Taking Charge of Your Own Health
"To remain oblivious to the hidden regenerative processes inside your body will cause you to die unnecessarily young."
- Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, MD, Fantastic Voyage
Five years have passed, and as of this writing I have now been happily pronounced cancer-free. What a relief. No longer does each ache and pain trigger a fear in me of "Oh God, is that 'it' coming back again?"
Cancer does that to you. It's an inner nagging, a constant reminder that there could be something bigger than yourself lurking out there in the shadows, sitting back, like a predator, deciding when and if it cares to strike again. Now, finally, I can release that fear. The predator has been locked up, in prison, hopefully never to be let out again.
Along the way in this war I have been fighting have come the blessings. I am truly loved by those who mean the most to me. They showed me this over and over during this time. Through it all, I learned about my own strength and courage. I didn't know I had it in me to buck the system by choosing unconventional therapies and doing it my way. But you see, I was never able to wrap my arms around the "standard of care" set forth by Western medicine as the way to treat cancer.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I needed to be emotionally strong to fight the battle. To help with that, I needed to be hormonally in balance. It is hard to be in a fighting mood when you are hormonally depressed. Balanced hormones keep your emotions in check and I believe (based on my research) are the most effective way to prevent cell proliferation (cancer). Unfortunately, Western medicine's "standard of care" believes that taking away all hormones prevents disease. I believed differently, so I didn't want to go off my bioidentical hormones.
Nor did I want to undergo chemotherapy. You see, I do not believe in the "poison" theory of using chemotherapy. It is my belief that an environment of balanced hormones prevents disease. This is reinforced by many of the doctors interviewed in this book. For one thing, it ablates, or takes away, hormones. Chemotherapy does kill cancer cells, but it also kills the immune system. Without a strong immune system, cancer has a perfect opportunity to proliferate. We need a strong immune system, and balanced hormones to prevent disease. So it didn't make sense to me to "take away" hormones as a means to kill cancer.
As I now see it, there are two ways to fight cancer: build up or destroy. Western medicine's standard of care is to destroy. Well-meaning though it may be, the idea of chemicalizing myself, destroying everything, and hoping my health would come back, coupled with the instructions to give up my hormone therapy, was not appealing.
I decided to approach cancer by "building up." This took courage, because it is daunting to go against the course recommended by one's doctor. But because of the books I write and my understanding of the hormonal connection to health, I had a lot of information. I understood that hormonal balance is key to health and vitality. My decision to go against the standard of care was probably easier for me than it would be for other women not armed with the same information. I approached my cancer through balanced bioidentical hormone replacement and complemented this replacement with Iscador, an anthroposophic medicine whose function is to strengthen and build up the immune system so that disease cannot attack and invade.
I believe this was the best decision of my life. Aside from the discomfort of injecting myself with Iscador every other day for these five years, my health has never been better. I have not had so much as a cold during this time; upon my last checkup, my immune system was so high that my doctor was ecstatic. He said he had never seen an immune system this strong in any of his adult patients. That information was able to put all my fears to rest. How could a life-threatening illness get past an immune system this strong? Great. I had done it. I beat it. I did it my way, with my body almost intact.
So you can imagine my surprise (five years and one month after my initial diagnosis) when my gynecologist told me that I had a pre-precancerous condition (not cancer, not even precancer) growing in my uterus and that in order to prevent possible severe problems down the road, I would need to have my uterus removed.
Why was the sleeping giant trying to rear its ugly head again? Luckily we caught this before it became cancer, yet it was serious enough to force the removal of an organ. I do not take the removal of any body part lightly. What was wrong? I have thought about this a lot. As a teenage mother, I was given my first major chemical, a shot to dry up my milk, and was encouraged to feed my baby Similac formula. In chapter 5 I will discuss at length the protective aspects of breast-feeding and prolactin production. Second, at age eighteen I was put on the early high-dose birth control pills and stayed on them for twenty-two years. Unknowingly, like so many women of my generation, these chemicals put me into a false menopause. All those years of chemicalization were dangerous to my health. Add to this scenario stress and environmental assault and a brutal childhood and you have a recipe for disaster.
The ninth year of bioidentical hormone replacement, things started going wonky (this is my term--don't expect your doctors to use it!). I had breakthrough bleeding, and then after a while I was bleeding continuously. Something was wrong, obviously. You must understand that because bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is such a new science, all the medical professionals working in this arena are learning as fast as they can, but with each year we all learn more. At this point in my BHRT, I had not heard of "rhythmic cycling," which I will explain in great detail later.
In the way I was taking hormones on a static dose, my estrogen was not rising and falling as it once did in nature, and my progesterone was not rising and falling as it did when I was making a full complement of hormones in my youth. (See the diagram.) Because of this, my receptor sites were not opening to receive the progesterone, so the estrogen lining in my uterus kept building and building. Over time, like a motor on "rev," this thinkening caused excessive bleeding and sent an alarm to my brain that "all was not well," that this human being was no longer able to reproduce (which is why, according to nature, we exist).
Because I was bleeding constantly, I was not ovulating. Thus I was not a reproductive person, according to my brain. You must understand that the object of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is to fool the brain into thinking I can still make a baby, even though I have no eggs left. As a result of not having a rhythm, and of the thickening and the bleeding, severe hyperplasia, along with adenomyosis (leaks in my uterine lining), came about. This excessive bleeding and hyperplasia created a perfect scenario for cancer, so I had no choice but to remove my uterus, thus removing my problem.
