I read many books. I still enjoy a good novel but these days most of the books deal with health space. I usually choose a book based on the topic, the author and with an intent to learn and extend my knowledge. The space of health is growing so rapidly that it is really difficult to follow everything that is going-on. Even if you read two books with the same thematology they could easily provide a completely new perspective.
What I find though fascinating is that most books, even if highly scientific, give you so much more than just the pure science of the things. You can easily find yourself travelling back in time 100, 200 or more years and being put in places you can not really imagine and triggger your thought process into paths completely new.
One such book is the book from Jason Fung , “The cancer book”, and I would like to ask you to join me in a short journey in the evolution of cancer with a maybe very unexpected but engaging thoughts for our own wellness journey and how our environment is impacting us.
The book starts by describing in a very gripping way the events of the Great Fire of London in 1666 which led to smaller chimney configurations. This meant that little children were sent to clean them. Only seven out of one hunderd children survived in the course of a year. I can’t even imagine what these kids went through but Jason makes a damn good job of travelling us to that time even in the couple of pages he deals with this topic and the consequences to cancer.
But I am drifting away.
The book obviously deals with cancer and in understanding the roots of cancer the author travels once more back in time. Only this time a few million years back. To be exact 3.8 billion years back. At the start of cellural life.
The fight for survival
The cells of that time are still the basis for all modern human cells. These early cells lived in a sea ofnutrients, obtaining food and energy directly from their environment. As long as nutrient were available they survived although always on the edge of extinction. The prime directive of life (as today), was to replicate. But reproduction demands growth, energy and ability to move around.
It took million of years for these single cells to evolve to more complex cells (eukaryotes) that contained organizing features like a nucleus and organelles. This created the first relationship present in all mammalian cells. A relationship between the energy producing mitochondria which have their own DNA, with other organelles. This was the birth of multicellularity and first big jumb in the evolution of life.
This is because single-cell organisms are selfish. They live, gow, breed and do everything by themselves. Their prime directive is their own surival and reproduction. To be successful, a single-cell competes with surrounding cells for resources. But cells working together have a huge advantage over the single cells.
Multi-cells evolved 1.7 billion years back as an aggregation of single-cells and over-time they they built a collaboration which allowed for cells to become specialized, divide labour and grow to bigger more complex organisms. This specialization we find find also in our body. Broadly speaking these are : epithelial tissue, connective tissue, blood, nerves, and muscle.
The era of cooporation
This complexity demands new rules. The cells must learn how to live together, work together and each one depends on others to keep everything working smoothly. On the other hand single cells, are like individuals living alone in the woods. They may do whatever they want. Walk naked if they want! On the other hand multi-cell organisms are like densly populated cities. And in cities there must be rules to govern acceptable behaviors. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual. In return for a few sacrificies of freedom of the individuals the society thrives.
The paradigm of cancer
The journey of the cellular history, which Jason Fung has very eleguantly described as very similar to our current society structure is also the journey of cancer.
Multi-cellular organisms, which have very strict controls and regulate tightly growth. A liver can’t grow on our nose, like it can’t grow to the size of a refrigerator. On the other hand single cells, don’t care as they are not bound to these rules. Single cells want to grow indefinetely. They also want to replicate infinetely and move around as they want. These are the three of the four charecteristics of all the cancer cells. The fourth is the use of glycolysis.
Cancer originates from multi-cells which behave precisely as a single-cell organism. It is like a rebellion, the rules have broken down and everyone is out for themselves.
The cancer rebellion
This is fascinating story of cellular friendship. Cells and organs have become teammates for millions of years now. They still have the single-cell DNA in them but it is in remission, sleeping until something wakes it up.
Imagine training a bear to dance. The bear is a wild animal which has been programmed to behave like a domesticated cat. But if you push too hard and provoke her, you will trigger the wild animal gene with very unpleasant results.
This is how cancer grows. The single-cell genes which are in remission, wake-up when the rules break-down, when the environment pushes the cells over the edge and they have now to fight for their life on the boundaries of society.
Jason Fung, presents in a very convincing way that the soil becomes fertile for cancer, in a state of constant inflammation and irritation, like smoking, where multicell societies are overwelmed, cells are highly damaged and subject to death by a process called apoptosis. Under normal conditions the cells will sacrifice themselves for the better good, but the more fires the body has to fight some cells decide to look after for themselves, with one single aim. Survive at all costs
Our environment is the soil
In the cancer analogy the soil that becomes fertile for cancer to grow is chronic inflammation. A state of injury that persists and makes the right moist environment for the seed to grow.
Let’s flash back to this century, and have a look back to our lives.
Maybe you have pondered about our society structure, maybe not. Maybe you have at times cursed on the number of rules that govern our lives. Maybe sometimes you feel pushed in one direction and the next moment to the other without having any control of what will happen. There are times you might feel very angry with society and how it works or how nothing works. This aggrevates you and in some cases defines who you are and how you behave.
This can be a very dangerous situation when you let you surroundings dictate your emotions and feelings. And it is even more dangerous when this toxicity takes place in your immediate circle and daily life.
And we have all been there at some point in our life. It may be a work we don’t like and we just grind-out day-in day-out and we feel it is eating us inside. Everyone else gets paid better, people get promoted and we are left behind. This is very toxic. And even more toxic is a bad relationship. Fighting or being distant from loving feelings, maybe even feeling empty creates a mindset where it would impossible for anyone to focus on something positive.
At that point, and if you don’t reduce the inflammation, that constant irritation, restore balance in a cooperating environment which helps you and your immediate circle thrive, you will start behaving like a cancerous cell, a single-cell in rebellion looking to burn everything down.
In another recent post, we talked about now waiting for the perfect moment to start your journey and that we need to take that first step. In retrospect, that first step is to clean-up our relationships and be in a supportive environment which allows us to focus, respects our goals and helps us be the best version of ourselves.
I hope this post inspires you to take-on some of the books you have left to dust away on your bookself and let yourself travel in the author’s wonderful journey. In ketOntrack we believe knowledge is power and the best way to equip yourself for achieving any goal you want. Reading is probably also the single most powerful tool (together with sleep) to nurture that creativity side of yours.
It is also important to realise how are environment affects us, our choices and at the end who we are and what we can achieve. Prioritising your well-being means putting yourself in a place where it gives the best chance to succeed. I have coached clients that worked day and night until the point of breakdown. Is that really worth it and at what cost is this justified? One is for sure. Under a state of constant inflamattion, sooner or later there will be a rebellion.