I was born in 1930 and, with the exception of an occasional cheese sandwich or omelette, have been a vegetarian since 1983. In 2009, at the age of 79, observing traces of blood in my urine, I consulted a urologist. Peering inside of me with a fiber-optic cystoscope, he informed me that there were over 30 cancers in my bladder, two of them “larger than golf balls;” something he’d never previously seen in a patient. When I asked why, except for the blood in my urine, I hadn’t experienced any symptoms, he answered: “Because you’re very healthy.” ”Healthy? How can I be healthy with my bladder bulging with cancer?” ”If you weren’t very healthy you’d have been dead long ago,” was his response.
Then he asked if I smoked cigarettes? ”I used to,” I answered, “but only for about five years, stopping in 1964.” ”The majority of bladder cancers in men are caused by smoking,” he continued. ”If you’re fortunate enough to have the carcinogens in the cigarette smoke pass harmlessly through your lungs, they can still mutate the cells in your bladder. This happens more in men than women because women tend to empty their bladders more frequently.”
And here I’d naively assumed that, because I smoked only asbestos filter-tip cigarettes, described in the advertisements as providing “protection against lung-irritating tars,” I’d been safe.
I underwent bladder surgery three weeks after being diagnosed. Although my urologist hadn’t told me, he’d informed my wife and children that, depending on what the surgery revealed, I might have only 90 days left to live.
Fortunately, none of the cancers had progressed beyond the “T-1″ stage – meaning that they hadn’t penetrated into the cell wall of the bladder. ”T-2″ would have meant that part or all of my bladder might have had to be removed, and “T-3″ that the cancer had spread into other parts of my body.
Why am I still alive despite such negative lifestyle activities as drinking lots of alcohol (discontinued since passing out at an Xmas party at the age of 70) and from 1959 until 1964, when I finally managed to quit, having smoked up to five packs of cigarettes per day? (At 1964 price of $.20 per pack = $1.00)
The genes inherited from my parents must have helped: one of my mother’s great-great-great-great-great grandfathers, born in 1810, lived until 1918, dying only 12 years before I was born; and my father having passed away at 95 – due to medical malfeasance rather than infirmity.
What I think was the key factor, however, was the fact that, having interviewed and filmed Doctor Linus Pauling in 1959 about the dangers posed by the worldwide spread of radioactivity resulting from the testing of nuclear weapons, when his later research indicated the benefits of mega-doses of vitamin-C, I began taking up to five grams of ascorbic acid daily, and continue to do so today – one of the beneficial effects of taking it being the strengthening of the cell walls; which is probably why my bladder cancer hadn’t spread.
Also, while far from being a competition-level athlete, I’ve always tried to exercise as often as convenient – taking long walks, swimming laps, and doing large numbers of slow repetitions with light weights. Recently, having been given a waterproof i-Pod by my daughter Julia, wearing a mask and snorkel I’ve begun swimming lots of slow laps at the Boulder Recreation Center pool while listening to the music of Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and Harry James, which I learned to dance to as a teenager in the 1940s.
The cessation of atmospheric nuclear bomb testing in the mid-1960s temporarily limited the spread of radioactivity, but the reactor catastrophes years ago at Three Mile Island in the USA, Chernobyl in Russia, and more recently at Fukushima in Japan, have added to the cancer risk. Perhaps even worse, due to the injection of preservatives into the food chain and use of suspected carcinogens in the manufacture of plastics, including water bottles, we continue to be exposed. While surviving cancer individually, as in my case, is aided by both diet and exercise, the only way we can try to protect our children, grandchildren, indeed the future of all life on Earth, is to demand that industry cease using cancer-inducing substances, especially in food production and packaging.