I thought I’d start posting my Huffington Post blogs on here as well, so in case you haven’t seen it, here’s the latest one:
After an agonising 8-week wait, I finally got the results of the gene test when I was half-asleep this morning. Amazingly, I tested negative and got the all-clear for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene faults. This is great news not only for me but also for my family, as we can just about assume none of us inherited the gene mutation (and perhaps Granny Hetty never had it after all). PHEW! This means several things (I feel a list coming on…):
1) I can keep my original boobies!
2) I won’t have to have a double mastectomy and try to make new boobs out of my back muscle/stomach flab (so I’ll stop eating all the pies now).
3) I will be able to proceed with radiotherapy in Dublin in January, dates pending – watch out Dublin & FB, here I come!
4) I should be able to have baby Priceys some day without having to worry about passing on nasty harmful genes to them.
Hooray! Now that really is a weight off my mind.
There is still a decent chance I could get breast cancer in my untreated breast at some point in my lifetime (30% over the next 60 years, compared to about 5% for a woman who has never had breast cancer), but apparently this is not enough to merit a preventative mastectomy. I may be able to have further tests in 5-6 years to see if I inherited a different condition that caused my breast cancer, and there’s a chance I could look at having a mastectomy then, but for now the decision is that the boobies are staying put! My ovarian cancer risk is also about as low as that of any person, as far as I understand. So, happy news all round.
Fortunately, I had some fabulous girlfriends to stay for the weekend, which took my mind off waiting for the phone to ring with my results. As you can see, we had a great time frolicking in the Yorkshire countryside in our wellies, and later trying on all my wigs. My legs are now sore from all the up-hill walking in wellies, and I’m feeling drugged up from the steroids and ready for a good sleep.
(Here we are pictured hanging from a tree that must’ve fallen in the past few days’ incredibly strong wind and rain!)
(Both photos courtesy of Miss Sophie Austin!)
The No-Sugar Diet
In other news, I just wanted to clarify to you all that I am staying off sugar for good, as I don’t think I made it clear in my previous blogs. The reason for giving up sugar in the first place was that there are very strong links between sugar and cancer, and drastically reducing my refined sugar intake is one of the ways I can try and prevent my cancer from recurring. I am looking forward to meeting the nutritionist in two weeks to find out more, but it seems eating refined sugar in things like chocolate and baked goods can cause my cancer cells to grow and thrive, so the best thing I can do is cut it out as much as possible.
As my weekend visitors know, I may have lapsed slightly with a certain sticky toffee and ginger pudding and some delicious chocolates, brownie and cookies, but I am now back on the no-sugar diet. As with all temptations in life, it’s pretty tough to cut it out 100%, so the plan is just to have tiny amounts of sweet goodies occasionally, but cut them out on the whole. So if you’re stopping through the Shepley area and fancy popping in to help me through my backlog of sweeties, please do stop by!
It’s the final chemo tomorrow! I think I will be practically dancing around with joy in a 10 days’ time when I’m through the worst of it!
HOORAY FOR BOOBIES AROUND THE WORLD! GO CHECK YOURS!
I woke up on day two of the no-sugar challenge with a headache, though it’s hard to say whether it was from the lack of sugar or just a general effect of the chemo. Nevertheless, it was gone after a quick cup of tea – I don’t know how I’d cope if I had to cut out the caffeine as well. (I may try it after two weeks).
I didn’t have any major sugar cravings for the rest of the day but I did feel constantly hungry and finished off all the remaining sugar-free items of my Graze box – i.e. a possibly unhealthy amount of dried fruit, nuts and seeds, but I guess it’s better than the chocolate I would’ve eaten otherwise.
In the evening I went to a public bonfire and had a fairly unhealthy large hog roast sandwich, though at least it was sugar-free. It was difficult to say no to the parkin (a traditional Yorkshire cake made of treacle and oatmeal) though. I’m told it keeps for a good while so I’m saving a piece until Nov 16.
Mum has found some novel ways around her no-sugar diet. She came home on Saturday afternoon and declared she had signed up for it, to support me, but there was a catch:
“I’m going to give up chocolate, sweets and cake,” she said, sheepishly, “But I’ve decided I’m allowed scones. There isn’t much sugar in them anyway and I don’t have butter or jam with them.”
Fair enough, I said. (I inherited my love of sweet foods from her and she is known to hide large amounts of chocolate buttons in secret places about the house.)
When I arrived back home from the bonfire later that night, I found she had adopted some interesting alternatives to sugary drinks.
“I read the label on the Horlicks packet, just to check whether that had sugar,” she said. (Of course it has plenty of sugar). “And it did. So then I just thought I’d check the label on the Options [hot chocolate!!] packet to see if that sugar… And it did…”
“So what did you have instead?!” I asked, thinking ooh… maybe peppermint tea?
“I had two spoonfuls of cottage cheese [with pineapple chunks] from the fridge,” she replied.
So there you go! Next time you feel like reaching for that Mars bar, just try cottage cheese instead! The perfect substitute, brought to you by Pricey’s Mum.
DAY TWO (Saturday)
Breakfast: Porridge, berries, a banana and cinnamon. Two cups of tea with milk.
Lunch: One boiled egg, a slice of grain toast, fresh buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, lettuce and tomatoes. One punnet of black pepper pistachios. One cup of green tea.
Snacks: Two punnets of berries and dried fruit. One handful of nuts and raisins. One tea with milk. Half a glass of red wine.
Dinner: One enormous hog roast butty and a cup of Bovril at the bonfire (which turned out to be just a beef OXO cube…)
Snacks: A bowl full of grapes. Another tea with milk.
