Monday, September 20, 2010

Eat your watercress...

Watercress may ‘turn off’ breast cancer signal

14 September 2010

New scientific research from the University of Southampton has revealed that a plant compound in watercress may have the ability to suppress breast cancer cell development by 'turning off' a signal in the body and thereby starving the growing tumour of essential blood and oxygen.

The research, unveiled at a press conference today (14 September 2010), shows that the watercress compound is able to interfere with the function of a protein which plays a critical role in cancer development.

As tumours develop they rapidly outgrow their existing blood supply so they send out signals which make surrounding normal tissues grow new blood vessels into the tumour which feed them oxygen and nutrients.

The research, led by Professor Graham Packham of the University of Southampton, shows that the plant compound (called phenylethyl isothiocyanate) found in watercress can block this process, by interfering with and ‘turning off’ in the function of a protein called Hypoxia Inducible Factor (HIF).

Professor Packham, a molecular oncologist at the University of Southampton, comments: “The research takes an important step towards understanding the potential health benefits of this crop since it shows that eating watercress may interfere with a pathway that has already been tightly linked to cancer development.

“Knowing the risk factors for cancer is a key goal and studies on diet are an important part of this. However, relatively little work is being performed in the UK on the links between the foods we eat and cancer development."

Working with Barbara Parry, Senior Research Dietician at the Winchester and Andover Breast Unit, Professor Packham performed a pilot study in which a small group of breast cancer survivors, underwent a period of fasting before eating 80g of watercress (a cereal bowl full) and then providing a series of blood samples over the next 24 hours.

The research team was able to detect significant levels of the plant compound PEITC in the blood of the participants following the watercress meal, and most importantly, could show that the function of the protein HIF was also measurably affected in the blood cells of the women.

The two studies, which have been published in the British Journal of Nutrition and Biochemical Pharmacology, provide new insight into the potential anti-cancer effects of watercress, although more work still needs to be done to determine the direct impact watercress has on decreasing cancer risk.

Watercress Alliance member Dr Steve Rothwell says: “We are very excited by the outcome of Professor Packham’s work, which builds on the body of research which supports the idea that watercress may have an important role to play in limiting cancer development.”

A summary of the research has been accepted for inclusion in the Breast Cancer Research Conference which is taking place in Nottingham from 15 to 17 September.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the western world and currently affects approximately 1 in 9 women during their lifetime.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Look at your man...

Now look at look at your back at me...this is not your man, but Isaiah Mustafa, the Old Spice Guy, and I are co-hosting the gala fundraiser for Look Good Feel Better in NYC tonight. Should be a hoot (no horse, I'm told.) And we'll be on Fox and Friends on Friday to talk about this amazing program that helps women going through chemo deal with the side effects with workshops that help them know how to put on make-up and rock a wig during treatment. Great program. To find out more if you or a friend has just been diagnosed go to:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Luke's First Week of School

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Triple Negative trials beginning in Ohio

These are two areas that show a lot of promise, and if you have just been diagnosed with Triple Negative, look into them right away. My dear friend from Freshman year at Harvard, Andy Thomas, is now the medical director at Ohio State's University Hospital. Dr. Charlie Shapiro is their top breast expert and they are doing some cutting edge research into Triple Negative. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Just found this old interview done after Luke was born on juggling work and motherhood...

little did I know that a giant tumor was growing in my chest as I sat and gave this interview while on maternity leave...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Back Home to the Real War Zone...

Home sweet home. I arrived home at about 8 am Saturday morning. And as I walked through the front door the kids were so excited that they were all talking at once. Izzy levitated off the carpet - straight up and down like a circus animal. Stupid pet tricks...David Letterman hasn't seen anything yet. The kids showed me a few new tricks, as well. Such as when Annalise holds Luke straight up above her head on a pile of pillows in our living room, Amelia bows before them and they both sing, "The Circle of Life" as Luke plays along not minding that he is always Simba.

I showed Amelia my photographs from Kabul on my computer. As we flipped through them she shook her head and said, "Mom, you weren't paying attention were you?" How did she know? She was looking at a photo of me at a long table with some interminable presentation being made in the dusty, dry heat at the Afghan training base, as a young Special Forces officer used Power Point to explain to General Petraeus all that the unit had learned from its mentors. I had had 1 and a half hours of sleep and a little too much green tea on an empty stomach. The room was swirling, I couldn't eat or drink anything in front of our Afghan hosts because it was Ramadan and I was pinching myself to stay awake. Amelia was spot on. I was not paying attention. She asked me in earnest, "But what if they called on you?" This was a question near and dear to her heart because in the week that I had been gone, she had skipped second grade and gone straight to third. I had angsted over this decision momentarily in the early summer after her teacher, Ms. Maxwell, had recommended it. And as luck would have it, my first assignment would be in Afghanistan and I would miss the first week of school altogether. What kind of mother am I? Somehow everyone did very well. I really am peripheral to this operation.

