The past 35 years, since my own unexpected recovery from leukaemia, has given me the opportunity of working with thousands of people with cancer. when I first started out in practice as a naturopath, patients were generally told to ‘eat whatever they liked’ and were given no guidance as to how to contribute to their own healing.
Sadly, not a lot has changed, in that most patients hand over all responsibility to their oncologist to ‘deal with the cancer’. There have been some small changes. After a significant amount of research proving the benefits of exercise, most oncologists now recommend to their patients that they exercise throughout treatment. Indeed, it is remiss of an oncologist to not mention the value of exercise as it increases the uptake of the treatment for the patient.
When I deliver my talk on nutrition and healthy lifestyle factors during our Quest for Life program (forpeople with cancer and other life-challenging diseases), most participants report that if their oncologist or GP has mentioned food, it has eitherbeen to say, ‘eat a balanced diet’ or worse, they are told to eat a lot of ice-cream, cakes, biscuits, chocolate or soda drinks to increase their caloricintake. This is appalling advice to give to anyone who is trying to recover their health! The empty, worthless calories give nothing to a persons body that’s of value.
Last century, we believed that all diseases were genetically determined. It was ‘bad luck’ if you had the bowel/breast/stomach etc cancer gene. This made us helpless victims of our genes. This century, we know from epigenetics, that it is the environment around the cell, which creates electrical/chemical signals that cause our genes to express, to modify their expression or to remain suppressed.
‘Epi’ means ‘above’, so epigenetics is the science of the factors that control the genes within the cell. To some extent, we have control over our epigenetic environment – the environment around the cells. When we change the environment around the cell to a healthier one, it gives different signals to the genes within the cells – and may well lead to different outcomes for the person.
So, what makes up the epigenetic environment around the cell?
The functioning of the interstitial environment is impacted by the:
amount of exercise we do
- quality of our sleep
- what we eat and drink
- our hormonal system
- chemistry of our own emotions (how we deal with stress)
- chemicals that we may be exposed to in the environment.
We have control over most of these aspects that impact on our genetic expression.
These factors are discussed in depth on our programs and are outlined in my books, Quest for Life and Your Life Matters. They are also contained within the four qualities – the Four Cs – which I identified as being universal in people who far-outlived their doctor’s expectations or who had unexpected remissions or are now entirely free of any disease.
Healing is different from curing
Curing focuses on the physical body. Healing focuses on the whole of the human being – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I know people who have been cured but are still in need of healing and people who have died healed of everything that ever stopped them from truly living. These are the paradoxes of healing.
When I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in September 1983 I was told I wouldn’t see Christmas. When I did see Christmas and beyond, I started working with people with cancer as a naturopath and meditation teacher. I shared with my clients my knowledge of nutrition, supplements, meditation and other healing therapies. Over the years as I saw many people regain their health I realised there is no one pathway to health and healing. There is no one diet, no best meditation practice and no perfect supplement program for all people.
Epigenetics teaches us that we must stop treating diseases – and start treating people. Many years ago, I sat on the Committee to establish which ‘complementary therapies would be incorporated into the new Lifehouse Hospital. One of the oncologists contributing to the meeting said, “I don’t treat people. I treat tumours”. Therein lies the problem. Not all people require identical treatment. Having treatments that are tailored to the individual is the future of oncological medicine.
It became obvious to me that the people who were far outliving their prognosis or who attained unexpected remissions were not all doing the same things. They each found their own particular path to healing and in each case, it was a pathway that was right for them.
What these people all have in common is a way of being rather than doing. In this lies the key to profound healing.
Focusing only on the physical aspects of healing addresses only part of the problem of ill health. It’s easy to focus on the aspects of healing that are involved in ‘doing’. Indeed, we feel reassured when we are busy ‘doing’. But our doing can be at the expense of our being.
The 4 keys to resilience, healing and peace
Real health is our capacity to embrace every moment, regardless of its challenges, with an open heart and a quiet mind. This definition of peace is embodied in the Four Keys to Resilience, Healing and Peace:
We regain a sense of control, choosing not to react from our history but making an appropriate response to the situation in which we find ourselves. This requires awareness and a desire to participate rather than feeling a helpless victim of our circumstance.
We care enough to be committed to getting emotionally up to date with our life so that we can be here now ~ in the present moment. We have healthy priorities: we nourish, rest, exercise and attend to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self; we are in clear communion with ourselves and have the capacity to communicate with our loved ones.
We find our life positively challenging, recognising that we’re here to grow in wisdom and in our capacity to love and make meaning of our suffering.
We feel lovingly connected to those we share our life with and to our own spiritual essence or we have a profound sense of connectedness to nature, our friends or family and our community.
These 4 qualities of ‘being’ are found in people who attain unexpected remissions, who far outlive their doctor’s expectations or who are now entirely free of their disease when that was never expected. People don’t always do the same things, but they generally have these same qualities of being.
Curing or Healing?
We don’t heal from something we resist or fear, we heal into that which we more deeply desire. Healing requires that we’re willing to examine every belief, judgment, value, desire, inhibition, expectation and assumption we hold. In time, we discard everything but those things that we find true in their depths.
Curing is only about the finite state not the process. Healing addresses the whole person, taking into account the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects thus leading to a deeper understanding and wisdom about ourselves. Life is not a competition to see who stays alive the longest.
We value a life by the passion with which it was lived, by the love made evident, by the peace or joy given to others rather than its length.
Peace is always possible
When we desire to live with this sense of peace in our lives the outcome is guaranteed. Peace is always possible and regardless of the circumstances of our lives, peace becomes our reality.
The living presence of these qualities creates the ideal environment in which physical healing can take place. If a physical cure is not to be our lot we still have profound peace. This is the peace that passes all understanding.”
If you are living with a cancer diagnosis or chronic illness, our Quest for Life residential program provides a recipe for peace and healing, showing you ways you can create an ideal physiology to regain or retain your health, no matter your circumstance or challenge.