It’s National Cancer Prevention Month and I’m digging deep about what that means for us cancer survivors and thrivers.
Sure, mammograms and self-breast exams are important screenings for early detection but that’s one step ahead of prevention.
Prevention is all the things you can do to keep your body in an optimally functioning state.
When it comes to the preventative measures we can take, they often don’t align with the desire to feel “normal” or to do things the way same way as before cancer.
But were you really healthy before cancer? No. Because cancer is a process that can take a long time before it’s detectable.
It’s during that time that you can explore your thoughts about the lifestyle choices you’re making and work on prevention.
Even after a diagnosis it’s important to be able to look back and with gentle self-honesty, get really curious about things you may have thought were fine at that time and ask yourself now if continuing those habits truly supports your optimal health.
In this week’s episode I’ll give you some surprising insights from leading cancer research centers that may inspire you to reevaluate your normal in favor of doing something exceptional for yourself.
Referred to in this episode:
Read the full transcript here:
You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.
Hello, hello, welcome to episode 227 of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I am your host, Laura Lummer. We are kicking off the month of February. And I don't know if you know this or not, but there's a theme for the month of February out there in the world. And it's National Cancer Prevention Month. And in fact, this show will come out on Friday, February 3, and Friday are actually Saturday, February 4 is World Cancer Day. And, you know, I think we have a lot of very different perspectives on cancer being people who have had cancer. And you may think to yourself, National Cancer Prevention Month, little late for me, right. But I would like to suggest that it isn't. And if you are a regular listener to this show, then you may have heard me talk about the fact that back in November, I started a year long study program called the terrain advocate program with Dr. Nisha winters. And Dr. Nisha is the author of the metabolic approach to cancer. And she's just absolutely brilliant. She's an integrative oncologist, she's healed herself from stage four ovarian cancer when she was 19. So I think that was like 30 years ago, or coming up on 30 years. Pretty amazing stuff. So when I talk about some of the things that I've learned, and some of the things that I want to touch on with you today, in the through the lens of cancer prevention, let's think about it like this.
What are you doing for your body to support its ability to heal. When we think about cancer prevention, I know most of our heads go right to mammogram, and right to checking our breasts, and that's great, that's great for someone who's never had breast cancer or who still has breast after breast cancer, definitely those things are amazing. And early detection is great. But early detection, still means you have cancer, right? When you find it early, you still have cancer. And what I'm talking about when I say cancer prevention isn't just early screening to find cancer. But thinking about what you're doing in your life, to support your body's ability to heal, and lower your risk and hopefully prevent any kind of recurrence in your body any kind of a cancer recurrence. Now, the title of this show is I was healthy until I got cancer. And I call it that for good reason. Because that's something that I hear from clients all the time. And that is something that I have said, so many times, I would go through my life saying I don't get it, I was so healthy, I was so healthy. And in just the few months of study I've done with Dr. Winters, and in over the course of this last two years of digging deep into the metabolic approach to cancer. And let me just really quickly back up the metabolic approach to cancer is saying that something was metabolically wrong in our bodies. And without going into all the science of it here because that's not what this shows about. Something metabolically goes wrong, right. So some process that's happening in our body goes wrong. And as the result of that, we start getting genetic mutations, right. So the the cancer has this metabolic change occurs, and these cells start to become dysfunctional, and then it grows and grows and grows, we start to get cancer. So there's many, many things that contribute to cancer. In fact, I've read statistics that say it's 80 to 90% is environmentally related. So what does that mean? That means, what we eat, what we drink, how we think, when we sleep, how we exercise, toxins we put on our body in our body that may be around our body that we breathe in. There's so many aspects and so many amazing things that we have control over when it comes
