Our racing year has rounded the zenith of summer solstice. How amazing it is that we live of this fast spinning planet at all…living our lives and trying to make sense of it all. Meanwhile my life has been rocked by a little book called Radical Remission by Kelly A. Turner, PhD., a researcher and psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology (integrative-oncology includes strategies such as nutrition, exercise, stress management and targeted supplements can reduce inflammation and boost immunity, which can reduce the risk of relapse.). Check out her website with the link here: https://radicalremission.com/
Turner researched over a thousand cases of radical remission—people who have defied a serious or even terminal cancer diagnosis with a complete reversal of the disease.
“Most cancer patients say the scariest moment of their journey was the diagnosis, but the second scariest moment was when they went into remission. That’s because most cancer survivors are told while in remission that all there is to do is watch and wait to see if the cancer comes back, which is a terrifying and disempowering thing to hear.” Now instead of watching and waiting, people who are hoping to remain cancer-free can access the power of the nine key factors in this book.”
Stop. Full stop. Total truth being spoken. I read words that reach deep into my battle scarred, PTSD ridden soul. It takes me over a month to read this book. Then I read it again. It swims toward me through the haze of half truths and injury and denial of my past few years. Oh yes, I am in remission. And of all the definitions of remission, Radical Remission has shaken me the most. Because that is EXACTLY what remission is: watching and waiting to see if the cancer comes back.
Turner found there two groups of people who had been largely ignored in the thousand plus cases in medical journals. The majority of the articles did not mention what the patients thought might have led to their remissions. The second ignored in the researched was the alternative healers. No one had studied how non-Western or alternative healers treat cancer. The doctors had listed all the biochemical changes but had never asked the survivors why they thought they had healed. She is not opposed to conventional cancer treatment and there are no quantitative, randomized trials but she wanted this information to be out into the light of day now because it may take decades for it to make into the medical journals.
This is a story about what we don’t know. It includes something about the body’s ability to heal itself. Life itself is so much more mysterious and bigger than we ever give it credit for. I can’t tell you you will heal from cancer or keep from getting it. But this book describes a lifestyle that will, at the least, make you more resistant to cancer. I think that’s worth knowing, don’t you? This books tells us stories which have been hidden until Turner found them.
I went through and journaled how I was doing on each factor for my own life. I suggest you do the same. This is the blueprint for the rest of our lives.
Factor #1-Radically Change Your Diet
This is the medicine we take three times a day. Here are the basics:
Don’t get discouraged! If I count all the ways I have eaten incorrectly, they are legion. I grew up surrounded by and encouraged to be addicted to sugar and simple carbs. Dairy, cheese and meat were the foods I ate to be “healthy”. Basically I am amazed I have survived this long! Since I have never succeeded with a long list of don’ts, I made another list for myself of ways to remember to eat well.
- Try to eat pleasurably.
- Eat seasonally and locally.
- Give thanks daily for food and for the ways you’ve made your diet better.
- Cook more often and have the right foods around.
- Eat meals instead of snacking.
Factor #2-Take Control of Your Health
Ever taken the time to examine your habits and lifestyle? This opens up chi in your body. Being willing to make changes is a key factor in the healing process. Just the thought of this is very healing. Do everything you can to strengthen your immune system. When speaking to your doctor, be prepared to take on role of annoying patient and ask all the questions you need to ask. You can this. Take notes and keep records. Learn how to research. Become the lead decision maker in your life.Get over the idea that your doctor will guide you toward health. That’s your role.
Factor #3-Follow Your Intuition
Jack looks to Salish Sea for inspiration
The body knows what it needs to heal. Listening to to the body requires discernment. Learn to do the things that allow you to discern.
What do my body mind and soul need in order to get well again? I know. that in spite of my sadness for the world, I need joy and and meditative movement in nature. I know I need to clean up bad habits—exercise, diet, activities. I know I need to really really really practice discerning my business from your business or God’s business. Having gone through the acerbic rigor of cancer treatment, I now have to honor rest and solitude at the center of my life to perceive what comes next, day by day.
