In this episode, Patient Jenny Bradley sits down with Naturopathic Oncologist Dr. Lucas Tims to discuss what you as a patient can do to take control over your healing journey by using the power of hope to build a team of providers, counselors, and friends to empower your choices and stand as a third party to support you with your decisions.
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Jenny Bradley: Hi, and welcome to the real health podcast by Riordan clinic. My name is Jenny Bradley, and I am a patient of Riordan clinic. I have been a patient here since I was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. So literally two weeks after I was diagnosed, I became a patient here in early 2018. And sooner after that, Dr. Lucas Tims our integrative oncologist here came on board, and I’ve been able to have the honor and privilege of being one of his patients. And we together get the honor and privilege of serving you today in this podcast about what oncology really looks like here at Riordan clinic. And specifically, I want to touch on the things that we can do as patients, what we have the power to do. And the hope that we have that I, you know, one of these phrases that I’ve heard before, and I like to say is cancer is a word, not a sentence, and that we really can live and thrive with cancer. So with that in mind, hello, Dr. Lucas, how’s it going today?
Dr. Lucas: Hey, Jenny, doing well. I was just thinking back, you know, I, it seems like so long ago that we first met over three years ago now. So we’ve had we’ve had a good run so far, and we’ve gone from just a traditional doctor-patient relationship now to more than that and doing podcasts together. So it’s been great to kind of watch your journey. And I think that it’s good to have you in this position speaking kind of from that patient perspective. So I’m excited to talk about some of these things.
Jenny Bradley: Thanks for saying that. I was giggling on my way over here today thinking, you know, I can say like, well, he has helped me to still live, and I’m not dead yet, which right, exactly. And honestly, I don’t have a fear of death with cancer, and you have given me extra hope and extra like help and guidance along the way to help me know. Like you’ve literally said to me, you can live with cancer. And so I appreciate that one of the, if I can call it a modality, one of the modalities that you help patients have and do is hope. So, will you touch on a little bit about the power that hope has in a cancer journey?
Dr. Lucas: Power of hope that’s it’s hard to quantify, you know, I’ve, you know, posted on my Instagram, you know, like hope is the most under-prescribed drug and not only in cancer, but in medicine, I think in general, but it really does. I mean, it has a psychological effect on the body, but it actually really has a physiological effect in the body as well. And they’ve, you know, studies have shown that you know, you can look at, you know, immune cells and immune function and stuff under the microscope and, and pause, you know, the power of the mind, basically you see physiologic changes in the way that cells behave and signals that get sent out and less inflammation and more harmonious environment in the body when there is that hope. And there is that positive mindset. So to take that away from patients, which I think oftentimes happens when they’re left in that traditional, you know, cookie-cutter system, so to speak there’s not a lot of hope, you know, and I’ve experienced that on that side, you know, with my, my wife going through it and, and family members.
Dr. Lucas: And then, as during my training, they don’t like to dole out hope very much. I think some of that’s because they are worried about, you know, false hope. You know, they’re worried about giving out false hope, I think, to you know, to an extent and which I get, but to me, there’s, there’s a way to do it without giving patients false hope. And that’s really what I, that’s. A lot of what I do with patients is I think hope and empowerment are kind of one and the same when it comes to patients, especially dealing with cancer because cancer is such a disease that manifests as a loss of control and a loss of power, you know, on a cellular level, but on a psychological, emotional level. And so if you can give patients back some power and help them to understand, there are things that they have control over like their mindset, like what they’re eating, what they’re doing with their, how they’re spending their days, who they’re surrounding themselves with their environments that they’re in. I think that that empowerment patient empowerment is what seeds that hope but then continues to build that hope for patients because you know, when patients feel empowered, when they get back a little bit of that power, even though a lot of other things might be out of their control, it’s a powerful thing. And so, I always try to make that part of my approach because I know patients are not getting that on the other side. So yeah, it’s, it’s important. I mean, it’s, it can’t be, it can’t be, overstated enough.