Amelia went on to question why I was wearing a head covering on Chicken Street. I explained that some Muslims believe that women need to cover their hair so as not to arouse the interest of men. I said some other religions believe this as well but in Kabul I was asked to cover my hair. She looked at me for a moment, puzzled. "Are they mentally ill?" She couldn't believe anyone ACTUALLY believed that by covering a woman's hair, men would not be attracted to her. I had no answer.

Meanwhile, I explained to the girls how I did not run with General Petraeus (they knew I had taken him some pink trimmed running shoes) but that he had challenged me to some sit-ups. I didn't run (okay call me a coward) because I began hearing stories about 7 minute miles and how David Gregory was sucking wind after a few miles, and how Petraeus' staff were upset that NBC didn't use that footage to show how the General crushed the journalist. I could not give the General such satisfaction. This would be no friendly post-chemo jog, as I had envisioned. Petraeus does not let anyone win. But I felt pretty confident in my abs, thanks to Joshua. So I said I would be happy to challenge him to some sit-ups. That's when I realized just how competitive he really is (and I am no slouch.) I asked him how many he could do. "One more than you." Then he added that a Navy Seal had once done 186, but Petraeus had done one more. I still felt I could take him. So after the interview he dropped to the floor and showed me some ridiculous sit-up that Amelia tells me is known as a lemon squeezer in gymnastics. Whatever. I started to do them and he kept saying you are not doing them right. I realized I had met my match. The next day on the Black Hawk as we flew over Kabul, as the blades made conversation nearly impossible, he would tease and put his hands behind his head like he was preparing to do a sit-up, and smile. But when I told the girls my story with a laugh and told Joshua that Petraeus says I don't do sit-ups the right way that's when my girls got their Irish up. ("We don't play for a tie, do we Annalise...") So now we are practicing our sit-ups waiting for a rematch.

In the meantime, they played on my guilt at having missed the first week of school and we went out for a mother-daughter mani-pedi at Toe-Tally. And I went for a haircut with Luke. This first week back has been a series of trips to the pediatrician, a morning at Fox learning how to file my expense report online. Back and forth to Rockville for Amelia's 3 hour gymnastics practices. Back home at 9 pm just in time for her to have a bowl of cereal and collapse into bed. Homework done in the car. Did I mention I run a taxi service? I came home from Kabul exhausted, but exhilarated. At the end of this week, I was simply exhausted, beaten down by the daily struggle to keep 3 kids and a family running on time. It made me long for a simpler war zone. One where every day you wake up and you know what you need to do and you do it and you fall into bed knowing that you are living that much closer to life and death, which always makes living all the sweeter.

Tonight after the girls returned from making Greg a birthday cake at next door neighbor Chris Downey's house, we cleaned up the downstairs of our house because "Home and Design" and People Magazine are coming to do interviews and a photo shoot with the family at dawn. A few last minute interviews before I get back to work and timed to coincide with October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month.) It's a bit overwhelming. We spent all day making everything look presentable. We even washed Luke's paw prints off the plexiglass that we had to line our stairwells with. Just when I thought everyone was asleep and I took one last spin through the living room, pleased at how we had erased any signs that 3 small children lived anywhere near the first floor. We had taken off the child locks, returned the books to the lower two bookshelves within Luke's reach. Pulled out the old Russian icons that had been carefully removed from the living room. Put the diaper changing table and all of Luke's toys in the basement. Lay out the new rug I bought on Chicken Street. Just as I was about the turn out the lights and head upstairs, I hear a cough, and then a gag. Luke has thrown up. Projectile vomited to be exact. I grab him from his crib and the smell of sour milk fills the upstairs hallway. Poor little guy. I shake my head as the last bits of spoiled milk spray onto the plexiglass. I get him cleaned up and back to sleep and wade into what looks like a crime scene. Good thing these aren't 'scratch and sniff' photos tomorrow. I shake my head and part of me wishes that I were back in Kabul, a real war zone. I smile at the absurdity and think, "Calgon, take me away."

Do Buy!

These are a few snaps of us en route home. Layover in Dubai. Don't ask about the excess luggage charges. We had 14 pieces of checked baggage. And before we left Afghanistan General Caldwell's people gave me an amazing pair of Afghan made Army issue boots - a new employment scheme for Kabul. One of the things General Petraeus pointed out as we flew over Kabul were all of the new construction sites. The U.S. military is training the Afghan Army, as we reported. They are supposed to increase by 100,000 troops in the next few years. That means they are going to need shoes (and uniforms). So instead of buying from China and having them fall apart on their first mission, the US commanders invited a team from Clemson, South Carolina to design a shoe and come up with a factory. They did and now the first boots are rolling off the line. (Greg got a pair for his birthday today - just in case he enlists - which he might after the day we had en famille!) They aren't exactly Louboutins. I brought the boots home along with a dagger used by Afghan commandos given to me by General Caldwell, who has the uphill and essential task of training the Afghan forces (his quote about how most are so illiterate that they have to be taught not just to drive but how to open a car door. Wow.) They call the dagger a "pig sticker" for those who boar hunt. Greg isn't too pleased to have me sleeping with it under my pillow.