My Dad on Prostate Cancer

by Christina on November 20, 2014

In medical school I was routinely convinced I had whatever cancer we were studying. My gums bled with flossing and I was sure I had leukemia. I had a headache or my fingers tingled, I had a brain tumor. I felt a nodule on my thyroid, I had thyroid cancer. That mole was definitely a melanoma. I convinced myself I felt a mass in my belly, must be ovarian or colon cancer.

Cancer. A fear for many. A reality for millions. The 2nd leading cause of death in America. It’s a disease we know a lot about, but still have tons to learn. A disease we are getting better at preventing, but still limited in treating.

I hope you find this guest post from my dad interesting. He has been an inspiration to me in studying cancer prevention and how people can empower themselves to live healthy and fulfilled live in the face of serious health threats.

Prostate Cancer, by Chris Palmer

My father died of prostate cancer. My body is very similar to his, so I suspect there’s a good chance I will die that way, too. So when my PSA score (which is a measure of prostate cancer) started rising last year when I turned 65, I was naturally concerned.

Two independent urologists strongly recommended I have a biopsy.

I resisted their advice. The procedure seemed barbaric, risky, and potentially misleading. I didn’t have faith that it would produce a useful result.

Instead I intensified a diet I started many years ago, cutting out all meat, processed sugar, cow milk, and anything else which has been shown to feed and nurture cancer, while eating significant amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, which have been shown to fight cancer.  Johns Hopkins has some data behind all of this that I follow with interest.

Every morning for breakfast, I have blueberries, pomegranate seeds, an apple, kiwi, walnuts, raisons, flaxseed, an orange, soymilk, raison bran, raspberries, and blackberries. And for lunch, I have two raw carrots, four tomatoes, a glass of green juice, a banana, an apple, raw mushrooms, spinach, dark chocolate, brazil nuts, cashew nuts, almond nuts, and whatever else I can find which is healthy and organic. Dinner is similarly healthy. Tonight my wife and I ate mushrooms, garlic, red pepper, cauliflower, black beans, corn on the cob, tomatoes, lettuce, and spinach.

I’m sure the hour of daily vigorous exercise I do helps me combat any prostate cancer I might have (or potentially have). Also I lead a meaningful and happy life virtually devoid of stress. I’m sure that helps, too.

I saw a TED talk recently by Dr. Dean Ornish, and he showed a slide of a patient’s prostate cancer, and how the tumor had literally shrunk after the patient had consumed a diet similar to mine. It was Dean Ornish who persuaded Bill Clinton to become a strict vegan for health reasons.

I hope I don’t sound too smug or complacent. I realize that I need to keep working on this. And I realize that there’s a chance that I will need traditional medical intervention at some point.

Anyway, my recent PSA tested at a reassuring 4.0 level, thus improving the chance that I will see my wonderful grandchildren blossom into middle age.

Here is the relevant part of my personal mission statement: “I will move as much as possible to an organic, plant-based diet to avoid malnourishment and toxic food. Because my father died of prostate cancer, I have to accept the reality that in all likelihood there are malignant cells in my prostate. I will maintain an aggressive prostate cancer treatment regimen (through diet and exercise) and in the process reduce my risk for virtually every other age-related disease.”

I’ll get tested again in six months.

For more, check out this interview with him: A Dad’s Yoga Lessons.

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Creating a microbiome

by Christina on November 18, 2014

“Human milk is more than food. It’s a complex living substance, like blood, with a long list of active germ-fighting and health-promoting ingredients.”~Dr. Sears website 

Breast milk is like blood. Alive with white blood cells, antibodies, and changing with the changing needs of the baby.

The responsibility for another being’s growth and nourishment is a heavy task. I see how what I eat affects him. There are days when he is more gassy than others, and occasional nights where he inconsolably cries with what seems to be belly pain. If I eat garlic or spice he tastes garlic and spice. If I eat a lot of collard greens his milk has a green tint. If I drink coffee or alcohol he drinks coffee and alcohol.

Our pediatrician talks about how he is “creating his microbiome.” His gut is immature and developing and this causes gas and discomfort.

Growing a microbiome. We know more and more about the importance of the microbiome on our physical and mental health and how it plays a role in obesity, immune function, food cravings, and more. We also know that a mother shapes the micriobiome of her baby:

Women’s milk had up to 600 species of bacteria, as well as sugars called oligosaccharides that babies cannot digest. The sugars serve to nourish certain beneficial gut bacteria in the infants, the scientists said. The more the good bacteria thrive, the harder it is for harmful species to gain a foothold.

A recent study shows that longer breastfeeding correlates with growth of more optimal gut bacteria. Here’s a summary article about it:

“This new study challenges the previous belief that gut bacteria are stable from about 12 months old by showing that these bacteria continue changing until about 3 years of age. This means there is a “window” in these early years where the gut bacteria are more vulnerable to external factors. It seems that the longer a child is breastfed, the longer the bacteria is encouraged to flourish.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 12 months of breast feeding and the World Health Organization recommends up to 2 years or more.

2 years or more? We’ll see how working and pumping goes. So far I have not been impressed with the breast pump process… lots of small parts with a time consuming cleaning process, and frankly I do not enjoy being hooked up to a loud machine that doesn’t even express milk that efficiently.

