Nothing short of being a victim of armed robbery induces a feeling of powerlessness as effectively as a cancer diagnosis. The combination of anger, grief, and fear over what to do can be disabling. The central purpose of this book is to help you overcome the feeling of powerlessness and to give you the necessary tools to empower yourself. Feeling powerless can be as hazardous to your health as any environmental toxin or damaged gene. This is a key point because there are many reasons to feel powerless when you or someone you love is faced with cancer. First and foremost, you might feel powerless facing the fact that cancer is considered an incurable disease. If modern medical science can’t cure it, what can laypeople do? Turning our care and chances for survival over to medical professionals, often in large medical institutions, is humbling, especially since medical personnel sometimes make decisions for our care without our full participation.
Powerlessness has even been the subject of scientific investigation. A study at the University of Pennsylvania showed that the immune systems of test animals with tumors rejected the tumors at a slower rate when the animals were powerless to escape stressful stimuli. The results demonstrated that the feeling of powerlessness accelerates a tumor’s progression (Visintainer, Volpicelli, and Seligman 1982). Self-empowerment not only makes you feel stronger but is also necessary for survival.
We also get the message from scientific reports in the media that the new medical frontier is genetic technology, which conveys, inadvertently perhaps, that the cause of disease is in our genetic inheritance and that medical technology is learning how to correct this built-in defect. Genetic markers for various types of cancer and other diseases have been widely reported (Petrakis and King 1976). We wait anxiously for progress to catch up to the modern health scourges, while what we can do for ourselves is often de-emphasized or devalued. If cancer is caused by some kind of inborn defect, what can we possibly do about that?
The fact is that we can do a lot, and what we do can help decide the outcome of our longevity and well-being, and the success or failure of our treatment. The role of genes may predispose you to certain types of health problems, but genetic defects directly cause only a very small percentage of diseases (Human Genome Project Information 2008). The news that’s not so widely reported is the well-documented evidence that a toxic environment and modern dietary habitsare the real causes of cancer and its dramatic upsurge over the last sixty years (King, Marks, and Mandell 2003). I find relief and empowerment in this type of information. Instead of waiting for a technological breakthrough or a miraculous cure, you can do something about your health, both in prevention and treatment—right now.
Diet and Lifestyle Matter
Research conducted over the last few years has gradually led to new thinking about cancer. This book outlines strategies on using nutritional and lifestyle changes to help you reduce any tendencies in your body to develop cancer. Chapter 1 explains that there’s a new age in cancer treatment dawning that’s based on new scientific understanding of what promotes cancer and allows it to take hold, and even seize control, of the body’s normal defense mechanisms. Dr. Dean Ornish’s pioneering human clinical research in 2005 gives us evidence that how we conduct our lifestyles, from diet to stress management, makes a difference. He has shown that a whole lifestyle conversion—including diet change, specific supplementation, exercise, and stress reduction methods such as yoga, breathing, and visualization—can affect the development of cancer. Dr. Ornish studied ninety-three men at an early stage of prostate cancer who were diagnosed by biopsy (Ornish et al. 2005). The group choosing the lifestyle program didn’t use any type of conventional cancer therapy, while the control group had no treatment at all. Both groups were monitored by regular PSA (prostate-specific antigen) blood tests. Ornish was aware of previous studies showing that foods such as tomatoes and soy products seemed to reduce the risk of prostate cancer (Snowdon, Phillips, and Choi 1984) and that some foods, such as certain dairy products, eggs, and meat, can increase it (Allen et al. 2004). This was the clinical trial that showed that the progression of prostate cancer can be stopped, or even reversed, by changing diet and lifestyle alone.
At the end of a year, the results were published. They showed that six patients, all from the control group, had dropped out, because MRIs or other diagnostic tests of cancer activity showed that their tumors were growing at a rate that made it necessary to look at other options, such as surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. None of the members of the group undergoing diet and lifestyle change showed any negative developments. The PSA (prostate-specific antigen) markers had actually decreased in this group. The results showed a very significant difference between the two groups (Ornish et al. 2005).
Many of us have an urge to become more actively involved in our health care rather than be merely passive about it. According to the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 60 to 80 percent of cancer patients now combine complementary treatment with conventional treatment. The article encourages the oncology community to be willing to communicate openly, adopting a nonjudgmental communication style, and research the possible interactions among drugs, herbs, and vitamins (Richardson et al. 2000).
The oncology community is oriented toward heroic treatment methods: chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. There are no chapters on diet or lifestyle in the textbooks of this medical specialty, despite the fact that mainstream medical research has known about the key role of diet in the cause and progression of cancer since the 1970s (Carroll and Khor 1975). Since that time, an abundant and convincing body of scientific evidence has accumulated, not only diet research but research on the effects of stress, trauma, and environmental conditions on the immune system and the incidence of cancer. Taken as a whole, this scientific research gives us a rational foundation for designing a personal strategy.
