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The Secrets of Spontaneous Cancer Remission

A Q&A with Kelly Turner, PhD, about cancer remission.

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We've heard a lot of this advice before. What's new about these nine factors?

True, these things are not brand new; people have been doing them for a long time. What's even more interesting is that randomized clinical trials have been conducted on all nine of these factors. It's been shown that they are safe and have been scientifically proven by other scientists, not by me, to improve your immune system. But the people I studied are doing all nine of these factors, not just one or two, and they're doing them wholeheartedly. It's not, "Okay, I'll start eating a few more vegetables each day." These are major overhauls of diet, or of the anger, resentment, and stress they hold in their lives—life-transforming changes in each of these nine areas. So, that's one thing that makes radical remission a little different.

The other thing that I noticed is that they're not necessarily doing all nine factors at exactly the same time. They might spend a few months focusing on diet and a little less on their emotional/spiritual life, and then once they get into the routine of the new diet, they have more time to focus on their emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Also, they all had strong reasons for living and a willingness to make changes. It's not a sense of, "Oh, poor me, I have to change all of these things." They actually had this personality trait where they were excited to make changes because they felt it was something they could do, something they had control over.

Yet making 180-degree lifestyle changes isn't always easy, is it?

No, it isn't. For example, there's John, who was originally diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer and had prostate surgery and all the traditional treatments. After doing all of that, including hormone-deprivation therapy, a few years later the cancer came back. At that point, it's called Stage IV; the cancer was floating around in his bloodstream and lymph nodes. That's when he went to the library to look for a book on how to prepare for death. But he couldn't find one. And he just happened to walk by a book about how to beat cancer with nutrition. So, he thought, "Maybe I'll take a look at this instead."

He radically changed his diet, and he misses his steak and wine so much! But he goes in for blood tests every two or three months, and when he slips in his diet he can see his PSA go up. PSA is the prostate-specific antigen; it's a blood marker that indicates prostate cancer cells in your body. As it rises, it means cancer cells are growing, and as it goes down it means they are decreasing. He may not love the diet, but he loves life more. John is in his 60s now, and he's a big hiker. He sends me pictures from the top of these crazy mountains. I emailed him back the other day and said, "You're in better shape than I am; this is making me look bad!"

Spontaneous healing is not a solo endeavor. What can you tell us about social support, which is factor No. 7 in your book?

Social support is the love that you receive from your friends and family. There is a rich history of scientific research on it, and it's one of these things that continues to baffle social scientists because it's stronger than almost anything. It is protective to your health even when you are a smoker who's overweight and doesn't exercise and drinks a lot of alcohol. If you have an abundantly strong social support network, if you feel that you have the most amazing friends and family, while that perception won't completely protect you from having a heart attack or cancer, it will be very protective of your health overall. They've done studies asking cancer patients, "How strong is your social support on a scale of 1 to 10?" And they've found that if you perceive you don't have a lot of friends and family, say you self-report a score of 2, you're actually twice as likely to die as someone who reports a score of 8.

In my book, I tell the story of Kathryn, who was a single woman, divorced, in her 60s, and living alone when she was diagnosed with very advanced liver cancer. She had a low salary from her job as an adjunct professor and didn't have medical insurance. So, she thinks, "Okay, this is it. I'm clearly going to die from this." Yet this small church community that she had been a part of came out of the woodwork for her. They arranged meals and rides, and they did a fundraiser to pay for the alternative treatments that she intuitively wanted to have. She was just blown away, and she believes that the grace of others is the reason she's alive today. One gift of her cancer is that she realized she was loved—not because she was a good friend or a good church member, but just because she was a human who was sick. I think it's a wonderful lesson, especially in these current sociopolitical times, of loving your neighbor and giving them support just because they need it.

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