Bestselling author Jordan Rubin, with David Remedios, M.D., shows how to adopt the 7 Keys in The Great Physician's Rx for Health and Wellness to focus aggressively on cancer and keep this disease at arm's length.
Jordan Rubin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Maker's Diet with over 2 million copies in print. His story and his previous books have been featured on Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, Fox and Friends, and Inside Edition, and in USA Today, Time, and Newsweek. Jordan also founded the Biblical Health Institute to empower the church to live the abundant life that glorifies God.
Introduction: My Rose
I lost Grandma Rose to cancer a few months ago.
She was my last surviving grandparent, and as I helplessly watched cancer emaciate this once-vibrant woman to a skeleton-like seventy pounds, I sat by her bedside and recited poetry, read Scripture, and sang worship songs. I felt helpless as her bladder cancer--like a slow-moving army--invaded her body, plundered her mind, and would eventually snuff out the burning embers of nearly eighty-three years of life.
While monitoring her labored breathing, I became very emotional as I recalled the memories that bonded us closely together. At the age of twenty, when I had faced my own life-and-death struggle with horrible abdominal and digestive tract diseases, I stayed with Grandma Rose from time to time when my parents needed a break from caring for me. My nurturing grandmother gently pressed a cool cloth to my feverish forehead, spooned homemade chicken soup into my mouth, and cleaned up soiled bed sheets without complaint. When I was hospitalized twice, she insisted on sleeping in a spare bed next to me. Although it wasn't funny at the time, we shared a laugh one night after a nurse slipped into my room at 4 a.m. and wrapped a tourniquet around Grandma Rose's left arm, thinking she was drawing blood from the patient.
Grandma Rose would have done anything for me--even give a pint of blood. What a remarkable woman! Born in 1922 in a pastoral Polish village that could have doubled as the set of "Fiddler on the Roof," Rose was the youngest of seven children to Gidalia and Simma Catz. An extra hand was always appreciated around the family farm. Her father owned a mill where they pressed poppy seeds and flaxseeds into oil. A taste treat in those days was gathering the pressed seeds and patting them into hard cakes, which were dipped into schmaltz, the rendered fat from chicken soup.
Her Jewish family faced growing harassment during that uneasy era following World War I. Her oldest brother, Sydney, was persecuted horribly in the Polish Army. Great Grandma Simma helped Sydney escape from the Polish military, and her family arranged for safe passage to the United States. Waiting for him at Ellis Island were several uncles and aunts who had immigrated to America.
War clouds thickened over Europe in the 1930s. When Adolf Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany in 1933, he moved quickly to pass repressive anti-Jewish laws--and brutally enforce them with his Brownshirts. Amid this hostile environment, Jewish persecution intensified elsewhere throughout Europe. Fortunately, Rose joined her parents and several siblings and immigrated to the United States in 1935 at the age of thirteen, where the family settled in Queens, New York. They were among the last wave of European Jews to arrive in America prior to World War II.
Two older sisters, Sonya and Dora, who were married with their own families, stayed behind in Poland, which was not a good place to be if you happened to be Jewish in 1939. Following the Nazi blitzkrieg, her sisters and their families were rounded up and shipped off to the death camps. No Schindler's List could save them. We believe that Rose's sisters and families were murdered inside the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
After the war, Rose married Alvin Menlowe, an immigrant himself from Czechoslovakia. She gave birth to my mother, Phyllis, and a younger daughter, Debbie. When I came along twenty-five years later, I was a colicky child who cut into my parents' sleeping time. Grandma Rose, who stayed with us periodically, would hide behind my crib when the lights were turned out. Then she would reach out her hand and stroke my forehead. "Jordi, Jordi . . . it's okay," she soothed. "I'm here."
Another early memory of her happened when I was two years old. Grandma Rose took me to Miami Beach--the first time I saw the ocean. My grandmother hugged me to her chest and ran us into the light surf, which scared me half to death. I'm told that I cried, but that quickly changed as I got used to the churning ocean. I soon loved wading into the warm Atlantic waters, holding the hand of the grandmother I loved.
