Thu, 14 Mar 2013 17:36 CDT
I was frightened, confused and feared the worst. My worse fears came true when I was diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumour called Anaplastic Astrocytoma. I could see how serious this was by the fact that so many doctors who had me under their care. As I am sure you can imagine when I heard this news my whole world fell apart. I had so many questions going around my head, like why was this happening to me? What did the future hold and would I survive?
Five weeks after my initial diagnosis I had surgery and underwent a six-and-a-half hour operation. The surgeon was happy as he was able to remove the majority of the tumour. I made a good recovery and was back on my feet in just a few days. However I had to wait a few weeks for the results of the biopsy. I did my best to remain positive but negative thoughts plagued my mind. When I finally got the news it was once again devastating, the surgeon told me that I had a Grade III tumour. I did not want to know what this meant and never asked or looked on the internet. Two years on since diagnosis I know now that the life expectancy for this condition is around 18 months.
I remember leaving the hospital with my partner and thinking that my life was over and all the hopes and dreams I had would never be realized. All my friends and family rallied around me and helped me find some bravery and strength that I didn’t even now I had.
Soon after I started a six-week course of radiotherapy. I was really nervous about this, especially as it was explained to me that radiotherapy would probably result in my hair falling and that it was likely that the caner would return. After a few weeks my hair did start to fall out and once again I was devastated. Faced with this challenge, I did what many others have done before me, and shaved my head. Every time I did this I cried my eyes out. I tried to remain positive that the radiotherapy would be effective but again the results of next MRI were not what I wanted and some of the tumour was still active.
During this challenging time my partner, Pete had been looking for alternative treatments. He spent months contacting people who where still alive with the same condition. He managed to track down a number of them and found out that many of them had been on clinical trial in Houston, Texas.
We applied to be apart of this and thankfully that the Food and Drugs Administration which oversees public health in America accepted me to take part in a phase 2 clinical trial. This treatment was not available on the NHS and we faced with another big challenge of raising around £200,000. I was so fortunate as so many people came to my aid and helped me raise this money. It seemed an impossible task but the money came rolling in. In December 2011 we flew over to America and in January I started treatment. We stayed there for seven weeks and to my amazement the first scan I had showed the tumour was starting to shrink.
It’s now one year on and I have continued success. My passion to conquer this disease led me to make a number other changes in my life. Perhaps the biggest one has been dietary and specifically cutting simple sugars and starchy foods out of my diet. From my research I learned that the exclusive food of cancer is sugar.
I embraced this and cut out almost completely starchy carbohydrates and refined sugars by incorporating a sugar-free/starch-free food plan. The idea being that this diet would feed my body, mind and starve the cancer into submission. I have also learnt that this type of diet is good for blood sugar regulation, body composition and is consistent with the way that our ancestors ate thousands of years ago.
I had a few lessons from a friend and dare I say it I actually started to get into cooking. I experimented with different foods and recipes and came up with more and more of my own recipes. Thankfully along with the treatment, doing this worked for me.
After months of experimentation I have learned to make many delicious and nutritious meals and this is why I decided to write my own book The Team Hannah Cookbook. It is my contribution to helping and inspiring others to eat a better diet. It is easy is to cut out the carbs and still eat “normally.” I now believe that dieting and counting calories doesn’t work. Low carb is the way forward.
‘The Team Hannah Cookbook’ is out now