My cancer was deemed “incurable” by modern oncology in February, 2016. I had recurrent cervical cancer and it has a 20% survival rate. My oncology team has since admitted they didn’t think I would be in that survival group.
I stubbornly refused to believe my prognosis. To me, a twenty percent chance was huge. In my head it was never a question that I would use all of my type-A, overachiever energy to beat cancer. I’d buried both parents, survived a rape, moved to NYC with no friends or family, built a career in a cutthroat industry. Surely, I could beat cancer or at least die trying – literally.
I desperately sought out survivors. I read every book I could find on beating cancer. And luckily, I’m a bookworm — because there are a lot of books by survivors and cancer survival.
In the reading quest, Radical Remission became my go-to book and set out my road map. Here were 9 factors that thousands of survivors have done to outlive their dire prognosis. If this is what other people had done to beat cancer, then that’s what I was going to do. I jumped in to all nine factors with both numb, neuropathied feet.
I accepted the fact I might die, but there was no way I wasn’t going to do everything in my power to save myself. It was almost primal to me. Call it ‘survival instinct of an overachiever’.
What I didn’t realize is that this instinct isn’t universal. I thought, “Wouldn’t everyone given an expiration date do everything in their power to beat the odds?” I discovered…not really.
As I began preaching, and later teaching, the factors of Radical Remission and mind-body-spirit connection, I often felt like I was talking to a brick wall.
- “But my doctor says it won’t make a difference [whatever it was I was suggesting],” from a four-time survivor in her 30’s, deep in ANOTHER cancer battle.
- “Oh that fooey stuff is fine for Tracy. I’m glad it works for her, but it’s not for me,” from a female cancer patient diagnosed the same time as me and who has since died.
- “Stop talking about it. My cancer’s not like that. It doesn’t matter what I do, it will either come back or it won’t,” from a stubborn two-time survivor.
It turns out change is just too hard for some people. Make that, most people.
Alan Deutschman noted in “Change or Die” that, when given the choice to change their lifestyle or die, only 1 in 10 heart patients actually changed. That means 90% of people went back to the lifestyle that gave them the heart attack, rather than changing their lifestyle to create a healthier life and to potentially live longer.
My own mother-in-law — a diabetic, hypertensive who saw my remarkable recovery and massive life shift — once said, “I want to get off all these meds.”
I said, “Great. Let me ask you one question: Are you willing to change your diet?”
“No,” she said, as if I had just asked her to run naked in the quad.
“Okay. That’s your choice. I respect that. But recognize that you are making a conscious choice to stay on medication for the rest of your life.” I gently said.
“Okay,” she said and we finished our game of Uno.
I write this to congratulate you for being here. Simply by being part of the Radical Remission community, you have set yourself apart from the 90% of people not willing to change. You may not jump into all 9 factors like I did, and that’s okay. Instead, try each factor when it feels right to you. This is in keeping with the ‘follow your intuition’ factor.
Secondly, I want to give you permission to give up the guilt you may feel when you offer advice about all the amazing things you’ve learned that people ignore. If you’re like me, you want to shout, “You can heal yourself!” from the rooftops. I contend that I wouldn’t have gotten cancer if I’d made the lifestyle changes cancer forced me to make 10 years earlier. But I had to learn to let people make their own bad decisions — sometimes those closest to me, like my mother-in-law, husband, best friends and son. It’s cliche because it’s true: “You can drag a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.”
Lastly, I want to support you in this beautiful, hard, action-packed, sometimes-scary journey you’re on to heal yourself. It can be lonely when everyone tells you, “You’re crazy,” and questions your health decisions. But we’re building a movement together. We’re proving that incredible ‘spontaneous remissions’ like mine aren’t uncommon or spontaneous. It’s just that we don’t get as much attention as the latest whiz-bang drug.
Each person reading this already knows there’s nothing ‘spontaneous’ about these remissions. I changed every part of my life from my deodorant and cookware to my career and house. I’m alive today because I was willing to change and I applaud you for having the courage to be brave enough to heal.
By Tracy White