This is the final issue of the Wellness Newsletter. I will not be writing any more newsletters, though I may write an occasional blog post looking at life from an octogenarian’s perspective.
This final issue of the newsletter deals with a subject close to my heart, namely, the power of good nutrition. I’m also giving you an update on my own health in a “bad news-good news” type of scenario. It helps explain why this is the last issue of the Wellness Newsletter.
Food as Healing Medicine
Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.” His saying is quoted widely, but modern medicine has largely ignored it. Today, many medical leaders and researchers are taking it more seriously. In this issue, our focus is on food as healing medicine, illustrated with my own case history. Why mine? Simply because I know it best.
I was shocked with the diagnosis of bladder cancer in August 2018. I had never smoked, the major risk factor for bladder cancer, but many more risk factors exist for this disease. My urologist said we would probably never pin down the cause of my cancer. We had to focus on treating it effectively. I’ll summarize the course of my illness in a condensed format.
[Note: This real-life example of using food as medicine may be of interest to many readers. Due to the parts of the body affected, much of the discussion centers around parts of the urinary system. Anyone who may be put off by this should not read the remainder of this newsletter.]
August 1, 2018: I went to nearby Baptist Emergency Hospital because of painful bloody urination that struck me out of the blue. I was treated kindly and efficiently. After initial tests, the doctor treated me with a Foley catheter and referred me to a specialist in urology.
August 6. 2018: I was assigned to Dr. G as a new patient and had my first visit with him today. After checking me in and reviewing my E.R. record, he did a quick examination of my bladder. He told us that he saw feathery fronds covering a third to half of the internal bladder surface, saying they were typical of a superficial type of bladder cancer. He scheduled me for a cystoscopic bladder operation at the group’s surgery center about two weeks later.
August 22, 2018: I had a Trans-Urethral Resection of Bladder Tumor (TURBT) done today by Dr. G. He told us the tumor was more extensive than he originally thought, covering almost half the interior bladder surface area. He took biopsies from two areas and resected as much of it as possible. We were to return in eight days for the lab report and to go over a treatment plan.
August 30, 2018: The final pathology report revealed “high grade papillary urethral carcinoma, non-invasive.” It was classified as “Pathologic stage pTa.” Dr. G explained that the cancer was superficial. It had not penetrated into the muscular layers of the bladder, but it was high grade, meaning that it posed a high recurrence risk. Because of this, it had be monitored with repeat cystosopic examinations every few months for at least five years. Dr. G wanted to give the bladder time to recover from acute inflammation. Then he would re-examine and re-stage the cancer and start me on treatment. I was to return on November 7.
[He planned to put me on BCG instillations, the most common treatment for this type of cancer. After reading about this, I also read about an unconventional approach to treating bladder cancer with food. Dr. William W. Li, a medical scientist, did extensive research on this subject at Harvard. His published research, along with other research that I studied, convinced me that treating bladder cancer with an anti-cancer diet was a realistic option. (See footnotes 1,2,3,4) I asked Dr. G if we could try this before going to BCG treatment. Skeptical, but willing to humor me, he said I could try.]
November 7, 2018: My cystoscopic examination today was complicated by the presence of a stricture in the meatus, near the urethral entrance. When Dr. G was able to navigate through this scarred area, he did not find any cancer in the bladder. The biopsy report said: No evidence of cancer seen. He was stunned because he had not started any cancer treatment yet. I was sent home with a catheter in place and instructions for ongoing care. Despite the urethral complications, I’m happy that no evidence of bladder cancer could be detected. My diet against bladder cancer is already proving to be effective!
[Note: The urethral stricture has been a major health disrupter for me due to repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and their complications. I was hospitalized at North Central Baptist Hospital February 4-8, 2019 because of shaking chills and fever due to severe urosepsis. A powerful IV antibiotic finally got the infection under control, but I was weaker than a newborn kitten for several weeks. While I was in the hospital, Dr. C, one of Dr. G’s associates, put a supra-pubic catheter in place to bypass my urethra. No evidence of cancer was seen!)
