By Dorota Trupp, Nutritionist
We live in an age in which the possibility of good health is as strong as it’s ever been. Never before have people been so educated and spoken so openly about what it takes to prevent illness and achieve optimal health. And yet, more people than ever are suffering from cancer. How can this be?
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is the second leading cause of human death. Every year, nearly 8 million people worldwide die from various forms of the disease. It is estimated that by the year 2030, this number may rise to 22.2 million cancer deaths per year.1
We all live in fear of this disease and we have different ways to deal with it. I have to admit, that I was shocked by recent news of Angelina Jolie double mastectomy as a breast cancer prevention strategy. I am not here to judge her, but somehow this news didn’t sit well with me. I understand her fear and reasons of making such a decision but I learned from my own personal journey that there are many successful ways to prevent cancer and removing your organs in a prime of your life feels very extreme to me. I am worried that Angelina’s example may set many other woman to make such drastic decision, omitting gentle preventative ways. To balance this extreme news, let me tell you about my personal experience with cancer and share with you the lessons I learned from it.
At the age of 14 I lost my father to bowel cancer. For as long as I could remember, prior to being diagnosed with this fatal disease, he had experienced ill health. Being a busy man, I imagine that he never found the time to fully understand the reasons for, or the solutions to, his symptoms – that he never thought about his health outside the square. I think that, like most of us, he trusted that the medicine he received would resolve all of his complaints, never realising that it takes so much more to establish and sustain good health. For instance, he smoked cigarettes up until the last day of his life. He never really changed any of his habits, giving up the bad ones for something better.
Medicine, both conventional and unconventional, can achieve great healing results. But what we often forget is that listening to our own bodies, taking responsibility for our own wellbeing long before a disease strikes, is at the heart of truly good health. I believe that if my father had understood that, he may have stood a good chance of living a healthier life and possibly preventing his death at a relatively early age from cancer.
Changing your lifestyle and long-term habits is very challenging, however, and not just when your sick. It is often just as difficult when you are healthy. But it is extremely important to do this if you want to maintain your wellbeing. You absolutely have to persist at adopting new ways of living and looking after yourself, even when you do not feel like it.
Changing habits was something I had to do myself to achieve better health. When I was younger, I suffered a lot of bad health. I was born 8 weeks premature and had a fragile immune system, which meant that I constantly endured infections and spent lots of time in bed and in hospital. I became overmedicated and sensitive to many foods, and I had no energy. I also had scoliosis, an abnormal curving of the spine which had caused me a great deal of back pain since my early childhood. In general, being sick was something that was the norm for me, something that I took for granted.
I hit rock-bottom in my early 20s when I was fighting numerous gut issues and was told I had to have a suspicious lump removed from one of my breasts, as well as being diagnosed with precancerous changes in my cervix that also needed urgent surgery. It was my darkest moment. I was left thinking, why me? I already lost my father, whom I had loved dearly, and I did not understand why I had to suffer the same fate at an even younger age.
It may sound strange, but while my father never changed his lifestyle, in his career he was constantly adapting, which was one of the reasons I had looked up to him as a role model. He was always open to new enterprises and wasn’t shy about taking risks and trying different things to improve his business. This was something that also felt natural to me. And so, just as my father had shown great entrepreneurial spirit in his successful career, I similarly applied myself in an effort to regain my health. I decided to take control of my body. I said to myself, ‘Right, I will go and do whatever it takes to get myself healthy’.
Believe me, it was not an easy journey. I began by cooperating with medical doctors and natural medicine practitioners, and eventually my health got better. But the really significant changes happened when I began studying natural medicine. In doing so, I learned about and adopted many more healthy practices that have since helped me to strengthen my body and my mind.
I am now in my mid-30s – a happy, healthy mother and wife and a busy businesswoman. It seems I seldom have a reason to visit a medical doctor these days, but this has not meant that I have given up any of the healthy habits I have adopted to sustain my wellbeing. I am fully committed to maintaining my beneficial habits, whether I feel like it or not. I do it because I know that this gives me the greatest chance of avoiding my father’s fate. To me the greatest wealth is health. I worked hard to achieve it.
Here is a list of the habits that have helped me to overcome my illnesses and maintain good health, and which you will also find to be of great benefit:
- Undertake regular cancer screening such as Pap smear tests and faecal occult blood tests (FOBT). These tests save lives.2
- If you have any health-damaging addictions, such as cigarettes or alcohol, give them up right now. Cigarette smoking in particular is a major risk factor for cancer. 2 Giving up this habit alone can change your fate.
- Don’t use indoor tanning beds (solariums).
- I can’t stress enough how important good nutrition is. The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about one-quarter to one-third of all cancers can be attributed to diet.2 So adopt a wholesome diet that includes all the major food groups and which involves home-prepared meals. This way you will avoid ingesting the many harmful food additives, trans fatty acids and sugars that processed and badly cooked foods contain. In other words, try to eat a diet that is as close as possible to what your grandparents ate – I promote such a diet in the Trupps’ Wholefood Kitchen cookbook. There are many inexpensive plant based foods that have proven anti-cancerigenic properties. You can easily include these daily in your salads, or vegetable juices.
- Do some sport at least three times a week, though preferably daily, to maintain physical fitness.
- Keep up a positive mindset by listening to positive-thinking CDs, reading encouraging literature and surrounding yourself with positive people.
- Let go of any hurtful, difficult or painful personal relationships, and don’t let yourself get stuck in a job that causes you great worry. If you remain in a highly stressful situation for a long period of time, this will greatly impair your health.
- Get enough rest. About 8 hours of sleep a night allows your body to regenerate and re-energise.
- Use nutritional supplements to provide extra nutrients.
- Drink only filtered water.
- Include fermented, probiotic-rich foods in your diet to maintain a beneficial intestinal flora balance. This will dramatically improve your digestive health.
- Don’t shy away from visiting chiropractors, masseurs, acupuncturists, naturopaths, nutritionists and other alternative medicine therapists when you feel there is a need to restore balance in your body.
- Do sporadic practitioner-guided detoxification diets that help to rejuvenate your liver, which is a master detoxification organ. When your liver works optimally, your overall health is better.
- Replace the mercury amalgams of old-fashioned tooth fillings with the new, non-toxic dental materials.
- Avoid toxic chemicals in personal body care and plastics. Switch to brands that promote natural ingredients.
- Have daily cold showers and skin brushing to stimulate blood circulation and detoxification. You can apply these after your regular warm/hot shower.
- Maintain a healthy bodyweight through diet and exercise.
- Set yourself regular goals to achieve. Write them down and then put them where they are always visible. These goals should include: ‘Achieve excellent health!’
- Keep educating yourself in regards to body care and always strive to try new ways of sustaining your health.
- If it happens that you are diagnosed with cancer, refuse to be a victim. Withdraw from everything that causes great stress in your life and focus solely on your healing. Take responsibility for how you feel, seek help, and change your habits.
Some of the impressive cancer researchers I come across, that you may find interesting to know of:
1 American Cancer Society (2013), Rising global cancer epidemic, http://www.cancer.org/research/infographics/rising-global-cancer-epidemic
2 American Cancer Society (2013), Cancer prevention and early detection – facts and figures, http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@epidemiologysurveilance/documents/document/acspc-037535.pdf