Wednesday, May 18, 2011

From Cancer Patient to “Respant” (Responsible Participant) by Bernie Siegel, MD

This blog is posted with permission of cancer pioneer, author of Love, Medicine and Miracles (and many other books and CDs), and Emerald Heart Advisor Dr. Bernie Siegel. This somewhat shortened version is a one borrowed from The Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. To read the entire article and others, please visit Bernie at To view more posts on the EHCF's blog, please visit

Enjoy, this is a powerful post.

Elyn Jacobs, Director, The Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation

From Cancer Patient to “Respant” (Responsible Participant)
by Bernie Siegel, MD
Unfortunately doctors and health professionals, in general, do not study success. We are far more likely to consider an unexpected recovery to be due to the treatment or a spontaneous remission. However, I have learned from my experience with patients and by asking them, “Why didn’t you die when you were supposed to?” that they always had a story to tell.
By speaking up and becoming a character or problem patient you become identified as a person and not by your room number or disease and, therefore, are far less likely to have a fatal or non-fatal medical error made while being cared for. The word patient derives its meaning from submissive sufferer. That is not a good thing to be when hospitalized or receiving medical treatment of any kind. You need to be a respant, or responsible participant if you want to heal and survive.

We now know from studies how one’s emotions and personality affect survival rates. I was criticized years ago for speaking about many things; no one had researched because no one believed they made sense, which are now scientific. Simple things like laughter affecting the survival of cancer patients and loneliness affecting the genes which control immune function are now proven to be true by studies. The fact that women live longer than men and married men live longer than single men with the same cancers, is not about female hormones or sleeping with them, but about relationships and meaning in your life. Survival behavior and an immune competent personality are not an accident or luck.

…When people have a sense of meaning in their life, express anger and emotions appropriately in defense of themselves, ask for help from family and friends, participate in their health care decisions, say no to what they choose not to do, find time to do what they enjoy and to play, use their feelings to help them to heal their lives and do not live a role but an authentic life they will always do better than expected. I would add that a spiritual faith and not seeing the disease as God punishing them also plays a role, as well as, their desire and intention to survive. Disease is a loss of health, not punishment, and your health is to be looked for as you would seek to find your lost car keys.
Difficult patients do not die when they are supposed to. Statistics do not determine their outcome or results. Those with inspiration who transform their lives and rebirth themselves give their bodies live messages and the body then does the best it can for them. Our bodies love us but if we do not love our life and bodies it sees illness and death as a way to be free of our afflictions… When you let an MD, or Medical Deity, determine whether you live or die you are giving away your power. I have seen people, whose hope was taken away by doctors,….go home, climb into bed and die. I have also seen others get damn angry at their doctors and go on to survive for many years or be cured of their disease.

You have to start with a belief in yourself and faith in all the things you incorporate into your life and choose as therapy. I know people who have left their troubles to God and been cured of cancer. A patient of mine, who was a landscaper, after surgery refused treatment for his cancer because it was springtime and he wanted to go home and make the world beautiful before he died. He lived to be ninety-four and became my teacher…

….When patients become empowered they do not just respond from their intellect but use their intuition too. When you are submissive and let others prescribe for you, you are in trouble…
Last but not least one must also choose the therapy you believe in and you can reprogram your mind and body through guided imagery if there are any conflicts. I know of a case where, after repairing the radiation therapy machine, the radioactive material was not replaced. So for one month people were not being treated and yet the radiation therapist did not know this until their routine inspection of the machine was done a month later. He was telling me how terrible he felt about not treating anyone for a month when I said, “You’d have to be an idiot to not know you weren’t treating anyone. So obviously people had side effects and their tumors shrinking because they thought they were being treated.” His response, “Oh my God you’re right.”
…Patients need to be respants and keep their power and feel free to change doctors and criticize them in a constructive way. The best doctors are criticized by patients, nurses and family. Why? Because they do not make excuses and learn from their mistakes. So love yourself, take responsibility for and participate in your life and state of health. This is not about avoiding dying but about living and its beneficial side effects.

Elyn Jacobs

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worried About the Side Effects of the Pill? You Should Be.

