Published 11 March 2013
These are the ramblings of a retired cook. They briefly describe how I arrived at my current thinking on my life, cancer and why I become a Vegan. It is an overview and certainly not meant to be exhaustive. For a more detailed view on the Garden, Food, etc., see the relevant sections in this web site.
In 2007 I had sold my wine merchant’s business and was not feeling well. I blamed a life of stress in business and was waiting until my energy returned before starting something new. I did not know then that unfortunately I was not in the best of health. In April 2008 I was diagnosed with high risk prostate cancer and started down my cancer journey with the excellent National Health Service and all the appropriate conventional treatment they could offer. After a period of time I felt I wanted to actively take part in the process of recovery, or indeed survival, rather than just rely on others. I wanted to find ways I could help in the healing process and gain a sense of achievement. I wanted to use all the resources I could find and actively participate in my healing - rather than just being a bystander.
After the initial shock of having cancer subsided, I embarked on finding out more about my cancer, both its causes and possible cures. This process led me to where I am now - a journey I have found both interesting and inspiring. I have been both amazed and, at times, horrified at what I have found on my travels. Fortunately, during this time I was able to look at myself as a third person, separating my feelings from the research I was conducting. I viewed my illness as if it were somebody else’s, which I think helped enormously. I acted as an advisor to somebody with cancer - myself - and was able to look at things in a clearer, more rational light.
Most of the research I studied was concerned with alternative therapies. I had decided to work my way through the conventional medical system and allowed the cancer unit I was attending (The Royal Berks Hospital in Reading) to give me the best conventional treatment that it had to offer. I decided against rejecting any or all of this conventional treatment – as some of the research I had collected recommended - and thought it a more considered approach to start with convention then add to it as and when I could.
I spent three full months reading books and articles, visiting specialists, and attending courses and seminars. I also spent a lot of time on the internet, digging about and trying to find articles and sites that could help. It became increasingly difficult to separate the good from the bad as some research and ideas seemed to contradict others and I didn’t know which to trust. But, during this time, ideas gradually formed in my head and the fog cleared. I found a common ground on which I felt comfortable and this combined knowledge was to form the basis of the principles I now follow.
I started to develop a strategy to deal with the conflicting information that I came across in my research. The problem stems from the fact that many people across the world have very different views on both the causes and cures of Cancer. I will say right now that my strategy may not have led me to the ‘ultimate solution’ i.e. the definitive cure for prostate cancer, but, as you will see from the selection criteria I later employed, it took me down a route that was both positive and helpful for me. I have since done everything I could, no matter how trivial, time-consuming or costly, provided there were few downsides. I will never know how much of this was a waste of time, money, and energy - things I am fortunate to have enough of - but I feel now that nothing is wasted if it potentially improves my chances of living longer.
My strategy is clear and very simple. If the majority of original research (rather than those reporting third hand) felt that a process or a substance was helpful in suppressing the growth of, or in killing cancer cells and had few downsides, it was worth considering. This ‘rule of thumb’ may not seem particularly scientific but I am not a scientist. If I felt that it was a sensible thing to do, I would embrace it and try to include it in my life, diet and regime.
A Sensible thing to do
During this research I also started looking at nutrition and how what we eat affects our bodies. My criteria for ‘sensible’ became eating or doing things that are good for our bodies, or at least generally thought to be. For example, it seems ‘sensible’ to me that if we increase those foods that have a detrimental effect on cancer and decrease those foods that seem to encourage cancer, we are going in the right direction, provided all the nutrients that are needed to maintain a healthy body are present and in the right quantities. It appears to me that an awful lot of diseases and illnesses are caused by a lack of something in our bodies or too much of some other chemicals; and essentially food is just a group of chemicals. Many of the changes I have undergone in my lifestyle are food-related. I accept this is not a ‘scientific’ view and people may say it does not work, but for me, it seems sensible.
Two examples of Sensible things.
Most researchers agree that green tea is beneficial in fighting cancer. ‘Green tea contains polyphenol catechins which have antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties and are one of the tannins in green tea. Although from the same plant as black tea, green tea is not allowed to ferment, as with black tea, which retains the vast amount of catechins that are destroyed in black tea. A study by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 1994 reported that green tea protects against oesophageal cancer and blocks the formation of tumours in skin, lung, small intestine, colon, liver, pancreas and liver.’ [‘Complete Nutrition’, Dr Michael Sharon.]
