Dr. Gilberto E. Chéchile. Prostate Institute. Barcelona
This article is based on the book “CANCER. 50 essential things to do” by Greg Anderson.
Greg Anderson is a cancer survivor. In 1984 he was diagnosed with a terminal carcinoma and given thirty days to live. After the diagnosis he located and questioned patients who had survived a cancer in an attempt to find out what they had done to conquer the disease. Since then he has interviewed over 15,000 people with terminal illnesses who conquered them and has summarised all the information and put it into the books he has written so far.
Many of the people who read those books or this article will be in a very difficult situation, and yet the message is quite clear:
DO NOT DESPAIR, PANIC WORKS AGAINST YOU. KEEP HOPE ALIVE.
Although the road may be difficult and call for hard work and discipline, the aim is: CONQUER THE DISEASE.
UNDERSTAND WHAT IS GOING ON
Cancer is a complex process involving a number of factors. There are more than 100 different types of cancer and each of them has characteristics of its own, although in all cases it reflects the fact that your immune system, which is your organism’s first and most powerful defence against cancer, has failed.
Normally in every person millions of potentially cancerous cells are produced every day, but they are identified by our immune system and destroyed.
These pieces of advice consist of physical, psychological and spiritual actions which, with the treatment prescribed by your doctor, will mobilise your defences, increase your well-being and ultimately strengthen your immune system. The point is to connect your body, mind and spirit so that, together with the medical treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, hormone therapy) you will be able to conquer the disease. Your task consists of DOING EVERYTHING WITHIN YOUR POWER to increase your self-healing capacity. In other words, you must make changes in your lifestyle physically, emotionally and spiritually to counteract whatever has led you to develop a cancer, such as giving up smoking if you are a smoker, changing your diet, doing exercise.
Bear in mind that your immune system is deeply influenced by your way of life. Stress or aggression cause the organism to release adrenalin and corticoids, which inhibit your immune system.
DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF, after being diagnosed with cancer, to be paralysed emotionally and psychologically by fear, at the very moment when you need to act intelligently. You have to put all your efforts into helping your doctors conquer the disease and to do so you must learn to handle the natural forces of your body, mind and spirit.YOU MUST DECIDE TO LIVE.
At this point two roads open up before you: one marked by passivity and despair and the other marked BY HOPE.
None of the thousands of terminal patients who have conquered cancer think they have done so by chance; they know it is because of the medical treatment and their own efforts, changing their bodies, minds and spirits.
The 8 elements all the people who conquered their terminal cancer regard as essential for their cure are:
1- MEDICAL TREATMENT
More than 96% of the survivors undergo a treatment based on conventional medicine (surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy). However, most of them did not confine themselves to the conventional treatment; they integrated alternative, complementary treatments such as changes in diet, exercise and psychospiritual activities.
2- BELIEFS AND ATTITUDES
Survivors of cancer do not think that cancer means death. All survivors are mentally strong people, and although they know that the curing process is long, they also know that the treatment will be effect and the side effects manageable.
Nine out of ten survivors emphasise the need for regular physical activity such as walking, swimming or cycling. Although at first you might feel very weak and even have to stay in bed, you must begin at least by moving your arms ten times to the right and ten to the left and then gradually introduce exercises with your legs until you can start to walk. You then gradually increase the number of minutes of exercise.
They will make you feel necessary, for your family, for your friends, for your neighbours. Set yourself goals such as the wedding of a son or daughter or the birth of a grandchild.
5- SOCIAL SUPPORT
All survivors have invested a great deal of time and emotional energy in positive relations with their surroundings and avoided the kind that could have a negative effect on their curing process. There are support groups for cancer patients in which other people who have been through the same process can help with the moment you are living through.
6- DIET AND NUTRITION
Most cancer survivors say they have made major changes to their eating habits. They eat with full awareness and acquire a great knowledge of the nutrients contained in food. They have given up processed foods and adopted an almost vegetarian diet, reducing the amount of red meat to a minimum (see ‘The Anti-Cancer Diet’). They have incorporated supplements of vitamins, minerals and substances from the herbalist. They see their diet as one of the other points they can control personally.
7- CREATIVE THINKING
The people who have conquered cancer mobilise their minds for the cure. Many of them use meditation techniques. They have a more realistic way of living their emotions, both positive and negative. They avoid feelings of anger or fear.
Survivors adopt a more spiritual perspective, seeing life in a different way from how they saw it before being diagnosed with cancer. This does not necessarily have any relation with religion.
