In April 2018, following on from the shock of being diagnosed with Stage two (out of four), grade 3 (the most aggressive), Triple Negative (feeds off nothing, cancer for cancer’s sake) breast cancer, I decided to find out as much as possible about how I could help myself. I had a 6cm tumour in my left breast and they found cancer in the lymph glands under my left arm.
The Surgeon and Oncologist had warned me against using the internet. They said that no one posts good news stories and all information is more than two years out of date and it would only frighten us, so that avenue was closed and I couldn’t seem to find anyone who had had TNBC so I turned to my first cousin who had suffered with HER2 breast cancer and followed a similar treatment regime two years before.
She was a complete darling and suggested I read an article written by Decca Aitkenhead for the Guardian. In the article Decca talked about using Water Fasting (no food) to negate the side affects of chemotherapy and also gave a wonderful link to someone who did permanent hair replacement wigs (another blog). I was due to commence the chemotherapy on the Thursday and I read about the water fasting on the Monday night so my first water fast started then. For the whole of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning I only drank water! I know it sounds hardcore and the first 24 hours was but after that the hunger went and I felt energised. I did get tired in the evenings and needed to go to bed early where I slept like a log. I did this long fast before, during and after all four of my EC (nuclear bomb equivalent of chemo) treatments which, I had every 3 weeks
The idea is that you carry on the fast for 24 hours after treatment so that there is no sickness or need for steroids. Convincing my Oncologists that I didnt need steroids was the most difficult. They insisted I use the full complement of steroids for the first go and then agreed, very reluctantly, to half it for every session thereafter. So despite never feeling sick or having an upset tummy I took all the steroids which actually made me feel worse I think. By my 4th and final EC treatment I was on a minimal amount of steroids which were given with the chemotherapy and no ‘after’ treatment steroids. I lost 9lbs in weight each time but always put it back on before my next fast.
When I switched to weekly chemotherapy (I was due to have 12 sessions) I would fast for 36 hours before treatment and the day of treatment but started eating a breakfast the next day. In the end I only needed 9 weekly sessions as the tumour had gone.
The other relatively unknown positive about fasting, especially with breast cancer, is that it does a series of things which allows your own immune system to attack the cancer. I spent a lot of time reading up about Dr Valter Longo and his tests on mice and learnt that the cancer is protected by T receptor cells which contain an amino acid know as HO-1. In Fasting Mice the amino acid disappears and the T receptor cells stop protecting the cancer cells. Fasting is also known to boost our immune systems. To date there have been no human trials as there is no profit in a cure that is based on Fasting!!
I believe that the fasting allowed my strong immune system (I was only ever neutropenic, which means my immune system was impaired, at the very end of my treatments) to work with the chemotherapy to ‘kill’ off all the cancer cells in my tumour and in my body. My first scan after only 3 sessions of EC chemo showed the tumour had reduced by 94% which I think was pretty well unheard of at the time.
It was a very powerful tool in the fight against cancer and allowed my body to heal itself (along with very strong chemotherapy drugs!).