I feel a lot of different emotions, and meanwhile various thoughts dance through my head.
Thoughts such as…
Oh gosh, now who?
Please, you are kidding me…
I don’t feel safe.
When will there be a cure?
Fear. Sadness. Grief. Worry. Humility. Shock. Hope. Hopelessness. Helplessness. Vulnerability.
Am I the only one that feels there are weekly announcements about someone I know having cancer, whether that be someone I know personally or indirectly, such as the friend of a friend? It seems to be becoming a more and more common occurrence which is why my first thought tends to be, ‘ Now who?’
My father passed away of brain cancer at the age of 66, and both my maternal grandparents died of cancer at a similar age. Now my uncle is on his deathbed after discovering bone cancer about one month ago. I also have a distant cousin who wrote a book called The Cancer Coach after his battle with melanoma (which he won and thus felt compelled to write a book). He wrote a truly wonderful story about his battle. Darren and his wife moved to Portugal and were living a dream life until he died of stomach cancer this spring at the young age of 55. I am sure all of you have similar stories or maybe you’ve beat cancer yourself!
I listened to a podcast recently by a very experienced functional medicine doctor who has been practising medicine for over 40 years. After listening to this podcast, I was left with hope, not hopelessness. And this is why.
Dr. Hyman described how there are two ‘parts’ of cancer. One being the disease itself and the other part being ‘the host’. What he was basically describing is that you do have some measure of control over cancer, and you execute that control by boosting your immune system. He reminded us we have intricate and powerful ways of fighting the spread, by changing the environment of the host. Traditional therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation combined with changing the host IS the best way.
We can take our health into our own hands in many ways. For example, if you were told tomorrow that you had cancer, and then were told that there was nothing to be done right now but the doctors would “actively survey” it by doing a scan once a month. You might think, excuse me? How is that “active”? There is nothing ACTIVE about that suggestion. In other words, the medical team would be saying that they hope nothing comes up. Personally, I would feel like a sitting time bomb. What exactly is happening to my body’s physiology as the month passes?
This is where control comes in. We know that cancer loves an environment that holds sources of inflammation. So this could be someone with obesity, environmental toxins, or metabolic conditions like diabetes. However, we need to highlight that chronic stress and worry are also huge inflammation drivers. With regards to toxins, I often wondered about my own father’s handling of pesticides and herbicides in the 50s and 60s, with very little protection to his skin, lungs, etc. I personally feel these toxins might have contributed to his death.
There are precancerous cells in all of us. Yes, right now as you read this, you have precancerous cells. But – not all of them become invasive. Knowing what I just said that you have precancerous cells in your body right now, my question is… what are you doing RIGHT NOW in order for them not to grow and proliferate?
There are many systems within our body. In functional medicine we plot these systems in a matrix; gut, immune, energy or mitochondrial function, toxins, cardiovascular system, hormones/neurotransmitters, structures (skin, bones, etc.). All these systems work together, and they regulate your health. Blood work can tell us a lot about how well these systems are working, but it doesn’t tell us all of it. Going back to the host example, rather than focusing on the site of the disease, such as the prostate, it would be far wiser to focus on a flaw that might be affecting one or more of the systems. In other words, a person who has breast cancer might have a lot more in common with a person that has colon cancer, because the systemic breakdown might be of the same origin, because the actual manifestation of the disease may have been due to poor metabolic health. We can dive deeper into each of these systems with specific specialized tests, such as a stool test, which presents an incredible amount of information on the health of the gut microbiome.
I am not saying that you need to order such a test, but if you are someone that has always suffered from gut issues, then that would be an option for you. These specialized tests are different from a stool test your doctor orders which tests for pathogens, parasites, and markers of disease. The specialized stool tests measure dysbiosis or the number of healthy bacteria compared to unhealthy bacteria found in the gut lining. The prevalence of certain types of bacteria are often correlated to specific conditions. This can range from constipation to autoimmune diseases. If you are someone that has always contracted colds, viruses, etc. then you might want to consider a test for your immunity, which could be a gut/stool test because your immune system runs along your gut wall. If you have suffered from skin disorders all your life such as rosacea, psoriasis, then you know your immune system is constantly being attacked. If you have PCOS, horrible cramping, or other menstrual issues, then. you know that your hormonal balance is off, and so on. If you are on blood pressure medication, that is another sign of poor metabolic health.
What I am saying is that you already have a pretty good hunch as to how healthy you are right now, and if you are on medications directly associated with less-than-optimal health relating to any of these seven systems I have listed, then perhaps you need to start thinking less from a place of ‘ there is a pill for every ill’ and instead ‘ what am I doing in the areas of prevention’?