This episode is the first in a two-part series where Dr. Ron interviews Chris Wark of Chris Beats Cancer. Chris was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer and after having surgery to remove the tumor he opted out of chemotherapy and used evidence-based nutrition and natural, non-toxic therapies to heal.
In this episode, Chris shares his journey back to health, and how he is determined to help people understand all the treatment options available to them after a cancer diagnosis and how they can beat cancer daily through diet and lifestyle choices.
To learn more about Chris and all the ways he is helping people with cancer educate themselves, visit chrisbeatcancer.com
Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor
Disclaimer: The information contained on the Real Health Podcast. And the resources mentioned are for educational purposes only; they are not intended as, and shall not be understood or construed as medical or health advice. The information contained on this podcast is not a substitute for medical or health advice from a professional who is aware of the facts and circumstances of your individual situation. Information provided by hosts and guests on the Real Health Podcast or the use of any products or services mentioned does not create a practitioner patient relationship between you and any persons affiliated with this podcast.
Intro: This is the Real Health Podcast brought to you by Riordan Clinic. Our mission is to bring you the latest information and top experts in functional and integrative medicine to help you make informed decisions on your path to real health.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: Well, welcome everyone to the Real Health Podcast. I’m Dr. Ron Hunninghake and we haven’t been doing podcasts that long, but I’m excited because I’m the chief medical officer here at the Riordan clinic, but the reason I’m excited is, we’ve got Chris Wark on today. So Chris, welcome.
Chris Wark: Dr. Ron. Good to be with you.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: So, hey, let me just tell our audience a little bit about you. I know Chris pretty darn well, but he’s an author, he’s a speaker and a health coach. In 2003, he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. After having surgery to remove his tumor, he opted out of chemotherapy and used evidence-based nutrition and non-toxic natural therapies to heal. And he began sharing his story in 2010 with a mission to inspire people to take control of their health and reverse disease by radically transforming their diet and lifestyle.
So, Chris, I’ve read your book, Chris Beat Cancer. It’s a comprehensive plan for healing naturally, and it was published by the Hay House in 2018 and became a national bestseller as ranked by USA today, the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly. He has since published two more books: Beat Cancer Daily: 365 Days of Inspiration, Encouragement, and Action Steps to Survive and Thrive and the Beat Cancer Kitchen: Deliciously Simple Plant-Based Anticancer Recipes. And so Chris reaches millions of people each year as a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and global health coach through his social media channels and his website, chrisbeatcancer.com. And I was, um, honored to be interviewed by Chris back in 2018 on IV vitamin C and cancer. And Chris, we looked that up, it’s got 50,000 views, so people have taken an interest in the IV vitamin C and thanks to you, more people found out about it. So, hey, it’s great to have you on our podcast.
Chris Wark: Well, it’s, it’s good to be with you. I’m a big fan of you and Riordan clinic. And I can’t believe it’s been three years since I interviewed you that, that’s wild.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: You know, as you get older, things just move faster. And so, uh, and as things grow, you get busier. And so you’ve been a very busy, uh, young man, uh, in the last three, well, actually it looks like the last 11 years things really took off for you.
Chris Wark: Yeah. You know, I, um, I started sharing my story publicly years after my diagnosis. So I waited a pretty long time before I, you know, just even had the thought that maybe I should share my story. Uh, the first few years I was just focused on getting well and surviving. I didn’t have a, you know, a business plan, right? So like, I didn’t plan on writing books or having a blog or making videos or anything. I just wanted to get well, and then once I did, and as the years went by, my confidence grew and my knowledge grew and I realized I have some, you know, this is important. I need to share it with the world. And, uh, then, um, a friend of mine helped me set up a little, you know, a little blog and away I went.
