So you have been diagnosed with cancer. Now what?!
A cancer diagnosis is like being thrown into a void – you don’t know what to think or where to start. You need answers and an action plan that you can begin implementing right now, but you have quite probably found yourself in an ‘informational vacuum’. Here I discuss two of the most important concerns – how to start taking control of your cancer treatment, and how to adjust to the impact of your cancer diagnosis on your life in general. While the cancer itself is an obvious focus, the drama that comes with it needs to be managed as well. I have outlined the essential steps to getting in control of your cancer treatment, and your ‘post-diagnosis’ life, in the shortest possible time.
And please forgive me – I’m a straight shooter and not known to mince words. I’m not going to whisper gentle words or be delicate about feelings – I try but it doesn’t seem to work. So I’ll just tell you like it is and hope you can bear with me. So let’s go…………
A cancer diagnosis is never convenient. It does throw a spanner in the works. Your priorities unavoidably change. Your health is now more important than anything else, and it requires your complete focus. Everything else is now secondary. It is one thing for you to accept this – it is another thing for those who are a part of your inner circle. Everyone is affected.
The first step that I recommend is to take some time off as soon as you can – a week if at all possible – to sit, chill, breathe and get your head around this. Personally, I think this is essential. Your journey going forward will be much easier if you take the time to get your head around your cancer diagnosis from the beginning. This is not just time off work, but time off from everything. Suspend your obligations and commitments to others and focus on what you need right now. At this time, this is your right. You can meditate (or at least find out what that is), research, read and chill.
Denial and confusion are the most immediate reactions to a cancer diagnosis. They run so deep that they will undermine your potential to take control. Cancer is a game changer and you need to adapt. That begins when you accept the diagnosis. Taking this time out is the most expedient way of dealing with the confusion and for you to recover your faith and belief in the future.
We all have to-do lists that are bottomless. ALL of that is now secondary. Paying the rent or mortgage, paying the bills, obligations of any kind are now secondary to your diagnosis. Cancer is not something that fits on a to-do list. You really need to stop and focus on what you need to do right now to mitigate the cancer.
Like me, you might run into a problem if you are the primary income earner. It takes a while for those close to you to accept that you have cancer and to adjust to your health being the number one priority. I made the mistake of putting cancer on my to-do list. The problem was that it meant that I suppressed my confusion and angst, which only served to increase the stress of the diagnosis.
People generally do not understand and so their expectations don’t adapt. My business partner at the time of my diagnosis was more concerned about his loss of income than my health – my cancer was actually a threat to him too. Cancer is big, and it is incomprehensible to most people. You are going to have to take the lead.
So, from experience, take some time off, sit, chill, breathe and get your head around this. Formulate your strategy and get on with it. You are fully entitled to do this. You need this. Others are going to have to adjust – just as you are. You have everything you need right here – please take advantage of it. And don’t forget that you can get one on one online coaching with me.
One of the most common reactions to a cancer diagnosis is anger. Angry with the cancer, angry with the threat to your own existence, anger about potential loss, anger that comes from confusion – what does this diagnosis mean, what do I have to do, what are my chances? The issue is that this anger undermines your own mental health, then spills out and damages relationships – especially with the ones closest to you. I cannot emphasise this enough – stay positive! This is good for your wellbeing and for those around you.
A cancer diagnosis brings up a lot of stuff. This can lead to grief and depression. ‘Why me?’ ‘Why now?’ ‘Does anyone care?’ 50% of the population will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. The only thing that matters is what you are going to do about it. Dwelling on the negatives multiplies the stress which triggers a hormone response that, in turn, suppresses the immune system. Successfully dealing with cancer requires that you stay positive. Breathe, focus, get on with the job. I can guarantee you that will come out the other end of this a better person – if you stay positive.
Those close to you have also been thrown into the void. They will also be reacting in all kinds of ways – fear, anger, confusion, denial etc. – and you will unfortunately need to deal with that as well. If you stay positive it will help them too. You will need to be open and honest, communicate and help them to understand. Let them know that you need them to be positive as well. They need to support you but initially it can be that you are supporting them.
