Rich Roll with Dr. Dean & Ann Ornish: The Power of Lifestyle Medicine to Undo Disease & Live Better

Rich Roll is an author, athlete and podcast creator who, on his 40th birthday, took a self-inventory and found himself fifty pounds overweight and out-of-shape. He adopted a plant based, whole grain diet and his life changed. Here he interviews Dr. Dean Ornish. Dr. Ornish believes, as do I, that the simple choices we make in our lives (such as what we eat and how much we exercise) can make a big difference.

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Living Purposefully

I recently discovered Dax Shepherd’s podcast called Armchair Expert. The first two episodes I listened to were the episodes where he interviews his wife, Kristen Bell (KB). She’s clearly an evolved human. Meaning, she’s done self-work to get to a place where she isn’t reacting. Instead, she comes across as introspective and thoughtful.  She’s purposefully living, or so it appears. There’s a portion of the podcast where she and Dax are discussing their differences in responding to situations around them. KB states that, unlike her husband who wants to essentially flick off someone who cuts him off in traffic, she asks herself what might be happening to or going on for that person to cause him to be a jerk and cut her off. She postulates that perhaps his mother died the previous day, perhaps he is rushing to the hospital to not miss the birth of a child. Her point being, we never know what is going on in someone else's life so why not give them the benefit of the doubt. This seems so simple and rides the “let’s just all be kind to each other” kind-of wave. But this notion that something deeper or more complicated might be going on to cause someone to act in a-not-so-nice way really caused me to pause.

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The Ear of the Hippo, An essay by Carolyn Grant

Death can be complicated, abrupt, swift and shocking. Death due to cancer can be devastating but simultaneously a relief (our loved one is no longer suffering). As caretakers of those with cancer, death and loss is sometimes part of the journey. And with any loss, comes grieving. Just as there is no single way in which loss is defined, there is no one trajectory that defines the path of those grieving. Grief can be messy and complicated yet also something that ties us together. Grief is an emotion that all humans, regardless of race, religion or nationality will come to know in a lifetime. Carolyn’s piece is a personal story of loss but reflects the broader breath of grief. The Ear of the Hippo is eloquent, honest and relatable. I am humbled and proud she chose to share it here. 

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Gifts; what to give when someone is diagnosed with cancer

When someone you love is diagnosed with cancer you want to help. There are so many ways to help but it’s sometimes hard to know what kind of help is going to be the most impactful. There is the “let me pick up your kids after school” help. There is the, “I am bringing over several frozen meals to have when you need something for dinner” help. Sometimes that kind of hands-on help isn’t possible, but you can still let your loved one know you care. I have several suggestions for gifts you can give your loved one affected by cancer to let them know you are supporting them and thinking about them even if you cannot always be there physically.

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Essential Oils for Cancer Warriors and Caregivers

Clia Tierney is a beloved friend but she is also a Transformational Coach, Yoga and Mindfulness Instructor and wellness advocate. Clia and I recently went to on a yoga retreat together and little did I know that Clia was going to show up with her arsenal of essential oils. It was something I knew nothing about. But at every turn, for every minor problem I had, Clia had an essential oil to offer up. I was very intrigued. I purchased a diffuser and several oils when I got back from our trip. I have the diffuser in my office and I turn it on every morning. I diffuse lavender, peppermint or various citrus oils. It feels like the right way to start my day and helps me to feel awake and invigorated. I am hooked. Given all her expertise and wisdom, I asked Clia to share with all of you. There is so much benefit to be derived from essential oils for both patients and caregivers.

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How I Got Ahead of Cancer After Learning About my BRCA2 Mutation By Beth Kuhn

After watching my mom and aunt battle bilateral breast cancer, which included chemotherapy, radiation, mastectomies and all the physical and emotional anguish that accompanies it, I learned that I carry a BRCA2gene mutation. It runs in our family.