And so, yeah, it has been a really fun, fun ride. It’s what started as a part-time passion, uh, eventually morphed into sort of taking over my whole life. And, um, I just became, what I knew was my mission is to help encourage patients, help educate them, give them, uh, you know, help them look at their situation with, I’d say, cold, rational, you know, analysis versus a fear-based decision-making. And to help them figure out the treatments that really will be beneficial. And, and, uh, to really understand treatments before they say yes to them, because the biggest, I think, challenge for cancer patients is there so much fear, and they’re just rushed into treatment that they don’t understand. And many of these treatments are incredibly harsh and brutal and, uh, ineffective in the long-term and, uh, you know, patients that they just put a hundred percent of their faith, hope, and trust in their doctors, and they don’t educate themselves at all. And, uh, there’s so much out there to understand about cancer and, and survival. And one of the biggest ones is that, um, your diet and lifestyle can make all the difference between survival and depth changes that you make.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: And if people really understood that cancer doesn’t just suddenly appear, uh, we all have cancer cells within us, and very likely they have been incubating so to speak and being managed by our immune systems for decades, and then due to some influence, which we can talk about a little bit later, uh, somehow the cow gets out of the barn and some manifestation, uh, occurs. And when that manifestation is discovered, uh, for some reason everyone starts ringing sirens and bells, like you, you know, this is a fire alarm, we’ve got to get, we’ve got to start treatment right away. And I think the most important thing people can do is take a deep breath and, uh, and stop and survey the situation and start thinking about ‘how did this happen’ and ‘what can I do?’ And certainly take advantage of what modern oncology has to offer, but you don’t have to jump in with both feet as if there is, as if this is an emergency, it’s more of a, a slow disease and it should be, uh, approached from a, from a slow medicine point of view, I think.
Chris Wark: I appreciate that. And that is the same message that I share with the people that are in my audience is, you know, you don’t need to be, you shouldn’t be rushed into treatment that you don’t understand that if you’re, and in most cases, when someone has, it gets a cancer diagnosis, that it’s not life-threatening in the short term, right? I mean, it’s a rare occasion where a tumor is threatening to close somebody’s windpipe or, you know, block their colon completely that could, you know, could be a threat. Um, but in most cases they just have a lump or a bump somewhere. And, uh, that, that idea that you mentioned of stepping back, taking a breath, thinking about, ‘wait a minute, what in my life contributed to this?’
And some of the most powerful information that I came across very early in my journey was I read a book called God’s Way to Ultimate Health by George Malkmus. And he, uh, found out he had colon cancer back in the 1970s. And he had seen a number of people in his life go through treatment and suffer and die. And he decided he didn’t really want to do treatment, and he happened to have a friend who told him he needed to eat a raw food diet and start juicing. And so he just thought, okay, you know, I’ll give it a shot. And, uh, in about a year, his cancer healed, you know? And, and so that one story was a spark for me to take massive action to transform my life. Cause I, I realized the light bulb went off, which was, ‘Hey, the way you’re living is killing you.’ And, uh, and this is not to make people feel like it’s their fault, but the truth, and if you, if you care about someone, you’ll tell them the truth. The truth is that many of our diet and lifestyle choices lead to disease over time: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, many, many chronic diseases. Most chronic diseases are caused by our diet and lifestyle choices. And stress is a big contributor.
And, um, and so the, it’s an empowering revelation because when you realize, oh, wait a second. Well, if I’ve just been, you know, if I’ve been promoting cancer by the choices I’ve been making, I just need to make different choices. I need to eat, eat a different diet that’s healthier. I need to take care of myself. I need to, like, eliminate the toxic stress in my life. And you can’t do it all in one day, but it’s a process. And, um, that’s what I did. I just systematically went through this life-changing process of discovery. And there was a lot of books that I read. There were a lot of, uh, I listened to, you know, I watched some VHS tapes and read a lot of books and listened to cassettes. And like, you know, it was just, I was consuming as much information as I could at the time in January of 2004. And of course into 2005 and then just continuing on even now. Um, but learning as much as I could so that I could, um, make the best decisions for me. And I, you know, I could support my body’s ability to heal. I think that that was the goal.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: Obviously there was a tremendous hunger out there for people to hear this message, uh, for, for it to take off like it has for you. And I, I often thought, you know, uh, you’ve got your chrisbeatcancer.com. I often thought if they, if you could put an exclamation point at the end of that phrase: “Chris beat cancer!” For a lot of people, cancer seems unbeatable. For a lot of people, there is also a sense of ‘what did I do to deserve this?’ And for a lot of people, they wonder ‘why have I been deserted by God?’ You know, have I been that bad of a person, like they’re, they feel guilty about having got this, this, uh, disease that seems so hard to, to beat. And so I think, uh, your message came along when people needed more empowerment in their lives.
