In Other News - Bacon BAD, Frankincense Oil GOOD - April 23, 2009

One of my favorite food items in the world is bacon. And I haven't had any (except the fake kind made from turkey) for 10 months. According to this research, I should never have it again. A 2006 article from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition informs us that:

"Men and women with a high intake of bacon (≥5 servings/wk) had an elevated risk of bladder cancer compared with those who never ate bacon (multivariate RR = 1.59; 95% CI = 1.06, 2.37), although the overall association was not statistically significant (P for trend = 0.06). However, the association with bacon was stronger and became statistically significant after the removal of individuals who indicated having "greatly" changed their red meat (men) or bacon (women) intake during the 10 y before baseline (multivariate RR = 2.10; 95% CI = 1.24, 3.55; P for trend = 0.006). A positive association was also detected for intake of chicken without skin, but not for chicken with skin or for other meats, including processed meats, hot dogs, and hamburgers."
AJCN Citation HERE.

While the first sentence declares no statistical significance, that's only true at the standard 95% confidence level. The p-values cited confirm that the results ARE significant at the 90% confidence level, and very significant in the smaller sample (removing people with radical dietary changes). So no bacon for me! Oddly, hot dogs (also high in nitrates that theoretically metabolize into carcinogenic nitrosamines) were not correlated. I think I shall continue to avoid them as well, just in case...

For those of you who are unaware of this fact, Oklahoma is OK. Recent research from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center department of urology demonstrated that frankincense oil might be a viable
alternative to BCG for Bladder Cancer. Their conclusion was that "frankincense oil appears to distinguish cancerous from normal bladder cells and suppress cancer cell viability. Microarray and bioinformatics analysis proposed multiple pathways that can be activated by frankincense oil to induce bladder cancer cell death. Frankincense oil might represent an alternative intravesical agent for bladder cancer treatment." You can read an abstract of the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine article here. Looks like it's too soon to do anything with this other than clinical trials. Thanks to Robert G in New York for the heads-up on this one.

HK in Toronto has been having a very rough time with his BCG and TUR treatments. He got a lot of reassurance from his doctor recently. HK reports,
"Doctor informed me to try to be happy. I ask him when this ordeal will end. He said that this disease is chronic (Bladder superficial non-invasive cancer). So far I have not got Bladder cancer after surgery in November & July 08 TURBT. Another check-up is in May 5/09, after that in August with BCG with less amount. He is going to talk to me after Cysto in May. He said some days you can get pain, but take it easy and stay happy. Doctor also told me that 5 years of check-up is very important. ... He said please try to be happy." Apparently HK's doc is a firm believer that a good attitude is essential to recovery. For what it's worth, I concur!

And in still other news, it's probably time to be progressive and admit a female into our little Bladder Cancer Fraternity. Asya in NorCal was recently diagnosed, and has taken up blogging, even before her first TURBT - scheduled for today - Thursday, April 23. As a "bladder cancer veteran" of 14 months, it's interesting to watch Asya's mood swings parallel my own at the time - from "this will probably kill you" to "this is a minor inconvenience." To attest to the latter, Asya pre-scheduled a Dim Sum lunch celebration Saturday in anticipation of a successful outcome on today! I recall was contemplating a trip to DC the Sunday after my Thursday surgery, and I am glad I decided against it, eventually. For those that have not read the entire story, I ended up with a bladder perforation and a catheter for a whole week. Read all about it in this post. Here's hoping her outcome will be better than mine was! Check out Asya's blog for progress and lab results in the next few days.

How It's Going 9 Weeks Post-BCG - April 18, 2009

Today (and lately) I feel about as near to normal as I can remember. Keep in mind that I define normal as how I felt just over a year ago before all this cancer business (or, more accurately, my awareness of it) started. Truth be told, I feel better than my old definition of normal in most respects. I have lost over 30 pounds since then, my allergy symptoms have diminished, my complexion has improved, I require less sleep, and I have more energy. I'm told I don't snore (much) any more. Blood chemistry has improved - triglycerides have dropped from 323 to 220. I eat better food, and it tastes better to me. Things I used to eat routinely don't taste as good as they used to. Stranger still, I feel better and may have a better attitude than people in general. It's all quite amazing.


