Welcome back to the Healing Pain Podcast with Chris Wark
Welcome back. We’re discussing how to beat cancer holistically with Chris Wark. Chris is a cancer survivor, a best-selling author, and a patient advocate. He was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer at the age of 26. After surgery, Chris made the decision to go against his doctor’s advice, opted out of chemotherapy, and chose to use nutrition as well as other natural therapies to heal.
Chris has become one of the most well-known cancer survivors on the planet and reaches millions of people per year as a blogger, podcaster, speaker, as well as a global health coach. In this episode, we’ll discuss how to beat cancer primarily by using nutrition and other lifestyle-based interventions. Without further ado, let’s begin and let’s meet Chris Wark.
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Beating Cancer Holistically With Chris Wark
Chris, thanks for joining me for this episode. It’s great to have you here.
Joe, it’s good to see you. It’s been a few years.
It’s funny when your assistant reached out to me, and I reached out to her about this episode. I’m like, “I can’t believe I haven’t covered this topic yet and had you on the show to talk over this.” I’m excited to talk about everything about cancer. It’s a topic that all of us, our friends and family are touched by. It’s great to have you here.
Thanks. That’s perfect timing.
Your website is Chris Beat Cancer. You have your third book that’s out, which everyone should check out. It’s called Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anti-cancer Recipes. You can all find that on Amazon and major bookstores and online retailers. Chris, for those who are reading, who don’t know you, give us some background on your personal cancer journey.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in December 2003. I was 26 years old at the time. Like most cancer patients, I was pretty clueless about the disease, health and nutrition, and healing. I was a real estate investor and a musician. I was newly-wed and excited about my life, my future, and things seemed to be going well for me. I started having abdominal pain. The pain would come and go. I noticed it for the better part of a year, and towards the end of that year, it started to get worse progressively.
I eventually went to the doctor. They did a colonoscopy, found a golf ball-sized tumor in my colon, which again, if someone had asked me, “Where’s your colon?” Honestly, I don’t even know where the colon was. That’s how clueless I was about human anatomy. I thought it was a punctuation mark. They took a biopsy and sent it to the lab. Within 1 or 2 days, they called and said, “You’ve got cancer. We’re going to need to get you into surgery right away and get this thing out of you before it spreads and kills you.”
I was a very clueless cancer patient. This is the same routine that everybody goes through. You get a diagnosis. You’re rushed into treatment before you understand what’s happening to you and even have time to think about your life, health, future and the way you’re living, and maybe the things in your life that are contributing to your disease. There’s no time. There’s this sense of urgency that is used, which is a phrase that I did not coin, but the tyranny of the urgent.
You become a subject of urgency and tyranny. When you’re rushed into treatment, oftentimes, there are treatments that you don’t understand unless you have a medical degree. You don’t know the risks, side effects, and benefits. Patients make a lot of assumptions that most cases, are not true. I was told, “You got to get surgery right away.” This was a few days before Christmas, and they wanted to have me in surgery before Christmas, within a day or two. I was like, “Can we postpone until after the holidays?”
This is depressing enough. I went in on December 30th. They took out 1/3 of my colon, where the tumor was obviously. They took out a bunch of lymph nodes. When I woke up, they said, “It’s worse than we thought. You’re Stage 3C.” We were hoping it was Stage 2. If it’s Stage 2, at least, at that time, if you’re Stage 2, you have surgery, and they send you home, you’re done. Stage 3 means chemo. They told me I needed 9 to 12 months of chemo.
At that moment, I initially accepted, like, “This is my fate. This is what I got to do.” A couple of things happened in the hospital that got the wheels turning. The first thing that happened was the very first meal that they served me after cutting my guts open, removing a section, and sewing it back together, it was a Sloppy Joe. I don’t even remember what the sides were, honestly, but they put that thing in front of me on this tray.
I remember being like, “Yuck, why are they serving this horrible industrialized cafeteria food to sick people? This is ridiculous.” I wasn’t a healthy guy, but I knew what healthy food looked like. I knew if they brought me a plate of vegetables, I would’ve been like, “They want me to eat healthy stuff.” That was surprising. The only place as far as I knew you could get Sloppy Joes would be summer camp or the military or prison.
The message always is you need your strength and energy. Make sure you eat everything.
I did eat it. I don’t know if I eat the whole thing. I was on some super heavy drugs, but I did eat because I was hungry. A few days later, they told me, “You can go home.” My surgeon came in to check on me, and we were having a conversation about what was next or what to expect. I said, “Is there any food I need to avoid?” In my mind, I’m thinking, “They cut out 1/3 of my large intestine. Everything you eat is going down the tube, through there.” Is hot sauce a problem? He said, “No, just don’t lift anything heavier than a beer.” That was it, all of the nutrition advice.
There’s no, “We’re going to give you a complimentary session with the hospital dietician.” Did the hospital dieticians come in and screen you or anything like that?
In your experience, is that common even nowadays? I know you speak with a lot of people.
