Friday, May 30, 2008

The Plan - Part I

DCA (dichloroacetate) is a cheap and simple molecule that has been used for a number of years to treat rare metabolic diseases in children. In January of 2007, Dr. Evangelos Michelakis of the University of Alberta discovered that DCA had the ability to shrink cancer tumours in rats up to 100% in some cases, and in as little as 5 weeks.

Dr. Michelakis discovered that DCA "turns on" the mitochondria in cancer cells despite the long held belief that the mitochondria in cancer cells suffered irrevocable damage. With the mitochondria turned on, "the DCA re-activates the apoptosis mechanism", or the suicide mechanism in cancer cells and as a result, they die off rapidly.

I imagine Dr. Michelakis and his colleagues had quite the celebration that night. Finally, the cure for cancer.

Unfortunately, the doctor's smile may have turned to a frown when he found that DCA was not patentable as a molecule. There was no incentive for private companies to spend the millions of dollars needed to get DCA approved as a cancer treatment by Health Canada or the FDA. .

So when Dr. Michelakis' first paper came out explaining the astonishing effects of DCA on tumours in rats and why no one would support its development, cancer patients continent-wide were flooding cancer centres with calls about DCA. People with all stages and types of cancer were phoning in on their knees, begging for human trials to be approved.

When none of the cancer centres responded, people starting purchasing the compound and making DCA at home; people started "dealing" in DCA all over the world. On certain sites, people were petitioning for DCA and on other sites you'd find people begging for it. People were offering their left overs to those who were desperate.

So, a year and half after Dr. Michelakis' research room revelry, we now have (created of course, of the people, by the people, and for the people - despite it being a Canadian descovery) the DCA Site ( and Buy ( amongst many other DCA related sites.

Despite its world wide web presence, the majority of cancer patients know nothing about it because it hasn't been approved for Phase I clinical trials in the States or Canada. It's effectiveness in clinical trials, can only be summarized by Phase II trials (Phase I trials merely determine dosage) and we're simply not there yet.

If the cure for cancer is in a simple molecule, a simple pill, and not in expensive radiation equipment, chemical therapy and 12 hour surgery, something mighty is going to go down!

I found out about DCA in January from a friend of mine who told me that her and her husband had seen it on TV and read an article about it. I went straight to my "alternative" cancer doctor and said "tell me where I can get this "CDA" stuff in Vancouver." He said "I don't know anything about "CeeDA", but I can refer you to a Doctor in Kits who can get DCA for you."

Since then, I found a centre in Toronto who has received approval from the Ontario Health Board to prescribe DCA and monitor its results. I'm currently taking DCA and they are monitoring me closely. We shall see.

I wish I was a rat, I wish I was a rat, I wish I was a rat...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I often wonder what the aliens would think if they arrived on earth after a future apocalypse. These days, I wonder what they would think about all the women they'd find with no breasts; just scars. I wonder if they would recognize them as part of our race.

In their search for answers, they would likely find the women who had had mastectomies and implants but had no nipples; the smooth new breasts of a mannequin. And then, they would find the women with mastectomies and implants and tattooed nipples.

Would they find the cancer in autopsy and wonder why the breasts were removed; hacked off? Would they wonder why we treated the tumour and not the body? Would they wish they had got to us sooner, to tell us, to let us know what they know?

Recently, I took my Mom to a support group for young women with metastasising cancer. I was glad to learn when we got there that "young women" pretty much applied to women in their thirties. There were twelve of us there. Eleven with breast cancer; and me.

"They've decided to take off the other breast" she said. "They've got to take the breasts off" another said. "The Tamoxifen has been really hard on me" she said as she stared into her lap. "I'm finding it really hard to be at work" another one said. "I'm really afraid of what I will feel like when I look down; I'm terrified, this is appalling." she said. "I've been coming to this group since my mastectomy in 2001, my cancer has returned." she said.

Another women talked about her cats; she said one of her cats was sick and died. She realized after her mastectomy how nice it would have been to have her cat around.

I tried to offer my own fears and the sense of horror I had at times. "I have an opportunity to research a surgery in Germany." I told them as I wiped the rain off my face. "They would take everything out, including my bladder and rectum. They would sew up my bum. I would wear two colostomy bags." They really listened in. "I'm afraid of existing like that." I said.

They wondered if the cancer would be gone after that horror. I could only tell them what the German Doctor told me: "maybe."

When we left, the lady who talked about her cats a lot gave us a picture of her cats.

The next day the facilitator called me at home to thank me and my mother for joining the group. She said she was sorry there were "no other cancers" in the room. She said that last week there were "a couple colon cancers and a lung cancer"and that those groups are naturally more diverse. She thanked me for trying to empathize with them and for speaking so eloquently. She said she was sorry for my situation, that it was grim. She invited us back.

We didn't go back. Maybe we'll try another group.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This Tumour of Mine Longs to Hold Me

I am beginning to think that my tumour is my mini-me; my alter ego. It is so oppositional in every way.

To avoid the probe of the papsmear it devilishly tucked its feet up and curled itself away three times. It offered only the cancer-free cells for testing, yielding negative results and took the time it needed to nuture and propogate, to deepen and breed.

Even at the biopsy, it's self-willed ways irked the oncologists. They scratched at the tumour nearly 8 times, (all the while telling me I was so strong and so brave and that they were almost done), before they got the sample of its 8cm breadth that would finally reveal it's type and character; adeno carcinoma.

