17 November 2014

How to avoid a disaster

Have you ever had a special night out spoiled by poor service, poor staff? Lets go Out on a Limb once more and investigate how to avoid such a disaster in the future, plus details of a major new research review from the National Cancer Institute in the USA that recommends meditation for women with breast cancer, and news of the next Happiness and its Causes Conference (that will feature HH the Dalai Lama!) with a special offer to you the reader of a big discount, but first

               Thought for the day

  We can never obtain peace in the outer world 
  Until we make peace with ourselves

                     HH The Dalai Lama 

Imagine this. You have a special occasion to celebrate. Maybe a special birthday, an anniversary. Completion of a challenging piece of work, a loan paid off, a sporting triumph….  All sorts of possibilities, but definitely time for a big celebration.

So you gather the family, maybe some friends; and decide it will be your shout, no expenses spared, and you book into a fancy restaurant.

The evening arrives. Some anticipation. You head into the restaurant, the manager’s greeting is a touch cool, but then this is a classy place, maybe that is how things are done here?

But then the waitress. Definitely cool. Even remote. Hardly much of a welcome at all.

She tells you of the specials for the evening. Almost disinterest. No verve, no enthusiasm. You start to wonder??? This is not how it I imagined it would be. Fancy restaurant. I expected better service than this. The place must have a management problem. They should be employing better staff than this. Or supervising them better; making sure they are doing their job.

You order.

Everyone else seems happy enough.

Maybe it is OK after all.

But your soup arrives and THAT waitress manages to actually spill a little on your lap! Spilled the soup. Good grief! Everyone apologizes profusely, but your worst fears are confirmed. The night is gone for you.

Things go from bad to worse. An error in the mains that arrive, very expensive wine tastes ordinary, dessert not what you hoped for. Big bill. No tip. You try to put on a brave face for your guests, but you leave feeling miserable, swearing you will never go back to that place again.

An unmitigated disaster.

Now, imagine re-running the same scenario - up until the time you arrive at the restaurant. This time, the manager greets you, welcomes you with some reserve and what seems like a little trepidation, then explains.

It seems one of his waitresses had her own disaster just 6 weeks ago. Her husband was killed in a car accident and she has 3 young children to support. She need to work. This is actually her first night back. Everyone is unsure of how she will go, but he asks for your patience and understanding.

So knowing this, how differently things unfold. You welcome her warmly, understand the lack of verve. Laugh off the spilled soup, make good everything else that could have gone “wrong”. The wine tastes sweet; the dessert spectacular. You have a great night. Maybe even make a new friend.

So how much of an explanation in day-to-day events do we need to display compassionate awareness? How often do we stumble into mindless intolerance?

It would seem that compassionate awareness is a big part of Emotional Intelligence, and requires quite some work on our part to over-ride what is often an immediate, unaware, instinctual reaction.

Next time you are at a restaurant, maybe pause for a moment to wonder what sort of day those who are serving you have had.

And smile.

Finding our true identity

1. Meditation recommended for women with breast cancer
A major new review article has recommended the use of meditation and some other complementary and/or integrative therapies for a range of conditions affecting women with breast cancer. This is such an important piece hat the entire abstract is offered here. The full article can be read by following the link below.

Background The majority of breast cancer patients use complementary and/or integrative therapies during and beyond cancer treatment to manage symptoms, prevent toxicities, and improve quality of life. Practice guidelines are needed to inform clinicians and patients about safe and effective therapies.

Methods Following the Institute of Medicine’s guideline development process, a systematic review identified randomized controlled trials testing the use of integrative therapies for supportive care in patients receiving breast cancer treatment. Trials were included if the majority of participants had breast cancer and/or breast cancer patient results were reported separately, and outcomes were clinically relevant. Recommendations were organized by outcome and graded based upon a modified version of the US Preventive Services Task Force grading system.

Results The search (January 1, 1990–December 31, 2013) identified 4900 articles, of which 203 were eligible for analysis. Meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery are recommended for routine use for common conditions, including anxiety and mood disorders (Grade A). Stress management, yoga, massage, music therapy, energy conservation, and meditation are recommended for stress reduction, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life (Grade B). Many interventions (n = 32) had weaker evidence of benefit (Grade C). Some interventions (n = 7) were deemed unlikely to provide any benefit (Grade D). Notably, only one intervention, acetyl-l-carnitine for the prevention of taxane-induced neuropathy, was identified as likely harmful (Grade H) as it was found to increase neuropathy. The majority of intervention/modality combinations (n = 138) did not have sufficient evidence to form specific recommendations (Grade I).

Conclusions Specific integrative therapies can be recommended as evidence-based supportive care options during breast cancer treatment. Most integrative therapies require further investigation via well-designed controlled trials with meaningful outcomes.

REFERENCE: Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Use of Integrative Therapies as Supportive Care in Patients Treated for Breast Cancer. Greenlee H et al; J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr 2014 (50): 346-358.   LINK HERE

2. Happiness and its Causes 2015 with HH the Dalai Lama

Special discount to readers of Out on a Limb


10 November 2014

The Connection - now available online – 25% discount available

The difference between life and death?

