Cancer sucks.

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Sometimes, it takes a massive emotional jolt to really start taking care of yourself.  For my assistant, Cheri, it took a sudden, heart-wrenching stage 4 cancer diagnosis for her Dad. He wasn’t feeling well, went to the doctor….and then walked out of the door, shocked with a “death sentence” in hand. This was 5 months ago.
For me, a good family friend of ours, Shari Elliott, has been battling cancer for over 16 years. Her first diagnosis was in 1997, second in 2003 and the third in 2009.

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 1.03.06 PM Her two boys, Justin and Jordan have grown up with my boys, sharing a Taekwondo journey for the past 5 years. Shari and husband Rob are just simply lovely, lovely friends. A few weeks ago, Shari’s liver began failing.Even throughout chemo, radiation seeds, a cocktail of meds – there was one thing that was certain. Shari and Rob always showed up together to bring their boys to Taekwondo, three times a week.

It’s one of our favorite times of the day – while the kids take their class, we “lobby parents” get an hour of stress-free, kid-free chatting, sharing, laughing.

It’s important for Shari to take the kids no matter how she’s feeling – it gives her kids, who have only known “Mom has cancer” their ENTIRE lives, stability and assurance. For the first time since I’ve ever known her, Shari has not been able to come.

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This photo above was taken just days ago. Despite her body being physically on its last legs, Shari has not given up emotionally.

We laid in bed together.

I held her hand and asked her, “Are you scared?”

She teared up, nodded yes.
“I’m scared for Rob and the boys.”
“I’m not ready to go yet.”

shari

10/21/13 UPDATE: My dear friend Shari, passed away on Thursday. Shari, thank you for blessing us with your friendship and love. You’ve taught me never, ever, ever, ever give up for the people that I love. I will do everything I can to help others fight this disease in your honor. Love forever, Jaden

***

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You might be wondering, how is this all connected to a BlogHer sponsored post? Last week, I was invited by City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles, California to come learn about their breakthrough cancer research and connection with foods. City of Hope is one of the world’s leading cancer centers.

They are a non-profit organization, and their 186-bed hospital is surrounded by 100 acres and 18 research buildings where scientists and doctors work hard to create drugs to battle cancer and diabetes. When for-profit pharmaceutical companies create a drug, they are looking for a “$1 Billion Molecule” to appease their shareholders and executives.

One single life-saving dose can cost $30,000. But you need 4 doses of that drug for it to work. That’s $120,000. Now you know why insurance costs so much.

Because City of Hope is a non-profit, their mission is to discover life-saving, cancer-busting treatments. What if they could discover a compound that occurs NATURALLY in our environment in abundance. Something that is as easy to find as a home garden. A natural treatment that would cost $10. Well, they think they have.

***

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Along with my buddies, Lisa Stone of BlogHer, Catherine of Weelicious, Elise of Simply Recipes, Cheryl of Black Girl Chef Whites, Jeanette of Jeanette’s Healthy Living and Carrie of Carrie on Vegan, we spent half a day sitting down with City of Hope’s team. Not just spokespeople for the hospital, but the actual scientists from the renowned Beckman Research Institute who are hands-on conducting research and tests in the lab. Beckman Research Institute is recognized as one of the nation’s premier centers for innovative biomedical research, and is just steps away from the hospital center. City of Hope’s Beckman Research Institute is 1 of only 5 in the nation. We learned about Superfoods from:

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Dr. Sichuan Chen Professor and Chair, Department of Cancer Biology

  • Studies aromatase inhibitors, a class of drugs that block aromatase. Aromotase plays a key role in producing estrogen, a hormone that fuels many breast cancers.
  • Some superfoods contain compounds that suppress aromatase, needed by 70% of breast cancers to grow.
  • Discussed research findings on grape seed extract and mushrooms – and their ability to block aromotase
  • Dr. Chen has also found some promising cancer-fighting potential in pomegranate, blueberries and cinnamon

