Practical advice and personal wisdom from a four-time cancer survivor.

Everything I do to heal_medium

This is my belly during acupuncture which I get for digestion and back pain. Dr. Wang adds electrodes to the needles for extra activation.

I’ve watched all of the Bourne movies at least 50 times. My favorite thing about Jason Bourne is that he is never a victim. Even when they try to assassinate him, he doesn’t run away. He confidently heads TOWARD the shooter. He doesn’t hide. He doesn’t wallow. He doesn’t cower in fear. He confidently flips the situation to his advantage.

Dorky, I know but movies like this help my mental state. It’s so easy to get down these days. SO EASY. 

I want to head towards cancer and the havoc it caused my body.

I want to challenge it. 

CONQUER IT.

More than anything, I want to prove the doctors wrong.

I love proving doctors wrong.

When I asked the gastroenterologist how to prevent bowel obstructions last summer after my hospitalization, he said “there isn’t anything you can do, with the amount of surgery you’ve had, you WILL have more obstructions and end up in the hospital again.”

Never saw that dude again.

Since I’ll be covering how I’m trying to fix my battered body – and prevent more cancer – I thought I’d share an overview on everything I do to heal.

THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! I work very closely with a nutritionist, naturopathic doctor, oncologists, medical doctors, massage specialists and acupuncturists to make decisions regarding my case.

Also, everyone is so different. Healing requires many, many science experiments. I try to change only one variable at a time so I can accurately assess the results. People think alternative medicine is “woo-woo.” Quite the contrary. I evaluate progress using special functional medicine labs and my detailed lab notes. I create formulas X (diet) + Y (supplements + Z (treatments) = outcome.

You can do this too. We’ll get to that later though. For now, my Healing List:

1) Weekly acupuncture :: It helped a lot during chemo and currently, I get it for digestion, sleep, hormone issues, anxiety (yes, you can get needles for that!) and back pain. They believe I’ll get better which is important for my mindset.

2) Visceral massage :: A relaxing belly massage with a highly trained specialist helps prevent bowel obstructions. I took two weeks off in July and a couple months off last winter and I was in pain and partially obstructed both times – all the proof I need.

3) IV fluids :: I get IV fluids twice per week because I can’t stay hydrated on my own. This causes fatigue, back pain and bowel obstructions. We theorize this is due to lack of colon and adrenal fatigue. The hot, dry weather in San Diego didn’t help. 

3) Supplementation :: I take over 20 supplements per day. I have a highly qualified naturopathic doctor and nutritionist closely monitoring my cellular levels of minerals and vitamins using a special lab called Spectracell. Nothing I take is random.

4) Special diet :: After a LOT of trial, error, and pain, my “safe” diet includes chicken broth, eggs, avocado, fish, sweet potato and coconut based products – a moist/mashed diet to prevent bowel obstructions. Losing 4 organs caused a lot of scar tissue – and I’ve always had a sensitive gut.  

5) Herbal tea :: A Seattle shop called The Herbalist sells a wonderful loose-leaf tea called Tummy-Ease Tea which I drink every night. It contains: peppermint leaf, flax seed, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, orange peel, fennel seed and ginger root. 

6) Stretching :: I have to stretch every night to help with pain and digestion.

7) Meds :: I take daily thyroid meds. My sister and dad who have had cancer due to Lynch Syndrome are also on these meds. Not sure if it’s related but it’s interesting to consider.

8) Hormone replacements :: I was nowhere near menopause when they removed my ovaries at age 42. Currently, I take 1.5mg synthetic estrogen, .5 bio-identical estrogen, 100mg progesterone. I’m still tweaking bio-identical testosterone. 

BULLSHIT ALERT: it’s b.s. how menopausal symptoms are blown off. Even though I went through it instantaneously, I still had to hunt down the data on hormone replacement beyond estrogen. I’m pretty sure dudes also don’t get info as their hormones change with age. Sex hormones impact way more than libido. They regulate our energy, sleep, muscle tone, skin, etc. A lot of “you’re just aging” symptoms can be addressed safely and cheaply with hormone replacements. More to come on this. 

Healing of this magnitude is a full-time job.

I have to work 300% (500%? 700%?) harder than the average person to maintain 40-50% normal bodily function. Without these interventions…well, I don’t like to think about it. Plus, I know all of this prevents more cancer – my body needs every chance possible.

I’m working on seeing more practitioners in upcoming months. I feel lucky to live in Seattle and have a background in nutrition and alternative medicine.

That’s why I’m sharing here. Everyone deserves this information. Mainstream medicine often (not always) expects us to sit back and be passive participants.

I refuse to sit back and wonder what’s going to happen.

I try to evoke Jason Bourne. Chase down that which is trying to conquer me.

Instead, I will conquer it.

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher

  • FullSizeRender (3)I walked through the grocery stores and wanted to cry. This week was especially hard for some reason. Many days, I can handle it. I don’t think about the food I’m missing or the life I had before. I see this diet like an athlete views hardcore training. It’s about the long game, getting the body to an optimal state.

