BOOK REVIEW: MY CANCER IS ME

JOURNEY FROM ILLNESS TO WHOLENESS by Vijay Bhat and Nilima Bhat

Review by Yeong Sek Yee & Khadijah Shaari

My Cancer is me

We chanced upon this book at the Mumbai airport on 24th May 2013 on our way to GOA. Vijay Bhat’s first career was in the high pressure world of advertising for over 20 years. Later, after his recovery from surgery, he started afresh as an independent leadership consultant to corporate clients, as well as a cancer coach to support other people battling cancer.

The title of the book, “MY CANCER IS ME” is central to Vijay’s belief that “since my life was about me, my cancer was also about me” When he focused on himself, Vijay realised that his cancer originated within and only then manifested as a “tumour” in his body i.e. “my cancer was about myself.”

Vijay’s cancer journey began in Dec 2001 when he was diagnosed with cancer in the transverse and descending sections of his colon. He underwent a surgical process called subtotal colectomy (i.e the removal of the entire large intestine) with ileorectal anastamosis (where the small intestine is connected to the rectum). His case was classified as Stage 3 with no metastasis.

The authors’ views on conventional cancer treatment

After surgery in London, Vijay was “offered” chemotherapy which he decided not to do after much thought and research. Some of his reasons are: –

a)     He was told by the oncologist that, with chemotherapy, his cancer had a 28% chance of recurrence and without chemotherapy, a 30% chance of recurrence. Considering this tiny 2% gap between the 2 options, and keeping in mind all that he knew about the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy, he decided against it.

b)    Vijay’s extensive research after his surgery made him truly believe that “the cancer establishment may be barking up only one tree and perhaps the wrong one at that”. Typically, Western medicine focuses on the physical aspects of cancer and the organ/ part of the body where the cancer has originated, for example, the breast, colon, or lung. This “organ-centric” approach assumes that if the cancer (and the affected body part/organ) is dealt with, the problem has been adequately addressed. Vijay believes that healing cancer requires going beyond an “organ-centric” approach and adopting a “person-centric” approach that takes the whole person into account, not just the body or part of the body.

c)      In addition, Vijay strongly believe that cancer treatment is often a hit and miss game; and that chemotherapy treatment carries a large margin of error because, beyond a point; the therapeutic drugs cannot distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells. As a result, chemotherapy has an adverse impact on the bone marrow, hair skin, digestive tract and the immune system, leading to side effects such as fatigue, bruising, bleeding, anemia, nausea, a poor appetite, a metallic taste in the mouth, etc.

To give him the best chance of remaining free of cancer, Vijay tried various alternative healing therapies and treatments. With the help of his wife Nilima, he created a personal healing regimen based on principles drawn from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), yoga, meditation and the latest in Western medical research.

Vijay has crossed the five-year milestone in Dec 2006 and the ten-year milestone in December in 2011. This (Vijay’s case) clearly debunked the normal conventional cancer treatment myth that “you have no choice; you must do chemotherapy straight away”. As a result of his personal research, Vijay and Nilima came to the conclusion that “there are many approaches to dealing with cancer (or any illness for that matter), for instance, medical, nutritional, psychological and spiritual”

According to Vijay and Nilima Bhat, cancer is the result of your physical lifestyle along with your mental, emotional and spiritual processes and the “stressors” associated with these processes. For instance, negative thoughts and attitudes are mental stressors while negative emotions such as anger and guilt are emotional. Healing these aspects of you is essential for physical healing. The authors guide you through your process of self discovery, showing you how to find your stressors and teaching you how to recover from them.

The book also gives useful information on the biological aspects of cancer and its causes; dietary and nutritional needs of cancer patients; how to maintain optimum immunity; how to confront love and death; and the role of the caregiver.

The authors’ views on nutrition and cancer

After his cancer surgery (to remove the whole colon), Vijay Bhat was put on a liquid diet and then later a solid one. As he began to get his appetite back, the hospital nurse asked him cheerfully “Are you ready for a steak-and-fries lunch today?” Vijay thought she was joking. Anyway, he requested for some vegetable broth and mashed potatoes. When the surgeon came by on his rounds, Vijay asked him if there was a recommended diet and nutrition plan for cancer patients. The surgeon replied “Not really…though there is some evidence linking dietary habits with cancer, it is not conclusive.” Since Vijay had a major colon surgery, he asked…”even though my digestive system has been dramatically affected by the surgical removal of the entire colon (large intestine)? The surgeon still maintained that… “as long as you are sensible , you can eat whatever you feel like. (This dietary advice is very similar to the advice given to Dr David Servan Schreibar in his best seller, ANTICANCER: A NEW WAY OF LIFE. In Dr Schreiber’s case, his oncologist told him “Eat what you like. It won’t make much difference. But whatever you do, keep up your weight.” (For more elaboration, read Chapter 8: The Anticancer Foods of Dr Schreiber’s book).

As the authors lament, there are very specific dietary recommendation for ailments of the heart, kidney and liver, for diabetes, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel conditions and so on. What about cancer? Surely a situation where the body’s nutrients are hijacked by tumour cells and its immunity compromised, and where there may be further stress due to toxic treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, deserves special care as it seeks to heal itself?

Paradoxically, there is a growing recognition of diet as a major causative factor in cancer. It has been established that diet contributes significantly to 6 of the 10 major causes of death in modern society…also there have been over 10,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies pointing to the connection between dietary habits and cancer.

From our (Vijay and Nilima Bhat’s) perspective, diet is the foundation upon which all the other holistic and integrated therapies can be built; ignoring it runs the risk of undermining the efficacy of the whole program. The following is a summary of the author’s research on the subject of nutrition and cancer: –

  • A meat-based diet increases the risk of cancer; a plant-based diet protects against some cancers. A plant-based diet is best.
  • A low fibre intake increases the risk of cancer. A high-fibre diet, with whole grains cereals and pulses is beneficial
  • A high-fat intake (particularly animal fat) increases the risk of cancer.
  • Excess animal protein increases the risk of cancer.
  • Alcohol & obesity increases the risk of cancer. 

Based on the 5 key dietary principles with reference to cancer, Vijay recommends some of the foods that boost immunity such as fresh fruit and vegetables, garlic, green/black tea and red wine, yoghurt, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, fish, apples, broccoli and red onions, oats and barley etc.

Vijay followed a strict plant-based diet and he is still alive 10 years later after surgery (without any other forms of conventional therapy). In the case of Dr Schreiber, he had brain surgery and chemotherapy. It was when he had a recurrence 3 years later that he decided to follow a plant-based diet and survived a total of 19 years (he had glioblastoma multiforme, a very aggressive form of brain tumour)

Point To Ponder

Would Vijay survive more than 10 years (surgery in Dec 2011) and Dr Schreiber survived 19 years if they had not changed their diets and follows an integrative program? We welcome your thoughts.

FURTHER REFERENCES:

To gain more insight on the benefits of a plant-based diet, read the following: –

1. THE CHINA STUDY by Dr Colin T. Campbell, PhD.

2. ANTI-CANCER: A NEW WAY OF LIFE by Dr. David Servan Schreiber.

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