The use of oral contraceptives invites a host of side effects, but perhaps breast cancer was not one of the highlighted risks mentioned by your doctor. Scientists have connected the use of birth control pills to a higher risk for breast cancer for many years. An association between estrogen and increased risk of breast cancer has led to a continuing debate about the role birth control pills play in developing breast cancer. Research suggests that some cancers depend on naturally occurring sex hormones for their development and growth, so logic would say that more hormones are not a good idea. The NCI openly acknowledges the hormonal connection between birth control pills and HRT and cancer. However, the real question is why are they not talking about the fact that both oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy are known to be carcinogenic, and are known to cause cancer in humans?

On Sunday, I had the pleasure of meeting with Kathleen Ruddy, breast cancer surgeon and Founder of the Breast Health & Healing Foundation. Kathleen shared with me her knowledge regarding the connection between BCP’s and cancer.

The following is a summary of our discussion on this topic:

In 2005, after reviewing the world’s literature on oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, the IARC, a branch of the WHO, declared both to be Group I Carcinogens, known to cause cancer in humans. Specifically, birth control pills cause breast cancer, especially when they are used prior to a woman’s first full-term pregnancy (as they most often are) – in which case, they increase the risk of premenopausal breast cancer by more than 40%. Every day, an estimated 100 million women use the pill, excreting (via urine) into our shared environment 30% that is still biologically active. This is equivalent to just dumping 30 millions pills into the water supply every day. Therefore, the users of the pills are at increased risk from carcinogens, but so are the rest of us.

To read a summary of the IARC report, with reference to the full 200+ page document, please go to this link:

Read more:

Elyn Jacobs
The Breast Health and Healing Foundation is the only non-profit organization whose specific mission is to discover the causes of breast cancer.
Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc. and a breast cancer survivor. She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Today I have the pleasure of sharing a guest post by Tami Boehmer,cancer survivor and author of From Incurable to Incredible, a must read for anyone affected by cancer.

Hope … it’s one four-letter-word that should be spoken more often. For someone with cancer, especially metastatic cancer, I believe it’s more effective than chemotherapy or radiation. But it wasn’t until recently that hope became a mission for me.
In February 2008, I was desperate for hope. I had just learned that after five years of being in remission from stage II breast cancer, it had come back in the lymph nodes in my right armpit and liver. All of a sudden, a hopeful prognosis turned sour. In my heart, I knew not to ask about my statistics. I knew they were awful, but my spiritual coach urged me to ask to see what I was facing.
So we went down to MD Anderson, the world-renown cancer center, for a second opinion. The oncologist scooted her chair up to my husband Mike and me and told us, “You could live 2 years or 20 years, but you will die of breast cancer.” I’ve since heard a lot worse from doctors, some who think 20 years, even 10 years, is an unrealistic expectation. But I became angry on our ride home and was determined to prove her wrong. After all, she just met me. How did she know how long I had to live?
Luckily I had mentors like Bernie Siegel who decades ago coined the term, “exceptional cancer patient.” I learned there was a lot more to healing than medical science can explain. Stories of these patients were the most powerful things I took away from his book, Love, Medicine and Miracles. These patients had hope, faith and determination. They didn’t give up and neither would I. After all, I had my wonderful husband and a daughter, who was eight at the time.
So I started down my path using everything in my arsenal—from a healthy, whole-food diet void of sugary foods to prayer and visualization. Knowing stress contributes to cancer growth, I decided to take leave of my job and focus on getting Tami well.
Yet fear and loneliness crept in and I felt I needed to do something meaningful. I had spent my career in public relations, ironically in the health care field, and loved writing inspiring stories about people the organization had helped. I desperately needed to hear about metastatic cancer survivors who were doing well and decided more of these stories needed to be shared.
After months of overcoming self-doubt, I finally began interviewing people whom I called “miracle survivors” and began a blog by that name In June 2010, I released From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds, featuring 27 stories of people around the country. In the book, I share what I found to be common attributes of these amazing people: attitude, perseverance, faith, purpose, proactivity, and support. It has been an amazingly healing experience for me. With each story I heard, I became hopeful if they could overcome this tricky disease, so can I. Many people who visit the blog and read the book tell me they feel the same way.
I feel extremely blessed and that I am fulfilling my higher purpose. In almost every way, I feel healthier and happier than ever before. Indeed, hope is a wonderful four-letter word.

