Changing the Cancer Environment

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2011 at 11:58 pm

In The Redwood Forest, I talk about changing the cancer environment.  I decided this topic deserves more depth, so today’s post goes a bit further into the emotional and nutritional sides of cancer.  In good health, Elyn

           Changing the Cancer Environment

Disease (is) not an entity but a fluctuating condition of the patient’s body, a battle between the substance of disease and the natural self-healing tendency of the body.        Hippocrates

Cancer is not as complicated as many claim it to be.  Genetic, environmental, nutritional and psychological factors all play a role in the development of cancer.  However, the development of cancer is an indication that the body lacks the support necessary to destroy cancer cells. We all generate errant or mutated cancer cells in our bodies every day, yet only some individuals will go on to develop the disease.  Normally our immune systems destroy these errant cells, yet in individuals whose immune systems are severely compromised, this mechanism fails.  Quite simply, the key is to discover and repair what is not functioning by empowering yourself to make changes that support your body’s ability to resist the cancer process.

You can’t alter your genetic factors. To some extent you can modify your environmental factors, but unavoidable perils lurk everywhere. However, you can change the psychological and nutritional factors that weaken the body’s natural defenses against cancer, and often times these changes can affect the way your body responds to genetic and environmental factors.

For example, diet often trumps toxins by helping to remove toxins from the body, and diet can also influence the expression of genes.  Therefore, what is of far more interest than the risk factors or causes is what we can do about them. The key to survival is often changing the environment in which cancer was able to develop.  If we focus on the underlying conditions that may have contributed to the disease, we can likely prevent recurrence or reverse the course of the disease.  After all, it is not the primary tumor that kills us, but rather the progression of the disease.

Emotional patterns and dietary choices may neither be the cause or cure for every cancer, but any path taken, be it allopathic, integrative or alternative, will be more successful long-term if the mind and body are addressed.

“Cancer does not begin in the body; cancer begins in the brain   R.G.Hamer

There is a strong correlation between emotional patterns and the development and progression of cancer. The power of repressed emotions, anger, and resentment as well as a lack of self love is not to be overlooked in the creating and healing of our cancers. Emotional challenges can develop into physical ones; that is, emotions not expressed in words or actions find expression in physical ailments; physical symptoms are often related to past repressed traumatic experiences.  Toxic defense mechanisms are often developed in childhood to survive life’s inevitable traumas.

I remember my first visit to my integrative oncologist, Mitch Gaynor.  The interview lasted several hours, and at one point he mentioned that he thought my cancer likely had much to do with something that happened to me when I was five years old; something that caused me to repress emotions that would later have contributed to my cancer.  He said that many people suppress their feelings in order to keep peace with others or to spare themselves or others from pain.  We talked about my life-long desire to be the peace-keeper, to the point where my family dubbed me “Julie the cruise director”.  For those of you who remember The Love Boat, it was Julie’s job to accommodate others, to be perky, and to ensure that everyone on the boat was happy…a tall order.

Our physical health is compromised when we chronically repress our needs and feelings to accommodate others.  This coping style weakens our immune defenses and leaves us more vulnerable to cancer progression. I have worked with him to make a more peaceful, but expressive life, and in doing so, have found appropriate ways to express my emotions; I have learned to put myself first at times.

Stress per-se is not a critical factor in illness; it’s how we respond to it that matters. The key is to express it appropriately and then let it go, so that it doesn’t fester or build, or escalate out of control. Healthy is not just a matter of thinking happy thoughts, but rather to learn how to express our emotions. Take a walk, run, have a massage, listen to music, take a bath, yell (or at least make your distress known) –anything that can release stress and stored or blocked emotions. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you begin to express your emotions and speak honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

The immune system is often suppressed in people who feel they are not able to change the negative conditions of their lives, and are involved in toxic relationships.  Situations in which a woman has a physically or emotionally abusive man in her life or is stuck in a non-nurturing marriage or even in one where a husband is unable or unwilling to support his wife’s emotional needs can trigger a cascade of biochemical changes that help create a fertile field for breast cancer to grow.

