Olivia Newton-John is one of the world’s most lovely people. She is a talented singer and actress, a heart-driven philanthropist, and a beautiful person inside and out. She is also a survivor. Her successful battle with breast cancer more than two decades ago left her stronger and more centered as an individual. This old challenge has actually become her newest one. Her breast cancer has returned.
This likely isn’t the first time you’ve heard of cancer making a comeback to threaten someone’s health and peace. It’s not an uncommon tale. For example, the beloved Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton has been public about his own recurring bouts with cancer. Why does cancer return?
The common answers seem reasonable. Even after surgery and treatments, there is no way to ensure that all the dangerous cancer cells have been completely removed. And, it technically needs only one of these to remain to start the process all over again. We all have forms of cancer cells in us, but our immune system usually responds successfully to them keeping a malignant disease at bay. There are a host of factors that determine whether our innate defense mechanisms break down or remain strong.
So, how much influence can we actually have on whether or not we get cancer? The evidence suggests perhaps more than we once thought.
Now, I feel like a disclaimer may be helpful here. Cancer is a tricky disease. It shows up in innocent children and super healthy people, as well as in those who are obviously not taking care of their health. And some people who seem sure to contract the disease due to lifestyle or genetics somehow never do. Cancer is full of surprises, and in so many ways we feel powerless against it. There are some factors in our lives, however, where we can feel a bit more in control and be proactive in guarding our health as much as we are able.
Let’s look more closely at three of the more familiar factors that contribute to cancer: inherited tendencies or genetics, environment, and lifestyle.
1) What do we see in our family health history? Is it guaranteed that if we have a long line of cancer in our family that we will struggle with this diagnosis? Not necessarily. As epigenetics teaches us, the environment of our cells determines how they manifest their DNA “blueprints”. Our perceptions of our life experiences contribute to this environment positively or negatively. We are the foremen over these blueprints and ultimately have a powerful influence over our health.
2) Environments, then, can be very important for our health. Take a look at your home, workplace, relationships, and local pollution. What chemicals or other contaminants do you come in contact with on a regular basis? How is your stress level? Do you have something in place to manage it well? Stress weakens and can even shut down our bodies’ natural healing mechanisms. Do your relationships build your sense of value, happiness, personal power, and safety? These and many other environmental factors you encounter either add to or take away from your wellbeing and your ability to fight off disease. Choose wisely!
3) Our lifestyles also have great impact on our health and whether we are vulnerable to a cancer diagnosis. What we eat, drink, think, and entertain ourselves with either build the body’s defenses or weaken them. What do you focus on daily? What is your mindset? Is it positive or negative? Some people love to exercise while others don’t. For those who don’t, are you at least going for a walk, dancing, or playing active games periodically? These are all things we likely have control over. As you make good choices in these areas, you can strengthen yourself against developing diseases, including cancer.
I don’t know exactly why our wonderful Olivia Newton-John is experiencing this returning challenge, but there is another thing to consider here. Our most difficult challenges are often the things that help us become better. As we let ourselves learn from these difficulties, we become more compassionate, stronger in our personal identities, and develop gifts and talents that we wouldn’t know about otherwise. I guess this is one of those ‘silver linings’ we appreciate when life seems so dark.
If you or someone you love is dealing with this awful disease or something else that threatens their health and peace, there is hope. Consider these final thoughts:
- Take charge of the things that are within your control – taking responsibility builds confidence and a sense of power over your life
- Get your team of medical and health professionals in place to support you – with you as the CEO
- Lower your stress – evaluate internal and external factors and make necessary changes
- Eat better – remember you are what you eat
- Surround yourself with positive influences – this can be music, people, social media, entertainment, etc.
- Become the master of your own personal wellness – this life is your gift and you get to choose your legacy
- Take inventory of what your thoughts and intentions are creating – you are more powerful than you might think
- Discover the lessons that are there for you to learn – every challenge invites you through a process to become the best version of yourself
- There is a grand plan, one where you are the hero of your own story – seek to understand this truth and know that miracles can happen.