Jenny Bradley: I think from you, it’s not a false hope though, either because you mean like you’re authentic with it. And I can say that from literally sitting across your desk from you and you looking into my eyes and my husband’s eyes, you know, and like saying with pure genuineness, like you can live, you can live with this, you know, and
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. It, you know, and so it’s not like I’m hoping it’s not like I’m just, you know, like, oh, I, you know, let’s hope that this goes well. Like I’ve seen patients go down that path. And I, I, I know that if we get certain things right, and if we’re looking at the right things that we will have a good outcome and that the patients need to understand that there is hope and that statistics don’t apply to individuals.
Jenny Bradley: Oh, okay. That’s a really good last statement. So will you unpack that a little bit more statistics don’t apply to individuals? Also, I live that in my life.
Dr. Lucas: Every patient wants to know, and a lot of the traditional oncologists are love to hand out that sort of timestamp, right. And say, well, you know, your stage, whatever three, four, and this percentage of patients lives this long. Right. And you know, I’d say, if you don’t do what I’m telling you, you know, you maybe have six months to live. I hear that stuff all the time from my patients, “the doctor told me if I don’t do chemo, I’ve got maybe six months.” And what I would, what I always counter that with is, you know, yeah. Like if you look at these bell curve population type studies, you know, on balance, you know, that’s where that median survival is going to average out to, but you’ve got patients literally on both sides of that. And you, you can’t take those populations statistics and say, okay, this one person, this is what their risk is, or this is what their average, you know, survival is going to be. And so to me, it’s, it’s really not helpful to talk about statistics other than just trying to get a basic framework of like, Hey, what we’re up against, but to say, Hey, if you don’t do this, you’ve got six months left. That’s just complete BS to me because you never know. I see patients literally every day in my office that, oh yeah. They told me that two years ago, you know, it’s like, I just help them. See, we’re just going to run right through that. You know, we’re not going to pay attention to those statistics. We’re going to give you the tools that you need to beat those statistics. You know, no matter how low they are, how good they are, it’s just, it’s just their benchmark in terms of what they’re seeing in their patient population. But also, you have to realize that what those traditional doctors are seeing day in and day out and what those studies have looked at are patients that are just doing basic standard of care.
Jenny Bradley: Yeah. So let’s talk about that for a little bit. As far as the things that I can do as a patient, right? The things you guide patients to do at home, as I’ve said before, healing happens at home, and as the patient, I’m the one living in my body. I’m the one that’s doing the workday in and day out. And you give me a menu that’s personalized to me after we do our various, you know, appointments and whatnot and tests. And so I would love to hear from you also from your doctor-perspective, you know, you can give us recommendations of things that we need to come to a clinic to do or to have a nurse do for us, et cetera. But what are some of those things that we can do from your doctor-perspective that we do at home in our lifestyle? And if I may also tag in here and what are some of the things we can do for free?
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. Free is always good. You know, I mean, the list is long. I mean,
Jenny Bradley: Let me, let me rephrase it then. What is one thing, one thing, any cancer patient that’s listening to this podcast could do today after they finished listening to this to help support their healing.
Dr. Lucas: I would say that they need to this may be, this may be a little bit, you know, off the cuff, but I would say that it just because I’ve, I’ve had a few patients recently where this has come up, but I think patients really need to sit down in a quiet space, maybe with, maybe with a journal, maybe not, but just sit down in a quiet space, have about at least 30 minutes of time where you can just reflect. And I think you need to really reflect inward and see if, if you’re willing to change everything that you’re doing, are you willing to completely change your lifestyle, your diet, your relationships, for some people, you know, toxicities are their family dynamics or toxicities, are there significant others? Are you completely willing to remove yourself from an unhealthy environment, whether that’s chemical toxins or emotional, mental distress, when you have cancer, when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, there’s, it’s a signal, it’s a sign from your body that, that there’s an unhealthy environment. And so working with me, we’re going to identify what’s causing that that’s our goal. But then, for my patients, I would say, are you really ready to make the changes necessary? And so that’s one thing that, again, I would say off the cuff a little bit, and it’s free, but it’s powerful because if you don’t start with that and start with that mindset in terms of, Hey, I’m willing to change everything. If I have to, that means, you know, me getting better and having the outcome I want. Beyond that, I think more to your original question. I think the mindfulness practices are huge. If you can find something that allows to be reflective disconnect from daily stressors, chronic stress, whether it’s meditation, prayer, journaling, spending time in nature those things go a lot. You get a lot of bang for your buck for those optimizing your sleep.
