Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Do What Grandma Said Was Good For You And Earn $800

When I was in practice, I frequently heard the complaint from people that they felt fatigued. People often asked if there was some supplement they could take for what they thought was "adrenal burn out." I always replied that there is no vitamin or herb that replaces sleeping 8 hours a night, eating well, exercising, and resting - and until they do these basics of self care, that it would be an insult to their system to try to trick themselves into pushing harder. Many people were disappointed with my response, hoping that there was a magic potion (something stronger than coffee) that would allow them to override what their body was telling them they needed.

Now some researchers in the mainstream of medicine are starting to look at the effects of stress, especially poor sleep in relationship to surviving breast cancer. When I heard about this study I wanted to sign up because I hope that amassing this data will prove what I hope to be true - that all those common sense things we can do to care for ourselves will prove to be the statistically significant factor in surviving and thriving with breast cancer.

Last summer I volunteered for a study at Stanford in which they are exploring the connection between breast cancer survival and what our grandmothers told us to do: eat well, sleep 8 hours, exercise, get fresh air, rest, and relax. They are doing this by measuring all sorts of indicators in blood (cortisol, ACTH, melatonin, Interleukin-6, fasting insulin, Natural Killer cell activity, markers of inflammation, etc.), doing sleep studies (EKG, EEG, respiratory and leg movement monitors, etc.), tracking diet, and emotional stress. Then they will follow-up once a year and see if our test results predict how well we do.

I know that there are many variables that can't be measured, but why not measure the ones we can? This kind of study rarely gets done because there is no drug or product involved. If this study pans out as we hope, the result will be that more doctors will have to tell people to sleep more, eat more fruits and vegetables, meditate, rest, live a more relaxed pace, and take some time off to enjoy life more often.

They still need to have normal, healthy post-menopausal women without breast cancer or auto-immune disease, ages 45 - 75 to volunteer to be in the control group. The study is almost completed, they just need a few more subjects without breast cancer. Would you consider being a subject in this study? It's not a volunteer job; It pays $800.

The study involves an interview, which can be done over the phone, a medical and psychological screening interview, a 2 week period during which you go about your normal daily life while wearing an "Actiwatch" activity monitor that looks like a wrist watch. During that time, you fill out a questionnaire that takes less than 5 minutes per day. At the end of the 2 weeks, a sleep lab technician is sent to your home and wires you up for a home sleep study 2 nights in a row. Then you spend 28 hours in the Stanford Hospital research wing (about an hour from Santa Cruz) where you get an IV from which they draw blood samples, you give a saliva sample, you answer lots more questionnaires, and eat and drink a measured amount. The lights in the room are dim, but I was able to read and watch a movie. I loved the experience! It was a bit like a meditation retreat for me. No clock, no internet, no cell phone - just peace and quiet, for a very good cause.

Aside from the $800 they will pay you, you get some of the blood test results, and a summary of your sleep study.

If you're interested, you can contact the delightful people at Stanford directly: 

Casey Brodhead  at 650-723-2744 or email  or
Bita Nouriani at 650-723-8479 or email