Mmmmm, caramel kale

Apparently, something is up with my pancreas.
Apparently, something is up with my pancreas.


I never wanted to see a naturopath for my cancer.  I wasn’t interested in any therapy that might involve birchbark enemas and tea made from dirt. Besides, traditional western medicine has  kept me going for more than three years.

Then, last spring, a friend and cancer survivor told me her naturopath has made her stronger and healthier. She feels less afraid about cancer returning one day.

Who doesn’t want to feel better? I figured, at the very least, natural remedies might boost my immune system so I could better tolerate the chemotherapy.

So I went to the same naturopath my friend had seen. He seemed normal. His office was devoid of crystals, scented candles or Himalayan posters. He did not ask me if my stool sinks or floats. (I’m saving the answer for cocktail conversation.)

The only odd element is his handwriting; his note detailing my digestive health was an indecipherable collage of words, doodles and shapes (see pic above). Actually, indecipherable handwriting is one trait he shares with western doctors.

I told him I would take whatever he prescribed, as long as my oncologist approved. He recommended three supplements… and my oncologist nixed all three. They are probiotic immunity-boosters, and apparently work against the antibiotic chemo drugs. In response, my  naturopath pointed to several medical studies that concluded these supplements do not hinder chemo’s efficacy.

So it was a standstill — until cancer intervened. New tumours on my brain and spine put all chemo on hold while I undergo radiation. I have been off chemo for nearly three months now, and I decided to use this lengthy break to undergo a three-week course of naturopathic drugs.

I am halfway through. I take six pills a day. I drink a powdered beverage that shows why “mushy pea” never caught on as a Crystal Light flavour. I am trying to follow a diet that replaces every food I enjoy with quinoa and kale.

I told my naturopath I don’t expect all this to reduce my tumours. “I just want to improve my immune system.”

“I expect it to reduce your tumours,” he replied.

I hope he’s right.


Forgot the Henchman

License to lower your blood sugar, in combination with daily exercise and a carbohydrate-reduced diet.
Licensed to lower your blood sugar, in combination with daily exercise and a carbohydrate-reduced diet.

I just had a Bond moment. It’s like a blonde moment, but more lethal.

I returned from our California adventure after 16 days of coastal rambling. I was scurrying about, drawing horizontal lines through my  “To-Do” list before entering hospital for chemotherapy.

Chemo requires a pre-admission blood test. As I sat there, draining a small bit of me into a syringe, I told the nurse the lab results would show my blood sugars were high. I could tell from the taste in my mouth. Not to worry, I had just taken a whopping dose of insulin in response.

I have been a diabetic for 21 years. My blood sugar control is mediocre. A normal blood sugar is between four and six incomprehensible-scientific-units-of-measurement (ISUMs). I tend to average about eight ISUMs. I used to lie in bed, afraid that diabetes-related complications would kill me before 60. Would I live to see my son’s tenth birthday?.

Funny how cancer changes perspective.

After my diagnosis three years ago, I put all diabetes-related worries away. I didn’t fret about dying from heart attack, stroke or organ failure. I worried about seeing another Christmas.

So there I was last week, two hours after my blood test. My phone rang. It was the nurse.

Could I come to the emergency department? Did I need an ambulance to get there?

My ISUMs were at 43.

I have never, in 21 years, known my blood sugar to climb above 30. “Above 40” is the kind of number that makes a nurse worry about you.

Just like James Bond, I forgot about the henchman.

A repeated feature in Bond films occurs in the closing minutes, after the main villain has been vanquished. The evil sidekick suddenly appears to shatter the kimono-and-body-oil reverie of the denouement.  In Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery has killed Blofeld and is relaxing with Jill St. John when they are attacked by the almost-forgotten assassins Wint and Kidd. After Roger Moore shoots Scaramanga in The Man With the Golden Gun, mini-killer Herve Villechaize turns up with a knife. In The Spy Who Loved Me, Moore is close to (for once) having sex with one of the Bond girls, when the metal-toothed “Jaws” appears, ready to bite him in half.

Bond thought dispatching the main villain left him free to relax. The return of the loyal-to-the-end assistant is a reminder to take care of one’s secondary villains. I bet lots of cancer patients have similar problems with their Parkinson’s, MS, Lupus, etc.

In the 43 ISUMs incident, I mistakenly thought my insulin would remain effective while out of the fridge for two weeks of vacation. It did not.  A quick trip to the pharmacist, some fresh insulin and a ban on snacks had my ISUM back to 6.9 by the following morning. I was shaken, not stirred.

“Mike O’Brien will be BACK… in Die Another Day!”