A mother-of-three, who initially dismissed her golf ball-sized brain tumour as a hangover before being given just a year to live, has credited her new low-carb diet for helping her fight the symptoms of cancer 16 months later.
Lizzie Parker, 38, from Hull, had enjoyed a night out on the town with friends last April when she suddenly began suffering from migraines.
At first, she thought her pain was just a hangover but as the weeks passed, her suffering intensified – with Lizzie eventually taking herself to the A&E at Hull Royal Infirmary.
A shocked Lizzie was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancerous brain tumour – which was already the size of a golf ball – and has since undergone three brain surgeries.
But despite doctors predicting she had just six to twelve months to live, Lizzie has surpassed their expectations, and credits her health to the low-carb, high-fat keto diet – insisting cancer has given her a new lease of life.
Lizzie, a former primary school teacher, who believes it’s never too late for anyone to take control of their health, recalled: ‘The first migraine started the day after a night out with my friends.
‘Initially I wasn’t overly worried as I assumed it was a hangover but as the days passed, it became obvious that it wasn’t related.
‘Doctors assumed it was due to stress and I was placed on migraine medication which had no impact at all.
‘Three weeks later, I had blood tests as I still felt unwell and I had started slurring my words at work. I was dismissed again as being “overworked”, but I finally had a CT scan after taking myself to A&E due to shooting pains in my head.
‘It was then that a large mass was found in my head and a few hours later an MRI confirmed that it was a stage 4 Glioblastoma – one of the most aggressive types, that is resistant to all treatment.’
Revealing how she felt after the diagnosis, Lizzie said: ‘I was in complete shock but more bad news was to follow, we were then told the prognosis was just six to 12 months.
‘I knew I had to stay strong for my kids, Joshua, 16, Harry, 14, and Oscar, 11, and husband Paul, 47, so I just got on with it.
‘I was prepped for my first brain surgery on May 20 which was terrifying as all my family and friends came to the hospital which felt like their final goodbyes.’
Lizzie decided to overhaul her diet before undergoing surgery and adopted a strict ketogenic diet, which involves 80 per cent of her food being nutrient rich, which means no junk, no sugar, nothing processed and no toxins.
Foods are high fat and low carb, which helps cells repair, reduces inflammation, and balances blood glucose levels.
She added: ‘There’s no doubt that my keto diet helped me regain my strength after my first brain surgery.
‘It’s never too late to eat healthily. My diet won’t cure the tumour but it might stop it from growing and I might eventually outlive this disease, this parasite in my brain.
‘After the five hour operation I then had radiation and chemotherapy. I decided to seek private treatment alongside that of the NHS.
‘I now have a nutritional oncologist in America and I pay for my bloods to be taken every month, which costs £1,000, to ensure I’m reducing the toxins in my body.’
Lizzie was living symptom free after her first brain surgery – with her quarterly scans being stable – until she suffered a seizure at home this March.
She added: ‘An MRI confirmed that another tumour had grown in a second area and I would need a second operation in April to debulk the tumour.
‘It was during lockdown but I recovered really well and spent just one night in hospital before being allowed home. I hoped that would be the end of my surgeries but during a routine scan in July, specialists spotted regrowth in both areas.
‘Again, the doctors couldn’t believe how well I recovered as I spent just three nights in hospital despite having major brain surgery. I am now living symptom free and enjoy every moment with my family. Just 10 days after surgery I was back riding my bike.
‘I can honestly say that cancer has given me a new lease of life. I see cancer as changing my life for the better and improving my attitude towards life in general. I will never take anything for granted ever again.
‘It’s made me appreciate everything. Every cuddle, every conversation, every moment, and I open my eyes each morning and I think “yes, I’ve got another day”.’
Lizzie now not only raises awareness of the need for greater research into brain tumours, and the links with diet and lifestyle, she also fundraises, and so far has raised £13,000 for the Brain Tumour Charity, and £6,500 for cancer services at her local hospital.
She is now embarking on a career as a Lifestyle Coach, helping children and families through adversity or challenges as well as a food blog on Instagram @Eat-Right-For-Your-Family-Type, offering hints, tips and recipes for feeding your family well.