Thursday, August 7, 2014

We All Have Cancer

I’m reading the book, “Anticancer: A New Way of Life” by David Servan-Schreiber. He was one of the founders of Doctors Without Borders and an accomplished neuro-psychiatrist when, at 31, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His book is about what he learned about cancer, and cancer treatment and cancer prevention.

Some of what he has to say is not new: the importance of exercise, diet, alternative treatments etc. But what is new is his description of roles we play in CancerLand--the patient’s role in his/her own care versus the doctor’s role. He also gives great guidance on how to sort medical info, nutritional info and he writes a lot about the physiological impact of stress. And the stress of cancer. He’s got lots and lots of facts.

But this is the fact that blew me away: “One hundred percent of people have cancer cells in their bodies after the age of fifty.”

100% of us have cancer after the age of 50. We all have cancer. Again: We all have cancer. In some people it develops into tumors or wild growths that become life threatening, in others it does not. But after age fifty we all have cancer cells in our bodies.

That’s wild and powerful information to process when you think about prevention and what it means to maintain your health but also relevant to screening and tests and it’s a great starting point to start wrapping our heads around our consistent denial or mortality and death. Cause that’s the other absolute health statistic: 100% of us will die.

We all have cancer and we will all die. That’s not really bad news. Freedom lives in that last sentence. It makes me think of Mary Oliver’s poem: “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

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