Messages of Cancer
by Dr. Joel Brame
Cancer gives messages. It screams messages at us. I just finished spending
eight straight days immersed in the study of pharmacology. I emerged with an
insight that I had not had before. I realized that our body is never trying
to harm or kill us, although we might interpret it as such. Instead, it is
just trying to send us messages. As an example, for those who smoke, lung
cancer is the ultimatum, the message that says, "Stop smoking or else." Once
the patient acknowledges the message and takes appropriate action, their
chances of long-term survival are significantly improved. In these cases we
hear the patient say, "Cancer was the best thing that ever happened to me."
For the past 10 years, I have researched how international cancer
specialists deal with cancer. The goal was to tap into their years of
experience and find out exactly what they thought would give a person with
cancer the best chance for recovery and long-term survival. Although they
reside in far-apart countries such as Switzerland, Canada, and China, and
have different educational backgrounds, these cancer specialists have had
similar experiences on what can make the difference. In particular, three
messages of cancer seemed to stand out above the others, and so I'd like to
share those with you.
First, I need to share a few of my fundamental beliefs, because they provide
framework for this discussion. I'll be brief here, but many of them are
discussed extensively in my book Modern World, Modern Health.
1) The body is continuously moving toward a state of health; 2) the
importance of seeking the cause of illness rather than just managing
symptoms; 3) emotions are at the center of almost every chronic illness; 4)
cancer is a process. The last one means that the tumor is not the cancer;
cancer is the long-term underlying process that culminates in the tumor.
These beliefs have been invaluable guidelines in my own quest for health,
and will help to clarify the three primary messages of cancer.
1.) The first message of cancer, above all else, is nutrition. Because
nutrition is so important, I dedicated a large portion of my book to helping
others make effective diet choices amidst the endless options. Last year, I
asked Kang-Pang Chan, a naturopathic doctor and friend in China, "From your
personal perspective, what above all else is the key determinant of
long-term survival for cancer patients?" He said that, although many things
are important, an improvement in nutrition habits stands above all others.
These changes include ramping up intake of nutritious whole foods and toning
down intake of synthetic, processed foods. The body is yelling out loud, "I
need real fuel and now, otherwise I can't do my job of keeping you protected
from cancer anymore."
As both Dr. Chan and Harvey Bigelson, MD, Mexico, have pointed out, good
quality nutrition is worth the effort. Cancer patients dramatically improve
their long-term survival by focusing their efforts on choosing foods that
are alkalinizing, antioxidant-rich, and energizing. Those undergoing
conventional treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy certainly need
extra energy for recovery, and 40% of cancer patients who don't survive are
not killed by the cancer itself but die from malnutrition (called cachexia).
Also, despite the controversy, overwhelming international research shows
that antioxidant supplementation indeed prolongs survival in those
2.) The psychology. According to author/speakers Neil McKinney, ND, Lawrence
LeShan, PhD, and Thomas Rau, MD, cancer contains a message that goes far
beyond the physical realm. Cancer delivers a message on the emotional and
spiritual realm. According to these doctors, recognizing and processing this
deeper message makes a difference in survival. Dr. McKinney of Vancouver,
Canada said that he has seen patients who go into remission overnight by
"heeding the message" of love and forgiveness that cancer often presents.
Dr. Rau, who sees hundreds of cancer patients each week at his Switzerland
clinic, applies anthroposophical and Chinese medicine in his work with them,
along with his other conventional and natural approaches. His approach is
incredibly comprehensive. He told me that cancer messages frequently involve
a disturbance in the person's role or identity. The patient's mission or
purpose is suddenly taken away, such as the young mother losing a child, or
the woman sacrificing her own ambitions to serve her husband's desires, or
perhaps the senior executive who gets fired and is diagnosed with colon
cancer one year later.
