Having spent 25 years working in the psychology, mindset transformation and personal development field in the UK, Sophie Sabbage was well versed in helping people overcome the many problems in their lives.
But even she was left floundering when, at the age of 48, she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in October 2014.
Saving her life was not an option as far as her doctors were concerned, but Sophie had other ideas.
This is her story. . .
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Three months left to live
The situation seemed hopeless.
The cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, bones and brain. Her doctors didn’t use the word “terminal,” preferring “incurable” instead, but the message was the same. (She later found out she was not expected to survive more than three months.)
She felt quite well until her diagnosis, but the expectation that she was soon going to die affected her health at once.
She felt the life force draining away from her body. She could now feel one of the numerous tumors pressing against her spine. She became breathless walking up stairs and started coughing up blood. (Inflammation-promoting scans most likely contributed to this).
She knew that to accept the doctors’ verdict would be self-fulfilling, because a belief, once it takes hold, can become reality. So the most important first step was to challenge this “certainty,” this mental narrative in which the future is already written and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You must stand up for yourself
She was angry at being treated like a statistic, someone to be kept “comfortable” until her inevitable demise. She was likewise furious at people saying their goodbyes to her or nurses treating her as if she was in a hospice for the dying.
She shocked the nurse who told her the date of her next appointment by saying that she wasn’t free on that day.
“I wasn’t going to be told to show up on command without being respectfully asked if I was available.”
She changed her oncologist when she found out he had held back important information from her.
She maintains these are the kinds of attitudes she needed if she was to effectively deal with a stage 4 diagnosis.
Coming to terms with your condition
To be in a state of denial is disempowering. You have to come to terms with your condition.
The possibility of death needs to be faced. This is not the same as giving in; it’s facing reality. Once you confront mortality, face your fears, and accept the diagnosis (but not the prognosis), everything that follows gets easier. This brave and realistic attitude allows you to take charge of your own treatment instead of letting cancer get the upper hand.
To do this Sophie let her emotions flow rather than suppress them. She allowed herself to feel grief, to feel fear, to fear despair. These are natural emotions and in her view it’s healthy to express them. She describes grief as a hugely neglected part of the cancer journey.
She learned everything possible about her condition and was proactive in asking for help and reaching out to friends, family and therapists who were willing to offer support. It was also important to put herself first. She had to overcome any tendency to put others’ needs before her own.
Once the initial shock has passed and some firm foundations laid, it’s time to plunge into deep research.
Extensive research is required
She left no stone unturned in finding out everything she could from books, the internet, other patients and experts from around the world.
From all her research she came to believe that we shouldn’t see cancer as something to wage war against, to fight or battle. These are the words constantly used in the media to describe cancer. Instead, she came to see it as something we have to listen to and learn from.
She found it was a disease created by underlying problems she had been living with for many years. Fully addressing these problems rather than looking to fight the disease was “the most proactive, loving and peaceful response” she could find.
In her case, the cancer may have been an outcome of a collection of difficulties — physical, environmental, emotional, psychological — which added up over time.
These problems included periods of loneliness and grief, smoking for a time, teenage eating disorders, an unhealthy colon, poor lymph drainage, gum disease, mercury fillings and fluoride toothpaste.
By considering all the factors that apply in your case, you can start addressing them one by one. It’s certainly not about blame. She says it’s important not to think in those terms. It’s simply about getting real and taking charge.
She advises people with a cancer diagnosis to ignore statistics. You are not a statistic. The outcome will be unique for each person. It cannot be predicted by what has happened to thousands of other people. Instead of statistics, we need to focus on our own journey and “walk it with passion, purpose, patience and gratitude…”
It’s unlikely anyone else will have followed the precise path we choose to walk. Statistics, therefore, mean little.
Knowing what to do
Sophie chose to accept radiotherapy to take away the pressure and pain on her spine. She learned that there was a genetic mutation associated with her type of cancer that would likely respond to chemotherapy. This was in the form of a pill taken daily by mouth.
But, on the other hand, she refused some treatments.
Her doctors wanted to prescribe steroids and whole brain radiotherapy. Her refusal was not out of ignorance or defiance but because she had done her homework.
