Radical Remission - Healing Your Body (A book review)
I recently read the book, Radical Remission, Surviving Cancer Against All Oddsby Kelly A. Turner, PH.D, a researcher, author, and lecturer in the field of integrative oncology.
Although Kelly has not had cancer, she practiced at a large cancer research center, and was curious why research around how people had overcome cancer without using conventional medicine was not well documented.
She traveled around the world interviewing alternative healers, and over 1000 survivors and identified the nine most common factors that contributed to their healing and shared their stories about how they defied the odds and completely reversed their cancer diagnosis.
She refers to radical remission as when a cancer goes away without using any conventional medicine; a cancer patient tries conventional medicine, but the cancer does not go into remission, so he or she switches to alternative methods of healing, which do lead to remission; or a cancer patient uses conventional medicine or alternative medicine at the same time to outlive a statistically dire prognosis.
She points out that it was not just one thing that these patients did to get better it was a combination of things that contributed to their healing, but that these factors were the most common.
This research is important for cancer patients and the stories are miraculous. To be clear, this book is about healing cancer, and not preventing it, but all these tools provide us with research on how we should eat, move, and think to heal our bodies.
Since we are literally healing or hurting ourselves every day, I wanted to share her findings because, cancer or not, it’s the little choices that we make each day that contribute to our risk of getting sick and support our immune system.
I like to think of this as radical “omission” because through our choices to support our body, mind and spirit each day, we can aim to “omit” or “reduce” our chances for getting cancer.
I provide a very brief overview of the nine common factors she attributes to their healing, but I highly recommend you read this book because of the stories of magnificent human spirit, but also because of the science and research she provides to help us understand how our bodies heal.
The Nine Factors
1) Radically changing your diet. She narrows this down to four dietary changes that the majority of the people made.
a. Greatly reducing or eliminating sugar, meat, dairy, and refined foods.
b. Greatly increasing vegetable and fruit intake.
c. Eating organic foods, and
d. Drinking filtered water.
She says if you want to help heal your body, you need to pay attention to what you put in your body because the “cells of our food get broken down and transformed int to the cells of our bodies.” This effects our tissues and vessels and the level of inflammation in our body.
“Our health – and indeed our entire lives – can be seen as the sum of all our moment-to-moment decisions. This includes how we choose to eat and drink, think and feel, act and react and move and rest on any given day.”
2) Taking Control of Your Health.
This may sound more critical for someone who has been diagnosed with cancer, but it’s the day in, day out decisions that affect our us. Our health is the sum of all our “moment-to-moment decisions. This includes “how we choose to eat and drink, think and feel, act and react, and move and rest on any given day.”
She explains it as taking an active (versus passive) role in your health, being willing to make changes in your life, and being able to deal with resistance.
This “mindset” is critical for we may know that vegetables are food for us, but if we’re not open to making changes, or figuring why out it’s so hard for us to make changes because maybe we’re not open minded, or we just can’t understand why we are stuck in old habits.
“In the western world of medicine, we have been trained to be good “patients” that we have forgotten that we are actually the ones driving our “cars” (bodies).
“We have only rudimentary knowledge about how to care for our bodies, and when they do break down- often due to nothing more than lack of care – we hand over all responsibility for fixing the problem to our doctors, instead of thinking how we could change the way we care for our bodies.”
3) Following Your Intuition
She outlines three areas about intuition - the body knows what it needs to heal, the many ways to access intuition, everyone has a different change to make – and then outlines interesting research on intuition. For example, she says “the gut with all its millions of neurons can actually think and feel just like the brain can.”
She doesn’t provide one “right way” to follow your intuition. It may be an internal voice of deep knowing, for others a physical sensation, for some it may come in their dreams, meditation, or journaling, or even through a coincidence.
“But why, exactly, should we trust a gut instinct? One reason is because researchers have found that system one (instinctual, subconscious) often knows the right answer before system two (analytical, conscious) does.”
4) Using Herbs and Supplements
The typical approach of a conventional oncologist would be to kill cancer cells, while the typical approach of an alternative healer is to strengthen the bodies’ immune system. Conventional medicine tends to view cancer as a hostile invader that the body cannot fight off, while alternative healers see cancer as something the body can fight off.
