Can We Be Anti-Cancer?

Last year I found a book called “Anti-Cancer. A New Way of Life,” by David Servan-Schreiber. I read this book cover to cover and couldn’t wait to send it on to my mom for more ideas about how to get cancer out of her body. I was SO extremely encouraged by David’s story and suggestions. He discusses how the use of nutrition, physical exercise, yoga, meditation, and stress management can help prevent cancer or cope with it once diagnosed. It was literally life changing and I knew his suggestions could help my mom further.

Just yesterday, I was saddened to find out that David Servan-Schreiber passed away on July 19th, 2011 after finishing his final book, “Not the Last Goodbye.” He fought brain cancer on and off for the past 19 years and I was truly disheartened to hear of his passing at the age of 51.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, his final book answers difficult questions and serves as a final farewell. He acknowledges that, “If David, himself, the living incarnation of this lifestyle, the one who thinks anticancer, eats anticancer, moves anticancer, breathes anticancer, lives anticancer – if even he succumbs to the disease, then what is left of ‘Anticancer’?”

He openly admits that his biggest regret is that he did NOT fully follow his own advice“recently, I have not been the ideal embodiment of the anticancer lifestyle,” he wrote. Apparently he led an extremely hectic lifestyle, traveling and trying to keep up with an exhausting work schedule. He basically wrote that even though friends and family tried to get him to slow down, he never did.

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“In retrospect, my mistake is glaringly obvious,” he wrote. “We must not exhaust and overexert ourselves. One of the best defenses against cancer is finding a place of inner calm. … Personally, I never managed to find that calm, and today I regret it.”

I want to dedicate this post to David, as he was very inspirational and anyone who can fight cancer for 19 years (or any years), deserves huge recognition. I don’t think he’s a phony just because he lost his battle with cancer. It’s a rough battle to fight!

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Obviously, more than any drug, I believe in the power of food. I believe that FOOD can be our medicine, and more importantly, our prevention. The choices we make NOW, affect our health later.

The problem is that too many factors are working against us; society, large industrial companies, close friends and family, stress, convenience, money, the environment, our jobs. It’s also hard to stand up against the norm. It’s a struggle to get others to believe in nutrition, when the norm is to believe in standardized medicine as the first line of defense.

For the past several years, I’ve pushed my mom toward health; exercise, de-stress, eat EXCEPTIONALLY well, believe in the power of FOODS. I’ve dedicated YEARS and been brought to tears of frustration, in trying to make her believe that food CAN help her heal. But the one thing I’ve only recently come to accept is this: you can’t make anyone do anything they do not want to do. While my mom does eat healthy, following such strict meal plans stresses her out and prevents her from enjoying life. I have to accept that she’s doing what’s best for her because more than anything else, SHE has to believe that what she’s doing; chemo/radiation, will work.

Probably the best lesson I’ve learned from David or any of the holistic treatment methods is that the mind is a very powerful thing. The right mind set can help you prevent illness and disease and the right mind set can also get you through any disease. Positivity can and will help us survive.

Staying positive, avoiding too much stress, exercising, and being happy contribute to our overall well-being much more than any medicine or food will ever do. If you have a loved one or are yourself trying to fight the good fight, get your mind in the game. Be happy with each and every day. Live life to the fullest, no matter what and stop sweating the small stuff!  Go out and have a laugh. This is what life is all about!


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16 comments to Can We Be Anti-Cancer?

  • I remember reading AntiCancer a few years back and was fascinated that David had done so well living with his brain tumor. His story was and will always be remarkable. Although he’s moved on now he has left behind profound ideas, reminding us how precious life is, what’s truly important, and how we need to take the time to appreciate these finer things. Thanks for the reminder :-)

  • I love this. One of the primary reasons I left my desk job was that it was contributing to my health problems. I know it doesn’t make sense to some people that my 8-5 desk job was hurting me, or that it was a major source of stress in my life, but it was. I felt the soul being sucked out of me, bit by bit, every day I went to work. Even though the work itself wasn’t difficult, the lack of joy in what I did for the majority of the waking hours of my week started to take its toll.

    I now have a job that requires that I be on my feet the entire time I am at work, and since it involves food service, there are definitely times of “stress” on the job, but it’s nothing like the stress I experienced at a desk job. I love my job now and I can’t imagine going back to what I was doing before! Over the past two months I’ve really started to feel more like myself again, more human again. My health has improved as well! Even though my eating hasn’t gotten better (it has sort of gotten worse due to my work schedule), a lot of my problems associated with PCOS have greatly diminished due to the increased activity and greater quality of life. Even though I do more, I feel less stressed since I actually enjoy what I do now. Really, the mind does wonderful things.

  • Kat RD

    Liked this post but I wanted to add from my own experience. I am an RD myself and live a healthy lifestyle… running, yoga, plant-based diet, no chemicals, etc. And I totally believe that for the majority of people, lifestyle CAN help to prevent major illness.