Offset all this goodness with recovery from the BCG. While my reactions to each treatment were not too bad, there were side effects that lingered longer than the last series. Perhaps this was because I did not rest enough, deceived by the mild symptoms at the time. Since the last one, there have been a lot of lesser symptoms... Severe tiredness. Sensitivity and/or general discomfort in the "male area." Occasional cramping in the abdomen. Random sleeplessness. Vague abdominal soreness. Ugly and inexplicable mood swings. Frustration with the entire universe, which had not as late measured up to my standards. Nine weeks and two long weekend vacations (one to Northern California and one to Las Vegas) later and all of these are gone, while all the good stuff listed above continues on. It's very nice to not be totally exhausted at the end of each day. People cautiously ask how I am feeling, confused because I look good. I am confused also. I have to chalk it up to a factor known as common grace, with a full measure of special grace mixed in.

It's also amazing how other people characterize the source of my improvements. Several have pointed out that the exercise must be "working." While I appreciate the kind thoughts, let me debunk that myth. Most of my lifestyle changes were implemented on August 1, 2008, and most of the positive benefits were starting to be realized soon after that - well before the exercise was initiated around November 30. So while the exercise may smooth out the rough edges, it cannot be the primary source of the improvements! Besides, it still sucks. When we were in Vegas for the past several days, I refused to exercise. The casino-hotel charged $20 per person per day to use the exercise facility. Clearly they would much rather have you gambling than exercising. In any case there were far better uses of $20 each vacation day than to invest in hated exercise. Therefore I did not exercise for five days in a row - Friday through Tuesday. Started again on Wednesday, which was tough. Thursday was easy, and Friday was nearly impossible. Even though I do it first thing in the morning and ignore the effects all day, I had forgotten how tired it makes me in the evenings. Or how great it felt not to do it each day. But progress requires sacrifice, and I am up to the task. Up to DOing it, not up to enjoying it. Sigh.

It might be beneficial to characterize the other non-exercise things I have been doing - these are (singly or together) the primary reasons for my well being, and perhaps the exercise adds a little as well. Let's look at a typical day. (Click on ANY photo to enlarge)


Between Midnight and 2AM (when I get up to pee) I take 5-8 grams of PectaSol-C Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP) mixed in a shaker cup with 8-10 ounces of non-chlorinated spring water.


About 6AM I get up and drink some organic greens, also mixed in a shaker cup with 8-10 ounces of non-chlorinated spring water, to get a good dose of healthy enzymes. I chase that with some "empty stomach" supplements, namely 500mg each of L-Arginine (a vasodilator that may enhance heart and other muscle health) and L-Carnitine (helps fat metabolization and may promote heart health), and also an immune system booster - currently a mushroom-based formula. I am thinking of switching to a yeast-based beta-glucan immune booster after I run out of the mushroom pills.


After that I exercise, getting my heart into the aerobic zone (for me about 140 plus or minus 5) for 15-20 minutes. This requires a 7-9 minute warmup and is followed by a 5 minute cool down, all on my recumbent bike described in this post. I'm guessing this type of bike is not best for the bladder area, but it is the best for not aggravating my lower back, which has had chronic issues for years.


About 6:40 I spend some time sitting, reading and reflecting on universal truths. This practice also allows more time for my body to cool off before showering and preparing for the workday.


For breakfast most days (and lunch on the others)
I have a nice portion of Flaxseed Oil mixed with Cottage Cheese and fresh ground flaxseeds, sweetened with stevia extract (no longer using organic agave nectar), plus fresh or frozen organic fruit added for variety. This stuff is known as FOCC, described in the previous post.


With my breakfast I take some vitamins and supplements.* A tiny aspirin as suggested in this post, a very comprehensive multivitamin, a calcium supplement (600mg), a Coenzyme Q10 supplement (100 mg), Vitamin E (200IU), and Vitamin C (500 mg).

For lunch I have a healthy, organic combination of fruits and vegetables. If any meat is involved, it's a small amount (2 slices of organic turkey breast).


In the midafternoon (around 3-4PM) I take another dose of both MCP and Greens, on an empty stomach, mixed together in a shaker cup with 8-10 ounces of non-chlorinated spring water.