I was told that my inherited BRCA2 mutation means that I have up to an 87% chance of having breast cancer in my lifetime and up to an 18% chance of having ovarian cancer. At age 43 I had a naive sense of invincibility when it came to my health. “Athletes don’t get cancer!” I reasoned.  Receiving this news felt like a curse! I was angry!

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Narrative Medicine with Lisa Weinert

Lisa Weinert, aside from being one of my oldest and closest friends, is a literary champion who reminds us of "how important it is for our basic well being to pay attention to the stories that surround us and how we absorb them." Here, in her Narrative Medicine Podcast, she features the eloquent and insightful Rev. Mara Dowdall, who talks about the role of spirituality in medicine and storytelling.  Mara, like Lisa, is one of my dearest friends. Together they are a powerful team. Their discussion will resonate with anyone affected by cancer! Listen and Enjoy!

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I am with you!

I have just finished I am With you; Love Letters to Cancer Patients by Nancy Novak and Barbara K. Richardson. This book felt like a gift, more than any other book on the subject I have read--and I’ve read many.  In this one, Novak and Richardson have compiled letters to cancer patients written by cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers of cancer patients. The missives are practical, emotional, sometimes very poetic and sometimes a rushing stream of consciousness. At the end of each letter, the writer offers a few practical pieces of advice about what helped them along their journey.

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Scanxiety by Hilary Bruce Saltzman

If there is one thing I have seen consistently in caring for patients with cancer, it’s the anxiety that comes with scans. It’s called scanxiety. Even when the cancer is gone, patients must undergo periodic scans to make sure it hasn’t returned. These are the scans that can bring patients to their knees, for so much (EVERYTHING) rides on the results. Nobody captures the whole of the process better than a beloved friend and patient in her piece below. 

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Winning the Genetic Lottery by Megan Peters

My gut told me for years that I could have a genetic mutation predisposing me to cancer. My healthy mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer when she was 37. Although she was the first in our family to have breast cancer, she seemed too young in my mind to have the disease. Insurance would cover my genetic testing when I turned 35, but before I got the chance to schedule that after my birthday, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was quickly given the genetic test, which revealed two mutations.

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A Sister's Story by Becca Bruce Dobberfuhl

Cancer affects those diagnosed with it but it also affects the caregivers of those individuals. In my years practicing oncology I have learned that the caregiver is equally, although sometimes differently, impacted. One thing I love about practicing oncology is that I often get to know patients’ caregivers as well as the patient. I asked one of my patient’s sisters to put into writing how her sister’s diagnosis has impacted her. Her words, written below, are poignant and I think will strike a cord with caregivers, who can relate to the ways in which cancer has impacted her. 

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Hair Loss: A Cancer Conundrum

For years I have been educating people prior to receiving chemo and informing them of the possibility of hair loss. Initially, I was surprised by the depth of emotional reaction to the loss of hair; I didn’t understand why this was such a big deal. Not faced with losing my own hair, I was thinking about it purely from the rational, bigger picture perspective.  I thought “hey, we can cure your cancer with this chemo and that is what is important...hair loss is insignificant if it means that this treatment can save your life!” 

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Donald Abrams, MD: Integrative Cancer Care and Nutrition

I saw Dr. Donald Abrams speak at the annual Society of Neuro-Oncology meeting in November, 2017. He is an Integrative Oncologist who believes in a "whole-person" approach. He believes patients benefit from a western treatment plan but that their plan of care should also include good nutrition, acupuncture and meditation, among other things. As far as nutrition, specifically, he endorses a plant based, whole grain diet with fish. This is the diet to which I try to adhere and the diet that I encourage my patients to adopt.

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“Sugar Feeds Cancer?”… Not quite!

Patients often ask about diet as it pertains to their cancer diagnosis. Many patients come in having heard that “sugar feeds cancer.”  This is a common myth/misperception and it is simply not true. Eating a lot of sugar can contribute to obesity. Obesity is a risk factor that is linked to several types of cancer (Breast, Colorectal, esophagus, pancreatic, endometrial, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder). In addition to being a risk factor for certain types of cancer, obesity has many other negative implications for your health.

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