At 24 years old filmmaker Shannon Harvey was diagnosed with a severe, debilitating autoimmune disease. Her immune system had become hyperactive and was attacking normal, healthy tissues. Her muscles and joints were inflamed and she was told if her disease progressed she could end up with organ failure, or wheelchair bound.

In search of a cure, Shannon tried everything from drugs to alternative therapies and everything in between. But she was still sick.

There was one thing she did know. When she was stressed, she got worse and with a background in journalism, Shannon sought answers in pioneering science. On her journey to getting better, Shannon realized that in order to change her health she needed to change her mind.

In the process she made The Connection, details of which, including how you can purchase copies or download with a  25% discount follow, but first

         Thought for the day

We will not understand important things like “love” 
By knowing the DNA sequence of homo-sapiens.
If humanity begins to view itself as a machine, 
Programmed by this DNA sequence, 
We have lost something really important.

          Francis Collins, 
               Head of the Human Genome Project

The Connection is a film about how frontier research is proving that there is a direct connection between your mind and your health. It will come as welcome confirmation for many of us, and provide a great way to introduce less knowledgeable friends and family to the rapidly expanding body of science that validates Mind-Body medicine.

The film features scientists, researchers, writers and doctors, as well as remarkable true stories of people adding mind body medicine to their healing toolkit to recover from severe back pain, heart disease, infertility, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Yours truly has a cameo appearance – discussing the crucial difference between belief and conviction – or faith as it is often known.

While the science is complex, the solutions for people suffering with illness are astonishingly simple. The film shows that we can counter the harmful affects of stress with an equally powerful relaxation response triggered through specific techniques such as meditation.

It shows that emotions can impact the course of an illness for better or for worse and could even be the difference between life and death.

The film explains the mechanisms behind belief, which scientists now know contributes 30 to 50 percent of the effect of any known biological cure and explores how scientists at the cutting edge are now learning that the mind can even influence the expression of genes and the rate at which we age.

This is a film that offers answers and proves that you can change your mind, change your health and change your life. The Connection is highly recommended for personal viewing – inspiring, confirming, empowering. But then, give it as a Christmas present, or just send it to those you care about, or watch it with them. It will help confirm the possibilities and just maybe lead someone to do something that does make the difference between life and death; between misery and real happiness.

The feature length film is now available to stream, download or purchase in DVD format from the Official Website for as little as $9.95 (streaming).

Having been involved in the film, the producers have offered me to offer you a 25% discount on orders received until the end of November 2015 – a really nice offer – and the code you need to use is on the link below. There is also a trailer to watch.

I highly recommend The Connection. It seems to me to be the most important documentary in the field we are all interested in for some years. It warrants being  viewed widely.


The Connection

Accelerated Healing 101 

Accelerated healing 101 – Part 2

In related news, Ruth and I attended the New Zealand premiere showing of The Connection in aid of the NZ cancer charity Canlive, and led a discussion after the showing this Sunday just gone. The film was very well received and a lively, engaged conversation ensued.

Meditation in the Forest  

Pre- Easter 7 day residential meditation retreat, March 27th to April 2nd  2015

During this, our first meditation retreat for 2015, we will be focusing upon the deeper stillness of meditation. We will explore the theory, but moreso, the actual practices that help us to go beyond the activity of the thinking mind into a more direct and profound experience of the still mind.

Deep, natural peace. A calm and clear mind. So many possibilities follow…..

Full details, CLICK HERE

03 November 2014

Meditation in the Desert 2014 – a photographic essay

Have you ever thought of this? Meditation is the ultimate adventure. For in meditation, we turn our attention inwards and through direct experience, investigate the truth of who we really are.

Of course, along the way there are plenty of potential side-effects. Less stress, lower blood pressure, natural healing, more creativity, better performance in just about everything that has been measure from sport to business, and of course feeling better within ourselves and relating better with others.

But yet, despite all these incredibly positive “side-effects”, the real gift of meditation comes through the inner journey; this great adventure of getting to know our own true self.

Now it has to be acknowledged that this is exactly what makes deeper meditation a little scary for some. What will I find? What will the journey itself be like?

So this is why we go on a meditation retreat. Maybe the initial motivation is directed towards increasing the “Side-effects”. Fair enough regular practice can accomplish all of that; but when we go on a meditation retreat, we take the time, make the time to leave behind our day-to-day life, go to a remote, peaceful and inspiring place, remove ourselves from distractions, join like-minded people and an authentic teacher, create a safe and conducive atmosphere - and venture inwards.

Meditation does have many practical benefits, but more than these, it also does offer a profound experience. Attending a meditation retreat creates the circumstances in which this profound inner experience becomes possible.

So this week, the promised photographic essay from Meditation in the Desert, along with news of our meditation retreats for 2015, but first

           Thought for the day

     Remember: A method is only a means, 
     Not the meditation itself. 
     It is through practicing the method skillfully 
     That you reach the perfection 
     Of that pure state of total presence, 
     Which is the real meditation.

