Okay, so the title probably doesn’t seem like a page turner, and to many people, it won’t be. But it was for me. I felt redeemed, I wanted to shout out loud, “I”m not crazy after all.” Here we finally have a book written by a doctor that says cancer can be fought by more than just surgery, drugs, and radiation (aka: slash, poison, and burn). It can also be fought with nutritious food, a calm mind, an exercised body, and a positive outlook. These are all part of the “terrain” he describes throughout the book. I never used the word “terrain,” prior to reading this, but I have spent the last 18 months feeding my body the most nutritious food I can make, practicing yoga, maintaining a stress-free and positive outlook, and exercising every day. In short, doing everything in my power to keep my cancer from returning. What makes this book different from all the other anti cancer books I’ve read in the last year and a half is that he argues for an integrative approach: conventional treatment plus natural treatment. This gives him credibility with the medical community whereas many books that suggest his same natural approach also preach the evils of conventional treatment. So I pursued my own integrative approach: I followed the prescribed treatment and supplemented with my self-prescribed natural treatment. My natural approach was generally met with rolling eyes or quips of “I guess it can’t hurt you, but there’s no evidence to suggest it will help either.” Of course there isn’t, I thought, big pharma doesn’t fund studies of food. So I laughed out loud when Servan-Schreiber says “it’s not financially feasible to invest sums in demonstrating the usefulness of broccoli or green tea because they can’t be patented” (129). Basically everything I learned from “quack” natural books is all in this book: we live in a toxic world; stress is harmful to our bodies; organic fruits and vegetables heal; commercially raised meat and dairy are bad; green tea, tumeric, and flaxseed are good; white flour and sugar are bad; yoga and meditation offer healing power; we can strengthen our bodies to help prevent cancer recurrence. But this is no “quack” natural book. It’s a well-researched, credible approach to integrative medicine by a doctor who is also a cancer survivor (and who did not believe in any of this until he was faced with cancer himself). I will remain forever grateful to the many brilliant doctors who have cared for me, but I will also remain faithful to my resolve that I can take an active role in my future health by practicing a natural, peaceful, and positive approach to life every day. (non-fiction)
Addendum: David Servan-Schreiber died a few weeks ago, about 3 months after I read this book. His death launched me into a tailspin for a few days. He lived his advice—and his brain tumor came back a third time. And it killed him. Where does that leave me? I wondered. I won’t pretend his fate doesn’t rattle my resolve each time I eat another salad and hope that the greens are giving me the power to fight any stray cancer cells that may lurk in my body. But I also take comfort in knowing that he fought off cancer three times, and he lived almost 20 years beyond the discovery of his first tumor. That thought continues to give me strength.