Dr. Lucas: You know, it doesn’t always require supplements or pills or, you know, fancy gadgets. It’s sometimes it’s just making sure your environment’s conducive: setting a schedule, waking up at the same time every day, getting outside, getting sunshine, getting fresh air. I think a lot of patients over the last two years, everybody over the last couple of years now, have been more holed up inside and are probably not getting outside enough. And so that’s an important fundamental of just our health in general. And, and exercise, I think you know, movement, I wouldn’t even say exercise, I would just say movement. I mean, that, that encompasses everything from yoga to walking, to dancing in your living room or kitchen to just moving your body, you know, movement is medicine. And so those are all free as far as I know still, at least at this point. So those would be good places to start.
Jenny Bradley: Hopefully free for a little while longer to I like to say also just get started, right? Like some of the free is just start, like, just start walking to your mailbox to get the mail, just start like I actually wrote an article for Riordan recently for the Health Hunters newsletter. And one of the things I talked about is so much of the time like action begets action. And so it’s just about taking that first step, and then low and behold, you’re doing the thing, right? So like sometimes, I don’t want to go on a walk, but I know 150 minutes per week is really good for reducing breast cancer recurrence risk. Right. And I don’t want to go on a walk, but if I will just put on my shoes and go out the door and start, I end up walking a lot further than I even thought in the moment that I put on my shoes. Right. So I think that’s, some of it is like, just go outside, like just go be in the sun, just take that step and just go put your face to the sun for a little bit. And low and behold, that sure feels good, you know, and you can have those moments of, I know it’s not literally the same thing as forest bathing, but I kind of like to refer to it as forest bathing. And those studies that have shown how nature really impacts our immune system in a healthy, positive way. And you touched on stress. A lot of what you were talking about really is reducing stress and the NIH. And I believe this is from cancer.gov, which is an NIH site, but I wanted to read a little blurb from an article that just came out and have you kind of respond to it. And it says, I’m just like directly quoting, “A new study suggests that stress hormones may wake up dormant cancer cells that remain in the body after treatment and experience in mice. Okay.” So granted, its mice, “a stress hormone triggered a chain reaction in immune cells that prompted dormant cancer cells to wake up and form tumors again.
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. And this, you know, there’s so many levels to that that connect all the pieces of what we try to work on with our patients, you know, stress and stress comes in many forms, you know, stress, there can be psychological stress that can be physical stress that can be emotional stress. That can be stress from toxicities in the body. There can be stress from poor, you know, sleeping habits, you know, lack of sleep to me is a stressor. So stress is a broad term, but yes, that that cascade that of signals and things that happened because of a stress or a chronic stressor in the body, that’s where we start to see, you know, sort of cancer start to extend its tentacles and become an issue because, you know, we’ve all got cancer cells in our body. Okay. And at the end of the day, what hopefully helps us from forming a tumor is that our immune system is staying on top of those cells and it getting a detecting and getting rid of those cells and the normal checks and balances that are placed within the within the, each cell allows those cells to not get past a certain point. Okay. But when we have chronic stress, when we have chronic toxicity, all that goes out the window, and our immune system gets suppressed by things like cortisol, which is the main stress hormone. Our immune system gets suppressed by toxins. And then you add that to cancer cells that are just normally being made on, on a daily basis. And you can see where that could tip the scale. And so, yeah, stress is it’s an X factor in, in everybody and it probably ref you know, represents that end all be all tipping point for most people.