I have been dealing with cancer for nearly three years. Not only do I feel great, but all my blood tests come back with the best results of my life. I’m at a healthy weight, I’m fit and I look really healthy too. Yes I have these cancer cells in my body, but if anyone asks me I stay with ‘I’m feeling great’. Looking for empathy or sympathy from people who don’t understand the problem is counter productive. If people know and ask how it’s going with the cancer, I stay positive – because I am. Getting negative is to surrender to the disease.
ONLY TELL THOSE WHO MUST KNOW
At the start it may be a good idea to only tell people who must know (immediate family) and ask them to not tell anyone else. You can let others know later, at the right time, in the right setting. It will depend on what your personal circumstances are – some people belong to a group or society whose members will fall over themselves to help, others will struggle to find that level of support. Either way, in the beginning, the less noise the better.
There is whole gamut of emotional reactions that you will encounter when people find out that you have cancer. It will range from over reactions to no response at all. And it may disappoint, depending on what you may have been expecting. Cancer is a bit like an alien walking into the room – people respond in the moment without any control – some will freak out, some will hide, some just won’t comprehend it and so don’t respond at all.
People find cancer very confronting and you will find that this can alienate them. Expect people to disappear from your life because of this. Don’t be angry with them for abandoning you – they haven’t. Because we, as a society, so completely avoid the subject of cancer, when it does come up people are stymied – they don’t know what to say, they don’t know how to react. They will change the subject to something inane first chance they get. But this doesn’t mean they don’t care – they are simply lost. The result of this is that cancer can feel like a lonely journey – expect to feel like this at least some of the time. As much as those close to you may care, they don’t have the answer. But let people support you where they can. Don’t say no to help, and be prepared to ask for it. Don’t allow yourself to become isolated. Stay engaged. Stay social. Stay positive.
People will be offering you advice. It is amazing how many random ‘experts’ there are when it comes to cancer. “Have you heard about this, have you heard about that, my friend tried … blah blah. They may seem to know what they are talking about but this is how I finished up taking Vitamin C supplements only to discover later what a big mistake that was. I consulted an expert in natural therapies, at quite some cost, only to discover over time that her advice was counter productive. It took years to find my way to the science and to distill that information into a protocol that actually worked.
I have been able to control my cancer over the last three years with CBD (which I discuss in Complementary Therapies). By control, I mean that I have been able to prevent it from developing. There have been three periods during which the cancer did get worse – the first being about six months after surgery, and during two trips overseas. During these periods I did not take the CBD. When I re-started taking the CBD, my cancer marker dropped again.
The CBD has been more or less effective depending on what else I was doing, so I have been able to determine what is helping and what is antagonistic – which is how I discovered the vitamin C issue. I have a PSA test (prostate cancer marker) about every four to eight weeks, depending on what I am experimenting with. I am able to go to my specialist and tell him a story for every test. Over three years of this process I have learned some very valuable lessons. One of the most important has been to ensure that I have fully investigated anything before I try it.
As an example, I watched an interview with a doctor who specialises in water fasting. This was on a renowned natural therapy website with a well known natural therapy guru conducting the interview. It went for two hours. I was convinced. I did a seven day water fast. The result was disastrous. I then discovered science that discussed the ‘preventative and proliferative effects of autophagy’. Bottom line – water fasting makes cancer worse. And it did. My PSA shot up. Fortunately I had the CBD to fall back on.
Science, science, science. Don’t try anything without it. I won’t suggest anything to you that doesn’t have science behind it. Fortunately, there is an abundance of it out there. I am now eternally grateful for my time at university and the emphasis that was placed on critical thinking and finding credible science.
FIND THE RIGHT DOCTOR
As an extension of this ‘advice issue’ you will also find some members of your inner circle who will pressure you to conform with the ‘cut, poison and blast’ philosophy of many oncologists. They do so out of a misguided sense of support, undermined by fear and lack of understanding. By building a solid understanding of your cancer and the treatment options available to you, you are in the drivers seat. Some people will never understand. But you need to stay in the drivers seat and don’t let others yank on the wheel.