She fully understood the purpose of the treatments but wasn’t willing to accept the disadvantages associated with them. This was all part of a dialogue she had with her doctors. She was perfectly open with them about why she refused. They listened and appeared to respect her decision.
The action plan
The outcome of all her research and discussion led her to carry out the following:
Diet: avoid sugar, caffeine, wheat, gluten, dairy, red meat and alcohol. Follow an 80% vegan diet with some chicken and fish. Eat only organic food where possible. Consume juices made up of 80% vegetables and 20% fruit. Drink two liters of filtered water daily.
Detox: saunas, Epsom salt baths, Castor oil packs, foot soaks and mud packs, skin brushing, colonics, coffee enemas, removal of mercury fillings.
Environment: shower filter, minimize wireless technology, electromagnetic radiation blockers on electronic devices, banish microwave ovens.
At-home treatments: Rife technology, cannabis oil, hyperbaric oxygen and Chinese herbs.
Mental, psychological and spiritual treatments: meditation, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, counseling.
UK clinic treatments: far infrared saunas, massage, acupuncture, naturopathy.
Overseas clinic treatments: Dr. Filiberto Munoz, at the San Diego Clinic, Mexico, and Dr. Francisco Contreras at the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico. At these facilities she was able to receive low-dose chemotherapy, ozone, hyperthermia, mega vitamin C and laetrile.
What Sophie’s experience can teach us
People telling us to “be strong” or “stay positive” doesn’t allow us to be human. Don’t override normal human emotions. Allow yourself to feel fear, hopelessness, terror, grief. We need to pass through these. To do so, get all the help needed from trusted people.
It’s not about being positive or negative. It’s about being realistic while taking radical responsibility for our own well-being.
We cannot just do as the doctors say. Question everything. This gives us power and prevents us from becoming a victim. Cultivate the mindset that says, “I have cancer but cancer doesn’t have me.”
Cancer is telling us something about our mind, heart, body and spirit. We need to listen and learn from it, rather than go to war with every tumor. In this way we can be transformed by cancer. It can help us heal our lives.
And the result of Sophie’s cancer experience?
As of October 2016, two years after her diagnosis of certain death, there are no lesions visible in her lymph glands, brain or bones. She still has a tumor in her lung, but this has shrunk considerably and continues to do so.
Switching gears – if you’re given three months to live (and I hope that never happens) – one thing you should do is start eating a lot of broccoli. If you don’t know why, read the article below. . .
The Do-It-Yourself Genetic Intervention
That Can Fight Cancer
Whoever concocted the phrase “You are what you eat” was more accurate about our bodies than he ever knew.
According to researchers, not only do the natural substances in certain plants help keep us safer from problems like cancer and heart disease, in some cases they can intervene in the genetic workings of our cells.
As a matter of fact, detailed studies now demonstrate that the genetic material from plants alters how our genes express themselves and influences the production of proteins in ways that can shrink the risk of cancer. This alteration of genetic expression by outside influences is called “epigenetics.” It’s become a big thing in cancer research.
One epigenetic champion turns out to be broccoli. . .
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From broccoli’s genes to yours
For a while now, researchers have been arguing over the likelihood that genetic material from vegetables like broccoli survive their trip down the digestive tract and enter the body more or less intact and ready to help our genes function.
Until recently the argument for and against this possibility seemed pretty evenly pitched. Evidence goes both ways – with some studies apparently showing the genetic material broken apart by digestion and others finding evidence of this material intact in the bloodstream.
But now the most advanced analyses clearly indicate that after you eat vegetables like broccoli, your blood becomes home to alien genetic material – from the vegetables. And this material – known as microRNA or miRNA – can take part in cellular processes to fight cancer.
Help your genes express themselves better
RNA (ribonucleic acid) is primarily a messenger molecule that cells use to transfer instructions from DNA to other parts of the cell. The instructions are for making proteins that take part in cellular processes. MicroRNAs are small RNA molecules that affect the function of other RNAs in the cell.1
Researchers believe the malfunction of RNA often plays a role in the development of cancer. Consequently, if microRNAs from broccoli or other vegetables can “silence” misbehaving RNA or alter gene expression in other ways, they could lower the risk of cancer.