This is not to say that everyone involved in a toxic relationship or who has relentless, unaddressed stress will develop cancer.  However, to help avoid a recurrence of cancer or to reverse the disease, you need to change the environment in which cancer was permitted to grow.  Identifying and releasing deep-seated negative emotions and thought patterns, while maintaining an attitude of hope and positive beliefs, can make the all-important difference in the pursuit of wellness. If you suspect negative relationships to be part of the cause, it’s time to make some changes. Make a commitment to yourself and eliminate the toxic relationships in your life, celebrate you and make sure you are a priority in life, not an afterthought. Consider stress reducing therapies such as Reiki, yoga, meditation, or kinesiology.  Join a support group to talk through your frustrations and to connect with others.

“Let Food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy Food”        Hippocrates

Diet should be an important part of your anticancer strategy.  The cellular level is where cancer begins and where nutrition exerts its greatest effect. Our nutritional status either weakens us, making us susceptible to the development of cancer, or strengthens our bodies’ defense mechanisms, enhancing our ability to prevent renegade cells from becoming tumors, to avoid recurrence and often to reverse the disease.  Cancer loves inflammation, and inflammation plays a role at all three stages of cancer: initiation, progression and metastasis. Most foods either encourage or discourage inflammation.  A diet high in trans-fatty acids, carbohydrates and sugar helps the body to create inflammation, whereas a diet heavy in vegetables, whole grains and omega-3 fatty acids puts the brakes on the process.

In general, a high fiber, low fat, low protein diet rich in fruits and vegetables is recommended (as well as exercise and maintaining a healthy weight).  Avoid red meat (occasional organic, grass-fed meats are fine). Dairy consumption is somewhat controversial, but most would argue that avoiding or limiting dairy is best.  Remember, we want to enjoy life; deprivation can lead to depression and reduced enjoyment of life.  If eating cheese is of great pleasure to you, then by all means, have some, but try to find raw, organic cheeses made on small farms to avoid pesticides and unnecessary hormones.  

Antioxidants and the immune system play critical role cancer prevention and in their ability to destroy cancers already present. Antioxidants protect cells and tissues, and remove the free radicals created by exposure to radiation, chemicals and inflammation.  Foods such as flaxseed, rosemary, apples, red wine, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables help remove and disable troublesome estrogen from the body. The immune system, and specifically NK cells (natural killer cells), are able to attack and kill a wide variety of cells and patrol the circulatory system and organs of the body on an antigen seek-and-destroy mission, so keeping these super-soldiers in optimal fighting condition is necessary to beat cancer.  A lack of minerals and nutrients will decrease the activity of these soldiers and compromise the immune system. Please include a wide variety of anti-cancer foods as each nutrient plays its own role in the prevention of cancer. Learn more about cancer-fighting foods.

Remember, the goal is to empower yourself to take responsibility for your own healing and to encourage you to take action, without creating a sense of guilt.  If you have cancer, think long and hard about how you got to this place in life, and what kind of joyful and fulfilling future you want to create as a survivor.  You can’t change the past, but you can take control of your future. Understanding which behaviors, ingrained patterns and dietary deficiencies we can begin to change in order to strengthen our immune systems and to allow our bodies to heal is the first step in the pursuit of wellness. Resolving these issues and moving towards a happier, healthier life is why many survivors say that getting cancer was the best thing that ever happened to them.

To read more about Dr Hamer’s theory, please visit: www.newmedicine.ca; http://www.learninggnm.com/home.html

To learn more about how psychological change can repair and empower a compromised immune system, please visit:

www.cancerasaturningpoint.org/  Cancer as a Turning Point, by  Lawrence Leshan, PhD

www.cancer-report.com The Cancer Report, by John Voell and Cynthia Chatfield

www.gaynoroncology.com/ Dr Mitch Gaynor, Gaynor Integrative Oncology

www.breastcancer.org  Breast Cancer: Is it what You’re Eating or What’s Eating You?  Susan Silberstein, PhD

Elyn Jacobs





Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation, a certified cancer coach and a breast cancer survivor.  Elyn helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and educates to prevent recurrence and new cancers.