About the Author

After being diagnosed with a metastatic breast cancer recurrence at age 45, Tami Boehmer began interviewing survivors nationwide who survived and thrived years beyond what medical science predicted. Tami compiled these inspirational stories into her book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds. You can learn more about her book, as well as valuable information on healing the body, mind and spirit; on her Web site and blog

Elyn Jacobs

Empowerment is the Key to a Successful Journey

The following is a guest Blog I wrote for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation:

“You have cancer.” Three of the most dreaded words you can hear from your doctor. Your world has changed and you feel a loss of control. A moment ago you were a student, parent, wife, maybe even a doctor. Now, suddenly, you are a patient. In the ensuing panic, disbelief, fear, and confusion you have to make decisions. But you don’t feel like a patient. Maybe accepting the role of patient is unsettling to you. You are not just a patient, someone who is expected to passively accept the treatment plan being offered, you are a person. Being a passive participant in your care is a recipe for disaster. As an empowered individual, you can take the path of action and self-advocacy; you can be part of your treatment team.

Empowerment is essential in the fight against cancer. It can help you to successfully navigate the cancer journey. Every individual is different and every situation is different. Knowing your options and obtaining the necessary information is critical in order to make the right choices for you, for your cancer. The right plan and the right team can make all the difference in mortality as well as in quality of life.

You have more options than you think when choosing a treatment plan. Conventional (allopathic) medicine offers surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and other medical interventions to battle cancer. For many, this is the route to take. For others, surgery may be acceptable, but radiation and or chemotherapy either are not an option or are not acceptable to the patient. Some will take the integrative approach, combing conventional with alternative therapies. Massage, acupuncture, nutritional therapy and other treatments associated with complementary medicine can support patients during their journey, and more and more allopathic cancer facilities are incorporating integrative medicine into their programs. Still others will choose to use only alternative methods. The important thing is to choose what feels best to you. Keep in mind that within these methods, there will be further decisions to make, for example which of the surgeries available would be best or which alternative treatment would be the most effective and tolerable. Information is power and is necessary to a successful outcome.

Finding the right team is equally important. Institutions and doctors often have very different approaches to treatment, as well as different personalities. Be sure that your team understands your goals, limitations, fears, and questions. I cannot stress this enough. You deserve the “A Team”; you need the “A Team”, so find it. I recently had a client come to me post-surgery. She had a huge scar for a surgery that should have been very minor. However, her doctor had one mission, that being to remove the cancer. I know of many doctors who could have operated on her with minimal battle scars. If life after cancer, including cosmetic appearance, is important to you, you must be proactive in discussions with your team.

The cancer journey is not an easy one, but there are many wonderful doctors who can get you to the path of recovery. Just because a team or treatment has worked for others, make sure the plan is working for you. Teams work together. If you find it hard to communicate with your team, or are not getting results, fire them and find a new one. You owe it to yourself to get it right the first time.

Elyn Jacobs

Emerald Heart guest Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc., a breast cancer survivor and cancer empowerment coach. Elyn helps women diagnosed with cancer navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life. Her informative and helpful blog is enthusiastically read by many, and we are delighted to share her important words of experience and wisdom.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Too Busy to Schedule Annual Exams? Think Again

I know, annual exams are time consuming, and for someone who is in or has gone through treatment for cancer, routine exams may feel like just one additional burden. However, anyone who has faced cancer or any life-changing condition knows that prevention and early detection are critical. We also know that some issues don’t always present themselves with symptoms and many are often difficult to diagnose. We know that there is cross-over detection when you see more than one doctor (i.e. your ob-gyn may discover something your internist may have missed, dermatologist might see something one of your other doctors missed…you get the idea). Likely you feel compelled to put off these exams. I like all of my doctors; I just prefer to spend my time elsewhere. However, I urge you to make and keep those appointments.

I was scheduled to see my Ophthalmologist in March, but gave my appointment to my son as he wanted to get new glasses and I wanted his eyes checked first. I rescheduled for a month later. After my routine exam, the doctor tells me, “Okay, the good news is that your vision hasn’t changed. However, we need to talk”. I never like to hear these words from any doctor. He proceeds to tell me that last year I was at medium risk for Acute Glaucoma and that now my risk has elevated to high. He tells me that AG is somewhat common in people who are very farsighted (has to do with angles, I will spare you all the details here). He proceeds to tell me that I could live for 100 years and never suffer an attack. The problem is there is no way to know which of the patients with this problem will suffer an attack. However, if I did this would be a medical emergency, and if I did not get proper medical treatment immediately I would suffer complete and irreversible loss of vision. The room goes quiet. I had no symptoms as there are few. The warning sign for an attack is you wake up during the night in excruciating pain and need to rush to the ER. He explains the preventive procedure, that this is a laser procedure and is mostly risk-free. I ask him when I need to do this surgery. He says there is no rush, just don’t leave town and don’t use any form of antihistamine as this could trigger an attack. I tell him I suffer terribly with allergies and go away most weekends. I schedule the appointment for the following week. I will need to come back for the second eye; they don’t do both at the same time, just in case. Humm….I think, I thought this was risk-free. A gentle reminder that there is a language barrier between patients and doctors.