                         Sogyal Rinpoche

            2014. Once more we journeyed into Australia’s red heart

            And came together for
            Meditation in the Desert
            at Hamilton Downs,
            North West of Alice Springs,
            looking out on the majestic
            Western Macdonnell Ranges

We shared good company
and great food,

cooked by the incomparable
Ken Campbell
and eaten mindfully

Stories were shared  

         And along with meditation,

         we did walking meditation…

                And yoga

There was an introduction to the country
and its remarkable food and medicinal plants
by world authority Peter Latz

    And we had the delight of Julia Broome
    and Seikan Cech assisting

      Then came a cultural exchange
      with senior, local indigenous leaders,
      with some time for secret men and women’s         business

       What an experience to share together

And now for 2015

This is an invitation to join Ruth and myself for one of the 3 meditation retreats we will present next year.

The first, Meditation in the Forest, is the annual Pre-Easter retreat in the Yarra Valley where this year the focus will be on entering more directly into the stillness of meditation.

Then in May we combine the simplicity of meditation with a more active inner journey - Meditation and the Inner Journey in the Yarra Valley. Through the use of creative imagery, we will learn how to meet our own inner guide in a way that leads to a reliable experience of our own inner wisdom. This is a well-grounded technique we have used over decades and that many people have found life-changingly useful.

Then to New Zealand in October for Meditation Under the Long White Cloud. This year the theme will be contemplation – how to think things through clearly and gain reliable access to insight and intuition.

So as 2014 draws towards its conclusion, is it time to be making a plan for 2015?

The immediate benefits of meditation are well known and researched – good health, accelerated healing, top performance and long lasting happiness. Extra-ordinary really! But beyond all that is the prospect of coming to know the real you.

Join us? Again? For the first time?

Details, including how to book are on our website www.iangawler.com

We love being a part of these retreats and supporting the inner journey - that greatest of human adventures.

27 October 2014

You Can Conquer Cancer turns 30

“You don’t know me but  ….  “ Ruth and I were walking down the main street of outback Burketown recently when this middle-aged lady rather shyly, almost apologetically approached us “ …  your book saved my life”. Meetings like this happen to us regularly and sometimes in the most exotic or unlikely of places.

This then is a blog about inspiration; and a tip – you do not need cancer to be inspired! Speaking personally, I find it incredibly inspiring to have people come up to me literally all around the world with tales of how You Can Conquer Cancer helped them or someone they loved.

It is actually deeply humbling to know that a book I put together and was launched 30 years ago this October by Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, patron of the Cancer Council, has remained in continuous print since. It has been translated into over a dozen languages and sold around 300,000 copies.

The latest edition is about to be printed in the lands of the superpowers - USA, China, England and Russia - amongst other countries.

Pausing to consider why this might be so, it seems clear to me that while the book had its genesis in my own experience of recovering from cancer and while there is good science behind it, the book was clarified through the intense and indeed, intimate experience of helping so many other people affected by cancer through the groups that I was personally involved with.

Through these groups it became possible to notice what worked for people – what words worked, what diet, what form of meditation, how to be positive in the face of major adversity; indeed what being positive really means, how to use the power of the mind for healing and so on.

So the real credit for the book goes to all those who attended the hundreds of groups that have come together over these last 30 years. The hope is that each of you who has been involved can take some pride in the book and the fact that what we learnt together has been of so much benefit to so many others.

This post is intended as a celebration and a source of real inspiration, but first

        Thought for the day

   Greater than the tread of mighty armies 
   is an idea whose time has come

                       Victor Hugo 

As the 30th anniversary of You Can Conquer Cancer approached, many people wrote to me sharing their experiences with the book and so I have recounted several of them here, using initials for most (my choice), rather than full names. It makes for a long article, intended to be dipped into as a precious resource of inspiration. Something you can share with others and come back to yourself when the need to be reminded of the
possibilities is there.

Many thanks to all who contributed, and a special gratitude to the book’s publisher Michelle Anderson, who told me she felt goose bumps run down her spine when she first read it and has been such a delight to work with over these past 30 years. 

Here then are the stories

Healthy living, less stress
30 yrs ago this book was recommend to me not because of cancer but as a guide to living a healthier life and providing a way forward through the stress of the many years of constant major grief I was experiencing.

"You Can Conquer Cancer" and "Peace of Mind " have been my "go to" books over all these years. Meditation has kept me sane and grounded through the toughest of crises. Last year I realised that stress was again insidiously creeping in and taking hold of me culminating in a diagnosis of a pre cancerous condition.

How to deal with it ? An easy decision - straight back to "You Can Conquer Cancer" and a reassessment of life. Your last two blogs re healing have been enormously helpful - thank you !

I also delight in that recently my 25yr old son expressed an interest in relaxation meditation and your books provided the tools he needed to learn these vital life skills

Kind Regards

Taking ownership of health and healing
I first read this book in the late 1980’s when my cousin was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Many years later in 2004, the book was sitting on my shelf when I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My diagnosis was a huge shock, but knowing that “there was something else out there” that I could do to help myself was very empowering and was a huge boost to my confidence at a very difficult time.

I bought the latest edition of the book and devoured it; using it to support the treatment that I was having through my specialist. I learnt to meditate, reassessed the priorities in my life and paid great attention to what I was eating and drinking. Under the guidance of the book I took ownership of my health and healing and of my life as a whole.

I now give this book to friends, family and acquaintances upon a cancer diagnosis. I found it to be life-changing and I want to share the wisdom and hope with others, especially at that vulnerable stage following a cancer diagnosis.