Many of the books on cancer survival, especially books on alternative medicine, focus on diet and supplements. There’s an ongoing hope for a “cure,” a nontoxic cure, if possible. However, there’s much more to improving health or fighting disease than finding a cure. It’s simplistic to think of any one thing as a possible cure. “Does it work?” is the wrong question to ask about a new supplement or drug. I believe that many methods being promoted as a cure have helped someone. The real questions are “What works for whom and why?” and “What works for me?” Creating new habits is the core strategy of any type of change. Sometimes what you take out of your life is more important than what new remedy or medication you put in.
There’s probably no treatment method, conventional or otherwise, that’s a stand-alone treatment. Success of any therapy depends on the inner resources of your body and mind. Cultivating and reinforcing these inner resources is the key to success. Some people have robust vital resources, some have robust spiritual resources and strong willpower, and some are deficient in inner resources and have fragile health. Regardless of the starting point, it’s almost always possible to create some type of improvement in the status of your health and well-being. Your focus doesn’t necessarily have to be on conquering disease. I suggest adopting the goals of longevity and quality of life. This book explains how to become knowledgeable about and skillful in natural health care to achieve longevity and a higher quality of life.
Choose Your Team and Your Approach
The most important advice for how to use this book is that if you have cancer, or any major health challenge, don’t to try to do it all alone. Carefully choose a team of professionals and try to weave them into a support net for your healing process. A complementary health care provider—whether a medical doctor, osteopath, chiropractor, naturopath, or acupuncturist—can play an important role on your team. The stereotype of an untrained quack exploiting desperate, gullible late-stage patients is much less common than imagined. Work with your loved ones too. Share with them what you learn, or let them do the research and share it with you. If you’re alone, find a support group to avoid the stress of trying to go it alone.
Because so much information is available on diet, lifestyle, and natural therapies, it’s necessary to sort through it all carefully. In this book I emphasize methods that science has soundly established and that will benefit the largest number of readers. It’s important to understand the scientific literature on diet, supplements, lifestyle, and stress. There are also methods, foods, and supplements for which the scientific literature is sparse or nonexistent. Chapter 1 presents the scientific principles supporting this book’s recommendations. This background knowledge is very important. Even if the terminology is unfamiliar at first, the ideas will soon be familiar.
Despite the ongoing barrage of optimistic claims from leading cancer research institutions that new breakthroughs are around the corner, a growing number of researchers and patient advocates are discouraged by the lack of progress. For most cancers, if a tumor has metastasized, the chances of survival haven’t improved since the “War on Cancer” was declared in 1971. What has changed is the new focus on natural medicine and complementary health care. Most of the improvement in longevity of cancer patients is the result of improvements in diet and lifestyle, and early detection (Leaf 2004).
Cancer’s widespread occurrence suggests that many people haven’t had access to the kind of information provided in this book. The promotion of lifestyle improvements has become more conspicuous in the last few years but is still the subject of controversy. An ample body of research evidence now supports the use of various nutrients, herbs, and supplements to slow down the progression of the disease and extend life span (Block et al. 2007). Some supplements have even been specifically developed to support conventional cancer therapy to protect the immune system from the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
A bewildering volume of information is available on how to treat cancer with unconventional methods. Some of these methods or remedies are supported by scientific data, and others have only been tested informally or not at all. Most people desire to combine “the best of both worlds,” by using conventional medicine and attempting to integrate it with complementary approaches. In most cases conventional treatment can be integrated with alternative treatments. Certain diet and lifestyle measures greatly increase your odds of benefiting from conventional treatment. Using certain supplements can also enhance the likelihood of success. The question is, and always will be, what’s best for you?
People who are serious about their survival and quality of life adopt a positive approach to their health challenges. Resources and discoveries abound that can help you use positive thinking to its full advantage, not only to improve your quality of life but also to create better physical health in tangible and measurable ways.
Whether you’re a cancer patient, a cancer survivor, or the loved one of either, this book is designed to help you find a personal pathway through the ocean of information now available in print and online. The book covers the most important things that every person affected by cancer needs to know about diet, supplements, stress reduction, immune-system support, detoxification, exercise, and dealing with fear and the residual effects of old traumas. It covers basic information on some of the most common types of cancer, and reviews both conventional and emerging treatment methods. I’m optimistic about the scientific breakthroughs that are on the horizon.
Take Control of Your Experience
Research from the Netherlands (van Baalen, de Vries, and Gondrie 1987) has shown that “spontaneous remission” of cancer occurs much more frequently than the previously estimated 1 in 60,000 to 100,000 cases (Cole 1981). I’ve certainly observed this in my own experience with people who choose to take control of their life experience. I’ve even observed cases in which people rejected conventional therapy completely and had successful results, although I’m not recommending that you do this. Statistics primarily keep track of those patients who are in the medical system and who undergo conventional therapy. Spontaneous remission is considered to be nothing short of a miracle and is sometimes attributed to divine intervention. I certainly won’t dispute the possibility of divine intervention, but perhaps divine intervention “helps those who help themselves.” Perhaps we can develop a “technology of miracles” so that we can create our own miracles. As you explore this book, I hope that this technology of miracles will strike you as common sense.