Hooked on Sweets
My parents were vegetarians until I was four years old, when my mom became pregnant with my sister, Jenna. The honor of handing me my first chicken leg went to Grandma Rose.
My grandmother didn't eat as healthy as my parents, though. At lunchtime, for instance, she happily consumed glazed doughnuts and coffee ice cream, chased with a cup of sugared coffee. She had become hooked on sweets not long after her ship docked at Ellis Island: America, for my grandmother and her family, was the land of the free and home of the white bread. She had heard that our streets were paved with chocolate and cheery vendors handing out double-scoop cones on every street corner. While she managed to eat somewhat healthier in her later years, she never lost her sweet tooth.
Her husband and my grandfather, Al, was partial to junk food as well. Perhaps that's why he suddenly died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-five when I was just eighteen months old. Grandma Rose lived as a widow and never remarried.
In early 1999, she began experiencing unusual health problems--fainting spells, excruciating stomach pains, and rampant nausea. Grandma Rose was never one to run to the doctor--that was the old country mindset working--but even she knew something was terribly wrong. Doctors conducted a series of tests, including CAT scans, but they all returned negative. Her doctors were at a loss to deliver a diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Grandma Rose visited her other daughter, Debbie, who had married a chiropractor, Dr. Jim DiBlasi. They lived in Atlanta. On this occasion, she felt so weak that she had to be lifted out of bed and assisted in and out of the bathroom. The searing abdominal pains and long periods of nausea became unbearable. In her desperation, she asked her son-in-law to fetch her some pills so that she could "end it all."
Under such dire circumstances, she agreed to allow surgeons to perform emergency exploratory surgery. Doctors sliced open her abdomen and uncovered several malignant tumors tucked underneath her internal organs, which explained why her cancer had not been detected before. Doctors excised two cancerous ovaries, portions of her large and small intestine, and a malignant mass near her appendix.
Afterward, her doctors informed the family the bad news: Grandma Rose may not have long to live. They couldn't give us a time frame, however. My father immediately searched for the best alternative cancer clinics around the world, but each had something in common: they were all super expensive. Grandma Rose didn't have a nest egg to cash in; she had been living off a $600 Social Security check each month, which was augmented by financial help from my parents and other family members. Bottom line: she couldn't afford anything that wasn't covered by Medicare.
It was at this time that Grandma Rose asked me for help. After I recovered from my incurable diseases, I studied naturopathic medicine, nutrition, and natural therapies. When Grandma Rose was struck by cancer, I formulated a plan to regain her health--a plan that's contained in the Seven Keys that comprise this book, the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer.
Instead of slowly sinking toward death, Grandma Rose experienced a complete--and dramatic--recovery as she switched from a sugar-laden, high-carbohydrate diet to one filled with organic fruits, vegetables, and meats, supplemented with living nutrients and superfoods. Her doctors expressed amazement when follow-up CAT scans revealed she was cancer-free. She regained weight, and her energy level picked up. Her recovery allowed her to fulfill a dream of hers--and mine--when she attended my wedding. At the reception, guests clapped when Grandma Rose and I did the foxtrot to a song I had sung and recorded just for her--"Just The Way You Look Tonight," made famous by one of her favorite singers, Frank Sinatra.
For five years, Grandma Rose was the picture of health. She spoke with me at an "Overcoming Cancer" conference, joined me for television interviews following the release of my first two books, and couldn't wait for Nicki to get pregnant so that she could hold her great-grandson.
Then a couple of years ago, Grandma Rose abandoned her healthy diet as she grew complacent about her "good health." I urged her to eat better, but she didn't heed my words. When cancer revisited her, Grandma Rose did listen to me again. We thought we were making good progress until the day she tripped and fell down a staircase at my home, badly bruising her head and shattering her elbow on our marble floor.
She never fully recovered from that tumbling fall as her cancer returned with a vengeance. This time around, however, Grandma Rose couldn't summon the energy to fight this deadly disease. She lacked the will to continue the program I gave her.
