[Editor’s note: In this blog, Denise Rodgers shares the lifestyle approaches that have helped her feel her best. Patient Power recommends that readers please consult first with their doctor before incorporating any lifestyle changes.]

My name is Denise Rodgers, and I was diagnosed with CLL in July 2001. I had my personal disaster just a little more than two months prior to the infamous September 11. And for a while I took my personal news just as hard. I felt doomed, certain I was not to live a normal life span at best; worried that my end was near and that I wasn’t likely to ever see my children into adulthood. I cried for them, for my husband and for myself. I was consumed by fear, would often be up for hours during the night, instead of sleeping. All my creative imagination was focused on negative outcomes. It was a horrible time in my life.

I keep a spreadsheet on all my blood tests. Ironically, when I look back on my numbers at that time, I see that I was basically fine. I had a minimally elevated white count with other fairly unremarkable markers. But the “watch and wait” was sheer torture. It seemed to be expected that my numbers would eventually tank, and that I was destined for chemo and worse.

Keep in mind that back in the early 2000s, the outlook was not very good for what I call conventional treatment. The pharmaceutical companies set the bar for success quite low. What they would tout, at the time, as a great breakthrough was absolutely depressing. “Fifty Percent Survival Improvement” could mean that the mean survival time after chemo increased life expectancy from eight months to 12. Months.

I was 46. I didn’t want to hear about extra months, thank you very much. The hematologist/oncologist had given me a brochure at the time of diagnosis. At the end of the "uplifting" brochure was advice for end-of-life decisions. At first, this piece of paper sat on my nightstand mocking me, terrifying me. It wasn’t until years later that I put it where it belonged in the recycling bin.

It wasn’t until 2004, after years of worry, that I decided to actually do something about my CLL diagnosis. I went to a homeopathic nutritionist who did transdermal testing, which I frankly thought was a crock. She also told me to cut out all sugar and bread. I was extremely resistant and followed orders for only about a week. Little did I know that was eventually to be part of my new lifestyle.

In 2005, my platelets dipped close to 100 a second time, and my husband and I decided to get serious. After much research on the Internet, we decided to become macrobiotic. I bought and studied several books, and we packed our bags and went for a week-long excursion to the Kushi Institute in Massachusetts. It was a fateful trip. Macrobiotics have not turned out to be the answer or the cure of my CLL diagnosis. But they were a cure for my fear. After a month on the diet, my white blood count returned to where it had been at diagnosis. My other markers, while off, remained stable. At last, I felt there was something I could do to wrest some control of my health. I stayed faithfully on that diet for over two years. To this day, I still stick to many of the tenets of the macrobiotic diet and lifestyle. These are: clean air, clean water, clean food, good rest, sunshine, gentle exercise and the calm that comes from reducing and controlling stress.

I’d like to give a brief explanation of what each of the “clean” items mean. For more information, I invite people to my website: www.cllalternatives.com. Here are the changes that I have incorporated into my daily life that have been a part of not only feeling healthier, but also improving all of my CLL markers as measured by my CBC:

Clean air.

I avoid pesticides and herbicides, and I don’t use bathroom sprays or any conventional cleaners. For example, for years now I’ve been cleaning my house with spray bottles of peroxide or diluted white vinegar, and using baking soda as a scrubbing agent. Clean house. No toxic smell! And no toxic spray on your lawn. Glyphosate has been declared a carcinogen so please avoid it!

Clean water.

I have a good quality water filter installed in my kitchen sink and in my shower. If that’s not an option, consider buying filtered or spring water for cooking and drinking. Over time, the filters are a less expensive option.

Clean food.

I buy organic vegetables whenever possible. I eat only free-range, pastured chicken and eggs, wild-caught fish and raw dairy. I have home-made fermented vegetables in the fridge. To learn how to ferment your veggies, there are local chapters of the Weston Price Foundation in most major cities that give classes somewhere near you. I never buy or eat processed food. When eating out, I order salads along with vinegar and oil. I drink tea, not soda pop or sugar-laden drinks. Yes, I know this is a big change. But the rule is not to eat anything that has ingredients you cannot pronounce or understand. Chances are they contain chemicals that are not good for you. Simply put, eat food as close to the way Mother Nature made it as possible

Good rest.

