This is your life

Bernie Seigal, one of the most famous oncologists of all time, used to say he could spot a survivor within twenty seconds of them arriving in his consulting room. From his point of view, it all depended on who was in charge: those who took an active and interested role in their own survival tended to do better through treatment and beyond.

This is the idea at the core of my nutrition and coaching practice. Back in 1997 when I was first diagnosed, the very idea that you, the patient, might have an opinion seemed like an impertinence. Now, I hope that’s changed.

The process of cancer diagnosis tends to funnel you towards increasingly specialised people, and by the time you’re sitting in front of your oncologist you have probably invested them with a God-like status. Your life is in their hands. Which normally means you are going to do what they tell you. You may even be told there are no other options.

Although you probably consider the clinical decisions involved in your care to be above your pay grade, this is your body we’re talking about and you know it best. Are you really going to let anyone inject it with toxic drugs and beam you up with radiation without asking a few questions?

We live in a world that values evidence-based medicine above all else. Which means you are entitled to ask for the evidence for your treatment protocol. Why are they recommending this course of action to you? What do they expect it will achieve? What other options have been considered? Is there anything else you can do – any clinical trials you could join? These are all good questions – and they put you in the picture, and in the driving seat.

There’s so much we don’t understand about the role of the brain in disease management, but I am absolutely convinced, from my own 13 years of clinical experience, that being 100% invested in your treatment and its potential for giving you a better future is an important part of the efficacy. It’s time to get involved. That, more than anything, is what Bernie Seigal was talking about.

Even as I write, researchers are busy trying to find more acceptable alternatives to the highly toxic treatments that form the core of current cancer therapy. I firmly believe that within the next decade radio- and chemotherapy will be gradually phased out. We know, sadly, that in some cases they do more harm than good, and there is significant research budget focussed on combination therapies that allow lower doses to be given.

I also hope we are not too far away from a time when nutrition, meditation, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, exercise and environmental detoxification will be a recognised part of the standard of care for cancer patients. Certainly these are the things that are causing the most excitement at the laboratory end of cancer research. If you spend a little time on Google (just have a look at you’ll see that lots of people are exercising their right to choose a variety of cancer care options – either in combination with conventional treatment or instead of.

But beyond all of this is the growing idea that treatment is not about the disease but about the person who has the disease. If The Cancer Genome Atlas project taught us anything it’s that everyone’s cancer is different. And everyone’s route to successful treatment needs to be tailor made.

Before you make any major decisions I urge you to think about that. To ask the right questions that allow you to make informed choices about what you need to get better. I want to invite you to see the bigger picture – to tell you that you really do have a choice – and that the very act of making that a positive, well-researched and willing choice may affect your chances of survival.

In my practice I help clients understand the way the medical system works, I help them to ask the right questions to find out whether the treatment they’re being offered is the treatment they actually want, I provide ideas and connections to other resources that may be helpful and, of course, I provide expert nutritional advice to help them harness all the anti-cancer benefits available through diet and operate at peak fitness – whatever option they choose.

If that sounds like a conversation you need to have before you go any further, please get in touch.