When I learned of her grave condition, I dropped everything to be with her, flying from my residence in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, to my Aunt Debbie's home in Atlanta. This time around, there was nothing anyone could do for her.
"Grandma, would you mind if I sang to you?" I asked.
She nodded her head weakly.
I sang "I Will Be Here," a Steven Curtis Chapman song I had performed at my sister's wedding and "Love Song" by Third Day. I stroked her hair, told her how much she meant to me, that I loved her, and would miss her more than she'll ever know.
I witnessed the moment Grandma Rose was released from the bonds of this earth, and I still believe somehow that she could still be with us. That's why I've dedicated this book to her memory, praying that the principles undergirding the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer will make a difference in your life and/or the life of someone you love.
Still a Deadly Disease
Back in Grandma Rose's day, people spoke in hushed tones when news ran through the neighborhood that someone had been diagnosed with cancer. "The Big C," they called it, a sign of respect to the dreaded killer. People greatly feared cancer because (1) few symptoms were noticed until the deadly disease was quite advanced, and (2) doctors lacked the technology to detect the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body.
Unfortunately, death-by-cancer stories like my Grandma Rose are way too common these days because "The Big C" has made a grim comeback: in 2005, the American Cancer Society announced that cancer had surpassed heart disease as the No. 1 killer of Americans under the age of eighty-five, which comprise 98.4 percent of the population. This development has occurred during the federal government's three-decade-old "War on Cancer," which has poured more than $50 billion into research, on top of the billions more that private industry has kicked in. Despite the concerted scientific effort, about 1.4 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2005, and approximately 570,000 died from the lethal disease.
While one's eyes tend to glaze over from so many numbers, the stark reality is that half of all American men and one-third percent of American women will develop some type of cancer during their lifetimes.
The deadliest form of cancer is lung cancer, which kills around 160,000 Americans a year--more than breast cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer combined. Sixty percent of patients die within a year of diagnosis. Lung cancer struck out former smokers like ABC anchorman Peter Jennings, and 87 percent of all lung cancer cases arise from those who stubbed their cigarette butts in ashtrays. Yet non-smokers are not immune either: Dana Reeve, widow of Hollywood actor Christopher Reeve, was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of forty-four.
These grim stories of human tragedy underline the fatal qualities of cancer, which has leapfrogged past heart disease as our country's top killer. To be sure, cancer is a disease that preys on the old: about 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in people fifty-five years of age or older. Yet cancer's icy tentacles can attack at any age: leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is a known child killer, while breast cancer has buried too many mothers of young children. In addition, cancer is an equal-opportunity disease, striking Americans of all racial and ethnic groups, although the rate of cancer occurrence can vary from group to group.
This modern-day plague is a worrisome disease--and elicits feelings of dread and concern. Each day, or it so it seems, a newspaper feature or TV news piece heightens the perceived risk of developing cancer from something in our environment. Perhaps you've heard some of these "scare stories": you can get cancer from using a condom, eating too much red meat, turning on a microwave, eating French fries as a kid, or laying out at the beach without globbing sunscreen all over your body. Every Fourth of July, a reporterette will do a stand-up at a red-white-and-blue backyard barbecue, cautioning viewers not to char their burgers to a crisp. Actually, that's a worthwhile story because it's true that when ground chuck patties are charred on the grill, chemicals known as heterocyclic amines, or HCAs, are formed in the food, and these HCAs have been found to pose human cancer risks.
With so many "you could get cancer from . . ." stories out there, however, it's difficult to separate the wheat of truth from the chaff of sensationalism. One story making the rounds is that holding a cell phone next to your ear exposes you to microwaves, a form of radiation. Another one concerns potato chips. A California environmental group, the Environmental Law Foundation, tested a dozen brands of potato chips and found that all contained excessive levels of acrylamide, a chemical that causes cancer in the reproductive organs of lab animals. How many pounds of potato chips would you have to eat to expose yourself to unhealthy levels of acrylamide? No one's sure yet, but it wouldn't surprise me if a consumer activist group calls for warning labels on bags of Lay's KC Masterpiece BBQ chips.
