I recently was asked “What is the number one cause of cancer?”. It was the end of a long day, I was in a bad mood having just spent over an hour cleaning up a huge mess I had made. Earlier that afternoon I had dropped an entire can of paint on the floor, the can just slipped through my hand, hitting the ground, creating a small tsunami wave of black board paint that splashed all over my legs, over 4 yoga mats, a spin bike, and the carpeted floor. Just great. It’s the kind of mess that that you have no idea where to begin the clean up, and your co-workers start walking the other way when they see you covered in paint from the knees down. My boss is an incredible person though. Taking one look at me, she assured me not to worry, and with great empathy, said that what I did was definitely something she would do. She came down to help me clean up, and bless her, she did her best to clean up my thoughts as well. I was so down on myself, having turned a small project to help improve a yoga/spin studio, by painting a small cabinet, into a huge mess. Never mind that I had already used my own time, energy, and money to create other improvements in our studio, all I could think of was the mess I made. Then along came a guy wanting to add his help. This good Samaritan member of our fitness center. The guy came to assess the damage, and says to me, “of course you spilled the paint, you’re a girl”.
Nice. I’m already kicking myself, now I have someone, some guy I don’t even know, adding insult to my inner conversation. What happened from there is not what I would call one of my finer moments. No, I didn’t verbally take it out of the “helpful” fitness guy. I did something one better, I took it out on the next guy I ran into at the next place I went to. I love going to my local health food store. I had to pick up a few items, and while I was there, some poor innocent fool, who had the nerve to ask me “What is the number one cause of cancer?”. Every cancer is different in type and in stage. How do you begin to answer that question, the “one” cause of cancer?? I didn’t say “you fool” verbatim, but I pretty much said “you fool” in a lot of other ways. This is not how I would normally react to someone asking me a question, but here I went, “There is no “one” cause of cancer, that would be too easy. It’s almost insulting that you’re even asking that question”. I’m hoping that I didn’t roll my eyes, but I think I did. I felt overly annoyed as the guy tried his best to retell some study he had read, millions of dollars that went into the study to come to the conclusion that being over weight was the number one cause of cancer. I repeat, I’m not proud of how I responded to this guy, and I do blame the paint spill, my pent up anger at myself, as I told him what a waste of money that study was, and went on to dismiss this fool. I came about this close to asking this guy why was even talking to me.
My apologies to the guy at the health food store. I actually wrote an e-mail to the manager of the small store, who was there, in the room at the time the whole “number one cause” incident occurred. I wrote, please tell that poor unlucky bystander guy, I am so sorry I treated him as less than human, I had a long day, ending with a bad paint fiasco, and I regretted how I acted. On the other hand, it’s funny where your thoughts will lead you. The guy’s question made me sit and think, what is the number one cause of cancer.
The number one cause of cancer, what is it? Simple, it is the inability for cells that have gone bad, to go through a process called Apoptosis. Apoptosis is a normal , genetically regulated process that allows a damaged cell to commit suicide. That is the number one cause of cancer, the inability to self destruct . You see, every cell in our bodies has a shelf life. Just like products at your grocery store have shelf lives. For example, milk will be okay for about a week, cereal will last for about a month, Twinkies, due to their preservatives, will last, well, pretty much forever. In fact, Twinkies can even die, and come back to life. I think they are the zombies of the food world. But back to the cell’s shelf lives, every cell in our bodies has a predetermined lifespan, when that cell starts to go bad, it will enact a chemical process signaled by our DNA. I picture this process like a detonator blowing something up. The cell dies do to this aging, or another type of DNA damage, and our bodies remove the dead cell through a natural process, Apoptosis. Except, when the cell doesn’t die. When a cell goes bad, but doesn’t die, it keeps replicating. This becomes a problem. These rogue diseased cells become cancer.
So the question is, what helps our cells be able to self destruct through Apoptosis when they go bad? The beginning of that answer can be pretty simple. Various vegetables have been studied, and it turns out that these foods have ability to help cells activate the process to block cancer. Especially helpful in this crusade are cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Our diets undoubtedly help our cells stay healthy, and help our bodies avoid cancer. The second part of that this answer is that the cells need to be able to absorb the good nutrients from healthy foods. If our cells are overloaded with toxins, then we can’t upload the cancer fighting nutrients. You can’t have two entities occupying the same space at the same time. So the second part, really more difficult part of the answer is that we need to cleanse our bodies of toxins.
If you were to ask me what is the number one cause of preventing cancer, I couldn’t answer you with just one thing. I believe it’s a mindful way of living. Eating foods that are free of toxins, grown locally, prepared in ways that keep the energy of the food’s enzymes intact. I believe it’s keeping our thoughts clean, staying positive, and practicing loving thoughts and actions toward yourself and others. I believe it’s keeping our bodies strong, exercising in moderation, and using mindful yoga and meditation. I don’t believe there is just one answer for the cause of cancer, nor the prevention of cancer, but I do believe that trying to understand and prevent cancer is my passion. I don’t have all the answers, but the next time some one asks me a question about the cause of cancer, I will take a deep breath, and answer with the best of my knowledge, and if I am having a bad day, I will try my best to not pass off my frustrations of the next person. We all deserve to be treated mindfully, no matter what question, and what, like paint spills, life throws at us.