LEF Magazine May 1998
Living Life to The Fullest
The Levins both have a thorough anti-cancer regimen in place
Fifteen years into their retirement in the high desert and mountain ranges of northern New Mexico, Charlotte and Sheldon Levin found that their long practice of taking vitamins and micro-nutrients paid off. They not only have the time to take full advantage of their stunning natural surroundings, but they also have the energy and desire to get out and about. Winter weekends find them hiking in the foothills south of Santa Fe. In summertime they put on backpacks and venture 12,000 feet into the Pecos Wilderness.
And both believe their micro-nutrient regimen has prepared them to face a new challenge. In 1992, Charlotte, now 67, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer that can cause blood clotting and lead to a stroke. Last fall, Sheldon, now 72, tested positive for prostate cancer.
The Levins are tackling their respective diseases with the same kind of dedication they have applied to getting the most from their daily lives. By reading everything they can, and by using the Internet for the latest advances, the Levins have cobbled together an expanded micro-nutrient menu that includes plenty of warriors in their battle against cancer.
It seems to be working. Sheldon, whose cancer treatment involves androgen- blocking therapy that essentially shuts off all male hormones, leaving most recipients with hot flashes, anemia and worse, reports "zero" side effects. And Charlotte's semi-weekly hiking excursions leave her little time to think about being sick.
"Illness is a great bore," she says. "The less you think about it the better." The Levins' interest in the power of micro-nutrients and vitamins developed gradually and comprehensively. Sheldon, a former biostatistician with the Department of Defense, focused his research skills on finding ways to assemble the vitamins he believed were lacking in most of the food on the market.
Charlotte, on the other hand, was an anti-vitamin rebel. She felt her mother had been a tad overzealous in that regard, and Charlotte still remembers the taste of cod liver oil lurking as a nasty surprise in the bottom of her glass of orange juice. Ironically, she married a man with the same vitamin obsession.
Sheldon put himself and his wife on general purpose multi-vitamins when they were newlyweds. Later he added calcium and magnesium when Charlotte became pregnant. From there, the couple began mega-doses of vitamin C and E. Their regimen grew in this way, says Sheldon, until 1983 when he picked up a copy of Sandy Shaw and Durk Pearson's book, Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach. In his words, the reaction was, "Pow."
"It was a big revelation to me," Sheldon says. "All I had thought was that you needed vitamins to keep yourself in good shape-to maintain-but I realized that maybe we also can live longer and improve our quality of life."
Meanwhile, Charlotte diligently ingested everything on the lengthening menu of micro-nutrients. In those days taking vitamins was about the only kind thing she did for her body. Charlotte was a heavy smoker for 33 years, even to the point of lighting up in the shower. And she would get so winded on the couple's evening walks, that she eventually gave up exercise altogether. "I was very bad to my system," she says.
With the help of various self-hypnosis tapes, Charlotte gave up smoking. When the Levins first moved to New Mexico in 1982, Charlotte joined a ladies' hiking group that spent every Tuesday bush-whacking through the scrub or scampering up the inclines of the nearby mountain ridges no matter what the weather.
Today, both Levins begin each day with a 30- to 45-minute workout that includes floor exercises, weight lifting and intervals on a stationary bike and a stair machine. Twice-daily dog walks with their beloved collie/shepherd mix are also mandatory. Saturdays are set aside for day-long hiking trips together, and Charlotte still makes her Tuesday outings with a women's hiking club.
Also important are daily 15- to 20-minute meditation sessions and fairly strict adherence to a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fish and fruit, and low in red meat, sweets and cheese. Sheldon eats a lot of tofu and soy milk, which he says are good at slowing down the progress of the cancer.
Then there's the long micro-nutrient list that Sheldon has compiled. Both Levins take the following regularly: beta carotene, niacin, vitamins B12, C and E, choline/inositol, lysine, glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, calcium (400 mg for her and 1,000 mg for Sheldon, whose cancer therapy puts him at greater risk of bone loss), lecithin, garlic (250 mg aged and additional amounts not aged), coenzyme Q10, DMAE, pycnogenol, licorice root, acidophilus, echinacea, mistletoe and astragalus.
The Levins have substituted green tea for coffee and both take Life Extension Mix multi-vitamins daily to boost general health and prolong longevity. They both intend to live to be 120 years old.
But the micro-nutrient list doesn't end here. When Charlotte's disease, essential thrombocythemia (ET), was first diagnosed, the Levins went right to work. Typical symptoms include an enlarged spleen and vascular problems such as pain in the fingers and toes. Stroke is a serious concern. In this country the disease is commonly treated with the drug hydroxyurea, but Charlotte refused to put any cytotoxins in her system.
The Levins discovered that in Europe, ET is often treated simply by aspirin and plenty of water, a program that Charlotte much preferred. Further reading suggested other micro-nutrients could be effective in preventing clotting and thus diminish the risk of stroke.
She started on this course immediately and now takes Gingko biloba (120 mg), borage oil (240 mg twice a day), fish oil (360 mg twice day) and flax seed oil to prevent clotting. She then alternates one year on 325 mg of enteric coated aspirin every day with one year of non-enteric coated aspirin, and drinks at least eight glasses of water a day, following the European recommendations. "I have virtually no symptoms," says Charlotte, who keeps tabs on other "ETers" via the Internet, and believes she is among the healthier.
Sheldon also is doing well about one month into what may be a year of androgen-blocking therapy to fight his cancer. He also is taking silymarin to reduce liver damage, dong quai to reduce hot flashes, mega soy extract to reduce the tumor as well as hot flashes, creatine to stem muscle loss, and Gingko biloba to prevent memory loss.
To combat the actual cancer-that is, to reduce the tumor and prevent metastasis-Sheldon takes potassium, zinc, saw palmetto, curcumin, concentrated soy and modified citrus pectin. In fact, he began with saw palmetto in 1991 when his first PSA (prostate specific antigen) test proved suspicious. Shortly after that he began taking soy. Today he thinks that early effort has kept his cancer manageable.
"The [prostate] cancer itself is very small, it hasn't spread," he says. "I believe that's because of everything I've been taking. Many of the people I know who have this type of cancer have found it has moved much faster."
Come May, both Levins will pack up a month's worth of micro-nutrients, put them in separate plastic envelopes marked for each morning and afternoon dosage, and fly to Istanbul where they plan to sail down the Aegean. They already have visited and hiked in locales as far flung as New Zealand, Patagonia and the Himalayas. Disease be damned! Says Sheldon: "We're leading the kind of life a lot of people wish they could." -Twig Mowatt
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