Some don't pay much attention to stories like these because they believe advancements in modern medicine will protect them from the ravages of cancer. To be sure, breathtaking improvements in surgical techniques and radiation and chemotherapy treatments have vastly improved the chances or survivability. The five-year survival rate for most cancers is 85 percent, a result tagged to regular cancer screening.
Although those survival rates are comforting, cancer remains a ruthless killer, claiming 570,000 deaths in 2005. For those who survive and experience remission (and lose all their hair as well as their sense of taste), the slash-and-burn cure can be worse than the disease, however. Modern cancer treatment revolves around two extremely unpleasant options: radiation and chemotherapy. That's why I feel deeply for anyone who could remotely have this disease. I have difficultly imagining the private horror of what it must be like sitting across the desk from an oncologist, nervously working a Kleenex in your hands, anxiously waiting for the verdict. What do people think after the doctor glances at the medical reports, stiffly clears his throat, and wearily announces, "I regret to inform you that you have cancer"?
I hope to spare you--and myself--from ever hearing those life-changing words, and I believe the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer offers you a straight path to minimize the considerable risk that you may one day develop cancer in your body. If you have heard those same words directed to you, then please know that you have my complete sympathy. The phrase "I know what you're going through" is not applicable here, because I don't know what it's like to be told that I have cancer. This is one disease where an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a ton of cure, to quote an old proverb.
It's my prayer that the principles I shared with Grandma Rose, combined with sound medical advice, will send your cancer on a remission trip and never return.
A Ray of Hope
Although gloomy news and cancer travel in pairs, I have encouraging news to report. The incidence of death from cancer has fallen steadily in the United States since the 1990s, according to a major American Cancer Society study. Death rates from all cancers combined--lung, colon, breast, and prostate--dropped 1.1 percent each year from 1993 to 2001, falling around 10 percent during those eight years. Leading cancer specialists say that aggressive prevention, earlier detection, and improved treatment have improved survival rates.
The focus of the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer will be on aggressive prevention since the best way to survive cancer is to never get the disease in the first place. I believe that following the Seven Keys contained in the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer could keep this awful disease, which claims more than 1,500 lives every day, at arm's length.
No matter how well you eat, how many times a week you exercise, or how many precautions you take regarding the toxins in your environment, cancer can rear its ugly head through no fault of your own (although your lifestyle accounts for nearly two-thirds of all cancers, as you'll soon learn). As Scripture says, "For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45, NKJV).
The presence of cancer in you or a family member isn't an indication of sin in your life, just as a car accident wouldn't point to that either. Cancer happens, and the illness is as old as Genesis. The oldest known descriptions of this deadly disease are found in writings from the ancient Egyptians, where tumors of the breast were described. Hippocrates, the Greek physician (460-370 B.C) is believed to be the first person to distinguish between benign and malignant tumors. The development of anesthesia in the mid-1800s gave doctors the ability to cut out and remove tumors, but it wasn't until a century ago that better microscopes allowed doctors to actually see how cancer cells were markedly different than the surrounding normal cells.
What every medical school student learns is that cancer is a disease of the human cells caused by a breakdown in the immune system. The entire human body is comprised of cells, which, by definition, contain genetic material, or DNA, that tell the cell what to do. In a healthy body, cells divide at a controlled rate so as to grow and repair damaged tissues and replace dying cells. Any abnormal cells are quickly recognized by the body and removed before they can present harm.
Cells are constantly dividing and growing; these around-the-clock activities keep us in good health. When the body cannot check the growth of abnormal cells, however, these "bad" cells keep multiplying until a mass of tissue, called a growth or tumor, slowly emerges. Think of the entire process as something akin to stepping on an ant pile and watching an army of angry ants attack any skin in sight.
Tumors are either benign or malignant. While benign tumors are oftentimes no more than nuisances, it's the term malignant that strikes fear in our hearts because that means cancer has successfully invaded the body and taken a beachhead. Malignant tumors have the ability to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), disrupt the normal function of the body, and assault other tissues.