Unfortunately the cancer industry does not acknowledge either diet or complementary therapies as valid. Somehow the oncologists got it into their heads that there is no science behind a cancer-mitigating diet. This is as astonishing as much as it is wrong. Equally they dismiss complementary therapies as unfounded – while there is an abundance of science to support them. When I told my first doctor that I was considering CBD he literally spun around his office declaring me insane – four times. That was the last time I saw him!
The next doctor I saw was two weeks after I started taking CBD. My PSA had dropped from 13 to 10. He said to me that he had no explanation as to how my PSA had come down like that – because it never does. I suggested that it may be due to the CBD and he was very interested in my CBD journey after that, actually encouraging me. (He is a consulting surgeon and a patient-oriented doctor, as opposed to the career-oriented doctors who are inevitably closed minded.)
The question I had to ask myself is this: given that 90% of metastatic cancer patients die, why do we consider oncologists experts? They fail most of the time. Nowhere is a person who fails most of the time thought of as an expert – except in oncology. To twist the knife further, oncology is the highest paid profession in Australia.
Oncologists are locked into a finite world of science produced or funded by the pharmaceutical industry – while there is a whole new world of of science blossoming around them to which they are seemingly oblivious. There are new treatment options becoming available at an exponential rate – like off-label drug therapy – that just don’t show up on the radar of old school oncologists. Just in the 3 years that I have been dealing with cancer I have been witness to this spectacular growth.
This is why it is so important to find the right doctor. There are those who are open minded and patient centred, and there are those who are arrogant and closed minded, more interested in their careers than their patients. You don’t need a doctor who is condescending to you because they think that you are too stupid to understand or get a handle on your own treatment. These are the doctors who dumb you down and make you a victim. You need a doctor you can talk to openly and who will empower you. There are less of these doctors, but do your research and you will find them. Never stay with a doctor you are not entirely comfortable with or who will not fully engage with you. If they are dismissive of your efforts, move on. You have cancer. You need people you can trust and are comfortable with, who you feel are fully supportive. You don’t need an arrogant twit undermining your future. Go back to your GP and ask for a referral to a recommended specialist or clinic – and check them out with a web search.
I have a recent case of someone who was literally told to give up by their oncologist, and to not ‘engage in false hope’. After several weeks of CBD (cannabidiol) her cancer markers have dropped significantly, she is out of bed and even going out with her family. I can’t say what the final outcome will be, as she is also quite elderly, but so much for doctors opinions. Don’t buy into death sentences, and take responsibility for your treatment. Find a doctor who is on your side. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation – you may still want these – but make it your decision! Don’t be dictated to or bullied by an oncologist. If a doctor talks to you like this just get up and leave. You need someone who can hear you, is kind, and also knows what they are doing.
GET YOUR DIET RIGHT
Diet is one thing that you can take control of immediately. It is not complicated. There are so many foods that will dramatically improve your chances of mitigating or even eliminating cancer. Diet has brought terminal patients back from the brink. I have a friend who was in a wheel chair at 38kg with the funeral arrangements already made. She had endured surgery and chemotherapy without a positive result. At this late stage she chose a vegan diet – even then she hadn’t given up. One year later she is 60 kg and completely cancer free. DIET MATTERS.
You can read more about the detail of a cancer-mitigating diet HERE.
Exercise is typically the most avoided endeavor of most peoples lives. And here we are. Exercise makes a massive difference to health and quality of life on so many levels.
As a personal trainer for many years I have heard every excuse in the book. However disease doesn’t listen to excuses. You really do need to commit. This was always the case, but now that disease is making you revisit this idea there is only one answer – you must do exercise if you want to be well and fully recover.
Why? Your health is directly dependent on the healthy functioning of your metabolism. Your metabolism comprises the biochemical systems that make your body function properly, including immune function. For example insulin function is a biochemical system that regulates glucose levels and fat storage. There are many of these systems and they are all dependent on activity in order to function properly – and most notably exercise and movement enables these systems to successfully interact.
