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Why We Need Cancer Prevention - Not Just Awareness

This is the first of a three-part series on cancer prevention. More than ever, we have a plethora of cancer fundraisers to stir up the pot of cancer awareness, whether it’s a 5K-10k walk/run/ride, or other event supporting cancer awareness. While these programs are very useful in raising money to support cancer research and to find a cure for cancer, there are other factors that can help prevent cancer in its tracks, including diet, and lifestyle.

A lot of you may not be aware of the information I will be sharing in this three-part series on cancer prevention. This first part covers the emotional well-being, and stressors, that when unchecked, begin to tear away at our healthy cells. The second part covers our food supply, and how that plays a role in disease, and steps to take to protect yourself, and foods that will build your immunity each day. And step-three covers the importance of good quality sleep, to maintain a healthy immune function.

Due to these fundraising events, we have all learned and know about “cancer awareness.” What we fall short on is addressing the underlying cause of chronic illness, including cancer, which is the number two cause of death behind heart disease. Take a good look at your diet, lifestyle, and chronic stress levels. They undermine your immune function, which in turn can lead to disease.

Let’s first address the stressors in our daily lives. Ninety-percent of doctor’s visits are stress related. We have an epidemic of chronic disease, and yet, we’re one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Conventional medicine taught us to treat our disease or illness. And yes, I am grateful that we have the many advances in treating cancer, and we are advancing in treatments each day. What worries me is that the conventional approach focuses on treatment rather than education or prevention. By the time we receive the diagnosis, it’s often too late.

Inherited genetic mutations play a major role in about 5 to 15 percent of all cancers.

That means 85 percent are environmental in origin. In Part-One of this series on cancer prevention, I’m going to address stress, and how it plays a major role in disease. While there are many reasons for cancer, one of the main causes is negative emotions. In particular, depression (as in repressed anger), grief (usually the death of a loved one), and anxiety (worry and fearfulness), can be major contributing factors. I’m not talking about one disappointment or a single occurrence, I’m referring to chronic emotional stress that can increase your risk of cancer and its recurrence.

Emotional stress increases a person’s susceptibility to cancer by altering the genes that control the stress response. While toxic emotions don’t necessary change our genes, they do set off a surge of cellular changes that promote cancer. We understood this through the study of epigenetics. Environmental factors change our gene expression.

The Role of Negative Emotions

Negative emotions, chronic stress, the problematic foods that we eat, including excess sugar from sugary drinks, processed foods, pastry, pasta, flour, bread, etc. (cancer cells LOVE sugar), all play a role in feeding cancer. When we’re mindful of taking care of the body, actively engaging in ways to reduce stress through yoga, meditation, quiet time, play, social connection, and we assess what we need to change, our actions bring more balance back into our lives. This, stress reduction along with a good quality whole-foods diet, and the elimination of processed foods and sugary foods, prevents cancer cells from growing because there is nothing in your body to feed them.

My Own Cancer Diagnosis

When I was hit with my own cancer diagnosis at the age of 44, I was under a lot of stress and had stuffed my emotions deep inside of me so that I could ignore them. After my cancer protocol including a dose-dense form of chemotherapy, I was back at work full-time within a week of my last treatment. I returned to work with a vengeance. I wanted to prove that I could do it all, so I worked longer days, more than I did pre-cancer, and this was a job that I disliked! But, I wouldn’t face my feelings and just plowed through, ignoring my emotional state. So when I walked into my Naturopathic doctor’s office, and we discussed my lifestyle, my job, how I was handling stress and my diet, he said to me “Donna if you stay in this state, you’re heading right back into another cancer diagnosis.” That’s when I decided I needed to take my health into my own hands and be responsible for how I was going to live my life.

In the HEAL Documentary, Kelly Turner, a Ph.D., studied over 1,500 "radical remissions" from cancer and isolated nine factors common to all of them. The people she studied used over 75 interventions but, from her study, she learned that all of them were using the following nine interventions. Only two are physical. The rest address the importance of self-awareness and self-care as well as the mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

  • Radically 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 a strong reason for living.

I talk about this issue a lot with my own cancer diagnosis. It wasn’t until I addressed my negative emotions and those things that were not working in my life, and learned how to stand up for myself by setting clear boundaries, etc., did I feel worthy of change. Through this experience, I realized that you have to come to a place where you do feel worthy. Healing is your birthright, so educate yourself holistically and bring back your balance. Through this experience, you will gain a sense of power as you realize you have to take back control of your life. We all need to address our negative emotions and get to the root of our issues.

The reason why your doctor doesn’t address this information is that Western medicine doesn’t recognize that emotional stress can contribute to the development of cancer, although Chinese medicine has recognized this truth since ancient times.

Getting healthy is not just a physical proposition. Until you truly address those areas in your life that cause your chronic stress and ill health, you won’t feel worthy of taking better care of your body and your health.

Stress comes in the following forms:

  • physical stress - falls, accidents, traumas, illness

  • chemical stress - viruses, hormone imbalance, blood sugar imbalance, prescription drugs

  • emotional stress - family tragedies, divorces, financial issues, being in a job that you dislike, unhealthy relationships, not setting clear boundaries, etc.

If you are in a chronic sympathetic state, constantly running your flight or fight response, there is less energy and resources available inside of you to repair and heal yourself. Also, our systems become more acidic when in a state of stress and this leads to inflammation.

Chronic inflammation leads to disease.

Some destressing steps you can take are to practice deep breathing, which calms the mind when your heightened sympathetic nervous system takes over. This happens daily, when sitting in traffic. You engage in that fight or flight response. Next time you are stuck in traffic, notice how you feel, and then take some deep belly breaths to relax your body. I use this practice a lot, especially when I’m in a long grocery store checkout line. I work on my deep breathing to calm my nervous system down. It helps!

Other helpful activities include exercise on a regular basis, a healthy diet, and mindful activities such as yoga, meditation, message, Reiki, acupuncture, and play.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this Cancer Prevention series, what foods, supplements, and herbs help with cancer prevention.

To your health and happiness!

Donna Markussen, HHC

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