  1. Elyn – Thank you so much for sharing this thought out and well constructed article. I am a big believer in the correlation between suppressed emotion and illness and feel very grateful to my psychologist for helping me move past a traumatic event in my childhood. The ability to express emotions and move past trauma is not a light switch type solution, but I feel like I’m on the right track.

    I also agree with your dietary recommendations, even if I did read this piece while sipping a cappuccino and a gluten free peanut butter cookie (probably ladened with sugar). I try to allow myself one day a week to indulge in my favourite treats, but for the most part, I try to reduce sugar, non organic dairy & meat, and anything heavily processed. It will be interesting to see how my trip around the world impacts my diet, but I know I’m a work in progress and every day I can wake up and make the healthiest choices possible for my body and for my future. So thank you for sharing this and for your continued support:)

    • Thanks Terri for the comment and sharing your thoughts! You were smart for resolving your trauma. I have come to terms with mine too, and am grateful that I was able to uncover them to respond. Cancer can be a wake-up call and the ticket to a new and wonderful life, to finally listen to the crys from within, begging for help.

      oh, and enjoy those indulgences…after all, we beat cancer to live!

      Hugs, Elyn

  2. Really interesting article. I have experienced plenty of negative emotions throughout my life. Maybe this explains why I developed cancer. I am looking for answers because if I use the breast cancer tick list I should never have had the disease.

    Thanks Clare

    • I felt the same way when I was diagnosed, things just didn’t make sense. My mother had BC, but we do not share the gene. That same oncologist walked me thru the many possible contributors in my life. After speaking with him it was as if he had given me awareness and my roadmap of what I needed to do, to change. Not all of the changes were easy, so it is a work in progress. I don’t feel responsible for my cancer, and no one should, but rather as another wise doc said…I now had the response-ability to make changes, the ability to respond to my needs.
      For some people, the issue is diet, for others a sudden traumatic occurrence, and for still others it is a life of repressed anger and emotions. Regardless, if we wish our body to do its job and fend off cancer, we must give it the support it needs, to resolve the issues. A comprehensive strategy is likely the best strategy, and one I use with all my clients regardless of the treatment path they choose.
      Thanks for your comment, and please feel free to email me or contact me via my site.

      Wishing you wellness and happiness, and a wonderful day! Elyn

  3. Hi Elyn,

    I have been rediagnosed in October (after 9 years from first occurrence) with breast cancer metastasis, and have already changed my diet with what I percieve are positive results. I am currently awaiting biopsy results to determine the best medicine for treatment.

    I read with great interest what you had to say, and fully believe that these changes are necessary in order for me to heal. I too expect to reverse what has happened – mere maintenance, for me, is not an option. I sought counseling from a psychotherapist who is also a breast cancer survivor, and she is a wonderful human being – but she speaks a great deal about her own experiences and anecdotes, and it’s not really helping me to address the specifics in my own life. I just had my ovaries removed in November, so menopause is making the journey even more challenging. I can begin to sense what needs to change in my life, but the ‘how’ to change is the tough part – that’s where I need real guidance and support.

    What would you recommend to someone like me? Behaviors over years and years become so entrenched, so it’s hard to develop a new behavior, especially when it feels foreign and is not necessarily received well from those who used to a more predictable response. I guess I just need a few first solid steps to help me move in a positive direction and effect change in a tangible way. Thanks for listening! 😉 –Vera

    • Hi Vera,

      I am so sorry to hear of the recurrence, devastating, I am sure. Your question is difficult to answer in short. I ask you this question, “why do you think you got cancer 9 years ago, and why do you think you are facing it again?”
      I truly believe that there are things we can do alongside or in lieu of conventional medicine to reverse cancer, and that in order to do so, we must address the issues that are making us sick. Change is always very difficult, particularly when it also affects loved ones. However, you owe it to yourself to allow yourself to heal and you deserve to have the support of your family and friends. So, what I ask of you is to consider my question. I would be happy to speak with you, to make some suggestions, and I do offer free 30-min consults. You can contact me via my email or via the contact section on my site and we can set something up. https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/contact-elyn/

      And Vera, happy to listen anytime. Thanks for commenting and sharing your story.

