Have you heard of spontaneous remissions?
You know, getting better, like completely better, without classical medical intervention?
The conventional world goes out of their way not to document, study, or even acknowledge these “outliers” – many of which Dr. Kelly Turner is now devoted to cataloguing. In fact, most patients who recover from diagnoses like terminal cancer, are told that they were probably misdiagnosed to begin with.
That’s why working with Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez changed my life. His meticulous notes, radiographically and surgically confirmed presenting diagnoses, and his decade long dedication to disrupting the conventional cancer care paradigm continue to haunt the establishment. Particularly in his posthumously published case reports.
Working with this sacred healer convinced me that there are no carve outs to what is possible in the realm of radical, transformational health journeys – hypertension, diabetes, Lyme disease, and terminal cancers were all exchanged for long-term vitality on a health regimen that was completely and totally within the patient’s control.
He had cracked the code, as far as I was concerned. His approach, and the approach of his surviving colleague, Dr. Linda Isaacs, is predicated on three pillars – personalized diet, personalized supplementation, and detox including daily coffee enemas. But there was one magic ingredient that he taught me was indispensable: mindset. In fact, he counseled me on my own overly permissive approach to working with patients, any and all.
The outcomes that I have achieved in my practice since incorporating his teachings have lead me to spend most of my spare time writing up case reports for the peer-reviewed primary medical literature. Because these cases defy the orthodoxy. They demonstrate that disease labels can be shed. That symptoms can transform. And that vitality can be reclaimed.
Through this lens, illness is more than just bad luck, bad genes, and something to “survive”. Illness, even grave and disabling illness is an invitation to your next chapter in life.
From my perspective, this chapter, this more conscious life is predicated on deep respect for and reunion with the body, with nature, and with our own sense of wholeness derived from our unique contribution to the collective. What comes from this foundational practice of healing is a sense of control and empowerment. It is a mindset shift.
Sometimes, what comes with this mindset shift is the liberation of energy that would have otherwise been dedicated to resisting reality. Perhaps this shift alone is responsible for the healing rather than the actual interventions and changes?
Can our body express what our conscious mind doesn’t know?
As it turns out, the mind-body connection is not a highway between two destinations. It’s far more enmeshed than that as Dr. Candace Pert tried to tell us decades ago through her scientific research.
The mother of psychoneuroimmunology, Pert helped us to understand that perceived stress – conscious or not – influences all elements of our physiology. That our entire physical being is also simultaneously an emotional being and a thinking being. We are all of it everywhere at once.
If we do not honor all aspects of our felt experience, if we suppress and oppress negative emotions like anger and sadness, our body tells us that this is not ok. That is because aspiring to experience only contentedness and a stress-free life requires segmenting off part of ourselves and compromising our authenticity. Because sadness, grief, anger, and pain are a part of the alchemy of the human experience.
How stress can kill
When the Body Says No is Dr. Gabor Maté’s opus on the ways in which stress drives illnesses such as autoimmunity and cancer. Ushering us over the sticky threshold of gene-based dogma, Maté weaves a new scientific story for the nature of chronic illness. A slow drip of scientific evidence, this book takes the incontrovertible stance that illness is, in part, an emotional expression of maladaptive stress-response habits.
This new perspective on health and illness takes on a very simple agenda: it seeks to include the person. Conventional medicine does not, in any way, account for the person with the diagnosis. That’s why hospitals are notorious for dehumanizing patients by calling them the cirrhosis case in bed 304. In the medicine I learned, your beliefs, your experience, your family dynamics, your temperament…none of these elements are anything more than a politically correct window dressing to the “real” history of present illness, diagnosis, and treatment.
Conventional medicine believes that illness is the result of linear cause and effect.
This tenet is eroded, however, by a simple fact, apparent to all.
Exposure to risk – whether it’s cigarettes or testable genes like the “breast cancer gene” – is not sufficient for criteria for illness. These exposures exist in a majority who never develop diagnosable clinical illness. How do we explain these risk factors then in the context of the lifestyles, personalities, and experiences of those who do develop illness?
Unexpressed anger as a driver of illness
Is it possible that nice people get seriously sick more often?
A reductionist inquiry inspired by the science supporting a cancer personality type, Maté makes the argument that people pleasers and those who otherwise suppress their own emotional needs in service of others are at particular risk for developing immune-related illnesses.
It’s quite simple. There is a very particular kind of chronic stress related to this kind of self-denial. These people are emotionally controlled by others. They are relegated to a subordinate position. Disempowered and helpless.
It appears that one of the true risk factors for cancer and autoimmunity is an experience of childhood trauma – acute or chronic – wherein survival is linked to conforming to expectations that are self-violating. In fact, Maté says that every single one of his patients has struggled with emotional repression as a coping style and that not one of them could answer yes to the following question: “When, as a child, you felt sad, upset or angry, was there anyone you could talk to – even when he or she was the one who had triggered your negative emotions?”
Where do the emotions go?
Maté defines repression as “dissociating emotions from awareness and relegating them to the unconscious realm” which “disorganizes and confuses our physiological defenses so that in some people these defenses go awry, becoming the destroyers of health rather than its protectors.”
In a 10 year prospective Yugoslavian study cited in Maté’s text, the greatest single risk factor for death but particularly cancer, was “rationality and anti-emotionality”, noting that in the absence of anger repression, smokers had no risk of lung cancer.
Another long-term prospective study of medical students conducted at Johns Hopkins also concluded “ Our results appear to agree with findings that cancer patients ‘tend to deny and repress conflictual impulses and emotions to a higher degree than to other people.’”