It depends on the hospital and the cancer clinic. Some of them have a dietician on staff. In my experience, the advice given by these dieticians is worthless. It’s as bad as the Sloppy Joe. They’re like, “You need to make sure you get enough calories. You’re going to lose your appetite during chemo. The best thing to do is to drink milkshakes, eat ice cream, and eat whatever you want.”
This brings me to one of the problems. I spent five chapters in my first book, Chris Beat Cancer, highlighting the perils and pitfalls in cancer, medical, and pharmaceutical industry. The problems in these industries are the reasons that so many patients suffer and don’t get well. In the cancer industry specifically, everybody that gets diagnosed with cancer wants to know why did they get cancer. It’s like, “How did I get cancer? What in the world?” When they ask their doctor this question, the answer they invariably get is, “We don’t know, but it may be genetic or bad luck.”
It’s funny. I heard you say and you mentioned the word factors or contributing factors. What’s so important for people to understand is that it’s not necessarily 100% genetic. There are lots of different contributing factors in your life that contribute to this and can contribute to the complete reversal of it.
There’s research that shows up to 90% of cancers are caused by three factors, a poor diet, lifestyle, and environment. I’m happy to break those down because I want to. The thing is, if you have a problem in life, it’s pretty hard to solve that problem if you don’t get to the root cause of the problem. If your ceiling is leaking, water is dripping from your ceiling, you can put a bucket under it, catch the water and prevent further damage. You can mitigate the damage from this dripping water, but it’s still dripping.
Eventually, your ceiling is going to become saturated with water, and it’s going to cave in. You have a huge mess and an expensive repair. You have to get up on the roof, find the leak and patch it. You have to get to the root cause of the problem. This is the same in health. You have to get to the root cause. The problem with so many approaches in modern medicine is that they’re alleviating symptoms, but they’re not solving your problem. When you solve your problem, you get well. You heal.
Obviously, this show is about pain. Pain is a symptom of a problem. If you take pain pills, you’re not solving the problem. You’re masking, hiding, suppressing, or living with it. There’s a lot of parallels, obviously, to what I’ve learned about cancer. Backing up a little, what I said about cancer patients asking these questions, “Why did I get cancer?” Their doctor says, “It’s either bad luck or bad genes.” What happens is that it is turning that person into a powerless victim of the disease.
There’s nothing you did. It’s not your diet or lifestyle. No, it’s not environmental toxins, whatever those are. It’s not stress. It’s bad luck or bad genes. Because there’s nothing you did to contribute to your problem, there’s nothing you can do to help yourself. The only thing you can do is show up for treatment. “You trust us, say your little prayers, cross your fingers, and that’s the best you can do. No, don’t change your diet. Don’t get on the internet. You don’t need to read any self-help books. Whatever you do, don’t try to help yourself.”
“Do not do that. Don’t eat healthier. We don’t know what’s in these fruits and vegetables. We’re concerned. We don’t want you to eat too many fruits and vegetables. We don’t know what will happen. Chemo is fine, but don’t drink too much carrot juice.” These are the kinds of crazy things that patients are told every single day. They leave the clinic in this state of powerlessness, despair, hopelessness, depression, discouragement, and fear above all.
This is all fostered by the way that the cancer industry is designed. It’s not that those doctors and nurses are bad people. They’re not, but they’re trapped and trained in a system that pays them well, despite the results. It doesn’t matter if you live or die, they’re getting paid. The incentives are a bit perverse. Moliere said in 1664, “I believe medicine is the best of all trades because whether you do any good or not, you still get your money.”
I didn’t know any of this stuff, but I was starting to lose faith. I’d never had any health problems or been to the doctor or hospitals. I didn’t have any experience in the world of healthcare. We care about your health. I was starting to figure out that this wasn’t healthcare. It was sick care, and they weren’t recommending that I do anything healthy. My logical, rational mind, the wheels were turning, and I’m thinking, “This doesn’t make sense. I don’t like this system. I don’t like the way this is set up.”
I’m an only child. I’ve always been independently-minded and marched to the beat of my own drum or whatever. I’ve always been a critical and independent thinker, questioning authority and rules and all that stuff. I go home. I’m getting off the pain medicine. As I sobered up, I started thinking about my life and future, and the idea of poisoning my way back to health didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t sit right. This is for most cancer patients.
They’re like, “I don’t want to do that,” but they’re told they have to. They’re told, “There’s nothing else you can do. There’s nothing you did can contribute, and you can do to change your life, to help yourself heal. This is your only hope.” I didn’t believe that. I believed instinctively that no, there must be things I can do to help myself. I don’t know what to do, but there must be. My wife and I prayed about it. I’m a Christian, and we prayed. I was like, “God, if there’s another way besides chemotherapy, please show me. I’m listening. I need help.” It was a simple prayer of desperation and faith. At the same time, I am trusting that God will provide for me.
