Worn-out jeans are comfortable.
Worn-out genes are not.

We wonder why cancer is a raging epidemic.
It’s not because of “cancer genes” or living longer.
Cancer is the leading cause of death world-wide because our bodies are worn-out.

I’ve learned this the hard way, inside-out, fighting ovarian cancer without any of the ~650 known cancer genes around which western medical treatments are designed. My story is not unusual. 90-95% of people with cancer do not have identified, inherited cancer genes, and many cancers are striking younger than ever before. So, what’s going on? How can we fight if we don’t understand WHAT we are fighting?

Here’s what I’ve learned, looking at the science differently.

The amazing thing about the Human Genome Project is our ability to overlay our own human blueprint on average human DNA. In so doing, we see where and how our DNA base pairs (the two parts which make up each rung of the DNA ladder) vary from “normal.” Differences are not all bad, of course. Variety is the spice of life, and some of these variants confer characteristics that serve us well. Certain flavors of intelligence. Humor. Even empathy! Yes, there is a gene associated with empathy (OXTR – rs53576), and yes (!), I have a double variant there (GG). There we have it.

But functional genomic analysis shows that my body is also clearly vulnerable in 3 ways:

  1. Detoxing molds and the mycotoxins they release
  2. Detoxing heavy metals
  3. Clearing environmental toxins and pharmaceutical metabolites

I was not surprised; the results were validating. Also, these are predispositions, not inevitabilities. As they say, genetics loads the gun; the environment pulls the trigger. If I lived in a Blue Zone, would I have gotten cancer? Probably not. Knowing as much as I did for the last several years, I worked to clear a lifetime (conception to age 45) of accumulated toxins from my body. I didn’t have extraordinary exposure. Just that of a normal, modern American. I was functional, but I didn’t always feel well. I was getting to healthy…just not fast enough. I had learned a lot about how to protect our family from physical and emotional toxicity…just not in time to avoid a cancer journey myself. The best thing I can do now is to make some meaning out of it all. So, here goes…

First of all, even if your body can clear molds/metals/toxins better than mine, do we think human bodies should be processing all that $&#t?! That would be a big Hell No. At the very least, fighting toxins takes time and energy away from all our bodies need to do to thrive in the natural world. Even the trillions (seriously, they outnumber our own cells) of microbes who hitch a synergistic ride with us are choking on our trash. The good ones at least. The more opportunistic microbes thrive, leaving us unable to digest nutritious food without discomfort, bloating, and malabsorption. Low FODMAP. Paleo. Gluten-free. These are just some of the many ways we work around our worn-out bodies now.

Heavy metal exposure exacerbates toxicity from molds, so they’re more anchored in us than before and enjoy that we are surrounded by artificially sealed and wet environments in many homes and buildings. If we took a longer, broader view of human health, we’d design differently. At least we can breathe easily outside, right? Well, not when the air quality shows high levels of pollution, including smaller particulate matter (PM2.5). These inhalable particles from soot and industrial activities can pass into the bloodstream, entering multiple organs including the skin. The pandemic may be waning, but hang onto those N95 masks. For people like me, it pays to actively avoid toxins. Another seemingly innocuous example is pharmaceuticals which are supposed to heal us, but their toxic metabolites linger and do more damage than good in bodies like mine. This would be why the list of side-effects in commercials has long been a subject of parody. I’m sure you could use some comic relief at this point, so here’s Dana Carvey eavesdropping at the pharmacy.

What if other people are vulnerable in similar ways? The body is beautifully designed to address toxins and disease but our environment/diet/stress load can overwhelm that amazing system and open the door to diseases, including but not limited to cancers. The key is managing all those loads on our bodies rather than addressing them after the fact with chemicals and surgeries that can further damage our natural systems. The good news is everyone can take active, incremental steps to improve the health of our bodies, our families, our communities, and future generations.

We should be fighting against toxicity rather than compounding the problem. Western medicine aims to treat our conditions with yet more (patentable and profitable) chemicals our bodies aren’t designed to process.

Doesn’t this feel like the point in the horror movie where the young kids head out into the woods while we hear the chainsaw starting up?

To me, it does. Chemo is the Mac Daddy of toxins, yet it was the “best option” and “urgently needed” when I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in February of 2020. Is it any wonder that mold and bad microbes had a heyday when I finished, like most people, with low white blood counts? Knowing all this empowers me to recover, heal, and protect my body going forward. What if I didn’t know? What does oncology have for us? Toxic scans. Take home drugs. “Maintenance chemo.” Sadly, that’s a thing. How can a body get ahead of that onslaught? It’s hard to imagine. Is it highly profitable for the cancer industrial complex? You betcha.

There is nothing empathetic about any of this. Take it from me. I’m an empathy expert. I also have scientific training, limitless curiosity, and now, unfortunately, too much personal experience in the oncological belly of the beast of the western medical system.

How will this degenerative situation change? I’m not holding my breath for people who have made their careers in western medicine/pharmacos/chemical companies to wake up. That would be nice, but that will also be the very last thing to happen. People’s livelihoods, mortgages…and most importantly, their identities are wrapped up in that system.

But we are not powerless. WE can wake up. We, the patients. We, the consumers of healthcare. We, our bodies’ longest allies and closest friends. When we do look around with eyes wide-open, we find there are alternative ways to heal our bodies. We find there are discerning and experienced people who can help us understand and defend ourselves against man-made toxins. We can learn how to buttress our immune systems rather than destroy them. We can take small incremental steps to proactively protect our bodies from physical and emotional toxicity:

  • Drinking clean water
  • Buying organic and unprocessed food whenever we can
  • Cooking at home from whole foods
  • Patronizing restaurants with better quality, noninflammatory ingredients when we do eat out
  • Meditating
  • Being mindful about protecting ourselves from emotional toxicity

More broadly, we can join like-minded others to support cleaning up the mess in our food system, water, environment, and buildings so that we fulfill our responsibility to leave the world better than we found it, rather than count on the next generation to make these changes. More and more people are waking up to these issues and doing something about them. To support your own health, you may need help. Look for people who work with the body’s natural systems across a range of issues, not individuals who may have healed themselves (temporarily) with one dogma or another. Once you see what’s going on, there is a lot you can do at the personal and societal levels. It feels good to do that work because it’s aligned with the design of our bodies and the natural world. It’s empathetic.

The more we move in the right direction, the more the broken elements of the western medical system will be left to change…or die of their own weight.

Better them, than us.

That would be real progress.

Thanks to John LeMay for edits to this post. For more perspective through the lens of empathy, check out Jackie’s book Currency of Empathy: The Secret to Thriving in Business and Life.




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An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder


An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder

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