Rising ‘lifestyle’ cancers

This report highlights the findings of a research paper published in The Lancet Oncology by Bray et al regarding the rising incidence of cancer. They state that the occurrence of cancer is set to double over the next 15+ years, with a predicted rise in incidence of 75% by 2030 and in poorer countries this could even be as high as 90%! 

Whilst stomach and cervical cancers are declining in more developed countries, breast, colorectal and prostate cancers are increasing. It is noted that these cancers are associated with the ‘Western lifestyle’, obesity and diet. It is proposed that as developing countries adopt the same trends as developed countries, then they will also develop a rising incidence of ‘lifestyle’ cancers.

Prostate and breast cancer incidence appear to be increasing in most countries that are moderate/well developed. In addition in 2008 almost 40% of the incident cases of cancer that occurred globally did so in the most developed countries, despite these countries containing just 15% of the world’s population.  

As medical students we were taught that cancer arose as a consequence of genetic mutations of one sort or another. In some cases this could be attributed to a toxin or carcinogen as in the example of smoking and lung cancer. However, it appeared for the most part that it was just a case of bad luck if one got cancer, that it was just something that happened to someone but which he/she had no part or role in its manifestation. A consequence of this was that there was then little that the patient could do personally to heal. Instead they were dependent on the medical profession, surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy etc to ‘fix’  and cure the disease. This is typical of the biomedical model of illness and disease that sees the patient as a victim of circumstances beyond their control, disempowered regarding their own healing and dependent on the doctors and healthcare professionals to fix or mend them. 

However, as pointed out in this article there is now growing awareness that cancer is not just a case of bad luck or unlucky genes but that how we live our lives, our ‘lifestyle’ has a much greater role to play in cancer manifestation than previously realised. Indeed, this is not just for cancer but also many other illnesses and diseases. The World Health Organisation reports that 3/5 people in the Western World will die from largely preventable conditions like heart disease, stroke, chronic lung conditions, diabetes and cancer as a consequence of ‘lifestyle’, alcohol, tobacco, diet and obesity. In fact, all of these factors could come under the umbrella of ‘lifestyle’.

However, perhaps we should be exploring more deeply what exactly is meant by ‘lifestyle’ and what factors are truly contributing to the rise in cancer and other forms of illness and disease. For example, whilst it is recognised that alcohol, tobacco and obesity contribute to cancer manifestation perhaps we should be looking at the reasons that lead people to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, over-eat and eat junk food.  Is it possible that all of those behaviours are just symptoms of a deeper dis-ease that resides within the human person?? Perhaps those behaviours are just reflecting a discontent or disharmony within the person and that the key to both stopping those behaviours and ultimately reducing the incidence of cancer and other illnesses and diseases is in addressing this inner dis-ease, discontent, disharmony. By addressing this inner dis-ease, perhaps we can develop a way of living and being, a ‘lifestyle’ that is harmonious rather than cancer inducing….surely that is worth considering??

This inner dis-ease is ubiquitous in the human condition – we all experience it to one degree or another. Why is this? Due to the process of growing up, education, culture, religion etc we all carry ideals and beliefs about ourselves and life that are not true, we all carry hurts and wounds and different forms of emotional pain that we may or may not be aware of, we all end up living in a way that life has made us to be rather than who we truly are. It is this separation from who we truly are, from the love that we are, that is our deepest pain, our deepest dis-ease. It is why we all seek love in relationship yet it is really ourselves, our true selves, that we are seeking. It is an energetic truth that the greatest source of love lives inside us and coming to feel and know this for oneself dissolves this dis-ease, disharmony, discontent and the endless search for love. 

Amazingly it is possible for us to not even know that we are love or that the greatest source of love is inside us. I lived completely ignorant of these facts and when I first heard them, I was more than a little puzzled. How could I be love? I had lived quite a self-destructive lifestyle in many ways and had no experience of myself as being love, of that being my true nature. I could quite easily get frustrated or angry, be demanding at work, arrogant, rude even – so where was this love?? It has been a journey and an unfolding to first accept intellectually that this was a possibility based on my readings in ancient texts and wisdom teachings before coming to know, feel and experience it for myself. I spent three years searching and seeking in many different directions, listening to many of the New Age teachers, reading voraciously and reviewing the major religious traditions. However, it was only when I came to Universal Medicine and the presentations of Serge Benhayon that everything fell into place and I could make sense of my own life’s journey and understand the human condition, life, love and God at a much deeper level. The truth that ‘I am Love’ then became much more than a few nice words…

In doing so, my ‘lifestyle’ , my way of living and being has altered considerably based on what it is to live a life that endeavours to be self-caring or self-loving. Having previously been a ‘late night owl’, I am now early to bed and early to rise, my diet has changed and continues to do so as I listen to the messages from my body about food and its effects on my body, my ability to remain centred and be less emotionally reactive continues to deepen and unfold….and working in the NHS ensures there are plenty of challenges for me to work on!!

It is an energetic fact that we cannot truly care for or love another unless we care for or love ourselves. I now know in a very real way that how I am on a daily basis affects not just me but all those I come in contact with including the patients I care for. Research has already demonstrated that the health and wellbeing of doctors and healthcare staff affects the care and outcome of their patients. 

