Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The C-Word: Essiac Tea

In the past few years, people often call or email me to talk a friend or family member who has just discovered he/she has cancer of one kind or another.

I tell them my story and give them tips about what they can do to heal naturally, as well as what they might do in conjunction with chemo.

Burdock root has anti-tumor properties

I've been impressed that people who take the information and run with it, have incredible results. Cancer recedes, diabetes disappears, aggressive tumors turn benign. Even if it is a few years' since their cancer was treated, changing their diets, breathing, exercising and taking supplements has changed their lives. They are energetic and vibrant, their skin glows, they are optimistic and active.

Usually, almost everyone I talk to gets really excited about the options available to them. There are so many ways to heal cancer these days - and heal it in a way that overhauls your life for the better - that people come away feeling relieved and positive about the challenge.

Unfortunately, three-quarters of the people I advise, then go to the hospital and get frightened.

Their doctors say things like, "Well, if you take these supplements, we can't help you.."

Or, as they said to a friend, "If you want to risk your life like that, go ahead, because we can't guarantee the results of alternative treatment."

So remember: Healing cancer, even more than almost any other disease, IS possible - but it's uncertain, no matter which method. All of our bodies are different and react differently. All of our minds and souls have different lessons to learn. Whether you choose the traditional route or the naturopathic one or a combination, THERE IS NO GUARANTEE. Just because the doctor/healer says they have success with one method or another, doesn't mean it will work on you.

For instance, if you have a virus and a doctor mistakenly prescribes you antibiotics and you get even sicker and end up in the hospital, you don't get anything back from the doctor.

There is no money-back guarantee on healing.

And worse, there is no health-back guarantee. This is even scarier when you are dealing with your kids.

So here's the other thing, YOU live in your body. You know it better than anyone else and you have for years. See what you feel comfortable with. Try one thing and see if it makes you feel better. There is nothing wrong with testing the experiences and listening to your body.

If it's your kid - remember, this child lived IN your body - you were there from his/her earliest moments. No one knows your child better than you do.

My recommendation - cancer is systemic - so never stick to any single therapy. You need to heal, mind, body and soul. If it makes you feel better to follow an oncologist's orders, do that. But also try the dietary changes and supplements. Try hypnotherapy, try polarity, try Brennan healing. Try acupuncture, infrared heat and vitamin therapy. Try intravenous glutathione, meditation, and Chinese medicine.

See what makes you feel like you are healing.

Recently, I discovered Essaic tea. 

It's a brewed herbal mixture that was created by a Native American tribe called the Ojibwa that uses local plant roots, bark and leaves to kill cancer and also normalize diabetes and HIV.  It started being used in mainstream healing by a nurse called Rene Caisse in Canada. She had such success with using it to heal the bottom-the-barrel cancer cases that it exploded.

Since I've been studying herbal medicine and Chinese medicine, I cross-referenced the four main ingredients with my textbooks and what I've learned. I also put in hours with my biology textbooks and reading testimonials and research online.

I should add that it has a tumultuous history with the mainstream - and even slightly alternative - medical establishment. Andrew Weil, for instance, says you should avoid it. But he also says that the formula was never passed on correctly by Rene Caisse. Apparently, Caisse refused to divulge her ingredients to the drug companies because she believed the product should be cheap and free and readily available. She did give it to Memorial Sloan Kettering, and interestingly, there are studies on their websites regarding certain ingredients, but from what I've read, she got angry at the way they handled it (they froze the herbs, making them much weaker) and took it all back.

That said, there are so many testimonials most people have bought a jar of vitamins on Amazon with fewer good reviews. And you can buy it on Amazon as capsules, pre-made liquid and dried herbs. It is also sold under the name Flor-Essence with the addition of kelp (good for the thyroid), red clover (builds iron and strength), watercress (purifies the blood, tones the kidneys and reduces inflammation) and blessed thistle (strengthens and tones the liver).

I suggest making it yourself as the pre-made versions are more expensive and, since they are not as fresh, they might not be as effective.

The ingredients are as follows:

Burdock root - which has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to address a multitude of illnesses, amongst them, diabetes, gout, wrinkles (aging skin), measles and hypoglycemia. It has anti-tumor effects and is used in India and Russia in cancer treatments. It's also been used to cure fibroids. Burdock root is the main ingredient in Essaic tea. It's a pretty common weed that grows along roadsides in the U.S. and Canada.

Slippery Elm (inner bark) - you might recognize this name from natural sore throat and cough remedies. It coats the throat, esophagus and even bowels when ingested, which makes it great for mitigating the effects of chemo and/or radiation on your mucus membranes. When applied topically, it calms and soothes irritation on the skin as well. While, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering, it doesn't have anti-tumor effects, it does have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities. Its mucillagenous (slippery, right?) qualities make it especially good for coating the stomach in IBS. People even eat it as a highly-digestible food. The trees grow in the Northern U.S. and Canada.

Sheep Sorrell - this grows wild all over North America, in fields and meadows. It's an astringent and a diuretic with a tangy, lemony taste. Traditionally, it's been used to treat fevers, scurvy and diarrhea, but it's also nice as a salad green. In Essaic tea, it's an anti-tumor agent, as well as an anti-bacterial. Kids like to chew on it, calling it sour grass. It should be taken in small quantities - and it's proportions are quite small in the essaic mixture.

Turkey or Indian Rhubarb - this plant has been used in herbal remedies for over 2,000 years.
It has both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. In Essaic tea, it's used for its anthroquinones, emodin and rhein, which have tumor killing capacities. Anthroquinones are also good for strengthening the lungs, especially after chemotherapy or radiation. Finally, it's said that the tea can be used for controlling menopausal symptoms like hot flashes.

It seems incredible. If you have any health issues that affect the pancreas or liver, from diabetes to hepatitus to HIV or cancer, you should try this tea. Some people, like Flor-Essence, add additional herbs but these are the four main ones.

