My father died of cancer when I was twelve.
I saw him fading away over a period of a few years from the time he was diagnosed to the year that he passed away. He was only 44 years old.
I remember him fighting to stay alive for his family’s sake- my mother, my younger brother and myself. He went through painful rounds of chemo, radiation and surgery over the years.
While it did help him to a certain extent, it did not prevent cancer from spreading.
While the details towards the end of his life remain a blur to me, I distinctly remember that he was in a lot of pain and tired of fighting his disease. Towards the end, I think he was trying his best to stay alive for our sake more than his own. I am glad that when he passed away it was at our home, in a familiar environment and surrounded by family.
Some things simply haven’t changed
I had always naively assumed that when I grew up cancer would be a thing of the past due to the immense advancements in science and technology.
However, to my dismay, things have actually become worse!
Painful, incurable diseases like cancer have now become a household occurrence with other chronic conditions getting added to the list. Diseases like autoimmune conditions where chronic pain and severe exhaustion are the two most common symptoms.
And while these diseases are growing exponentially, our heads are still stuck in the sand like an ostrich.
We are not able to come to terms with the fact that, if there was ONE particular drug, treatment or approach that could make all these chronic illnesses go away, we would have found it by now.
The reason we haven’t been able to find the “cure” for most of these conditions because a “cure” in the conventional sense of the word doesn’t exist! It can’t! Because a majority of these conditions are multifactorial and lifestyle driven- food, toxins and stress.
And unless we are able to piece together the separate pieces of the puzzle which hold the key to our healing process, we remain stuck simply chasing a diagnosis.
The evolutionary mismatch
Our modern world is changing at such a rapid pace that our bodies are not able to cope with all the rapid changes.
In other words, if we were to condense 2.5 million years of human history to the equivalent of a single year, the last 10,000 years would represent just 1.46 days- 35 hours.
For most of our 2.5 million years we lived the life of hunter-gatherers, living in small communities and tribes, depending on seasonal produce, making our own tools and being physically active.
All that changed with the agricultural revolution about ten thousand years ago.
Our bodies have simply not had the time to adapt to the exponential changes in our environment. As Dr Robert Barret has said, humans are running on outdated software. The software that’s kept us alive for millions of years is done working in the current environment. This is playing out in many different ways including a rapid deterioration of physical and mental health.
Most of us are not even aware that we are ill equipped to make the healthy choices necessary to cope with our modern environment.
As you can see now, the challenges that we face today go far beyond diet and exercise.
Unfortunately, our approach to health has not kept pace with what is necessary to reverse chronic illnesses.
A conventional approach to chronic disease
I want to start by saying that medical professionals in the conventional medicine field are doing their best as far as their training and skillsets equip them to do so..
Most of them entered this noble professional with an intention to save lives, to make the world a better place.
The problem is that their training has just not kept up with the current reality. As a result they have very little idea about the interconnectedness between symptoms, lifestyle and how to address and deal with root causes in chronic diseases. In addition, the current conventional health care system is in no way geared to create health, it is focused only on treating disease.
The maximum that we can hope for in terms of prevention are vaccinations, lab markers and cancer screenings. All of which does nothing to actually prevent the disease progression.
The unconventional approach
Now for the good news.
You don’t have to live with chronic pain and be miserable even if you have been diagnosed with an “incurable” disease. For eg, I work with women with “incurable” autoimmune conditions. These are diseases that will never go away.
Does it mean that they will have to live constant pain and severe exhaustion for the rest of their lives?
There is a LOT that we can do in terms of making changes to our environment- diet, toxins and stress. These are three main factors contributing to chronic disease progression. Making these changes in different areas of our lives is not easy, but it is certainly possible.
However, it requires that you take a radically different approach.
It requires that you approach your disease through the lens of “healing” it rather than trying to “cure” it.
I have written more about this in an earlier post.
Healing versus curing
Healing is a natural process and within the reach of everyone no matter what stage of illness they are in.
It is quite different from being “cured” of a health condition. Getting “cured” of a disease is an external process that needs external treatment in the form of symptom management, surgeries, and medications.
Whereas healing begins with a willingness to address any underlying imbalances by making changes in all the three areas that make us who we are – mind, body, and spirit.
This means that even if a condition is “incurable” like many progressive chronic conditions for terminally ill patients, at the very least one can change their experience of living with that disease and see improvements in different areas of their life.
This can be in the form of having more peace of mind, more clarity and meaning and better and improved relationships for the time which remains.
I highly recommend this book if you would like to dive deeper into this topic.
You are not your disease
So where do you start?
You start by rewriting your story.
You get to choose how you respond to your current situation.
You get to choose how you identify with your disease.
And you focus on what’s right what you, not just what’s wrong.
You find out what your character strengths are and use them to create a roadmap for a different future. For eg, you can choose to use a particular strength or a combination to deal with losses, setbacks, or pain. Functional Medicine Health Coaches like myself are infact trained to help our clients use character strengths as one tool to support our clients and empower them to make changes that create health.
You find out what your root causes are and address them to improve the quality of your life.
In fact, one of the most important things that you can do FIRST is to start treating “food as medicine”.
I tell my clients that almost every bite of food that they put in their mouth should repel disease and move them towards health.
As Dr. Mark Hyman has said,
“The most powerful tool that you have to change your brain and your health is your fork”.
By choosing the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones you finally start addressing your body’s nutrient deficiencies and underlying imbalances.
Your body, your friend
You treat your body as you would a friend who is suffering and in pain.
You see, your body is constantly trying its best to protect you and keep you safe. Whether you are dealing with a chronic illness or you are completely healthy, it is important that you realise this.
For it is then and only then, that your true healing can actually begin.
As Stephen Levine had said-
To heal is to touch with love that which we previously touched with fear
“AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE 101”
A carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases
If have been looking to get ANSWERS to questions like
-Why do I have this disease?
-Will I get any better?
-Can anyone help me? Nothing is working
-Is there any hope for me to get my life back?
-I am still waiting for a diagnosis, which direction do I need to move towards?
then this GUIDE would a game changer for you!
“Autoimmune Disease 101” is a carefully curated and comprehensive collection of carefully selected books, podcasts, websites, blogs, and other resources from the field of Functional Medicine with a focus on autoimmune diseases.
The Functional Medicine model of care for chronic diseases seeks to answer the question “Why do you have this disease” so that you can get personalised and effective care for your unique condition.