Now, lab tests in China show that this can be happening after you eat broccoli.2
To further investigate this interaction, researchers at the University of Toronto and other Canadian institutions went beyond the lab and analyzed, in tests on people, what happens to microRNAs from broccoli that could potentially interact with 11 different genetic sites that are involved with the development of lung cancer.
They compared blood samples from people who regularly eat broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (like cabbage and Brussels’s sprouts) with blood from folks who rarely eat these vegetables. Their analysis confirmed that vegetable microDNA was circulating in the blood of the vegetable consumers.3
While they were at it, they also tested cooking methods to see what best preserved the microRNA in broccoli and could lead to the best health results. What they found confirms what other experts have said is the best way to prepare vegetables: Cook them briefly or eat them raw. In contrast, “long exposure to hot water, steaming and blending degrade microRNAs’ integrity, reducing the potential benefits.”4
Then, in lab tests, the Canadians also showed that the microRNAs from eating broccoli, once in a person’s blood, can enter cells and stop processes that might otherwise lead to cancer.
In general, what they found is that a combination of both the microRNAs from broccoli and other chemicals in the vegetable called isothiocyanates (which includes sulforaphane and diindolylmethane or DIM) seem to be necessary to help coax genetic functions away from cancerous activities.
While the Canadian researchers don’t consider their research to be absolutely conclusive, they do point out that their results show the more broccoli you eat, the more of these microRNAs you probably have circulating in your body – although at some point, if you eat this vegetable every day, the amount your body takes up plateaus and stops increasing.5
Keeping genes under control
However, it isn’t only this genetic material from broccoli that can keep cells and their genes under control and less likely to succumb to cancer. Various studies show that the isothiocyanates in broccoli – even without the microRNA – also can cause epigenetic effects that tame rogue genes – deactivating them and keeping them from being expressed.
Sulforaphane is probably the most investigated isothiocyanate. It’s even extracted and sold as a supplement. Research at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University demonstrates that sulforaphane can restrict the activity of a group of enzymes that can obstruct the functions of genes that are supposed to stop the development of tumors.6
Aside from inhibiting these troublesome enzymes, sulforaphane can play another epigenetic role by speeding up what’s called DNA methylation (a process that changes the molecular structure of DNA and alters its function).
“It appears that DNA methylation and HDAC [enzyme] inhibition, both of which can be influenced by sulforaphane, work in concert with each other to maintain proper cell function,” says researcher Emily Ho, Ph.D.. “They sort of work as partners and talk to each other.”
According to Dr. Ho, this kind of molecular tag team wrestling involving these processes improves cell functions and keeps cellular division under tight control, preventing the wild kind of reproduction that takes place during cancer.
“Cancer is very complex and it’s usually not just one thing that has gone wrong,” Dr. Ho points out. “It’s increasingly clear that sulforaphane is a real multi-tasker. The more we find out about it, the more benefits it appears to have.”
She further explains that DNA methylation is a normal process that switches off genes, and is part of the process that limits which DNA material gets communicated in each cell. Harmful alterations in methylation can increase the risk of cancer.
“With these processes, the key is balance,” Dr. Ho says. “DNA methylation is a natural process, and when properly controlled is helpful. But when the balance gets mixed up it can cause havoc, and that’s where some of these critical nutrients are involved. They help restore the balance.”
Good news ahead
The really good news about these discoveries is that there is probably much more ahead. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain a wealth of other chemicals classified as isothiocyanates. These other isothiocyanates have already been shown to help make radiation more effective against tumors,7 slow the growth of cancer8 and kill cancer cells without affecting normal cells.9
Originally, broccoli was cultivated by the ancient Romans, who referred to the plant as the “five fingers of Jupiter” – probably because of its powerful benefits on health. If you put your five fingers around it and eat it raw, your body will absorb most of its isothiocyanates.
If you do cook it, just cook it lightly; don’t steam it for more than four minutes – otherwise you may eliminate some of its most important anti-cancer ingredients.