A Bit of Voodoo


Cancer is a mysterious thing. So are statistics. Statistically, 1 in 8 women in this country will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the time they are 851 but, apart from drinking alcohol, the risk factors for breast cancer are largely unavoidable, like being a woman and getting older2. Breast cancer just strikes at random, like bad voodoo, and some people respond in kind, turning to a sort of magic, like juice diets and caffeine enemas3, or baking soda and salt4.

Sadly, some people turn their backs on the proven 21st century cures and embrace this quackery. Steve Jobs is not the only person who has died regretting he didn’t take his doctors more seriously5

But I admit that when the bad voodoo struck from inside, like a creepy alien affliction from the x-files, I turned to my own voodoo, which consisted of madly scouring the internet for anything proven (or even hinted at by some study) to increase survival or reduce the side effects of chemo. I walked diligently to protect my heart6, I took fish oil to protect my muscle mass7 and vitamin D to increase the efficacy of the docetaxal8. I ordered glutamine off the internet and drank that in orange juice to ward of neuropathy. It’s disgusting, especially if you’re suffering from chemo induced nausea9.

This was my way of taking control of my life when it suddenly seemed to be under the control of the doctors.

Now that my life has returned to relative normalcy, I still continue my voodoo to some extent. I can’t help it. It’s deeply entrenched in my psyche, so, along with my daily tamoxifen, I take 4.5g of fish oil, because some poor rats with chemically induced mammary tumours who were fed a diet of 17% fish oil and tamoxifen did much better than those fed corn oil9. Since that study there has been quite a lot of research into the synergistic effects of fish oil on tamoxifen at a molecular level10.


And along with the fish oil, I take vitamin D, which has long been known to be protective against cancer11 and low vitamin D levels during winter are now thought to reduce the bioactivation of tamoxifen to endoxifen12

And, to a certain extent, this little weight loss exercise is also voodoo. As I’ve mentioned more than once, even a small increase in BMI correlates with a recurrence, so I am pleased to report that my weight today is 55.2kg.

Doll image by Dimitris Kritsotakis
Sardines by Anna H-G


One thought on “A Bit of Voodoo

  1. Janet Plummer January 25, 2017 / 6:19 am

    I think we can all relate to this, wanting to take back some control the only way we can. I take my fish oil and vitamin D too plus a small number of other supplements. And I drink my green tea everyday, try and have a sprinkle of linseeds on my breakfast etc. Don’t think it’s entirely voodoo though. While I know there’s no guarantee these things will prevent cancer (and they definitely won’t cure it) there is scientific evidence that certain dietary adjustments and lifestyle changes – exercising regularly, abstaining from or at least minimising alcohol – can reduce your chances of recurrence. I’ve tried to base my lifestyle/dietary changes on what science is telling us rather than celebrity chefs or whacky wellness gurus (as much as I can as a lay person using the internet). My oncologist actually recommended taking the vitamin D so that one definitely has credibility. I like to think that taking my supplements makes my body’s biochemical environment less conducive to cancer growth. But I’ll still be having my mammograms/ultrasounds every year and keeping an eye on things in between just in case. Well done on your weight loss too.


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