It’s My Body That Had Cancer, Not Me!
By Tim Gill, Guest Blogger
Earlier this year I visited my doctor about what I thought was a hemorrhoid. I assumed, as would most healthy adults in what is known as our prime, that my doctor would give me some over-the-counter remedy and I quickly would be back to my daily routine.
I was in for a surprise!
After a month with no improvement, I went to a different doctor who recommended I see a specialist. This specialist did a rectal exam and immediately told me she was quite certain that what I thought was a hemorrhoid was, in fact, a tumor and that it probably was cancerous.
A follow-up colonoscopy revealed a large tumor – almost 2 inches by 3 inches – and a biopsy confirmed it was, indeed, cancerous. In fact, it had advanced to Stage III (they go from zero to four).
My first reaction was not “Why me?” It was: “OK, so, what is the solution here and what is the next step?” I think my being so matter of fact and solution-focused about the diagnosis may have startled my doctors somewhat. In fact, one of them later told me that 90 percent of cancer patients react to this type of news with a combination of incredulity and fear. “Why is this happening to me?” is usually the response of many patients.
I simply refused to be fearful of this disease. I made the decision there and then that I would do all I could to help my mind, body and spirit work together as a team in order for my body to beat the cancer. If you read that sentence again, you will notice that I did not say “for me to beat my cancer.” For me, it is critical to always remind myself that it was my body that had cancer and not my mind and spirit.
This is so important that it bears repeating: I said my body had rectal cancer. I didn’t say I had cancer. This way my mind and spirit had a realistic chance to fight to get my body healthy. “I” is all of me - mind, body and spirit. My body is only the physical aspect of my entire being.
I am a firm believer in the adage that “knowledge is power,” so my first step was to empower myself with as much information as I could find on my body’s particular cancer as well as possible solutions for treating it.
I very much agree with the philosophy that “contempt prior to investigation” is a major roadblock to learning new things. As a result, I researched Western, Eastern and alternative medicine approaches to cancer. And I did so without any preconceived notions as to which was “right” and which was “wrong.”
To help me with this, I surrounded myself with a team of doctors and health practitioners from a variety of areas. These health practitioners included an oncologist, herbalist, acupuncturist and a blood expert as well as a doctor of Chinese medicine. I gave them all equal importance while I decided which courses of action were right for me.
I learned about the role that nutrition, natural remedies and even hormones play in the cancer lifecycle and treatment. For example, it appears certain foods or nutrients may “feed” cancer and others may “starve” or inhibit its growth, spread or return. Armed with this information, I was ready to do what I felt – and continue to feel – made the most sense for me rather than blindly following the admittedly well-intentioned advice of various physicians.
I learned about the probable side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation treatment. My gastroenterologist advised me that a colostomy bag would be needed later since the standard treatment protocol for rectal cancer includes surgery after radiation and chemotherapy. I also learned that the tumors in only about 20 percent of rectal cancer patients disappear after radiation and chemotherapy. Since I planned on being part of that 20 percent, I did not agree to surgery and gave a major “no to the colostomy bag.”
To increase the odds of the tumor shrinking and disappearing, my doctor recommended treating my body’s Stage III cancer as if it were Stage IV. This meant a much more aggressive regimen of chemotherapy. Even though the side effects from this approach were anticipated to be more severe, I was confident in my decision and commitment to do all I could to help my body and forged ahead with the treatments.My Body.
I knew from my research that my body’s cancer was affected, in the same way the rest of my body was (and still is), by what I ate. Yes, the notion that “we are what we eat” took on a much more personal and urgent meaning for me. I also knew that I wanted to make sure my body had what it needed to both stay healthy and beat the cancer.
I happened upon a TED talk by Dr. William W. Li on “Can We Eat to Starve Cancer” and found much of what he said relevant to me. I purchased his book “Eat to Beat Disease” and specifically focused on foods that may kill cancer cells. Based on his and other research, I made various changes to my diet, which now includes curcumin (think of turmeric on steroids); and sencha and jasmine tea (which have been referred to as natural chemotherapy); and Chinese herbs.
While adding these, I eliminated red meat from my diet since it may fuel cancer growth. I also started taking a combination of organic soy isoflavone composed of genistein and daidzein. This combination is typically used to help reduce the symptoms of menopause, but it also happens to have powerful anti-cancer properties. I complemented these with enzymes to help reduce systemic inflammation and scar tissue (which is similar to tumor tissue). Other than these dietary changes, I continued to eat all the foods I enjoy (Korean is a favorite), but I made sure they did not contain unnatural additives, added sugar or ultra-processed ingredients.
One day prior to each chemo session I would get my blood work done at my oncologist’s office. This was part of the protocol to make sure I was healthy enough to do the chemo the next day. I received the blood work results back a couple of hours later. Then I emailed these results to my blood doctor and traditional Chinese medicine doctor to review. They let me know if I needed to make any adjustments to the supplements and Chinese herbs. I am happy to tell you that because of this combination of diet and supplements, my blood work was really good. I also had more energy than I had before as well as a hearty appetite, both of which are not common when your body is battling cancer. I gained weight, whereas most everyone on chemo loses weight along with their appetite.
Another part of keeping my body in the best shape possible to fight and beat the cancer was making sure I was getting enough resistance training (for strength) and cardio conditioning (for my cardiovascular system, including my lungs). I tried to walk 10k steps a day. I recently hired a personal trainer who comes to train me once a week. I train on my own another three days a week. I also do a lot of stretching. Of course, getting a good night’s rest is also a part of my regimen (even now that I have recovered).
The third member of my mindset team is my spirit, which played a critical role in helping my body beat its cancer. There are several things I routinely do to ensure that my spirit is doing what it can to support my mind and my body.
- I meditate, which really helps me focus on my commitment to “work on myself and make myself better.” Meditation also helps me to manage my stress, which is important since stress can contribute to inflammation in my body, which can fuel cancer growth.
- I do a lot of energy work and a good amount of visualization. There is something very empowering for my body of picturing the cancer shrinking and then disappearing altogether.
I am very pleased to tell you that as a result of my mindset and taking the above steps, the tumor is gone. We did an MRI after the fourth chemo session, and it confirmed that the tumor had completely disappeared. Since I want my body to keep it that way, the changes I have made and are making are how I will continue to live. I have even set a goal of returning to competitive sports in 18 months.
Your Take Away?
If you take anything away from my story, please let it be this:
- If your body ever gets a cancer diagnosis, there is no reason to be afraid of the word “cancer,” no matter how those around you may react to it. It is just a word, and the best way to take away its power is to have the right mindset. Remind yourself that your body has cancer – not your mind and spirit. Your mind and spirit are the driving force that helps your body fight the cancer.
- You also need to empower yourself in order to help your body beat cancer. In my view and mindset, if you are scared, then you are giving your body permission to be weak. And then the cancer wins. Instead, give your body permission to fight and beat the cancer.
- Think of yourself as your own coach and advocate. When you share with people that your body has cancer and they feel sorry for you or they are worried that you will get really sick or may even die, you need to tell them this is not acceptable to you. Let them know you need to hear them tell you, “You got this!” This way nobody else is putting negative energy out there when it comes to your health and wellbeing. If they can’t do that, you may need to take a break from them until they can. Reinforcing how important this attitude is, every one of my doctors told me their patients that had a positive outlook had a much higher recovery rate than those that did not.
- Know that there is a lot you can do to minimize the risk of your body developing cancer. With the type of cancer my body had, for example, getting a colonoscopy sooner rather than later can increase the probability of catching and eliminating a possible cancer before it begins to grow. You can also talk with your doctor to see if the newer stool tests could be a good screening test for you.
- I also would recommend learning all you can about how to make sure your body is getting the nutrition and exercise it needs to best be able to fight off possible cancers as well as other pathogens (especially important these days with a global pandemic). Read up on nutrition and talk with your doctor about a nutrition test to help you make sure your body is getting what it needs and in the right amounts.
In the end, it’s up to each of us to make the commitment to having a mindset and taking the steps to help our bodies get and stay healthy. It takes a little effort, but I can tell you that it is very much worth it.
Finally, remember health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit.
Tim Gill is a personal friend of Joy Stephenson-Laws, our founder. He is a 49-year-old competitive athlete and entrepreneur based in Singapore.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.