Two days later, I got a book that was sent to me by a man in Alaska, who is a friend of my dad’s. This book was written by a guy named George Malkemus, who had healed his colon cancer with a radical diet and lifestyle change. His body healed. He didn’t have surgery, chemo, or radiation. Within a year, his tumor was gone. I was so excited and encouraged by his story. I was like, “This is the answer to my prayer.” I knew it. He made the case that no one else was talking about, that the reason so many of us are sick with chronic diseases is because of our diet, lifestyle, and bad habits. We are harming ourselves with our daily choices.
The good news is that you can change your daily choices. You can make different choices and get a different outcome. I had this epiphany, “The way I’m living is killing me. That’s not good. I need to change the way I’m living. I don’t need to change a little. I need to take massive action.” It’s not like, “I’m going to start taking these supplements and cure my cancer with these herbs.” That was not the way I was thinking. I was like, “I need to change everything about my life.” Overnight, I converted to a raw food diet, all fruits and vegetables, all organic.
I bought a juicer and started juicing. I started reading and researching like crazy. I’m like, “I need to learn. What else can I do?” In a very short amount of time, I was on this transformative life journey. I was changing everything about my life as fast as I could and learn on what was potentially causing harm, and what I could replace that with, I would do it. It’s like getting up on the roof, finding the roof leak, and solving that problem. It started with the diet. We know that the Western diet is a diet that promotes cancer, heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, eating tons of processed food, junk food, sugar, salt, and oils, tons of meat and dairy.
When you look around the world, the countries that eat the lowest amount of animal food and the lowest amount of processed food have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. On every continent, there’s the consistency that you find when you look at epidemiological research. That’s encouraging. For decades, doctors, scientists, and researchers have studied chronic diseases on all continents and the contributing factors. We know what’s causing it, most of it. A poor diet is a huge part. The second factor is lifestyle.
What are our lifestyle habits that are causing disease and cancer? Smoking is the number one cause of cancer. Alcohol causes cancer and cigarettes. You’re not born a smoker. These are the things you’re putting in your mouth, food, cigarettes, alcohol, or lack of exercise. We know that exercise turns on genes that inhibit cancer growth. It turns on genes that block cancer and turns off genes that promote cancer, exercise, jazzercise, Zumba, yoga, rock climbing, Pilates, CrossFit, it doesn’t matter, running or cycling. Exercise is awesome. It’s so good for you. It’s so underrated.
People think they need to do it to lose weight or to look good on the beach, or look good naked. The benefits of exercise are much deeper than the superficial thing you see when someone is fit. They are fit on the inside, not just the outside. It’s not just about having muscles or abs. I started exercising every day, that’s easy, even 30 minutes of walking a day. There’s a fantastic study they did on breast cancer patients, where they found that women who were breast cancer patients, who exercised an average of 30 minutes a day of brisk walking, and ate an average of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day had a 50% decreased risk of recurrence after nine years. That’s wild.
It’s like, “Here’s something that will cut your risk of recurrence in half. Would you like to know what it is? Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day and walking 30 minutes a day. Do you think you can do that?” I went way beyond that. I went from eating 1 to 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, an average American guy eating tons of fast food and junk food. Do fries count? Is that a vegetable? The tomato and lettuce on my burger, is that a vegetable? Tomatoes are fruit. I wasn’t eating vegetables. I was barely eating fruit. I have a banana every once in a while, an apple or something.
I went from 1 to 2 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which is the average for an American, to eating between 15 and 20 servings of fruits and vegetables every single day, every day, over and over. When you do that, take a radical, massive diet change, and incorporate that into your life, you’re going to experience some pretty big benefits and big changes in your energy, gut, inflammation, immune function, brain function. All of it improves.
Obviously, inflammation is related to pain improvement. Anyway, I started feeling good when I started eating that way. That was exciting, feeling like I had more energy. The first few days of a radical diet change, you usually feel like crap. You’re suffering from withdrawal from all the toxic food you’ve been eating, caffeine, sugar, excess protein and fat, and stuff like that. Anyway, it didn’t take long for me to start feeling good. That’s the diet part.
The lifestyle part, smoking is the number one cause of cancer, lack of exercise and alcohol contribute to cancer. Clinically, the second leading cause of cancer is obesity. No one knows this. This is not something I made up. The National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, The International Agency for Research on Cancer, all the major bodies of cancer research know this. They all talk about it, but the media doesn’t talk about it. Obesity is such a sensitive topic because 70% of Americans are overweight, and over 40% are obese. They don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings and tell them that obesity is the second leading cause of cancer.
It’s even a sensitive topic in professional circles to even have a conversation about it, even at times with the patient. I appreciate you making that point because it’s a significant health problem that relates to many different acute and chronic diseases.
There are healthcare professionals who are overweight and obese. It’s the same percentage as non-healthcare professionals. I want to make sure people understand why it’s the second leading cause of cancer. When you’re overweight, that means you have excess body fat. Body fat is simply stored energy. That’s all fat is. When you eat a diet that is high in calories or a processed food diet and excessive amounts of animal protein, meat, and dairy, you’re consuming a lot of calories and energy.
