There’s always one or more discussions going on in #CancerLand about what might have or will cause cancer. For those of us with cancer, this discussion is fraught with pitfalls and angst. No one, after all, wants to be told that they did something to cause the worst thing that has ever happened. No one.
I’ve seen the reactions of those people who have felt shamed by someone else or reacting on behalf of those who have passed away because of cancer. No one wants to hear that you or a dearly departed friend should have done something else. No one.
I struggle with some of these assertions and the genuine desire of literally everyone to have something within their control. I get the angst, the anger, the outrage from fellow advocates. I also get the assertions of those who have to embrace the illusion of control to feel better.
No one knows what causes cancer. No one.
No one knows why some people die quickly and some are outliers. No one.
There’s nothing magical that anyone can do before or after a diagnosis of cancer that is assured of curing anyone.
I know that stopping my cancer is not really within my control, as I know so many other people have to face. In the face of the most out of control I’ve ever been, I’ve looked for things that I can control. I’m not entirely sure how much of this effort is conscious or otherwise. What I know is that the effort is there and having some things within my control really does make me feel better.
So, in no significant order, here are the things I’ve changed since I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer:
- Doctors. I have an entire team of doctors I see regularly. I stay in touch with them and I actively work to ensure that they are all talking to each other and working together. Before cancer, I didn’t even have a PCP. My husband fussed at me a great deal about this before cancer. I’m a big believer in integrating traditional and complementary medicine, but the first step is to have a traditional practitioner in place.
- Stress. I’ve worked to reduce stress in many ways. The most visible way is that I’ve closed my law practice and accessed my disability benefits. We planned well, so it is possible for me to stay home with the boys and spend as much time with them as possible.
- Rest. I listen to my body more. If I’m not feeling well, I don’t push myself. I used to push myself all the time, every day. I’m much kinder to myself these days and I heed the assertion from my body that I need to rest.
- Food. We’d already done a lot to reduce toxins and preservatives during my pregnancies and nursing, but after my diagnosis and at the urging of my neurologist to help with my migraines, I’ve become a raw vegan. The goal is to reduce inflammation in my body while ensuring that I get the nutrients my body needs for fuel.
- Chiropractic/Naturopath care. I see my chiropractor twice per week. He suggests supplements and we work with my body to ensure that it is working the best it can. One element of this is we work to eliminate heavy metals and other toxins from my body to help it focus on the cancer and not other stuff.
- Yoga. I go to a chair yoga class three times per week, usually. I try very hard not to schedule things that would interfere with yoga and I don’t always succeed, but I definitely feel better when I’ve gone.
- Medical marijuana. Before cancer I’d never touched drugs. I literally tried to smoke a cigarette one time and I felt so awful that I never tried again. Medical marijuana keeps my pain at bay, helps me control my nausea, helps me keep my appetite and generally makes me feel calm.
- Supplements. I had dabbled in some supplements, tinctures, etc., at various points in my life, but nothing like now. I take a variety of plant based products for a variety of things, primarily to ensure that my body has all the nutrients it needs to function optimally while we get rid of the cancer and I deal with the side effects of the medication.
- Obesity. The only times I’ve been truly obese is when I was pregnant. Both times, I was over 200 pounds by the end. Since I’m 5’3″, that showed! A lot of it was water weight as I was super swollen both times. My weight has stabilized now that I passed the 2 year mark since chemo ended. I threw away any scales we had years and years ago. I don’t want to get obsessed about any numbers. I know that I feel good and I fit better into my clothes when I’m around a certain weight and I follow that. Unfortunately since I have doctors appointments all the time, I do actually know my weight as a number and that has definitely not made my life any better.
- Smoking/drinking. As I referenced above, I’ve only had that one puff on a cigarette in my life. My husband and I went to a few wine classes and we visited Napa Valley when we got engaged, so wine was definitely part of our lives generally. When we started trying to get pregnant (we went through a lot of fertility treatments), I stopped drinking any alcohol (coffee too, which was much worse). I was nursing right up until the time of my diagnosis, so I still wasn’t drinking. Now, I don’t usually drink because my liver has been working overtime since my diagnosis and I don’t want to make it work harder.
There are probably other things I’ve changed since my diagnosis that I can’t think of right now (thanks chemo brain!), but the one message that I want to impart is that none of the things I’ve changed has the ability to cure my cancer.
Let me say that again, none of the changes I’ve made (stress, food, etc) cause or can cure my or any cancer.
I believe in giving my body the tools it needs to fight off cancer and any other germ or toxin that I encounter. That’s just good stewardship of what God gave me. I like feeling stronger. I like having more energy. I don’t like the fatigue and pain and depression that comes with a terminal cancer diagnosis and I don’t think anyone else does either.
When anyone makes claims that cannot be backed up with real science, like certain foods kill cancer, it only reveals ignorance and infuriates those of us who know that it’s just not true. I don’t worry about the people who take it on themselves to do the research. It’s not hard to refute most of the silliness that is posted or even published. What I worry about are the newly diagnosed, the people who don’t do their research.
Bottom line, no one truly knows what causes cancer to proliferate out of control and no one has the cure for cancer. I wish that wasn’t the case and if something really worked, there wouldn’t be talk about it, we just wouldn’t have cancer any longer.