Exercise also floods your body with Natural Killer Cells. These white blood cells can detect and destroy mutated cells – ie: cancer cells. They are released from the spleen when there is a rise in heart rate due to physical exertion. So do exercise and let your immune system target and destroy cancer cells.
But what is exercise? I cannot tell you how frustrating it has been over the years to get people motivated to do exercise. I know how vital it is, how many benefits there are, but typically people just can’t see the value. And they don’t want to see it. The core problem is laziness combined with ignorance – people writing off the possibility of exercise without even the tiniest effort to understand what exercise actually is. So what is it?
Exercise is the replication of the work we would have done historically in order to survive. It is any activity that stimulates the physiology of the body in order to recover or maintain its natural state of function. It does not mean that you have to smash yourself into a world of pain. Intelligent exercise programming is king, which is why you need to train with a professional.
Exercise works by causing stresses that in turn result in adaptations. Stressing muscles causes them to respond by becoming stronger and more efficient. Similarly, stressing the cardiovascular system also causes it to respond by becoming stronger and more efficient. Exercise stress improves everything from metabolism to bone density through this process of adaptation.
The benefits of exercise are extensive: it boosts your metabolism and keeps you vital, it keeps your body strong and functional, it’s great for cardiovascular health, essential to maintain your reflexes, and it maintains balance, stability, quickness and power.
Exercise has proven medicinal effects in preventing disease, and recovering from disease. It’s an effective means for injury prevention because it maintains proper function of the body. It’s also effective for rehabilitation including joint function and back injuries. The secret, though, is that some forms of exercise are more effective, more relevant or will achieve outcomes more efficiently.
The bottom line is that exercise can make you feel better than you ever have – even with cancer. I have clients who feel so much better, and who look so much better, who move so much better – and outwardly no-one could imagine that they have cancer.
Exercise will also enable you to cope much more successfully with any surgeries or chemotherapy. I was back in the gym within two weeks of my prostate surgery, and feeling great. But I trained for the surgery, ensuring a strong core in particular. I was moving without limitation and pounding my kickboxing bag within four weeks. My anaesthetist called me about this time to see if I was out of bed yet! Apparently that is the norm – still in bed, and enduring pain. I blitzed it – the benefits of exercise.
Some years ago I met a guy who was a removalist. He was of those strong, wiry guys that could work hard all day, and in his fifties. I don’t know how they worked this out, but his oncologist told him that his cancer was the result of a virus. He had an inoperable tumour in his neck, in the spine. He had to do chemotherapy. He didn’t get sick from the drugs. The nausea was minimal. He virtually breezed through it. He got to know the others doing chemotherapy alongside him. He told me that by the time he had finished his chemotherapy most of the others he met had died. Exercise and fitness saved him.
I would say my fitness has contributed significantly to my ability to deal with cancer. As my doctor said to me – I don’t get people like you here, this is the only thing wrong with you. Sitting in the waiting room and seeing the other patients, this made sense – they all looked unhealthy to me: overweight, flabby, soft, faces puffy with inflammation. Literally 95% of people who get cancer fit into this demographic – poor diet and lack of exercise. They effectively volunteered for cancer.
The good news is that the human body adapts very, very quickly. Within six weeks of regular, well-programmed exercise, you will be living in a new body. I find the speed of adaptation of the human body to be near miraculous. It doesn’t matter what state you are in right now, in six weeks you won’t know yourself.
You can read more about exercise and cancer HERE
This is a big subject and an area with many contradictions, and ideologists and sceptics at war with each other. However complementary therapies and medicines, supplementation, off label drug treatments etc. are where you are going to get your best results. Complementary therapies include CBD, off-label drugs including metformin and mebendazole, juicing, supplementation including berberine, resveratrol, and quercetin, detoxing, accupuncture, massage therapy – and many more options.