What your body does is if you consume more energy than it needs to get through the day, it saves that energy for later. It stores those calories, which is a unit of measure of energy in food, as fat. That’s a great survival mechanism that we were designed with to store energy if we consume more than we need. The problem is we live in a rich nation. You obviously are not in one of the poorest nations in the world, probably. You have access to food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round. There’s never a food shortage.
Not only that, you have access to a lot of unhealthy food. It’s easy to gain weight when there’s food everywhere all the time. I’m not fat-shaming. I’m saying like, “This is how it works.” When you consume too many calories, your body puts on excess body fat, and that’s a burden to the system. Those fat cells release molecules that are inflammatory. They contribute to inflammatory diseases. They also release hormones like excess estrogen that fuels cancer growth. That’s not good.
They also suppress your immune function. This is fascinating. It’s discovered within the last few years is that immune cells become obese in an obese environment. What happens is they take up those excess free-floating fatty acids that are in your bloodstream and your lymphatic system. Your immune cells absorb them and become bloated. When an immune cell is bloated, it’s slow, sluggish, and doesn’t work well.
This is the double-edged sword of obesity. It’s promoting chronic inflammation, excess hormones that fuel cancer, and suppressing your immune system at the same time. The good news is that every overweight and an obese person can lose weight. We’re all capable of weight loss. If you’re willing to lose weight, you can do it. You have to be committed to doing it.
You have to find that motivation. If you’re not serious about cancer prevention, you should be because 1 out of every 2 men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and 1 of every 3 women. Which category do you want to be in? It’s not a coin toss. It’s not like half of the men are lucky, and half are unlucky.
Your choices can put you in the lowest possible risk group based on your daily choices, your diet and lifestyle habits. Stress is a huge one. I can’t wait to talk about it. I’m so glad you brought it up. These are very simple things. It’s not complicated. Your diet and your lifestyle choices can create health or disease. Every day you’re sowing seeds of health or seeds of disease. At some point in the future, you’re going to reap a harvest.
The harvest is coming. What do you want it to be? I’ve lived through this, written three books, and talked to thousands of cancer patients. I’ve interviewed tons of doctors, experts, and survivors. This knowledge is in there because of the several years I’ve spent in this world and connecting all these dots. The third contributing factor is environmental factors. You’ve got diet, lifestyle, and environment.
The environment is an obvious one. We know there’s toxic cancer-causing stuff in the environment. There’s air and water pollution. If you’re working in a workplace with toxic fumes, whether it’s a hairdresser or manufacturing or a print shop. If you’re breathing toxic fumes every day, soot, smoke, or whatever, you’re going to have an elevated cancer risk.
If you live near factories that are spewing air pollution or dumping into your water supply, that’s risky. You have to take a hard look at, “What is around me? Maybe I need to move away out of this neighborhood.” If you have multiple neighbors getting cancer, that’s a huge red flag, like, “Get out of there.” Your environment is something that’s in your control. Not as easy to change as your diet, you can change your diet and start exercising overnight.
The good thing about diet and exercise is they are protective. Your diet and exercise strengthen your immune system, so that helps protect you against the environmental toxins that you can’t see or taste or smell. If you’re going to give a weighted score, what’re the most important things? Changing your diet and exercising and stopping your bad habits like smoking and excess drinking, for example, are way more important than moving or changing jobs.
Once you’ve got that other stuff in place, you can start fine-tuning. What else do I need to do to reduce my exposure to potential health-destroying toxins? I worked through all of these things in my life. As I was learning, I was changing things as quickly as I could. The diet and exercise part was easy. I was replacing all of the body care products in our home or the cleaning products, the toxic crap in our house with clean, non-toxic brands.
We did that. I changed my toothpaste, stopped brushing my teeth with fluoride, and stopped drinking chlorinated and fluoridated water. It’s a process. You can change your life. It takes a little time. Some things you can do quickly and then other things take time. Stress is this crazy element. You could put stress in the lifestyle category. Stress is probably easily, I can make the argument, the root cause of most chronic diseases, mental and physical.
Stress is this insidious underlying causative factor. The problem is stress is such a nebulous concept. Doctors are not trained in stress. They’re not trained in the physiology of stress. What is it doing to your physical body and the disease that manifests as a result? They’re like, “You’re stressed, whatever. You got a lot going on. You are anxious. You got money problems or relationship problems or problems at work. Everybody’s stressed.” That’s the way doctors dismiss stress.
There are amazing doctors and scientists that have devoted their lives to studying stress and the impact it has on human health and longevity. These are people that I’ve learned from. My job as a patient advocate and a survivor is I read the scientific literature, and then I dumb it down, simplify it and explain it. If I’m good at anything, I feel like I’m a good explainer.
Let’s define stress as a negative emotion. When you are feeling negative emotions, and those emotions would be anger, bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, guilt, and shame, these are all emotions that are rooted in your past. When you are feeling jealous, envious, insecure, judgmental, or critical, these are thoughts and emotions that are rooted in the present as you observe people in life on Facebook or wherever.
