I can’t have a healthy living blog and not write about cancer. So much of what I do here is fueled by my hatred, my absolute hatred, of this disease. Does it fuel you, too? Does it motivate you to keep the course in your healthy lifestyle?
Look around your family and your friends, the people you love and cherish the most. Now pick out half of the men and a third of the women. That’s how many will be faced with a cancer diagnosis in your lifetime. Nearly 40% of all people can expect to get cancer in their lifetime: 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women.
You want to think: Not me. Not my family. But you know. We all know. Nobody is immune. Cancer is a disease that doesn’t care about the color of your skin, where you live, or how old or young you are. It can, and probably will, happen to you or someone you love very much.
The War on Cancer
In 1971 President Nixon declared a War on Cancer. Since then, the government has spent billions of dollars every year on the war. Where have we gotten? Are we winning the war on this wretched disease?
In 2000, cancer was the leading cause of death in 2 states. Fast forward to 2014 and it was the leading cause of death in 22 states. Sure, part of the reason is because the number of deaths from heart disease, the historical leader, has gone down. But that’s not the whole story. If we’ve spent so much money on this war, why isn’t the cancer rate going down as dramatically?
There’s a big reason the number of deaths from heart disease are going down quickly. It’s because there has been a large focus on prevention rather than treatment. That hasn’t been the case in the war on cancer. The focus is primarily on treatments: treating cancer instead of preventing cancer. New treatments are important and can save lives, but what if we spent the same amount of money on focusing on prevention? Where would we be today?
When it comes to discovering improved treatments for cancer, we haven’t gotten very far in proportion to the time and money spent on searching for a cure. While there have been some bright spots in the developments of new treatments, what we are left with today is similar to what we had back in the 70’s. For many cancers, the treatment options are often as toxic to our bodies as the disease itself. The majority of treatments can kill cancer cells, but they also kill healthy cells and harm the body. Where’s the CURE we’ve all been hoping and waiting for?
So no. I don’t think we’re winning the war on cancer. As Clifton Leaf said in his FORTUNE magazine article:
Hope and optimism, so essential to this fight, have masked some very real systemic problems that have made this complex, elusive, relentless foe even harder to defeat. The result is that while there have been substantial achievements since the crusade began with the National Cancer Act in 1971, we are far from winning the war. So far away, in fact, that it looks like losing…More Americans will die of cancer in the next 14 months than have perished in every war the nation has ever fought … combined. Even as research and treatment efforts have intensified over the past three decades and funding has soared dramatically, the annual death toll has risen 73%–over one and a half times as fast as the growth of the U.S. population. (emphasis added)
My Cancer Story
We all have a cancer story of some kind, even if we haven’t experienced a personal diagnosis.
One of my best friend’s sister battled breast cancer, as did another best friend’s mom. My brother’s best friend died from brain cancer. My nephew lost a close friend to brain cancer. A friend in my neighborhood’s daughter is fighting brain cancer now, and at just 5 years old has probably spent nearly as many nights in a hospital bed as her own bed at home. Every single one of my dad’s four brothers has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. My father-in-law wasn’t able to see my newborn daughter because he was fighting prostate cancer with radiation pellets inside his body. My grandmother is 89 years old and has breast cancer. She’s suffering, but can’t get treatment because that would be harder on her body than the cancer.
And of course, there is my mom. Stage IV lung cancer had a five year survival rate of around 5% when my mom was diagnosed, so the fact that she’s still here over 9 years later seems miraculous. She was lucky enough to have the tumors in her lung and brain removed via two grueling surgeries. She also had whole brain radiation, however. And while it may have killed any remaining cancer cells, it also damaged her brain in such a way that she can no longer walk without assistance. When I talk to her on the phone, I’m not surprised when she doesn’t remember something I told her just the day before. Her treatment helped her survive, yet I still feel like it took my mom.
The thing is, even though I’ve seen cancer hurt so many loved ones around me, I know I’m no different than most people. Everyone knows at least one person who suffered or is suffering from cancer. Cancer is everywhere and there is seemingly no escape.
How My Hatred Fuels My Healthy Lifestyle
So, you see, I f*&@ing hate cancer. The prevalent feeling I had when my mom was diagnosed was helpless. I felt like her life was in strangers’ hands and having no control over the outcome was beyond difficult to handle.
But that diagnosis also changed the trajectory of my life. It propelled me to a path of learning about how toxic foods and our toxic environment can damage our bodies and ultimately cause this disease to progress.
The war on cancer has been such a difficult one because cancer is a complex and ever-changing disease. Pinpointing the exact cause of every type of cancer will likely never happen. But I know that progress can happen. In 1960, only one- third of doctors believed cigarettes cause lung cancer. Today, it’s irrefutable. I’m confident more concrete connections will be made with time, but I’m not willing to wait until everyone agrees that certain toxins cause cancer.
I’m also not naive enough to think that eating organic foods and trying to detox my home from toxins is going to cancer-proof my family 100%. Unless we live in a bubble, we’ll be exposed to environmental toxins in our everyday lives. What I do arm myself with is the knowledge that I can do something.
Because I can, I will.
If I can help my family live an anti-cancer lifestyle and lessen their chances of getting cancer, even if it’s a minute amount, it’s worth it to me. I have seen what this disease does. I’m not willing to sit back and not fight. You know what? Even if it means nothing, it beats helpless. But in my heart, I believe it means something and my actions can make a difference.
My hatred of cancer fuels me to help my family and it also fuels me to write this blog. I do this because I want to spread the word as far and wide as I can. We can’t all be doctors researching to find a cure, but we can make a difference in our homes and our communities.
What else can we do? Let cancer leave us feeling helpless? Let it steal the joy of our world? No. Let hatred of this disease motivate us to live the healthiest life we can. It’s the best defense we can hope for right now.
I don’t ask for this often, but if you like this post, will you please share it? Help me spread the word that the foods we put in our bodies and the products we use do matter and can make a difference. We will never win the War on Cancer without more people thinking about prevention. Thanks, friends.
References and Further Reading:
Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life (affiliate link)