Watch this space for occasionally posted commentary and essays on a range of topics relating in some way to cancer, the cancer industry, and what must regrettably be called 'cancer culture'.

May 2014

An important exhibition is currently on view in Los Angeles at The National Museum of Animals and Society – try to get in to see it before it closes August 3.

Curated with a discerning and skillful eye by Julia Orr, "Light In Dark Places – Anti-vivisection from the Victorian Era to the Modern Day" takes its name from the 1883 pamphlet by Frances Power Cobb, one of the earliest champions of the unfortunate animals caught up in the new groundswell of modern scientific experimentation. Not surprisingly, women activists of their day laid the institutional groundwork from which all subsequent anti-vivisection advocacy has risen.

The exhibit is a chronological overview of the history and progress of this aspect of the animal welfare movement, from its origins in the nineteenth century up to the present day. Co-sponsored by several animal protection groups including NAVS, the venerable National Anti-Vivisection Society, "Light In Dark Places" profiles key individuals and groups, landmark cases, and citizen campaigns whose stories weave together the progression of an important social phenomenon rooted in compassion for animals and in the belief that man can do better. Far from the counter-productive stereotype that sometimes misrepresents animal welfare activists as loony extremist warriors, this movement has been actively supported by some of the best thinkers and most eloquent voices whose works spark the better angels of human nature, such as George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain. These stories are instructive, and inspiring.

This exhibition is a thoughtful presentation of the philosophy guiding the actions of groups and individuals motivated by a deeply held belief that animals should not be subjected to cruelty in the name of science. The inadequate and under-enforced regulations pertaining to humane care in the lab do not prevent or eliminate the pain of captivity and testing for animal subjects, and we shouldn't be fooled or soothed by the official rules that are on the books. The reality is, millions of animals worldwide are suffering in labs, now. Opponents of vivisection are willing to look at and analyze and judge, rather than turn away from and ignore, the ugly facts and details of animal experimentation. The good news today is that there is a growing recognition that animal tests do not produce adequately reliable scientific data for drugs and products meant for human use, and the implementation of good alternative animal-free test methods continues to rise.

In a world where people don't take time to spell out entire words anymore, "vivisection" must seem positively gigantic. It may also sound rather old-fashioned to many ears. But, let's re-think this perfectly good word and breathe new life into it, because it's just the right one for an important job requiring our attention. To quote from the NAVS website: Vivisection is the practice of cutting into or using invasive techniques on live animals or dissecting the bodies of animals. Anti-vivisectionists are people who oppose these practices for ethical and scientific reasons.
Since this is such a widespread phenomenon in our world, intrinsically tied in with so much of what we consume, we ought to dust "vivisection" off now and put it back into circulation. Animals, the quality and reliability of scientific data, and human moral substance will all gain a great deal if we do.

"Vivisection". Use it in ten sentences this week.

An excellent resource for in-depth info on animal experimentation is the NAVS website:

This group, the International Foundation for Ethical Research, is actively engaged in developing and implementing alternative, non-animal research methods.

For a raw, possibly life-changing look at what's really going on with animals in labs, look at the website of SAEN – Stop Animal Experimentation Now.

March 2014

This is an odd and unsettling question, I know. I didn't have a cancer plan, and it's my experience that most other people don't have one either. If cancer hasn't hit our personal fan, we just hope that it won't, and we try to push it out of our minds. Understandable, but here's another way to go that might well make sense to you, and even inspire you to act.

I recently met a couple who took an uncommonly sensible and responsible approach to this possible problem. They are 'middle aged', and proactively take pretty good care of their health day to day. They also know they live in an environment of immeasurable cancer risks (earth) that are not controllable in the same way that diet and lifestyle are. And they have seen up close in the lives of loved ones what a devastation zone conventional cancer treatments can make of a body and a life. Knowing that they do indeed live in epidemic times, they took stock of the threat, talked it over, did some research, and devised a plan of action just in case one of them was ever diagnosed with cancer. They didn't want to ever be pressured to opt into radiation and/or chemo at an urgent 'do this treatment or else die' crossroads. They felt that at such a crisis time they wouldn't have the wherewithal to investigate the full range of treatment options and approaches to cancer and confidently make their best decision.

