A Well Being Journal Interview with Chris Wark
When 26 years old, Chris Wark was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2003. He then underwent surgery to remove a golf ball-sized tumor as well as a third of his colon. The oncologist told him he needed to undergo chemotherapy. Chris radically changed his diet and lifestyle and experienced complete healing without chemotherapy or any other medical treatment.
Chris, what would you say to someone who had a cancer diagnosis and wanted your advice, but only had time for a few words?
You are not a victim, you are not powerless, and this diagnosis is not a result of bad luck or bad genes—only about 5 percent of cancers are genetically related, and 95 percent of cancers are caused by our diet, lifestyle, environment, and unmanaged stress. The good news is that you have so much power to change your life to promote health and healing in your body.
You have personally experienced all of what you mention.
Absolutely. I radically changed my life when I had the epiphany that the way I was living was killing me. I reasoned that if the way I was living contributed to this disease, then maybe changing the way I was living would contribute to my health. If my body created cancer, then maybe my body can heal it. So, I set about changing everything.
You spoke of the general elements, but will you be more specific about what led to getting cancer?
I can’t say which specific things caused my cancer, but I can talk about what we know is causing the vast majority of cancers. First on the list is the so-called “Western diet.” This is the standard American diet (SAD), which is very heavy in meat and dairy, fast food, processed food, and junk food. It’s also excessive in daily calories.
Not just any calories.
No, we are speaking of animal, processed- and junk-food calories. This is a diet that conversely is deficient in fruits and vegetables. The SAD is deficient in whole foods direct from the earth: Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. That’s what’s missing from the Western diet.
What are we eating? We are eating a lot of white flour and bread, meat, cheese, sugar, salt, and unhealthy oils—not to mention all the artificial additives and preservatives, flavors and colors. When you step back and examine what we are putting in our mouths every day, the general population has gotten very far away from what you could reasonably consider a natural diet.
Is the diet you just itemized the one you experienced from the time of your childhood?
Yes, as I was a typical American child. My mom was more health conscious than the average mom of the 80s, but in most respects, mine was the standard American diet. My first birthday party was at a McDonald’s.
What led to your knowledge of nutrition, stress management, and an overall healthy lifestyle? Was the colon-cancer diagnosis your main wake-up call?
Yes. After the surgery I was trying to decide whether or not to do chemotherapy. The doctor told me I had to do it. I prayed about it, asking God if there was another way to please show it to me, because I didn’t have a good feeling about chemotherapy. The idea of poisoning my way back to health didn’t make sense to me. Then, during this time, someone sent me a book about healing with nutrition and a raw food diet, which opened my eyes. It became clear that cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and most of the diseases we suffer from are caused by our poor diet and other unhealthy every-day lifestyle factors.
This was a huge turning point. I realized at that moment that I was not a victim of bad luck or genes doled out by some outside force. I had a part to play in this. I didn’t feel sorry for myself or wallow in self-pity, but instead I saw this as good news. Because I knew if I got myself into this mess by my diet and lifestyle, that maybe I could get myself out of it!
I definitely put a high value on personal responsibility. I believe our choices matter, and that wherever we are in life is largely a result of our choices. So, I saw that I had the option to make different choices. At the time, this idea of eating a raw food diet was very radical, interesting, and exciting to me. I thought, “What would happen if I only ate huge amounts of fruits and vegetables exclusively, every day?”
Overnight, literally, I went from eating one or two servings of fruits and vegetables a day, to eating 15 or 20 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Were the amounts about fifty percent of each?
It was about eighty percent vegetables. I was making giant salads with what we now know are the most potent anticancer vegetables: The allium and cruciferous families. Allium includes garlic, onion, and leeks; and the crucifers are broccoli, kale, cabbage and so on. I was making giant bowls full of vegetables, which I had every day for lunch and dinner. They included the foods I mentioned plus mushrooms, cucumbers, peppers, beans, bean sprouts, sauerkraut, topped with apple cider vinegar and olive oil, along with spices, such as garlic, cayenne pepper, oregano, turmeric, and curry powder. I was on a mission to overdose on nutrition in order to get my body an abundance of good things it could use to repair, regenerate, and detoxify.
What did you notice changed, and also in terms of change over time?
The initial thing was similar to what many people experience when they convert to a diet like this. When you forgo the foods that you’ve been eating for years, the first few days you can feel pretty lousy. You suffer from withdrawal from the meat, dairy, sugar, salt, caffeine, pastries and grains, and high fat diet you’ve had for so long. Also, you can experience some detoxification symptoms, such as low energy, headaches or nausea.