If you’re feeling fear, anxiety, and worry, these are emotions and thoughts that are rooted in the future. They’re all negative and produce stress. Whether you’re ruminating on some person that hurt you in your past or worried about what’s going to happen in the future for some virus or something, you’re in the same state, which is stress.
When you’re under stress, your body goes into fight or flight. When it’s in fight or flight, it starts pumping adrenaline and cortisol. Those two hormones suppress your immune system. They also promote inflammation. It’s the same mechanism of action as being obese. It’s inflammation and immunosuppression. Stress hormones also interfere with your brain function. You can’t think clearly or rationally, logically.
Everything becomes impulsive and rash. You look at what’s happened to the world of how people behave in a state of fear. They don’t think rationally. You don’t digest food well when you’re stressed and when you’re in fight or flight. Your body is not in an optimal state at all. Fight or flight is good to escape a tiger or fight off a bad guy or escape a burning building. It is not the way you’re intended to go through your day-to-day life.
When you’re in fight or flight, your nervous system is sympathetic dominant, not to get too technical. There’s another state, which is called parasympathetic dominant, and that is rest and digest. That’s being in a state of ease, being at peace, relaxed, and calm. It’s the state where you are free from worry, anxiety, anger, frustration, and bitterness. You’re free from those thoughts and emotions.
That is a state of healing. That’s the state you’ve got to get your body in to heal. Number one, it’s important that you understand. Hopefully, people reading are starting to, is that negative thoughts and emotions produce stress. You got to understand that. Number two is you have to catch yourself in those negative states.
If you get on social media and see some person who’s got a nice car and you start resenting them, you have to catch yourself in that mode and be like, “I’m being jealous and envious. I’m resenting this person. I’m going to choose not to.” This is called mindfulness, being aware of your thoughts and choosing to think differently because we’re under the impression that we are our thoughts. Whatever we think is who we are, but it’s not. You can choose how to think.
I had to do that because I had a lot of negativity. I was an only child. I was competitive, Type A, driven, jealous, and envious of other people. I was never happy for anyone else’s success. It made me jealous or envious. I was critical and judgmental because I was insecure. I was prideful, which is again tied to insecurity. I had resentments toward people in my past that had hurt me in big ways or small ways.
I was never a worried person or an anxious person until I got cancer. I’ve got the fear of cancer and the anxiety and worries of cancer that I got to deal with too. When you’re stressed, you’ve got inflammation and immunosuppression. This is the environment in which cancer cells thrive. In order to heal or prevent cancer, you have to get your body out of this state that allows cancer cells to thrive and get into a state where your immune system is strong, and inflammation is low.
It took me a long time to learn these things. Right away, I realized that I had to start thinking positively instead of negatively, and I could feel sorry for myself, be angry and resentful of everyone else in the world who didn’t have cancer, or I could count my blessings. I could stop in those moments of feeling frustrated, angry, and sorry for myself and say, “I’ve got so much to be thankful for. Let me take a second and take some inventory of what’s good in my life.” I’ve got a wife who loves me. I have a roof over my head, food in the refrigerator, enough money to pay the next set of bills, and a car. I can see, hear, get out of bed, go for a run, and on and on.
I can do that all day. It takes a moment’s reflection on the good things in your life, the blessings, the privileges that you have to realize and extinguish the negative, jealousy, insecurity, envy, those kinds of thoughts and feelings. I would practice that every single day, catch myself and start counting my blessings. The most difficult season of my life was when I learned how to practice gratitude. I have a gratitude hack.
I talk about this in my second book, which is Beat Cancer Daily. It’s like a daily reader, daily encouragement, and action steps, and inspiration. It’s like you read one page per day for a year. My gratitude hack is like this. Anytime I started to feel frustrated, jealous or envious, discontent, I stopped and say, “Right now, there’s someone dying in the hospital who would give anything to trade places with you.”
All I have to do is remind myself of that truth. That’s true. I’m like, “Yeah, life is great. I’m not going to let this little stupid annoyance or frustration steal my joy.” There are people who would love your problems. When we compare ourselves to people that we perceive have more than us and a better life than us, that fosters resentment and unhappiness.
When you compare yourself to people who have less than you, that fosters gratitude, thankfulness, joy, and contentment. That’s the state you want to be in. It’s like, “Look around, people are struggling, suffering, poor, and have all kinds of problems that are way worse than you.” This was a habit I had to cultivate, but it’s a very powerful one.
The stress umbrella is a big one. I talked about stressful thoughts and emotions that are rooted in your past, ones that are rooted in the present and the future. I talked about the present. How I deal with the present is gratitude. In the future, based on negative emotions, like fear, anxiety, and worry, I had to give those to God. The fear of cancer would creep in because it’s always creeping in. There are these blissful moments in your day when you have cancer, where you forget you have cancer.
You’re busy like you’re working or playing or whatever. You forget you have cancer, and it’s great. Something reminds you. You turn on the TV, and then somebody says cancer or whatever. This is so perfect. The very first movie that I went to see after my diagnosis, the day after my diagnosis or a couple of days after, my wife and I went to see a movie called The Butterfly Effect.
