Posts Tagged ‘cancer’

We are all familiar with words likeMrs Charles was a brave woman who finally lost her fight against cancer.

We feel a sense of pity for the victim and a shiver of fear at the harshness of the outcome. And then we move on. Perhaps we secretly breathe a sigh of relief that we continue to live, spared from the attacker.

The words are meaningless. They say more about what is going on in the mind of the speaker than the person living or dying with cancer. And yet they express the accepted narrative about the origin and nature of cancer.

The stories we hear tell us that CANCER is a modern devil to be feared and fought.

No wonder the big C causes us to draw breath – to recoil in shock when it enters our safe space. Stress hormones surge through our bodies and we feel anxious. You don’t need to be a psychologist to understand that is not a healthy place to be.

The narrative we hold inside ourselves about cancer determines the way we experience it and speak about it. The narrative can rule us and can ruin us.

And so I need to look at the narrative I have about my own cancer.

Here are two things I notice:

  • First, I call it my cancer. I identify with it – it is part of me. I enjoy and respect my body. Having studied anatomy, physiology and biochemistry gives me a sense of awe at the beauty and complexity of the systems that work so beautifully and so automatically.  My first thought when I received the diagnosis was not where did that come from, but what has gone wrong. I know that my body usually looks after itself well, removing any toxins, dead cells, mistakes in replication of cells. It copes well with my occasional excesses – too much chocolate, too large a glass of wine. And also with my neglect – not enough fluid or sleep. For abnormal cells to persist and develop means my normal protective immune scouting system has been overwhelmed.
  • The second thing follows this. I ask the question – what is my body telling me through this? I start to listen to my body and my life very carefully. I look at my thoughts, my feelings, my habits, my diet – everything that I chose to do and everything that I do without thinking. I want to understand what is happening. I want to give my body every chance to heal itself. And I am thankful for this opportunity to review and align my choices with my values.
I did not want cancer. I wish it had not happened to me. And yet it is now part of my story and I must move on. I can never go back to how I was before the diagnosis. My cancer has changed my thinking and I have a choice in what I do with the experience.

And I notice a third thing – I am asking a lot of questions about life the universe and things.

If I could ask God, what might He be thinking about my cancer, and what might He advise me to fear and fight?

The song that came to me in the chemo suite returns often – I tune in and listen and learn.


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Having got over my rant about unhelpful ‘advice’ on diet and cancer, I need some quality information to help me make sensible choices.

Here are two reliable sources:

First is from the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology – where we find confirmation that diet does affect cancer risk.

The second is the UK World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) where we find a lot of specific guidance. I took the quiz to assess how healthy my diet is and was reassured not to worry as I am (and have always been) eating my way to health 🙂  I also took the quiz to assess my risk of breast cancer – and I am reassured about that too!

Joking aside, the advice is evidence based and should be followed. Here is a summary:

WCRF UK’s Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

1. Be as lean as possible without becoming underweight

2. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day

3. Avoid sugary drinks. Limit consumption of energy-dense foods (particularly processed foods high in added sugar, or low in fibre, or high in fat)

4. Eat more of a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and pulses such as beans

5. Limit consumption of red meats (such as beef, pork and lamb) and avoid processed meats

6. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day 7. Limit consumption of salty foods and foods processed with salt (sodium) 8. Don’t use supplements to protect against cancer

Special Population Recommendations

9. It is best for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for up to 6 months and then add other liquids and foods

10. After treatment, cancer survivors should follow the Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

And, always remember – do not smoke or chew tobacco

Have a look at the WCRF website to get a lot more detail about how to put this advice into practice.

And about God and cancer? . . .  we have lots more to explore . . .

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How did I get cancer? Was it something I ate?

All sorts of questions bounce round my mind as I come to terms with what has happened to me.

Was it something I did that caused the cancer?

If what I was doing caused it to happen once, then might I cause it to happen again.

Is it my fault in some way?

A vague sense of guilt floats around in the background of my mind. I feel vulnerable.

Before this happened to me I ate well, exercised regularly, am not overweight – I was a healthy specimen!

Last week I picked up a magazine at the specialist clinic with the heading “Everything you need to know to help you beat cancer”

. . . but instead of being helpful, reading it leaves me feeling confused, overwhelmed, depressed and angry!

It is full of aggressive talk – fight it, beat it, win the battle.

I feel exhausted at the thought of the effort involved.

And it is full of advice about what is and is not a risk for cancer – what I should and should not eat. I knew none of this before now.

Here is a sample of the headlines

  • 20 natural compounds that help fight cancerno mention of how much they help or how much to take
  • Dietary supplements – kill or cure.  Well, it clearly matters to get that one right!
  • Imperfectly natural – how natural products damage our health
  • Stress does cause cancer
  • Can cancer drugs spread breast cancer?
  • Mushrooms help fight breast, prostate and bladder cancer (even button mushrooms!)
  • Vitamin D – are you getting enough?
  • “Beetroot cured my cancer”
  • CT scans increase cancer risk
  • Mammograms endanger women at high risk
  • Walnuts help fight breast cancer
  • Women can pass cancer to their babies
  • 515 chemicals used on a woman’s face every day – some are known toxins

However nowhere in the magazine is there a suggestion that I have cancer as a punishment for something I did.

And yet those who have cancer very commonly believe that God gives us cancer as a punishment for something we did.

They believe in a God who is angry and who judges and punishes openly.

Do you think they are right – does God cause cancer and disease?

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