Living Well To Prevent Cancer

Susan Page
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Wednesday - September 21, 2005
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I’ve often said that it’s not dying I worry about, but how I’ll die.

But really, since death is a foregone conclusion, the real question I should be asking is, how will I live before the inevitable happens?

It’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t been touched by cancer. It is indiscriminate. My precious father died of throat cancer, and one of my best and most beloved friends, Fay Myers, of breast cancer. In fact, cancer has passed heart disease and AIDS to become the No. 1 health threat in the U.S. And though, thanks to medical breakthroughs, the diagnosis of cancer is no longer a death sentence, it still forces us to look at how we will live and what life changes might make recovery quicker and life even richer. And, if recovery isn’t forthcoming, how do we make the most of the time we have?

Well-known counselor, author and wellness expert Laura Crites has had both personal and professional experience with how cancer patients deal with their disease.

“In the spring of ‘04 I had the opportunity to have long conversations with about 20 people with cancer, and nearly all of them talked to me about the emotional and spiritual challenges of cancer as well as the hard time their family members were having,” says Crites, who recently founded the Turning Point Cancer Center, which promotes an integrated approach to helping people with their cancer journey.

“I have explored with friends and clients how crises, in general, and cancer, in particular, can offer not only danger but opportunity; perhaps even a turning point, toward a healthier lifestyle, work that has meaning and purpose, forgiveness and healing of relationships.”

Crites remembers her friend and beloved elementary school teacher, Florence Lee. Lee transformed the lives of both her students and their families by teaching Peace Begins with Me, the children’s non-violent values curriculum from the Family Peace Center, and continued to work with abused children even after retiring. Two and a half years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer.

“Even after the diagnosis, Florence dedicated her whole person, mind, heart, body and spirit not only to the journey of healing, but also the journey of living,” says Crites. “She facilitated support groups for battered women at the Windward shelter, checked out videos filled with laughter, spent reflective time on the beach with her children, renewed her commitment to serving others and became an active member of not one, but three cancer support groups.” Florence recently passed on.

While there is no official medical cure for cancer, those involved with the Turning Point Cancer Center believe that steps can be taken to prevent, as well as respond to cancer by living life from a whole person perspective, engaging ourselves mentally.

An important component of that approach is their new Hawaii Cancer Lecture Series. It’s a free-to-the public monthly series providing experts from the Mainland to present research about things such as the role of acupuncture, mindfulness, nutrition, prayer, beliefs, hope and social support in maintaining a healthy state that is resistant to cancer cells.

“Up to 70 percent of people who are diagnosed with cancer seek complementary treatments such as herbs, nutrition, fitness and guided imagery,” Crites explains. “Most of these people don’t tell their doctors about what they are doing. Or, if they mention it, the doctors are frequently unin-formed, disapproving or dismissive of the complementary treatments as meaningless.”

My friend Fay firmly believed she added years to her life by adding alternative therapies, such as aromatherapy, specific diets and spiritual counseling to regular medical treatments.

“Both people with cancer and their families as well as health and medical professionals will hear the same information and be able to discuss openly what might help,” says Crites of the lecture series.

The first lecture, held at the University of Hawaii’s East West Center, Saturday, Sept. 24, is presented by Jeremy Geffen, M.D., author of The Journey through Cancer: an Oncologist’s 7 Level Program for Healing and Transforming the Whole Person. In the morning session, 9-11:30, the focus is prevention, and the afternoon, 2- 4:30, is designed for people with cancer and their families (free), and health and medical professionals ($35 fee and continuing education credits), addresses a holistic response to cancer. For more information, visit

To make the most of your health and that of your loved ones, I hope you’ll find time to attend. After all, it’s how we live and live well that counts.

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