I'm writing from the hospital where my mother has been in intensive care for the past two-plus weeks. It's a cruel irony that after finally completing a 6-month course of chemotherapy for lymphoma, she is now fighting another issue: widespread lung inflammation due to either complications from the chemo or "radiation relapse" pneumonitis or some pneumonia-type infection - the doctors aren't sure.
As it becomes harder for her to breathe on her own, Mom's treatment has required the addition of oxygen, given via either breathing tube or face mask or nasal canula, with or without assisted pressure.
The paradox here is that oxygen, while necessary for life, is in itself a toxin that can damage the lungs. This is one reason why lung tissues are naturally loaded with antioxidants, particularly glutathione, a sulfur-containing compound made within the body to help protect cells and tissues from oxidative damage. Glutathione levels are low in people with inflamed lungs, beause the body uses up its stores trying to reverse the free radical damage ongoing from whatever is causing the inflammation.
Because oxygen causes inflammation and free radical damage to lung tissue, I thought it would make sense to give Mom antioxidants as part of her treatment. In other words, if you are knowingly creating a situation where oxidation is going to take place, boosting levels of ANTI-oxidants could counteract or prevent the damage.
I found a good deal of research to support this theory and shared it with my mother's doctors. Respectfully, they considered it before deciding for various reasons not to add any glutathione, acetylcysteine (a glutathione precursor), vitamin E or any other antioxidant to her protocol. I am sorry to report that her condition is not improving. I don't know if the antioxidants would have helped. At least I tried - with my mother's blessing, I might add. Sometimes when things get critical, people open to possibility. She was OK with me proposing this alternative idea to her medical caregivers.
Meanwhile, I've been trying to keep my own antioxidant intake high, considering I've been basically living at the hospital (a great place to get sick) since mid-May and am under increased emotional stress during this difficult time. To this end, I thought of bringing a ton of antioxidant supplements down here with me. But then I realized, instead of carrying around multiple bottles of this and that, why not focus on food?
Enter the local fruit stand, around the corner on 68th Street and 1st Avenue. Fresh berries galore are there for the taking; they make a wonderful breakfast with bananas and are one of the highest potency antioxidant foods to be found. I've partaken of golden raspberries, blueberries and strawberries so far.
I'm also trying to get a daily fresh veggie juice - available from the local juice bar or from the hospital cafeteria here at Memorial Sloan Kettering where they serve a tasty pineapple-cucumber-ginger elixir. (Very impressed to find fresh green juice here - overall, their caf is top notch.)
Delicious and affordable Indian food from Tawa, on 68th between 1st and York, provides great taste and protective curry spices. For $4.95 I get two curries of my choice along with rice (unfortunately white rice, something I don't generally eat but am allowing myself to enjoy as comfort food). Honestly, it's the best Indian food I've had since I lived in India back in 1987 - especially the palak paneer (spinach and fresh cultured, enzyme-containing cheese).
Green tea, dark chocolate and raw Sacred Chocolate are also helping me meet my antioxidant needs. I ran out of high ORAC goji berries a while ago...tossed with cashews, bee pollen and raw cacao they made a fabulous free-radical-busting trail mix.
I did bring one antioxidant supplement with me: Supertonic, a wonderful herbal product from Pioneer Nutritional Formulas that's packed with high potency adaptogenic Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs including turmeric, eleuthero, ashwagandha and shizandra.
So far, I am managing to stay healthy during this transition time. I love my mother so much. Bless her spirit and bless all of us, shining in brilliance, careening through the unpredictability, the joy, the pain and the beauty of a precious life on earth.