by Linda Sechrist
Victorious warriors against cancer are speaking to other patients about their journeys of recovery and healing. Two who regularly speak to physicians, as well, are Glenn Sabin, author of n of 1: One Man’s Harvard-documented Remission of Incurable Cancer Using Only Natural Methods, and Kathy Mydlach-Bero, author of EAT: An Unconventional Decade in the Life of a Cancer Patient.
Their stories demonstrate the healing effectiveness of healthy lifestyle measures still widely categorized as prevention.
Whole Life Triumphs
Determined to become free of the chronic lymphocytic leukemia that had defined his life for 20 years, Sabin, who lives near Washington, D.C., appointed himself the subject of his own research experiment. He subsequently became a poster child for the remedial synergy of biological individuality, a whole systems approach to integrative oncology and self-induced healing through lifestyle and supplement interventions. Sabin now dedicates his business development firm, FON Consulting, to advancing integrative medicine as the new standard of care. His mission is to open minds to the idea that knowledge, empowerment and self-efficacy are our best allies against a life-limiting diagnosis, and we can do much to help the healing process.
Writing to Joe Biden regarding the vice president’s Cancer Moonshot initiative, he candidly describes America’s present cancer-friendly environment. “The public has become conditioned to existing in a broken food chain that remains in disrepair due to misguided farming subsidies [and] untested or otherwise questionable chemicals (many of which are banned in other countries) that are present in the water we drink, the air we breathe, food we consume and products we use. Current therapies or those in the drug pipeline won’t improve the 50/50 odds of developing cancer. What will have the greatest impact are consumer education toward powerful lifestyle changes and access to the building blocks of basic health.” Mydlach-Bero made her remarkable recovery from rare and unrelated aggressive Stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer and a high-grade tumor in her head and neck. To tell her story, the resident of Delafield, Wisconsin, relied on her 18 journals as a surrogate memory to chronicle a 10-year journey of courageous exploration, self-evolution, self-advocacy and self-transformation that connected her with her healing potential.
Then the mother of two young daughters, Mydlach-Bero rejected a 21-month prognosis in 2005, along with the notion that disease and medicine would determine her fate. Defying the odds, she applied what she learned from research regarding Avastin, a pharmaceutical created to combat harmful growth of new blood cells, and the benefits of growing and eating foods containing angiogenesis-inhibiting compounds that oppose such growth and so work to prevent, improve and avert recurrences of chronic disease. “Cancer hijacks the angiogenesis process triggered by inflammation and keeps it permanently activated to ensure that cancerous cells receive a dedicated, uninterrupted blood supply,” says Mydlach-Bero.
For three years, she largely consumed only items from the list of angiogenesis-inhibiting foods now posted at KathyMydlachBero.com/ food-research. These include green tea, strawberries, blackberries, red tart cherries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes, cinnamon, purple potatoes, kale, grape seed oil and pomegranate. In 2008, she completely replaced both the drugs to combat the side effects of chemo and radiation and a long-term medication for preventing recurrence with healthful foods.
Her physicians were admittedly uncomfortable with her decision to combine chemotherapy and radiation treatments with “food as medicine,” reiki, prayer, meditation, mindfulness and supplement intervention. But that didn’t deter her. To awaken others to the practicality of food as medicine, she founded NuGenesis Farm, in Pewaukee, a nonprofit modeled after her home practice.
Prevention is Paramount
Pioneering physicians and researchers agree with Sabin and Myldach-Bero that comprehensive prevention, the key to solving the cancer epidemic, is missing from conventional medicine. Leading voices include Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Arizona (AzCIM), in Tucson; Dr. Carlos M. Garcia, founder of Utopia Wellness, near Tampa, Florida; advocate Susan Silberstein, Ph.D., founder of BeatCancer.org, in Richboro, Pennsylvania; and Ajay Goel, Ph.D., director of the Center for Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics at Baylor University Medical Center’s Research Institute, in Dallas.
Weil pioneered the earliest efforts to develop a comprehensive curriculum in evidence-based integrative medicine and the field of integrative oncology. “We’ve known for nearly 15 years that inflammation is the root cause of many chronic diseases. Since 2012 scientific evidence has proven that a healthy lifestyle and an anti-inflammatory diet can influence various cancers,” says Weil.
His curriculum for health professionals and the general public was the first to cite the role of a nutrientrich, anti-inflammatory diet in cancer prevention and treatment. “Health professionals graduate armed with a better understanding of the complex interactions between cancer, gut microbiome and nutrition,” says Weil, whose paradigm inspires his chain of True Food Kitchen restaurants. It includes lots of fruits and vegetables, moderate amounts of whole or cracked grains, al dente pasta, healthy fats and plant-based proteins from legumes, nuts and seafood as well as poultry and lean, antibiotic-free grass-fed meats, cheese and eggs. Plus, he likes white, green and oolong teas, fresh herbs and spices, up to two glasses of red wine a day (less for women; possibly none for those at high-risk for breast cancer), and dark chocolate for antioxidant polyphenols.