Back in 2005, in my final year of university in London, I attempted a complete detox. This meant going from drinking several cups of tea a day and eating a lot of chocolate and sweets (pretty much all day long to get me through exam revision and freezing cold temperatures at my Wolfson House halls of residence and the King’s College library), to living off fruit and veg.
The sudden cold turkey was a terrible shock to my system. As many of you know, I am pretty obsessed with food. I go to bed thinking about what I’m going to have for breakfast, wake up thinking about lunch and then obviously spend the rest of the day thinking about dinner. So, when I took away all the amazing stuff I usually ate (toast, pitta breads, cheese, meat, rice, potatoes, not to mention the chocolate, tea, coffee, sweets), the obsession was amplified to the power of 10 and I literally could not stop thinking about food.
Instead of finding something else to occupy my mind, I ate everything in sight, as long as it obeyed the list of “Yes” foods. This meant that I ate 6 bowls of pure-vegetable soup in one day, 5 bowls of porridge with honey, oodles of cups of fruit tea and plenty of extra veg. My 5-a-day became 25-a-day, and my concentration went out the window.
They say if you can get past the first 24-48 hours of a detox, you’ll suddenly feel like the most energetic, spritely elf in the world and will start bouncing around like a 3-year-old. Unfortunately, I didn’t get further than about 13 hours, at which point I vomited everything up, popped a few pills for my splitting headache and promptly gave up.
So I’m pleased to say that it’s been a little easier this time. Nothing like a bit of chemotherapy to prepare the system for all kinds of shocks! Here’s my food diary so far: (And I realise this is probably incredibly boring for some, so don’t feel the need to read on if you’re bored already).
DAY ONE (Friday)
Breakfast: One slice of grain toast with margarine and marmite. One cup of tea.
Mid-morning beverage: One flat white (espresso + milk)
Lunch: One of slice of serrano ham, 1 hard-boiled egg, 1 slice of grain toast no margarine, a pile of lettuce and vinaigrette (may have to check the label on that for next time), a pile of mozzarella balls, roasted red and yellow peppers and sun-dried tomatoes from Morrisons deli counter.
Snacks: Two bowls full of salted microwave popcorn (with no added crap) and two cups of green tea. And two slices of taster cheese from Morrisons. One normal cup of tea.
Dinner: Two homemade Jamie Oliver salmon fishcakes, minted peas, basil, tomato and chilli sauce and mashed potato. The rest of the packet of microwave salted popcorn and another cup of green tea.
Snacks: A handful of nuts and raisins.
I didn’t crave sweet stuff much at all today, but funnily enough I kept craving salt, hence finishing the entire 4-person bag of salted popcorn.
I realised later on that the salad dressing I used at lunchtime had a tiny bit of sugar in it, so I may have ever-so-slightly cheated there, but I’m switching to balsamic vinegar from now on.
So far, so good…
Can I survive two weeks without sugar and processed foods? That is the question.
What on earth would prompt me to even consider doing such a thing? I hear you ask. (And if you couldn’t care less, then don’t read on.)
Ever since I was diagnosed with cancer, I have had nutritional advice thrown at me from all sides. (Apart from the oncologist, whose main advice is that I can eat pretty much whatever I like, provided my diet is fairly balanced and healthy.) My mother has read many a book on nutrition – eating during chemotherapy, eating for breast cancer, etc. And I have heard, for the first time in my life, about Functional Medicine – the study of why we get diseases such as cancer and how we can prevent them, rather than just looking at how we can cure them.
I have been looking for a Functional Medicine specialist who I could see in London for the past few months, and it has been a difficult task because there are relatively few of them in the UK, partly because the concept of Functional Medicine was only created 22 years ago. A couple of days ago, I got to searching again, and found a practitioner in the UK called Elizabeth Butler, who runs Body Soul Nutrition and focuses specifically on nutrition advice for cancer patients.
While reading Liz’s blog, I came across the following article: Have Your Cake and Eat it! and decided to take on a personal nutritional challenge while waiting for an appointment with Liz to discuss how I can keep cancer at bay for the rest of my life by obeying certain nutritional advice. That’s right, I am giving up sugar.
So, the challenge, which I have already accepted, is to go for two weeks, which started this morning, without sugar or processed foods. See below for my self-imposed list of yes and no foods.
Added sugar in coffee and tea (but coffee and tea themselves are allowed)
Microwave meals or other processed meals
Nuts, seeds, dried fruit
Meat, fish, poultry
Pretty much everything else that’s not on the NO list.
A few things to be aware of:
* The challenge ends at 07:00 on Friday 16th November.
* There will be regular updates on my progress in this blog.
* I am aware that I am to have chemotherapy on Tuesday and this is probably a very, very, very bad idea, but I figure it can do me no major harm, plus I stop craving half these things during chemo anyway.
* If I relapse at any point, I will let you know but I will pick myself up and carry on.
* I know it’s Friday afternoon and the weekend’s about to start but, as with everything in life, there’s no time like the present.
**THE IMPORTANT BIT: How YOU can help!**
1. Please don’t send me any more sweet stuff in the post! (But thank you so much for everything you’ve sent me thus far).
2. Feel free to join me in this endeavour! I know plenty of my (mainly female) friends have done this or thought about doing this in the past, so here’s an added incentive to try it now, while we can all go through the pain together!
(So far I have think I have recruited Beth, my Mum is thinking about doing it after she finishes the flapjack she’s just made (which is delicious and I’m sad I can’t help with it, but at least I had some last night) and Michelle, once she finishes off the banana loaf she’s just about to make…). No pressure, girls – just a public name-and-shame, that’s all! 😉
Finally, thanks to Saz for the wonderful package of thoughtful presents below, received earlier in the week. Fortunately most of it has already been consumed so I won’t be too tempted by amazing chocolate for the next two weeks!