(The tedious part is making the tea. This isn't the kind where you buy a teabag and put it in a cup with hot water. It is actually a herbal extract or tincture, so it is boiled for quite a long time. Then strained and reduced again. Then you have to sterilize and fill a bottle with the thick, dark substance and keep it in the fridge. The advantage is that it lasts for several weeks that way and you only take a tiny amount in the morning and the evening, ideally on an empty stomach.)

Think about it this way, if you have a horrible sinus infection and you go to the doctor for antibiotics, you are probably still going to drink chicken soup, take a ton of vitamin c and maybe a hot toddy and/or watch some funny movies on netflix.

The doctor will tell you that all these other things won't make any difference. But, if you really want to get well fast, you'll decide that you want to put in the extra effort.

Along with meditating and speaking gently to your body and your cancer, it's worth it to use every piece of soul and body strengthening weapons reinforcements in your arsenal.

Just know that if you want to be well, listen to your body. Love it. Put in the time to treat yourself with love and respect. Who knows what miracles you could make happen?

thank you to thich nhat hanh for reminding us

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The C-Word: How to Cure Your Cancer in 30 Days

this is the title of a book by ty bollinger. actually, it's "the 31-day cancer cure."

despite the confidence of the title and the fact that they sell it hard online and that ty bollinger is a committed christian and uses those metaphors in his work, it actually has some very useful advice.

the question remains - can you cure your cancer in a month?

i would say, yes. with some qualifiers:

1. it depends on how far your cancer has advanced.
2. it depends on how much chemo and/or radiation you've had already.
3. it depends on how much you are willing to commit to resolving it.

people who have cancer call me about once a week with questions about what i did and how i did it.
so i add with my own qualifiers - 1. i had a cancer that has a very high "cure" rate. 2. i did do fourteen weeks of traditional chemotherapy (though my experience made me believe that if my cancer were to return, i would never step into an oncology ward again). 3. the symptoms - very heavy bleeding - made it easy to discover i had cancer, however, i had an extremely aggressive and fast-moving cancer and i (like lots of busy mothers) ignored the hemorrhaging for six months.

i also swam laps - 3/4 of a mile - daily, until the last month, and did pilates every other day so it IS possible to be sick and not really realize it.

personally, i recommend the book - not as the be-all and end-all - but because it addresses the physical parts of healing cancer very well.

bollinger begins with the idea of the "de-tox" - i recommend this to EVERYONE who has cancer or any kind of degenerative illness - and then, re-building your strength.

1. eliminate sugars (and anything that turns into simple sugar) from your diet. that includes wheat, white rice, potatoes, most fruit, corn - i'm sure you know the drill. you might need to do this just until you are in remission, but i recommend one do it forever - with slight exception of fruit. you can start havng organic fruit once the cancer is resolved.

2. eliminate animal products - many sources say that a cancer diet should be low-protein AND low-carbohydrate, especially during chemo. i refer to william li's ted talk, can we eat to starve cancer? so bump up cruciferous vegetables. now almost everyone knows that broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and daikon (japanese radish) are the enemy of cancer cells. i like to tell people the story of how i stopped eating sugar, wheat, dairy and animal products the day i was diagnosed (my brilliant brother had found the "cancer diet" online and printed it out and taped it to my fridge). in those two weeks, the size of my tumor shrank by half. this is before any chemotherapy or treatment of any kind.

i had ultrasounds in four different medical facilities before i came to memorial sloan kettering. my tumor was 4 cm and appeared to be expanding rapidly into the uterine wall.

when i got my first ultrasound at msk, my tumor was 2 cm.

my msk doctors said the rapid shrinking was the result of different kinds of ultrasound machines in the different hospitals. however, the other four places all had the same result. i find many cancer doctors feel like they have to cover their tracks.

3. eliminate ALL processed foods. if you have done the first two, you are probably forced to do this anyway. no artificial colors, sweetners, nothing that comes wrapped in cellophane, no MSG, nothing from a fastfood restaurant (where it is probably chemically-treated), no preservatives. if you can prepare your (organic) food at home - eat it fresh and quickly - you will always be better off.

4. ty bollinger - and many german doctors - suggest you address your teeth. first, like many naturopathic doctors, they suggest you get all your mercury fillings very carefully removed and replaced. mercury leaches out from the fillings and damages your immune system. people who do this report having headaches and colds disappear. next, there are a lot of illnesses lurking in the bacteria between your teeth and there is a theory that root canals - where a cavity exists inside your gum that is closed up and allows bacteria to hide and reproduce - can be the cause of everything from heart attacks to cancer. if you go to a holistic dentist, they can address the root canals as well as the mercury fillings using the proper materials so you are not exposed to the mercury. the idea is the stronger your immune system will be in order to fight the cancer. at the time, i did not have the finances to do this - and i still haven't but i have heard that it is a very important step.

5. the longer you've had cancer, the deeper its gone, and the longer you've had chemotherapy and/or radiation, the longer your healing process will be. simply put - and even doctors admit (like mine at memorial sloan kettering) - chemotherapy and radiation damage your "good" cells, your fast-growing cells (thus your hair falls out) and your immune system. most forms of natural healing work by activating your own immune system in order to fight the cancer. while you've been treating your cancer, you've been suppressing your body's own immune system.

if your cancer is quite deeply entrenched, or you have had a lot of allopathic treatment, i suggest you learn to be very patient with your body. if you've ever been pregnant, you remember that the day after your baby is born, you are horrified to see that you still look pregnant. my midwife used to say, ten months' up and ten months down. (it's sort of the same way you recover from a bad relationship).

ty bollinger suggests you start with a parasite cleanse. this takes about a week and can be done simultaneously with the liver and colon cleanse.

in my classes in naturopathy and chinese medicine, i've learned that almost all of us have parasites (some beneficial) - if you have ever eaten sushi, raw fruits and/or vegetables and/or almost anything prepared in a restaurant - you probably have some malicious ones too. it doesn't take a trip to somewhere exotic to have parasites and they are often not obvious.

the reason to kill the nasty parasites is to optimize your body's ability to utilize nutrients. it's not that hard as there are a number of kitchen plants and herbs that kill parasites, amongst the, ginger and garlic and oregano oil.