I highly recommend the book to anyone facing, or caring for someone with cancer. However, the contents are so clearly outlined and so easily digestible that I feel that the book is just as pertinent for anyone who wishes to reassess and turn their life around with or without a current health challenge.


A little book of hope
Without this little book of hope I am sure I would not be here today.

In 1996 I was diagnosed with a grade 4 non hodgkins lymphoma with spleen, skin and bone marrow involvement. It goes without saying that at that time I had very little hope apart from palliative chemo, which would perhaps give me a little more time, it was the best I option I had.

We were first given “You Can Conquer Cancer” about 1 month after diagnosis and it shone like a beacon for me in what can only be described as a very dark time for myself and my wife.

My wife read the book in one night, she had a eureka moment and thought that this book had been written about me. We jumped in head first. It took some time to clear out the cupboards and source organic supplies. It was 1996 and organic food was a lot harder to source, it was certainly not integrated into supermarkets etc like it is today.

The information in You Can Conquer Cancer is so incredible, it really is a self help book with trusted and proven advice to follow, advice which we did follow to the letter.

We did follow up with a ten day Residential Program at the Yarra Valley Living Centre to fine tune what we were doing but really ”You Can Conquer Cancer” provided a step by step guide for us to follow.

I know that in no small way the diet and meditation that Ian recommends has enabled me to be cancer free for 18 years, I continue to follow the lifestyle that was advocated all those years ago and like Ian and so many others I am living proof of its efficacy.

We recommend this book to anyone who contacts us re my recovery. It is such a common sense, achievable instruction manual which is still relevant all these years later.
Congratulations Ian and our heartfelt thanks for what you have done for us and so many others.
R and J L

Three gifts
‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ gave me

Hope when I had lost it

Power when I felt very small

Inner strength when my world imploded.

A profoundly important and life-saving book with PRACTICAL IDEAS!!!!
The first port of call for anyone with a cancer diagnosis.

Liz Vercoe

YA author ‘Keep Your Hair On!’ and ‘The Grief Book – Strategies for Young People’

Hope, courage and belief
In 1998, six months after my wonderful husband of 32 years died suddenly from a massive heart attack (he went to golf and did not come home) I was diagnosed with cancer.

At the time I really did not care much whether I lived or died.

I had an operation, two large tumours were removed, and I was told they were gone and the cancer would not come back again.  The pathology showed I had leiomyosarcoma – which is a very rare smooth muscle cancer.

I realise now the doctors did not know very much about this cancer and my oncologist had not treated a case before.  I was told I would not require further scans or treatment, and so very slowly my life started to feel normal again and I realised my family needed me – losing their father created a  huge hole in their lives.

By 2003 I was planning a future to be married again.  I knew I did not feel well, I was bloated and uncomfortable.  I finally found a doctor who listened to me and sent me for a scan.  The cancer was back with a vengeance and had spread to other parts of my body.

My oncologist delivered the news “I had six months to live, twelve if I was lucky, and there was nothing anyone could do for me.”  This time I was devastated, I wanted to live.  I did not know where to turn.  I met my girlfriend for lunch and she said “don’t cry love and she handed me a copy of “You Can Conquer Cancer.”

I had never heard of Ian or The Gawler Foundation, but somehow this seemed as though it was something I must do.  I rang The Foundation and was about the last person to be accepted for the 10 day Life and Living Program, there was not even room for my partner to attend as a support person.

I attended the May 2003 session and to start with I could not stop crying, but by the end of those wonderful 10 days the tears had disappeared and I came away from The Foundation with some HOPE.  With the hope comes courage and the will to keep searching and the belief that I was not powerless.

There was so much I could do to help myself, but because there was so much cancer in my body, I knew I needed a surgeon who was willing to operate to give me a chance.  It was a long journey over the next two years.  I continued the Gawler program faithfully until it became a comforting way of life for me.

The cancer did not progress in the way it was supposed to do.   I consulted with four oncologists and eight surgeons in Melbourne, who all told me “there was a high risk of morbidity and mortality and operating would not alter the course of the disease.”

I travelled to China for Traditional Chinese Medicine and there I met an American surgeon who told me the operation I needed was being done in the States.  This gave me new hope and a belief that there must be someone in Australia who could do it.  Finally I found a Professor in Sydney, a wonderful man, who operated and said everywhere he saw cancer he took it.  It was a long recovery from a massive operation, but throughout, with my partner’s help, I thrived on the food and juices, I meditated continually and I did not think about “not getting well.”

Today I am living quite well with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – no one is sure how this turned up, but it is a work in progress and it has been completely stable for the last nine years.  There is no sign of the sarcoma, if there was, I would not be alive today.

I am truly grateful to Ian and Ruth for giving me another chance at life, and the knowledge you really can conquer cancer.   Every week there is a so-called new scientific report about cancer breakthrough, and I say to my family “Ian has been saying that for years”.

With loving thanks,


My healing “Bible”
When I met my chemical oncologist for first time I found out that before the surgery my survival chances would have been 20% and after the surgery they would have been raised to 50%. So, my wonderful oncologist told me that they – the medical staff – would fight for those 50% and I would be responsible for the balance. I felt I was in a black hole! How would I balance out all the knowledge of those highly qualified specialists!?