    Unfortunately, I was blindsided by a breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 32 and have spent the last six months in treatment hell (chemo, two surgeries, radiation, etc. – and I’m not done yet). No family history that we knew of, but it turns out I have the BRCA1 gene, which imparts something like a 70% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. When discussing this with the genetic counselor, I confessed that my lifestyle hadn’t always been perfect (for example, I drank in college, haven’t always shopped organic, need to do better managing my stress, etc.)… and asked her if I had lived just a bit better, could I have prevented it? Her answer was that in my case, 90% of my disposition is attributable to genetics, with the other 10% being lifestyle. Which was a huge relief because I was really beating myself up over what I could have done…….

    I manage a group of about 10 RDs, and on the whole they have been so very supportive. But I have also been accused of “lying” about my healthy lifestyle; that I must have been doing “something wrong” in order to land my dx. Try as we might to prevent, sometimes people STILL get cancer. And it’s important NOT TO JUDGE when that happens. Your post is a good example of that.

    Sorry for the long post but I am trying to get the word out there. Health professionals, please don’t lose sight of the fact that lifestyle is only one part of the equation. It’s a huge part and it’s often underestimated by the general public, but it’s not the only thing.

  • What a story Erin. It really hits home what David said about overexerting yourself. Even with the right diet and other behaviors. I don’t think he loses credit based on not surviving though something felt off about saying he didn’t follow his own advice (at all…). Such a toughie.

  • Wow. How incredible. What a nice tribute to him. It is very interesting how he admitted to not fully following his advice. I often think about that once people become successful and in demand [like he did as an author on the go] and think how you can not be stressed and lead a healthy lifestyle on the road, on the go, and with minimal rest.

    He sounds like an amazing man!

  • I heard about David, and to be honest I always think something like that will happen to me. I eat a very healthy diet and I always thought it would be so ironic if I got heart disease or cancer. My worst nightmare, really (anyone’s worst nightmare).
    This was a fabulous post. There is no “magic pill” for good health and cancer prevention, and it really is a holistic approach that is necessary. David taught us this. I’m glad he admitted his mistakes because people can learn form this, and hopefully make life-saving changes.

  • This is a great post.
    I think it is truly important to remember positive thinking when going through something like this.
    I know you mentioned that you can not make anyone do anything. Very similar to my parents. They both smoke and it bothers me so much. But it is something they are stuck on not changing. My dad at least talks about it so it’s a step in the right direction.

  • I agree with your post in many different ways. I love my mother to breast cancer three years ago. In fact, my blog is as much a tribute to her as it is about the celebration of food and family. However, one thing I learned about my mother is that she hadn’t received a mammogram in over 10 years prior to her diagnosis. Even though her husband was a Dr, she never followed any sort of routine exams. So, people can be hit over the head with the how to’s of eating right, leading a healthy lifestyle, taking charge of their life. It seems so easy to prosthelytize but, until that person, in their own mind agrees to follow these instructions, nothing will happen. I’m fairly certain that, had she gone to get checked, her cancer would never have advanced so quickly and she would’ve had a chance to live much longer than she did.

  • Meg

    I love that hippocrates quote, I should follow it more than I do.

  • I wish your mom the best with chemo/radiation. It’s a rough battle.

    And I do believe that the best they can do while fighting the fight is to keep the body as strong as possible with healthy eating/sleeping and minimal stress. And all we can do is support and pray. Keep it up, lady!

  • What an inspiring post! I so believe in the power of healthy eating and exercise to prevent illness; however, I really need to work on the not stressing part. Living in the moment is so important because the moment is all we ate guaranteed. Thanks for the wonderful reminder!

  • Such an important reminder. I think it is so true that diet is so very important, but less so if it is stressing you out.

  • What a story, wow!

    And I completely resonate with the message. We do need to slow down, stay in the present, find our inner peace. It’s the HOW to do that that is so tricky. We don’t live in a society that openly supports this. Europe on the other hand, does a much better job. I’ve often thought about moving there because I think they have a far better grasp of balance than we do in the US. Sigh.

  • Sam

    so sad that he passed away :(

    i totally agree that food choices and lifestyle can make a big impact on fighting something like cancer. good for you for encouraging your mom!

  • I hadn’t heard of his death. I read, and really liked, “Anticancer”. I actually thoroughly read the first part and skimmed the second part, which has to do with mental well-being. I think the second part is also powerful and I see the importance but the second part of the book just didn’t apply to my life (not suffering with cancer or similar disease) so I skimmed it. Given his type and history of cancer, it’s not a shock that he passed away. It doesn’t diminish his book at all (IMO).

  • What an inspiring post. Really sad about the author, that is seriously tragic.

    I like your points about truly embracing a healthy lifestyle. It requires a little work but your body will thank you double.

    The mind is such a powerful thing. It’s important to turn things off now and then. Speaking of which, i need to do more yoga!

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