Posts Tagged ‘5:2 diet’

I finished chemo nearly two weeks ago so I’m slowly getting back to health and moving on to the next stage of my treatment. It feels great to be finished chemo and be free of my Picc Line, however the next stage is full of it’s own little joys as I discovered on Monday morning, when I had my first appointment with the plastic surgeon.

After sizing up my breasts & my backside & drawing a rather comical sketch of my breasts, the surgeon gave me the low-down on surgery. I was given two options. The first is an implant combined with tissue/muscle flap from my back (Lattisimus Dorsi Flap). Option two is using tissue from elsewhere on my body. There wasn’t much fat on me before I started treatment, however the chemo induced nausea, combined with the 5:2 diet means that there’s now very little to spare. Apparently you can be too thin.

After ruling out my stomach as a donor site, he said he’d struggle to harvest enough tissue from my bottom, or at least not enough to make my breasts symmetrical. Unfortunately an implant isn’t a viable option, because the radiotherapy I’ll be having post-surgery will damage it. This leaves me with one not very satisfactory solution to the problem that is the cancer in my right breast.

I asked the surgeon what he thought was the best solution and he said he can’t make that decision, it’s up to me. I was left to go away and think about my one option and come back the following week to discuss it further with the specialist-nurse.

Mother and I were fairly traumatised after leaving the hospital on Monday morning, but luckily Maggie’s came to the rescue. I had a massage booked and I left mum in the care of the lovely folk at Maggie’s. After my massage, mum introduced me to a woman who’d recently had her operation and she was more than happy to show us her scars. All I can say is they weren’t all that bad. She had one massive scar across the crease line of her right buttock, but there wasn’t a big gaping dent as I’d imagined there’d be. Her breast was nipple-less (they do this later) but actually looked ok. The only scar was around the nipple. This was another of those serendipitous meetings I seem to keep having and it went a little way towards relieving the worries I have about surgery.

We went back on Friday and spent an hour chatting to the nurse about what will happen. The nurse talked us through everything from morphine to the moon-boots I’ll be wearing to stop DVT. It’s a long operation. I’ll be in theatre for 9-10 hours and for the first 48 hours, my breast will be continually monitored to check the new breast tissue is functioning. It could go wrong, although this is unlikely. They have a failure rate of 1.6%, so I hope I’ll be in the other 98.4%. It’s hard not to worry, but what choice do I have.

I’m going for the bum transplant because the only other option is to delay reconstruction, which I don’t want to do. Depending on the result of this operation, it’s likely that I’ll need further surgery at a later date. If they can’t harvest enough tissue from my buttock, they’ll either increase my new breast or reduce my healthy breast to match. I’m told that plastic surgeons are perfectionists so although it won’t be immediate, I will have an even pair eventually.

Mentally I’m not sure how you prepare for a big operation like this. I’ve been told my stay in hospital will be an emotional one. I’m losing a breast so I expect there will be tears. I’m happy with my body just the way it is, but it’s never going to look the same again and that’s hard to accept.

I’m having a minor operation next week to remove my sentinel lymph node. I’ve never been under the knife so I think this will be good preparation for the big op. This is likely to happen mid-November and I’m just waiting for the date to be confirmed.

At this point it’s hard to see the end of the road. I was hoping to have all my treatment finished by xmas but it looks like it will carry on into the New Year. I’ll be having radiotherapy after xmas then possibly more surgery after that.

I have roughly 3 weeks of freedom before my big operation so I want to squeeze in some fun before that. I also have hair growth to look forward to. I need to stop looking at my head but there’s definitely been a bit of growth. For the first time in my life I’m rather excited about having a five o’clock shadow on my head. I’m curious to know what colour it will be as I’m told it could come back a completely different colour and texture. Let’s hope I get poker straight blonde highlights. I haven’t had to shave my legs for 4 months, a small blessing, so I also have that to look forward to. Bring on the stubble.

I watched Horizon’s Eat, Fast live Longer in earnest last week and it was not in vain. As someone living with cancer, I’m willing to give anything a try to increase my chances of survival. After watching Michael Mosley‘s fascinating documentary I’m pretty convinced that calorie restriction could be one of the answers.

Michael Mosley gave the low-down on fasting from an extreme 3.5 day, 50 calorie a day fast to alternate day fasting where you can literally eat what you want on non fast days. Both of these regimes seem quite extreme. The 3.5 day fast in particular is something only supermodels and masochists would attempt.  The alternate day fast again doesn’t seem very sensible. Pigging out on cheeseburgers then eating like a rabbit the following day can’t be good for you.

The 5:2 diet seems like a sensible solution. It involves eating whatever you want for five days and calorie restricting on the other two days. For women this means eating no more than around 500 calories and for men 600 calories.

My first attempt at calorie restriction today was surprisingly easy. A large bowl of porridge for breakfast & an apple filled me up for most of the day. I’d like to say the small portion of tofu & stir fried vegetables I ate this evening filled me up, however I actually felt more hungry after eating my evening meal than I felt all day. I would normally have snacked but satisfied my hunger with herbal tea instead.

The physical benefits seem to outweigh any of the difficulties endured when fasting. After 5 weeks of calorie restriction Michael Mosley lost over 1st in body weight, his body fat fell by 7% and circulating levels of IGF-1 reduced by 50%. His blood glucose also reduced to safe levels, as did his cholesterol.

The obvious benefit for me is a reduction in IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor).  IGF-1 is a hormone which we need when we are growing and levels are highest during periods of rapid growth however, a diet high in animal protein can increase levels of IGF-1 and research has demonstrated a causal link between an excess of this hormone and certain types of cancer.

The IGF-1 cancer-connection was familiar to me before watching this programme. Many with breast cancer will know of Jane Plant‘s work which examines the causal link between dairy products and cancers of the reproductive system. When her cancer returned for a fifth time, Jane looked to other cultures and realised that the majority of people of in the Far East where reproductive cancers are much less common, don’t eat dairy products. She made the connection between IGF-1 in dairy products and an excess in our diet, leading to cancers of the reproductive system.

Interestingly, Tamoxifen, the drug commonly given to pre-menopausal women after treatment for breast cancer also works by lowering circulating levels of IGF-1.

I’ve scoured the internet since watching this programme and found much evidence in support of fasting and cancer prevention. Genesis UK in Manchester studied the effects of intermittent fasting on women at risk of breast cancer, whilst trials in the US have looked at the benefits of fasting when combined with chemotherapy. Studies show that whilst fasting helps support healthy cells during chemotherapy, cancerous cells are still sensitive to the effects of the drugs. If something as simple as fasting can enhance the effects of chemotherapy, this is an area that definitely needs more research.

Since my diagnosis I’ve cut out most dairy products from my diet although I have a sneaky bit of goats cheese now and again. I’m on the way to becoming vegetarian but not yet cut out the Sunday roast. After watching this documentary it looks like I might also be converted to the 5:2 way of eating. For most, this diet is a preventive measure but for someone like me, already living with a life threatening disease, the outcome could be much more significant.