Go to bed early and get enough sleep. You say you don’t have enough time? Ha! You will add years to your life if you get enough rest. When I started getting enough rest on a regular basis, all my CLL symptoms disappeared. No more swollen, tender salivary glands. No more painful nodes on my neck. I feel fine like a normal, healthy person. Can’t recommend good rest enough! Try it. It’s easy and free and wonderful!

Sunshine.

If you do a search on the safety of being in the sun without sunscreen, I’m sure you’ll find that it is a good idea to soak up the rays for at least 15 minutes a day without benefit of sunscreen. That’s what doctors used to recommend in the old days…convalescence with plenty of fresh air and sunshine. Also, take a look at what’s in the sunscreen. That stuff is toxic! Get your sunshine and then cover up or sit in the shade. The fresh air will do you good.

Gentle exercise.

You don’t have to run a marathon, although if that’s what you’ve always done, keep it up! But if you’re a less athletic person, like me, it’s a good idea to get outside and walk regularly and do stretches and lift weights. A rebounder (personal-sized indoor trampoline) is also good for working your lymph system, if you are well enough. My personal regimen is 15 minutes a day of total exercise, five to seven days/week, even more if you include my daily dog walks. I’m 60 now, and these exercises make me feel younger than I did at age 46, when first diagnosed.

Reduce stress.

This goes hand in hand with getting enough sleep at night. Beyond sleep, take a step back from your life and set things up in a way that reduces stress and pleases you. Distance yourself from difficult people, if possible. Change your work schedule, if needed and if possible. Make time to do those things that please you! You deserve it! Some people like to meditate. I prefer reading and writing and do both as many days as I can. Find your bliss.

It took years to figure out how to achieve the clean life I needed to be well. The truth is, after 14 years, I’m still working on it; I don’t have all the answers. And sadly, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. This is true for conventional medical treatment as well as for alternative choices.

Please note: this in no way means that I am absolutely against conventional treatment. Through my web site, cllalternatives.com, I’ve met many wonderful people, two of whom became too ill, despite all their alternative efforts. I’m happy to report that after their rounds of chemo they returned to the clean lifestyle and are both doing quite well. I believe their chances to stay well are enhanced by their truly healthy lifestyle. The goal is to live, and to live well, after all. We shouldn’t discount any path to wellness.

While I take many supplements in my quest for wellness, one stands out in importance, and that is vitamin D3. Unless you live near the Equator, chances are you are vitamin D deficient, and this deficiency affects your immune system. Get the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test, and once you have your results, take your pills. I personally try to keep my vitamin D level over 70. Check with your doctor and look online to see what level is right for anyone fighting cancer or leukemia.

It’s been over 14 years for me at this CLL diagnosis, and I’ve managed to stay well without conventional treatment. In the last two years, my white count has dropped from the all-time high of 47, back down into the teens. My symptoms have mostly disappeared, occurring only during high stress. I’ve learned from another CLL survivor not to say, “I have CLL,” but that I have “a diagnosis.” This separates you from your CLL. Try it. It’s liberating. It’s one more thing that takes away the fear. Fear is your biggest enemy because it’s paralyzing. Start taking charge of your health and your life and never stop learning. Just as the pharmaceutical companies are working to create cures for this diagnosis, there is always new information out there in the alternative world as well—new possibilities, new ways to stay well and live with the diagnosis. Because if we live till age 90, and we’ve been functioning and well till that time, does it matter if our blood work shows CLL? Not to me! I wish you well on your journey. Have you made changes to your lifestyle that have had a positive effect on life with CLL? Tell me in the comments.

The antidote for fear is action,

Denise Rodgers

 

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