Integrative Oncology, authored by Weil and Dr. Donald I. Abrams, an integrative oncologist, is mandatory reading for AzCIM students that learn to use complementary interventions in prevention and conventional cancer care. Subjects such as antioxidants, cannabinoids, energy medicine, mind-body medicine, music and expressive art therapies are covered, as well as naturopathic oncology, plus the roles that community and spirituality play in prevention and treatment.
Goel’s 20-year career in cancer prevention research has produced a wealth of related articles. Among his findings, he advises, “Curcumin, a yellow compound extracted from turmeric, has become a gold standard for prevention and the natural treatment of many chronic health conditions, including colon cancer. It targets cancer stem cells, disrupts cancer cell communication, triggers cancer cell death and helps to prevent cancerous mutations to cells. It’s also been shown to improve the efficacy of conventional treatments including fewer adverse effects.” He recommends only taking turmeric products with BCM-95 percent active curcuminoids.
Considering each individual’s biological individuality as a Petri dish, Garcia’s studies help achieve an anticancer life. “There is no ‘one size fits all’ medical protocol box for cancer treatment. Customized modifications to lifestyle and diet are required because food nutrients directly impact the mechanisms by which cancer cells grow and spread. The right nutrition can reverse a compromised immune system, which research shows is a major contributor to the development of cancer,” he says.
Whether for improvement or prevention, Garcia’s patient protocols always begin with a comprehensive evaluation appointment to learn about the individual he is treating. For cancer patients, his two-phase, eight-week program involves immune-enhancing therapies followed by immunotherapy aimed to de-cloak the camouflaged protein coating of wily cancer cells so the body’s immune system can identify and destroy them.
To maintain good health, Judy Seeger, a doctor of naturopathy near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, recommends a regular detoxification regimen to cleanse environmental and product toxins and toxic emotions. Through experience, she has learned that individuals living with cancer need to substantially support their abnormally functioning elimination system to rid it of dead proteins from destroyed cancer cells and chemotherapy drugs that are overtaxing the immune system.
“Clearing out toxic, stressful emotions that produce acid, weaken the immune system and create an environment for cancer to propagate is essential,” says Seeger. “Fulfilling the body’s requirement for an ongoing healthy nutritional plan that maintains a healing alkaline environment reduces both the risk of a cancer as well as recurrence.” She has observed that when an individual’s healing process has stalled despite their doing all the right things to improve their biochemistry, it’s frequently because they haven’t done an emotional detox and lack feeling a spiritual connection to something larger than themselves.
Silberstein categorizes cancer as epidemic. She speaks regularly regarding preventing cancer and its recurrence at medical and nursing schools, continuing oncology nursing education programs and universities. “What is needed more than new treatment research is public education regarding the true causes of cancer and continuing education credits in lifestyle training for medical professionals,” she says. Silberstein’s non-profit organization provides online holistic cancer coach training for health professionals as well as research-based education and counseling on how to prevent, cope with and beat cancer through immune-boosting holistic approaches.
The list of books authored by cancer survivors continues to grow, offering helpful insight into how individuals are negotiating the challenges of their healing journey. Two recent books, Surviving the Storm: A Workbook for Telling Your Cancer Story, by Psychotherapist Cheryl Krauter, and Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools: We’ll Get You Through This, by Barbara Tako, are particularly helpful regarding the onslaught of toxic feelings and emotions that stress the mind and body—fear, anger, isolation, anxiety, depression and uncertainty, as well as loss and grief. Emphasizing the need for individuals diagnosed with cancer to tell their stories, the authors encourage keeping a journal. The act of getting thoughts and experiences out of the mind and onto paper supports emotional cleansing.
“It’s important to share the real story of the emotional storm that is cancer, as well as the ravages of its treatments and invisible, but lingering side effects; to tell the tale of the cancer survivor who is moving from patient to person; and to explore and discover who you are after having faced down your mortality,” Krauter says.
Results of the Human Genome Project, as well as the work of Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., stem cell biologist and author of The Biology of Belief, and other epigenetic researchers support the point that “environmental signals” that directly affect our DNA expression include our thoughts, emotions, belief system, exposure to sunlight, exercise and everything we put into our body. Such new science shatters the idea that we are victims of our genes and environment. It shines light on the fact that we have tremendous power to shape and direct our own physical health. Our entire lifestyle is pivotal.
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at ItsAllAboutWe.com.