These strategies are not always the same; for example, the times vary. At the moment of the diagnosis, the most important thing is to start the medical treatment as soon as possible. Later greater emphasis can be placed on diet or on beliefs and attitudes. Later the social support work will begin. Each person has to make his or her own plan.
SPECIFIC ACTIONS YOU NEED TO TAKE
1- KEEP CALM
At the moment when your doctor informs you that you had cancer, you had a shock and were really afraid. Later you probably got very angry, though you were not sure about who with or why. Many patients wonder why this has happened to them, whether they will die or how long they have to live, how much time they will have with their families. REMEMBER THAT CANCER IS A SERIOUS DISEASE BUT NOT NECESSARILY A FATAL ONE.
2- TAKE PART IN THE DECISION ABOUT YOUR TREATMENT
Ask your doctor for all the information you need about your cancer; the type of cancer, whether it has spread outside the organ, whether you need other diagnostic tests, what the treatment options are. Remember that you can ask for a second opinion without that implying that you do not trust your doctor. Another specialist may propose a different treatment, but that does not mean that the treatment the first doctor had proposed is wrong. If you are informed that your tumour is inoperable, DO NOT DESPAIR; that does not mean that it cannot be treated and cured. A tumour that cannot be operated on can still be treated with radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy or a combination of different techniques.
3- GET TO KNOW THE MEDICAL TEAM WHO ARE TREATING YOU
If you want to obtain information about your doctor you can enter his or her name in the portal www.google.com or in www.pubmed.com. When you find the most suitable doctor for you, put all your trust in him or her. There is a close relation between confidence in the medical team and the treatment and the chance of recovery. Remember that you can take an active part in your curing process by making changes to your lifestyle and your diet, by including exercise, nutritional supplements, meditation and spirituality.
Talk quite freely to your medical team; they cannot guess what is on your mind, so explain your problems and ask for their opinion. Take a member of your family along to the talks with your doctor so that they can help you understand all you are being told.
4- AIM: TO GET BACK YOUR HEALTH
At this stage, the most important thing in your life is TO GET WELL, and so you have to direct all your energy to that end. Everything else (work, family or social obligations) has to take a back seat. Do not postpone the treatment to a date that suits your work or family schedule. At this point THERE IS NO MORE IMPORTANT JOB IN YOUR LIFE THAN RECOVERING YOUR HEALTH. Many survivors see the disease as an opportunity to make important changes in their lives. Remember that the mind and the emotions are vital factors in your health.
5- GIVE UP SMOKING
If you are an active or passive smoker, eliminate tobacco completely, in all its forms. THERE ARE NO EXCUSES. It does not matter if your cancer is not lung cancer. This way you will prevent the entry into your organism of hundreds of toxic substances, many of them carcinogenic.
6- MAKE CHANGES TO YOU DIET
At no time in your life has it been so important to EAT WELL. Cancer consumes nutrients in your organism and can cause you to lose weight. There is an infinite amount of scientific evidence to show that diet is closely connected with recovery from cancer. And yet nutritional treatments are still not understood by most doctors and generally they do not inform patients about how to have healthy nutrition. The leaflets that explain nutrition for cancer patients contain information that generates confusion, since it encourages them to consume products with high fat content to recover body weight, while the advisable course to take is the exact opposite: eat more fruit and vegetables, give up processed and fried foods. Eat more fish (because of its high omega-3 fatty acid content) and reduce red meat, chicken and turkey to a minimum. (See ‘The Anti-Cancer Diet’). You need more proteins obtained from fish, skimmed dairy produce, grains, legumes and walnuts. Eat more cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts), berries, pomegranates, black chocolate (with more than 70% cocoa), curcuma, garlic, mushrooms, ginger, seaweed. Drink no alcohol except for one glass of red wine a day (unless your doctor has forbidden it). Exercise strict moderation with: coffee, smoked or salted food. Drink plenty of liquid (at least 2 litres of water a day). People with cancer generally suffer from dehydration. Moreover, water will help eliminate the substances injected during chemotherapy treatment. Drink three cups of green tea a day.
