Stress and Cancer
Mothers day is a tough one for me still. My mother died in 2007 from lung cell adenocarcinoma. One day she was an active, hard working 69 year old who was hardly ever sick, the next day she was coughing up blood at her daughters house. Two months later she died in my arms. Sorry to be such a bummer but I really don't get the feeling that folks believe that it can happen to them; And so very, very quickly.
I have watched several friends and family, not to mention reams of animals, also succumb to cancer and I will share with you a pattern that I see again and again and the science that backs up what I have noticed. Everything seems fine, until a major acute stressor occurs or the individual allows stress to suddenly stay in their lives, like an uninvited irritating guest who moves in without asking but you're too nice to kick them out....
My Mom was definately one of these people! :(
She smoked most of her life but otherwise took good care of herself. She was prone to anger or to get emotionally upset easily. (Yes, she was a Wood personality) She had quit smoking three years before her death, had moved to a nice little house in a great community. She was happy. Until she let a family event between my sister and my sisters ex-husband CONSUME her. She was beside herself and obsessed about it day and night. Despite any attempt at helping her to become more rational about it, she ALLOWED it to consume her, and six months later she starts to spit up blood....
A veterinary friend in his 40's, successful, happy and ever so healthy! A P90X fiend! Unfortunately his dad who he adored, came down ill and died a prolonged and horrible death in the hospital right in front of his helpless son's eyes. My friend was so ANGRY about the injustice of his dads passing, so ANGRY at the cruel way he was forced to watch his noble father die slowly, that it consumed him for a year after. I lost my vet friend three years later to lung cancer. This man had led a very healthy life, and a cigarette never touched his lips. Less than a year after his dad died, he was diagnosed, and he fought it in his typical style, with a fight! :)
I could go on and on but that could be quite stressful for everybody.
There are three main immunological stages against cancer to understand
1) The Elimination Stage
2) The Equilibrium Stage
3) The Escape Stage
Stage 1, the elimination stage is when cancer occurs in a body but the body's immune system finds it and immediately destroys it. For example, you get a bad sunburn, some of your DNA gets scrambled in a cell or two on your nose. Your immune system detects and destroys the cells before they even get a chance to get comfy! All is well.
Stage 2, the equilibrium stage is when cancer occurs in a body and the body's immune system finds it, does not destroy all of it, for a myriad of immunological reasons, but keeps it's growth in check. It's the "smoldering stage". The average tumor equilibrium stage in a human is 20 years! You get a sunburn on your nose, some of your DNA gets scrambled, reproduces and now you have a small cluster of cancer cells on your nose. Your immune system recognizes the spot of cancer and keeps it in check, constantly. All is not perfect, but so far, it's under control.
Stage 3, the escape stage is when a collection of cancer cells is allowed to grow and potentially spread despite your immune systems response. Your immune systems response has been finally thwarted. The "oh crap" stage. The collection of cancer cells on your nose can now prosper and will grow and cause local area changes and potentially metastasize to grow elsewhere in your body. If found early it may be surgically removed +/- chemo +/- radiation treatment to attempt to kill the growing cancer.
Stress allows your cancer cells to arrive at stage two or worse stage three.
Stress brings about a degree of immunosupression of which degree you may or may not be able to afford at the time.
I could literally fill this blog with great references. If you are not convinced that your stress can lead you or your animal to a battle with cancer that you may or may not win, I encourage you to continue to read all of the recently unfolding research that is out there.
You can't rid your, or your pets life, of all stressors, but you can select what you allow yourself to get stressed out about and for how long. As for your animal, it is your responsibility to identify and control the types and duration of the stressors, physical, emotional and physiological that may lead them to prolonged immune system disfunction. With the tools of 5 element theory we can know what our individual patterns and responses to stress are and can be. That old way of looking at things can be very helpful! Ok, not so very scientific, but it's a perspective that we can repeat that helps a lot. A great book that I just read on the topic is Hardwiring Happiness, The new brain science of contentment, calm and confidence by Rick Hanson, PhD. So help yourself, to help yourself, and keep calm and stay happy. :)