Welcome to Part One of our new series with 21 year Cancer Thriver, Glenn Sabin. Next week: Yoga Milestone: First CME-Approved Conference Supports Therapeutic Value
For those who have a low-grade, indolent variety of chronic malignancy such as certain prostate cancers or CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia), a common course of action is often “watchful waiting”, also referred to as “active observation”. The thinking here is that if a malignancy is slow-growing and the patient is asymptomatic, then there is no reason for immediate medical interventions that may cause unnecessary side effects. A chronic malignancy can take many months or even years to pose a significant health concern requiring immediate treatment. Another benefit of a watchful waiting approach is that it allows time for possible medical advances that may inform new ways of treating disease.
If you have been diagnosed with a chronic, slow-growing cancer and the chosen course of action is watchful waiting, I have a suggestion for you: do not simply “watch” and “wait”. What you need now is to proactively observe your health, but from a point of empowerment made possible by active participation in your own recovery. You have a chronic malignancy, so you have been amply warned. Your disease did not present in an aggressive, acute form requiring immediate therapeutic intervention. One day you may require conventional treatment for your condition—with a standard goal of achieving a clinical remission—but today you can seize the opportunity to change your biology by committing to specific lifestyle choices, a k a changing your behavior.
Your current biochemical cancer terrain (environment) has already been proven to be hospitable to malignancy, thus your diagnosis. Making no changes in terms of how you live your life all but guarantees that your disease will progress, perhaps more quickly than necessary or preferred.
You have more control than you may realize over the course of you chronic malignancy. Don’t expect your conventional oncologist to be versed in or even wholly supportive of lifestyle changes to address your malignancy. While more practitioners are being trained in nutrition basics in med school, most veteran oncologists still do not give much credence to the positive effects of a whole person integrative approach to oncology care. The focus is on what they know: pharmaceuticals, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. And I must make clear that these types of conventional interventions may be needed at some point in time.
Everyone has malignant cells in their body, but most are killed by a strong immune system. Your system has initially failed you by allowing a few cancer cells to take hold. Your immune system may be compromised due to an imbalance of many possible biochemical terrain factors, or combination of factors, such as: inflammation, stress hormone levels, oxidation levels and nutritional deficits. There may have been environmental toxins (chemicals, water and air) and other factors that played a role in the onset of your disease.
Although you may be genetically predisposed for certain malignancies, the good news is that there is a growing body of quality research that is pointing to the fact that many genes can be modulated – essentially changed – by employing behavioral modifications, even after the onset of malignancy. More often, a number of lifestyle choices made cumulatively over the course of many years has affected your biochemical terrain in a profound and negative way.
Whether or not you seek out a quality integrative oncologist to help guide you (which I strongly suggest), the point here is that you have the control to harness your body’s innate healing ability by making specific non-draconian changes to your behavior. Identifying your current lifestyle choices and making the requisite changes will help position your body to become less hospitable to the spread of malignancy. It may also play a role in suppressing or even reversing your disease.
Here are the key lifestyle interventions that you can address now:
1. Regular exercise
2. Proper hydration
3. Whole food, plant-based diet
4. Discontinuation of white flours and highly processed, high inflammation foods
5. Mind-body relaxation techniques
6. Adequate, restorative sleep
7. Supplementation (nutritional pharmacology) as needed
8. Stop smoking!
9. Limit alcohol intake
Active observation or watchful waiting is often an intelligent, prudent strategy when managing a chronic malignancy. The best part of this approach is that it gives you a significant opportunity to be a proactive participant in your healthcare. Getting regular scans, labs and physical exams while on active observation will monitor any changes in your condition, but these are not in and of themselves interventions.
You have the ability to empower yourself to create your own personalized set of interventions. Now is the time to take a proactive role in the creation of and adherence to an integrative oncology approach to adequately address your condition. You possess the essential tools to unleash your body’s powerful, innate ability to effectuate a positive clinical response to your disease.
Glenn Sabin is a 21-year cancer “thriver” who created a comprehensive, integrative oncology approach to achieve a complete pathological remission of his CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia)—considered an “incurable” disease—without conventional intervention. Glenn’s case has been chronicled through Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his personal oncologist, Lee M. Nadler, MD, Dean of Clinical and Translational Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
A staunch proponent and leader in the area of integrative medicine, Glenn is a board member of the Society for Integrative Oncology and has a special interest in evidence-based integrative cancer care and the scientific exploration of whole systems protocols through well-designed clinical studies implemented in academic settings.
After a 25-year career running a media and content marketing company, Glenn sold his business in 2009 to explore new media opportunities. Born out of his personal journey with cancer, Glenn also launched FON Therapeutics. He devotes energy to advancing medical research models, helping integrative medicine providers grow their practices and to patient coaching.
Glenn has a uniquely relevant perspective on the business, policy and scientific matters specific to integrative healthcare and lectures on these topics across the country.