6. after the parasite cleanse, the liver and colon cleanse to help strengthen your immune system and to clear out the toxins that are building up from the chemo and/or radiation.

again, i would recommend that everyone do a liver and colon cleanse, at least once a year. but if you are feeling very weak, these might be hard to do. this is hulda clark's version.

for a gentler liver cleanse, my teacher of herbalism, peeka trinkle, suggests this. for 48 hours, avoid ALL fats, sugars (including fruit, potatoes and alcohol), grains (wheat, rice, oats, barley, quinoa), caffeine and animal products (no meat or dairy), no medicine (not even aspirin or tylenol, which settles in the liver) - with NO CHEATING, not even a teensy bit. lots of well-meaning people say, "just a little bit won't hurt..." in this case, it will - don't do it.

drink at least three liters of water a day and as many fresh vegetables as you can eat. if you can handle it, drink a spoonful of organic apple cider vinegar in water every few hours.

this has been known to get homeless alcoholics to get over the alcohol sickness and dry up for a little while.

after a liver cleanse, you'll notice immediately that your skin is brighter, the whites of your eyes clearer and the bags under your eyes depuff or disappear entirely.

7. continue to eat a ketogenic diet.

8. since ty is a christian, he suggests you go to church. i suggest you increase your level of prayer and/or meditation, wherever you do it - church, mosque, synagogue, temple, forest or beach - to help you manage stress, tension and anxiety.

9. add anti-tumor supplements and foods to your diet - including large amounts of turmeric, quercetin, vitamin c (pure l-ascorbic acid), vitamin d3, bitter almonds, cesium chloride, potassium, essaic tea, co-Q 10 and polymva. (please note, i am not suggesting you rush out and fill your shopping cart. work with a good naturopath or natural pharmacist to get your dosage and brands. i recommend speaking to david restrepo at vitahealth in nyc, they deliver all over the country).

10. take probiotics in the morning and pancreatic enzymes with every meal.

11. make sure you get a lot of sleep, at least eight hours a day - if possible ten.

12. drink only purified water - chlorine and fluoride are carcinogens - you need to avoid them at all costs.

13. if you are strong enough to exercise, do it. walk, yoga, pilates, swim (in non-chlorinated water), bicycle, run or lift weights if you can. it doesn't have to be intense, but it reduces your chance of cancer by 50% and increases your chance of recovery.

in reference to my own exploration of alternative and complementary medicine, someone asked me how i figured out which things to do. how did i know which were scams? "how did you decide?"

i said, "i just did everything non-invasive that anyone suggested."

that's not completely true.

everything that i read or heard about or that was suggested to me, i investigated online and with friends to see if there was real back-up. i also checked if it had more than one source that recommended it. i cross-referenced with the crucial database

how to cure your cancer in 31 days is somewhat similar in that its program addresses the physical cancer from every angle.

like bollinger, i agree, there is NO SINGLE CURE. it's not just acupuncture, hypnosis, getting enough vitamin d3 or juicing or even switching to a total raw diet if you don't address all the cleaning and strengthening - and even more so, if you don't address your mental and spiritual state.
anxiety, self-doubt and tension will take you down, my friend.

in the end, if you are strong and committed enough to actually follow all the recommendations in ty's book. i believe you WILL cure your physical cancer in a month or less.

however, the cancer could come back if you ignore your mind and your programming. personally, i'd recommend working with a good hypnotist and/or an energy healer to help calm your subconscious and improve your self-talk.

be well. you can do it. it just takes work and a real commitment.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Crying Game: 9 North Moore vs Zach Vella (and Saif Sumaida)

"nothing is what it seems to be."  never play the crying game with a blogger.

talk about constantly shifting identities - the personality-types involved in multimillion dollar deals are the most bizarre in nyc.

admittedly, i'm one of the 99%. don't know lots of those people. except zach vella. 

last summer, zach's a friendly new neighbor i meet on the sidewalk. here's the email he sent me.

From: Zach Vella
Date: June 8, 2012 7:57:44 PM EDT
To: "''"

Good meeting you. If you are interested in speaking about your ground floor space please let me know.


Zach Vella
212 686 2500

after sandy, after his development floods my apartment, he's the invisible man. not returning my phone calls, emails, not even the notes i leave with his doorman when i see him encased in black spandex, heading off for a run.

a freezing winter morning, after i write a blogpost about what a nightmare my life is - he's bristling mad that i had dared to write about him.  i figure, he's on the million dollar listing on bravo, he isn't publicity-shy. (on the street, he keeps murmuring about a woman whose wall he put a nail through. he offered to repair the wall but she sued him for all this money and, of course, she lost everything. he looks at me pointedly as he says this, though i miss the implication.)

a month later, i get a phone call, "hey, it's zach!" like we are best friends and i've been expecting his call all day. "are you still interested in renting your place? i just wanted to let you know i spoke to the partners and we are serious."

april 2 (day AFTER april fool's day, when i should have been wiser), zach came to the storefront to talk about how bad he felt about everything that happened. he was so sorry, he really just wanted to help me. the chain of command being what it was, he couldn't pay me himself, but he would be willing to give me a personal loan, out of his own pocket, until the insurance paid for the repairs. (i had actually emailed him the claim denials of all three insurance companies already.)

then, he said he had an idea that would be great for both of us. the development company would rent the entire space for a year, do a renovation that would repair all the apartment damage and pay me upfront for the stuff i lost. then they could use my space as a sales office and model apartment for their new development.