to supporting our body's optimum health, and when we support our body's optimum health, it does what it's designed to do, starts to try to heal itself. So am I saying that by taking this metabolic approach to cancer, and by me doing all the things I'm doing, and by you listening to what we're going to talk about in this show, will that cure cancer? No, I'm not even talking about curing cancer, when I'm talking about National Cancer Prevention, or any kind of cancer prevention, I'm talking about how we get our bodies to be as healthy as they can be. So that your body which would it normally does before we have cancer, there are cancer cells in our body all the time throughout our lives, and our immune system takes care of them, cleans them out, moves them before they become tumors and this active disease that we have to deal with. So before that happens before it gets to that point, are there factors we can do to help our body be it's very healthiest, and prevent getting cancer, and there are a lot of things that we can do. And those, again, it's not a cure all, it's not a prevent, all it's things we can do to reduce our chances of getting cancer, and to reduce the odds of a recurrence of cancer. So a lot of people and I know, again, this happened with me in my life. And that's why I say in these last two years, as I've done a lot of work on the metabolic approach to cancer on at since having a stage four cancer diagnosis and just digging in to how people who have healed from stage four cancer, what they've done, what their lifestyle changes are. And I look at that as prevention of the spread of the cancer in my body, it never went away more than it is now. But it just didn't grow any more than it is now I'd be good because I'm symptom free, right. And I'm doing well. So I think about the lifestyle that I am digging into and adopting and working my mind to because there's a lot of things I have to manage my mind around. And I'm looking at that as a preventative measure right to the growth of cancer. And as I was outlining this podcast and looking at some different articles and statistics, I came across something from a march 22 study that was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. And I'll put a link to that in the show notes for this episode, the breast cancer recovery coach.com, forward slash 227. But I was reading through this study. And I'd never read this statement before. But when I did read it, I thought, Okay, this is even more reason for us to always be thinking whether you have no evidence of disease at this time, whether you're in treatment at this time, or whether you're managing metastatic disease at this time, I think that this quote that I'm going to share with you is such a powerful reason for us to think about, okay, I don't wait till I have cancer, before I dig even deeper in what I can do to take care of myself and be in my optimal state of health. But I think about it now, what can you do now, so you don't have to deal with that. And it's interesting, because actually had a phone call with a woman earlier today. She had recently gotten some results from a mammogram that were concerning. And she said to me, you know, what,
if I do have cancer, I thought about it. And I will immediately change so many things in my lifestyle, the way that I eat the way that I exercise so many things that I do. She doesn't I thought about that. And I thought, why wouldn't I just do that now? Why haven't I done that? And then we had to do a little bit of coaching on, you know, the fact that she was kind of holding that against herself and upset with herself. But it's such a great question. And I think it's one that probably most of us have entertained at some point. And there's that thought of, Wow, I could have changed this and I didn't, which you should never beat yourself up for or feel shame for because it's not your fault that you got cancer, right. But it is our responsibility to support our health, two different approaches to different aspects and hopefully one is more empowering and as a lot less shame and guilt attached to it. So I want to share this quote with you. It says approximately 75% of primary breast tumors have already spread at the time of diagnosis, seeding micro metastases at a regional or distant anatomic site so somewhere else in your body. These micro metastases survive in a state of tumor dormancy, whereby cell growth is balanced by a
apoptosis, which is cell death. So somewhere if you have this micro metastasis some cancer cell somewhere in our body or a tiny little bit of it, that it's saying that it balances itself out, it's kind of dormant, it grows and it dies and it grows and it dies. And then it says alterations in cytokines, immune cells, and growth factors in the tumor microenvironment lead to the cessation of tumor dormancy, prompting full metastatic growth. Okay. So in a nutshell, what is that saying? That 75% of us by the time we've received a diagnosis, that there's a likelihood that there's a cancer cell that is somewhere else in your body, and you may think I did chemo, I did radiation, and those are great. And I did chemotherapy, too. And yet, I had a recurrence, right? So I'm not saying that to scare anybody, because fear doesn't serve us. And it doesn't help us take better care of ourselves. I'm saying that as take this approach of curiosity, like I had never seen that statistic before. And I thought, okay, that is so interesting. Because when we go through breast cancer treatment, I know, you know, I talk about this all the time. And then we come out on the other side, we start kind of processing the trauma, but we have this desire to go back to normal. And if we go back to the quote that I said, Hey, I was healthy until I had cancer. And if we believe that, then going back to normal makes sense, right? Because if you think you were healthy, leading up until you heard you had cancer, then why not go back to the same things you thought of as being healthy?