I don’t even know if I like the movie. It’s not the point, but one of the care characters gets cancer and dies in the movie. Anytime the fear would creep in, I would say, “God, I trust you. I’m not going to be afraid. I’m giving you my fear. I trust you. Show me what I need to do and change.” That was constantly my prayer, show me what I needed to do and change in my life.
I got pretty good at surrendering my fear, addressing it right away when it would creep in and dealing with and facing it head-on. We get in this habit of life where we hide from our problems, pain, and fear. We try to medicate it. I’m talking about emotional and physical pain. We try to medicate emotional pain or painful thoughts, or anxiety-producing thoughts. We medicate those things. I don’t want people to assume medicate means drugs.
We self-medicate in lots of ways and the way we deal with stress. Here’s the full connection to cancer right here. I already talked about when you’re stressed, your body’s inflamed and immunosuppressed, but then what are you doing to self-medicate your stress? It’s alcohol, tobacco, overeating, gambling, shopaholic, workaholic, or pornography. There’s a lot of ways that people are self-medicating their stress that are compounding their health problems down the road.
You end up in this vicious cycle. You’re in a state of stress, doing things to self-medicate that are compounding the stress, and your health is spiraling downward. You can break that cycle and start doing different things that put you in a virtuous cycle. When you’re in a vicious cycle, your health spirals downward, and in a virtuous cycle, your health spirals up. That’s what I was doing.
I didn’t realize it at the time. What I want to do is I want to do everything in my power to help my body heal. I had it like the litmus test for me is anything that could possibly help me heal and had no risk of harm. I would do it if I could get access and afford it. I did like IV Vitamin C therapy, for example, but I did acupuncture, Reiki, chiropractic, copious amounts of supplements and herbal tinctures, and herbal formulas in addition to the hardcore diet change and juicing.
All of that compounded. All of those things helped some in big and small ways. It’s impossible to quantify, but it’s like everything but the kitchen sink approach. That was my approach. I’m going to do everything that’s possibly good. Let my body use what it needs to survive, thrive, and heal. I know we don’t have a whole lot of time, but I got to close the loop on the stress part. I want to talk about the new book, Beat Cancer Kitchen, and talk about food because it’s such a fun topic.
The stress part is such a big aspect. If you don’t address this stress in your life, don’t change your diet, don’t exercise and quit smoking. There’s no point. The stress can outweigh everything else you do to help yourself. You’ll still get benefits, but the benefits can be outweighed by the stress. It’s the mental, emotional, and spiritual issues that take time to work through, but it’s worth it.
The last aspect of stress that I talked about is dealing with pain from your past. Pain from your past causes you pain in the present if you don’t deal with it. It’s not just emotional pain but physical pain. I’d made a decision that I was going to forgive every person who had ever hurt me by name. This is a process that takes a little time. You have to sit down and think through your life, and you’re not going to do it all in one sitting.
Every day, if you make a few minutes to sit down and think, “It’s forgiveness time. Let’s do this.” You start thinking, “2nd, 3rd, 1st grade,” start back as early as you can remember. If you remember kids picking on you on the playground, forgive them. As you work through your life, friends, family members, teachers, coworkers, strangers, you have a filing cabinet in your memory where all the painful memories are kept. You got to open it up and pull out the memories and deal with them. You can’t just move on. That doesn’t work because your subconscious mind knows if there’s an unresolved conflict in your life.
One by one, as a person, as I would remember something that someone said one time or did or whatever, this is the forgiveness prayer. I would say, “God, you know what they did. You know how I feel about it. I’m still angry and upset. It still hurts, but I’m choosing to forgive them. I’m letting it go and giving it to you. They’re all yours. You can deal with them.” That’s what forgiveness is. It’s a choice not to hold it against them anymore.
It doesn’t mean you have to be friends and talk, none of that. This is a personal internal decision between you and God, and that’s it. That’s what I did. I started working through that, one by one forgiving people, and the weight is lifted off of you. This term is used so much. We don’t even think about what it means, baggage. When someone says, “They got a lot of baggage,” what is that? It’s an emotional pain.
When you’re carrying all the anger, resentment, and bitterness towards all the people that have ever done you wrong in big and small ways in life, you’re carrying a huge bunch of baggage. It’s like a giant backpack full of bricks. You can slip yourself out of that backpack and let it drop to the ground through forgiveness. That’s how you get it off of your back and free yourself. It is so powerful, freeing, and incredible. The most healing thing you can do is to forgive the people who have hurt you.
The beautiful thing is most of us don’t want to forgive. You don’t want to. I didn’t want to. I wanted to because I had a sense that it would help me. I didn’t want to because I held on to that need for justice because we’re wired for justice. We recoil injustice. As humans, we can’t stand to see injustice or to experience it, but I let that go. I said, “God, you’re the God of perfect justice. You can deal with them. Forgive me for holding onto this anger for so long. Forgive me for my mistakes. I don’t deserve it either.”