You can read more about complementary medicines and cancer HERE
One of the first things that you will probably be confronted with after a cancer diagnosis is chemotherapy. You need to know the whole story before you make a decision about this. Your oncologist won’t tell you. You will be under enormous pressure to do it. But it must be your decision – a fully informed decision.
My question is this – why won’t an oncologist fully inform you about chemotherapy? Virtually all their patients will do chemotherapy, and many of them will die. Why? Doing the math you would have to conclude that a lot of the time chemotherapy doesn’t work. So why are you under pressure to do it?
Chemo drugs are extremely toxic. In fact they are – ironically – carcinogenic. They can make you feel very nauseous and many people can’t tolerate them. Chemo is also known to cause secondary cancers, leukaemia being a common ‘side effect’ of chemotherapy. Kidney disease is also a common side effect.
To understand chemotherapy you need a bit of science about cancer itself. Cancer is comprised of two primary types of cells – the Cancer Stem Cells and the Tumour Cells (also known as daughter cells). The stem cells are the ‘breeders’ and the ‘brains’ of the cancer. They are extremely adaptive and can morph from one metabolic pathway to another very easily. They are also highly resistant to chemotherapy.
The tumour cells are not so resistant. So the result of chemotherapy is to break up the tumour cells while leaving the stem cells intact. The problem is that when the tumour cells break up their components are ‘swept up’ in a process called Nucleoside Salvage – the stem cells are able to absorb the broken elements of the tumour cells and use them as nutrients, helping them to proliferate.
This results in the ‘rebound effect’. After a round of chemotherapy a blood test will typically show a drop in cancer markers, and scans will show a reduction in tumour size. However, after a period of time (can be weeks or months) the cancer marker will shoot back up to a number higher than before the chemotherapy. This is because the stem cells that have ‘fed’ on the tumour cell elements are so fat and happy they are breeding like champions.
So, given that chemotherapy is toxic, can have very serious side effects, doesn’t kill the stem cells and actually feeds them, and will actually cause a rebound effect, why would you do it?
You need to know all of this before you make a decision about doing chemotherapy. Although the picture I have painted is pretty horrible, there may be circumstances in which chemotherapy is appropriate, or even unavoidable. But again, it must be your fully informed decision, and not a decision based on fear and pressure.
If your oncologist won’t discuss it, or worse, pressure you and antagonise your fear, then find another doctor. You do have time, although the immediate panic of a diagnosis will make you think that you have no control. Fact is, you do.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
I will never offer anything that doesn’t have science behind it. I highly recommend that you do your own research too.
Let’s look at an example: you may have heard that juicing carrots and celery will cure your cancer. I heard this so many times I had to look into it.
The thing with internet searches is that the answer is only as good as the question. So the first thing is to craft your question. You could ask ‘do carrots cure cancer?’, but you will get a mess of contradictory answers with a lot of unqualified arguments from both sides. So you could ask ‘do carrots have cancer-mitigating compounds?’ Not much of a response to that question. So try ‘what are the cancer killing compounds in carrots?’ Sketchy, but you will find a reference to falcarinol in the website summaries on the search page. So, search ‘falcarinol and cancer’.
Nearly at the top of the search page is this little gem: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2745230/
This is published science. Read past the jargon (skip the abstract – that’s the authors proving how clever they are) and you find significant references to falcarinol and cancer, associated vegetables, where in the plant the compound is found, and a whole lot more.
Once you have a handle on this you can look at what other people are doing, and reference that to the science you already have. There are so many claims being made by advocates of everything from baking soda to coffee enemas, so you must know the facts first. Then investigate how you are going to introduce a therapy, and how it affects what you are already doing.
You will find plenty of websites authored by chronic sceptics, as much as you will find plenty authored by the overzealous. It is a minefield and you do need to apply serious critical thinking to what you are finding. Language will tell you a lot – the language of zealots is very different to the language of chronic sceptics. References to science can help but equally may be misleading – zealots will bang on about ‘proof’, flailing a single study with 5 participants in the air (which is of course no proof at all), while chronic skeptics will find any science they can to support their argument whilst denying any science that contradicts them (and there is always science that is contradictory).