An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne SomersOctober 2004
|LE Magazine October 2004|
|An Exclusive Interview with Suzanne Somers|
WF: You’re getting your blood tested for the presence of cancer markers periodically but not too often, because the blood levels do fluctuate.
SS: They do fluctuate and you could go crazy, but I get tested once a year. The good thing about MRIs is that they can find everything, including things that may have been dormant. You always have to weigh that when your film comes back. I like to do an MRI every year so I can say, “Well, that was there last year, let’s look at this year. If it’s still the same size, it’s probably benign; if it’s grown a little, let’s check into it.”
At least you can be on top of these things now. Modern medicine is fantastic because you can see inside your body, head things off at the pass, keep yourself hormonally balanced, and fine-tune and tweak your health the way athletes have done for years. For instance, I know that the first symptom that my hormones are getting out of whack is that I’ll be talking to you and for no reason, I’ll be scratching my lower ankle. I’m finely tuned to being symptomatic, so I then call my doctor and tell her my ankle itches. She snaps right to and asks, “Okay, what are your stresses this month? Are you having a normal or abnormal month, stress-wise?” Stress blunts hormone production. Every time we face a death in the family, a business crisis, or a teenager going crazy, we’re blunting our hormone production. That’s when you should pay attention to your symptoms and get a blood test, if necessary.
WF: Do you mind revealing to our readers what doses of estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone you’re now taking?
SS: At this time in my life, I require 3 mg of estradiol a day, spaced throughout the day in three doses. I take 1 mg in the morning, 1 mg around midday, and 1 mg at night. On days one through fourteen, I take 90 mg of progesterone twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Now that I’m in such balance, I’m not taking any testosterone replacement. I have taken it at different times. When I get very stressed, I’ll call my doctor and say, “My libido is way down.” She’ll take a blood test and say, “Well, of course, your testosterone’s down.” I take DHEA every day, 5 mg in the morning and 5 mg at night.
WF: DHEA often keeps a woman’s testosterone levels up. In women, DHEA cascades down into testosterone very frequently. You’re using oral capsules of estradiol and progesterone? You chose not to use the creams?
SS: The capsules make it easy for me to remember. I know I’m getting exactly how much I want. But I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to take it. I think creams are as good as capsules, capsules are as good as drops, and it’s just what works best for you. What I don’t think is a good idea is for men to get testosterone injected into their buttocks. The reason why is that they get a huge surge upon insertion and then, for lack of a better term, it kind of peters out over the rest of the month. From what I understand, when you’re young, your body is producing an even, steady stream of hormones throughout the day and night. That’s what we’re trying to mimic. An injection is not the way the body would normally produce hormones, so I don’t favor injections.
WF: I agree. We always recommend a topical testosterone cream. You’re easily able to adjust it, and if you overshoot it, just use less.
WF: To reduce recurrence of breast cancer, are you taking a bisphosphonate drug like Zometa® to maintain bone integrity and guard against bony metastasis, and also to prevent the release of growth factors from bone that can stimulate cancer cell proliferation?
WF: The six or seven doctors you refer to in your book—are they now overwhelmed with new patients?
SS: Yes. It’s going to take patience to become one of their patients, but they will see you. One has closed her practice. She told me, “I cannot take another patient, I’m working 18 hours a day.” As hormone replacement becomes the way medicine is practiced, more doctors are going to go into it. If you can’t find the right doctor, pages 78-80 in the book provide the blueprint for how you can get your doctor to do this for you.
What I now look for in my internist is a Western, Eastern, and holistically trained doctor who first tries to heal with supplements and herbs, and uses Western medicine and antibiotics as a last resort. Iscador® is anthroposophical med-icine from plant extracts, which means it has to be prescribed by a doctor but is not approved by the FDA. You can now legally obtain Iscador® in the US from your doctor. At first, I had to get it illegally from Switzerland. Like so many of your cancer patients, I had to go outside the country to do what I had to do to save my life.
WF: This is a day-in, day-out battle that we wage on behalf of our members. We find drugs for them in other countries, but often the drugs are seized. We’ve actually sued the FDA on behalf of our members to help them obtain a lifesaving medication.
SS: What a great service you’re providing.
WF: It’s life or death, and our objective is to keep our members alive. When they have a problem, we’re there to help. What supplements are you currently taking to reduce the risk of recurrence of your breast cancer?
