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...and it was easier than expected! Here’s what a few days of a medically monitored fast does to your body and brain.

I haven’t eaten in eight days and I feel on top of the world. Right now I am standing in the shower, letting the watercourse down my body. It is close to scalding but I need the heat. I am cold to my bones. It is mid-summer but when I get out I will rub myself down and pull on leggings, a thermal vest, and a sweater. Low body temperature is a side-effect of my current health regime. I am on a medically monitored water fast.

Water fasting is a pretty simple concept, really. Nothing but water passes your mouth for a period. Nothing. You can do it for 12 hours or 30 days. Illusionist David Blaine survived on only water in a glass box for 44 days in 2003. Surely I can do 10 days at a clinic in Mossel Bay?

As I get out of the shower I hop on the scale. I’ve lost 7kg since I started, my mouth tastes like a skunk may have died in it and my sweat stings like acid coming out of my body. I am sure I smell skunk-bad all over. This morning what looked like a cluster of luminous green pods of algae exited my bottom. I’m having serious second thoughts. But I am eight days in, with two days left, I paid a small fortune to be here and I’m determined to finish what I started.

I didn’t sign up for a 10-day water fast to lose weight. I signed up because I had cancer. The insidious thing about cancer is that living with it is for the long haul. Cancer is the Sword of Damocles that hangs over my head all the time. Is that a cold sore or is it the cancer coming back? Is that an aching bone or is it the cancer coming back? Is that a bruise or could it be the cancer has spread? You can drive yourself mad. I drive myself mad.

After I’d done chemo and surgery I threw myself into alternative treatments. I read everything about various eating regimes and tried a whole load of them. I tried keto, clean keto, vegan, raw vegan, fasting, green juicing and the alkaline diet. I did affirmations, ozone saunas, Chinese mushrooms, and vitamin C IVs. I looked into the fact that breasts are about mothering; I constellated my family and my cancer with a Family Constellations practitioner to see which ancestral issues I was processing. I cleared my aura and realigned my chakras. I had a man stop me in the hardware store once (on noticing my lack of hair) to tell me it was ‘simple, really – just take high-dose curcumin. That will clear all cancer’. I can safely say – with a doctorate in Google – no, buddy… it won’t.

As a journalist, my brain is screaming, ‘Is this science-based? Verify the information, verify, verify.’ As a cancer survivor, my heart is crying, ‘There must be a way.’ As the years crept on, I spent a lot of money and did a lot of research on reversing disease. One method, or phrase, kept coming up: water fasting.

So here’s the theory.

Our bodies have a process called autophagy, during which they clean out and recycle damaged elements of cells. This process is called ‘self-eating’, from the Greek words ‘auto’ (self) and ‘phagein’ (eating).

We first heard of the term autophagy when Japanese cell biologist superstar Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016 for his work on it. Ohsumi worked on yeast in a lab, but the theory has been extrapolated to mice and humans. Last year, Valter Longo, a scientist at the University of Southern California, published findings that showed that periodic low-calorie fasting slowed down the destruction of cells in multiple sclerosis in mice. It even led to some regeneration.

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January 2020