Jenny Bradley: Yeah. So one of the experiences I have had with you, sitting across from you in one of my patient appointments, is actually multiple times you looked at me the eye I’m giggling because I’m also thinking maybe I shouldn’t say this in a public podcast, but you looked at me in the eye, and you said, Jenny, when are you going to quit your job? And it’s not that in and of itself, the job was stressful, but you knew from having, again, those longer appointments that we get to have when we are Riordan clinic patients you knew a greater perspective about what was going on in my life and the circumstance stances surrounding my life as a whole. And, you know, you were able to point out some things that I needed a party to say, you know, and I needed a third party to help prompt me to go, okay, is this the healthiest thing for my life? And is this the healthiest thing for helping me on my healing journey? And that’s not to say that all jobs are bad, and it’s not to say that Dr. Lucas is going to tell every patient to quit their job. But I think that’s part of what you can do. And some of the other practitioners here at Riordan clinic can do is you bring this third-party perspective that can help us look and assess the stress in our life. Like not only are you doing actual lab panels on our nutrients and, you know, complete blood counts and all that type of stuff, but you’re really like looking at us as a whole entire person. And the very first practitioner I had here at Riordan before Dr. Lucas was a member here literally said to me, we’re not treating a spot. We’re treating Jenny, like we’re treating the whole Jenny. And so I think that’s one of the things when we think about stress. And when you think about the free things that we can do as cancer patients and the power that we have, and what you can do as a guide for us is that you can really help us assess our entire, our entire
Dr. Lucas: That’s what I was getting at with my first kind of, you know, kind of point about, Hey, are you really willing to change things for you? Is it like, are you willing to quit your job for some people it’s been, are you willing to get a divorce because your significant other is abusing you or causing so much stress that, you know, it’s a huge problem for other people. It’s, are you willing to move out of your home? That’s infested with mold. It’s like I, I had these conversations with patients all the time, and that’s why I really kind of led with that first concept about sitting down, reflecting on, are you willing to change the environment of your life that’s causing the problem in the first place?
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Jenny Bradley: And I want to tag this to that I think mental health has a really important aspect of, you know, being on a cancer journey is that we need mental health help too. And you are great at all the things that you are great at, but a lot of us also need to go to counseling and go to somebody that’s licensed to provide mental health and behavioral health help in the midst of a cancer journey because cancer messes with your mind. It doesn’t matter how much hope I have. There’s still thinks that cancer messes with my mind type of thing. So going and getting you know, as we like to say like it’s, I’m putting together a whole team. Like I employ a whole-entire team. And some of learning how to deal with stress is also using the tools that a counselor can give me the tools and skills that account counselor can give me and understanding of the things that Dr. Lucas can point out to me and help me see that. Oh yeah. And these things are stressors. And then I can go talk to my counselor about how to deal with those things too. So again, it’s like building a whole team to address the whole person, the whole Jenny, and my case type of deal. And I think that’s how, you know, the Riordan clinic model is set up really is it’s not just, we’re not just dealing with a spot it’s way more than that because we were created mind, body, soul, and, you know, w we are integrated beings. And so we have to do all these things and all these different areas of life because it’s not just this one thing. And, you know, I guess it goes back to like, why don’t we have a cure for cancer, I guess it’s because there’s not actually one reason that I got cancer in the first place.
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. Yeah. Well said, it’s there’s lots of layers, and that’s why, you know, you got to do that, that deep work, that deep dive it’s not just, you know, oh, there’s a weed, we’re going to spray some chemicals on it. And then we’ll just move on. You’re gonna have a beautiful lawn for the rest of your life. It’s, Hey, this is, this is a sign. There’s something deeper going on. And for some people, that mental, emotional aspect could be bigger than others. But it’s always a piece of, it’s always, there’s always a component of that mental, emotional, those mental, emotional realms that need to be addressed when there’s cancer, in my opinion, what I’ve seen. So it’s not just about addressing the nutrients and the hormones and all the stuff that we do lab work to address that’s important, but yeah, you also got to deal with your, with your stuff.
