Why do some people survive cancer against all odds when others do not? That question sent Kelly Turner back to school to get her Ph.D.
As a cancer patient counselor, Turner was searching for answers in an effort to help her clients and was angered at the fact that no one had studied this population to determine why many felt they survived. She made a promise to her clients and began a journey that would change her life and the lives of many who continue to benefit from her work.
Turner’s research began with an analysis of 20 “radical remission cancer survivors” for her initial Ph.D. dissertation and grew to a review of 1500 written or published cases and 250 in-depth interviews. Her goal was simple: identify the common factors this group shared. What were they all doing that they believed help them survive?
She identified 75 factors total – from doing headstands to breathing fresh early morning air – and found a total of only 9 that the large majority all shared. And radical remission survivors continue to practice these things today to maintain their health, because most believe that if they stop, their cancer will return.
This is why everyone should read Dr. Turner’s book, Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds.
The factors she identified can be easily practiced and used – in part or in whole – not only for surviving cancer, but also for prevention.
After reading the book, I interviewed Dr. Turner who continues as a researcher, lecturer, and consultant in the field of integrative oncology. She received her B.A. from Harvard and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.
I led with ‘everyone needs to read this book!’ “If people read the book and want to start acting like radical remission survivors as prevention, what they should know is that it cannot hurt, and it might help by strengthening the immune system.” She adds that all can be done at home and are not expensive; herbs and supplements are the only factors that should be overseen by a health care professional.
Before we review the factors, let’s clarify Turner’s definition of when radical remission occurs:
- a person’s cancer goes away without using any conventional medicine; or
- a cancer patient tries conventional medicine, but the cancer does not go into remission, so he or she switches to alternative methods of healing, which do lead to a remission; or
- a cancer patient uses conventional medicine and alternative healing methods at the same time in order to outlive a statistically dire prognosis (i.e., any cancer with a less than 25 percent chance of five-year survival).
Turner states that a little less than half of the people she has studied declined western medicine outright or asked their doctors if they could take a few months to work on certain factors such as stress level and/or diet and then returned with shrinking tumors and improved blood work, thus never needing conventional treatment. The other portion unsuccessfully tried western medicine to the fullest and were sent home with hospice care, yet later recovered on their own.
Of the thousand plus cases published in medical journals, Turner found it odd that none of them reported input from the radical remission survivor themselves. Doctors carefully laid out biochemical changes experienced, but none asked the patients, “Why do you think you healed?” She approached her research as an anthropologist studying a group that had never been studied before asking neutral, open-ended questions in an effort to identify their shared beliefs.
“You can’t move to random controlled studies if you don’t have a hypothesis, and when you find a cohort of people, these most frequent factors become the hypotheses.” She emphasizes that these nine hypotheses are not guarantees but commonalities.
Turner’s qualitative research to identify the most definitive factors that radical remission cancer survivors shared resulted in the following:
- Radically changing your diet
- Taking control of your health
- Following your intuition
- Using herbs and supplements
- Releasing suppressed emotions
- Increasing positive emotions
- Embracing social support
- Deepening your spiritual connection
- Having strong reasons for living
It is important to note that these are not listed in any ranking order and as Turner states, there is no clear winner among these factors.
Radical Remission is an exceptional book. It contains significant science, respects both medical and alternative treatment perspectives, and is engaging and easy to comprehend. Each of the nine chapters delves into a different key factor, reviews the latest scientific research on that topic, tells the story of a radical remission survivor that highlights that factor, and provides a simple list of action steps for readers who wish to incorporate those factors into their lives.
The interesting thing is that Turner did not set out to write a book, but merely a dissertation for her Ph.D. (and research for her clients). The breadth of her work is impressive including a year-long trip around the world that was funded by the American Cancer Society. She traveled to ten different countries and interviewed fifty alternative healers and twenty radical remission survivors. But when all the data was collected and analyzed, her 120-page scientific paper turned out to be too much for her clients to comprehend. “I did this [dissertation] for my patients, yet it wasn’t in a form that they could easily absorb, so in order for me to complete my promise to them, I decided to write a book that they could read from the chemo chair – even with chemo brain. That is why I wrote conversationally.”
Radical Remission is also a life-changing book. As one who already embraces many of these factors, it made me appreciate how good I feel most of the time (which I often take for granted) and to better understand the incredible medical benefits my yoga practice, meditation, close friends and family, and healthy diet have on my body. It also reinforces my desire to get back on track when I fall off.
The process was life changing for Turner as well. “You can’t meet stage-4 cancer survivors who were sent home on hospice to die who turn it around on their own step-by-step, feeling around in the dark for what made them feel better and are here 5, 10, 20 years later…You cannot meet 250 of these people and not be moved to change your own life.”
She feels that her big shift has been mental and emotional; taking care of her stress levels and prioritizing happiness and joy. “I don’t hold anger in my body for more than a second because I know that it is hurting my body. I am much quicker to act with kindness and peace.” She adds that for her, this book is just as much cancer prevention from those who are walking the walk.
We are fortunate that Dr. Turner has written this book to share with her clients and with us. Her work continues through her website RadicalRemission.com which allows anyone the opportunity to share their story or to search for a story based on select criteria (such as type of cancer). Since the publication of her book, hundreds of stories and cases have been added via the website which Turner continues to analyze.
As Dr. Turner states in her introduction:
I hope this book will motivate people to continue searching for additional ways to optimize their health, whether they are looking to prevent cancer, are in the midst of receiving conventional cancer treatment, or are looking for other options because that treatment has done all it can. Most importantly, though, I hope this book will be the start of a much-needed discussion about Radical Remissions, so we can stop ignoring them and start learning about them…After all, where would we be if Alexander Fleming [who discovered penicillin] had ignored the mold in that one petri dish? As history has shown us, studying anomalies is not an unproductive waste of time. On the contrary, studying anomalies has historically led to tremendous breakthroughs – and that’s where the real hope lies.
Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds is available online and at Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert. For more information on Dr. Kelly Turner visit www.Kelly-Turner.com. To submit or search a Radical Remission cancer survivor story, visit www.RadicalRemission.com. Editorial by Lauren Del Sarto, Publisher, Desert Health®.