I read the book You Can Conquer Cancer for first time in December 2002. I was recovering from a big surgery of an advanced and aggressive ovarian cancer and I had a three week-holiday in New Zealand between two sessions of chemotherapy. I did not understand much of the book’s content. I only had in my mind that this was my last holiday as I was going to die.

And then, in February 2003, I started a twelve week “Cancer Self Help Group” activity and Siegfried helped me to understand the book, chapter by chapter. The book soon became my Bible and I found out the way to balance the 50% of  responsibilities to keep myself alive and happy.

I have definitely “lived” with cancer for the last 12 years due to my wonderful oncologists and your philosophy of life which I have totally embraced. I feel compelled to add that the retreats, workshops & conferences that I attended at the Foundation were exceptionally useful.

There was a special workshop I have to mention: “A New Way of Living” in May 2013. At that time, I was feeling quite right and in a good mood. During Q&A time, I did ask you what you were going to do in the unfortunate case of a cancer relapse. Your answer was totally unexpected: “I will read my book.” I said: “I did it many times”. And you said: “Do it now, when you are not in crisis mode, and read the last version.”

That was the best advice I have had from you. The 2013 edition of the book was and still is a revelation for me. I read it with such great joy! I am impressed!

One more little thing: I would like to mention the Lady A. I met her at the meditation sessions at Nancy’s place. She had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer just when you had published your first book and was in her late sixties at that time. She had decided that if you did it, she also could do it and had followed your steps religiously.

When I first met her she was 98 year-old, free of cancer and sharing with everyone that she was alive due to you and your book. She passed away peacefully a couple of weeks before her centenary.

The one handed typist
In 1981 I found a lump in my breast. What made me check I do not know. It was not the norm then. I was not concerned, my Dr and the surgeon both thought it a cyst, however, I went to hospital for a biopsy and learnt the awful truth.

I cannot explain the feelings I had, only another cancer patient would understand.
My whole family was blown away. I was only 34 and back then assumed hopeless.
I had three children, Tracey, 13, Lindy, 11 and Penny 6, and my husband stuck with me all the way.

We made the decision to change our lifestyle to lots of fresh air and the peace of a small farm, and whilst I was in hospital having the breast removed we bought a hobby farm. I gave away all commitments and concentrated on getting well.

After a week in hospital the full impact hit me. I had put off showering, but when I finally did look down where my breast had been, it was gut wrenching. I will always remember the feeling at that time of having no femininity (it did return though).

It was a lonely time, friends avoided me; I loved my netball and missed it. I finally did get back to it but would cover my boob with my arm whilst playing.

I worried I would not see my girls grow up; I spent as much time as I could with them trying to be “normal”.

I went to Peter Mac for 6 weeks of radiation treatment, three of those weeks we tried to make it a family holiday for the children. I travelled from a flat in Frankston each day.

I very slowly accepted things, for a while every lump on my body was suspect in my sensitive state. My surgeon, reassured me on many occasions, he was very good to me. I tried to find someone who had survived, but patient confidentiality stopped me at every turn. My Mum happened to meet a lady who had breast cancer 30 years ago and obviously survived and this was a turning point me.

I found walking in the bush soothing so spent a lot of time there.

To fill out my bra I used a pair of socks. Every morning you wake with cancer on your mind, then, one day I realised I had forgotten my socks! Wow, I was very excited. This meant it was off my mind for a short time; this also was a big step, as it could only get longer.

Later whilst on holiday in Merimbula I lost my prosthesis in the water and the girls had great fun duck diving for it. I still laugh about that.

My scar and mind began to heal and a new operation was being trialled to reconstruct the breast. I agreed only if nothing foreign was put in my body, so a muscle was brought around under my arm and shaped like a breast. It was not done without trouble as I got gangrene in the wound when I returned home. My surgeon to my rescue again.

The girls would check me out when having a bath, not a pretty sight, but took it in their stride; they do not remember now, thankfully. We celebrated anniversaries yearly and still do.

Through all this I got in touch with the Gawler Foundation, Ian had just started his healing work and it struck a chord with me. I have his tapes and I played them over and over again, and his people were always very supportive. I still remember hearing the cars go by as he was taping. I will always appreciate the help he gave me.

He taught me to use my mind in the healing process, each time I ordered a cassette a hand written note was always enclosed to ask how I was, this helped me so much.

After trial and error I found carrot juice useful; I bought carrots by the bagful. I turned orange at one stage, and Vitamin B also assisted me.

I prayed a lot and church was soothing. I do have faith in God.

I was a jogger for years, and when I was coming good I started again. I had lost all confidence and frightened my new boob would fall off, but I persisted.

I would search for positives every day. A rainbow would inspire me. I would look at big gum trees with branches broken off and think, they grow big and strong after loosing a limb, so I can too. I had a poster I looked at every morning, ”Help me to remember Lord, that nothing will happen today, that you and I can't handle together”

Ten years after radiation I lost the use of part of my arm and right hand, treatment not as precise back then, and a nerve was damaged, continual pins and needles and numbness. I do not feel burns and cuts so a few scars on my hand.

So onto the next stage, I enrolled at TAFE to get dexterity by typing with my left hand. My teacher Judy was a great help and support. I painstakingly started to learn to write left-handed, I still have trouble with the “z” back to front. Doing things with one hand is frustrating, but a small price to pay.

