Radical Remissions, Art, IP6 Gold and Dead Chickens

Radical Remissions, Art, IP6 Gold and dead Chickens,

The last few days has been a whirlwind of messages of love and support and a steady stream of over £18,000 of donations from many loved ones and friends, colleagues and total strangers – honestly from all over the world. There have been pants on dogs, cats and rabbits, a few bonkers music renditions (all performers suitably adorned with pants) and a selection of elegant pant on head photo opportunities – which are on the facebook page and which we will upload onto the fundraising page on this site. The many messages we have received just emphasise how many people have been and are touched by cancer.

Such a huge thank you for this incredible generosity and kindness and for the plans afoot to keep the momentum going so we can hit the target (zumbathons, walks on the Downs with pants, pants on heads days at work).  The kids version of Katy Perry’s Roar will soon be uploaded, it needs some final tweaks. At least two of my children (Tom 16 and Will 14) are finding repeated pants on head photo calls rather grating and there is a bit of gritted teeth going on. Not sure it is ultimately great for their street credentials to be seen plastered over the internet with boxers on their heads.  With £18,000 raised I feel bold enough to start booking my trip to Germany. A friend who speaks German spent yesterday phoning around to find me somewhere to stay near by the Clinic which is in Gottingen, near Hamburg. For some reason everywhere was full, but she managed to find me a room in the end about 15 mins walk from the clinic. I will arrive in Hamburg on 8th June and stay for 10-12 days.

I have been a bit more wobbly this week physically. I have lost quite a bit of weight so my trousers fall off me and my head, with wig, looks slightly big for my body. The chemo does something to both my digestive system and my appetite is all over the place. The nerve endings over my body feel frayed.  All in all it is not too bad, just a bit harder than the previous few weeks.  I have a week off now so this will help settle things before my final batch of three. 

Radical Remissions

When I was diagnosed this time round I poured over the miserable prognosis figures available on the internet. But then I stopped. I am a demographer – and am familiar with analysing and interpreting data on risk. Despite this – the starkness of 5 year survival statistics for my stage are not kind. But what is an average? These are population based calculations not an indication of how I, Louise Howes, will fare. I stopped looking at this sort of information and started seeking out books and resources that focused on survival. The first one I came across, and I would recommend as a good place to start, is called Radical Remissions, by Kelly Turner. This is a book which is based on the experiences of 1000 individuals who have experienced a radical remission. The author interviews these individuals, who come from all over the world, and draws together what amount to 9 core strategies which she found this group of people reported having employed to some extent and credited their survival to them. These are:

1.       Radically changing your diet -  Diet underpins a vast majority of survival stories. In most cases these survivors begin their own healing through a radical change in diet. With my radical vegan, no alcohol, organic diet I have top marks so far for this part of my plan.

2.       Taking control of your health (you can see I am already working on that!)

3.       Following your intuition (I have always done this)

4.       Using herbs and supplements (check)

5.       Releasing suppressed emotions (hmm – not really got very far with this)

6.       Increasing positive emotions (definitely working on this)

7.       Embracing social support (completely embracing this)

8.       Deepening my spiritual connection (have been slowly working on this)

9.       Having strong reasons for living (this is my number one) 

I have been working through the nine strategies to put in place my own personal survivor plan. I am going to cover some of this in this blog – but today I will tell you about just two small parts of my plan.  One relates to herbs and supplements and the other probably to increasing positive emotions. 

Using Herbs and Supplements

In terms of supplements – I will talk about one of them in particular today. It is called IP6-Gold with inositol. I found this after pouring through various websites and blogs which look at different supplements and complementary therapies. This is how it is described in Natural News:

IP6 Shines Brightly as an Alternative Cancer Treatment and Preventive

The anticancer effects of IP6 are turning out to be nothing short of astounding. Research is showing that besides reducing cell proliferation and increasing the differentiation of malignant cells, IP6 can often restore cancerous cells to normality.

The article describes how IP6 works to Protect Against Cancer (have a look at the resource page for more detail)

They describe it as a ‘very common intracellular messenger, meaning that it controls and influences many cellular activities’ – including the following. It

Normalizes the Rate of Cell Growth 
Helps to normalize cell physiology 
Enhances Natural Killer cells 
Increases tumor suppressor P53 gene activity 
Inhibits inflammation 
Exhibits potent antioxidant activity .
Enhances apoptosis (programmed cell death)  Affects angiogenesis 
Inhibits metastasis 

The reviews about the product that you can find when you search for it are pretty powerful.  Check out iherb  http://www.iherb.com/  – a great site for cheaper supplements – they come in from the US via DHL so you have to pay VAT on top before they will deliver them to you but they are still much cheaper than anywhere else I have found – and this is the case for most supplements I am taking. They deliver quite quickly also.  But even on Amazon there are pages of reviews claiming amazing responses by people who have used this product. Not that this is a very scientific way to evaluate its potential, but with the above and similar descriptions about how it works and the research this is based on, together with personal testimonies I came to the conclusion that I have nothing to lose using this product and everything to gain.

