My Dad and I, in Nov 2013, after his last round of treatment!It was my Father’s last CT scan before being given the title…..“cured of cancer”!! 6 months of chemotherapy. 5 years of follow-up appointments. Scans every 6 months. All leading to this moment, the feeling of being officially cancer-free. All previous scans had been clear and we were anticipating the best. My parents sat in the Doctor’s Office with nervous excitement. The oncologist came in and it was obvious by his expression that he did not have the news we were all hoping for. “The scan showed growth… I’m sorry but it looks like the cancer is back.” He jumped right into the logistics not even allowing time for my parents to process this news. “We’ll need to get it biopsied right away. Assuming it comes back positive, here are our options for treatment……” “Wait a minute” my mom interrupted him. “He’s been clear for 5 years!! Why is it back?” His reply, “It happens sometimes, it’s just bad luck.” The rest of the appointment was a blur. My mom called me right away to report the news, in between tears and confusion. BAD LUCK!!?? I couldn’t get past this insufficient explanation. Cancer is not a disease of “bad luck”. Sure, it’s a complex disease with many possible causes but “bad luck” is NOT one of them. Even genetics, which increase risk for some people, is not pre-determined. Knowing what I know now, I simply cannot accept this explanation as true. My mother and father agreed and taking several weeks to research all options, interview multiple physicians, and honestly just do a lot of soul searching, my father has a renewed game-plan. He is currently pursuing treatment for the recurrence, but not in a traditional way. He may still choose more aggressive treatment if it’s needed but the good news is, he’s taking a new approach, one that focuses on the root causes of cancer… and one that I’m going to share with you today.
How to Get to the Real Root Causes of Cancer
Traditionally, cancer may have been blamed on genetics. Although your genes can increase your risk, we now understand that our lifestyle influences genetic expression. This is a field of medicine called epigenetics. We have learned that what we DO actually changes the way our DNA is used and that the choices we make can forever transform our genetic code. One of the primary ways we change our DNA is through DIET!! But if we can’t simply blame genetics, or “bad luck”, what do we blame? What causes cancer? Why did you get cancer? And most importantly what can you do to change your “bad luck”? These were the questions we asked when my father’s cancer returned and ultimately these questions helped us determine his next course of action. The recommended therapy for a recurrence of his type of cancer (Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma) is very intense with minimal chance of cure and many more possible side effects. Thankfully the cancer is not as advanced as the first time around but my father’s health is not as strong either. He continues to have some heart issues and his kidneys were damaged by the chemotherapy he endured 5 years ago. His odds of making it through the recommended course of treatment unscathed was not very good. So as a family we dove into all possible options for treatment and decided unanimously that the priority was to get to the root of why the cancer came back, change the environment inside his body to make it less hospitable to cancer, and build his natural defense systems back up. I’ve always believed that in my father’s case chronic inflammation was underlying not only his cancer but all the conditions that came before that; Rheumatoid Arthritis in his 30’s, a Heart Attack and Type 2 Diabetes in his 50’s, and finally Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in his 60’s. But the more interesting question is why was my father so inflamed? What was underlying all this inflammation and why did it start in the first place? Here’s the fascinating thing. We didn’t have any answers to this question until recently. Before beginning his recent treatment plan he had a series of functional lab tests and scans completed; tests that had never been done before. Guess what was found???? Epstein Barr Virus (aka Mono) which the doctor believes has probably been there since his 20’s and likely began this entire inflammatory cascade. They also discovered 5 different parasites!!! Un-diagnosed infections are a major cause of chronic inflammation, which I recently spoke about in a blog post on the connection between Inflammation & Cancer. Knowing the cause(s) is incredibly helpful and can definitely inform the treatment plan. Even more importantly, by addressing the root causes you can change the internal environment in your body and dramatically decrease the chance of the cancer coming back. I believe that it comes down to 3 systems that are critical to both the development of cancer and the recovery from cancer. Regardless of what treatment plan you choose to pursue these 3 pieces MUST be part of your plan.
Balanced Immune System
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail and uncover why they are so important in the recovery from cancer.
