Early in her career, Kelly Turner, Ph.D., a researcher, lecturer, and counselor in integrative oncology, was stunned to discover that no one was studying episodes of radical remission.
Radical remission cases occur when people with cancer recover against all odds, without the help of conventional medicine, or after conventional medicine has failed.
She became so fascinated by this kind of remission that she spent eight years traveling through 10 countries to learn what factors people from all walks of life were experiencing to have this phenomenon occur.
During her research she uncovered common threads between each of the cases that she believes can help even terminal patients turn their lives around.
“In medical school, western doctors are trained to treat cancer with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. So when a patient heals without those methods, doctors might be amazed and inspired, but there is nothing in their training to possibly explain why that happened. It’s very hard to study something you can’t begin to explain,” she said.
The result of her study is the NY Times bestselling book “Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds,” and an online data site Radical Remission Project , where she is collecting common threads that might help lead to future possible research. The site also offers support to cancer survivors.
Turner found nine key factors that radical remissions survivors employed.
1. They radically changed their diet
After analyzing hundreds of Radical Remission cases one of the most common threads that surfaced was a radical change of diet. The majority of people Turner studied tended to do four things:
• Greatly reduced or eliminated sugar, meat, dairy and refined (processed) foods
• Greatly increased their vegetable and fruit intake
• Ate organic foods
• Drank filtered water
Turner advocates taking small steps toward your new anticancer diet, such as eliminating one type of food at a time while adding one new healthier alternative. This will help you feel as though you are exploring new alternatives and less like you are depriving yourself.
2. They took control of their health
Radical Remission survivors look at healing from a different perspective than other cancer patients. They see that taking control of their own healing isn’t just a good practice, but actually essential to the healing process, Turner said.
These survivors are proactive participants with their medical team (even annoying at times) and tend to research new information they actively share with their recovery team.
A second aspect of taking control is being willing to analyze your life and make changes even if those changes are time consuming or emotionally difficult, she said.
3. They followed their intuition
The survivors Turner studied believe their bodies have a natural instinct to know what it needs to heal. “Your body can often let you why you got sick in the first place,” she said.
“That’s why Radical Remission survivors think it’s vital to check in with your intuition before making any sort of healing plan.” This is a belief that smacks against typical Western medicine thinking, in which patients generally aren’t part of the treatment plan.
If you would like to have a better connection with your innate intuition, Turner suggested setting aside daily relax time where you can listen to calming music, daydream or meditate.
4. They used herbs and supplements
The most popular reason Turner has heard for why Radical Remission survivors and alternative healers turn to herbs and supplements is to strengthen their immune system. They believe that to get rid of cancer you have to change the environment that allows the cancer to survive.
They also use herbs and supplements to detoxify their bodies from the chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, viruses, parasites and other toxins that have become part of our everyday world.
“The main difference between chemotherapy and vitamin or herbal supplements is that most chemo is designed to kill the cancer cells, while most supplements are designed to strengthen the immune system so that it can [naturally] remove cancer cells,” Turner wrote.
If you are a cancer patient undergoing traditional medical treatment, talk to your medical team before starting any herbal or supplement regime to ensure that it won’t conflict with your prescription medications.
5. They released suppressed emotions
During her research, Turner discovered that Radical Remission survivors believe that illness is a blockage on either the physical, emotional or spiritual level of our beings. Health can only be achieved when individuals have a state of unrestricted movement on all three levels.
To put it another way, modern lifestyles can be cesspools of stress, heavy thoughts and negative emotions that can weaken the immune system and bring about illness, from the common cold to cancer and heart disease.
Releasing these suppressed emotions can be difficult for some people, but discarding old emotional baggage can boost the immune system and increase feelings of happiness.
6. They increased positive emotions
Researchers know positive and negative emotions have immediate and powerful connections between the mind and body, albeit opposite effects.
Positive emotions lower blood pressure, heart rate and the stress hormone cortisol. They improve blood circulation, deepen our breathing and help the body to naturally improve our immune systems.
“This is not to say that you have to feel 100 percent happy all the time, because that’s impossible, especially when you have cancer. Instead, the people I’ve studied tried their best to feel happy, joyful or grateful for at least 5 minutes a day. Even 5 minutes will flood your entire blood stream with immune boosting hormones,” Turner said.
7. They embraced social support
Nearly all the survivors Turner studied say that the love they received from others when they were sick was instrumental in healing their bodies.
Turner said that people who receive love from others, be it from friends and family or a support group, tend to heal more quickly than their lonely counterparts.
Likewise, people who receive physical touch -- hugging, an arm around the shoulder, cuddling or a pain-relieving massage -- have a more successful healing process than lonely people.
8. They deepened their spiritual connection
Although religion can provide a great comfort to some, having a spiritual connection doesn’t necessarily mean being part of any religious order.
Rather, the survivors Turner interviewed describe spiritual energy as a “simultaneous physical sensation and an intense emotion” of bliss, peace and warmth from head to toe.
“One idea related to spiritual energy that is consistent in my research is the notion that humans are primarily spiritual beings with temporary physical bodies. When it comes to healing cancer, this idea becomes important when it influences someone’s treatment. If you believe the spiritual energy inside us needs just as much care as the physical body, you will look [for treatment] beyond the physical,” Turner wrote.
9. They had strong reasons for living
Among the people Turner researched around the world, another common thread they had is what she initially called the “‘I don’t want to die’ attitude.”
Then she realized something important. It’s not that the survivors didn’t want to die, but rather that they wanted to live, a subtle, yet important distinction.
People who want to live tend to see their existence as having a calling, exercise creativity in its many forms, and feel they have a reason to live. Studies show that when cancer patients have strong reasons to live, this may indeed help them live longer.
In addition to her specialized research focus of the Radical Remission of cancer, Dr. Turner holds a doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley in the area of complementary medicine.
She provides one-on-one integrative cancer consultations to cancer patients who are interested in integrating complementary medicine approaches with their Western oncology treatment.
Radical Remission: When Terminal Cancer Vanishes, Pt. 2. Dr. Oz. Video available online
Radical Remission: Nine Key Factors That Can Make A Real Difference. Kelly A. Turner, 2014. 1st Edition. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-226875-4
Radical Remission from Cancer: 9 Keys to Healing. The Doctor Weighs In.
Reviewed December 8, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith