress tumour progression, promotes cellular regeneration, protects blood against the harmful effects of chemotherapy, and reduces the impact of side effects like fatigue, nausea, headaches, brain-fog, peripheral neuropathy, and cramps.

Water fasting for 2-3 days prior to treatment and one day following treatment optimises the efficacy of treatment and reduces treatment related side effects.This is obviously not an option for very slim people unless approved by their doctors. Having a significant amount of adipose tissue (sounds nicer than calling it fat) made it a good choice for me.

Rather than a pure water fast, I use an option called a ‘dirty’ fast. In a dirty fast, in addition to drinking a lot of water, I drink a cup of chicken broth every day, plus black tea with a tiny amount of sweetener. The broth helps to prevent an electrolyte imbalance (The chicken broth recipe is in the recipe section of this site)

You may loose up to two pounds day on a water or dirty water fast, but you will regain at least half of that once you start re-feeding. I tend to end up with a two to three pound weight loss after each fasting session.

An unexpected benefit of fasting is that after you’ve done it a couple of times, your skin feels creamy smooth, with many of the fine lines around your eyes and mouth disappearing. I suspect it’s because your skin cells are temporarily replacing themselves much faster, as they did in your youth.

The links below are to some research papers on fasting and other potential adjunct therapies. Note the link on intermittent fasting. If you are vey slim, that is the type of fasting that is safest for you.

As always, check with your oncologist before you experiment with anything.


Effects of short-term fasting on cancer treatment
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6530042/

Can fasting or calorie restriction help my body fight cancer?
https://osher.ucsf.edu/patient-care/integrative-medicine-resources/cancer-and-nutrition/faq/cancer-and-fasting-calorie-restriction

To fast or not to fast? Intermittent fasting and cancer
https://dietitianconnection.com/news/to-fast-or-not-to-fast-intermittent-fasting-and-cancer/

An interesting story about a five day water fast
https://www.nateliason.com/blog/5-day-water-fast-health-benefits

The synergistic effect of fasting-mimicking diet and vitamin C against KRAS mutated cancers
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32393788/

Intravenous High-Dose Vitamin C in Cancer Therapy
https://www.cancer.gov/research/key-initiatives/ras/ras-central/blog/2020/yun-cantley-vitamin-c

A combo of fasting plus vitamin C is effective for hard-to-treat cancers
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/05/200512151941.htm

The use of Curcumin in Multiple Myeloma patients intolerant of steroid therapy
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ccr3.2735

Preventive Effect of Curcumin Against Chemotherapy-Induced Side-Effects
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277549/

Curcumin as an Alternative Epigenetic Modulator: Mechanism of Action and Potential Effects
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557992/

Cancer-linked targets modulated by curcumin
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6557992//

Vitamin D deficiency, BRAF-mutated melanoma
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31381132/

The effect of Alpha Lipoic Acid on peripheral neuropathy
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2836194/

Vitamin D Receptor Expression Associated with PIK3CA and KRAS Mutations in Colorectal Cancer
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2768137/


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BEGA South East Regional Hospital Chemotherapy Room

IN THE TREATMENT CENTER

The treatment centre at the Bega hospital is modern and spacious, with views of the surrounding hills, a river, and a herd of dairy cattle that produce some of the milk that goes into making the excellent BEGA cheeses sold across Australia.

The staff is a delightfully international group of specialist nurses from the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Australia. They are all top-drawer, extremely conscientious — double and triple checking every step of treatment — are always positive and encouraging, and appear to genuinely care about their patients.

Conveniences like a well padded and fully adjustable chair, an overhead television, a table to put your lunch or laptop on, electrical outlets and a WIFI connection in the wall behind your chair make the experience feel very civilised.

Volunteers appear like magic during every cycle to offer tea, coffee, cake, snacks, lunch, a heated blanket, and to giveaway lovely handmade carryalls with matching crochet lap blankets. There is even a talented reflexologist to massage your feet.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Each cycle takes around 4.5 hours in hospital, plus three days with a portable infuser. The infuser is placed into a nylon mesh bag and hangs from your neck on a braided cord. For the first thee cycles of chemotherapy I wore a loose fitting sports bra to stash it in and hold it in place. That kept it from bouncing around while shopping, exercising, or tossing around in bed. The bag was still abrasive, though.

A solution is to buy a couple of v-neck t-shirts and attach pockets to them. Once you’ve slipped the infuser into the pocket, you can remove the cord from your neck and slip it into the pocket as well.
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PORTABLE INFUSER

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WHAt TO WEAR FOR CHEMOTHERAPY

Because hospital rooms can be cold, your clothing needs to be warm and comfortable, plus provide port access. There are shirts with special zip down tops especially made for chemotherapy. You can find them online at Etsy. A track suit with a zip front and V-neck shirt underneath works too. I usually wear a button down shirt with my pocket T-shirt underneath it. If you loose your hair, a wig or head wrap will keep your head warm.
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Shirt with zippers for port access

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Comfortable track suit

PERIPHERAL NEUROPATHY

One of the side effects of chemotherapy that fasting has not kept completely under control is Peripheral Neuropathy. I experience it as tingling in my hands when touching anything cold, especially something frozen like a carton of ice cream, or bag of frozen peas. The tingling escalates to a feeling of needles being driven into your finger tips. Running warm water over your hands and soaping up to do a quick massage eliminates that quickly. We’re all washing our hands frequently these days anyway. I also find an Alpha Lipoic Acid supplement useful
I don’t experience that same kind of response to cold in my feet. Just a temporary numbing. An inexpensive HoMedics Shower Bliss Foot Spa keeps my feet fully operational. You can use it for your hands too.
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KEEPING REGULAR

Chemotherapy can cause diarrhoea or constipation. II alternate between the two, experiencing diarrhoea after infusion, and constipation three to four days later. It’s important to stay as regular as possible to rid your body of dead cancer cells. Gastro Stop (Imodium® in the US) handles the diarrhoea, and Movicol or Coloxyl with Senna works for constipation.