As I worked through that, I found so much freedom and became quick to forgive. Now it’s part of my daily life. You’ve been on the internet a long time as a public figure. I’ve been on the internet since 2010 as a public figure. People have said every mean thing possible to me at this point. I could say I’ve developed a thick skin. I also am quick to forgive. People can say anything they want about me. If I read it, maybe like, “Ouch, that hurts. God bless him. I forgive them. I’m not going to carry it and let it steal my joy or ruin my day.”
Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” When you pray and ask God to bless the people who’ve hurt you, you’re doing something miraculous. You want to talk about accelerating the emotional healing, ask God to bless your enemies. He knows you don’t want to do it. That’s the best part. He knows you don’t want to do it, but you’re asking anyway. That’s the way I would end every prayer. I would say, “God, I forgive them. I’m giving them to you. I’m letting it go, and I’m asking you to bless them. I hope you don’t, but I’m asking you to because this is for me. Forgiveness is for you.”
The old adage bitterness is like drinking poison and hoping it hurts someone else. It only hurts you. You look at people who are elderly, and there are two types. There are the angry, old, sour, bitter ones and the happy ones. Which one do you want to be? None of those people were born bitter. They weren’t born sour and angry. They cultivated that over time. Forgiving people who’ve hurt you, yourself, asking for forgiveness, and practicing gratitude.
When you’re feeling insecure, jealous, giving your worries and fears to God, all those things are so powerful, and so those are the things that I did to get myself out of a state of constant stress. I was bouncing back and forth between all those emotions, stress from the past, the future and the present. Stress is huge. My second book is mostly about getting out of stress. Beat Cancer Daily is secretly about helping a person get themselves out of a state of stress and into a state of encouragement, hope, positivity, and taking the action that helps them survive and thrive.
This is crazy. I learned from Dr. David Hanscom. I interviewed him, and he said two things that I’d never heard before that were so amazing, which was that there’s this study-based information. When you have hope, hope puts your body into a state of rest and digest. Hope alleviates stress. When you have a sense of control over your life, it does the same thing. Hope and a sense of control brings you out of that state of fight or flight and into a rest and digest state.
I had those things. What I’m trying to do now for other cancer patients is give them hope and control back over their life and health. It was cool to know that there’s a physiological benefit to those things. I’d always thought it was more psychological. I’ve got this new book called Beat Cancer Kitchen that my audience has been asking for years, “What did you eat? What do you do?” My wife and I wrote this together, and it’s plant-based anti-cancer recipes.
The beautiful thing is that fruits and vegetables have all these wonderful nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and thousands of what are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Phyto means plant. These are nutrients that are only found in plants. A number of these phytonutrients are directly anti-cancer nutrients. Some of them improve detoxification. Some of them strengthen your immune function and help your immune cells work better.
Some of them directly cause cancer cell death. Some of them prevent cancer tumors from growing or spreading. There are all these incredible anti-cancer nutrients in fruits and vegetables. I talk about them in Chris Beat Cancer, my first book, but then Beat Cancer Kitchen is a full-color recipe book with anti-cancer recipes. They’re loaded with veggies, especially herbs and spices, because herbs and spices are notoriously incredible anti-cancer foods.
Garlic, onions, and leeks are at the top of the heap. Right under them, in terms of anti-cancer potency, you’re going to be the cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, a lot of the vegetables that maybe some people reading are like, “I hate broccoli and cauliflower.” The vegetables that Americans don’t eat. I wasn’t a big fan of these vegetables either at all when I got cancer.
I learned quickly that this is what I should be eating. I decided, “I’m going to overdose on nutrition. I’m going to eat the most potent anti-cancer foods every single day at every meal.” This is my strategy. I developed a very simple daily routine. It was rinse and repeat every day, overdose on nutrition every single day. I’m not beating myself up about the past and worrying about the future. I’m focused on now. This day is anti-cancer day. How am I going to take care of myself in the best way possible without being a perfectionist?
Creating a simple and realistic, doable daily routine. That’s what I’ve been helping people do for years as a coach, author, speaker, and all this stuff I do. Now we have this beautiful, full-color cookbook called Beat Cancer Kitchen. Amazon, every place that sells bookstores, it’s published by Hay House. It’s easy to find. I figured it out, and we created some new recipes too through fun experimentation of how to make the healthiest anti-cancer foods delicious where almost anybody could eat them and be like, “This is good. I would eat this. I like this.”
It’s a great book. I flipped through it. There’s a couple of things in there. I appreciate that you’re talking about herbs and spices that many people leave out of their diet completely. When they hear the word spice, some people say, “I don’t like spicy.” I’m like, “Oregano is considered a spice. It’s not spicy.” It should be in your diet for anti-cancer properties, anti-pain, anti-inflammation, all those things. I’ve known you for a while now, but I appreciate it. I picked this up through you before, but on the interview, how you have managed to go through the science and make it easy for people.