This is how the Encyclopedia of Nutritional Healing describes what happens next:
If a portion of a cell's DNA is damaged, the cell can become abnormal. When the abnormal cells divide, they form new cells that contain a photocopy of the damaged genetic material. This is an ongoing process occurring constantly within our bodies. Most of the time, our bodies have the ability to destroy these abnormal cells and maintaining a sort of cellular equilibrium. If a crucial portion of the DNA is destroyed, however, and the abnormal cells cannot be controlled any longer, cancer forms.
All cancer cells have two things in common: they grow uncontrollably and they have the ability to metastasize. They can spread through the lymphatic system, the bloodstream, or avenues such as cerebrospinal fluid.
Different types of cancer behave differently in the body. Lung cancer and breast cancer, to name two of the most common, grow at different rates and respond to different treatments, which is why cancer treatments have become more specialized in the last twenty years. No matter what cancer is present in the body, however, you can be sure that cancer cells will travel to other parts of the body. Just remember that doctors always name the type of cancer from where it began, not where it has spread. For example, cancer that begins in the lungs before spreading to the liver will always be known as lung cancer.
Inhibit Vs. Promote
Since cancer, by definition, occurs when damaged cells assault the body, researchers have determined that there are factors that inhibit or promote the growth of cancer in the body. Examples of inhibitors would be nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, as well as certain vitamins. Drinking plenty of water allows the kidneys and liver to operate at full capacity and flush waste and toxins out of the body's digestive and urinary tracts, which is where cancer cells tend to congregate. You hear about cancer of the colon, prostate, liver, and stomach; you don't hear about cancer of the elbow or knee.
On the other hand, examples of promoters would be smoking cigarettes or eating a diet of fried foods rich in trans-fatty acids or coming into contact with cancer-causing substances, also known as carcinogens. Tobacco smoke, pesticides, air pollution, and industrial chemicals (such as asbestos) can trigger the initiation of cancer, which can take years to develop into a mass and many more years to detect, as was the case with my Grandma Rose.
While environmental elements behind cancer are significant, at the end of the day, lifestyle factors are the main causes of cancer. Yes, genetics and family history do play a role (between 5 and 10 percent of all cancers are clearly hereditary), but the choices in the food we eat, the amount of time we exercise, the hygiene we practice, the stress we undergo, and the otherwise imbalanced lives we lead account for about 65 percent of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the Harvard University School of Public Health.
A breakdown of the 550,000 deaths annually looks like this:
Poor diet and obesity 30 percent
Smoking 30 percent
Genetics 10 percent
Carcinogens in the workplace 5 percent
Family history 5 percent
Lack of exercise 5 percent
Viruses 5 percent
Alcohol 3 percent
Reproductive factors 3 percent
Socioeconomic status 3 percent
Environmental pollution 2 percent
Review this list one more time. Did you know notice that eating the wrong foods and gaining too much weight--"Poor diet and obesity"--rank just as high as smoking for causing cancer deaths? I would have thought that smoking would be a runaway winner in the cancer sweepstakes, but this breakdown is stark evidence that what we eat can be just as damaging as what we do.
Conventional Treatment Options
The question on anyone's mind after receiving the confirmation of a cancer diagnosis is What will I do to treat this disease? This can be a life-or-death decision because cancer patients often do not have the luxury of traveling down certain treatment avenues before deciding on another approach. On most occasions, it's a race against time. While cancer is a systematic disease that steadily marches forward, treatment is not one-size-fits-all. You should choose a treatment plan that reaches you on a number of levels, including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.
The vast majority of cancer patients turn to conventional medicine for several reasons:
The conventional medicine route follows four basic options:
1. Surgery. Growing up as the son of a naturopathic doctor and chiropractor, I heard my father (and mother) express their distrust of "knife-happy" surgeons ready to cut first, then seek other approaches later. There's evidence that even a simple biopsy can cause cancer to spread. Having said that, I understand that there are times when surgery is not only prudent or necessary, but often the correct therapeutic approach to take. A skilled surgeon can wield a razor-sharp scalpel to scrape, slice, and sliver malignant growths of cancer.