I am happy to report that two procedures later, I have my vision. I am not a believer in “what if’s.” They have no purpose in life except to add excess worry and fear into one’s life. However, I am once again reminded that life and its gifts are not to be taken lightly. Today, I made an appointment with my oncologist, just to say hello—

Elyn Jacobs

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Window from Heart to Heart

I’m excited to share a special guest post by Sue Memhard, founder of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. The Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation supports women in holistic/integrative cancer care. This post is a reprint of her post on Miracle Survivors*. Thank you, Sue and Tami for sharing this wonderful post.

 By all medical standards, my being here is a miracle. Since early 2009 I’ve been on a crash course in miracles beginning on my 60th birthday, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer again.
I was a two-time survivor (16 and 14 years prior), and had each time undergone surgery, chemotherapy, and complementary treatments of supplements, diet change, and spiritual work. My oncologist each time directed me to stop the chemo, as it made me seriously ill, and I declined recommended radiation. Nevertheless, I survived for 14 years.
However, the chemo made me increasingly susceptible to lingering respiratory infections, chronic low energy, mysterious immune and neurological dysfunctions, generalized suppressed health…. and later, severe chemical sensitivity. This time, I knew that surgery and chemo were not options for me: it was unlikely that I would survive the surgical anesthesia.
While I was considering what to do, the cancer quickly became very advanced. In early June, husband Jim and I abruptly flew across the country for me to begin intensive treatments with a holistic & powerful energy healer. Gradually, I began to feel stronger. The treatments, in addition to dietary changes, daily Kundalini yoga, an herbal program, spiritual work and supportive acupuncture; began to have an effect.  Miracles began to happen.
We moved into a hotel for four months while Jim went back to Massachusetts to collect our loyal old dog, pack up our house, and wrap up our long-time New England lives. While he was gone, a wonderful hotel staff shopped for food and drove me to my daily appointments
We were spending down our modest life savings, and my husband was out of work. While costing a fraction of a conventional, insurance-covered treatment regime, my daily out-of-pocket treatments and supplemental interventions were crushingly expensive. I spent all free time researching cancer organizations for financial help.
Repeatedly I heard: there was no help available unless an individual was doing chemotherapy or radiation.
My treatments were saving my life, and healing my soul. They cost far less than chemotherapy or radiation. I deeply wanted to live. But no help was available.
 A year later, much stronger and still healing, I decided to start The Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation to help other women (there are thousands) who seek to enhance or extend their lives with the help of holistic, or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) cancer interventions. Our vision: that all women can afford to pursue healing with dignity, hope and grace. 
It’s my passion, and my purpose. Please visit us at We’re a year old now, and we welcome your support. 
May you be blessed with healing, happiness and light. Sue
"There's a window that opens from heart to heart"  --Rumi

Sue was inspired to start Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation by her own challenges paying for holistic treatment for her cancer. Sue is an internationally collected painter, and she is selling her art to pay for her treatments. To view Sue’s art, please visit:

*To view more on Tami’s blog, please visit

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cancer? Find the Right Team

Cancer treatment is not one-size-fits-all. You wouldn’t go to a community hospital for cancer surgery, nor would you go to a cancer center for hemorrhoid removal. Further, all cancer centers are not alike; each has a different philosophy, a different culture, a different specialty. It’s all about choosing the right facility and the right team for your cancer.

Sandy, a patient with stage III colon cancer, came to me a few months ago, wanted me to go with her to see her surgeon. The surgeon was very nice and she felt comfortable with him. However, it was very obvious that this doctor did not specialize in colon cancer. I begged her to let me take her to a specialist. After meeting the specialist, she immediately realized she had almost made a huge mistake, possibly the biggest mistake of her life.