i am blown away. a perfect solution. "that is so kind of you, i would happy to do that," i said. "just so i can figure out my kids and my adjust my schedule - what's your time frame for that?"

zach said, "a month, a month-and-a-half at most."

i changed my mind about him. he was trying to do his best in a difficult situation.

a couple of artists planned a show of paintings and sculptures in the storefront in may. we'd been discussing it since last year. i cancelled the show.

out of courtesy, i didn't write any more blogposts because i knew it made him uncomfortable. i would wait til it was resolved and write something kind. (though the one about zach got over 1500 hits).

our emails:
From: Ameena Meer []
Sent: Tuesday, April 02, 2013 08:20 PM
To: Zach Vella
Subject: thank you

it was great talking to you tonight.

i really appreciate your taking the time to address the issue.

i'm looking at the options - can you give me an idea of what you think the rent would be for a space like this?

thanks again,

On Apr 3, 2013, at 8:51 AM, Zach Vella wrote:

I will ask our broker but I think you should ask a couple yourself so we you are comfortable with the number

april 17: i put my apartment on the market to give him a number to work with.

ok weird.

may: he finally contacted my broker. he was traveling in africa. obviously doing good works in the developing world, he just wanted to be sure i wasn't going to write anything about him. in the meantime, no further offer of the loan either.

june 6, i'm fed up. nice and patient isn't working. send him a text saying that if he doesn't want me to write about his presence in my life, he needs to get this over with. (don't want to talk because obviously he's only good for what he puts in writing - plus my life is insane.)

he accuses me of extortion.

at this point, i don't care what he thinks. also, i cannot remove my blog as it provides important information for people with cancer.

he says: send me the damages.

for the 10th time, i send him the list - it consists of the destroyed stuff, the plumbing and electrical repairs, and last year's bills for the mold clean-up (subtracting the cost of the upstairs) and the re-build. being a good neighbor, i don't ask him for relocation costs while the work is done.

On Jun 10, 2013, at 11:17 AM, "Ameena Meer" wrote:

hi zach -

as per our conversation on saturday, here is the cost of the repairs.

as we spoke at the beginning of april, the flood happened in november of last year, i feel i've been quite patient.

i would appreciate some response within 24 hours.

i am forwarding you the same email my real estate sent you last week.

thank you,

On Jun 10, 2013, at 12:23 PM, Zach Vella wrote:


24 hours x 4, no response.  i text again.

bizarrely, he forwards a release. it holds him and his company blameless for everything and i can never write about him or them again. the place for the number is left blank.

this morning, he calls the broker to tell him that his own basement flooded, it was cheap and easy to have it all repaired - my costs are way too high. zach offers me "a loan" for $14,000 - a little over a quarter of the cost of the damages. (in return, i have to delete my blog - which is usually used as an clearing house for alternative cancer information).

i should add that given this drama - my second major flood in two years - means that no insurance carrier will give me coverage for the next three years.

oh, one of the brokers on the million dollar listing is being investigated by the f.b.i. and had been photoshopping new kitchens and floors into his apartment listings.

oh so that's how it works.

want a writer to stop writing? you have to take off the costume.

UPDATE: for everyone who's asking. i decided to stop trying to mr. vella and his business to court. it wasn't worth the time, attention or the money. i sold my place and moved away from rat-infested tribeca. now it's his karma to live with. i wish him all the best.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The C-Word: Trust and Medicine

It seems to me that the biggest problem right now in the medical industry and the healing community is trust.

People don't trust doctors, what with all the news about kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies (check out the dollars for docs site to see if yours has), doctors working 24 hours a day because insurance companies squeeze their time (thus sometimes they make mistakes) and the horrible instances where the process goes wrong and a person gets hurt.

Every day, I seem to get another piece of direct mail/email with a headline like "WHAT DOCTORS AREN'T TELLING YOU" or " WHAT THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW..."

Doctors don't trust patients, because medicine is imperfect and they are humans and doing the best they can, and patients are likely to sue them if the insurance companies don't do it first.

In the complementary medicine community, energy healers, acupuncturists, homeopaths, naturopaths, massage therapists don't seem to trust each other and they really don't trust the allopathic doctors.

And average people don't know if they can trust the alternative medical practitioners because the government has cracked down so hard on them, they can barely hang a shingle, let alone help anyone in any way. I was talking to a friend who is a very sucessful hypnotist yesterday and I asked her what she says when people ask for a guarantee - like what if the treatment doesn't get them to quit smoking? (or whatever it is)

She said, "Does your doctor give you a guarantee? Does he guarantee the pencillin will work?"

And I thought about it and mumbled something about test results, but of course, we all know that about scientists falsifying research. 

Not only does my doctor NOT guarantee results. If something doesn't work or has horrid side-effects, I have to contact her and pay for all the different tests and other prescriptions that she guinea-pigs me on, along with all the subsequent appointments.

One thing I have discovered in being ill so many times is that one needs an arsenal of healers. Allopathic, regular doctors and internists and surgeons who can stitch one's face back together after a taxi accident

Energy healers who can help you re-gain your spirit. Acupuncturists who can make sure the systems are running properly. Nutritionists and naturopaths who can help you eat well enough that your wounds disappear. Homeopaths who can help with the swelling and the healing. Some good friends who can help you do some research and find a lawyer and make sure you don't miss the deadline to sue the taxi company (I did, you only have 30 days, but I questioned the litigious society we've created and the poor taxi driver looked terrified and sorrowful.)

Personally, on his or her own, I don't trust anyone. (Except myself and Universal Intelligence - and even that's a team).

I think, as humans, we need to stop expecting easy answers. There is no single way to address any challenge. And no one should expect perfect solutions from any one practitioner. We need a team, we need ourselves (because NOTHING will work unless you want it and believe it and are willing to put your own work in too).