This couple knew that, if that diagnosis ever came, they would be loath to gamble with radiation or chemo. Armed with an interest in natural medicine, this was their starting point. They looked into many alternative treatments, read about them, and narrowed the field down to a handful that they felt held the strongest anti-cancer science and that were also realistically doable. They made a general comparison between the likely out-of-pocket cost of quality alternative cancer clinic care, and the general cost of what their insurance would not cover of conventional treatments, even if those costs were in the 'low' range. They decided their money would be better spent in an alternative clinic and on lifestyle/diet/supplement support. They also knew that even though their eating habits were better than the disease-promoting Typical American Diet, a cancer diagnosis would mean getting really serious about a strict anti-cancer diet. They weren't going to skip over the essential food-is-medicine part of deep healing. They thought about the big set of cancer decisions, put together a general plan with resources on specifics to investigate further if the time came, and then they put the subject away.

Eventually, unfortunately, the time did come. Having this plan didn't eradicate the fear and uncertainty and general burden of the big task of healing cancer – but it did save them a great deal of energy and anxiety about searching for information and making the right decision while under extreme life-and-death pressure to act fast. The patient checked into a cancer clinic offering both integrative and alternative treatments, and the story is a very positive one from there on. For these two people, now working as a team to heal cancer and make the life changes that will best prevent its recurrence, having had that plan in place ahead of time made a huge difference in their overall experience.

I am happy for them and optimistic for the patient's long term prospects to remain healthy going forward because of their commitment to living anti-cancer. I wish I'd had some kind of plan in place for myself when cancer came out of the blue and shattered my own life. Live and learn.

What these people did with the big scary cancer threat ahead of time is something any of us could do, now. It's different than watching those ever-present cancer center ads on tv and passively assuming that's our feel-good backup plan – change the channel and change the subject. No, devising a cancer plan requires thought and footwork ahead of time, and it requires undertaking that informative exercise I suggest at the beginning of Cancer For The Rest Of Us – examining our personal beliefs about health and healing. If you recognize the innate and mighty self-correcting capabilities of your body, and if you're interested in science-based strategies for optimizing them, then it will be useful to recognize that about yourself now, before anyone ever starts defining you as a cancer patient and in the next breath starts urging you to sign up for radiation and/or chemo post haste. Believe me, that's one psychological whiplash you don't want to incur, and it's hardly conducive to clear thinking and sound decision-making.

So, again, do you have a cancer plan? Doesn't it make sense to take that on? Here in my town, flashlights and bottled water flew off the big box store shelves this weekend because we just experienced an earthquake swarm that shook us from our collective denial stupor about living in an area scientifically destined to experience The Big One. It's much the same with cancer – we don't want to think about it unless shaken to our senses and forced to, but the fact is that if cancer doesn't get us, then it will get our spouse, child, parent, dog, sister, you name it. This is the stuff that really does hit the fan, for nearly all of us at some point. We get clobbered by it, all right, but we don't have to remain completely unprepared. That's one choice, one piece of personal power we actually do have.

Here are some possible places to start the process of devising your cancer plan:

Explore the website to see one good example of how very possible it is to successfully take on cancer with natural, health-building measures and without conventional drugs and x-rays. People are doing this, now.

Watch some films which will introduce you to a wide world of cancer options your oncologist is not going to tell you about.
Burton Goldberg's Cancer Conquest – the best of conventional and alternative medicine (2011) surveys doctors and clinics combining cutting edge use of conventional treatments like low dose chemo with a wide range of alternative anti-cancer measures. This is an international overview of integrative cancer medicine that will sharpen your perspective on the too-narrow band of oncology being offered to American patients.
And Food Matters by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch looks at the big picture of nutrition and healing, and provides inspiration for declaring health-restoring independence with knowledge and action. A primer in 'food is medicine'.
Google these titles. They're often available at health food stores.