Cutting out and removing tumorous tissues is the oldest known form of conventional cancer treatment. Thanks to improved surgical techniques and laparoscopic technology, surgery is far less invasive than it was a decade or two ago. Most people with cancer submit to some sort of surgery, according to the American Cancer Society.
2. Radiation. Radioactive waves or steam of particles are used to alter the genetic code of cancerous cells inside the body. Side effects are fatigue, skin damage, loss of brain function, and damage to local tissues. About half of all people with cancer will receive radiation during their cancer treatment.
3. Chemotherapy. The definition of chemotherapy is taking medicines, or drugs, to treat cancer. Patients receiving chemotherapy treatment (usually directly into a vein through intravenous transfusions) often experience nausea, hair loss, fatigue, and sores inside the mouth.
4. Immunotherapy. The newest weapon that cancer specialists have at their disposal is immunotherapy, which is using certain parts of the immune system to fight the cancer cells inside your body. This is accomplished by stimulating the immune system to work harder against the damaged cells inside the body.
While conventional therapies have been proven to drive cancer into remission, patients and families sometimes hear their doctors talk about "investigational treatment," which means the treatment protocol is part of a clinical trial to determine whether it is a safe and effective way to treat cancer.
Alternative Cancer Treatments
Alternative therapies for cancer have not been proven to cure cancer, but sometimes--and I mean sometimes--alternative medicine has effectively treated the disease by using a holistic approach that treats the whole body, rather than the area of the body with cancer. Alternative medicine practitioners believe that the cancer developed, for the most part, from a problem in the body's immune system or some other kind of imbalance in the body--an imbalance created from improper lifestyle habits and poor nutrition, coupled with an overabundance of stored toxins.
The list of alternative cancer therapies is much longer, which is not an indictment of the medical profession but an acknowledgement that when people are facing a life-and-death struggle, they are willing to try anything to stay alive. Most often, those fighting cancer to the bitter end often complement their conventional treatments with an alternative approach. I don't criticize that thinking at all.
Alternative treatments usually involve mind-body therapies, herbal therapies, nutritional therapies, and metabolic therapies. They range from colon cleansing to coffee enemas, from drinking essiac tea to injecting specially processed animal embryo tissue into the body. Hypnosis, biofeedback, and psychological counseling focus on the role of emotions in fighting the disease.
One alternative medical approach has been the use of laetrile, a synthetic form of a chemical found in apricot pits, apple seeds, and bitter almonds. Cancer patients such as Hollywood actor Steve McQueen traveled to Mexico to receive laetrile shots, but laetrile treatment has never stood up to medical scrutiny. The National Cancer Institute conducted two studies of laetrile in the early 1980s, under the auspices of the Mayo Clinic, and the results were clear-cut: not one patient was cured or stabilized.
Many patients realize that supplementing their conventional cancer care with alternative medicine may or may not work, but when it's your life on the line, the will to live has a way of searching every option.
A Roadmap from Here
The Great Physician's Rx for Cancer is not guaranteed to prevent or treat cancer, and I would never want anyone to represent this book as promising a "cure" to this deadly disease. I second the disclaimer at the start of this chapter.
What I'm hoping is that the Great Physician's Rx for Cancer will do one of two things:
1. Give you the best possible chance to never develop cancer.
2. Augment whatever therapy--conventional or alternative--you're seeking to treat your cancer and live a long healthy life.
My approach is based on Seven Keys to unlock the body's healthy potential that were established in my foundational book, The Great Physician's Rx for Health and Wellness. The "Seven Keys" are:
Each of these keys should directly support your desire to prevent or triumph over cancer, and I believe each and every one of us has a God-given health potential that can be unlocked only with the right keys. I'm asking you to incorporate these timeless principles and allow the living God to transform your health as you honor Him physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.