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David Horne, Ph.D. Interim Director of Beckman Research Institute Chair and Professor, Molecular Medicine Co-leader, Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program Director, Synthetic and Biopolymer Chemistry Core

John H. Yim, M.D. Associate Professor, Breast and Endocrine Surgery Division of Surgical Oncology; Department of Surgery

  • Shared studies on using nature’s formularity to seek new therapies
  • Currently conducting research on the effects of a Chinese herb (Huang qin) in the treatment of cancer
  • Isolated baicalein as the key component
  • Potential alternative to fighting cancer with less side effects than chemo
  • Next step – Clinical studies in women facing breast and ovarian cancer.

Superfoods Fight Cancer

I know we are bombarded with press releases and stories touting health benefits of certain ingredients. Sometimes, the information is contradictory and confusing. Is red meat good or bad? Coconut oil healthy or too fatty? I think most of us just tune it out. This is different. City of Hope’s research isn’t intended to promote the products of an industry group. Dr. Yim, Dr. Horne and Dr. Chen are producing research for the benefit of curing diseases for humankind. So, I hope you read the following with that in mind.   japanese-mushroom-medley

In addition to the above Japanese mushrooms, the common supermarket white button mushroom can block the activity of the enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase helps the body produce the hormone estrogen, which many breast cancers need to grow. More research is being done to determine how much mushroom is needed to ward off cancer.

Cinnamon, one of the most ancient spices in human history, appears to have unique cancer-stunting properties, according to City of Hope researchers. Extracts of the spice may be able to block the growth of blood vessels in tumors, a process called angiogenesis.

City of Hope researchers have discovered grape seed extract inhibits aromatase – and it does its hormone-suppressing work without affecting healthy tissue. It also blocks the action of a protein that helps cancer grow and spread.

City of Hope researchers identified six compounds in pomegranate that suppress aromatase, a substance in the body that helps produce estrogen. About 70 percent of breast cancers need estrogen to grow, so pomegranate is a prime candidate as a breast-cancer-blocking superfood.

In City of Hope labs, blueberry juice suppressed the migration of cancer cells, while blueberry extract shrank tumors, stopped cancer cells from multiplying and even triggered their destruction. Do you want to learn more? Read City of Hope’s brand new Superfoods website.

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Breast cancer. Before treatment on left….then after treatment of Traditional Chinese Medicine + modern Western treatment.

 

In addition to learning about Superfoods, Dr. Horne, Dr. Yim and Dr. Chen have formed an alliance with Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China to study effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine coupled with contemporary Western treatment on cancer. Powerful Chinese herbal extracts, like Huang Qin (Skullcap) show shown to be a tumor shrinker. The main compound in Huang Qin is a flavonoid called Baicelein.

Here’s how I explained this to my kids:

  1. Huang Qin, or Skullcap herb, is high in a flavonoid called Baicelein.
  2. Flavonoids, found in plants, have antioxidant properties.
  3. Antioxidants: think of it as “anti” “oxidation.”
  4. Oxidation is BAD. You know how you cut into an apple or potato and left on the counter, it turns brown? That’s oxidation. Oxidation in your body is bad too. It produces something nasty called “free radicals.” Think of radicals as bullies and gangsters wreaking havoc in your body. These radicals are trying to steal away electrons from the good cells! What punks they are! But guess what? Not only do free radicals steal electrons from cells – but they also do a mind-control thing and turn those cells they stole from to join their free radical gang. So over time, their Free Radical Gang gets bigger and bigger.
  5. Antioxidants battle free radicals. Imagine antioxidants as the Free Radical Crime Battling Unit in your body. They corral, lasso up and neutralize the free radicals. That’s why you should eat more foods that are high in antioxidants.
  6. Sooooo…..going back to #1 – Baicelein is a tough, effective member of the Free Radical Crime Battling Unit. Dr. Yim, from City of Hope, discovered that the common kitchen herb, Thyme, is also high in baicelein. Guess what? Thyme is a natural herb! Can you imagine if we could treat cancer with a $10 herb vs. $120,000 drug?