And if our practioners don't feel safe with us - trust me, they are terrified - they can't really help us.

So drink your green juice. Stop eating sugar and white flour. Step away from the lawyers and spend a bit more time opening up to your healers - on all sides of the spectrum. Cut them some slack. Take some responsibility for yourself.

Feel better.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The C-Word: Help for Rosemary's Babies

7 am this morning, to the sounds of the drilling two inches outside my window, i was speaking to a friend whose beautiful two year-old daughter has acute lymphoblastic leukemia

and when i came home from dropping rara at school, i saw the ny times op-ed by michael mudd about the food industry. and it made me think about rosemary's baby, the idea of a man trading his unborn child for his career, for getting ahead in the world. 

isn't that where we are now? leukemia and other cancers skyrocket amongst children under 10 and corporations continue to make and sell products full of carcinogenic and harmful ingredients because "the consumer wants them."

    these are beautiful british twin girls, the one on the left has leukemia and her sister on the right does not. fortunately, they can help in understanding the DNA changes that might lead to leukemia.

we have sold our next generation to pesticide manufacturers, x-ray and microwave machine builders, pharmaceutical and junk food corporations, not to mention, the cosmetic industry.

in the meantime - if your child or any child you know - gets leukemia, here's some advice:

ONE i am sure you know - keep her as quiet and rested as possible. cancer patients needs tons of sleep. the more the better. just let her sleep and sleep and find a place where she can be quiet and undisturbed.

TWO cut out sugar from her diet.  for now, i would include fruit, or at least limit her fruit intake as much as you can, to just a little bit here and there. if she does want to have fruit, give her mangosteen, pineapple (very good for cleaning the blood, you just have to cut it carefully because it could burn her tongue if the chemo is affecting her mucus membranes), green apples, carrots. no sugar, no honey, no maple syrup and especially NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETNERS! there's been a link between aspartame (nutrasweet) and leukemia, better not to use it.

no white rice, no wheat. cut back on carbs as much as you can because they turn into sugar in the body and cancer cells feed on sugar.

THREE increase broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussell sprouts, kale - all cruciferous vegetables in her diet. 

if you can juice them, even better. if the juice feels too strong, you can add more cucumber and green apple. i make a juice every morning with three leaves of kale, two thick stalks of broccoli, one cucumber, three stalks of celery, a small bunch of coriander, half-a-lemon, and half-a green apple.

make sure the fruits and vegetables you juice are organic and washed clean. if you can get her to drink three or four big (16 oz) glasses of this a day, that's great. make it as fresh as you can and if she can't drink it all at one go, let her drink small amounts throughout the day. it means she will continue to get nutrients because sometimes the chemo can make it hard to eat and can give you sores in your mouth and throat. if she has too many sores in her mouth for the lemon, just leave it out and add more cucumber and/or aloe with is good for coating the mouth and stomach.

FOUR while she is having chemo, make sure she drinks a lot of water. i drank three liters a day but i am quite a lot bigger. the idea is to get all the noxious chemicals out of her body as fast as possible.

FIVE make her laugh. laughter strengthens your immune system. funny movies, jokes, toys. the more you can keep her laughing and cheerful (and i've heard she is a little sprite so she will be easy to entertain), the better.

SIX  zhikr - for both you and your baby. tasbih (or a rosary or mala, if one is christian, hindu or buddhist) is a magic charm and for calming and energy. just get a set and keep saying, "la illaha illala" on each bead. give a set to your baby to hold or wear around her neck - and tell her they will keep her safe and strong. when the stress is getting to you - or her - find a quiet place (even if it's just in your mind) to breathe slowly and deeply and keep doing the thusbee and concentrating on LOVE because that is what God is. all-embracing love, all-forgiving love, all-healing love.

breathing deeply for both you and her is very important because getting enough oxygen in your body can kill cancer cells - and for worried mamas, it can keep you from getting sick from the stress.

SEVEN gentle massage. chemo makes your body achy. loving massage can increase her blood circulation and energy. hold her, massage her. if she loses or doesn't have much hair, one's scalp is super-sensitive, it's nice to stroke and massage her head.

EIGHT i used to take a product called polymva. it's combination of b-vitamins and palladium. it is incredible at protecting your healthy cells from the chemo. i would giver 1 tbp in a glass of water four or five times a day. it looks horrid and it tastes like marmite with no salt, but one gets used it and it will give her energy to survive the chemo. unfortunately, it's quite expensive, but it is miraculous. i used to go through 5 bottles a month. 

NINE omega-3 fish oil is very important -especially for leukemia! make sure she is taking it. maybe very small capsules - sometimes they have it flavored for young kids.

make sure you get a reputable brand because fish oil goes rancid very easily. also, try to feed her fatty fishes, like salmon and mackerel.

i use blue pastures - apparently, fermented cod liver oil is even more effective than regular and this is better than nordic fish oils.

TEN if you don't live in a sunny place, make sure she is taking vitamin D. i take it in drops but it is nice as a cream which is how vitamin d enters your body in normal times. it's soothing and energizing.

ELEVEN of course, take turmeric and ginger. they help with inflammation, pain and nausea with no side effects.