Factor #4-Herbs and Supplements
Turner recommends you think of herbs and supplements in this way:
1-Supplements to help you digest your food–digestive enzymes, prebiotics and probiotics. Unfortunately, there is wide array out there and it takes research to find the best, or ask your naturopath.
2-Supplements to detoxify your body. My go-to supplements for this are milk thistle and dandelion. But ask ask your naturopath.
3-Supplements to boost your immune system. I place faith in Beta glucans and elderberry. But ask your naturopath.
While I agree it is better to eat the food to keep us from needing so many supplements, that is easier said than done. So to her list, I add the following:
4-Supplements to help you sleep. Melatonin mixed with passion flower does wonders.
5-Supplements that you know you need to stay off or get off pharmaceuticals. My one little pill I take every morning (Ponatinib) makes all kinds of things high that shouldn’t be elevated. I need help to control blood sugar. I need help to lower ferritin from too many transfusions. Some people need help with inflammation or thyroid or blood pressure. Ask your naturopath.
Factor #5-Release Suppressed Emotions
We had a lot of releasing to do when Jack died.
Because so much of my suppressed emotions have to do with the earth, I need to be proactive with books like Active Hope by Joanna Macy. How do I release trauma when cancer itself is the trauma? I ask myself. Face fear of death or recurrence directly, I answer myself. Fear shuts down my heart and in turn, the immune system.
This leads me to spend time in prayer and communion with God and Nature. I try to remember to practice active stress management and get regular nurturing of some kind–energy or massage treatments. I am learning to let all emotions positive and negative flow through body and learning to let go.
Factor #6-Increase Positive Emotions
Sage in a rare moment of being pensive; Audrey in full throated giggles.
My friends and I forever talking about and seeking Creativity. We all live creative lives and we all like to laugh together. We also love to walk together. On our island, we are always in the realm of beauty and we never ever get tired of it. My friends have passed on the idea of listening to funny/inspiring podcasts while moving, and readily create and pass along the idea of inspiring events.
I love gratitude. I hope the last words I say in this life are thank you because I feel it all the time. If I am in a bad emotional place, I can begin to say thank you for the simple and profound fact of my existence and go on to more and more more moments of gratitude. I once wrote three pages of thank yous to water and that list seemed ridiculously short.
Factor #7-Embrace Social Support
Find ways to get pampering and increase physical touch. This might be a challenge to some. If it is, consider the saving grace of a pet. In our town, we have the awesome greeting of a hug. Lately I have been appreciating this more and allowing it to really connect me to my body and to another person.
Factor #8-Deepen Spiritual Connection
Reflections on the ferry.
I have found that the Way of Jesus is really speaking to me, but then it always has. Going to our local Presbyterian Church is deeply satisfying for me, just to be in that practice with people that don’t necessarily share a political conviction with me, but they do share that practice.
But there are so many ways to do this. Morning yoga or prayer, meditation and journaling are simple but powerful methods. Being in Nature and celebrating the seasons is one of the most spiritual things I know how to do.
Factor #9-Have Strong Reasons for Living
There is not much more to add to this picture. It speaks for itself. But so do the pictures of my friends and my experiences of nature and community, activism and travel. I have a strong sense that we need to answer what is calling us.
So there they are, the nine healing factors. Turner was surprised that there was not one that clearly outweighed the others. But I would say there is a tenth healing factor, and that is commitment, which is defined my dictionary as the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity.
When I read this book on Radical Remission, I was floored by the amount of commitment each person displayed in order to achieve their remission. It is a travesty that the medical establishment does not recognize this. Make this your new job. You can’t go wrong, because every healing factor heals you in the moment and not in the undefined future. It is a way to experience remission without a sense of helplessness. It will make you healthier and happier. It may be the path to prevent cancer from occurring or reoccurring. And it will be a beautiful new way of living in the world.