The first few days I had really low energy, but I was mentally prepared, because I had read that this might happen. After three or four days I turned a corner. I started to feel really good, then felt great. I had tons of energy. Also, my tastes changed. I never really liked broccoli at all. There was never a time in my life when I thought, “I could really go for some broccoli right now!” Then I started to love and crave all of these raw vegetables in the giant salads I was eating.
I realized this was what I needed to eat every day, and it became my simple staple diet. I didn’t need a bunch of cookbooks or raw food recipes; I just wanted this giant salad every day, twice a day, for lunch and dinner. Most days I was also juicing and drinking 64 ounces of vegetable juice made from carrot, beetroot, celery, and ginger every morning. I started adding fruit to my diet, such as frozen berries, and then made fruit smoothies as an afternoon snack to get more nutrition in my body.
It was a very simple strategy, but profoundly nutritious. My body loved it.
Anyone interested could read in your book, Chris Beat Cancer, all the details concerning the nutritional protocols you practiced.
So, for how long a period of time did you have this new nutritional discipline before you had your next check up with a physician, and what did you discover?
About a week into my raw food diet and life-transformation journey, due to family pressure, I agreed to go see an oncologist. This appointment was very negative. The physician basically said, “You have a 60 percent chance of living 5 years if you do treatment. You have young-adult colon cancer, which is very aggressive. He didn’t give me much hope, and he used fear to intimidate me and convince me to say “yes” to chemotherapy. So, I made an appointment to get a port installed in 3 weeks, and then the chemotherapy would start shortly after that procedure. The doctor even said to me, point blank, “If you don’t do chemotherapy you are insane.”
It was a blessing that I had 3 weeks to recover from that very traumatic appointment and get my wits about me. I had time to look at my situation rationally, and not be rushed into something out of fear. Many cancer patients don’t have that luxury of time, and they are rushed into treatment out of fear. I was rushed into surgery out of fear, but the side effects of that surgery were relatively low compared to chemotherapy and radiation.
However, when the day came to have the port put in, I decided, “No, I’m not going through with it. I can do that later if need be.” What I was doing then is what I wanted to continue doing. I made a decision: “This is what I want to do; this is what I need to do.” In my core I knew I needed to change my life and rebuild my body. I didn’t want to tear it down anymore with chemotherapy. So, I put that on the back burner, and rationalized, “Well, there’s always chemotherapy if this doesn’t work.” That treatment became more of a last resort instead of a primary therapy.
So, at this time, the 3-week juncture, you were getting strong signals from your body, and these were enough of a factor for you to decide to keep doing what you were doing.
Yes. The signals I kept getting were that I was feeling really good; I had lots of energy, so much joy, life, mental clarity, and emotional enthusiasm. Even spiritually, as I felt certain that this book about raw foods was the answer to my prayers. That was a big part of it, and, even though no one else around me understood, I knew this was what I had to do if I wanted to survive.
You just can’t worry about what anyone else thinks about what you are doing. Everyone thought I was crazy for saying no to chemotherapy. They said things such as, “Oh, you’re going to eat a bunch of broccoli to cure the cancer? Ok,” in a derogatory way.
So, contrast the way you felt at this point with characteristics in general before this period.
I was an entrepreneur and running myself ragged from sunup to sundown, working very hard to build a real estate business. As a musician I was also playing shows, writing music, and up late at night. I was trying to accomplish a lot in my early 20s. I was young and trying to conquer the world. There was a lot of self-imposed stress. Not only was I burning the candle at both ends but was living on fast food and junk food. We can do that for decades sometimes before something breaks. My body just all of a sudden rebelled. There may have been a genetic factor, but we know now that your genetics are largely influenced by your lifestyle choices. Diet influences genetic expression, so a healthy diet switches on cancer-preventive genes.
Would you say that you had a strong will to live prior to finding the raw foods diet information?
I developed a strong will to live. I became determined to live and to get well. I was willing to change anything and everything in my life that could be promoting disease and preventing me from being well. The nutrition was a big part, but I started exercising regularly as well. I found a naturopathic doctor and an integrative medicine medical doctor who supported me. I also took ridiculous amounts of nutritional supplements, anything that could possibly help!
What about the stressful lifestyle?
I addressed that too. I was a type “A.” I had become very competitive growing up, as well as insecure, critical, and judgmental. I was an emotional mess. I wasn’t abusing alcohol or drugs, but realized I was constantly entertaining toxic negative thoughts and feelings. So, I had to deal with that and start retraining my brain to think positively. I had to stop condemning and forgive people and exercise gratitude. One of the most valuable lessons was that cancer taught me was how to be happy even in the middle of a really bad situation. I learned to count my blessings and appreciate things every day, such as to thank God that I could get out of bed, that I could work, that I had a wife who loved me, and that I had a roof over my head!