I now ride a lot and all controls are on the left hand side, I have even ridden to Sydney and back.

I did write to “freedom of information” and found out I had a very aggressive cancer.

There is a lot of support out there now. Use it. You will know in your gut what is right for you. It is so nice to see the very high percentage of cure nowadays.

I write these words to encourage others to do it your way, only you know what will work for you, go with your own gut feeling.

I am ecstatic to have seen my girls grow into responsible caring adults with their own children. I did not think I would see that happen.

I have been blessed.


Moving on and helping others
Eleven years ago I was diagnosed at a young age with an aggressive and rare form of breast cancer, and my whole life was turned upside down.

Soon after I was diagnosed I went to find some answers, anything that would help me figure out what I could do to help myself. I came across the book by Ian Gawler ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ and a light bulb went off. I opened the book and read “This is a book about what works. What works if you want to fight for your life. Recover from cancer. Prevent illness. Be really well. Find enduring peace and happiness.”

In that moment I remember feeling so happy and so relieved because I knew I had the tools within this book to begin the fight for my own life I and I gave myself permission to be in control. My life changed in that instant and for the better. If I had not read those words that particular day and really resonated with what Ian had written, I may not be here today.

I have been so inspired by this that I have created a health and wellness online store dedicated to helping people navigate cancer and ‘You Can Conquer Cancer’ is of course top of our book list. Thank you Ian for your years of tireless work and research in this field, I and thousands of others around the world are truly grateful that you chose to share the story of your survival."

Yasmin Farry

Third time lucky! 
I had Breast cancer in 2000 and after a total mastectomy and loads of positive thinking etc I survived that and I had a total recovery. I had a brain cancer in 2004 requiring surgical removal and this was followed in 2005 by a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma which is incurable. This required drastic chemo and stem cell transplants and I was out of action for many months.

During this time a friend gave me a copy of “You Can Conquer Cancer” and this was my turning point. I began reading it and the more I read the more confident I became. I began meditation, something I had never done before, I found I was able to focus on getting over this terrible thing and putting it behind me. I read it and read it. I took it with me everywhere I went and gradually I found myself being able to cope with my cancer.

I am sure that the reason I am alive today is because my friend gave me the book 9 years ago when I was at my lowest time. I am now in complete remission and I never go away from home without my “You Can Conquer Cancer” book and I am now 100% certain of the power of one’s mind.

Thank you so much Ian Gawler for having empowered me and hundreds of others to conquer cancer. Have attended both your seminars in Adelaide and all I can do is say

Thank you


Cancer survivors? Cancer thrivers!

You Can Conquer Cancer

Ruth and I are back at Mana retreat centre on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. Great environment, great facilities, terrific staff and the food is exceptional as well. Such a good place to support a meditation retreat.

Here is the view from the meditation sanctuary!!!

23 October 2014

Is soy safe? – part 2

As you tuck into a delightful tofu and veggie stir-fry, or maybe even some tofu ice-cream, is there a lingering doubt? Is this really doing me good? Am I contributing to the prevention of breast and prostate cancer, or am I, as some would have us believe, contributing to their increased likelihood?

If so, you need the answer to this question: Do the phyto-oestrogens in soybeans act like oestrogen or Tamoxifen? Need a full explanation? Let us go Out on a Limb again, follow on from the earlier post this week where we explored the soybean itself, and using the evidence-base available, explore how cancer and soy beans interact, but first

Thought for the day

The doctor of the future will give no medicine,
But will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame,
In diet and in the cause and prevention of disease

                    Thomas Edison, 1902

1. There are historically low breast cancer incidence rates in Asia, where traditional soyfoods are a staple.

2. Research demonstrates isoflavones in soy may exert anti-oestrogenic effects.

3. Some epidemiologic data shows a higher soy intake results in a lower breast cancer risk.

4. Rodent studies demonstrate soy protects against carcinogen-induced mammary cancer.

In broad terms, there are 2 types of breast cancer; oestrogen positive and oestrogen negative. Our discussion relates to oestrogen positive cancers in particular and these make up about 70% of all breast cancers.

Oestrogen positive cancers are aggravated by oestrogen (the main female sex hormone). How this happens is that on the surface of oestrogen positive cancer cells there are receptors for oestrogen. When an oestrogen molecule comes into proximity with such a receptor, it attaches (but does not go into the cell) and creates a cascade of reactions within the cell that speeds up the cancer’s progression.

In earlier times, removal of the ovaries was attempted as a way to reduce oestrogen levels in women with breast cancer. But oestrogen is made in other parts of the body, so only in exceptional circumstances has this proven useful.

Many people will have heard of tamoxifen. This was heralded as a breakthrough drug as, while it does attach to the oestrogen receptors, it does not cause the internal reaction. Therefore, tamoxifen blocks natural oestrogen from having its adverse affects.

Unfortunately, tamoxifen does aggravate uterine tissue and is associated with increased uterine cancer, but on balance it remains a widely used anti-cancer drug. Simply put, tamoxifen is an oestrogen antagonist.


There are 3 main oestrogen-like chemicals in soybeans; genistein, daidzein, and glycitein.

They are present in their beta glycoside forms: genistin, daidzin, and glycitin, hence you may see them written differently.

