You’ve probably heard the expression “Become the CEO of your Health” before. And you’ve probably wondered what business has to do with health… and why would you be the”Chief Executive Officer”? But the longer I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that there is a grain of truth in this. That it’s actually quite a good analogy.
The challenges of being your CEO
It’s not easy to become the CEO of your own health. One of the main reasons is probably trust. If you want to be a good CEO of a company, you have to trust, you have to build a really solid team, and you have to know yourself and your strengths. How to get the most out of your strengths but also be acutely aware of your weaknesses. Because you don’t want to spend time executing tasks that you’re not skilled at. You actually want to outsource these tasks. You want and need to learn to delegate and to let go of things that you either don’t do well or you don’t have the time or the resources to do well.
I’ve worked with a number of (business) CEOs on optimising their health and performance. When I was working in the banking sector, I also supported CEOs in their work. I very clearly saw that the ones who do well are really good at letting go. They’re really good at trusting their employees and at delegating. They somehow manage to overcome their perfectionism or the notion that only he/she can do everything to their satisfaction and everybody else might not do the task as well as they could.
Managing a chronic illness
When it comes to managing a chronic illness- in my case, this is cancer- we also have to recognise our weaknesses, and what we know about ourselves. We have to outsource certain tasks. We have to build a really solid team around us and we have to trust. We need someone who is an absolute expert when it comes to our type of tumour and knows how to treat the tumour. Because, in most cases, that is an absolute necessity. And your oncologist IS an expert in how to address your tumour but what he/she might not be an expert in- probably for a lack of time and, again, because we can’t have knowledge in everything- is how to influence the tumour environment. By this, I mean all the factors in a patient, especially nutrition and lifestyle factors, that might contribute to the growth of a particular tumour.
The fear of missing out
And this is where YOU come in. Nobody has better knowledge of your own body, of yourself. Nobody on this earth. A client of mine once said: “My consultant is a body of knowledge. But I have knowledge of my body“. But then, quite often what I see in my clinic is that the fear of missing out kicks in. When I initially started on this journey of becoming the CEO of my health, I was in quite a fortunate position that there wasn’t that overwhelming amount of information available on the internet, on social media (groups) etc. I didn’t have the option to include hyperbaric oxygen, repurposed drugs, intravenous treatments, complex supplement choices or other treatments that are now available.
“I’m doing enough”
When I had my first relapse when my daughter was 6 months old, I did enquire about a clinic visit abroad but my application was declined because I had a baby in tow. Did that freak me out? Of course, it did. I often went through phases (and still do now sometimes!) where I was doubting my approach and wondered whether “I’m doing enough”. It’s human. For some humans, I mean 😉
But then I remind myself that my strategy has always been to be laser-focused and very committed to what I’m doing. All within my limits. At the time of my relapse, this meant also being a mum, studying nutrition, running a busy household, coming to terms with my diagnosis and everything else I had to deal with at the time. And that this was enough! I made a commitment to the changes I was initiating after doing some research and talking to professionals who had experience in this field. However, it didn’t become obsessive. I didn’t start to look at every single pathway that could be involved in potential tumour growth through my food, lifestyle or thought choices.
Fear of eating?
What I quite often see in clients that I start working with is that they are scared whenever they sit down for a meal. They are literally scared of “feeding cancer cells”. There could be certain amino acids, glucose, or fatty acids- in short, almost every molecule in food becomes a potential enemy. And in my opinion, and also according to the current scientific knowledge that we now have gathered in this area of research, our emotions and our thoughts are incredibly powerful. They have powerful epigenetic impacts. Our thoughts, like the food and the lifestyle choices we make, can have an effect on whether we express a certain gene or whether it is silenced.
This doesn’t mean we always have to have “good, positive” thoughts or else we do ourselves damage, not at all! Working through emotions, learning to “feel the feelings” and then let go is such an important skill that I’ll be talking about more soon.
Your intention matters
Knowing this, sitting down with the fear that what we are putting into our body might actually accelerate cancer growth, or it might feed cancer cells, is most likely very unhelpful. We might be much better off turning this thought on its head and sitting down with the intention of giving every single healthy cell in our body the right fuel to facilitate healing and to improve our immune system’s ability to recognise when our cell cycle is going wrong. And when it is going wrong, it results in a cell going into uncontrolled growth– which is what cancer is defined as.
So, to get back to becoming the CEO of our own health- what it really takes as well as a patient is to start tuning in, start getting to know ourselves, and start getting to know our (emotional) triggers rather than constantly looking for a solution outside of ourselves. And I’m not saying to dismiss medical treatments and opinions- not at all! But to stay focused when it comes to your food and lifestyle choices and also your mental health. So, instead of going down endless rabbit holes of research, use this time to journal, reflect or just be.
Sometimes we just need to stop looking for the magic bullet when the approach that cold work best is that of simplicity. And don’t get me wrong- simple doesn’t necessarily equal easy. But simple can be incredibly powerful!
And this is why I’m so passionate about teaching all these key aspects of recovery in a programme “Recovery Fundamentals” with Dr Wafaa Abdel-Hadi, a wonderful clinical oncologist with extensive training in functional medicine and integrative oncology.