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My Cancer Story

I became a personal trainer at the ripe old age of fifty, not long after my daughter was born. When I was approaching sixty I had been through an enormous amount of stress – my daughter had been very sick, we had to move interstate for her health, and I subsequently lost my business. Cancer came shortly after that. Certainly not the best time in my life. But, being the resilient and pugilistic character that I am, I pushed on.

When I received my cancer diagnosis I immediately started looking outside the box. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy were all too terrifying – I knew enough to believe that unless I did something different I would become just another statistic. I wasn’t prepared to be a victim, which is the default position when you engage with the cancer industry. I started with medicinal cannabis and results were promising. I started supplementing with essential oils and vitamins with mixed results (I made mistakes), exercise was a natural fit, diet was sorted over time – but my blood tests produced erratic PSA readings. Fortunately I have lived long enough to understand what I was doing right – and wrong.

I learned that keeping the cancer under control was to be my main objective. The Holy Grail of ‘NED’ (No Evidence of Disease) may be possible, but containing cancer so that it does not affect my quality of life is my main concern. I am ‘asymptomatic’ and intend to stay that way.

I was very fortunate in one respect – as a personal trainer and exercise therapist I had a good understanding of exercise. I had also studied nutrition extensively (I am a certified nutritionist)  which helped me a lot in developing and evolving a cancer mitigating diet. Complementary therapies required a lot of research and experimentation. It has been the most confusing (and the most risky) treatment area that I have pursued. I have learned that ‘experts’ are just gurus who can be fatally wrong. They also take away your decision making power with their own convictions. Now everything I do is based on high quality science – and there is an abundance of it – you really don’t need gurus. (And I’m not trying to be one. My mission is to help you make your own decisions, for yourself, based on who you are, your cancer type, and where that cancer is.)

So how did I get cancer? I had exercised regularly and I ate reasonably well, so I should have been okay. But other factors were at play. I mentioned the intense stress that I experienced for about two years leading up to my diagnosis. But also my grandfather, my father, and both my uncles were diagnosed with prostate cancer too. So I knew it was likely to come to me as well. I started getting my PSA tests done in 2009 (PSA is the prostate cancer marker). They were stable for a long time, but a retrospective analysis shows they went up exponentially with the stress. This is referred to as an epigenetic effect – the stress triggered my genetic vulnerability.

I will be keeping a log of key milestones on my cancer journey and I hope it will help you on your journey! The log will be updated to this page.

The detail (a work in progress):

I have PSA test records that cover the last eleven years. This has been an invaluable resource. I have been able to plot my exercise and stress levels against these tests. Since my diagnosis I have had PSA tests done much more regularly – about six weeks apart. And for each test I am able to tell my doctor a story – what I was doing over that period in terms of diet, supplements, exercise level, stress level and complementary medicines. We were also able to chart the outcome of surgery, and unexpectedly, the dramatic effects of going away on holidays and the impact they had on my routines. In fact holidays away (overseas) caused my PSA to quadruple the first time and double the second time. But because I have good records I have an explanation as to why that happened, which I will share with you.

In 2009 my PSA was just .09 which was well within range. I had just turned 51, I had a baby girl just a few months old, and the Global Financial Crisis of late 2008 had decimated the economy. Work had dried up so I decided to retrain. I had a long held desire to become a personal trainer and this was my opportunity – as a ‘mature age’ parent I had made up my mind when my daughter was born that she was never going to be changing my nappies, and so moving into the health and fitness industry made perfect sense. I can say now that it has literally saved my life – exercise is fundamental to surviving cancer.

This chart covers the period from my first PSA test in 2009 until my diagnosis in 2017. The connection between cancer and stress is clear.

The reading of 0.90 occurred when I was doing well as a personal trainer – exercise level was high and business was good. By the next test exercise levels were high but the gym owner was wrecking his business and mine so stress was way up. The test result of 18/09/14 defied the trend and dropped – my exercise rate was high and I was ridiculously fit. But by 2015 we had moved interstate due to my daughters health and the wheels fell off. When it rains it pours, and I had torn my hipflexor at the same time. I simply couldn’t do the exercise I was previously capable of, and it took almost a year to rehabilitate. By that time the stress had completely taken over and my motivation had crashed – a perfect storm. With a PSA of 13 the MRI scan showed two large tumors. A subsequent biopsy showed a high Gleason Score (measure of aggression). There was no time to waste – I started exploring my options. I really didn’t want surgery and all the problems and consequences that came with that. What could I do – I had no interest in being a victim.

This is where the story really starts to get interesting.

(more coming soon…)