And yet another longitudinal breast cancer study concluded that “neoplastic spread to be associated with a repressive personality style, reduced expression of negative affect, helplessness-hopelessness, chronic stress, and comforting daydreaming.”
Perhaps cancer is a highly personal experience, rather than a plug and play diagnosis, prognosis, treatment model that in no way accounts for these characterologic variants.
When sleeping dogs wake: why do dormant cancer cells turn to clinical disease?
Apparently, based on autopsy, up to 30% of us are walking around with microscopic breast cancers, so what turns those cellular changes into cancer that can kill? What are the conditions for this process to kick off?
Incredible longitudinal research has supported the ability to predict with 75-78% accuracy those that have clinical evidence of cancer or who have died from it based on measures of repressed anger and long-lasting hopelessness.
Similarly, for prostate cancer incidence, Japanese men in the US have over two and a half times greater incidence of this diagnosis. Clearly, genetics are not the primary driver here. In fact, on autopsy, similar rates of inactive malignant cells were found regardless of geography! This has also been found to be the case in African American vs Nigerian men who have the same number of silent prostate cancer cells but a sixfold increase in cancer rates. Simply incredible to conceive of the fact that stress is the fertilizer to these cells that otherwise have no potential to harm.
So could our nation-wide obsession with ease, comfort, and happiness – as evidenced by our magic pill for any and all distress consciousness – be driving cancer epidemics?
To complicate matters, Maté cites data that suggests that seeming stress-free breast cancer patients are more likely to be dead at follow up. Positive thinking and emotions are not the same as genuine joy, he clarifies. They are a distraction technique from the fuller arena of emotional terrain. They defy the meaning and importance of a range of “negative” emotions that inform our authentic self – a self that seems to require essential expression for vital health.
Negative thinking allows us to gaze unflinchingly on our own behalf at what does not work. We have seen in study after study that compulsive positive thinkers are more likely to develop disease and less likely to survive. Genuine positive thinking – or more deeply, positive being – empowers us to know that we have nothing to fear from truth.”
So what is a nice person to do?
Maté educates us about the goal of a fuller emotional breadth of experience and how to tangle with emotions that scare us.
Emotional competence requires:
- The capacity to feel our emotions, so that we are aware when we are experiencing stress;
- The ability to express our emotions effectively and thereby to assert our needs and to maintain the integrity of our emotional boundaries;
- The facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent residue from the past. What we want and demand from the world needs to conform to our present needs, not to unconscious, unsatisfied needs from childhood. If distinctions between past and present blur, we will perceive loss or the threat of loss where none exists and
- The awareness of those genuine needs that do require satisfactions, rather than their repression for the sake for gaining the acceptance or approval of others.
If that’s the goal, here are some tips to work towards it:
Think mammograms, PSA screenings, and thyroid ultrasounds are prevention? Think again. The data is clear that screening is a direct path to needless interventions and morbidity trumped up by the very industries that profit from long-term pharmaceutical treatment.
True prevention looks more like dedicated self love.
Cancer and autoimmunity are classical examples of the multiple simultaneous narrative model of medicine – where there are many concurrent explanations for what is going on. Maybe my Hashimoto’s diagnosis was related to mercury exposure from my college Hep B vaccine (yes it had mercury in it that has now been replaced by aluminum). Maybe it was from gluten-induced molecular mimicry. Maybe it was from the stress of residency. Maybe it was from my unexpressed truth manifesting in my throat chakra. Maybe it’s all of these.
That’s why prevention can start with exhibiting a deep regard for yourself, every day. Send your body, mind, and spirit a signal of safety from multiple directions. From my perspective this looks like meditation, detox, and high integrity nutrition. This is an empowering practice and one that makes room for emotions to course through the terrain like gusts of wind, when necessary. There’s nothing to knock over or disturb once you get clear like this, it just moves through.
Stop worrying and get curious
If symptoms or even a diagnosis strikes, meet it with curiosity. Worry serves nothing. In fact, it perpetuates that stress response that may be driving the entire health struggle. Ask what needs to be exposed, honored, balanced. Then find the approach, the medicine, or the healing that speaks to what you learn about your deepest needs for this lifetime. Accept the invitation to get real with yourself and start over so that you can experience the wonder of being truly yourself, fully expressed.
Practice radical acceptance
Accept what is – that doesn’t mean you have to like it, just that you start first with acknowledging that it is. Say, yes, this is happening. Then proceed from there. Accept and own your flaws, mistakes, shortcomings. Accept and own your symptoms, their consequences, and impact. Accept and own all that you do not know. Let it be ok.
Feel the feeling
We need to feel. When we stuff it, fight it, say no to it, it festers and transmutes into the physical as if to find another way to tell us that our whole selves are the only acceptable selves. When you have strong emotions coursing through, put them into your body. Exercise, put on some music and dance, engage in an Eastern movement practice. Note where in your body you sense it and watch it. It will move through and transform. This is how we get out of the “rational”, unbalanced masculine states that can lead our bodies to communicate through disease states.
Embracing the shadow
Make room, at all stages in life, for felt darkness and “negativity”. Explore it, feel it, observe it. Understand that every single person is constructed of polarities. We may have some qualities more dominant than others, but the opposite is in there somewhere. When people or experiences make us angry, it’s our anger that they give rise to. And that anger wants expression so it’s almost like we take opportunities to feel something, anything, and our felt emotion is universal rather than specific to circumstances. It wants and needs to be felt.
Try taking on a 40 day practice of Fists of Anger – a kundalini meditation that will move that energy through you and out. Start with just 3 minutes a day as the best cancer prevention you can invest in.
As we move into this incredible time where the newest science reflects the oldest wisdom, we are simultaneously learning that becoming whole is as simple as finally owning ourselves and our full experience of this life.