LAST OF ALL - i recommend everything that you do for your baby, you do for yourself as well. please please look after yourself. it is emotionally draining to go through this. 

be gentle with yourself and  it will be easier to be gentle with your baby.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

guns and roses

one of the singing amazons is looking at colleges. (phew! that went fast!)

why is it when the kids are little, time seems to move so slowly? with newborns, time feels frozen almost. you are keeping track of days and then weeks of life. and then they are toddlers and you count time in months. "she's 16 months' old," you say, because you're keeping track of developmental milestones and nervously awaiting the terrible twos.

and then all of sudden, they are rambunctious kids and you're organizing playdates and lessons and figuring out schools and how to entertain them while you're making dinner. (i used to feed rara and then put her in the stroller and make sasha and zarina push her up and down the hallway while i was cooking). or you're trying to figure out whether your neighbor can watch one who needs to come home while you're stuck at work (and working on remembering to pick up the supplies for a school diorama project). you count the minutes before bedtime, the hours you can sleep before you get up and start the whole delicious and exhausting and messy process all over again.

but when they hit 11 or 12, everything starts moving faster and faster. only a year til middle school, and then tutors and SATs and performances and school dances and teams and heartbreak and the next thing you know they are halfway through high school and you haven't unpacked the summer clothes from two years' ago. next, you blink, and the college applications are all in and you're in limbo, waiting to see what happens next.

amongst her choices is USC which is a good school for acting and performance. so i was talking to a fellow mum about it and she said, "it's a great school and, even though it's in a terrible neighborhood, the crime rate is going down. there were only four shootings on campus last year - but no one was killed."

i said, "FOUR shootings?! (let me add that teachers (and others) are now allowed to carry concealed weapons at schools and churches in north dakota.) who is giving students guns?"

the mum, who happened to be british and danish, shook her head.

school children and college students and movie goers and shopping mall shoppers are getting shot in peacetime u.s.

calls for gun control and new gun policies are all over twitter and facebook and but no one seems to have a clear plan or any idea what the 2nd amendment really meant.

a friend of mine, pia sen, a brilliant professor in birmingham, alabama, who raises the most beautiful flowers, is trying to fund a crucial study on gun violence, access to guns and gun policy. we have less than a month to help her. (click here to read about it).

click here to donate funds

but please do it soon. blink again, and your kids will be adults. we hope and pray.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2 amazons @ 9 North Moore St.

the amazons have started a rock band.

it was really a matter of time. when my third daughter was born, my friend hilton als gave a me a card that said, "congratulations, you have a girl group."

zarina started singing before she could really speak. i remember her, at a year-and-a-quarter, shaking her head back and forth on the changing table and making noises.

i said, "zarina, what's that?"

she looked at me and said, as most toddlers do, something unintelligible. i asked her a few more times before i understood what she was trying to say: "elmo song!"

rara started playing music on a box with rubber bands on it, we had to record a whole series of her songs. from there, she graduated to a ukelele and eventually, a guitar. despite being forced to take piano lessons in between, she returned to the guitar.

here they are - zarina and rara on vocals, rara on guitar.

the rest is, as they say, history...

note to zach vella and foundations group, real people live here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

11 N Moore St - Zach Vella and Saif Sumaida Update

i don't have money or influence, but at least i can write (or type into my laptop)! thanks to tribeca citizen and curbedny, my blogpost about having my kids' bedrooms flooded by a developer got real attention.

i discovered this when i ran into zach vella on my street last saturday.

it was one of those hideous, freezing weekend mornings (rara had had a sleepover the night before and no one got any sleep). i'd gone out to walk the dog in uggs with polar fleece over my pajamas, eyes puffy, coconut oil slathered on my face and my big furry hat to hide under. convinced myself i'd dash in and out without seeing anyone.

of course, zach was out too. i contemplated running inside and putting on mascara, especially since i heard he was a reality real estate tv star, on the million dollar listing. (on the trailer says, a broker says, "zach vella is great, great developer!")

"hi... zach!" i said.

zach glared at me, "you have some nerve! all that stuff you wrote on your blog about me and my kid - now you're talking to me?"

i felt guilty because it's not fair to blame the entire debacle on zach vella. it's just that it's his project and he lives right next door so i thought i could actually talk to him. i figured he was the boss.

me: actually, i didn't write anything terrible about you personally. i just wondered why you didn't return my phone calls or my emails. your construction crew flooded my apartment and then you guys disappeared.

zv: look, i'm not trying to pass the buck, but it's not my problem. i mean, i hired a construction company and it's really their job to deal with it.

me: but it is your project, isn't it? you're the boss.

zv: of course, i'm the boss. but it's not appropriate for me to deal with it... you're ruining my life with your blog. i mean, i have to live here. 

i guess it's like blaming the social security administration on the president. he's the boss but he's not the guy who writes the checks, i think that's what he was saying.

he was unshaven and wearing a sleek black nylon jacket with lots of zippers and kept putting his hands in and out of the pockets. (if it had been another moment, i would have asked where he bought it). i hate confrontation anyway and he looked so unhappy. there was a big black SUV parked across the street waiting for him and the woman who was in the car kept yelling for him to hurry up.

me: i have to live here too. i am a single mother, recovering from cancer, all i'm asking is for you to do the right thing... like return my calls or my emails... or the notes i've left with your doorman. i am supersensitive to mold.

zv: you know, i spoke to my lawyers...

i thought he'd spoken to his lawyers about how to resolve it, but he went on to say that he'd spoken to his lawyers about suing me for defamation of character.

he added that he didn't think it was legal for me to live there anyway.

then he tapped on the window of another enormous SUV. "excuse me, why are you parked here?" the driver assured him he was just waiting for someone in the building.

me: you can't sue me for defamation - i didn't write anything negative about you. i just said, you looked perfectly nice and then you didn't respond.

(wait - was his idea that if he could prove my living conditions were illegal, he could destroy them with impunity? i was trying desperately not to be judgemental.)

zv: well, there are a lot of people who don't like me for different reasons. i mean, i had a business partner and it didn't work out and we parted ways and he's not happy with the way it went, and then i got divorced... people use the opportunity to post comments about me.

me: that's just the nature of the internet. people use the anonymity to say things that they'd be embarrassed to say themselves*.