Maggie, diagnosed with stage 0 breast cancer, went to a prominent cancer facility for a lumpectomy. When she woke up, she had a wound from nipple to underarm. Such drastic surgery was completely unnecessary for her type of cancer. A small, discreet incision would have allowed for complete removal of the tumor and for clear margins. She came to me distraught. Why did this happen? She chose the wrong team. Her team focused on only one thing, removing the cancer; they overlooked the fact that she was a young woman with a long life to live. I wish she had come to me before she made that fateful decision. Some might say, but why do you care what you look like, you have cancer! Because there is life after cancer, that’s why, and it is most often completely unnecessary to come out of it looking like a train wreck.

When I was diagnosed, I went to two prominent cancer specialists. One was lovely, but I felt I would be getting “my mother’s mastectomy”. I wouldn’t buy an out-dated cell phone and I certainly wouldn’t accept outdated cancer surgery. The second asked me if I wear evening gowns or bathing suits. Why? It was possible to perform my bilateral mastectomy from underneath the breast instead of from the side or through the middle. I researched this doctor, found out he had performed more mastectomies than any other doctor in NYS. If you are lucky enough to see my breasts, you would challenge the fact that I had surgery! I wanted a doctor who uses cutting edge thinking, someone who continues to learn new ways to perform surgery. If your doctor is not open to such discussions or dismisses your questions as frivolous, find a new team. If you are diagnosed with cancer, you need to find the specialist who is best for your type of cancer and for your needs. You owe it to yourself to get it right the first time.

I am a cancer coach; I help women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and educate about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. I am passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Elyn Jacobs

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wake up FDA, Splenda is Not Safe for Consumption

The makers of Splenda, McNeil Nutritionals, would like us to believe that it is the perfect sugar substitute; as sweet as sugar, but contains no calories, does not create a surge in insulin and offers no long-term side effects or long-term health damage. If only this were true. Splenda, (sucralose), has more in common with DDT than with food. The bonds holding the carbon and chlorine atoms together are more characteristic of a chlorocarbon than a salt — and most pesticides are chlorocarbons. Splenda is the trade name for sucralose; a synthetic compound stumbled upon in 1976 by scientists in Britain seeking a new pesticide formulation. Sounds delicious, right? It is true that the Splenda molecule is comprised of sucrose (sugar) — except that three of the hydroxyl groups in the molecule have been replaced by three chlorine atoms. Supporters of Splenda claim that just because something contains chlorine doesn’t mean that it’s toxic. But chlorine is toxic. Chlorine is linked to cancer of the esophagus, rectum, breast and larynx, of Hodgkin’s disease and to atherosclerosis and resulting heart attacks.

Why would the FDA allow a product with proven carcinogens to flood our food supply? Our current regulatory system doesn’t do a good enough job ensuring our long-term safety. The FDA claims Splenda is safe because “it is made from sugar.” Sucralose starts off with a sugar molecule, but that's where the similarity ends. Splenda is not a natural sugar; it is a chemically derived, chlorinated artificial sweetener.

A study published in 2008 found that Splenda reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent, and increases the pH level in your intestines. It's very disturbing that Splenda can destroy healthy intestinal bacteria as these bacteria are absolutely vital for supporting your general health. 80% of your immune system is located inside your digestive tract, which means that your digestive tract is the most important factor in your health. It has been estimated that 90% of all chronic symptoms and chronic conditions are caused in part by poor or declining gut health. What’s even more disturbing is that these studies were done in 2008 and yet Splenda is still considered safe.

However, it gets worse. Splenda also affects a glycoprotein in your body that can have crucial health effects, particularly if you are taking certain medications like chemotherapy or are in treatment for AIDS. Moreover, studies done using animals have found the following issues:

• Decreased red blood cells—sign of anemia
• Increased male infertility by interfering with sperm production and vitality
• Brain lesions at high doses
• Enlarged and calcified kidneys
• Spontaneous abortions in nearly half the rabbit population given sucralose, compared to zero aborted pregnancies in the control group
• A 23 percent death rate in rabbits, compared to a 6 percent death rate in the control group

FDA, are you sleeping? It’s been almost 30 years since aspartame hit the market. The FDA needs to ban Splenda and other artificial sweeteners. They have the power to prevent damage to human health sooner than with NutraSweet, which has damaged the health and the lives of millions of innocent consumers since it was placed in the public food supply in 1982, but when will they catch on? In the meantime, knowledge is power. As an educated consumer, you have the awareness to choose what you and your family will ingest. Artificial sweeteners may affect your health, so why take the chance? Organic agave syrup or Stevia are much better alternatives.

Elyn Jacobs

Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc. and a breast cancer survivor. She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers. She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Read more: