I think Plant Programme one is clever as clever.
I intend to stay on it for ever and ever (with apologies to A. A. Milne)
I can now tell you about the unwelcome return of my breast cancer without causing alarm and despondency. I can do this because once again the cancer is fully in remission as confirmed by my oncologist, Professor Charles Coombes of Charing Cross Hospital when I last saw him in early July.
Last December (2011) I was admitted to St Mary's, Paddington as an emergency because I could not breathe and felt as if I was drowning. I had had a horrid cough and breathlessness for weeks which had worsened progressively. The doctors at St Mary's removed about two and a half litres of fluid from my lungs and after scans and tests on the fluid as well as blood tests I was told that my ER+ cancer had returned in the lining of my right lung, at various small centres through both lungs and in a thickening below my collar bone above my old mastectomy scar.
About one year earlier I had had a trapped nerve in my left hand and despite the diagnosis being confirmed by a leading orthopaedic doctor I had asked my husband if he could see anything wrong with my posture. He noticed a few things but also asked 'what is that lump beneath your collar bone on your left side?' For a few moments I panicked but then decided it was just an old scar. Somehow I put this at the back of my mind because I was so intent on working on my book on Pollutants, Human Health and The Environment which was published in January 2012. As well as ignoring the obvious lump which was gradually getting bigger I was also quite lax about my diet persuading myself that the odd egg or ham sandwich (probably with butter) would not be enough to cause my cancer to come back and that it did not matter if I occasionally ate calves liver (a spin-off of the dairy industry).
At the time of the initial diagnosis at St Mary's my husband and youngest son, Tom, now a specialist in respiratory medicine at a leading London hospital, were with me. I still remember leaving St Mary's feeling totally shocked and I also remember my son saying to me' you will go back on your strict diet won't you Mum?' I mumbled 'Yes' and he said 'Promise me' The children know that if I make them a promise I always keep to it.
St Mary's hospital was excellent but I felt I wanted to go back to my oncologist at Charing Cross, Professor Coombes because he knows my history so well. He kindly fitted me in to his busy Pre Christmas schedule less than five days later. I went in with my husband demanding 'heroic chemotherapy' but was persuaded to try low dose Letrozole, a drug which blocks oestrogen formation in the body. When I returned to see Professor Coombes three weeks later , having taken my medication and kept strictly to Plant Programme 1, the tumour beneath my collar bone had already shrunk from >80 cm2 when it was first measured to <26 cm2 and chest X Rays confirmed that the amount of fluid in my lungs had diminished greatly. By April 2012 the fluid in my lungs had disappeared completely and the lump beneath my collar bone was' hardly palpable'. By the end of July I was pronounced clear and told that my cancer was once again in remission. I am sure that it was the combination of Letrozole with my diet that saved me once again. I emphasise that I do not think any strict vegan diet helps put cancer into remission because many contain too much protein or chemical additives but as I said at the beginning of this story I think Plant Programme 1 is clever as clever. It is the diet for those with active cancer on page 14 of my little cookbook with Gill Tidey called The Plant Programme available from www.amazon.co.uk.
Just to show you all how well I was by July here is a photo of me with the famous physicist, Brian Cox, taken at a Parliamentary and Scientific Committee meeting in July.