Jenny Bradley: Okay. I’m gonna maybe close our episode with this idea. And it’s in a way, a little bit harder for me to ask and say this, and you, you know, my personal journey and our patient-doctor history. But for those of us that have been on a longer cancer journey, I have, you know, a variety of friends throughout the country that are on longer cancer journeys that this isn’t a like, oh, I just did the treatment schedule for three months. And I’m done, you know, like, as I said earlier, like I’ve been doing this for four years. I have been hard at work for four years. And I’ve gone through the pendulum and the spectrum of how tight things need to be wrapped up versus how much a moderation or leeway. I give myself grace. I call it grace how much I let myself enjoy the moment, you know? But what would you say for those cancer patients that are listening that are on the longer journey, as far as the power and the hope that we can still have, even though we’ve been doing this for a long time?
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. It takes a toll. It’s. Like I said, it’s, it’s hard work to do the healing and do, do the work. And so I would say, you know, you do have to have grace, you do have to give yourself a little bit of leeway, especially the longer it goes on, because, you know, you can’t sprint your way through a marathon. You know, it’s a lot of patients, especially if you’re wired that way, you know, you, you want to fix everything all at once. And so I think in part of that, for those people may be maybe releasing that, that feeling of needing to do everything and be in control of everything that might be part of the deeper stuff. But I would say, you know, the longer it goes on, the more you’ll understand kind of what are the most important things on a daily basis that you have to do to keep the train moving in the right direction, because it’s not necessarily about the velocity, it’s just about the direction. And you know, if you keep supporting your body’s terrain and the soil, no matter what’s going on with the cancer itself, you’re going to keep that train pointed in the right direction. So I would say, find what you’re kind of, you know, few things are that, you know, you need to do every day, whether it’s that mindfulness practice or whether it’s that, you know, Matcha tea, or whether it’s those, those core supplements that you’re taking, or, or maybe a sauna or whatever, whatever that thing is that keeps you moving in the right direction. And that you’ve figured out with your practitioners and through your own healing journey gets you continually motivated to keep doing that stuff. I mean, it just, you have to, you have to commit every day, and it’s, it’s not, it’s not easy. You know, you really have to take kind of a Navy seal mindset with all this stuff and realize there’s going to be ups and downs. But as long as you keep that train pointed in the right direction, you know, that’s, that’s, what’s matters the most.
Jenny Bradley: Yes. I appreciate that. It’s funny that you use the train analogy. My counselor and I, in our session this week, we’re literally talking about a train, and the tracks that are kind of laid down before me as a cancer patient are kind of the things not in a victim way, but kind of the things that, oh, this is the information that I have now are the tracks. And then I get to choose what cars are in my train as I go down that track. And as new information about my case presents itself, quarter after quarter, let’s say, then it helps me go, oh, okay. Now I need to add this other car into my train. And that’s what you guys, as Riordan clinic practitioners, can help me and us cancer patients do is as we continually assess through the quarters and the years in my case, you know, you help us really. It’s not, I don’t have the same protocol with you now in year four that I did in year one. And that’s the other beautiful thing about this journey is that there is no one answer it’s so customized. It’s so personalized, and I don’t have to DIY it. So thanks for giving me hope. Thanks for making me DIY this journey. And thanks for your perspective of helping empower me and empower other cancer patients, that there is a lot that we can do to help support our body and healing on this cancer journey.
Dr. Lucas: Yeah. It’s my pleasure to work with you along, you know, kind of walk with you along your journey. And I know you put out a ton of great information for patients. So I’d say if patients haven’t, you know, looked into all of the stuff that you’ve done on your own, I would, I would encourage them to do that. Check out the Riordan clinic, you know, our website we have, you know, we’re all over social media. Obviously, we have this podcast now, so we’ll have more content coming down the road, but I’m glad we talked about this one today cause it’s an important, important subject.
Jenny Bradley: Yeah, me too. Thank you so much for your time and talent.
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