I was so happy to see that MIT finally held a “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” hackathon. Maybe one day it will get better and we won’t feel like cattle.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I eat/should be eating as a nursing mother. Especially thinking about the important task of creating a microbiome, and how what I eat is what he eats. I’d love to get other’s thoughts, but so far my approach has been:

  • Eat when hungry
  • Drink when thirsty (all the time)
  • Eat a diversity of vegetables and fruits
  • Eat lots of nuts
  • Try to eat foods with omega-3′s (flax, nuts, chia seeds, occasional salmon) and since I don’t do that often I also take a daily omega-3 supplement
  • Eat protein (I don’t eat meat so for me this is mainly eggs, cheese, beans and the occasional tofu or tempeh or salmon)
  • Avoid processed sugar
  • Take a vitamin D supplement daily
  • Eat organic when possible
  • Try to eat some fermented foods (tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha)
  • Avoid antibiotics in both of us
  • Give baby probiotics (we just started this to see if it helps with his gas and it does seem to be helping, and there’s now some evidence that they can help with colic and constipation
Baby probiotic we’re trying


The Conscious Parent

by Christina on November 6, 2014

“The task is to raise yourself into the most awakened and present individual you can be.” ~Shefali Tsabary

The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary has so far proven to be my favorite parenting book. It has changed how I see and interact with JJ.

A bunch of local amazing new moms started a book club (“Books, wine, and babies” –  so much fun) and this was our first book. To be honest we didn’t spend much time actually talking about the book, but I got a lot out of reading it and is one I want to keep on the shelves for future reference.

Here are some of my favorite lessons from it:

  • Parenting means the death of our old self and the reinvention of our new self.

It’s easy to lose yourself in new motherhood. We aren’t the same as we were, we are now totally consumed by this new being in our life, and we have yet to fully define our new reinvented selves.

“The transition to parenthood is complex, requiring us to surrender to an irrevocable loss of our identify as we have thus far known it. To create the internal space required to embrace the tending of a new spirit, the pillars of our old lifestyle have to crumble. Who we were before becoming a parent doesn’t and cannot exist with the same ferocity. Once children enter our life, their impact is indelible, and we are required to reinvent ourselves in response.”

“I no longer know where you begin and I end. Days and nights blend into a haze of brilliance and fatigue. I am elastic, rubber, and wax. I bend to your will with no resistance, no boundary, transparent like glass. Even when you aren’t with me, I am with you, imagining you. There is no moment in which I exist separate from you.”

Our identify comes into question as we understand that our life is no longer ours to own, but is betrothed to our child. We watch our heart surge with a protectiveness that’s as invigorating as it’s unfamiliar. We know we aren’t the same women we were pre-birth, but neither have we articulated who we are post-birth. Consequently, we get lost in our role as mothers, giving to our children with the zest and zeal only a woman possesses. In this giving, our sense of self fades, and we find ourselves increasingly alienating from who we intrinsically are. We feel as if we are in a no-man’s land, neither here nor there.”

  • Our children are our spiritual partners.

This is not a one-way street where we parents teach our children everything. JJ teaches me a lot, if not more, than I could ever teach him. Because of him I am learning to be more present, more in touch with my emotions, and less selfish.

“Watch a child, especially an infant or toddler, and you will find the secret to living a conscious life. Children naturally inhabit the present moment.”

“Very young children especially are able to reinvent themselves on a moment-by-moment basis. Intrinsically spontaneous, they are unafraid of a fluid way of approaching life, which renders them open to change. They see a flower and top to gaze at it, or notice a cloud and are able to drop what they are doing to admire its shape.”

“It’s through our constant service that our infant affords us access to our spiritual depths. The demands of caring for an infant cause us to dip into our core, where we discover that we do indeed have the capacity to give, serve, and nurture with the intensity required. Thus our infant shows us our ability to transcend our own selfish wishes and become present for another. In this way, infants are reflections of our deeper humanity.”

  • You are your child’s mirror.

Our children absorb everything from us, so it’s important to be aware of what we are mirroring back to them. If I’m unhappy or frustrated it is hard for me to be a healthy mirror to JJ.

“Especially in the early years, parents function as mirrors for their children. Consequently, if you are unable to access your joy, you will be unable to be a mirror of your children’s joy.”

“Our children are left feeling that they are the cause of our moods, which results in guilt and can lead to a sense of worthlessness.”

Children learn how to relate to their experiences from how we relate to our own. When they see us constantly reacting to reality, manifesting ongoing anxiety, they learn to embody such a reactive, anxious mind-set themselves.

The way a child’s parents burst into laughter or smile only hesitatingly, welcome the rain on their face or run for cover, embrace their fears or cower in shame, invite challenges or succumb to doubt, panic or calmly soothe their infant when it cries – all of this is noted by the infant, who is soaking it in. This is where the bricks and mortar of the infant’s sense of self are laid, and where the parent first forms its identity as a caregiver and nurturer.”

  • To teach your children inner abundance, you need to access your own inner abundance.

You must prioritize, find, and access what makes you fulfilled and joyful in order to teach that to your children. Otherwise, you will look to your children to complete you.

 “The most profound way in which we can teach our children to access their inner abundance, empowerment, and purpose is if we have accessed our own.”

“When we are connected to a constant flow of fulfillment of our own, we radiate this energy, which serves to ensure our children won’t be used to fill an inner void or in some way complete us.”

“When we don’t look to our children to make us happy, but find our happiness elsewhere, we liberate them to be true to who they are. They are able to bask in our happiness without the burden of being the reason for it. Doing something we love, connecting to our inner being in stillness and solitude, honoring our body by taking care of it on a daily basis through the food we eat, the exercise we engage in, and the way we are at peace with how we look are all ways of teaching our children to value themselves.”

I highly recommend reading it. Here are some other books on our list for future meetings and I’d love to hear about any others you recommend!