Genistin/genistein, daidzin/daidzein, and glycitin/glycitein account for approximately 50–55%, 40–45%, and 5–10% of total isoflavone content, respectively in soybeans.

Older adults in Japan and Shanghai, China, typically consume between 25 and 50 mg/day of isoflavones and probably no more than 5% of these populations consume more than 100 mg/day. In contrast, people in the United States and Europe consume an average of less than 3 mg/day.

Isoflavones have a chemical structure similar to human oestrogen but bind to estrogen receptors more weakly. Significantly, it has been suggested that genistein, which is the best-studied isoflavone, along with the other isoflavones may act like tamoxifen as estrogen receptor blockers.

What has also drawn attention in recent years are conflicting concerns that isoflavones may stimulate the growth of existing estrogen-sensitive breast tumors. These concerns are based on evidence gathered from studies involving tissue cultures and rodents. However, they do contrast with the human epidemiological evidence that shows among Asian women higher soy intake is associated with a nearly one-third reduction in breast cancer risk and that Japanese breast cancer patients, in comparison to Western women, exhibit better survival rates even after controlling for stage of diagnosis.


In Asia, isoflavones are consumed as traditional soy foods and not in pure or processed forms. Epidemiological data associates lifetime, and particularly pre-adolescent consumption of traditional soy with a decreased risk of breast cancer development in humans.

An Asian-American study on soy found that women, pre- and postmenopausal, who consumed tofu, had a 15% reduced risk of breast cancer with each additional serving per week.

Wu AH, Ziegler, et al. Tofu and risk of breast cancer in Asian- Americans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 1996;5(11):901-906.

Another trial reported that women in the highest tertile intake of tofu had a 51% decrease risk of premenopausal breast cancer when compared with women in the lowest tertile. In this study, no statistical significant association was observed between soy intake and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women.

Hirose K, Imaeda N, Tokudome Y, Goto C, Wakai K, Matsuo K, et al. Soybean products and reduction of breast cancer risk: a case-control study in Japan. Br J Cancer 2005;93(1):15-22.

Messina and colleagues published a major review on this subject in 2008 and I consider it to be one of the very the best review articles on this topic. To quote:

The conclusion drawn from this extensive review of the available literature is that currently there is little evidence to suggest that any potential weak estrogenic effects of dietary isoflavones have a clinically relevant impact on breast tissue in healthy women. Limited data suggest this is also the case for breast cancer survivors.

This evidence includes multiple trials showing no effects on breast proliferation or mammographic density and considerable epidemiologic data showing either no effect or a modest protective role of soy/isoflavone intake on breast cancer risk.

Based on this evidence it seems unlikely that isoflavone consumption at dietary levels (i.e. <100 mg/day) elicits adverse breast cancer-promoting effects in healthy women or breast cancer survivors not undergoing active treatment.

Messina MJ and Wood CE; Nutrition Journal 2008.  To read in full, CLICK HERE http://www.nutritionj.com/content/7/1/17

When this article was first posted in 2008, there was no data to support the notion that soyfoods or isoflavone supplements could improve the survival of breast cancer patients.

Several earlier studies suggested that whole soy foods appeared to have no negative or positive effect on breast cancer. For example the following two studies found soy foods had no negative impact on breast cancer survival.

Boyapati SM, et al. Soyfood intake and breast cancer survival: a followup of the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2005;92(1):11-17.

Nishio K, et al. Consumption of soy foods and the risk of breast cancer: findings from the Japan Collaborative Cohort (JACC) Study. Cancer Causes Control. 2007;18(8):801-808.
This, and other evidence, prompted Messina and colleagues in their 2008 review quoted above to state:

Available data on breast cancer recurrence and mortality provide some assurance for breast cancer patients that soyfoods/isoflavone supplements, when taken at dietary levels, do not contribute to recurrence rates although more data are clearly needed to better address this issue.

However, in 2009, following more analysis of the Shanghai study, strong new evidence was published showing significant benefits of consuming soy for women with breast cancer in terms of better survival and less cancer recurrence, making Messina’s claim outdated.

Women consuming soy in the highest quartile had a 29% lower death rate over the 4 year follow up, and 32% reduced risk of recurrence. The protective effect was present regardless of oestrogen receptor status of the cancer, or whether tamoxifen was used or not.

This study provided the most compelling evidence to date of a benefit for soy consumption by women with breast cancer (as opposed to no harm). It is important because it shows a benefit for increased soy consumption irrespective of oestrogen receptor status or tamoxifen use.

Shu XO et al. Soy food intake and breast cancer survival; JAMA. 2009 Dec 9; 302(22):2437-43.

The trend of this study was confirmed in 2013 when another study demonstrated soy food intake is associated with longer survival and low recurrence among breast cancer patients.

Zhang, Y.F., et al., Positive effects of soy isoflavone food on survival of breast cancer patients in China. Asian Pac J Cancer Prev, 2012. 13(2): p. 479-482.

More recently still, a major review from the World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Breast Cancer Survivors has examined a total of 85 studies involving 164,416 women. Included has been analysis of specific evidence related to soy and its interaction with breast cancer.

This major study makes modest conclusions The evidence was sparse and generally consistent, and is suggestive of an inverse relationship between consumption of foods containing soy and all cause mortality. 

