Let me start by saying that if you or someone you love is facing a cancer diagnosis, there is hope. No matter what the prognosis is, there is always hope. Never lose sight of that. Never let a doctor put a time limit on your lifespan – they don’t get to decide your fate. You matter, and you are loved. You deserve hope.
But I’ve seen what the modern medical industry does to cancer patients. I’ve watched someone lose all of her hair. I watched her get sicker and sicker as the chemo that was poisoning her body overwhelmed her liver. And eventually, when the cancer had finally receded, I watched her live out the 2 week time limit the doctors had put on her life. I watched her lose her hope.
I think about her often. Every time I hear the word cancer, I remember the battle she fought, and she fought like no one I had ever seen before. When I think of strong women, she is at the top of my list. You see, cancer wasn’t new to her. She lived with breast cancer for five years before I even met her. In the end, it wasn’t even the cancer that took her, it was the shutdown of her liver that just couldn’t handle the chemo anymore. Sure, the chemo had poisoned her cancer enough that it was smaller than before, but it was poisoning the rest of her body too. Chemotherapy doesn’t discriminate. It kills everything.
Radiation isn’t much better, especially when you consider the fact that cancer is a side effect of radiation. Ever wonder why pregnant women aren’t given X-Rays? It is because of the negative effects of radiation. Nothing like fighting fire with fire, right? Then there is surgery. Forgive me if I am wrong, but I am pretty sure that doctors can’t see microscopic cells in the body. They think they got all of the cancer cells out when they removed your (insert vital organ here), but what about all of those cancer cells surrounding the tumor that they can’t see – the ones they can’t differentiate from your healthy cells when you are on the operating table? There is no way to know that it is all gone unless you want to lose even more of those vital organs.
Whether anyone chooses chemo, radiation, or surgery, it does absolutely nothing to address the cause of cancer in the first place. Cancer doesn’t happen overnight. It is a lifestyle disease. Even if you have “bad genes”, your lifestyle determines which genes get turned on and off. Researchers are now estimating that up to 95% of cancers are related to lifestyle, which includes our diets. Cancer is a symptom of something in life that is unhealthy. It is our body trying to tell us that something is wrong. All those days, months, and years of feeling unwell that were just brushed off before a cancer diagnosis were signs from the body as well. When no one listens, it has to start talking louder to get our attention.
So let’s say that you go through chemo, radiation, surgery, or a combination to combat cancer. You make it through, and the doctor tells you that you are all cleared. You go home and keep living the same as you had before your diagnosis. This is where recurrence happens. Chemo, radiation, and surgery took care of the tumor, the symptom, but they did not deal with the cause. Those who keep living the same unhealthy lifestyle after cancer treatment that they did prior to treatment, are not fixing the cause. The environment that created cancer in the first place has to be replaced. If you keep doing what you have always done, you will get the same results. Nothing will change until you take the steps to address the cause(s).
The good news for those who are not facing a cancer diagnosis is that, since cancer is a lifestyle disease, it is extremely preventable. In the US, it is estimated that half of men and a third of women will get cancer in their lifetime. It doesn’t have to be this way. We all need to take steps now to change our lifestyles BEFORE we ever get a diagnosis. It is preventable. However, with the statistics the way they are, it looks like we have a lot of work ahead of us. Drastic changes might be what it takes to overturn lifetime risk estimates like that, but you don’t have to start with drastic measures if the thought overwhelms you. Know that each step you take towards living a healthier lifestyle is making a positive impact.
Sometimes I think about what would have happened to my friend if I had known then what I know now. I wonder if she would have listened to me. I wonder if I could have made a difference in the outcome. I wonder where I would be today, and what types of wisdom she would have passed on to me during conversations that never got to happen. No one can change the past though. Instead we have to look forward. We have to dream of a better tomorrow. And I know with all my heart that, no matter where you are standing now or what you are facing, she would want you to hope. We all deserve hope.