Chris Wark: Yeah, it was, it was interesting because I, it’s kind of like the story that you hear often where, you know, a couple of little, uh, young filmmakers make a low budget movie and it turns into a big success, right? Like nobody expected it to happen. I didn’t expect my, my website and my message to get as big as it has gotten at all. And I didn’t realize there were that many people that were desperate for information on nutrition and natural non-toxic approaches to cancer. Um, but once I started, you know, making videos and writing articles, it just, just became obvious. You know, just people just started finding me, you know, on the internet. And, uh, and my audience grew pretty quickly, um, over the years. And so, uh, but it’s true. Like, you know, I think it’s not hard to understand why, because, uh, you know, the first chemotherapy drugs were introduced in the 1950s, the war on cancer was, uh, announced in 1971.
And in that time in 60 plus years, um, the death rate for cancer has only come down about 5%. And so, so there’s a lot of people out there that have seen their, their friends and family members, loved ones, uh, get diagnosed, go through treatment, and not survive. And so then they’re either very, what I call cancer conscious, right. They really, we are serious about prevention and they don’t want to get cancer cause they’ve seen it, someone they care about, uh, succumb, or they do get a diagnosis. And now they’re really serious about doing something, approaching it in a different way. Right? Cause they’re like, ‘well, I saw, I saw what the doctors did to, you know, to my mom. I like, I’m not going through that. Like what’s out there. What else can I do?’ And, um, so that’s, that’s the attitude, I think, that more than more cancer patients have, and it’s obvious because so many clinics now are becoming more integrative, integrative oncology is growing. Uh, you know, there’s, uh, the chasm between holistic health and the natural health world and the conventional world is, is the gap is closing.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: It’s collapsing, yes.
Chris Wark: Yeah. Which is a very good thing. I, you know, I’m not anti, uh, conventional doctors or anything like that. Um, but I have a lot to say about, you know, the medical system, which is, uh, it is one that is incredibly hard on physicians. Uh, you know, physicians have one of the highest rates of suicide of any profession because it’s just so darn difficult. It’s, uh, you know, it’s not like it’s hard labor, but it’s so emotionally and mentally exhausting. And, uh, and you know, they just feel, they go through right the decade of medical school and training, or sometimes even more, and to be stuck in a profession that doesn’t provide them any joy or satisfaction in many cases, because they’re just a part of the big machine that seems to be funneling money back to the pharmaceutical industry. And that’s really all it exists to do. That’s kind of how it feels for a lot of aspects of medicine. And so, uh, you know, my biggest criticisms are just the way our system, medical system is operating right now. It’s not the doctors, they’re just trapped in a system that’s horrible. It gives them no freedom to practice medicine. And, you know, if they step outside the norms, there’s obviously, you’re a, one of a small number of physicians who are not, you know, don’t feel compelled to, are not afraid of criticism or afraid of, uh, uh, of defending yourself in a patients and operating in a patient’s best interest. But so many doctors are just scared to step up.