Ultimately, what every single person on the internet is trying to do is exactly that. Even if you go see a cancer doctor who knows everything you know, the delivery sometimes that you get from them isn’t quite as simple, digestible, and actionable as what you’re saying. If it’s not actionable, then it’s not worth it almost. That’s why I appreciate your platform, products, a new book that makes things simple for people.
It has to be simple. I was like, “If I can’t create a simple daily routine to follow, diet, exercise, managing my stress, it’s not going to be sustainable. I’m not going to be able to stick with it.” It was selfish. I had to reduce it down to something that was ultra-simple that I could follow every single day. I realized, “This is good for everybody.” Everybody needs simple because life is complicated enough as it is. It’s hard to change your life. I had that motivation like cancer, but a lot of cancer patients don’t want to change. A lot of people with chronic diseases do not want to change.
They don’t want to and won’t. Everybody’s got their own life and choices. No judgment. If you don’t change your life, it doesn’t affect me. I’m fine. If I’m doing anything, I’m trying to instill that spark, belief, that healing is possible. It all starts from there. Healing is possible. If I can get a person to believe that healing is possible, they will start thinking, “If healing is possible, what can I do to help myself heal?”
We’re off to the races. It’s like, “Okay, cool. It’s time to learn some things and make some changes.” A) You got to believe that healing is possible. B) You got to learn how to heal. C) You’ve got to be willing to change your life. Let go, break your bad habits and replace them with good habits. This is holistic health. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s a holistic approach. It’s not a quick fix or a magic bullet, lotion, or potion.
That’s not what I’m interested in. Sometimes it works. That’s great. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, or maybe it did cure somebody, one herb or something. What I know for sure is that massive action produces massive results. If you take massive action to transform your life and health, you will get massive results. You’re going to get them. We see it every day in our community, cancer patients getting more energy, their bloodwork coming back clear, their scans coming back better or clear. Some of them do all the conventional therapies, and some of them don’t.
We see great results in both. Everything that I talk about and encourage people to do are things that do no harm therapies. They only produce a benefit. There’s only a benefit. There’s no detriment to the things we’ve talked about. That’s exciting, a better quality of life, longer life, complete disease remission, health and healing. All those things are wonderful and good. That’s what we do. This is a part of my story I didn’t get to. I did not do chemotherapy. I chose not to do it and change my life. I did find a naturopathic doctor and an integrative oncologist. I put together a very small little support system of professionals to help me navigate the journey.
I had blood work done every month, and CT scans every six months. I created this simple healing routine. Every single day was taking care of myself like I never had before. There’s a momentum that happens in healing or anything, any part of your life, when you’re consistent. If you go to the gym two times, you get no benefit. If you’ve never been to the gym and you go to the gym three days a week, in three months, you’re stronger. It’s the consistency. If you stop going, you will lose that strength. From a background in working out in college, I knew at least that much. Consistency matters, and getting that momentum going matters.
There’s healing momentum that happens when you’re overdosing on fruits and vegetables, forgiving like crazy, removing toxins from your life, exercising, you get this momentum going. Once you get over that little bit of a hump, in the beginning, the learning curve, reorganize your life. It’s not that hard. Anybody can do it. Once you get over that, it’s like riding a bike. Once you get the pedals going, it’s pretty easy to keep the wheels turning. You get into the groove. That’s what I did. I created a new life, way of living, and I stuck with it. Here we are.
I’ve been speaking with Chris Wark. You can find more information about him on his platform at ChrisBeatCancer.com. His third book is out. You can find it everywhere. It’s called Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anti-cancer Recipes out in stores. I want to thank Chris for joining me and sharing information about how to beat cancer. We have friends, families, colleagues, coworkers interested in learning more about natural cancer care. Please, make sure to share it with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, social media, everywhere, people hanging out and talking about cancer. We’ll see you next episode.
- Chris Wark
- Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anti-cancer Recipes.
- Beat Cancer Daily
- @ChrisBeatCancer – Facebook
- @ChrisBeatCancer – Twitter
- @ChrisBeatCancer – Instagram
About Chris Wark
Chris Wark is a young adult cancer survivor, bestselling author, and patient advocate. Chris was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2003, at just 26 years old. After surgery, Chris made the decision to go against his doctor’s advice, oped-out of chemotherapy and chose to use nutrition and natural therapies to heal. Six years later, in 2010, Chris began sharing his story of faith, courage, and determination, and his message of hope that chronic diseases like cancer can be prevented and reversed with a radical transformation of diet and lifestyle.
In the last decade, Chris has become one of the most well known cancer survivors on the planet and reaches millions of people per year as a blogger, podcaster, speaker and global health coach through his books, social media and his website ChrisBeatCancer.com
Chris is the author of the national bestseller Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally, published by Hay House in 2018.
His second book, Beat Cancer Daily: 365 Days of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Action Steps to Survive and Thrive, was published by Hay House in 2020.
His third book, Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anticancer Recipes will be published by Hay House on November 16th, 2021.
Chris is also creator of the SQUARE ONE Cancer Coaching Program, which has been shared with over 1 million people globally since 2017.