Many alternative healer use plant-based herbs and supplements to do this because they believe that to “get rid of cancer, you must change the environment under which it thrives.”
She outlines supplements you can do to help you digest your food, detoxify your body, and boost your immune system but says they are not a replacement for healthy food.
“Although supplements do contribute to healing, “they are merely Band-Aids for a nutrient poor, toxin-rich environment.”
5) Releasing Suppressed Emotions
Only two of the nine most frequent factors in the book are physical (diet change and herbs/supplements), the rest are emotional or spiritual in nature.
She explains how the emotions we hold on to from our past are connected to our physical health and why stress and fear are bad for our health, along with ways to process our emotions and a story about a survivor who released suppressed emotions in order to help heal his lung cancer.
Her research looks at what people do to heal their cancer, but also why they do it, and the underlying beliefs including the belief that “illness is a blockage on either the physical, emotional, or spiritual level of our beings. Survivors worked on clearing out anything that was “stuck” in their being.
Ways to release emotions include journaling, making a list of emotional moments, practicing daily forgiveness and stress management.
6) Increasing Positive Emotions
Turner looks at what positive emotions are, and how they affect our immune system, and ways to increase positive emotions. She says that survivors tried to experience “happiness, joy, and love” on a daily basis. She describes love as a feeling of love that comes from within you and that you then project outward.
When we feel positive emotions like joy and love, “our hormones tell our bodies to spend time repairing broken cells, digesting food, and healing infections. Versus when we feel fear or stress, our hormones tell the cells in our bodies to either fight or flee. So when we turn off the “flight-or-fight” mode our body can heal.
“Positive emotions are like rocket fuel for the immune system.”
7) Embracing Social Support
She refers to social support as receiving love, particularly when you are sick. For many cancer patients, being surrounded by and loved by friends was a critical part of being open to and receiving love. Physical touch, like hugging, cuddling or just a simple hand on someone’s shoulder provides powerful healing effects.
“However, researchers have recently discovered that loved ones also help our bodies in a more sophisticated way. When we are surrounded by loved ones or even our pets, the feeling of being loved releases a flood of potent hormones into our bloodstreams, which not only makes us feel better emotionally but also strengthens our immune systems significantly. Receiving love from others when we are sick actually helps the body heal itself.”
8) Deepening Your Spiritual Connection
A spiritual connection may mean something different for everyone. This could mean higher energy, God, the soul, life force, or chi. She refers to it as spiritual energy. The stories she profiled of survivors include spirituality as an experience, universal love, mindfulness (stopping the mind), the relationship with physical and spiritual and how a regular “practice” contributed to their healing.
More and more research is being done on the benefits of mindfulness, for example practicing meditation produces high levels of melatonin in the body which we need to sleep. Other studies show meditation has positive effects on the immune system. For example, the more you meditate, the more virus anti-bodies you produce.
“It is like having a healing river flowing under the ground at all times – the river is always there, but you have to take the time to stop, dig a hole, and drink the water if you want to receive its healing benefits.”
9) Having Strong Reasons for Living
This last chapter is a reminder to us all, sick or healthy, that it’s not just an “I don’t want to die” attitude that is important, she explains it’s less about the fear of death as a “zest for living.”
The strong reasons for living and the things that kept survivors motivated during their healing process include a deep unquestioning conviction and an excitement for life, and the recognition that our mind leads our body and not the other way around.
“Having strong reasons for living means focusing on why you want to keep living instead of the fact that you might die sooner than you had hoped.”
This research presented in this book, and the stories of the human spirit and will to live are inspiring, educational, empowering, and emotional. It reminds us that the choices we get to make to love and respect our body are all accessible to us.
Research shows more and more that it is our environment that is the most significant determinant for increasing our chances of cancer and other diseases.
We don’t have to wait to get sick to practice these tools. I am hopeful that the more we tend to our body through real nourishment and touch, our mind through tools like meditation, and through positive and loving thoughts, and our feeling of connection, the better we will feel each day, and the more fully we experience life.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What do you take from this? Have you known someone who has had cancer? Do you think these factors make a difference?