Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Cancer Blog: Recovery Month 7

On Wellness

Today is Day 421 since I was diagnosed with cancer, and Day 211 living with chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a side-effect of chemo treatment. My last chemo treatment was on July 8th, 2013, and I have been in the recovery stage of this unending battle since then.

Liberty is to the collective body, what health is to every individual body. Without health no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.
—Henry St. John, English politician and political philosopher;
1st Viscount Bolingbroke [1678– 1751)

I saw Dr. Chan, my medical oncologist, yesterday to discuss the results of my last CT scan of my lungs and my blood-works. My lungs are essentially clear, although there still remains a nodule or two on my lungs that they want to keep watching. It is not getting larger, which is good news, but I will have to undergo another CT scan in a few months (June) and more blood-works.

I am still tired, often fatigued to the point that I have no desire to do anything, not even reading books or writing my blog posts; and I still have neuropathy on my hands and feet. It can take between two and five years to recover from cancer and chemo treatments; this is what I have been told from discussions at Gilda's Club, my cancer-support group, and by my oncologist. I have a ways to go; I am not entirely sure if I will ever reach the energy level I had pre-cancer. I find this possibility discouraging, as I do my advancing age, which works against my plans.

Last week, on February 4th, was World Cancer Day, which is a day set aside to promote cancer awareness, and I have been busy researching and reading. There is some sobering news: cancer rates are expected to increase worldwide. So says the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO).

CBC News says:
The report said that in 2012 — the latest year for which data are available — new cancer cases rose to an estimated 14 million a year, a figure expected to grow to 22 million within the next two decades.

Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million a year to 13 million per year.

The data mean that at current rates, one in five men and one in six women worldwide will develop cancer before they reach 75 years old, while one in eight men and one in 12 women will die from the disease.
This is the result of five years of studies;  there is a debate on how much governments can now do to prevent the rise of cancer, that the onus is now on individual diet and lifestyle choices. We know that diet has some influence on how cancer forms and spreads, but it is not the only thing we ought to consider, say the people who make such decisions. It is now about money, which is always how decisions are made.

The same CBC article says: "The spiralling costs of cancer are hurting the economies of even the richest countries and are often way beyond the reach of poorer nations. In 2010, the total annual economic cost of cancer was estimated at around $1.16 trillion." A large number, but not when compared to how much one nation, the United States, has spent on its military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan: $6 trillion. I find this news depressing.

Here are some interesting statistics, from the World Cancer Research Fund, on rates of cancer in the world; Denmark has the highest rates of cancer diagnosis, the U.S. is no.6, Canada is no. 12, Germany is no. 18, Israel is no. 19, and Japan no.48. There is much to chew on here, including on whether rates are increasing as a result of better screening techniques or because of poorer diets, or a bit of both. There has been much talk of diet and in particular the Okinawan diet of high vegetable low meat content, and eating as far down the food chain as possible.

An article ("The Okinawa diet – could it help you live to 100?"), by Michael Booth in The Guardian says how and what Okinawans eat:
 The next day I interviewed American gerontologist, Dr Craig Willcox, who has spent many years investigating Okinawan longevity and co-wrote a book, The Okinawa Program, outlining his findings (recommending that we "Eat as low down the food chain as possible" long before Michael Pollan's similarly veg-centric entreaty).
Willcox summarised the benefits of the local diet: "The Okinawans have a low risk of arteriosclerosis and stomach cancer, a very low risk of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer. They eat three servings of fish a week, on average ... plenty of whole grains, vegetables and soy products too, more tofu and more konbu seaweed than anyone else in the world, as well as squid and octopus, which are rich in taurine – that could lower cholesterol and blood pressure." 
There is little incentive to living to 100 if you are  are doing so in poor or horrible health. Such diets might be beneficial to consider, and I would like to hear of anyone who has changed their dietary habits and it has resulted in improved energy and better overall health. It might also be that genetics plays such a prominent role that diet is secondary to longevity, suggesting that the diet is specific to the Japanese Okinawans and will have little or no effect outside its boundaries.

This will be my last regular posting for the cancer blog; I will post at irregular intervals, when I have something new to say, such as when I am relieved of my neuropathy, or when I have regained a sufficient energy level that I no longer notice its absence. Thank you for joining and encouraging me; I hope that in writing about my cancer journey that I have encouraged you.