April 8, 2019: Dr. C removed my supra-pubic catheter today and corrected the urethral stricture surgically. I was left with a widened meatus and a Foley catheter in place. He found no evidence of cancer in the bladder. My catheter was removed four days later. My next appointment for a cystoscopic examination is scheduled for July.
July 16, 2019: I had my one-year follow-up cystoscopy at Dr. G’s office today. No evidence of bladder cancer could be seen. My anti-cancer diet is working well. Dr. G said to keep it up! My next quarterly cystoscopy is planned for October 8, 2019.
Using food as medicine for my bladder cancer was unconventional, but backed by good scientific evidence. The advantages of food as medicine for cancer are numerous. It is safe. It is simple. It is not expensive. It is kinder to the body than any standard cancer treatment program. When it proves to be effective for specific kinds of cancer, it seems sensible to use it.
My anti-cancer diet is not complicated. The main principles are as follows:
- Avoid sugar, refined grains, dairy foods, highly processed foods, and most meats – important because the foods to be avoided all promote cancer in one way or another. I avoid them except that I may eat a serving of wild-caught fish on rare occasions.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, organically grown if possible – important because fruits and veggies are full of powerful antioxidants that fight cancer. I eat at least 15 servings of fruits and veggies every day.
- Eat organically grown, or non-GMO, high-fiber whole grains – important because organically grown whole grains are great for the gut microbiome. As a major part of the immune system, a healthy gut microbiome helps fight cancer and does much else. I enjoy a hearty bowl of organic steel-cut oatmeal topped with fruit and walnuts every morning, and we often have organic brown rice or quinoa along with many veggies as part of our high-fiber supper.
These principles are easy to understand and put into practice. Unfortunately, many doctors won’t even consider this, saying it is too hard for patients to live with. I disagree. I love our food and look forward to every meal. Many other people enjoy this kind of diet once they get into it.
The key factor involved is the person’s mindset. If people decide to accept this kind of diet, they can make it work and learn to enjoy it. Our taste buds are renewed every few days. We can train them to accept and enjoy new foods. Research shows that people can learn to accept new tastes within a few days if they are willing to try them.
A personal example of this is my switch from orange juice to unsweetened organic cranberry juice every morning. Wow – what a change! The tart cranberry juice made my mouth pucker. After my first taste, I thought this was going to be tough. Yet I accepted it fully in less than a week. Now I look forward to my morning “wake-up” juice.
The severe urethral stricture and the associated complications have been frustrating. There are several points worth making about this experience.
- The stricture and its complications were not caused by the bladder cancer. (The cancer has been the least of my concerns.)
- The repeated urinary tract infections (UTIs) associated with the stricture are very troublesome. I never had UTIs before.
- The urosepsis that put me in the hospital was life-threatening. It turned me into an invalid overnight. I required total bed care in the hospital, followed by home health care for several weeks. Months later, I still need a cane to get around. (By contrast, one year earlier, my tennis partner and I won the bronze medal for doubles tennis in our 80-85 age bracket in the San Antonio Senior Games. We were invited to go to the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque, New Mexico.)
- I’m grateful to my doctors and to North Central Baptist Hospital’s professional and support staff for kind, effective treatment. They saved my life. I’m thankful for the Home Health Care team that continued to supervise my care at home for several weeks.
- I’m thankful for the incredible care and support that my wife Carol has given and continues to give me. Even though she never had any nurse’s training, she learned to give me powerful intravenous antibiotics and nursing care around the clock at home when I was still very weak and vulnerable.3. I’m thankful to family and friends for the outpouring of loving messages and care I’ve received.4. I’m thankful for the research scientists who are revealing the power of food as medicine.5. I appreciate my faithful subscribers, whose interest and feedback keep me on my toes. Thank you!6. I’m grateful to God, who created us with remarkable inner healing potential.
This experience has deepened my understanding of wellness. I always understood wellness to be multi-faceted with many components. Physical well-being is often considered most important, but our mental, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being are also key factors in wellness. A goal of balanced wellness involving all facets is ideal, though perfect balance may never be possible. The key is a willingness to work toward wellness in spite of major obstacles.
Ed Dodge, MD, MPH
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