Translation? From what solid evidence there is so far, it seems that soy is likely to be helpful; the evidence for it being unhelpful is not there. Conclusion? It is coming after a few more pieces of the puzzle are put into place!

It may be that the non-traditional soy foods do create problems. Significantly, soy protein isolates do not contain many of the bioactive components present in whole soy. As we clarified in Part 1, refined products include soy flour and its processed derivatives.

Research has demonstrated that soy protein isolates (85–90% soy protein) do stimulate the growth of

estrogen-dependent tumors. Another study evaluated the relative effects of different degrees of soy processing on the growth of pre-existing tumors and demonstrated that consumption of isoflavones in increasingly purer or more highly enriched forms may have a proportionally worse effect on estrogen-dependent tumor growth.

Allred CD,et al. Soy processing influences growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumors. Carcinogenesis 2004;25:1649-1657.

Some research has shown that soy processing increases breast cancer growth in mice. This may be related to isoflavone metabolism and bioavailability, but more research is needed.

Allred CD, et al. Soy processing influences growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancer tumors. Carcinogenesis 2004;25:1649-1657.

There has also been some concern expressed that soy products may actually interfere with the action of tamoxifen itself. However, recent studies examining the interaction between soy and tamoxifen have yielded neutral or beneficial findings.

In one study, soy intake had no effect on levels of tamoxifen or its metabolites.

Wu AH, et al. Tamoxifen, soy, and lifestyle factors in Asian American women with breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2007;25(21):3024-3030.

In another, the combination of tamoxifen and genistein inhibited the growth of human breast cancer cells in a synergistic manner in vitro.

Mai Z, et al. Genistein sensitizes inhibitory effect of tamoxifen on the growth of estrogen receptor- positive and HER2-overexpressing human breast cancer cells. Mol Carcinog. 2007;46(7):534-542.

One study reported that soy’s main phyto-oestrogen genistein, enhanced the cytotoxic effect of the chemotherapeutic agent adriamycin at low doses against the human breast cancer cell. This enhancing effect was mainly attributed to the increase of necrotic-like, rather than apoptotic, cell death.

Satoh H, Nishikawa K, Suzuki K, et al. Genistein, a soy isoflavone, enhances necrotic-like cell death in a breast cancer cell treated with a chemotherapeutic agent. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol.2003;113–114:149–158.

Of great interest is research that demonstrates eating soy foods during childhood and adolescence in women, and before puberty onset in animals, appears to significantly reduce the risk of breast cancer later in life.

Research evidence indicates a possible synergistic relationship between soy and green tea consumption.

The American Cancer Society in 2006 concluded that breast cancer patients can safely consume up to three servings of traditional soyfoods per day, although the group advised against the use of more concentrated sources of isoflavones such as powders and supplements.

The United States Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) conducted a review of the available studies and found little evidence of substantial health improvements and no adverse effects, but also noted that there was no long-term safety data on estrogenic effects from soy consumption.

The AHRQ report notes that future studies of the health effects of soy need to better address the complex relationship between health and food components, including how variations in the diets, lifestyles, and health of participants might affect the results.

Also, studies that substitute practical amounts of soy products into people's diets would better address the question of whether people should make the effort to include more soy in their diet.

The Cancer Council of New South Wales released a statement saying scientific research suggests that overall the moderate consumption of soy products does not appear to present a risk to women with breast cancer, and there is equivocal evidence that consuming large amounts of soy products may have a protective effect against developing breast and prostate cancer. However, the Council does not recommend taking soy dietary supplements as there is no evidence they are either effective or safe at preventing or treating cancers.

We regularly eat organic tofu and soy yoghurt (which Ruth makes from Bonsoy). Ruth drinks small amounts of soymilk (mostly Bonsoy in teas), but I do not – I do not like it and have teas and dandelion coffee black). We eat some tempeh but only have silken tofu by mistake when eating out!

We avoid processed soy products and read labels to avoid the myriad of foods with these products added to them.

In answer to the key question, I conclude the phyto-oestrogens in soy act like tamoxifen, not like oestrogen. I also conclude:
1. Traditional soy foods are almost certainly safe and warrant being a part of a healthy diet for healthy people. I recommend them. I particularly recommend regular soy consumption for young and adolescent girls; but then lifetime consumption seems ideal.

2. Processed or refined or concentrated soy products run the real risk of being problematic for everyone. I do not recommend them.

3. For women with breast cancer, the best evidence currently available suggests traditional soy foods, eaten in traditional amounts are likely to be safe and may well be helpful in reducing recurrences and extending survival. I recommend them.

Coconut oil – are you nuts?

Food for life – what to eat when

You Can Conquer Cancer – the revised edition has many other explanations like this one on soy. What type of protein and how much? Which are the best fats to eat and to avoid, and so on. This book is about prevention and long-term good health, as well as cancer recovery.

Ruth and I leave this week to present our final meditation retreat for the year, Meditation Under the Long White Cloud at Mana retreat centre amidst the peace and beauty of the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.

Then we travel down south to the exquisite landscape at Wanaka to present the 5 day cancer residential program, Mind, Meditation and Healing from November 10 - 14. It will be a delight to be back in New Zealand once more.