This is something I have started drinking, about five plus cups a day.
A spice many researchers believe actively helps kill cancer cells and one that is eaten by millions of people around the world. Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that can protect nearly every organ in the body. Thousands of animal and human studies have found that curcumin can combat more than 70 maladies including cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Research shows that curcumin can fight cancer on many levels, prevent tumors from spreading to other organs, inhibit the activation of genes that trigger cancer and kill cells that mutate into cancer. [‘Healing Spices’, Bharat Aggarwal PhD.]
Just a few other examples of foods which seem sensible additions to a diet and hold potentially beneficial properties are brazil nuts, walnuts, horseradish, tea made from dried pot marigold flowers and dried violet leaves, tea made from red clover flowers, fruit pips (particularly apple and almond), tomatoes, garlic and onions.
Simple examples of other foods that may not have cancer-fighting substances but are more beneficial than their alternatives for one’s health include the following. Using these sorts of ingredients is so easy to do but could have a big impact on one’s health.
Olive oil, hemp seed oil and flax seed oil are best for salads and for using cold, but NOT for cooking. Use cold pressed sunflower, coconut or rapeseed oil for cooking.
Use soy sauce and its better versions shoyu and tamari sauce rather than salt for seasoning.
For more suggestions see the section ‘The best alternatives’.
What do I mean by ‘an organic lifestyle’? An organic lifestyle is one where not only do we eat organic food but we also to try not to come into contact with substances that are deemed to be not organic. There are many everyday substances such as washing powder, washing up liquid, shampoo, and many plastics (particularly soft plastic used with cooking) that contain chemicals that are unhelpful to someone fighting cancer. I use brands that are organic and hopefully devoid of these chemicals. This is something I feel helps me fight cancer because it reduces the strain on the body of disposing of inorganic substances that have been absorbed by contact with my skin.
Becoming a Vegan
A vast amount of the information I came across on the causes and cures of cancer related to animal protein. It appears that our bodies react very differently to plant and animal protein; one could be a cause of cancer, the other unrelated. The evidence was overwhelming with so many studies pointing the finger at animal protein that it was something I could not ignore. If I was going to be true to my principles I saw no other way than to give up animal protein and become a Vegan. As I embraced Veganism I began to see a lot of downsides to the regime. The challenge was to develop a balanced diet with all the nutrients and vitamins needed, not only to maintain a healthy body, but to actively boost it in the fight against cancer. It is a confusing area to the layman and I was happy to consult many nutritionists, herbalists and doctors on the matter. It is an area I am still concerned about and to this day I still don’t know if I have succeeded and constantly question the food I eat.
My parents were both gardeners, particularly my mother and, although rejecting gardening when young (as a teenager it seemed an awful lot of work), I embraced gardening in my thirties and have with more or less success been vegetable growing ever since. I had started a vegetable garden at Lower Lovetts Farm when I moved there in 1997 and later, as I became an organic Vegan, started growing vegetables in real earnest. At the time I was diagnosed with cancer my plot was nearly the size it is now, but in the last five years all of my time and much of my resources have been ploughed into the garden.
One of the upsides to my current regime is that many common diseases are thought to be food related but none are related to eating vegetables.
It seems that eating vegetables has few/no downsides. However, heart disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, hardening of the arteries, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are often linked to poor diet, animal protein and nutritional issues. With a better balanced diet and more vegetables I hope to encounter less of these problems in the future.
My Ideas and other people
I am not connected to the medical profession in any way, nor am I an alternative practitioner. Everything I have learnt has been through reading other people’s work and research. I have sifted this information and either decided to personally act on it or not. These have been my decisions that affect me alone. Any thoughts and ideas I have are not ‘recommended’ for others. This journal is an autobiographic diary of what I have done and how I feel rather than written to give guidance to others. How other people view this website and my writing, whether they agree or disagree with the things I say, is a matter for them. I would not want anybody to change his or her lifestyle because of something I have written. It is a person’s personal responsibility to find, disseminate and make judgments according to their own thoughts and views.
And finally for those people that say what I am doing is of no help at all, I would say:
I feel sure I am receiving a hidden benefit - a benefit of the mind. My mind is producing a feeling of wellbeing and satisfaction in me because I believe what I am doing is correct. I am convinced the mind plays a part in healing and if my mind is totally positive and committed then there has to be some benefit to my body. I feel that the power of the mind could be as helpful as the rest of what I am doing put together.