Sunday, 29 March 2009

Lemon grass, a cure for cancer?

I recently had an email from my friend that lemon grass can cure cancer. Another wonder of tropical rainforest! Here's some info about lemon grass.
The article is by Allison Kaplan Sommer:
‘At first, Benny Zabidov, an Israeli agriculturalist who grows greenhouses full of lush spices on a pastoral farm in Kfar Yedidya in the Sharon region, couldn’t understand why so many cancer patients from around the country were showing up on his doorstep asking for fresh lemon grass.
‘It turned out that their doctors had sent them.
‘’They had been told to drink eight glasses of hot water with fresh lemongrass steeped in it on the days that they went for their radiation and chemotherapy treatments,’ Zabidov told ISRAEL21c. ‘And this is the place you go to in Israel for fresh lemon grass.’
‘It all began when researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev discovered last year that the lemon aroma in herbs like lemon grass kills cancer cells in vitro, while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
‘The research team was led by Dr. Rivka Ofir and Prof. Yakov Weinstein, incumbent of the Albert Katz Chair in Cell-Differentiatio n and Malignant Diseases, from the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at BGU.
‘Citral is the key component that gives the lemony aroma and taste in several herbal plants such as lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), Melissa (Melissa officinalis) and verbena (Verbena officinalis. )
‘According to Ofir, the study found that citral causes cancer cells to ’commit suicide: using apoptosis, a mechanism called programmed cell death.
‘A drink with as little as one gram of lemon grass contains enough citral toprompt the cancer cells to commit suicide in the test tube.
‘The BGU investigators checked the influence of the citral on cancerous cells by adding them to both cancerous cells and normal cells that were grown in a petri dish. The quantity added in the concentrate was equivalent to the amount contained in a cup of regular tea using one gram of lemon herbs in hot water. While the citral killed the cancerous cells, the normal cells remained unharmed.
‘The findings were published in the scientific journal Planta Medica, which highlights research on alternative and herbal remedies. Shortly afterwards, the discovery was featured in the popular Israeli press.
‘Why does it work? Nobody knows for certain, but the BGU scientists have a theory.
‘’In each cell in our body, there is a genetic program which causes programmed cell death. When something goes wrong, the cells divide with no control and become cancer cells. In normal cells, when the cell discovers that the control system is not operating correctly - for example, when it recognizes that a cell contains faulty genetic material following cell division it triggers cell death,’ explains Weinstein. ‘This research may explain the medical benefit of these herbs.’
‘The success of their research led them to the conclusion that herbs containing citral may be consumed as a preventative measure against certain cancerous cells.
‘As they learned of the BGU findings in the press, many physicians in Israel began to believe that while the research certainly needed to be explored further, in the meantime it would be advisable for their patients, who were looking for any possible tool to fight their condition, to try to harness the cancer-destroying properties of citral.
‘That’s why Zabidov’s farm - the only major grower of fresh lemon grass in Israel - has become a pilgrimage destination for these patients. Luckily, they found themselves in sympathetic hands. Zabidov greets visitors with a large kettle of aromatic lemon grass tea, a plate of cookies, and a supportive attitude.
‘’My father died of cancer, and my wife’s sister died young because of cancer,’ said Zabidov. ‘So I understand what they are dealing with. And I may not know anything about medicine, but I’m a good listener.And so they tell me about their expensive painful treatments and what they’ve been through. I would never tell them to stop being treated, but it’s great that they are exploring alternatives and drinking the lemon grass tea as well.’
‘Zabidov knew from a young age that agriculture was his calling. At age 14, he enrolled in the Kfar Hayarok Agricultural high school. After his army service, he joined an idealistic group which headed south, in the Arava desert region, to found a new moshav (agriculturalsettlement) called Tsofar.
‘’We were very successful; we raised fruits and vegetables, and,’ he notes with a smile, ‘We raised some very nice children.’
‘On a trip to Europe in the mid-80s, he began to become interested in herbs.
Israel , at the time, was nothing like the trend-conscious cuisine-oriented country it is today, and the only spices being grown commercially were basics like parsley, dill, and coriander.
‘Wandering in the Paris market, looking at the variety of herbs and spices, Zabidov realized that there was a great export potential in this niche. He brought samples back home with him, ‘which was technically illegal,’ he says with a guilty smile, to see how they would grow in his desert greenhouses.
Soon, he was growing basil, oregano, tarragon, chives, sage, marjoram and melissa, and mint just to name a few.
‘His business began to outgrow his desert facilities, and so he decided to move north, settling in the moshav of Kfar Yedidya, an hour and a half north of Tel Aviv. He is now selling ’several hundred kilos’ of lemon grass per week, and has signed with a distributor to package and put it in health food stores.
‘Zabidov has taken it upon himself to learn more about the properties of citral, and help his customers learn more, and has invited medical experts to his farm to give lectures about how the citral works and why.
‘He also felt a responsibility to know what to tell his customers about its see. ‘When I realized what was happening, I picked up the phone and called Dr. Weinstein at Ben-Gurion University , because these people were asking me exactly the best way to consume the citral. He said to put the loose grass in hot water, and drink about eight glasses each day.’
‘Zabidov is pleased by the findings, not simply because it means business for his farm, but because it might influence his own health. ‘Even before the news of its benefits were demonstrated, he and his family had been drinking lemon grass in hot water for years, ‘just because it tastes good.'’
Luckily lemon grass is easy to find here - I can have 5 stalks for 99p. It's spring already and we can even grow them by ourselves. My husband has a good hand for lemon grass - he can plant a real big fat one!
You can also benefit from it even if you don't have cancer. Eat more tomyam, rendang, and ayam masak merah...ermmm yummy...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Out of town for course