I have a question for you. Dr. Yim needs $1 million to fund a clinical trial on baicelein and its affect on battling breast cancer. Tests show that baicelein causes 50% shrinkage of a tumor. But why is it so hard to get the $1 million? Because baicelein isn’t a “$1 Billion Molecule” and won’t make anyone rich. But we on the Internet can help City of Hope raise that money, right?! Do you all have any ideas or advice? I’d love to chat with you.

Links to other articles:

Read more about our trip to City of Hope main page on BlogHer

City of Hope Superfoods research

Cancer-fighting recipe: Roasted Mushrooms and Thyme – Jeanette of Jeanette’s Healthy Living blog

Roasted Mushroom Pepper Tacos – Cheryl Lee of Black Girl Chef’s Whites

Autumn Superfood Stew – Carrie Forrest of Carrie on Vegan

Superfood Salad – Catherine McCord of Weelicious

City of Hope and Superfoods – Elise of Simply Recipes

 

Comments 42

  1. Lisa

    Love the article on antioxidants and importance of keeping healthy. I try to sneak in super-powered foods like cinnamon, garlic, blueberry, pomegranate, kale, etc into my diet whenever possible. Thanks for the refresher and encouragement!!

  2. kelly

    Gofundme.com. I’m not sure how it would work for hospital, but I’m sure and individual could create a page and donate the money to the hospital.

    Also check out Gerson Therapy.

  3. Pingback: Roasted Mushroom-Pepper Tacos | Black Girl Chef's Whites

  4. Jeanette

    Jaden – so sorry to hear about the passing of your friend. My hope is that we will one day be able to prevent and cure cancer using food as medicine. I really enjoyed our trip to California – so packed with valuable information that I hope to transcribe into the cooking I do for people with cancer, as well as my family.

  5. Freda

    Thank you for the article. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and for the news of Cheri’s father. It was sad and made me cry. 2 years ago my father was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer after he visited the doctor because he had a cold that would not go. He lived in Australia and I lived in Greece so I took time off from work to spend Christmas and New Year with him and my mum, leaving my husband and children in Greece, but while I was away my boss also died of cancer. This research is very important. I had often wondered if there was some food that could hinder cancer. Infact I read about apricot kernels while in Australia, so everyday I would eat apricots and break the kernels to get to the nut to give my dad. I sincerely hope that enough money can be raised for research to continue.

  6. Cindy

    How about raising the fund through crowdfunding? Since the sequestration, the majority of research grants from government have dried up and crowdfunding have become more popular.

  7. Carrie @ Carrie on Vegan

    I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend, Jaden. It sounds like she put up a really good fight. I hope with the research that we learned about at the City of Hope that more people will be able to survive cancer and other devastating diseases. Sending you big hugs.

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  10. shirley elizabeth

    I lost my biological mother to leukemia when just a toddler, so in my senior year of high school when my adoptive mother gave us the news she was diagnosed with a malignant breast cancer and given just another year to live without treatment, we didn’t know how to handle it. She then said that she wasn’t going to receive treatment, but would instead try something she had been researching – a raw diet. Fruits and vegetables were all she had, and I have no idea how many times I had to clean wheat grass gunk out of the juicer, but a year later scans showed no growth, and two years later couldn’t detect it. It is now almost nine years since and she contunues cancer free. She went back to a semi-normal diet about 18 months in.

    We don’t consider this the answer for everyone, or preach that it’ll heal all (I’ve had people get very offended just by telling the story), but it is definitely worth putting money towards research to find out about what it is in these foods that can HEAL a woman, and then offer it to all.

  11. Lynn

    I’m definitely a huge believer that food can heal. And without all the toxicity of chemo and radiation. There have been amazing discoveries made in cancer prevention and treatment; they just don’t get a lot of publicity because they don’t make a lot of money for doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend!

  12. Christiane ~ Taking On Magazines

    Oh, heartbreak. I am so, so sorry about the loss of your friend. We call ourselves bleacher moms and we sit and watch our black belt candidates training for that big test so I know the bond that develops in those instants. My heart and prayers go out to you and to Shari’s family.

  13. Avi

    I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your friend.

    The end of the post I don’t really understand. There is a system in place for funding this type of research. That is what the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute subdivision are for. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any money to be made from the research, if the science is sound those types of projects can be funded. This funding has been drastically cut by the sequester and continues to be cut by congress. So if you are really interested in promoting cancer and all public health research, everyone should be lobbying congress to increase NIH funding.

  14. Amy

    Hi Jaden! I’m so bummed I didn’t know you were coming to City of Hope! I recently saw your article (love your blog, one of my absolute favorite food blogs and I read a lot!). I am a cancer researcher at City of Hope and I’m so glad you were able to come see what great work we are doing here. It really is an inspiring place and I appreciate your support. My screen name on other food blogs is foodandscience so you can tell what are my two loves, and if they can go together, even better. We’re working hard at finding a cure to all types of cancers in ways that treat the whole person with less toxic, harsh chemicals, leaving a healthier cancer patient so they can try and fight their disease as best as possible. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. Heartbreaking. I became a cancer researcher because of seeing so many family members battle cancer. Just wanted to say thanks for visiting us at City of Hope and we’ll keep working hard over here to find the cure!

  15. Cheryl

    So very sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend to cancer a few years ago, I miss her dearly every day. Like your friend, she was young and wasn’t ready to go. She battled hard, but lost the fight. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this tough time. God bless.

  16. KG1983

    Sorry to hear about your friend! It is heartbreaking to hear how she had to go before her time because of this disease. I recently loss an aunt too to cancer too and I cannot even imagine what it must be like for her kids and my uncle to feel the void every single second. Prayers for the family.

  17. CJS

    Made…me…cry. And…. realize that all the troubles in my life right now are so…very…small. So sorry for your loss and the beautiful family that has been torn apart by that awful disease. Thank you for the helpful tips on how to eat healthier.

  18. Lori Stilger

    Jaden, I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart is saddened for her two boys, especially; I’ll be praying for them.
    Thank you for the great article; I have a friend who battled her breast cancer with lots of holistic information and vegetables in-hand, and some who have lost the battle. I tend to be a bit skeptical about some of the stuff I hear, but your information was easy to understand – and I trust the source. :) THANK YOU for informing us. I passed on your post via FB.
    Blessings!

  19. Jill

    I too am sorry for your loss & and the family’s loss . I too believe our bodies are meant to heal themselves. I have read a lot on the effects of our modern food has on us & how cancer feeds on sugar. So many of our foods are filled with sugars now. I too have lost people close to me do to cancer and have had some health issues that if I even had the knowledge I know now, may have been preventable. I’m so glad for people like you who are taking a stand and educating people. I’m also glad to hear there are some out there that are in it not for profit, but to actually help people. Thanks Jaden!

  20. Linda S. Andrews

    So sorry for your loss. In August, my husband noticed his tongue was sore. In September it was much worse so he visited the doctor who sent him to a specialist. A biopsy and cat scan showed a stage 3 oral cancer. I have asked him about the various foods, I.e., blueberry juice, etc. but he refuses. He will have surgery, radiation and chemo. I hate that he chooses this path, but it is his choice.

  21. Ron DeCaen

    Jaden, my heartfelt sympathies go beyond what I feel for you and your friends and family at this very moment in time. Both my Mom and Sister had breast cancer and so far have survived that one. My Dad after that had prostate cancer and after treatment he is doing well in that regard. 2 years ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the ripe age of 60 but after 38 radiation treatments last year I seem to be doing well after 3 PSA tests since then. You know if that cancer doesn’t get to you something else may. We have to be strong, positive, living and loving life, our world and the people we love. I commend you Jaden for sharing this profound information with us. Thank-you.
    Best wishes always,
    Ron

  22. Bad Kitten On A Rampage

    Cancer DOES suck! Loving condolences to you and your family and your friend’s family for the loss of Shari. My mother is a breast cancer survivor and used the healing power of watermelon to help ameliorate the effects of the radiation, which, although it sounded weird, was really effective.

    I am taking a Cultural Differences in Healing class here in New Orleans at Tulane, taught by a Naturopathic doctor and will forward this post to her, as I think she’ll find it interesting and she also might have some ideas about how City of Hope can proceed with this exciting work.

  23. C Lindsay65

    I am so sorry for you loss. It is never easy losing someone so close to you. My prayers are with you and your family and her husband and sons <3 HUGS

  24. Dawn | KitchenTravels

    Oh Jaden. I am so sorry for your loss. How heartbreaking.

    Has anyone suggested raising money via a site like Kickstarter.com? It makes me so sad that the big pharma companies put so much money into developing chemical and drug treatments to increase THEIR OWN PROFITS, when there are so many possibilities for successful treatment and prevention with naturally-based products such as those being researched by City of Hope. Unfortunately, as you indicated, natural treatments and/or prevention strategies don’t bring in nearly as much cash as chemicals and drugs.

    In any event, none of this will bring back your friend. :( Sending heartfelt thoughts and prayers to your family and Shari’s.

  25. Virginia

    You are awesome! You are the best of friends. Everyone deserves happiness that you share daily with your blog and yourself. I work with cancer patients and am inspired by their cheerfulness during some of the rigorous treatment. We have some that laugh their way through. I am especially grateful that I have met them and heard their story. Yes, it brings tears to the eyes to think of those that are now gone, but their legacy will live on through our memories and their family. Thank you for being who you are and not shying away when bad news comes along. Cancer does suck. You have the ability to help her kids remember her and know her as she was prior to them learning of the cancer. You can make them laugh and remember and talk about her as if she is out shopping. She will live through your stories and your love. Keep on being wonderful! Hugs to you and her family!

    And, yes, everyone donate to help rid the world of the suffering that cancer causes to the patient, the family and the friends.
    Virginia

  26. Trent @ Food Assault

    Jaden, sorry for your loss and for your close friends. I don’t know you or your friend personally however this brought a tear to my eye and very touching. RIP

  27. Beth Aldrich

    Dear Jaden,

    I am so sorry about the passing of your friend and also touched that you decided to share it with us. Evey dollar for cancer research is a dollar closer to a cure. I help raise funds for the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation so I know how important it is to garner support. I am thrilled to see the research Dr. Yim is doing to help this cause. I SO believe in a East/West approach to all modalities of treatment. Is there a link to donate? I hope I didn’t overlook it. Blessings to you and all that you do! xo Beth

  28. Tina

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I, too, lost a great friend to cancer just weeks ago, and am committed to helping her children learn to live without her. She is the second wonderful friend I’ve said goodbye to this year because of this dreadful, awful disease.

    I think many people within the sound of your voice believe in the healing power of foods, and maybe, like me, they would be willing to each contribute a few dollars to the cause. I don’t have an abundance of money, but I could spare something, in memory of my precious friends, and with the hope of saving many lives. If you do figure out a way to solicit donations online, please let us know on your blog. I believe many would rally to this cause.

    Wishing you comfort.

  29. Mary Krogmann

    Dear Jaden and family,
    I’m saddened by the loss of your dear friend Shari Elliot. She surely was a strong willed wonderful woman. My heart goes out to her sons, Justin and Jordan and husband Rob.
    Lastly, thank you Jaden for sharing her story with us. It was important for you to do that on her behalf.
    During this difficult time, please find peace and try to remember the wonderful times you’ve shared with your friend.
    Sincerely,
    Mary

  30. Tammy

    Thank you for this article! Extremely informative and I loved your kid-friendly version! I’m so so so sorry about the loss of your friend though. Cancer does suck! I lost my sister to it a couple years back. I’m sure Shari really appreciated your friendship and comfort in her final days though! I sometimes feel that is where I fail because things like this just break me. God has certainly blessed you with this gift! Praying for her family and for you as well! I always have to remind myself that only God sees the big picture and I pray he just blesses those boys of hers! Thanks again for sharing!!!

  31. Germaine

    Jaden, what can one say at this time.. I know hearing “sorry” does not fill the gap of what one is feeling, I lost my sister in law to cancer this spring, she left behind a 6 yr old daughter and my brother. I wish great happiness for this family who lost their mother, something that in time the hurt and lost will heal, and I send to you my love and warm hugs.
    Germaine

  32. Charlene

    Cancer sucks. Aunt died last year from it and her daughter-in-law had a breast removed two weeks ago. Sorry to hear about your friend.Cancer sucks big time

  33. stacey

    cancer sucks big time my husband has prostate cancer my mother in law is barging in to attend hi surgery and told us shes staying here for a few days

  34. Kevin McKeon

    Great article on Dr. Yim’s research. With regards to your question on how to raise $1M for his research, reach out to him to and let him know that you can help raise all of that (and probably more) on KickStarter. One of his books (or one of yours perhaps) could be used as the “prop” to help get investors interested in his research. The idea alone of trying to fund cancer research using KickStarter might be unique enough to garner the attention needed to drive more people to his KS profile. Just a thought.

  35. Aaron

    This post is filled with so much misinformationa bout oxidation, free radicals, and cancers I don’t know where to start. Aromatase doesnt cause cancer, it is an enzyme that helps produce estrogen. It can be helpful to inhibit in patients that have cancer, but it is a control, not a cure. Using various compounds as Angiogenesis inhibitors is great in theory, but hasnt actually been very productive in doing much of anything at all. It was promising research at one point but isnt the silver bullet people were looking for. There is so much more wrong here with this advertisement…

    But really, the worst part of all is that you are capitolizing off of a friends death to advertise a sponsor of several blogHer events. In doing so you are tacitly encouraging people not to look for actual treatment for life threatening conditions and asking them to trust in supermarket remedies and ancient herbal remedies. If it was medicine it would be called MEDICINE.

    1. Sonia

      Aaron’s words are a bit harsh, but there was a disconnect here between the superfoods research and how they actually prevent cancer. Seeing the words superfoods and cancer I was really hoping to see just how much of a certain one of those foods is necessary to have some benefit, but it seems that their compounds need to be isolated in a lab to have some sort of effect, since none of the information explains it. Also, regarding aromatase, what if, for example, someone did not want to inhibit estrogen production?

      Overall, however, people should recognize that this is Jaden’s blog, on which she is free to do as she pleases and sponsored posts are one way in which bloggers make money. I’m guessing that a PR agency working with the hospital collaborated with this group of food bloggers and asked them to make a site visit and then blog about their activities. This has various benefits for both sides.

      I am so sorry Jaden, for the loss of your good friend.

  36. Doreen

    Jaden, I am so very sorry for your loss. I too am a believer in our foods can heal us. This is not popular with the drug companies. Not popular with most doctors either. I try to grow as much as I can organically and feel like my family is healthier for it. Gofundme is an excellent site for raising funds. What about a digital healthy recipes cookbook authored by Jaden and Jeanette? Some of the proceeds to be given to the research. Would be a best seller for sure…..

  37. Margie

    I’ve just stumbled on this. First, I am so sorry to hear about your friend. Cancer sucks indeed. My brother, the love of my life, my everything, passed away Easter Sunday of 2014. It’s been 5 months but it feels like yesterday that I was choosing his casket. It’s something I say a lot. “I chose my brother’s casket.” Ugh. My brother battled leukemia and then was too tired to continue so I have taken up his battle. I am in pain and I want to be with him but I know that I am needed here. My son, my husband, my parents, his daughter, need me here. I want to have lots to tell my brother when we are reunited.

    Hugs, to you and your friend’s loved one. Cancer is the biggest a-hole.

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