Why do we get cancer, and how do we survive it? Ask the American Cancer Society, and they will point to genes or environmental factors, like smoking or Teflon, booze or red meat, being too fat or being exposed to plutonium, even too much sun.
But when it comes to emotional issues, stress or even diet, it’s a firm thumbs down. “Your personality and emotions cannot cause cancer and will not affect the outcome of your cancer,” says the ACS website. And: “At this time, there is no clear evidence that a person’s stress level affects their risk of getting cancer.”
As for sugar—which Nobel prize winner Dr Otto Warburg discovered was food for cancer’s deranged cell metabolism as far back as the 1920s: “Sugar intake has not been shown to increase the risk of getting cancer, having cancer spread, or having it get worse,” says the ACS. But of course, it adds, it might not be a good idea to eat too much of the stuff as it does have an awful lot of calories.
It’s also a good idea not to mess around with vitamin supplements like vitamin C, warns the ACS, as “large doses of some vitamins or minerals have been shown to be dangerous and even toxic.”
This attitude, which pervades most standard cancer treatment, is belied by the research of psychotherapist Kelly A. Turner. While studying for her PhD, she asked a simple question: Who survives cancer against all odds?
Turner traveled around the globe to find her answer, interviewing scores of cancer survivors and alternative healers, even some working in the jungles and mountains of Brazil and India.
The result, her internationally bestselling book Radical Remission, identified nine characteristics of these cancer survivors, who were given up on by conventional medicine. She added a tenth one in her follow-up book, Radical Hope. The 10 are:
• Changing your diet
• Taking control of your health
• Following your intuition
• Using herbs and supplements
• Releasing suppressed emotions
• Increasing positive emotions
• Embracing social support
• Deepening your spiritual connection
• Having strong reasons for living
• Taking regular exercise
But notice the most interesting part of the story. Only three of the 10 involve physical changes (diet, exercise, supplements). The other seven concern changes in your mental, emotional and spiritual life and your connections with others.
Many of those people who followed the 10 key factors were written off as hopeless cases by conventional medicine—even given months to live.
What this suggests is that cancer results from a multitude of causes—with emotions, social life and a spiritual belief every bit as important as eating the right food and avoiding exposure to toxins.
Many of the top integrative cancer specialists agree. As Dr Leigh Erin Connealy, founder and medical director of the Cancer Center for Healing and Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California, says in our Cover story: “Cancer is just a symptom of a disorder in the whole system, not in the breast or the colon or the prostate. You can’t just treat cancer. You have to fix what’s creating the perfect storm of cancer in the body.”
Consequently, part of Connealy’s treatment is conflict and stress resolution since, in her view, the patient won’t make much progress unless they work on both.
In our experience, those doctors with the best outcomes combine the best of alternative and conventional medicine. I’m not talking about using alternative treatments as an adjunct to the main event—chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery—but as a component every bit as critical as any conventional treatment.
Connealy has treated some 65,000 cancer patients in the last 35 years, and thousands of her patients have beaten the odds. The same goes for the cancer doctors listed in these pages.
The other important factor is individualized treatment. What works best for one patient may not work for another.
All the cancer doctors we’ve surveyed work from a large palette of possible options and choose which ones to employ based upon that patient’s unique history. Many have degrees in both naturopathy and medicine, plus some other modalities like acupuncture or homeopathy.
In their book Outside the Box Cancer Therapies, naturopathic physicians Mark Stengler and Paul Anderson tell the story of Rose, an 84-year-old woman who presented with metastatic abdominal cancer. Her oncologist said she was too frail for either chemo or surgery. He sent her home to get her affairs in order, as she was unlikely to reach her eighty-fifth birthday, he said.
Rose disagreed. She embarked on a search for doctors using alternative therapies and consulted with Dr Anderson, who started her on high-dose intravenous vitamin C and other treatments. After three weeks, Rose reported that her fatigue and digestive problems had gone away.
Rose celebrated her eighty-fifth birthday (she called her original oncologist to inform him) and has continued to celebrate birthdays up to 92, at last check—still active, healthy and well.
In our experience, there is no such thing as a hopeless case—even in cancer.
Besides taking vitamin C, there’s another reason why Rose lived on. She took control of her health, followed her intuition and, most vital of all, she still had good reasons for living. Sometimes those factors, rather than drugs or surgery or even the right supplements, are your best medicine.