But you really weren't healthy? Right? Something was going on in your body, in your immune system, something metabolically was happening inside of you that was allowing cancer to grow? What caused it what started it, who knows, but it had the opportunity to grow. So right there, in and of itself, we have to stop and say, okay, something was going wrong in my body, because cancer was growing. And I think this is, I know, this is for me, a thought that I really had to work on. It was like beating my head against a wall. I wanted to see. And I did say all the time, but I was so healthy, but I ate a healthy diet, but I exercise all the time. And that just didn't help me. You know, if we go to that mindset, and we go to that frame of mind, and we insist that we always did everything and we were healthy, then there's really no space to kind of explore maybe what we could have done a better job at to support at our wellness, right? If we just shut it down. No way. I was healthy. No, no, no, it can't be anything that I was doing. I'm not going to change anything. Well, and this makes me think recently, I saw one of Palatines instructors that are kind of like celebrity status instructors, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. Now most people would look at her in great shape and a peloton, instructor and super high energy and think well, she's totally healthy. But clearly she wasn't. And no forget, when we're doing a peloton class, or watching a peloton commercial, you're not, you're just seeing this little tiny snapshot of somebody, you're not truly looking into someone's lives. So when I think back and I look back, which I have, and a lot of the work I do on supporting my body's ability to heal itself is
really allowing myself to be honest with me about what I did and didn't do before this last diagnosis. And before the first diagnosis, I definitely go back to 2011. Okay, let me look at this with a different lens. What can I see? What was I doing? And again, not with blame or shame, but for awareness, so that I can see it. And so that I can make a decision? Will I change it? Because sometimes we'll look back and we'll have an awareness and say, you know, I was in this very stressful relationship. And then I found out I had cancer and I said to myself, that relationship give me cancer, and I changed it. Right? Some people don't change it. We can look at it and say, Man, I had some really unhealthy eating habits. And they weren't the worse eating habits, and I wasn't really overweight, so I didn't really worry about it. But I could look back now and be honest with myself and say, you know, I did consume things, a lot of sweetness, a lot of sugar, maybe ate a lot of carbohydrates. And again, high sugar doesn't just mean desserts and candy. Right but it can be it can be high sugar, coffee drinks, it can be incorporating a lot of grains into the diet and things that escalated your glucose levels. We know that there are well there's lots of drivers to cancer. But when we think about breast cancer, some super important ones are vitamin D levels, glucose
levels and your level of body fat. And we look at so many studies over and over that say, to prevent cancer maintain a healthy weight. And a lot of times, I think people just don't give that the the value that deserves that statement, we don't give it the seriousness and the weight that it actually carries. And I want to point out, I think a lot of people may not be aware of this. But one of the reasons why being overweight is a problem is because adipose tissue is a very active tissue. And now most of us don't think that we think we have extra body fat, we stored extra body fat, but body fat itself, is a very, very active tissue. And let me tell you some of the things that body fat actually does. So this is an article from the Cleveland Clinic. And again, I'll post a link to this in the show notes for this episode. But it talks a lot about adipose tissue about body fat. And I thought this was so fascinating because it says body fat is primarily known for storing and releasing energy and providing insulation, right, that's what we think about are like, oh, oh, too many calories, right calories in calories out, you eat too many calories, you store body fat. And we think about it as this benign thing that's just happening. We store fat, we burn fat, we gain weight, we lose weight. But what's actually happening, and this is more of the article, it says scientists now recognize that it's also an active organ in your endocrine system. adipose tissue contains nerve cells and blood vessels and communicates through hormone signals with other organs throughout your body. It has several important functions in regulating whole body health. But these can malfunction if you have too much or too little of it. So what is the function of adipose tissue again, according to the Cleveland Clinic, it serves many functions, including energy storage and releases, we just talked about insulation from cold and heat. And you know that because the more weight regain the hotter we get, regulating hunger and satiety, cushioning around our soft organs, maintaining energy balance, regulating glucose, blood sugar, and cholesterol, maintaining insulin sensitivity. And that's a really important one because it cancer cells have up to 10 times the insulin receptors on them as normal cells. So that's something to really keep in mind want to make sure that we're controlling that blood sugar in our insulin responses as much as possible, as a preventative strategy as a strategy to support our optimal health, right, it's very important. Another thing that adipose tissue does is it generates thermogenic heat, it contributes to immunity and metabolizing sex hormones, and dysfunctional adipose tissue can lead to many metabolic disorders. Most of you are aware of insulin resistance that can result in diabetes, but there's dysfunctional hunger and satiety signals. And I think that's fascinating. And that can really lend a lot to obesity as well. There's hypertension, and heart problems can result from that. And there's fat storage in the organs, which can lead to non alcoholic fatty liver disease. So adipose tissue, it's more than one we say, have a healthy lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight. As one of many preventative strategies for cancer, it's really important to realize that this is an active tissue that can be messing with your body. So when we ask ourselves that question of what can I do or what is happening in my body, what can I do to better support my body's optimal health? I think it's important information to understand it's not something that we're just going to dismiss and say, No, don't want to go on a diet. Oh, yeah, I could lose 10 pounds, but it's no big deal, that's not going to have that much effect on me, actually does have a pretty big effect. And so, again, when we go to the way that we think about things, and I reflect back on how I thought about cancer, after my first diagnosis, and the further away I got from that diagnosis, years later, slipping back a little bit more and a little bit more to doing the things that I did before I had breast cancer the first time, not all of the things, and definitely cleaning up more areas of my life. But I can distinctly remember a couple months ago, the Docu series radical remission came out and I was watching this Docu series. And I kept hearing from these people whose bodies had healed themselves from various kinds of cancers, all of them. I think they were all stage four. And then there were also people who talked about other diseases, they had auto immune dysfunctions and how their bodies had healed and they kept saying, I changed it