It can be taken in conjunction with chemotherapy and I started taking 12 tablets a day just over a week ago. This was the week before my 9th chemo at the end of which my neutrophils and white cell count were the highest they have been since before I started chemo and my liver function has continued to improve – so it has certainly done me no harm and I will keep going with it as part of my combination approach to the cancer.  My father was ill with cancer last year and I have chosen him a small number of what I see as must take supplements to help keep it at bay – and this is one of them. 

Increasing Positive Emotions

I decided that to do this I needed to find some creative outlet.  I have never been artistic in anyway, I find cooking a trial and always have and I can just about sew when emergencies require a button or hem to be replaced or patched up. At the boarding school I was educated at years ago, we were graded for every subject and almost every term. I was consistently bottom of the class for handwriting and art and when it came to music, Sister Ancilla (it was a convent) our ageing singing teacher, auditioned the whole class of 9 and 10 year olds for some Christmas concert which was to be recorded by the BBC – and left only 3 of us out. We were known as the three frogs, to great amusement of all and I went along with this. But the combination of these early approaches to education convinced me that art and singing were really not my forte and to cover up my disappointment I feigned a lack of interest in either – so coming last in school grading exercises was more of a badge of honour than anything else. I would have got such joy out of art and music if I had had the opportunity and courage. Does it matter that I showed no particular talent for either?

I am facing up to this creative gap and am finding ways to fill it in some way.  I am not talking anything very technically ambitious but I am happy with my plans.  First I read about the growing trend for grown up colouring in.  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/07/adult-colouring-books-grown-up

 I used to love colouring and this idea completely appealed to me. I have bought my own colouring in book and a brand new box of 40 colouring in pencils and have spent a few hours so far gently (and mindfully) filling it in – although it takes an inordinately long time to finish any of the complex animal shapes and I have made only the tiniest dent in the book so far. It is incredibly therapeutic and it keeps my hands occupied and lets my mind wander calmly. It is quite good to do as a way of winding down before going to sleep.  And at the end of it I have something relatively pretty to look at that I have created (at least contributed to).  So far this amounts to a couple of fish and three butterflies.

Second I have found a singing group on a Tuesday. I have not yet joined but it asks for no auditions and is just for fun. I love singing but have never, since that early humiliation, sung anywhere other than in the car, the house and church. I have certainly never joined a choir.

 Finally third – and this is my biggest most ambitious plan yet – I have decided on my knitting project. I am going to knit each of the children their own patchwork blanket. This is simple. Lots of squares – which even I can manage. It is long term, which will keep me going as I will have to finish all of them. And it will leave them with a blanket,  which will be full of my love and they will know that wherever they take it, when they put it on them I will be there looking out for them and keeping them warm and safe.  Ella has bagged the third of these creations – expecting that it will take me at least two blankets to be up to scratch enough to start on hers.  So far I have knitted one and half squares. I have some skill honing to do as you can see – with one end of it tighter than the other – but it is only a matter of time. I will be soon be racing through these squares and will create masterpieces once I have smoothed out the early technical hitches.

A tale of 2 chickens – (actually 5 in total)…all now in animal heaven

Something else happened last week I wanted to write about. We lost our two chickens to greedy Mr Fox.  

When I was having treatment in 2010 we lost our rabbit and I documented the tragic tale of its final moments, burial and memorial. This week we lost our two chickens. Actually we have lost 3 chickens in about 3 weeks, but one of them was the replacement for the first chicken that Mr Foxy attacked. It was only 19 weeks old and we had only had her for a few days.

Our days of chicken rearing started about 2.5 years ago when Ned came back from school (year 5) begging me to let him bring home some of the chicks that the class had watched hatch from eggs that they had been incubating as part of a school project. Well – since the chickens are now gone I am going to reveal one of our most closely guarded family secrets.

Why I even agreed to chickens in the first place is a mystery.  What came over me? Ned did. He is a  particularly persuasive and determined little boy and I must have had a spasm of youngest child growing up syndrome – which means you give in much more easily as you realise your days of these childlike wants and desires will soon be over and you will miss them.  He also used the ‘everyone card’ – everyone is taking one home. It was his 9th birthday so we agreed and I did some quick research into the basics of urban chicken rearing. I was not aware quite how much work this would entail to start with, and equipment.  We needed a special heating lamp – a great big red lamp which keep the new  chicks warm. Having given in, and extracted all sorts of soon to be disregarded promises about taking responsibility for caring for these new additions to our family, I found an old hamster cage which we converted into a new home for the chicks.