Throughout the morning and day I drink 2-3 quarts of spring water, green tea, black tea, organic lemonade, or organic limeade (whatever I am in the mood for) all homemade with non-chlorinated water and sweetened with stevia extract.


Dinner is a healthy, often vegetarian affair, with organic produce. An enormous salad, a barely cooked vegetable or two, low starches, and no meats or only small portions. Breads are either multigrain or sprouted multigrain, with occasional sourdough. About 3-5 times a week I have a 6oz glass of red wine, sometimes two on weekends! An occasional white for variety.


Immediately after dinner I complete the vitamin and supplement routine* with another dose of Vitamin E (200IU), Vitamin C (500 mg), and the multivitamin, plus Omega-3 fish oil (3000mg) and a Vitamin B-12 (500 mcg).


Near bedtime for dessert, maybe 3-4 times per week, I have fresh fruit mixed into unsweetened organic yogurt with
stevia extract (no longer using organic agave nectar). Or organic nuts with cheese or fruit on occasion.


Daily I also take a total of 6g of inulin fiber supplement with my meals - usually 2g with FOCC and 4g with dinner. Inulin is a soluble fiber, so it goes through the system like a sponge rather than like steel wool.


* If you would prefer a simple solution to the "with breakfast and dinner" vitamin and supplement scenario, a packet (8 pills) of Daily Advantage from DrDavidWilliams.com with breakfast and another packet with dinner, plus one CoQ10 and a tiny aspirin per day would be roughly equivalent, even better in some regards.


What does it all mean? Not much if the upcoming cystoscopy reveals new cancer growth - theoretically a 50/50 shot. Maybe something if all clear. But who knows which one, ones, or all in conjunction might be helping? Not me, for sure! But all of the above seem reasonable, are generally affordable, ans surely won't hurt anything. Even the exercise...


The Budwig Protocol - What the FOCC??? - April 3, 2009

Last December I got a comment from someone recommending the Budwig Protocol. I dismissed it at the time, having researched it briefly some time ago. Lately I've been reading a book recommended by Ed B. in Washington State. The author also speaks highly of the Budwig Protcol's central recommendation - a combination of Flaxseed Oil with Cottage Cheese that's supposed to give the body a super zap of linolenic Omega 3 fatty acids. We've all heard that these Omega-3s are good for you, and that they are found chiefly in wild fish, while linoleic Omega-6s found in red meat are supposedly the root of all evil. So eat more fish and less red meat is the mantra of the modern day dieter. Pre-dating all of this we have Dr. Johanna Budwig, a German physician and (accounts vary) a six or seven time Nobel nominee. In the 1950s she pioneered a vegetarian diet whose mainstay was quark mixed with cold pressed flax seed oil (same thing as linseed oil). All of her works are in German, and there appears to be only one or two translated to English and somewhat available - check out the Amazon Budwig Link or the link to her Diet Book (currently unavailable). Websites praising the good Doctor and her work are legion, and all have two things in common:

1) A staggering number of text, photo, and video testimonials of how this protocol cured cancer or other horrible maladies
2) Opinions, misdirections, and outright lies presented as facts

I do not think it's unfair to say the Budwig phenomenon has reached cult status.

So one might wonder - just because her followers play fast and loose with the facts and exhibit cult-like behavior, does that mean it's all meaningless? Originally I thought so, but the presence of such a volume of anecdotal data is nearly unprecedented. So I began picking through all the bullshit to see if I could find any kernels of truth. Dr. Budwig found that blood samples from cancer patients and victims of several other serious diseases were consistently low in phospholipids and lipoproteins. Adding fish oil to the diet in any reasonable amounts did not seem to improve the blood work. Dr. Budwig wrote, "Solid fats are not water-soluble and cannot associate with protein. They are not capable of circulating through the fine capillary networks. The blood thickens and circulation problems arise. In various studies the only substance which characterized the cancerous cells, as opposed to healthy ones, was isolated fat. When living tissue rejects some fats, the body isolates them and deposits them in places where fats are not normally found." She also added later in the text, "I succeeded in proving that those protein substances...found in quark or cottage cheese...are able to make water soluble the biological highly unsaturated flaxseed oil." The kernel of reason in the Budwig cult is that combining oil with high-sulfur proteins makes it water-soluble and enables its transport by the bloodstream and penetration through cell walls. Cells low in these oils are cancer and pre-cancerous cells,so that's where the soluble oil matrix will be drawn osmotically. Once there they promote oxygen respiration in the cells rather than fermentation - creating a toxic environment for cancer. This is the well documented Warburg Hypothesis. Thus healthy Omega-3 fats can be leveraged into the human system to where they are useful rather than sliding straight through the digestive system and forming expensive and slightly oily poop. In addition to this mechanical and metabolic (oxygen respiration) model, Dr. Budwig also postulated an electrical model - but it's not worth describing here. If true, it adds another reason that putting the right fatty acids in pre-cancerous cells is a good thing to do. Given all of this, it seems that hidden in the legend and ritual of the Budwig-ites there is a logical model that makes sense from a bio-engineering standpoint, even if the peer-reviewed evidence (if any) may be lost in history.

