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!!!


  1. How inspiring to read these testimonials! I too must share that I received an enormous amount of help from reading Ian's book -YYCC. It was recommended to me by a student's parent when he heard I had NH lymphoma. I chose to have chemotherapy as I was stage 4 yet had a good % survival rate.
    However, the information from the book was so factual & well documented that I believed it would help me recover. It empowered me to take charge of my healing. I also attended the 10 day seminar retreat in the Yarra Valley...that was a life changer as it supported everything I had set out to do. The staff there are wonderful!
    I have read more of Ian's books about the power of the mind over the body & know how much it has helped me.
    It is past 5 years since the diagnosis & I have passed each battery of tests with flying colours!
    I expect to live healthily & hope others can access this too.
    A huge thank you, Ian.
    Jeanette Byrd

  2. Great to hear from you Jeanette - wonderful story. Isn't it great to be alive!