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Dr. Ron Hunninghake: Well, also, they’re somewhat victims of their own training and lack of training in whole person care, uh, Dr. Lucas Tim’s, who you, uh, graciously interviewed not too long ago, likes to talk about how, uh, oncology is, like, overly focused on the tumor, on the cancer cells, and forgets that there’s the human that has the tumor or the cancer cells, and that human has special needs. It’s not just a matter of attacking the, uh, the tumor, it’s, it’s paying attention to what this human being needs to do to restore themselves to a much better state of health. And oftentimes, the shock and awe of getting the diagnosis, which freezes a lot of people, you know, stress, there’s, there’s stress, you know, the fight or flight response, but then there’s, what’s called the freeze where you get so stressed, you can’t move. And the tiger consumes you, you know, because you’re frozen. And so a lot of people get frozen in, in this diagnosis, and they don’t realize that there are other things they could be doing for themselves, or that there are opportunities to get second or third opinions to see what’s available. And then, also to find out in the, in the realm of either integrative oncology, there are less toxic ways to approach the tumor, but at the same time to learn that their health, their wellbeing, their immune system, their ability to control inflammation, to detoxify, all of these things are things that needs to be attended to if they want to have a higher level of survival.
Chris Wark: Yeah. “Healing happens at home” is something that I say often. And, uh, if you’re, if a patient isn’t willing to change the way they’re living their life at home, then they’re really, um, limiting their odds, right? They’re, they’re, uh, you know, you can go to, you can go to treatment, whatever your treatments are, but nobody’s cured in the clinic. Healing happens at home. And so what you’re doing in between your appointments is so critical: the food you’re eating, exercising, uh, reducing your stress, getting, you know, getting right with God, get, you know, really stepping out in faith and going deeper in faith, forgiving the people who’ve hurt you. All of these things are so powerful. And the thing is the most powerful therapies out there, in my opinion, are the ones that cost nothing, right? The things that most people don’t want to do, right? Change their diet or exercise or forgive, you know what I mean? Those are so profoundly powerful.
And, and I don’t mean powerful in this sort of esoteric way. I mean, they strengthen your immune system. These foods strengthen your immune system, forgiveness strengthens your immune system, exercise strengthens your immune system, and your immune system’s the only difference between you and somebody who doesn’t have any tumors, it’s your immune system. And you’re, you’re, you have specialized immune cells that their job is to identify and eliminate cancer cells. That’s what they’re there to do. And, uh, and so, um, improving immune function and, uh, all organ function, all organ and tissue function through nutrition and exercise and diet and lifestyle changes and, and specialized therapies, non-toxic therapies, that’s my preference, uh, is just so important. And, anyway, I get excited about it. And I love sharing this information with people and, and, um, because it’s empowering.
And the biggest, you know, I think what bothers me the most about the cancer industry, and there’s a lot, but I’d say on the front end is that patients are disempowered. They’re basically, you know, when a patient goes into the oncologist office and says, ‘why did I get cancer?’ You know, ‘how did I get cancer?’ Uh, they’re often told, ‘oh, well, you know, we don’t know, it’s nothing you did. And, and, uh, you know, it may be bad luck or just maybe bad genes.’ Uh, and what that does is it basically turns them into a powerless victim, right? Nothing you did created your situation contributed at all to your current life situation. It’s only bad luck, or it’s fate. And, uh, and so the patients just leave as, uh, with, with no power, no encouragement, they’re depressed, they’re hopeless. And, um, my message is the complete opposite.