Everything in my life. I mean, I really revamped my life. And I kept thinking like, what does that mean? What are they talking about? Like, I get incorporating more vegetables, I get starting to exercise more. But what do they mean when they're saying, like, I changed everything. And then fast forward a couple of months, I began the metabolic approach to cancer, the train advocate program of study. And, wow, I started to dig into this training. And then I started to understand, okay, these are real lifestyle changes. What that meant, was being 100% honest with myself, was saying, if I want a life, that's better than before breast cancer, if I want to do everything I can to support my body's ability to heal. I got to start off with some self honesty, I have to look at when I decide to have a cocktail, and what I say to myself, I should be able to have it, why shouldn't I be able to have it? Why I do everything else healthy? Why not this? And I think, again, it's different when you have active disease and when you don't, but still, when you don't, it's something to be honest with yourself about and think and notice and do mindfully and see, how is this affecting my health, because we know any kind of alcohol intake increases your risk factors for breast cancer. So looking at our lives, from this lens of self honesty, and again, I want to point out that when we're honest with ourselves, and we accept what we see and what we're doing, it doesn't mean you have to change it. I think people get overwhelmed when they start thinking about okay, what is the lifestyle I want to lead now. And then we could go down this list of everything right? Get rid of the perfumes, get rid of the cleaning products don't have any alcohol, eat all organic food, eat all grass, fed grass, finished beef, it all wild caught fish, don't dye your hair, don't put on makeup, read all your soap labels. I mean, there's warning things on every plastic baggie, you pick up in a store that this baggie or whatever is in it can cause cancer, right? So if we start to go down that pathway, it is way too much. It is way too overwhelming. And we're not even open to change, because it's too much to consider. So I'm not suggesting that you sit back and begin to evaluate your life and be honest, say, Okay, I gotta change everything. I'm just suggesting that you start to look at our life and say, Okay, if I could change something right now that might support my body in a better way? What kind of things would they be? And you might come up with a big list, you might come up with a list of five things, you might come up a list of two things, you might come up with a list of 50 things. And then you look at that list and you say, Hmm, is there one of them that I'm actually willing to work on? There might not be. But just in that awareness, just in that process of being honest with yourself and having an awareness and saying, I know I'm doing this? And yes, I still do choose to do it. For whatever reasons, whatever your thoughts are. The beautiful thing about that is now there's an awareness, there's a level of self honesty. And you might be surprised at how that can shift your behaviors. And I think that it takes a little bit of pressure off of the ability to do our own self examination, when we let ourselves off the hook for having to fix everything at one time. Like, if I look back over the last two years, I've had to process a lot of things. And I did not do them all at once. I did not find a grass fed grass finished meat supplier. You know, in the very beginning, I didn't, I did change to mostly organic food, whereas now it's pretty much always organic food unless I go out to eat and I can't find anything. But little by little right. I started finding different suppliers, I started thinking about the way that I approached food differently. And it's not just food and exercise. I've had to dig really, really deep into the emotional work. And I have had to look at environmental toxins and reducing my toxic burden and make decisions. What am I willing to let go of in my life? You know, what works for me what and and if there's something I'm not willing to let go of? Why is that? If I think that that thing may actually be toxic and may be lending itself to my body not being able to heal itself? Why am I still choosing it? I want to understand that about me, right? I want to see like where am I at with this? Why? What what do I feel it's a trade off? Do I really not believe it's that much of a threat? Whatever it is, it's up to me, right? It's my journey and exploring those things is just really, really helpful. So when I'm talking about national cancer prevention, I'm talking about us looking at all US
parts of our lives, relationships, food, exercise, sleep, water intake, all the things everything and saying, Hmm, am I willing to start looking at this stuff, and just thinking about it, just being aware that there might be some changes. Because if we don't, and we approach it was saying, Hey, I did everything right, and I got cancer anyway, then we really shut ourselves off to some things that could be a beautiful process, in healing ourselves on different levels, killing ourselves on an emotional level, supporting our ability to heal on a physical level, like, you know, a lot of people who have come to me and they say, you know, I was so healthy, and some people are athletes, and then they get cancer. But when we start to look back at their life, just because you exercise your butt off, doesn't mean they're healthy. Some of them didn't have sleep, great sleep routines at all. Some of them exhausted themselves, many of them overtrain themselves, those are not healthy lifestyle habits. Right. So we've got to be willing to look at that I look at from an emotional standpoint.