I set the cage up in Ned’s bedroom. Pick up for the new arrivals was on the last day before half term. This was the the same day Ned was celebrating his birthday and he had invited 5 friends round for tea. He was bursting with pride that he was actually going to be bringing some of the chicks home. The ‘everyone’ claim was, not unpredictably, a complete fabrication and when I arrived to pick the chicks up the teacher told me that only one other person was taking any home and the rest would be returned to the farm that the eggs had originally come from.  I arrived with a cardboard box, Ned and his 5 friends and we spent a hysterically over excited few minutes while they carefully selected the four chicks I had agreed he could choose. The whole class had spent days waiting for the eggs to hatch and had named every single chick. The four were selected and we made our way back home to install them in their new home.

All 6 boys spent a happy hour playing with the chicks, taking them in and out of their new cage. I had had trouble attaching the heavy red lamp they needed to keep them warm and  in order to attach it properly I need to leave the lid off the top of the cage as the lamp took up most of this room. The chicks after all could not exactly fly so this was an OK home made adaption.  After this love fest towards the new chicks they all went off to the park. I was in the kitchen getting tea ready and finishing bits and pieces from work when my older two boys came home. William spent some time checking them out and then went to do some homework. A few moments later Tom went upstairs to have a look also. He shouted down the stairs to ask how many chicks we had bought, he could only see 2 but he thought we had agreed to have 4. I thought he was playing around and told him to stop mucking around. ‘Honestly Mum I can only see 2’.  I simply couldn’t imagine how we could have lost 2 chicks from this relatively high sided cage given they could do little more than bounce a few centimetres off the ground.  I ran upstairs ready for Tom to say he was playing a joke and took a look in the cage. Shock. Horror. The heavy red heating lamp had become dislodged and had fallen directly on two of the chicks, who were entirely obscured from view under this contraption – dead as a dodo – and slightly warm but not yet smoking. Honestly – I still remember this heart stopping moment of realisation. We had had the chicks for little more than an hour. The 6 boys knew them by name. How was I going to explain this?

It was a true Challenge Annika moment. I had to think fast. First get rid of bodies. Pick them out, wrap them in something and hide them in my handbag until I could think of somewhere to dispose of them.  My heart was racing – I simply could not believe we had managed to kill these poor little things within moments of arriving in our house. What to do? What to do? Tom checked the time and we realised that school would still be open. We reacted with military precision. William was posted downstairs to do whatever it took to prevent the boys going upstairs if they happened to come back from the park. Tom and I ran like the wind to the school, arriving (at least I was) slightly sweaty, agitated and panting. Ned’s teacher was still there. I had constructed a major white lie to justify the last minute request  for yet more chicks that I was about to make. I could not bring myself to confess and tell the truth. Who would trust me with more chicks if I could only keep them alive for a matter of hours? So I (very unconvincingly according to Tom) blurted out some story about my sister hearing about our chicks and asking if she could have some too. The teacher happily released two more to my care (we tried our hardest to match the new ones with the recently deceased) and Tom and I raced home to replace them.

The timing was split second. We just replaced them when the doorbell went and Ned and friends came pouring back in the house and raced upstairs to play again with them again. They carefully opened the cage, took out the birds – one of which was a well matched replacement but the other was a giant – but the closest I could find from the selection at the school.  We stood outside holding our breaths. ‘Wow’ said one of them ‘Look how fast they are growing this one is huge now!’. And that was it – oblivious they continued their chatter as they played happily with the even newer arrivals. And even to this day Ned does not know what really happened on that fateful day.  I think I had better tell him now I am posting this.

We managed to keep these four alive for a good few months until two of them revealed themselves as cockerels and both were taken to Middle Farm (to find a new home). Loud crowing in an urban area does not make you popular. We were left with Bella – a huge, white, bossy hen and Charlie, a smaller, brown one.  We let them roam the garden during the day and they coexisted with the two dogs with only the odd altercation over scraps of food. They produced eggs on and off and were a lovely, clucking, calming contribution to family life. But we lost them both within 3 weeks of each other.

 We still cannot work out how Mr Fox caught Charlie as they are locked away at night and we found part of her body in the garden one morning, feathers all over the place and Bella had a bloody cut around her neck – she had survived the attack. But without her little friend she was lost. Chickens are flock animals – they need a pecking order. So after coming to terms with Charlie’s loss we went to find Bella a companion. She is a white and black Old Sussex, so we chose a young black and white Old Sussex which we called Bellatrix. They had had only a few days together before they too were got by the Fox. He knew he had left one behind and had been hanging around, determined to finish the job. And in the end he did. We found a headless Bella in the garden.  Bella who had given us such joy. But like Charlie, apart from a few feathers there was no trace of Bellatrix body.

Our garden is not the place it used to be. We are still getting used to their absence.  Our neighbours have a sweet little slightly ornamental dog which Tom sometimes walks.  He told them about the fox and the chickens, which is when they confessed that they had found both Charlie and then Bellatrix’s bodies in their garden but had thought that their little pooch had somehow killed them and they had been holding back admitting this discovery. The fox did not even eat the chickens. Just ripped their heads off and left their bodies lying around. They can’t be that hungry  - all the lovely urban rubbish they manage to scavenge. But now our garden is quiet and we no longer hear the gentle clucking of our feathered friends.