My message is: Hey, if you have cancer, it’s probably your fault, but it’s okay. Right? Because, don’t beat yourself up. Uh, but just, you gotta take a step back, look at your situation, be honest with yourself about the way that you are living your life, and identify anything in your life that could be contributing to disease. And then let’s get rid of those things. Let’s replace them with health promoters, right? Things that are overwhelmingly healthy and good for you. And, uh, and so that gives, uh, a patient so much authority and power and agency over their life and their future. And, and they go from hopeless to hopeful, and they go from discouraged to encouraged, and they go from depressed to excited and enthusiastic, right? I mean, it’s like, it’s, it’s incredible. We have a private community of people that go through my course. And, uh, and we have a private group online, and it’s just incredible to see the attitudes of people just do this 180 shift, you know, from ‘I’m a victim’ to, ‘I am in control of my life and my future. And I’m going to change everything and do everything in my power to help my body heal. And I’m going to educate myself and I’m going to read, I’m going to research. I’m going to figure out what treatments are best for me.’ And like, ‘I’m going to ask my doctor really hard questions cause that’s important. Uh, you know, to make sure that he’s giving me all the information I need’ and that, you know,
Because the reality is most doctors are so crammed, their day is so jam packed with seeing patients that they don’t have enough time to spend one-on-one with anybody. They got 15 minutes, 20 minutes. And it’s like, you know, you need a lot more time than that, as you know, you need more time with that person to help them figure out what to do. But doctors aren’t really helping patients figure out what to do. They’re just saying, ‘here’s your diagnosis, here’s the treatment plan. You know, here’s when to show up next’ and they answer a few questions. Like, ‘am I going to lose my hair?’ You know, ‘do I take off work’, stuff like that. And it’s, it’s not really, they’re not helping patients heal, they’re not helping them change their lives. They’re not giving them any kind of counsel at all. Uh, it’s just, ‘we have treatments for you for your disease’. And, uh, that’s, you know, again, I think medicine’s changing for the better. Um, but you’re trusting your life to someone who probably wouldn’t remember your name if you bumped into them at the grocery store. That’s the reality that most cancer patients face. Right. And it’s like, that’s kind of crazy.
And you mentioned, you know, getting second and third opinions. I mean, most people, if they have any sense at all, they’ll get two or three bids from, from some different painters to paint their house. You know what I mean? And like, but you’re just gonna, I see one doctor and go on his opinion because, you know, all doctors don’t agree. And, uh, it’s, I, I talked, I was talking to the patient the other day and she’s seen multiple conventional doctors and they all are giving her conflicting reports. It’s like, it’s like, yeah, I feel you, that’s, that’s not great. That’s a very difficult situation when you can’t even get MDs who are, you know, sort of by the book to agree. So anyway, you know, it really is, um, it’s a blessing to be able to be a patient advocate and to be in a position to encourage people and then see them take action to change their lives. Right? And, and give them the tools and the resources and the information that they can put into use immediately. You know, I said earlier, you can’t do it all in one day, but there’s some things you can do in one day, you can change your diet in one day. Tomorrow, like from today to tomorrow, you can completely eat a different diet, right? Anyone could stop eating a diet that’s full of fast food, junk food, meat, and dairy, and start eating a ton of fruits and vegetables. It’s going to be weird. Your body’s going to be like, what are you doing? But anyone can do this. This is what I did. And, uh, it takes a few days to a few weeks to sort of adjust and adapt and get it figured out, but eating a plant-based diet or a raw diet, uh, anyone can do. And I decided to, so, there’s so much research that’s come out since I went on my cancer healing journey. And so I didn’t know a lot of this stuff then, but, um, I decided to overdose on nutrition. And as it turns out, I was eating between 15 and 20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. And what we know now, based on some really wonderful science, is that if you want to prevent cancer, you need to eat at least 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. And it may, you know, there may be a case for higher levels. I think there is, but at least 10. And, uh, and so I was doing 15 to 20. So, if you eat 15 to 20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day, good things happen in your body.
Dr. Ron Hunninghake: You know, there’s, uh, there’s some famous saying it and this, this, uh, this applies to physicians that it’s, uh, it’s not what you don’t know, it’s what you think you know that’s wrong that can really get you in trouble. And the problem is, I think most doctors, speaking as a physician, spend a lot of time just, as you said earlier, going through a lot of education, a lot of hoops to jump through a lot, a lot to become a physician. And you assume, you assume, at the end of the day, you’re learning everything you have learned, everything you need to know in terms of taking care of the patient. I was shocked, uh, when I started, I came to the Riordan Clinic 31 years ago, and one of the first things that Dr. Riordan had me shift in my mind is that, hey, you are a co-learner with your patient. Your patient is one of a kind, and you need to start thinking about what’s been going on in their life. So, that has led them to this diagnosis, this challenge. And then what would you do? What would you teach them if you had this same challenge yourself? And so it’s been an incredibly freeing type of concept to see me, uh, being on equal terms with the patient, because we’re both human beings, doctors die of cancer, doctors die of a lot of illnesses. So being a doctor doesn’t guarantee you’re going to be free of illness. And as you said, it probably is a profession that’s fraught with a lot of risks, uh, both psychologically and physically.