Thus in the medical profession it is important for us to develop a ‘healthy lifestyle’, not just for our own health and wellbeing in a busy and stressful job but also because it affects the outcomes for our patients. If we are to truly advise patients regarding what is healthy and what is not, it is important that we also walk the talk and make the healthy choices ourselves if there is to be any true integrity in their message. However, traditionally doctors have not always been very good at looking after themselves. Doctors are recognised to have one of the highest rates of suicide by profession and also a significant proportion (estimated 10-15% but not really known) are addicted to drugs and alcohol. In addition to those who are addicted there are many within medicine who say that they ‘enjoy’ drinking alcohol as I myself would have said many times years ago. However, it is not just about knowing that certain behaviours are bad for us – I knew drinking alcohol was harmful but that didn’t stop me. We have to address the underlying reasons for the lack of self-care, the lack of self-love in the first place and when that is done, then the desire to carry on with these behaviours is annihilated. It was only when I began to address the underlying reasons that fuelled my alcohol consumption that I was able to discontinue it and indeed, never again experience any desire to drink alcohol. 

This report highlights that how we live, the choices we make can result in ‘lifestyle cancer’. This is great news on the one hand because it means that if our lifestyle lead to the cancer, then we are not powerless or victims of circumstance beyond our control. We can change our lifestyle, our way of being to one that is more healthy, more self-caring and self-loving. We can take steps to address and heal the underlying reasons that fed the behaviours and lifestyle in the first place. However, on the other hand, that requires us to take responsibility for how we are living, the choices we are making and to accept that we have developed the ‘lifestyle cancer’  as a consequence of how we have lived. However, human nature prefers to blame something else rather than take responsibility for it ourselves. It is easier to say it is bad luck  or ‘just one of those things’ or a medical mystery than to admit it is a consequence of our loveless way of living and being – our ‘loveless lifestyle’. We prefer to take a tablet to fix us, rather than deal with our anger, sadness, frustration, being too nice or indeed to change our lifestyle and stop drinking alcohol, eating junk food, dairy or gluten or other harming substances. We will happily ingest a medication to keep us on the road rather than changing the time we go to bed or altering our diet or emotional way of being. We want the doctor to fix us so that we can get back on the road to making the same loveless choices that lead to the condition in the first place!!! How crazy is that!!! 

Of course, doctors are human too and are just as susceptible to all the frailities of the human condition as everyone else. Sadly a medical degree does not render one immune from the human condition!! However, there is the expectation that we are suppose to know better, to set an example, to lead by example, to advise people regarding what is healthy and what is not. However, as I experienced myself, knowing better is not enough. Knowledge alone is not enough. Intelligence alone is not enough. Focusing on the mind is not enough. Yet this is how schools and universities are set up – to feed the mind at the expense of the heart and the body. This needs to change if we are too truly make a difference regarding the incidence of ‘lifestyle cancer’ and other illnesses and diseases.  Medical education needs to expand its horizons and to include all dimensions of the human person in order to truly understand the manifestation of illness and disease.  It needs to realise the importance of teaching and presenting self-care to medical students if they really want the doctors of the future to be truly caring for their patients. Also it needs to explain the reasons why self-care or self-love is lacking and how to address those reasons. This requires a truly holistic approach that includes mind, body, heart, spirit and soul. Anything less will only produce a fragmented  and incomplete understanding of the human condition such as that which already exists today and which simply continues to perpetuate the lovelessness, the dis-ease and the disease. However, crucially, knowledge about what is self-caring is not enough – it needs to be presented by those with the lived experience of what it truly means to be self-caring and self-loving and to be combined with practical experiences and tools that the students can adopt and live if they so choose. 

In order to address ‘lifestyle cancers’ we need to address our ‘loveless lifestyles’. To understand with true compassion how and why we have developed these ‘loveless lifestyles’ and how to heal them. Thus we can be empowered to develop a way of living and being that is based on our true nature of love, that is self-caring and self-loving. However, this does require changes to our lifestyle that we intially can perceive as a ‘giving up’ of something we like be that bread, cheese, chocolate, crisps, alcohol, late nights etc etc. But what if we only see it is a ‘giving up’ because we have used these things to keep us in the comfort and numbing distraction to not feel the real dis-ease within?? What if we only see it as a ‘giving up’ or ‘sacrifice’ because we have become so separated from our true nature of love that we don’t even register how harming these substances are to our body – for if we did realise and feel that we would know that it is not a ‘giving up’ of something we like but a cessation of something that is truly harming us, that over time may lead to illness and disease and which certainly prevents us from living and embodying the love that we are. So perhaps instead of seeing it as a ‘giving up’ – know that it is a choice for love, a choice that enables you to be and express the fullness of love that you are – now surely that is a choice worth making??

However, the magic of God is such that we already are all the love we ever will be, we already are amazing, beautiful and glorious – we are just not living it nor expressing it and thus the body pays the price for us not living that which we already are. So even if the body is racked with cancer, crippled with illness and disease, there is a love-full place within that remains unharmed and untouched by any of that…..and that is our true nature, that is our essence, our soul. Thus Plato’s words ring as true today as they did over 2000 years ago: 

For this is the great error of our day in the treatment of the human body, that physicians separate the soul from the body.     

Feel free to share your experiences or comment below.

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