Not every person who has an experience like this develops cancer, but about
90% of cancer patients have had a role-changing experience one or two years
before the cancer diagnosis. The cancer emerges to encourage them to examine
how they have dealt with this experience. Once they work through this
process, and they "hear the message" of the cancer, the cancer is no longer
"needed" - remission can occur more freely.
3.) The third message warns the patient of underlying damaging processes
that lead to cancer. In a Las Vegas conference earlier this year, Dr.
Patrick Quillin, RD, who served as Director of Nutrition for Cancer
Treatment Centers of America for over a decade, was lecturing on his
experiences with cancer. He said that if he were to boil down all his
knowledge and experience of cancer to one aspect, it would be this: Cancer
is an opportunistic illness that grows amidst a toxic body environment. In
other words, cancer gives a message that the body is toxic and improperly
regulated. It says, "For the last time, clean yourself up!"
Cancer thrives within a body that is oxygen- and nutrient-deprived, and full
of sugar, elevated "heat" reactions, and altered immunity. The conditions
associated with this type of situation are well-recognized, such as high
blood pressure and anemia (oxygen deprivation), bloating and fatigue
(nutrient deprivation), hyperglycemia and diabetes (full of sugar),
inflammatory processes such as arthritis and sinusitis ("heat" reactions),
and allergies and frequent colds (altered immunity). For those with cancer,
resolving these other illnesses helps create a healthier environment that
does not support cancer processes. When I say "resolving", I mean getting to
the root cause of the problem, not just concealing symptoms with
These three messages of cancer are there to help us, not harm us. They are
part of our body's infinite wisdom to get us to treat it well. In his book
Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Dr. Quillin says to "Fix What's Broke". In
other words, every cancer patient is a unique individual, and each person's
cause of the cancer is different. For some patients, psychological
counseling is the key, and others may need to focus on detoxification or
heavy metal cleansing.
I encourage those with cancer (or looking to prevent cancer) to listen--to
become quiet and still, and then really listen to what the cancer may be
saying. To facilitate a deeper listening, there are many techniques that can
be helpful. I personally have found that daily or weekly journaling can
bring out hidden thoughts and emotions, especially handwriting the journal
entry with the non-dominant hand. For some people, meditating on questions
such as, "What is my cancer trying to tell me" has been illuminating, or
perhaps drawing an illustration the answer to these questions. Try to let go
of the mind and get into the heart, which I know is sometimes not easy but
is worth the effort.
The message of cancer may involve a topic that is uncomfortable, and it may
be something the person has always known but would have preferred to avoid.
I can tell you from experience that if you feel a sense of fear or
discomfort during these exercises, this is often an important clue that you
are close to discovering the message. Most cancer messages involve topics
that stir up difficult emotions. However, if the discomfort is tolerable,
keep going and push through, trying to be as honest with yourself as humanly
possible. This takes great courage, but there is deep wisdom in the old
adage, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Once the messages begin to reveal themselves, you will quickly gain clarity
about what needs to be done to deal with them. Often, this is when I suggest
using teamwork to your advantage. I recommend visiting with a holistic
physician who is trained in both conventional and natural approaches to
health. This can include licensed naturopaths, chiropractors, and some
osteopaths and medical doctors. For those in the Phoenix valley area, they
can contact me for consultations or cancer coaching (602-561-4376,
firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dan Rubin,
ND, who provides cancer consultations and treatments
www.rubinmedical.com. I also
recommend all those who prefer natural approaches to health to read my new
book Modern World, Modern Health. It shares an empowering perspective on the
natural healthcare scene and gives you simple but powerful ideas to help you
improve your long-term health.
Dr. Joel Brame is a licensed naturopathic physician living and working in
Arizona. He has researched and worked with cancer patients in a variety of
roles for the past 11 years. Dr. Brame recently published the book Modern
World, Modern Health www.mwmh.com, and
serves as director of "Private Cancer Coaching", where he provides in-home
lifestyle guidance and emotional support to cancer patients.