While I cannot claim to have done an exhaustive search, there is one place on the Internet that has a higher fact to bullshit ratio than all the others. It's the Yahoo Group for Flax Seed Oil, and you must join the group (free of charge) to access any data there. Check it out at: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/FlaxSeedOil2/. Even this site is not fully free from highly emotional inputs and pedantic pronouncements (e.g. drink sauerkraut juice first thing every morning, avoid antioxidants ?!!, never eat animal protein of any type, ect.) By and large it's pretty good.

I personally know of several folks who were near terminal with stage 5 metatstatized cancer whose situations improved immediately upon ingesting the FOCC mixture. Whether it was because the Budwig model is correct, or because they were getting needed calories since chemo or radiation robbed them of appetite is unknown. And again, it's only more anecdotal evidence. I experimented with making FOCC. The flaxseed oil is very thick and viscous - as much like motor oil as anything edible. Blending it thoroghly with cottage cheese makes somthing thick and gooey, but not greasy or oily in any way. Supposedly this is water soluble? I added some plain water, and the results were shocking - keep adding and mixing, and the FOCC disappears into solution. This is a simple experiment, but it quickly proves the basic tenet of the protocol. Still skeptical? Try the same with motor oil, and the results will be very different. And you will likely be banned from the kitchen for life...

If you are more of a bottom-line person, you will just want to know what to do. For the basic treatment, consume 1 serving (or more, if you are very sick) of the basic Flax Oil / Cottage Cheese (FOCC) mixture daily. Here's the recipe for one serving of FOCC (which tastes better than it sounds):

Add 6 tablespoons of low fat (1% or 2%) organic cottage cheese to 3 tablespoons of cold pressed flax seed oil. Blend with a stick type blender (regular blenders may overheat the mixture) until no oil can be seen - the result will be something like a heavy whipped cream or mousse consistency. Take 2 tablespoons of whole flax seeds (black or gold does not matter) and grind them in an inexpensive coffee grinder. Stir them into the FOCC mixture. The mixture will be slightly salty from the cottage cheese and slightly gritty from the flax seed hulls, but not unpleasant. Too thick for you? Stir in a splash or two of milk. Add
stevia extract (no longer using organic agave nectar) to taste, and mix in fresh berries for flavor. One could also make a savory mix and add in onion or garlic powder and use as a veggie dip. Toss in red or green chili powder for a little zip. There are dozens of recipes on the Yahoo group above. This mixture is quite rich in calories - the jury is still out whether it causes weight gain on me. For those who prefer visuals, there's a mildly helpful video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSoddptWL0s

I have decided to add a serving of the FOCC to my daily diet, substituting for eggs and toast most mornings, or providing a fairly hefty afternoon snack. With my judgment day only 7 weeks away, I need all the extra help I can get!

Associated with the basic FOCC mixture is a fairly complex diet of vegetables, juice, and other sources of natural enzymes. You can read a short summary of that diet at: http://www.positivehealth.com/article-view.php?articleid=456 I have not chosen to follow the whole protocol because it's potentially overkill for me, and my other dietary precautions address many of the same factors. Plus the fact that it's a nuisance, and appears to be more ritual than science. It certainly won't hurt you (except for the avoid antioxidants mantra).

In other news, we should all celebrate that Robert S. in New York got the "all clear" from his second TUR (with the 6-BCG ordeal in between #1 and #2). He has a cystoscopy in 3 months, and no idea if he's in for maintenance BCG or not.