As a prostate cancer survivor who chose to forgo conventional treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery), I am constantly looking for new books and information about the art and science of healthy living. These resources help me stay current about the ever-evolving perspectives on cancer, healing, and becoming a vibrantly healthy person. As a cancer survivor, people regularly ask me to recommend books when someone they love has been recently diagnosed. The first book I suggest is David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A New Way of Life. I am not the only one who feels strongly about this book. With over a million copies sold worldwide, Anticancer is the #1 best selling book on cancer in the world.
According to Daily News Central, “There are three groups of people who should read this book: people who have cancer now; people who have had cancer in the past; and everyone else.”
Because Servan-Schreiber has been both a physician and a two-time brain cancer survivor, he understands this disease from both sides of the patient-physician divide. From this unique vantage point, he is able to tear the Band-Aid off the wounds of a sick society whose diet, lifestyle, and exposure to the toxic substances has paved the way for an estimated 1.6 million new cases of cancer in the United States in 2011. According to the American Cancer Society, half of American men and one third of American women will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lives.
The author also understands the limitations of Western Medicine, and how placing our capacity to heal entirely in the hands of another human being (or even a group of highly trained physicians) robs us of our vitality. As the author puts it, “passivity creates a culture of hopelessness.”
After his second brain cancer diagnosis, Servan-Schreiber embarked on a quest to examine his own diet, exercise, stress, and level of happiness to see if there was a connection between these lifestyle factors and the recurrence of his illness. This personal health inventory quickly led to an analysis of the norms of our unhealthy culture and how these daily practices contribute to the global cancer epidemic. The results of this inquiry form the foundation of Anticancer.
This book goes beyond conventional treatments to discuss diet, exercise, stress reduction, disempowering emotions, meditation, and environmental pollution—topics normally reserved for Naturopathic physicians and talk therapists. One of the tenants of this book, however, is to examine “normal” and determine whether our common practices are good for us or not.
Anticancer is a toolbox of empowering information about the prevalence of this disease, the diet and lifestyle factors that foster its growth, and what we as individuals can do to reverse the rising tide of cancer and regain our healthy birthright.
Servan-Schreiber strikes a balance between modern evidence-based western medical science and healthy living practices that predate our supersized post-industrial world. The author provides sobering information about state-of-the-art research that reveals what a dramatic impact diet and lifestyle have on our health. Here are just a few examples: the spice turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, and stone fruits (fruits with a pit) all contain potent cancer fighting properties; consuming processed foods that contain added sugar and high fructose corn syrup is perhaps the biggest evil of the standard American diet; feeling hopeless or grief stricken has a measurable impact on developing cancer; your immune system thrives on vigorous forms of exercise like martial arts, cycling, and running; and daily meditation undercuts cancer’s agency.
In a very real way, Servan-Schreiber’s approach to health and healing is the model upon which Bartlett’s Integrated Health Journal was based. Whether we’re talking about cancer, heart disease, or other health problems, radical healing is possible, but it requires a knowledgeable plan and the willingness to see it through. Fortunately, most of the changes Servan-Schreiber recommends feel good, taste good, and are easy to make.
As a doctor and a two-time brain cancer survivor, Servan-Schreiber has the authority—and more importantly, the humanity—to connect with his readers on an intellectual and emotional level. With the skill of a medical scientist and the compassion of someone who has had his world turned upside down by cancer, Servan-Schreiber weaves together major scientific research, clinical observations, and anecdotes of miraculous healing to confirm the growing belief that cancer is a preventable and treatable disease. However, as the author painfully points out, not everyone survives cancer, and in order to beat it, there’s a good chance you’ll have to swim against the tide of prevailing misconceptions, as well as your own beliefs about health and healing.
Anticancer: A New Way of Life presents readers with a kind of hope that is more than a campaign promise or an Internet sound bite. Had I known and applied the information contained in this book 20 years ago, I doubt I would have developed cancer. While I cannot turn back time, I can recommend this book to you with the hope that it will do for you what it did for me.
I also find the Anticancer Web site a rich resource, complete with articles and blog posts about recent cancer research—plus videos, podcasts, and interviews with the author. The only challenge with the site is the “Essential Anticancer Guide” slide show plays too fast, and I couldn’t figure out a way to slow it down.
Sadly, David Servan-Schreiber passed away from malignant brain cancer on July 24, 2011. He was 50 years old. The Los Angeles Times reported Servan-Schreiber as saying, “I am convinced that ‘Anticancer’ has played an important role in the fact that I survived cancer for 19 years when the first diagnosis gave me only six at the most.”
David’s spirit lives on in courageous cancer survivors everywhere who have picked up his torch and carry it now bravely forward.
David Servan-Schreiber: Visionary, pioneer, hero; he will be greatly missed.
For more articles about cancer, click here.
About the author: Mark Saunders is Bartlett’s publisher and editor. He has written hundreds of articles for dozens of newspapers and magazines including The Denver Post and Water Efficiency magazine—focusing on sports, fitness, and water issues. In addition, he has also been the editor in chief of VeloPress and sports editor of the Colorado Daily newspaper. For the past 14 years, he has been teaching journalism & creative writing.