7- INCORPORATE VITAMINS AND NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
As well as the vitamins obtained from eating fruit and vegetables, many cancer survivors take supplements ofvitamin A (25,000 IU a day), vitamin C, (2-12 g a day) and vitamin E (800-1200 IU a day), selenium (200-400 µg a day), coenzyme Q10 (300 mg a day) related to the recurrence of breast cancer. They also include supplements with a capacity to stimulate the immune system, such as: cat’s claw, milk thistle (200 mg twice a day), melatonin (effective in colon, breast and brain cancer), echinacea angustifolia (1200 mg three times a day), astragalus membranaceus (400 mg three times a day) and Siberian ginseng (1-3 capsules/day).
8- DO EXERCISE
This is directly related to recovering your health. The point is not to break a record or become an Olympic athlete, just to engage in some kind of physical activity at least six times a week.
9- SLEEP MORE
Almost everyone with cancer gets tired, whether owing to the direct effects of the disease or the treatment applied (surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy). The processes of healing the organism (repairing damaged cells) take place during sleep. It is likely that for several months you will need to stop work or at least cut your working day by half. You need at least 8 hours’ sleep every night and probably from half an hour to an hour after lunch.
10- FIND A SUPPORT GROUP
Patients with cancer who attend support groups live longer than those who do not. In a study done by Stanford University with patients with advanced breast cancer, those who went to a support group for two hours a week had double the life expectancy of those who did not. This means that we really need one another in order to survive. There are two kinds of support group: information and psychological treatment. Psychological support groups are more important for survival since they are based on the emotional and even spiritual aspects of cancer. In these groups you and the other people taking part can express your fears and frustrations freely. You will learn from the experiences of those who have been through this before you and you will also receive the support of the psychologist who coordinates the group.
11- CHANGE YOUR CERTAINTIES
Thousands of cancer survivors radically change their ideas about cancer and about life. Many consider that this is the fundamental aspect for curing with the mind.
There are 3 ideas that work against a cure; they are:
All those ideas are false. The truth about them is:
12- CHOOSE ONE POSITIVE STATEMENT EVERY DAY
Statements are useful for making you firmer and you must repeat them every day. For example: “I am not afraid of anything in the world”; “I love life, this is my moment”; “At this time I am receiving unlimited well-being”; “I am grateful for today”; “I am recovering my health quickly”.
13- CONTROL YOUR TOXIC STRESS WITH MEDITATION AND VISUALISATION TECHNIQUES
Toxic stress is a negative emotional overload that leads to a state of confusion in your mind, disturbing the feeling of peace which is necessary for the cure. To counteract it you can use meditation techniques that reduce the state of anxiety produced by the disease that is threatening your life. The meditation consists of withdrawing for 10-20 minutes twice a day to a place where you cannot be disturbed: sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax all your muscles, breathe slowly and repeat a word or a short phrase which has great meaning for you. For example, for a non-religious person it could be the word peace, for a Catholic the Lord is my shepherd, for a Muslim Allah is great, and a Jew might choose the word Shalom. When the meditation is over you can add the visualisation. This consists of creating mental images of your recovery, such as your immune system’s struggle against the cancer or an image of the cancer disappearing and your body getting well again. End the visualisation, seeing yourself well, free of disease and full of energy. It is that simple, nothing more complex is required. A large percentage of survivors believe that it was most useful in helping them conquer the disease.
Laughter is another of your allies to conquer the disease because it triggers positive biochemical responses in your brain by releasing endorphins, as happens with physical exercise. Other actions such as playing with your children or grandchildren are crucial in the curing process.
14- UNDERSTANDING THE MESSAGE OF THE DISEASE
You must see the disease as a challenge rather than a threat. Many survivors regard the disease as a call to make personal transformations which go beyond changes in habits, diet and so on. Rather they are changes in your attitudes and your self -image. Many survivors identify one or more situations that cause stress a year or two before the cancer diagnosis, such as the death of a partner or a child, losing your job or going bankrupt.
15- PRACTISE SELF-DISCIPLINE
It will be most useful to play some sport even though it is raining and cold, or keep to a healthy diet when it would be far easier to eat ready-made food. Respect your rest and meditation time.
After your experience with cancer, things will never be the same again. You will want a new, better life.
16- BE GRATEFUL
Gratitude is a central factor in the curing process. Even with cancer, even in the throes of an aggressive treatment, at a time of greatest fear, be grateful for what you have. For life, for the love of your family and so many other things, be grateful. Thousands of survivors are convinced that survival is physiologically related to gratitude.
Anyone who has fought against a cancer knows that it is not just a physical battle, but also a psychological and spiritual one. The mind and the spirit contribute to a large extent to overcoming the cancer.
SHARE THESE EXPERIENCES WITH OTHER PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER.
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