I was visiting a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia and was chatting to him about why some people get cancer and some don’t. I expounded my theory that I am convinced that both Ross and I both became ill after the great grief we experienced when we lost our darling Louise. My friend was also trying to make sense of his illness, coming hot on the heels of his wife’s breast cancer (as couples we are members of our special cancer couples club, but we won’t invite you to join it, it’s terribly exclusive) and was able to contextualise their respective illnesses within a bereavement framework. It was he who pointed me in the direction of Prof Janet Lord’s research on how age alters our immune response to bereavement.
At the University of Birmingham they have been carrying out research on why, for instance, older couples literally die of broken hearts, in quick succession. And why as we get older we suffer a diminishing loss of immunity, especially when bereaved.
One of her members of department, Dr Phillips, commented, ‘The effects of loss are poorly understood on the whole — we know that it affects the immune system amongst other things — but we don’t fully understand the role played by our stress hormones. We hope that this is a step towards that understanding, and being able to provide the best possible support.’
And another friend, whose daughter also died, has been poorly for the past eight months. Suddenly she has been diagnosed with heightened – off-the-scale, in fact – cortisol levels. According to Prof Lord, ‘Cortisol is known to suppress elements of the immune system during times of high stress, so having an unbalanced ratio of cortisol and DHEAS [dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate] is going to affect how able we are to ward off illness and infection when grieving. But, of course, it is also incredibly useful — particularly in activating some anti-stress and anti-inflammation pathways — so it’s not as simple as trying to suppress the cortisol in vulnerable people.’
So while the science is still struggling to pin-point exactly what can contribute to the development of cancer, I feel that it can do no harm to try and boost one’s immunity naturally. Research also shows the positive effects of green tea, curcumins like turmeric (I have fresh turmeric every day in my juices, and use it frequently in cooking), pomegranate, broccoli and other cruciform vegetables. If it’s difficult to get a balance of all these goodies, Ross’s urologist here actually recommended a ‘scientifically proven whole-food supplement tested in a UK government backed robust scientific trial formulated by scientists, nutritionists and oncologists’. It’s called Pomi-T and might just help boost immunity if you can’t be fagged or feel too ill to do the healthy eating thing.
But I swear by my lingzhi mushroom spores or ganoderma lucidium to give it its Latin name to boost my immunity, prescribed by my Traditional Chinese Medicine Professor and acupuncturist, Dr TT Ang. Here is a link to a site which explains some of the research to support this view.http://www.pingofhealth.com/2011/09/role-of-lingzhi-in-cancer-treatment.html
To try and depress raised cortisol levels, they say music, massage, laughing and dancing all help. Well, that’s good news!