SS: I take coQ10, evening primrose oil, amino acids, vitamin C, a multivitamin, Isocort™ (which stimulates cortisol production), Adrenal-180 (which stimulates your adrenals), carnitine, folic acid . . . I believe in supplementation. I don’t think our food and water supplies are providing all we need. With the pollution and environmental issues out there, we really need to supplement our diet.
I try to eat only natural foods and avoid chemicals, trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives. I always tell my readers to shop the periphery of the supermarket, because that’s where the real food is. Every market is laid out the same: on the side aisle is meat, chicken, and fish; across the back are all the dairy products; and down the other side are fruits and vegetables. In the center are processed foods. There’s no way our bodies can convert those foods into usable hormones. I think the benefits of foods like soy and yams are fantastic. I try to keep them in my diet at all times.
WF: How often do you have your blood tested for hormone levels?
SS: I probably have my blood work done four times a year. That’s because I live a high-stress lifestyle and because of what I do for a living. Every time I make an appearance, my adrenaline starts pumping like crazy. When your adrenaline is pumping like that, you’re blunting your hormone production. Because of my breast cancer and because I’m a messenger on this subject, I want to make sure that I’m in the best health possible.
For a normal woman, once or twice a year is probably sufficient. If a woman doesn’t smoke or drink and has a happy marriage, she probably won’t have to go more than once a year or once every two years. We all need to understand that, at this age, we’re working at such a hard pace that we’re breaking down our major hormones. We need to give ourselves equal time to rest and build back up.
WF: A startling number of women contract breast cancer every year. Do you think the federal government is doing enough to find a cure?
SS: I think we need to stop looking to the government for cures. Look at the progress women have made in fighting breast cancer, which used to be a death sentence. Because women have marched, screamed, and demanded better care, breast cancer, if detected early, can be survived 90% of the time.
Yes, it would be nice if the government could help. From a grassroots standpoint, however, women have made remarkable progress against breast cancer. I’m alive because of the progress made by women demanding better care. When women demand better hormonal care, I think you will see breast cancer no longer being an epidemic. Right now breast cancer is such an epidemic that I look at every woman and I don’t think, “if,” I think, “when.”
WF: There’s no question: one in seven women now contracts breast cancer.
SS: The numbers have continued to increase since the 1940s. To go to one in seven, that’s remarkable.
WF: I mentioned Arimidex® earlier. Another one is Aromasin®. These are aromatase inhibitors, and that’s what doctors are now prescribing to most breast cancer patients. They deplete estrogen dramatically from a woman’s body, which potentially increases her chances of survival but also makes her miserable.
SS: I think that misery, the stress caused by it, is as damaging as anything. My girlfriend was diagnosed the same week I was, with exactly the same cancer in exactly the same place. I know every woman is different. But she no longer talks to me because she’s so angry that I’m living a full life and she is not. It’s irrational, but I know that it’s because she has no hormones.
When I was writing this book and was told I had to give up my hormones and have chemotherapy, radiation, tamoxifen, etc., I had enough information to empower me to say, “That’s not how I want to do it.” My girlfriend, on the other hand, was terrified not to do it, so she did everything they told her to do. She’s now gone through six bouts of chemotherapy. The cancer is recurring all over her body. Every week the doctors drain her of any estrogen that she may have in her body, thinking that if they remove all the estrogen, the cancer can’t grow. I think it’s ludicrous, and that putting all the hormones back in balance is your best defense.
My girlfriend is a mess. She has not one hormone in her body, which is riddled and wracked from the chemotherapy. We’re the same age, yet she looks at least 30 years older than me. She’s angry, irrational, and depressed, her husband is miserable, and her young son is having trouble at school because he’s so afraid she’s going to die on him. I think to myself, “The medical practitioners are doing this to her. Can they possibly feel good about it?”
WF: It’s horrendous. Those cancer cells, regrettably, learn to proliferate in the absence of estrogen. That’s one reason why estrogen-suppression therapy does not always work in the long term.
SS: Right. The misery she’s going through—she’s going to die and these last four years have been absolute torture. The reason she can’t talk to me is I made it through the rains and did it my way. Maybe we’re just completely different, but it was exactly the same cancer, in the same spot. I never tell anybody to do what I’m doing relative to cancer unless they come to that conclusion themselves and it makes sense to them.