And oh yeah – read Cancer For The Rest Of Us. Read the 'Suggestions For How To Navigate This Material'. There is a lot of help there for people seeking to define their healing path and strategies.

January 2014

I was fortunate enough to visit Hawaii recently, and while there I toured Cyanotech Corporation's fascinating astaxanthin and spirulina growing operation near Kona. Astaxanthin is featured in Cancer For The Rest Of Us both for its impressive anti-cancer benefits (particularly antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and Natural Killer cell stimulating properties) and also for its great value to anyone seeking to end their dependence on commercial sunscreens and the harmful endocrine-disrupting chemicals they contain. Spirulina is noted in the book primarily in relation to radiation exposure protection, but if I were doing a re-write now I would also feature spirulina in the section on inflammation in Chapter 12, Making The Body An Anti-Cancer Environment, because it is a mighty anti-inflammatory.

Anyway, there is a growing body of research supporting the multiple health benefits of both astaxanthin and spirulina, and these two natural supplements are worthy additions to just about anyone's health regimen, both for treating a variety of disease conditions, as well as protecting against today's toxic environment and counteracting age-related health problems. Cyanotech scientists have pioneered the development of two different state-of-the-art processes which produce these important health supplements from their respective algae sources – haematococcus pluvialis and spirulina platensis. They produce their astaxanthin and spirulina on a 90 acre site located in the Biosecure Zone, a uniquely green and clean commercial science and research environment. Along with rigorous monitoring for product purity, this makes for a very high manufacturing standard producing supplements that outperform top quality name brand competitors. I've taken astaxanthin and spirulina for years, but now after having seen how they do it at Cyanotech, I'm switching for good to their brands (sold under BioAstin, and Nutrex).

If this sounds like a Cyanotech commercial, it's not. But I do feel privileged to have been given a glimpse of a well-run venture that's practicing responsible stewardship of the natural environment in which they operate, while producing top quality supplements that contribute significantly to public health. Having benefited personally from taking them, I'm enthusiastic about these two supplements. From a cancer person's perspective, making astaxanthin and spirulina according to such rigorous standards, and supporting valuable medical research as Cyanotech does, constitutes a real, tangible contribution to our epidemic problem. It's clean science, it makes optimal use of a unique environmental setting, and the end result improves people's health and quality of life – what's not to be enthusiastic about?

In Cancer For The Rest Of Us I wrote about having had skin cancer as a child, and subsequent decades of hiding from the sun. I started taking astaxanthin a few years ago because I wanted to test its ability to protect me from burning and enable me to get enough sun to naturally normalize my skin's healthy vitamin D production. I had done my homework and knew I wanted to stop slathering on the sunscreens that contain harmful, endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). I soon found that astaxanthin in my bloodstream offered me an effective and superior alternative to sunscreen, and nine days in Hawaii's tropical sun was an even tougher exposure test – from which I came home without a bit of sunburn. Besides ingesting the supplement, I also used Dr. Mercola's sunscreen with astaxanthin while there. This is the only product I know of that contains astaxanthin and does not contain EDC nano-particles, and I use it on days when I know I'm going to be in the sun a lot. That's just one of astaxanthin's many benefits relevant to cancer. If you're new to this health supplement, look into it. You might take it so you can get off sunscreen, and then find your joints feel better, or your energy level is higher, or your skin looks healthier. Etc.

Spirulina is another interesting story, with its own growing body of medical research making a strong case for its inclusion in our daily supplement habit too. Its performance as an anti-inflammatory alone makes it valuable for anyone intending to age well.

Thanks to Bob Capelli, Usha Jenkins and Julia Linhart for giving this interested layperson an up-close look at the Cyanotech enterprise.

This is Cyanotech's informative FAQ page for spirulina and astaxanthin –

You can go to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, NCBI, and use the search box for 'astaxanthin and cancer', 'spirulina and cancer', and numerous other conditions like heart health, joint health, eye health, etc.