But the biggest thing is, I only had one and a half hours of nutrition during my entire four years of medical school. And that’s not college hours, that’s one afternoon for one and a half hours. We talked about, uh, scurvy and beriberi and kwashiorkor. “But don’t worry about that. You’re not going to see that problem here in the United States.” And most people assume that, uh, the food that they’re eating and that it’s somehow been checked by some guardian angel that is making sure it’s okay. And now we know that 70% of the food you buy in the grocery stores is processed, and we’re finding out that processed foods processing takes out all the phytonutrients that you’re talking about, that people need for their body to work properly and to heal. And, getting more colors, getting more natural, getting more, uh, organic, if you can afford it. All these things are health building strategies that doctors aren’t going to hear about at their continuing medical education, unless they’re at one of the areas like, for example, MD Anderson now has an integrative oncology department as well. And Dr. Cohen, he’s a PhD doctor, has written a wonderful book, uh, on anti-cancer living where he definitely encouraged, he says, 50% of the survival of cancer, at least 50% is epigenetic. It’s choices that you make that evoked genetic responses in your body. That’s going to help you to heal the cancer.
Chris Wark: Yeah. And, you know, uh, that reminds me of, I have a wonderful study that was done on breast cancer patients, where they found that breast cancer patients who ate, basically, it was like, I don’t want to misquote it. I think it was about fives, an average of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. And they walked an average of 30 minutes a day, had a 50% decreased risk of death after nine years. That’s a, that’s a published study, and I talk about it in my book and, uh, right. It’s like their choices made the difference between survival and death. And that wasn’t even five servings a day. I mean, you can eat five servings and that’s like one meal, one meal of fruits and vegetables. And for people listening, they might be thinking like five servings. It’s not five meals. Like a serving is just like a portion, right? So if you have a plate full of veggies, you’ve got four or five servings right there on a plate. A serving is typically a half a cup of cooked vegetables or a cup of raw vegetables or a cup of raw fruit. So, um, it’s very easy, three meals a day. It’s very easy to hit 10, 12 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If your focus is to meet a lot of fruits and vegetables, I guess it’s so easy and doable.
And, uh, but you know, there is a, something I know you, you understand this far, far more than I do, because you have interacted with so many more patients than me, but, you know, a patient has to have the will to live. They have to have a strong will to live. I mean, that’s really where it starts. You know, there’s, there’s sort of this stepwise progression, you know, of what are the key elements of survival, and there’s this progression and it starts, it’s like, step one is you have to have a strong will to live. Like you have to want to live for something or someone. And some patients don’t have a strong will to live. Maybe they’re old. And, you know, they feel like their life’s work is done, and that’s totally fine. You know, sometimes they’re young and they’re just very discouraged and depressed, and they don’t have a, don’t feel like they have a purpose for their life, and that’s more of a tragic situation. But if you can find and figure out and decide you have what you want to or need to live for, that’s the first step. The second step is you’ve got to believe you can get well, right? And so if you have a strong will to live and you’ve made up your mind, ‘I’m going to live’ and, and you believe you can get, well, then you have set a mental foundation for yourself and for the actions that you take going forward, right. Because that’s, you know, I wanted to live. I had a, uh, a young wife and I have two parents, and I didn’t want to see those people put me in the ground. That’s what I had to live for. I was very clear, right. I knew what I had to live for.
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