      I look forward to speaking with you.

      In good health,

  4. Wonderful post Elyn!!! At times, I question if all the sacrifices I’ve made in my diet are worth it. I have to admit this holiday season, I’ve given into “trying a cookie here and there.” I’m afraid I’m reawakening my sugar addiction. So your post is helping me make the decision to get back on the wagon.

    Also the emotional aspect is so important! Sometimes I feel guilty for keeping boundaries with my toxic family members. Your post reminds me the importance of doing this to save my life. The holidays make this more difficult, but I’m glad that I’ve been able to limit my contact as much as I have.

    I love you and am so grateful for the wisdom you share. I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and New Year!

  5. Thank you Tami, you always make my day!
    Love to you, Mike and Chrissy and hope you all have a wonderful Christmas full of special moments, love, and yes, some treats….. and may all your family conflicts be resolved, forgiven or at least distant.

    many hugs, Elyn

  6. Elyn,

    I wish I had found this blog earlier. It has inspired me to take control again and there is simply no better medicine! Thanks to you, I now have the strength to do what I know at my core I need to do. I’ve done my chemo, my bilateral mastectomy and will finish radiation. After that, no Arimidex for me! I’ll watch my diet, exercise, enjoy my life, my family and my friends and look into some alternatives like CHM.

    Cindy Sullivan
    Inflammatory Breast Cancer Survivor

    • Hello my old friend Cindy,

      As always, you carry the most amazing attitude. Sounds like you are very much on the road to wellness. Be well. Oh, and I would say you are not just a survivor, you are a thriver….many hugs and thanks, Elyn

  7. Thanks for your take Elyn, (and the take of a number of others) on some factors that make disease happen, including physical and emotional assaults. I saw a massage therapist once – very spiritual woman – who studied nutrition in college and was working toward Olympian in volleyball (Colorful mix, right?) Anyway, she’d had a bad accident that she decided triggered the fibromyalgia she was soon after dx with. She would talk about physical and emotional stresses that lead to “disease” – I wonder if the word truly comes from what she pointed out to me about the state of the diseased body. And this is what she pointed out: disease is Dis-Ease. Hmm….

  8. Indeed Rachel, disease is dis-ease; when the natural state of “ease” is disrupted or imbalanced, you get disease. Stress, dis-stress….same idea really, only more like stress per se is not the culprit, it is how we manage it or respond to it that puts us in distress and then disease.

    Thanks for stopping by! Elyn

  9. Yeah, suppressed emotion is toxic. But my deal is I don’t know when to turn off the spigot once it all starts pouring out .That can be not so great either. I’d like to be better at getting it out and moving on.

  10. Yell, scream, anything to make your distress known, even if into a pillow or toss a pillow. Whatever it takes, it is important to let out that anger so you can move on.

  11. […]  Manage Stress—the adrenal gland is where stress is expressed.  Chronic stress leading to adrenal fatigue is a leading cause of progesterone depletion and thus estrogen dominance.  Stress, per se, is not the true enemy, but rather how we respond to it.  For more on stress and cancer, please visit: https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/ […]

  12. […] Also, remember to address stress….more on this later, but I offer this post until then: https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/ […]

  13. […] Also, remember to address stress….more on this later, but I offer this post until then: https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/ […]

  14. You might also want to view this article: Stress Management for Breast Cancer Patients May Affect Disease Course

  15. […] read more on changing the cancer environment, please visit: https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/. For more information, or to schedule an appointment for coaching, please email me or send me a […]

  16. […] early stage—remember, if cancer liked your body once, it may like it again.  Changing the environment to one which is unfriendly to cancer may help reduce your risk of recurrence.   For those with […]

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