Because I’ve lived with ovarian cancer for 23 years and survived breast cancer along the way, people often ask me what I would attribute my survival to. When I start listing several things they’ll stop me and insist “But if you could list ONLY ONE THING, what would it be?” Is it luck? The surgeon? The formula of chemo? Nutrition? Is it Divine?
I believe that the synergistic effect of many right things working together, creating a greater and stronger result is what has kept me alive. The total is far beyond the sum of the parts.
This is not a new concept; in fact, it’s the basis for holistic healing and integrative medicine. It is an ancient notion that the mind, body and soul are inextricably connected to health and wellbeing, each affecting the other while supporting the whole.
In his bestselling book, The Blue Zones, National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner explains what he discovered while searching the globe for pockets of extremely healthy, happy aged people. The oldest and evidently happiest on earth are the inhabitants of the Blue Zones. They reach their 100th birthdays at 10 times the rate of Americans and they experience a small fraction of heart disease, cancer and other major illnesses.
Buettner sought to discover the common denominators - what these remote and somewhat underdeveloped communities had learned that made them masters of longevity.
The results are called the “Power9: Secrets to Living Longer, Better.” (To really appreciate this important work, read Buettner’s book, The Blue Zones.)
The Power9 are:
1. Keep moving
2. Know your purpose in life
3. Learn to relax (reduce stress) and “down shift”
4. Stop eating at 80% fullness
5. Eat a plant based diet (as natural as possible)
6. Drink red wine (in moderation)
7. Belong to a positive social network
8. Have some kind of spiritual belief / participation
9. Make family a priority.
Applying these principles to cancer survival was easy for me. Starting with an optimistic outlook and managing negative thoughts, I find happiness and joy more easily. This also helped me strengthen my commitment to the other elements, such as physical activity.