I'm out of town for a week to attend a course. Some are amazed that I could still go away for course and not starting my chemo right away. Well, a week late won't kill; who knows how long I have been having it...

Breast cancer is actually unique and very individualised. What I have would not be the same as what other patients may have. It depends on the type of cancer, the stage and the grade of the cancer. The type of cancer that I have is the regular lump one, and can be seen clearly on the mammogram although I haven't seen mine on the screen just as yet.

When I told my friends that I have it, almost everyone has been asking "what stage is it?". To tell you the truth, I myself don't know what stage it is and when I asked the doctor about it, they also don't know until the tumour is removed and sent for biopsy. I guess they also would not want to speculate as it might scare the patient. Had I told everyone that I'm at stage 4, I'm sure everyone will come and hug me, cook for me, do chores for me, thinking that I might be dead in a few month time :-) No worries, I presume I'm still at stage 1 as a friend of mine who is doing her research on elderly breast cancer patients, said that a lump below 5 cm is still in stage 1.

The grade of the cancer is another factor to be considered. Grade 1 is the low grade, grade 2 is the intermediate, and grade 3 is the high grade. Grade 1 grows the most slowly while grade 3 grows the fastest and with the highest risk of it coming back. Mine is the intermediate and that is why the doctor is quite happy to let me go to attend course out of town.

The course that I'm attending is the series of courses that I have attended before and I'm seeing almost the same faces that attended the courses before. When I told them that I'll be going for chemo soon, they just could not believe how relax I'm. Of course they are speechless and felt like crying and again, amazed to see me taking it easily. Some of them ask whether I'm scared or not. Well, it doesn't matter if I'm scared or not, I need to be brave enough to fight this...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Screening completed

With the CT Scan done yesterday, the screening stage is completed. I have never done CT Scan before; if you want to have an idea of how it's done or how the machine looks like, again, go to youtube :-) CT scan is like an x-ray but more advanced as it takes cross sectional images, which give a three dimensional image of the inside of the body. Before the procedure, a chemical was injected which gives funny hot feelings in the mouth and all over the body. It feels like wanting to pee too :-)

My blood pressure remains high, which worries me. See what the doctor says next week as the nurse will inform the doctor about it. I hope it won't delay the chemo which the first cycle is currently scheduled on 31/3.

I have added another link to my favourites, MacMillan Cancer Support which has some info about the chemo drugs that I'll be having. Follow the link below for the side effects of the drug.

This morning I had the chance to resume my weekly exercise class - Poco-Poco. It really feels gooood...

Friday, 20 March 2009

Think positive

I was washing dishes yesterday morning when I heard in the radio about the impact of one terminal cancer patient (who's story has been widely publicised) to other cancer patients. I prefer not to mention name here but if you are in the UK, you'd know who I meant. To me, thinking positive really helps in battling the cancer. It's even agreed by the cervical cancer survivor that the radio broadcaster interviewed. She was diagnosed when she was 36, and she is now 51. Of course she has undergone all the chemos and radiotherapies. She said when she had the chemo, she would visualize and tell the good cells to hide away and visualized that the chemo drugs attacking the cancer cells. Well, that's what I do when I recite some verses of the Qura'an to kill the cancer cells. I'll do the same when I have the chemo.

I had another visit to the hospital yesterday. The nurse gave me a briefing on the side effects of the chemo drugs and what precautions I should take. I had my weight and height taken and also my blood! To my surprise, when my blood pressure was measured, the reading was way to high! I've never reached 165/110 before as usually mine was 110/70 and at most 130/80. How could it be? Probably I'm feeling anxious of what I'm going through at the moment or probably that treatment area made my blood pressure goes up. The lady who was having her infusion at that time told me that her blood pressure was way too high too during her first visit. What a relief! Anyhow the nurse will measure my blood pressure again today before I go for my CT scan in the afternoon. I had my Echo test yesterday. Echocardiogram (Echo) is actually an untrasould study of the heart. I have never done Echo before and all this while I have been seeing Adnin and Aqilah having it. It's really tricky for a lady to have it as the breast stays on top of the heart...

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Learn more about breast cancer through youtube...

Friends have been asking on how to do self examination, and my suggestion would be to go to youtube and search for breast dot dot dot. There are lots of videos on breast self examination, there is also a video on self examination for man. If you are a man and reading this, don't think you can escape from it - men can also get breast cancer!

I have been viewing some videos on youtube too to find out more about this. I have watched the videos by the professors of UCSF that I found very useful to understand what I'm going through and the treatment that I will go though.

Today, there is a news on Yahoo about mushroom and green tea which can lower the risk of breast cancer and also good for treating breast cancer. I like mushroom and I have green tea in stock. Probably I should give it a try.

To fans of Darth Vader (my husband is one of them), the actor of Darth Vader is also on treatment for cancer - prostate cancer...

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Special visitor came to visit

Last Saturday, our Education Attache, Puan Azimah and her husband came all the way from Manchester to visit. I'm very pleased to see her and really appreciate her strong support in this.

Another occasion that cheered me up during the weekend was being able to communicate with my daughter back in my home country. She is sitting for a major exam this year and I hope this news doesn't affect her in her studies. True enough, she's as strong as her mother; all that she asked was "how could it happen?" Good question Aina, it's for you to find out. I hope it will further spark her interest in becoming a doctor or an Oncologist. As for me, I can only educate people about this through my own experience...

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Outcome of the meeting with the Oncologist yesterday...

The meeting on Friday was to inform about the chemo that I'll go through. Since I opt for removing just the lump and save as much breast as I can, the Oncologist (specialist in Cancer) offered me to participate in a study of two different drug treatments for Women with breast cancer before surgery : Doxorubicin and Cyclophospamide followed by either Ixabepilone or Paclitaxel. The names of the drugs don't make any sense to me but they would to some of my friends here, hence I mention it. I'm only concern about the side effects that I may get like :
  • low white blood cell count : increases the risk of infection and if not controlled could become life-threatening
  • Anaemia : (low red blood cell count) may make me feel tired and short of breadth
  • Decrease platelet count : increase the risk of bleeding or bruising
  • Numbness and tingling in limbs : may affect my quality of life
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramping, diarrhoea and constipation
  • Fatigue (tiredness) or weekness
  • Allergic Reactions
  • Hair loss

What choice do I have? Like it or not, I'd still have to go through this. To my surprise, when the Oncologist measured the diameter of the lump, it was 4.5 cm. The size has increased from 3.1 cm during the diagnosis. I'm now rigorously reciting the prayers (some verses in the Qura'an) to shrink/kill the cancel cells...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Read, read and read...

The nurse gave me lots of booklets to read about breast cancer and what would the treatment be like. I've been reading about chemotherapy to understand it better so that I know what to expect during the treatment. One prominent one would be hair loss. From what I gather, there are some types that would not result in hair loss. I hope I'd get that one. I just can't imagine how I'd look like being bald! Luckily I'm always with my scarf on so that when I go out, people won't notice the difference. Cancer patients here are provided with wigs. Any suggestions on what colour should I get one? Blonde? Brunette? Black? Purple?

Yesterday the nurse gave me a book for children entitled "Mummy's lump". It uses simple words and pictures to help explain to children what happens from the time of diagnosis to the end of treatment. The breast cancer care here is very well advanced in that they even have books on how to convey the message to young children. I wonder if we have such thing in our country.

On another note, the graviola powder that I ordered has arrived. I have already tasted it, sprinkled some on my food. According to the seller, there are studies made in Japan and in Perdue University (Indiana) with exceptional results about this plant in treatments against cancer. They found a great amount of Acetogenina, a sustain that attacks cancer cells and does not destoy the good ones. Maybe I should look for some breakthroughs in breast cancer on the net. The oncologist mentioned about a clinical trial chemo drug which could be an option for me. I'll get to know more about it on Friday...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Opps, operation postponed until after chemo

I had meetings with the oncologist and the nurse this afternoon. Somehow the surgeon and the oncologist thought that I should go for chemo first to shrink the lump as it would be easier for the operation. I'll be meeting the oncologist again this Friday for further detail.

Frankly, I'm quite pleased that the operation is postponed as mentally, I'm not ready. It they schedule it as planned after my NATCOR course, I would have been ready. Roughly I'll go into surgery during summer as it takes around 15 weeks to go through the whole chemo sessions. Since the operation can wait till summer, I presume the cancer is not that bad. I'll recite the doa to shrink cancer cell, that my friend sent me. Hopefully the lump will shrink or vanish and I might not need any surgery at all!

I would also like to express my sincere thanks to Nadia who has chaperoned me to the hospital this afternoon. I know she is reading this as she has bookmarked my blog! Looking at the hits, I know that friends out there are following my story. Take it easy ladies. I pray that it won't happen to you. According to the nurse, today, there are nine new cases. I wonder how they can cope with all these...

Monday, 9 March 2009

They have scheduled the operation earlier...

I received a call from the surgeon's secretary this morning informing that they have scheduled my first operation on March 11, 2009, this Wednesday. It is sooner than I expected but I guess the sooner the better. Like it or not, I'd have to be there at 7.30am as I'm second on the list. I cannot eat or drink anything from midnight. As we are now without a car, Sanya has kindly offered to take me to the hospital.

I have also informed my supervisor regarding this and of course he felt really sorry for me and offered anything he could do to help. He is really supportive and I'm really thankful for it. We have been thinking of study suspension but I need to find out about something first. I would also have to write to my employer and sponsor about this.

If any of you is watching 'Heroes', how I wish I'd be like Hiro Nakamura who can stop time and alter whatever has happened. Deep in my heart I wish that I could turn back the clock and correct this. But I believe whatever happens, there will be a blessing in disguise...

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Another mishap happened...

When the heat is still on about this breast cancer, another mishap happened. I thought I'd post it here since this is the blog that I'm constantly updating at this moment.

We were on our way to Calverton; the weather was really nice and we thought that we'd spend the time at carboot. At the intersection Greagory & Alfreton, when we were just about to go as the traffic light turned green, the pick up truck from our right, hit us. I was not concentrating at the road at the moment as I was trying to turn the radio volume down when I suddenly heard the loud bang! The next thing I know, the other vehicle has overturned and my kids were crying, real in shocked of what had happened. We ended up hitting the fence as per above pictures. Luckily there were a few witnesses around and they confirmed that we were on the right side as the light was green at that moment. The lady driver beat the red light and hit us. Her truck was badly damaged. She said she was going at 30 miles per hour, but looking at the damage, I doubt so. Otherwise the car would have not overturned and face the direction that she came from.

As soon as the accident happened, one of the passerby called the police to inform about the accident. Around five minutes later, the police, paramedic and firerescue came. I was quite worried about Adnin as she just had her operation. Luckily she was alright but still in a great shock. They have the comfort of Nadia who happened to pass through the area few minutes after.
My husband took a few seconds after the traffic light turned green before driving; usually turning down the volume or adjusting the gear. Had he just drove when the light was green, the truck would have hit directly at him and Adnin (who is sitting behind him). The impact would have been worse and we would all ended up at the hospital...

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Am I strong?

I'm not as strong as Mr T :-) but spiritually, I hope I'm. Most of the emails I received, commented that I'm a strong woman. Well, I have to be strong for my kids especially the last two. They are dependent on me; if I'm not well, who's going to bring them around for their treatment...

As per our activity, everything is as per normal. The whole family is accepting it well. There is nothing to mourn about. We have been receiving a lot of visitors; friends come and visit and quite surprised to see me as jolly as usual. All eyes focused on my chest area probably wondering which side it is; some get to feel it (ladies of course!). Whoever had the chance, in return, I'd squeeze their's too! We then giggled, enough to cheer me up.

Those who called, were also amazed to hear my voice as I was as cheerful as ever. My sister-in-law cannot sleep at night thinking how I'd be getting on with it. As for me, as soon as I lay my head on the pillow, I doze off already, sometimes awoke by my husband's snore.

My husband is also accepting it well. Her sister had it, now living well and healthy after 12 years.

Today is my husband's birthday...what a shocking 'birthday present' he received this year...

Friday, 6 March 2009

It's not the end of the world...

March 5, 2009 is a date that I will never forget. It's the date that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I received the news all by myself as my husband and kids left home after waiting for two hours, as there was only one consultant available during that day.

It's not the end of the world...Do I expect it? Well, I actually have suspected something when they took samples for biopsy; on the lump and the gland they discovered near the armpit. I was quite calm when the consultant told me that they found cancer cells on both spots. They assured me that it's treatable.

Breast cancer is quite common as one out of nine women is having it. Being at the place where I'm at now, I'm not that worried as they are very established and I believe I'm in pretty good hands with Allah's willing of course.

Before I write about the treatment that I will go through, I thought I'd recap on how I get into this. I've been having this lump for quite sometime now, I can't really remember from when. I thought it was just a milk gland and as I was busy, I kept on postponing seeing my GP about it. It was two weeks ago that I went for my pap smear and I requested the nurse to do a breast screening as I suspect there was a lump. She immediately referred my to the breast institute for further investigation. On March 3, 2009, I had a thorough check up by the specialist at the institute including mammogram, ultrasound and as well as biopsy where they poked long needle to get some samples from the lump.

They slot me in for an appointment with the plastic surgeon this morning and these are the three alternatives that they propose:
  1. Mastectomy - means removing the whole breast, including the nipple, followed by chemo and radiotherapy. A year after, breast reconstruction, taking tissues from the "spare tyre" at the abdomen. Sounds good eh as I could have a flat tummy. But I can't bear the thought of having one breast only for the entire year!
  2. Remove the whole tissues of the breast, leaving the skin out and putting in skin expander. After chemo and radiotherapy, take some tissues from the spare tyre and replace the skin expander.
  3. Remove affected area only including the nipple (during first operation), send the tumor to the lab and if they are sure that they have taken good margin of affected area, three weeks after, go for second operation to remove the gland and reconstruct the breast by taking muscle from my back. Then only go for chemo and radiotherapy.

I'm fond of alternative 3 as it offers the fastest recovery and hopefully less time spent during operation.

This is certainly a new experience that I've never thought of happening. My friends are very supportive; thanks for the thoughts and prayers. I received lots of supportive emails and text messages as well as calls that I won't be able to answer each and everyone. If you are reading this, thank you very much and I really appreciate it. What an odd way to become famous...