1. Healthy Digestion
Digestion is critical to health. Even Hippocrates (the father of medicine) said “All disease begins in the gut”. When digestion is optimal we receive improved nourishment, a more balanced immune system, and stronger protection against pathogens that can cause inflammation and increase the risk of many chronic diseases. When the gut is compromised, this barrier weakens, and over time starts to allow pathogens to cross over from the gut and into your bloodstream. This is what is known as a “Leaky Gut”. When the gut is “leaky” two things happen. First, the immune system is continually being triggered to react to the array of pathogens and toxins entering the bloodstream; possibly being distracted away from the clump of cancerous cells that are beginning to grow and multiply in another area of your body. Also, the toxins that make their way through the body can enter cells, cause mutations, and ultimately contribute to the development of cancer. You can read more about how a leaky gut can lead to cancer HERE and learn the exact steps to begin to repair and heal your leaky gut. In my father’s case, now that we know he has parasites and that they are likely contributing to a leaky gut, clearing the parasites from his body while repairing and strengthening the lining of his gut will be a critical piece to his recovery.
2. Optimal Detoxification
If we agree that toxic chemicals are a major driving factor for cancer, then we must also agree that detoxification is one of our best prevention & recovery strategies. When your body is burdened by high levels of toxins, the detoxification system becomes sluggish and waste starts to build up. The accumulation of both toxins and wastes contributes to cellular damage and ultimately disease formation. Once cancer has been identified, detoxification can both enhance recovery and minimize side effects from conventional treatments. You can read more about how optimal detoxification can enhance cancer recovery HERE as well as learn 15 different strategies for improving your body’s ability to detox. This is the area my father is really focusing on right now. Supporting his detoxification pathways with lots of veggies, water, green juice, and supplements. Eating a very clean, organic, whole food diet and removing all possible sources of toxins from his environment and personal care products.
3. Balanced Immune System
In a healthy body, cancer cells will be properly recognized by the immune system, they will be targeted and destroyed, and removed through your detoxification pathways. When you’re facing a cancer diagnosis OR doing your best to prevent cancer, your job is to take steps to keep your immune system targeting cancer cells and removing them. Unfortunately though things like chronic infections or chronic inflammation will keep your immune system distracted and burdened as well as even contribute to the development of cancer cells. You can read more about how this happens HERE. In my father’s case he definitely had a burdened immune system, between the newly discovered (but apparently long-standing) Epstein Barr, the parasites, and his history of over-inflammation (RA, Heart Disease, Diabetes). Another interesting point is the year before my father’s cancer returned he had a foot injury that didn’t properly heal, continued to get re-infected, and eventually ended up infecting the bone in his foot. He was treated with surgery and intensive antibiotics and within months after finishing this course of treatment he was diagnosed with cancer recurrence. Even after the scan just 6-months prior showed no evidence of disease. Coincidence…..maybe…..but I don’t think so.
The First Step: Your Cancer Recovery Nutrition Plan
You don’t get cancer because of “bad luck”. To me, this is the most important take home message. Because this means that there IS something that can be done to help your body heal, recover, and ultimately prevent the cancer from coming back. I will continue to document and share my father’s experience with you over the coming months. The ending to his story is not yet written. Of course, we all hope and trust that it will be a happy one. But what I do know is that with my father back in the driver’s seat, he is taking an active role in writing his future. Whether you’re choosing conventional treatments or alternative methods it is incredibly important to uncover what root imbalances exist and may have caused the cancer. Then do what you can to both support and optimize your 3 primary systems of cancer recovery; digestion, detoxification, & immunity. The best place to start is with your diet! I can help you begin to change the environment that allowed the cancer to grow in the first place. I can show you which foods will have the biggest impact on your healing. And I can guide you towards a plan that will optimize your 3 systems of cancer recovery, support you through treatment, and help you prevent the cancer from returning. If you’re ready to start designing your ideal Cancer Recovery Plan, the first step is to book a Free 20-min “Planning Session” where we will review your diet, your lifestyle, and your cancer treatment plan and begin to map out your best recovery strategy. Click here to book a 20-minute “Cancer Recovery Planning Session” You don’t have to accept that your cancer is because of bad luck. You can take back control over your health and help your body recover. And I am here to help you do just that!