In 2005, I was diagnosed with leukemia. It’s a slow-growing form that mostly strikes older men. When I was first diagnosed, I rode the usual wave of shock and fear and buying of luxury items (what the heck – live for today!). My sweet husband cried and cried.
Since that time, I’ve had to check my labs every six month, following my hematocrit, watching for anemia and rising white blood cells. Last week, for the first time since my diagnosis, my labs were normal. They’d been heading in that direction slowly for several years and bing, normal. Woo-hoot.
I have a brilliant doc; an MD PhD specialist in my particular type, CLL, at Dana Farber in Boston. I asked her what it means; I am a nutritionist with a diet that in some ways is obsessively clean and in others decidedly not and sporadically indulgent. I try with moderate success to get or stay fit, and have a regular meditation practice. I am definitely a seeker and aspire to know my life, occupy and express it fully. I hold my share of resentment, Louise Hay, and am working on it! My doc said that yes, I still have it and sometimes spontaneous remissions happen. Random. She would like to see those labs, though!
At this same time, I have a good friend, a beloved sister, and a woman I’ve known and admired at a distance who are deep in the throws of horrible experiences with cancer. Women who also take great care of themselves, but who got dealt a tougher hand of cards than I, and are going through what no one should need to.
Did my lifestyle cure my cancer? I think so. If there is a lifestyle that reduces risk, I’m living it. I know it made a difference, even though there are just a few trials for my type of cancer; but cherries, vegetables, and beans for me! But there are hints that it might. Epigenetics research is telling us that our thoughts and choices become etched in the very structures of our bodies.
So, if you have cancer – any type of cancer – or have a lot of cancer in your family, find out what groups like the American Institute for Cancer Research have to say about lifestyle. Check out the recipes on this blog…they are clean and vegetable-laden.
But remember too that many do ‘all the right things’ and depending upon the ironic nature of the universe, still get nasty cancers. That’s the fickle finger of risk reduction.
The gifts of this randomness are, I’d say, to remember to:
- enjoy your lifestyle. If you like bread, have some. If you like burgers, have one. AND be aware of how bread and burgers feel in your body and learn the biologic cost to you. Then look for the tastiest and highest quality versions of those foods you can find and afford, and aim to never feel bad about what you eat; and
- do that yogic dance of effort and surrender – of accepting that life has a pattern that we don’t fully understand. So finally,
- feel the mystery. The longer I’m around the more I get that it’s not just the ecstatic experiences in life that fill me with wonder, but it’s the challenging too. It the degree to which you simply take what shows up and do yoga with it.
Namaste. Happy Sunday.
So much more to say about cancer, and so many wonderful teachers of food and yoga in this area. So, more to come.
For those of you with or in close proximity to someone with cancer, how are you feeling about this issue of it’s seemingly random nature? How do you deal with it?
This is extremely interesting to me. My daughter has horrible eating habits, doesn’t exercise and needs some positive. She had a bone marrow biopsy and on friday we see if she has cll. I keep telling her she needs to try and attitude has alot to do with it. She says she feels like “crap” and doesnt get out of bed. I want her to move to get better…I don’t care what she looks like. I’m forwarding this article on to ber. She’s only 25…good luck to you.
Thanks Michele. It is SO tough for young people…the food environment is really terrible and it took me a long time and lots of education then lots of self-experimentation to put it all together. But, sounds like she’s hearing some positive messages from you. All the best and may it be something else. BUT even if it is CLL, nutrition makes a HUGE different at every step of the way.