I now feel that had I not been chemicalized by the "dry-up" shot, and if I had not been on strong birth control pills, and if I had been cycling in a rhythmic fashion, this problem might not have occurred. This is a theory that I have embraced, as have several of the doctors I interviewed for this book. As you will also see in these interviews, there are other doctors who do not agree with rhythmic cycling or with cycling in general. My job is to give you all the information from these professionals so you can draw your own conclusions. I am not a doctor, but I am a very informed layperson. I will explain rhythmic cycling in detail in chapter 5, and you can then decide what makes the most sense to you. I am merely the messenger.
Losing my uterus caused me to do a lot of searching. For years, I was unknowingly hormonally imbalanced, not just as a perimenopausal and menopausal woman, but also as a young woman. Unfortunately, I never realized hormonal imbalance was the problem.
Without hormones or imbalanced hormones, we lose any grip on feeling "normal." Without hormones, life quality is greatly diminished. Without hormones, a woman is at her weakest physically. Without hormones, disease is allowed to proliferate because the brain perceives that the body is no longer reproductive; therefore, nature wants to "eliminate" you to make way for those who are healthy and reproductive.
Loss of hormones is not to be taken lightly. Having no hormones is like having bad premenstrual syndrome (PMS) every day of your life. You are not in control of your emotions, nor are you in control of the cruel physical manifestations of the loss of hormones. Couple this with the stress of having and fighting cancer, and (to me) it doesn't make sense to be without hormones.
You see, we may have changed with the passing of time, but the biology inside us has not. Nature has a job to do, and the brain was hard-wired at the begining of time and doesn't know anything else. A healthy woman is hormonally balanced. We can't "outthink" nature. This never works, no matter how hard we try to come up with something better.
Women remain confused about hormones and in some cases terrified of hormone replacement; one day, headlines in the newspapers praise hormone replacement therapy (HRT); the next day, the headlines are screaming that HRT will kill us.
The truth is, despite the widespread use of synthetic hormone brands such as Premarin and Provera, these drugs have always been associated with cancer. The first cancer linked with synthetic hormone replacement was cancer of the uterus lining (endometrium).
The most recent resurfacing of the negatives associated with synthetic hormones and cancer came from a government-sponsored study titled the Women's Health Initiative. This study was supposed to last 8.5 years, but it was stopped after only 5.2 years because the risks of using Premarin and Provera outweighed the benefits. Breast cancer was just one of the increased risks discovered. Additionally, the study concluded that synthetic hormone replacement therapy protects neither your bones nor your heart. Ironically, bone and heart protection were two of the primary benefits once used by doctors as selling points to get women to fill their prescriptions for these drugs.
The Women's Health Initiative Study hoped to show decreases in
*death due to any cause
The actual outcome results were shocking:
*29 percent increase in coronary heart disease
*41 percent increase in strokes
*22 percent increase in cardiovascular disease
*2,100 percent (yes, this is correct) increase in pulmonary embolism (lung blood clots)
*26 percent increase in breast cancer
So much for synthetic hormones! These statistics alone should convince you right away of the negative effects of these so-called synthetic hormones.
Those of us who were on the original birth control pills for any length of time were actually on synthetic hormones- strong synthetic hormones. Any wonder why women of our generation are under siege from an epidemic of breast and ovarian cancers? There is a link, and you'll learn more about it in this book.
Read on and see if you relate to my scenario: As I said, for twenty-two years, I was on synthetic birth control pills, the original ones that were very strong. I even manipulated my periods with them, if I didn't want to have a period on a particular weekend. I just didn't realize what was in those birth control pills, nor did I understand the dangers of messing with nature.
I did not realize that having only a two-day bleed meant that I was not ovulating fully. At the time, I thought it was great to have such a light period. I did not realize that the importance of ovulation in the human female body is to let the brain know that I was well, healthy, and reproductive. As far as my brain was concerned, I was not reproductive because I was not fully ovulating. An ovulating woman is a reproductive woman.
To believe that the body is not fully ovulating is a dangerous assumption for the brain to make. If the brain perceives us as unable to reproduce, its job, biologically speaking, is to try to eliminate us to make room for the reproductive ones. This is the nature in us. This is the template that was programmed in us from ancient times. Thus, this hormonal imbalance that I unknowingly put myself in was creating a backdrop for cancer. Why? Because we all have cancer in us, but as long as we are hormonally balanced, the brain perceives us as young, strong, and healthy. If we become imbalanced, this signals to the brain that the reproductive system is no longer in working order, and it is in this scenario that the cancer has a chance to come into being.
You see, cancer proliferates in an environment of hormonal imbalance. This is why I believe that Western medicine's standard of care, well-meaning as it is, is treating us incorrectly. Western medicine is looking at everything except the obvious. Western medicine is trying to poison the cancer out of us, further wreaking havoc with our hormonal systems.
Then, to prevent recurrence, we are given hormone ablation drugs such as tamoxifen or Femara, which interfere with the body's ability to read the hormones in some parts of the body. Plus, for many women these drugs cause horrible side effects. To me, it doesn't make sense to take any drug that prevents new hormones from being made in our bodies or to kill off any of the little bit of hormones we might have left. Why has Western medicine been trying to outthink nature? We are given fake hormones that don't replicate exactly what our bodies make naturally, and doctors are expecting them to work in the same way or better. It hasn't worked. Look around. Are the women you know doing well from midlife on? Most everyone has complaints, from mild to severe. No wonder women are in such bad shape.
Once you understand the importance of your brain perceiving the body as reproductive--our "brain template"--it will be easier for you to make decisions for yourself. We assume that the professionals who are taking care of us know what they are doing. But they can't know what they haven't been taught, and unless you find yourself a doctor such as the onesFrom the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Ageless by Suzanne Somers. Copyright © 2006 by Suzanne Somers. Excerpted by permission of Harmony, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.