(the really funny thing is that now zach - or one of his friends - now posts DAILY anonymous posts on my blog about my divorce debacle or my being a muslim. i smile every time. i was deleting them but i'm getting tired of it.)

anyway, the conversation ended with zach taking my cell phone number and promising to call saif sumaida, his muslim contractor.

on wednesday, when i hadn't heard anything, i emailed zach and saif myself. i said how relieved i was to talk to zach in person and that i hoped we could resolve it.

saif sumaida emailed immediately. he said he hadn't heard a word from zach. he sounded sincere in wanting to resolve the issue. he asked me for the list of the damages.

i told him i greatly appreciated his having sent me a check for a little over $3,000 but the costs were more like $40,000 if we did a professional mold removal and then a re-build.

which we JUST did less than a year ago.

he told me he wanted to help me. he told me to be patient because the insurance company was handling it. "these things take time..."

when i explained that, during that time (three months and counting), three girls had to live there,
he kindly offered to give me a check for a few of the damages. he said the best he could do was $5,000 out of his own pocket, if i would just sign a small release that held him and his company blameless for all past and future damage.

saif said he'd come over and inspect the place himself. 

the release was a little odd because he sent it along with a copy of my itemized list of damages, slightly improved on a little excell spreadsheet.

honestly, i'd  be thrilled to meet him but i asked what he wanted to see in the apartment since i was running around last week.

i said, i can't sign that release. i guess i'll just have to sue you for the costs. my apartment is getting moldy.

(i guess i'll keep calling the dept of buildings. every week, the DoB sends a person out who looks around, tells me that the contractors have filed a claim with their insurance so there's nothing more to be done and writes ME a violation for my apartment being moldy.)

saif sumaida emailed back: Good Luck.

on friday, more water poured in to the basement of our building... the power of my pen seems to have been short lived.

wonder what happened next? not at all what i expected, the crying game

Friday, February 15, 2013

The C-Word: friends, family and other disasters

one of my most vivid cancer memories is checking my cellphone midway through a chemotherapy session and seeing a text from my friend and upstairs neighbor: "your kids seem to be having a party."

ah. when faced with a parent-free home on the weekend, what would most teenagers do?

when i was first diagnosed with cancer, my teenagers were on the cusp of adolescent fever. sasha was 16, but gentle, sweet and cautious. zarina was just 13 and wearing the array of party dresses she'd accumulated for her year of bar and bat mitzvahs. jahanara was 9 and babied by her older sisters. (fortunately, she was at her father's house that night).

the party went on to be a complete bust. they smuggled in a 6-pack of mike's hard lemonade (a small amount of vodka watered down with sugary lemonade). one young friend knocked back a fifth of vodka and collapsed on the floor.

which had the slightly positive result of adults barging in to get him to a doctor and breaking it all up.

that was just the beginning. all the teenagers spun out of control for a little while. they were so angry and desperately attached to me at the same time.

the point of this story is that when you get cancer, the reactions of the people around you are completely unpredictable.

just when you most need your kids to be dependable, they act out. when you need your parents or aunts and uncles to love you unconditionally, they point out the reasons (they believe) you got cancer in the first place. some friends rise beautifully to the occasion, some acquaintances turn into confidants, some vanish.

now i address two audiences...

one: you are a person currently has cancer or some other debilitating illness or

two: you are a friend or family member of a person (i hope just one at a time) struggling with cancer or other debilitating illness or circumstance.

ONE, you're in it. you're the cancer sufferer.

yes, it's intense, probably the most overwhelming experience in your life. it's hard not to be cross with your friends when they get to get up and walk out of the hospital room back to real life.

they get to wash their hands, leave and get a coffee at starbucks or get in the car and drive home. their bodies probably don't ache and they can move their arms and legs comfortably and eat everything they want without feeling sick.

what i was most envious of my friends when i was sick was their control over their lives. all those choices and options. when you are really sick, you end up having to hand over control to everyone else. it's like being a baby. most of the time, you are grateful for the help. but sometimes, you just want to get up and make your own dinner just the way you like it. sometimes, you are sick of the way your caretaker makes a stir fry every single night because she can't think of what else to do with all the vegetables you need to eat.
here's what you need to do:

remember that people WANT to help you. be gentle with them.

1. when they ask you if they can help, give them specific tasks.

an errand - "would you mind stopping at wholefoods and getting me more fresh turmeric root or some dark chocolate?"

a meal - ask them to cook or bring you something you are dying to eat. in order to avoid disappointment, be clear. say, "i can't eat dairy or i hate okra or thyme is my least favorite herb" (those are all my issues). or be even more specific, point them in the direction of a recipe or restaurant you like.

babysitting - take your kids shoeshopping or out to lunch or the movies. sometimes, when their parent is sick, the home can feel a little oppressive to them. they need light and air. it's good to get them out and laughing. just tell your friend not to get all heavy with them.

organizing - personally, i LOVE people to come and open my mail and throw away all the junk and file all the bills. or put all the books in the bookshelf properly. or open the cupboards in the kitchen and put the plates and bowls in order. i love it even more if they don't make comments about my sloppiness or financial insolvency at the same time.

phone calls - if a friend can't come visit or is too faraway, you could ask them to make calls for you. maybe ask them to return a bunch of phone messages, or help you research something, or call your dry cleaner or the electric company or anywhere you can't (or you're too tired to) email.

any of these are so much more useful and less expensive than a half-wilted bunch of flowers from the supermarket.

2. don't get irritated when they don't do things the way you want.

everyone is frightened and trying to do the best they can. actually, this is good advice any time anyone who loves you does something for you. if you are a control freak like me or you are feeling anxious while you are sick, this is very hard to do.

sometimes your exhusband is going to buy them shoes that are highly impractical, your boyfriend is going to forget the organic coconut water, your mum is going to cook the broccoli til its soggy, your friend is going to bring you ginger rather than turmeric root and you just have to say, "thank you."

because they all deserve acknowledgement and love for their efforts. and just because they do things differently, doesn't mean that they do things wrong.

in other words, maybe you really NEEDED ginger (very good for nausea) and you didn't realize it.

breathe. be grateful.

3. be loving with the friends and family members who disappear. or behave badly.

one of the amazons said, "i hope you get cancer all over your body and die." some friends dropped off the face of the earth.

it is so scary. so incredibly scary to watch someone you really care about getting very weak or thin or losing their hair. if the sick person is one's parent, imagine how scary it is to lose the person who is meant to look after you, especially when you are not ready for it.

remember that everyone is processing information in their own way. that we are all in different stages of evolution. and that you never know what is happening in your friend's personal life, or what happened in his or her personal history that is activated by your illness.

your illness is a difficult circumstance. the person's reaction now doesn't negate any of your history. and it probably means that he or she still loves you, she just has her own stuff to cope with.

if your friend or family member uses the opportunity of your cancer to "punish" you for some perceived mistakes in your life, remember that he/she is doing that because he's invested in you in some way.

breathe. it's all about love. and fear.

you need to use the former to get over the latter.

that can mean faith - choose whichever one speaks to you - use Love or God or Universal Intelligence to focus on the bigger picture, to put it all into perspective. in my case, it meant Sufi chanting, repeating the name of God endlessly on a string of beads.

try and stay connected to Source. that energy coursing through you will help you be transcendant. don't get pulled down into anyone else's struggle.

day-to-day anxiety and tension is part of the reason you got sick to begin with. so if they start to get to you, fly away. even if it's just in spirit.

keep breathing.

TWO, you are a friend or family member.

1. please come and visit.

especially in the hospital during chemotherapy. chemotherapy, for most people, means sitting for hours or days in a chair or a bed with an i.v. attached to your arm. sometimes it burns terribly as it goes in. sometimes it makes you dizzy or nauseated. if you are near enough to spare an hour or two, please come and tell the person jokes while they are confined. it can get lonely and tedious.

sometimes, the person getting chemo can't see properly, so don't bring anything too complicated, but a silly video on an ipad or a laptop is great. or come and sit beside the person and distract them with funny stories or gossip. if you're really stuck, get some of those stupid celebrity magazines they have in the nail salon. you can laugh about kim kardashian's outfit or speculate on whether jessica chastain is jealous of jennifer lawrence. anything superficial and idiotic is a relief.

in the hospital, one lies there waiting for their insipid meals, so it's wonderful to have someone come to hang out with you. maybe bring something fun from outside, like slipper socks to wear from the bed to the bathroom. or a really nice organic hand lotion or a box of organic blueberries.

2. please be a little flexible.

when one gets home from chemo, one feels horrid. it's exhausting. one just wants to get into one's own bed and lie quietly. no conversation. i liked company on my up days, but i also had lots to do because i only had three days a week when i could walk around outside and not feel awful or drained.

so what i mean is - try to find out which days are better for visiting. maybe email or text your friend or his/her caretaker to get a sense of the rhythm of things.

if you come over and your friend isn't there, drop off your gift or card and don't get your feelings hurt. or if you come over and your friend just doesn't feel like seeing someone, just come another time.

when you come to someone's home, don't stay for too long. your friend gets tired easily. leave before you notice her/him fading.

3. don't telephone.

personally, i found it really difficult to talk on the phone. it made me dizzy and nauseated. i am not sure if all people undergoing chemo have that reaction, but if the electromagnetic rays from cellphones are still being questioned, why add one more thing?

on other hand, if the person has a normal landline, maybe he/she likes talking on the phone. i didn't mind it in hospital at all.

4. come over and help.

ask if you can take the kids out for the afternoon. do a load of laundry. wash the dishes in the sink.

ask, but don't ask too much. it's embarrassing to ask for help, even if you are weak and sick. just look around and see what needs to be done. maybe ask if you could sort out the books in the bookshelf (see above) or fold and organize all the sheets and towels in the linen closet.

you could check if the apartment has all the basics, like cooking foil and plastic wrap (necessary evils), napkins, toilet paper and paper towels, eggs, milk - whatever the regular stuff is - and replenish and put away the stuff that's missing.

maybe you can help with some bookkeeping or cook dinner (just don't leave a gourmet-sized stack of pots and pans and double-boilers).

5.  listen

whatever you do, remember that the person who is sick has lost some control over his/her life. try and help your friend or family member get some back. he/she might be irritable or very picky about how he/she wants things. it's not just general unreasonableness, it's frustration.

so ask what they want and follow the instructions no matter how ridiculous.

let your friend vent. yes, of course, there are people in the world who have it worse. and you might have great ideas for your friend. but unless, he/she expresses an interest in those ideas, don't push it.

6. make them smile

if your friend is now bald and weighs 80 pounds, common wisdom says, don't comment on their appearance. personally, i preferred people being honest. the jokes about being hairless or looking like a space monkey or whatever cheered me up.

i felt like, at least they said what they were REALLY thinking. when someone said, "oh my gosh, you look great!" i never trusted them again. unless, the friend qualified it by telling me how much better i looked since i started juicing or acupuncture or whatever.

laughter is great for your immune system. just like in the hospital, tell your friend some funny stories. bring really silly dvds - though be careful you don't offend their sensibilities. since my brain was working at half-speed, i needed to watch idiotic stuff. i used to love witty humor. after chemo, i liked slapstick.

7. whatever you do, stay in touch.

if all you can do is call, call. if you stop by to visit and he/she's out for a walk, just leave a note. it makes a difference. having people around you helps you heal faster and better.

don't let your friend feel like she's in it alone.

8. it's not over til it's really over.

it can take a long time to recover from cancer. you have to recover physically, emotionally, socially, financially.

be gentle.

your friend can probably use a bit of extra support for some time. if you missed the chemo/radiation treatment part, you still have a couple of years to make up for it.