It endured 35 rounds of radiation and two rounds of deep penetrating radiation (Brachytherapy), where it faced radiation pellets head on, in the ring for 36 hours. After that it merely skulked away for long enough to impregnate the nearby lymph node and returm to centre cervix in bloom. During this fight, it vengefully resisted the Cisplatin by sending swelling and rash to all my extremeties, including my throat and tongue, deeming me allergic to the family of chemo drugs specific to a cervical tumour.

In our second attempt to treat the cancer and prolong my life we tried Paclitaxol and Carboplatin, a distant cousin to Cisplatin. The tumour casually layed back and allowed the chemo to nibble at its toes; his body stretching, pulsing and bloody.

While I generally consider myself more altruistic than black hearted, I chuckle (believe it or not, yes, with all my whining, I still chuckle) at its counteraction and polarity.

As the doctors have recently told me there is nothing else they can do for me or my tumour, I can only believe that as I learn may out of my oppositional nature, so too, will the tumour.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Hammer & The Healer

"I know, I know - the boardroom right.? I'll see you there in a couple of hours, I need to finish my chanting for this morning."

"Ms. Backs, NOW!"

"Okay, okay jee-Zuss."

"Have a seat, please. You're joined by the panel this morning. You remember Hope? There are a few issues on the table this morning. First off, your morning chant. It's distruptive to the entire team, but mostly to you. You must change your chant or stop chanting immediately."

"What is this a performance review or something? You're the one who told me to use the Meditation Room whenever I wanted, but now you want to tell me how to use it. I knew it, every job is the same. They tell you what to do and when to do it, they run your life, measure your performance. Why is it that I keep coming around to the idea of quitting this job? Huh? What is it with The Hammer and The Healer anyway? This is the fourth or fifth time in a year that I felt like this."

"Ms Backs, there are rules here. The Meditation Room is to be used alone each morning for half an hour before you start your day. As explained to you when you started here, it is to be used only for positive reinforcement and healing. It is meant to bring to you a level of awareness that will help with your overall happiness and will strengthen your immune system. For the past few days, you've been inviting Death in to the room, staying for at least 4 hours and chanting 'I'm gonna die, I'm dying, I'm gonna die, I'm dying, dying, dying, dead' over and over and again. What part of that exericise is following the rules Treice?"

"Yeah, well, whatever. You guys are not the boss of me."

"We are here to help you and as you know, that is very different than 'being the boss of you.' Do you want to die? Do you know what dying people want?"

"Thanks, yes, I saw that book on my desk. I suppose if someone is really dying, then they want to die. If someone is not really dying, they want to live. Simple. I can't see why that book is over 300 pages; dying people want to live. It's like writing a book titled "What Hungry People Want", um, duh?

"Do you want to die Treice, are you really dying?"

"TREICE! I asked you a question! Answer me!"

"No, I don't want to die. But I can think of one really good reason to die."

"Oh? What's that?"

"I wouldn't have to come to work anymore!"

"Ha, ha, very funny. Seriously, now."

"No, I don't want to die, but I feel like I'm dying, dying inside, I can't seem to turn it around. I'm desperate to not die and I can't find the way to stay; the way to life. This job, this saving my life job is taking a toll on me and I'm sick and very, very tired of it all. I know that you're here to help and I appreciate you, I need you guys. I'm sorry about the re-hires. I didn't mean to bring Death back but I couldn't help it. Despair too; they're sharing a desk. I need your help, please help me. I'm desperate, this is not fair, this is killing me. I need help. Please help me."

"Treice, you have become a very intergral part of our team and we need you, and we need your help too. You are perect in everyway, you are beautiful just as you are. When you close your eyes, who is smiling at you Treice? Who would smile at you if you could close your eyes and have people smile at you every time, who would it be?

"My Father, my dad; I miss him and love him deeply"

"Good, who else?"

"My Gramma and my Babushka, I miss them too, I didn't say good-bye properly."

"Good, who else?"

"My Mother, my Husband, my Son."


"My friend Niki, um, my gurus...Gabor and Nirmal. And well, you guys, I guess."

"How would you like if all of us held hands for you, and formed a circle around you, and smiled at you, every time you closed your eyes? Would you like that? Would that help you to heal? Would it ground you and make you strong? Would it shift your awareness and make you feel safe? Would it remind you that you are meant to live? Would it give you the strength to get through each day, would it help you breathe? Would it help to shrink the tumour?"

"Yes, yes it would."

"Well than that's what we'lll do Treice. What else do you need?"

"I need that operation you were telling me about, the one that Hope performs."

"The lobotomy?"

"No, not the lobotomy, you idiot. Although....that could work too, less thinking. Less thinking is good."

"I know the one, you mean the one where she manipulates the eyes so that they face inward? That one is performed in the Meditation Room and it takes about 36 hours. When you're done, you will only be able to see internally, you will only be able to scan your body and your mind, you will assess how you are feeling and let yourself be; there will be no more clutter for you Treice, just calm."

"Yes that's the one. I want that one. But how will I see my work, how will I work, how will I manage, how will I make the coffee?"

"Like we told you, this is your work Treice and you will manage brilliantly; and you're not supposed to drink coffee!"