Cancer Roulette


It really saddens me when I hear comments like, “I ate a vegan diet, ran 5 miles a day, was in perfect mental and spiritual health, BUT I STILL GOT CANCER!”  It certainly perpetuates the myth, “There is nothing I can do about cancer”, which is one of the four common myths recognized by World Cancer Day.  (You can read the other myths here.)

A few years ago, I met a middle aged man in a hospital.  He was overweight, a heavy smoker, and had just suffered a near fatal heart attack.  While his doctor and his family pleaded with him to make lifestyle changes, the man refused, saying, “My grandfather was over-weight his whole life and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and he lived to be 93!”

When I mention to people that I eat a mainly plant based diet, I often get comments like, “I don’t believe that diet has anything to do with cancer.  My great-aunt Ellie ate a medium rare steak every day of her life, and she lived to be 100.”

Do you see something wrong with the logic in these three examples?   I am happy for great-aunt Ellie, God bless her, but folks, if you are going to eat a medium rare steak every day of your life, aren’t you begging for a heart attack, stomach cancer, and a host of other illnesses?   I would imagine that chubby great-grandad had great genes, if he lived to be 93 while smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, but would you want to play cancer roulette with your life?  It is a sad fact of life that some people who take excellent care of their bodies get sick anyway, but is that a good reason to “let yourself go” when it comes to healthy living?

Here is what is flawed with the logic:  You cannot take a single case study and use it to justify your opinions when it goes against a multitude of scientific studies which suggest otherwise.  Sure, there are some cases of people who smoked all of their lives and lived to be a ripe old age without major health complications.   However, there are literally millions of cases of people who smoked cigarettes and died from illnesses related to their habit.

I am sure that there is a delicate inter-play of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle choices in the game of cancer roulette.   I am equally sure that by practicing a healthy lifestyle, I am removing some of the bullets from that gun.  That does not guarantee that the cancer bullet won’t get me in the end, but if it does, I will die knowing that I did my best to unload that gun.  What about you?  I would love to hear your opinions!


19 thoughts on “Cancer Roulette

  1. I think everyone goes through that first bout of denial when faced with a nasty diagnosis. Its human behavior. But having had cancer twice now, I can tell you that I did try to get rid of some of the bullets and am still working on that.

  2. I think we must do the best we can to exercise, exercise, exercise. We must give up sugar, try to eat raw and green. Get spiritual, whatever it means for you. Do meatless Monday, fishy Friday and everything in between to motivate healthier behaviours. Do the best you can and stay open to adding better behaviours to our lives.

    • Cheryl, I love that you said, “Do the best you can…..” When I first wrote this post, I was going to say, “….I will die knowing I did everything in my power to unload the gun.” That would not be entirely true, as there are lots more things I could be doing. But I do believe that I am doing my BEST at this point in time to unload the gun……and that is all any of us can do.

  3. That was Great Aunt Ellie…this is YOU! We are all unique… and taking care of ourselves will always be a better choice than betting the entire hand on your great aunt that happened to live an unhealthy lifestyle until she was 100….LOVE this post….Thank you for sharing…

  4. You know I love a good analogy and I’m going crazy with the perfectness of this one.
    Part of the problem is that somehow, it was “assumed” (by whom I have no clue) that if we say there are things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer then we are somehow “blaming” people who have cancer….that they didn’t do enough to prevent it or something ridiculous like that. I’ve been blasted on my comments on cancer risk reduction on other blogs by people who say “You are making me feel guilty about getting cancer….don’t blame me for my disease… are perpetuating the belief that it was my fault that I got cancer….I have stage IV and there is nothing I can do about it now.”
    I respectfully state, that the thoughts of guilt and blame are your thoughts. I can’t help what thoughts go through your mind, but I did not put those thoughts there nor do my actions perpetuate them. I understand that each person deals with their cancer in their own way and that is a complex and personal journey. But please don’t tell me what I am perpetuating for others.
    Let me be clear on the facts that I perpetuate:

    Fact: You can reduce your risk of recurrence…by as much as 40% by starting an exercise program and being consistent.

    Fact: A whole food, mainly plant-based diet will reduce your risk of cancer and all other chronic diseases.

    Fact: Meditation can increase your immunity.

    Fact: The model of “health” as seen by all medical professionals includes spiritual health.

    Fact: You can reduce your risk of cancer by adopting lifestyle changes, but the risk can never be 0%…not for me, you, or anyone else.

    Fact: People are beating stage 4 cancer every day. Please read on:

    When we put out a call for a test team to try out week 1 of Cancer Plan 4 Life, ( our cancer survivors program, I got this response from a woman in New Jersey:

    “My dx. of stage 4 pancreatic cancer was in April 2012. I have been very careful with my diet. I have continued at the Y with a program balanced for me. I am there daily doing total body circuit training, yoga and swimming. I also take swimming lessons. I am still receiving treatment and HAPPY to report at this time I am in clinical remission. In Sept. 2013 I had the thrill of my life. I participated in an Iron Girl in New Jersey with the help and support of the trainers. I am a total believer in all this, plus continuing to work, prayers, alternative therapies, and wonderful Drs. and nurses overseeing my care have brought me to the place I am at. I also love your title 100 Perks of Having Cancer. Why you ask? I have been on an incredible journey, meeting the most wonderful people, sharing stories, speaking with newly dx pancreatic patients at my Tx center, and as a Healing Touch Practitioner reaching out to help other Ca. patients.
    Why you ask, for the lengthy tale, was to tell you about myself and if there are others who need you more, I do not want to take away their opportunity to SURVIVE and THRIVE. Let me know and by the way I did complete in the Iron Girl and will be out there again this Sept.”

    Yes, this stage 4 pancreatic cancer patient is competing in Iron Girl competitions….
    THIS is the belief I want to perpetuate. She is factual. She is real and there are thousands of others like her. True, not everyone will have these results, but you definitely won’t have them if you don’t change.

  5. Thank you, Susan. Well said. When someone follows the healthy lifestyle that we promote in our book…..healthy body, healthy mind and healthy spirit, they will experience healing on many levels. Healing does not necessarily mean a “cure” of their cancer, but it will mean achieving their optimal level of health and happiness….and for some, healing on a physical level will be a pleasant side effect!

  6. This has become the big conundrum for me. I’m one of those people who thought I was living such a healthy life so how did I get cancer, but upon reflection, I realize that when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s I drank a lot more than I should have, I smoked for 3 years in my mid-20’s, and ate a lot more meat than I do now. I’ve started to be more focused on eating as close to a vegetarian diet as I can, with minimal meat and a lot more vegetables and grains, haven’t smoked since I quit over 25 years ago and drink very rarely these days. It’s one of those things I’ll always think about, but at this stage of the game, I need to just focus on what’s ahead of me instead of what might have been in my past. Thanks for making me ponder this one again, this morning!

    • You make a good point, Claudia….it is not about going back and finding fault in our lifestyle and how it may have contributed to our diagnosis, it is all about moving forward and reaching our optimal level of health and happiness NOW!

  7. Preachin’ to the choir here! I was diagnosed 2 yrs. ago and I have switched to a plant based diet, am more dedicated to my exercise, eliminated a great many toxins from my personal care and household, and am less than perfect in my meditation and Qigong practice. I must say it is my diet switch which has brought the most negative reaction. I hear a lot of sentences containing “my grandmother…”, “you wouldn’t eat anything if you eliminated everything ‘they’ say is bad for you..”, “over reacting”… “fanatical”… ALL of which came from lips of fellow survivors. I totally agree that we are at least taking some of the bullets away and I want to know I have done what I have control over even if my cancer comes back. Thanks for this post!

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