Cancer sucks.

 

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 PMHer 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.”

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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