    But this week sucked. I wanted to stuff EVERY-THING in my face. I usually give myself one 24-hour treat day per month – nothing that will cause immediate pain but things I normally avoid like chocolate, wheat, sugar.

    Instead of a treat day in February, however, I felt a bowel obstruction brewing. I went on a clear liquid diet, then liquids, and then mashed, moist food. I recently learned this trick to stopping the constriction from getting worse. I’m grateful to have it in my back pocket but it’s made me realize how at risk I still am. And that I must persevere and be very, very careful about what I eat. 

    The back story

    I’ve been off raw/high-fiber foods since my surgery when I lost most of my colon, ovaries, uterus and appendix two years ago.  I started the low-inflammation, no-grain/bean diet last summer, a few weeks after the June bowel obstruction. And I’ve been on the candida diet since October, 2015.  It’s REALLY REALLY HARD and takes tons of discipline. I try to focus on the goal: feeling good, improving digestion, increasing energy, and traveling the world one day again.

    Let’s start with what I’m NOT eating – and why – first:

    No inflammatory foods – no dairy/sugar/grains/legumes/booze/nightshades including peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant. The less inflamed my gut, the less likely I’ll have another bowel obstruction, grow more colon polyps, or develop more cancer anywhere in my body due to Lynch Syndrome. I follow the low-inflammation diet developed by my colleague, Beve Kindblade

    No raw/fibrous foods – they gather too much water and bulk up – could cause another bowel obstruction. Plus I have short tummy now and don’t relish going to the bathroom any more than I already do. 

    Minimal dry foods – I realized recently I can only fudge this when I’m very hydrated. Lesson learned.

    Candida-causing foods –  no nuts, chocolate, vinegar all the good stuff. I follow Dr. Humison’s candida diet which is not like typical candida diets – he believes it’s fermented foods and high-fungal crops that feed candida. I was very skeptical about this diet until Day 4 when I slept better than I had in 2 years. Immediate convert. I’ll do anything to sleep better. And it’s helping my digestion a lot.

    What’s left? If you count ingredients like salt and lemon juice, my list climbs to 15 or so. But these are the Core 10 that fill my belly:

    Sweet potato
    Squashes
    Wild salmon
    Eggs
    Avocado
    Seeds (except hemp)
    Garlic
    Ginger
    Coconut (all things coconut!)
    Chicken broth

    Safe ingredients I use frequently: lime/lemon juice, fresh herbs, salt, olive/coconut/avocado oil, minimal dried herbs (since many have fungus that feeds the candida).

    My splurges are ghee and a little coconut sugar and agave. I eat goat cheese, dates, and blueberries once or twice a week. I just made pureed carrot ginger soup and tolerated it well. When my tummy is ok, over-cooked broccoli/cauliflower works well as long as I don’t devour the entire pan all at once (I love me some cruciferous vegetables). 

    I eat only scratch cooking, mostly organic – I’ll be sharing recipes here soon. Occasionally I eat outside the house which is a lovely treat – maybe a couple times per month – and I savor every second of it.

    Why am I eating so few foods?

    Some people think this is craaaazzzzy pants. But they’re usually people that don’t know my long history with tummy problems – and that I’ve been studying how to heal the gut for 25 years. I’m still getting the hang of cancer and learning about Lynch Syndrome. But gut issues? That’s my wheelhouse. It’s how I healed a severe case of Ulcerative Colitis which I had for 9 years. Since much of the immune system resides in our gut: healthy gut = healthy body. So, I’m determined to give my digestive system – and my body – the best possible environment for healing. So I can eat (some) raw foods again. So I can travel. So I can be free.

    The only way to get there, however, is to swing the pendulum way over to the opposite side of illness. Once I’ve lived there awhile, my body will tolerate a wider variety of food. For now, it’s in lock-down. Just me and my 10 foods….PLUS my treat days.

    I realized this week how crucial my Treat Day is for my psychological well-being. Yesterday, when my student brought in my crack…I mean, homemade yellow cake, I stuffed a few pieces in my face. And it was DIVINE. Perfect timing, really. Of course the rush of white sugar and flour makes me feel crappy afterwards. But I felt satisfied in my mind. And that’s how I know I can get through this. Clean most days. And a little bit of fun once in awhile.

    Healing is excruciatingly slow. But. I can do this. 

  • Cancer Teacher
    Hi there, my name is Julie. I’m a nutritionist that’s had four cancers: melanoma, ovarian, colon, and endometrial cancer — the last 3 all at once due to a genetic disorder called Lynch Syndrome. Cancer can be horrific, painful, life-stealing. It can also be transformative, mind-opening and life-affirming. I’m working hard to get strong and find the silver lining lessons during this shit storm experience. Stay tuned to find out what I've learned, and continue to learn, from Cancer Teacher.

    Much love,

    Julie Negrin

    About Julie & Cancer Teacher