In my first time, with my first diagnosis of the relationship I was in and how many years I lived this split life of inside of me knowing this relationship wasn't working. And outside trying to put on this mask that it did work, because of all the thoughts and beliefs I had about not letting it become a divorce. Right? That was a lot to process, I look at after my second diagnosis. And I've gone back into my life and looked at relationships and stressful situations where I adhere to a belief of how I should handle that or what it should look like. But inside of me, I felt something very different. And I realized now how much stress that caused. And so I do a lot of work on that. I don't shame myself, I don't blame myself, I don't beat myself up for it. But I just am developing more and more awareness around things that were stressors for me. Because if you would have asked me before this another thing I would have said to you, I just don't really stress, you know, I'm not, I'm just not a really stressful person. But then when I look back, and I'm willing to dig deeper, and I'm willing to say, well, if stress is a contributing factor, there's got to have been stress somewhere in my life, right? And I remember I'd have friends or my sisters would say to me about certain times in my life, they'd say, Oh, my God, you've got to be so stressed out. And I'd say, no, no, I'm fine.
But now I look back. And I'm viewing it in a different way. And when Oh, shit, I was stressed out, I was working a job leaving my house at 530 in the morning, getting home at eight o'clock at night, doing a business on the side. And I'd step into my office. And I'd say to myself, every day I stepped into this office, it kills me a little more, what the heck, but I kept doing it. Right. Those are the kinds of things I'm talking about. We have so much power to support ourselves in reducing our risk of recurrence and supporting our body's ability to heal. If we're willing to be open to looking at it in it can be so much more than self examination, then thermography, then mammograms. There's such a huge range of practices that we can dig into for ourselves. But it starts with the willingness to just explore with curiosity, the willingness to look at what your real thoughts are about what works for you, what doesn't work for you, and what you hold against yourself as well. Right? So many great things. So as we move into this National Cancer Prevention Month, I'm going to offer you things throughout the month, just to consider and just to think about, and I'd love to hear how you work with them. I'd love to hear you can find me on Facebook and DM me, Laura Lummer, the breast cancer recovery coach, same on Instagram, I love to hear your insights and your feedback from how these things resonate with you and how you apply them to your lives. So this is one of my favorite topics. And I gotta tell you as we get more and more into as I get more and more into the metabolic approach to cancer, I'm going to share with you more of the things that I learned that are just so incredibly helpful. Something I recently did was a genetic nutrition report through a company called nutrition genome. And I gotta tell you, I have a 95 page report that is unbelievably fascinating and informative, and comes with a grocery list and a food list via
Their algorithm that is actually these are the foods that you are genetically, that genetically would work best for your body. And I think that is pretty dang incredible, right? So you've got a grocery list that says, Hey, start incorporating these specific foods into your diet. This is what your genetics like, this is what your genetics need. I think that is just absolutely fascinating. And we're at such a great time in technology that we can have a tool like that that's available to us. So as I get more and more into this practice, and become more and more familiar with the tools and with different things in our body that react to food and react to our environment, and can help and support us in having these optimally healthy terrains, right, these optimally healthy bodies, it's like when I think about bloodwork, and I don't want to just be in the normal range of bloodwork, I want to be an optimal range. If a good vitamin D certain level is 65 to 100, I want to be in 90 to 100. Right? I want to be an optimal levels of thing. So I offer that to you, as you think about cancer prevention. What does that mean to you?
What power do you have over it? And if you could look back and say, okay, am I willing to admit that maybe I wasn't really healthy before I got diagnosed with cancer? Maybe there was a cancer process happening in me for a long time. What, if anything, do I have power over that didn't even look up before then because I just thought I was healthy.
And see what comes up for you.
I would, again, love to hear about it. And if you want to dig deeper into that, you can also join me in my program, 90 days of wellness, you can find that on my website, the breast cancer recovery, coach.com and 90 days of wellness is heart centered wellness program, where we start to evaluate everything from having a healthy gut and a microbiome and what that means to you how you approach food, sleep, exercise, self love, self compassion, and self care. Because I am not an advocate of a healthy body means beat your body up and deprive yourself of good food and do HIIT workouts until you can't stand straight anymore. That's not the approach that I take to wellness. So if you'd like to dig into that with me during National Cancer Prevention Month, I would love to see you there 90 days of wellness and again, you can find that on my website. All right. I will talk to you again next week. And until then, have a great week and be good to yourself. Take care.