What if cancer, like so many chronic diseases, is an accumulation of little compromises?
Sometimes cancer has a big, blatant cause—like radiation exposure. Other times the cause is unclear and its inception insidious. Without an obvious etiology, conventional oncology tends to default to badly behaving genes as the cause of malignancy.
Every day, we make choices that either empower our health our hasten its departure. We make little compromises about small matters that do not cause acute harm but may cause cumulative stress on the body.
For some, eating a few cookies every night has negligible health consequences, while for others it’s the fast track to diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
But look deeper: What is the sum total effect of those cookies on the mind, body, and emotions? Does every morsel conjure warm, fuzzy memories of childhood? Or does regret and self-loathing overshadow every sugary bite?
Can contentment be found with one cookie, or has the stress of the day led to binge eating the entire bag? How does this little compromise affect that night’s sleep, the ability to wake rested, and dietary willpower going into the following day of food choices?
It’s not just about the biochemistry of food but our relationship to it, our relationship with ourselves, and all the decisions that brought that food (or processed, foodlike item) to the plate. We metabolize experiences just as much as we do calories.
Lifestyle contributions may not be carcinogens. Sometimes they are subtle, exerting their weakening influence on the body day after day. For a person diagnosed with lung cancer after 30 years of smoking, every cigarette was a little compromise.
Cancer may have a big, blatant environmental cause, but underlying most cancer diagnoses is the essential truth that cancer is a disease of lifestyle. Treating cancer may require heroic measures, but those treatments should not be relied on to cure the effects of living a lifestyle of seemingly minor yet unhealthy compromises.