As I prepare for our special cancer teleconference with the pioneering Dr Patrick Kingsley this Sunday, I’ve been looking over the many things I have written about the disease.
I have largely characterized it as a deficiency disease — a slow-motion starving of vital nutrients resulting from the wholesale industrialization of food —or disease of toxicity — a poisoning from our chronic exposure to some 20,000 chemicals present in our air, food, water and homes.
Clearly, these elements play an important supporting role. But perhaps not the leading one.
They do not, for instance, explain spontaneous remission — how a giant mass can be there one day and virtually melt away the next. A small body of research concerns terminal cancer patients who, with little or no medical intervention, end up beating the odds.
Although medicine likes to pretend that these cases are rare, one in eight skin cancers spontaneously heals, as does nearly one in five genitourinary cancers.
Virtually all types of illnesses, from those where organs have supposedly packed up, as in diabetes or Addison’s disease, to those where a body part is supposedly irretrievably damaged, as in atherosclerosis, have healed on their own.
Rather than calling these cases what they are — the body’s ability to self-correct — medicine refers to them as ‘spontaneous remission’, as though the illness has simply decided to go into hiding, but might still suddenly spring out at you again at any moment.
We all marvel at cases of spontaneous remission because even the most enlightened among us subscribe to the body-as-machine paradigm. Under this model, what is broken stays broken, until a seasoned mechanic comes along with the right monkey wrench or spare part.
Clearly, what’s going on there is something more complex than eating your greens and throwing away your toxic cleaning products.
The sheer volume of cases of spontaneous remission shows that self-repair and renewal is natural to the human body.
Losing the plot
Lately, I’ve been sifting through these studies, looking for the common thread. What these cases collectively say about cancer is highly instructive. In case after case, they describe people up against a major roadblock in their lives: an unremitting stress; an unresolved trauma; a prolonged hostility; a marked isolation; a profound dissatisfaction; a quiet despair.
They describe people who are boxed in a corner with no apparent way out, people who have lost not only the plot but also their role as the central protagonist of their own life drama. They are people who, in short, hurt deeply in their very souls.
Those people who beat their cancer, whose survival remains unexplained, are those same individuals who find a way out of the corner. They get rid of the source of the psychological heartache: they divorce the abusive husband; they resolve the problem with their mother or daughter; they take full responsibility for their illness.
But, most important of all, they find the lost meaning in their lives. Most cases of spontaneous remission seem to take place after the patient has made a major psychological shift to recreate a life that is engaging and purposeful. They play the piano or go trekking in Tibet, if that’s what they always meant to do before they got derailed in their lives. They find a path back to their joie de vivre.
The power of thoughts
Most people, this would suggest, get ill because they’ve lost all hope of life ever being good. And this suggests that they have cancer because of their thoughts — the thoughts they think about themselves and their lives.
For many years, I’ve studied evidence of how profoundly and quickly the brain alters its function and even its physical structure from mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation is more than just relaxation. It creates a profound change in your worldview: an acceptance of ‘what is’ in the current moment without a judgemental overlay.
The research on mindfulness suggests that our physicality is like Play-Doh, to be molded from our conscious thoughts. Form follows function. If the brain can be physically revised throughout life just by thinking better thoughts, so too can the rest of the body.
Indeed, the dynamic plasticity of the body — its ability to go from ill to well overnight — demonstrates how deeply it is a maidservant of consciousness.
Much has been written about the so-called ‘cancer personality’. For me, the real question is getting to the heart of the cancer in your soul.