I had to constantly shift my focus away from fear and negativity and toward all the good things in my life. Practicing gratitude releases chemicals in your brain, makes you feel good, and creates happiness. It releases antidepressant hormones in your body!
When did you get a clean bill of health regarding the cancer?
I was tested constantly throughout the process with blood work and looking at cancer markers every month, because my chosen doctors knew I was a high-risk case. My oncologist ordered CT scans every six months for the first few years, and every time the blood work and scans were clear, my oncologist was as excited as I was. Five years passed and I was still alive, healthy, and cancer free.
There are so many flaws in the current cancer treatment model. For example, doctors are either not trained in nutrition and prevention, or they don’t have enough time to spend with patients and educate them, or they fear standing out amongst the conventional as a quack if they talk about nutrition as a healing factor. The most important principle in reversing cancer is that you have to make your body inhospitable to cancer. You have to make your body a place where cancer cells cannot thrive. There are two basic ways to do that. One is to inject yourself with toxic poisons that make it hard for cancer cells to grow. The problem with this way is that it also poisons all the other cells in your body and causes all kinds of internal damage and often makes cancer stem cells resistant and more aggressive. The other option is to change your internal terrain.
When you rebuild your body with nutrition you change your internal terrain. Nutrition, the foods you eat, is one of the foundations of health, because your body runs on what you eat. Every cell in your body is going to die and be replaced. Over the course of about a year, you will have almost an entirely new body. So, the foods you eat are a big part of that, and nutrition also promotes detoxification, boosts immune function, lowers inflammation, improves digestion, enzyme and reproductive functions—everything will improve with the right nutrition. You just have to remove all the extraneous health-destroying factors.
I knew there were cancer cells in my body, because once you have a tumor large enough to detect, it’s already putting a million cancer cells into your bloodstream every day, so my goal was to create an environment where those cells could not survive. You can cut the tumor out, but you’ve still got millions of cancer cells in your bloodstream and other parts of your body looking to set up camp and start multiplying. The way to stop that is to make your body an environment where the campers can’t thrive. Boosting your immune function is an important part of this equation, but all the systems in your body have to be functioning at their optimal levels because they all work together.
I realized early on in the process that I wasn’t sick because I had cancer; I had cancer because I was sick.
Good point. So, having gone through this experience, including the conventional medical approach you were offered, what would you say to physicians and other health professionals? How would you recommend they can best serve their cancer patients?
That’s a big question, and there’s a big answer to it. The medical system as it exists today in the US has a lot of problems. One is that doctors are not trained in nutrition and prevention of disease. Another is that they don’t have the time to spend with patients. The average time spent with patients is about 15 minutes. To change the system, doctors need to be educated in prevention, including nutrition, and lifestyle medicine. We have plenty of research studies, we know what the nutritional factors and lifestyles are of the healthiest living populations around the world, including with the lowest rates of cancer. They eat plant-based diets, exercise regularly, have low levels of stress, spend time outdoors in fresh air and sunshine, and have strong family and other community member social support systems. None of this is taught in medical school.
What you learn in medical school is all about prescribing drugs, performing surgeries, and using other technologies such as radiation. They are taught, not how to heal cancer, but how to treat cancer. But, with the exception of a very few cancers, such as lymphoma, testicular cancer, and childhood leukemia, these drugs are band aids, or emergency procedures, not lifestyle measures that prevent the illness or disease of solid tumor cancers in the first place. Conventional medicine has not made much progress in lowering the death rate for solid tumor cancers in the last sixty or so years.
You have to transform the system at the University level, and it’s not an easy fix. Then that has to be put into practice in the real world, but if doctors can only spend 12-15 minutes per patient with the way the system is run now, how can they really help except with band aids? They can’t make any money in the current healthcare system unless they see a ton of patients every day because the margins are really tight for doctors to make a living. They are rammed into this dysfunctional model to practice medicine, but it’s like restaurant management: How fast can we turn over these tables so we can make more money?
I’m working to bridge the gap. I’m not here to tell people not to use conventional medicine, such as chemotherapy or surgery. I’m saying that there is so much you can do to help yourself. Work with a doctor, and do whatever treatments you feel good about, but educate yourself; make sure you understand what you are getting into if you say “yes” to conventional treatment. Don’t be rushed into treatments out of fear. Whatever you decide to do, know that there is so much you can do to help yourself at home. Healing happens at home. ?
Chris Wark’s best-selling book Chris Beat Cancer: A Comprehensive Plan for Healing Naturally (2018) Hay House, Inc., covers in-depth the material in the interview above, and it is available wherever quality books are sold.