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Joanne Irwin on Radical Remission: A Journey to Healing Through Plant-Based Living



Joanne Irwin, a PCRM Certified Food for Life Chef, has taken her passion for plant-based living to new heights by becoming a Certified Educator and personal coach in the Radical Remission Project. In a recent episode of The Glen Merzer Show, Joanne shared her inspiring journey of how a plant-based diet transformed her health and led her to explore the tenets of Radical Remission, a program that emphasizes holistic healing strategies for cancer patients.


Joanne's journey began in 2006 when a routine check-up revealed alarmingly high cholesterol levels and osteoarthritis. Determined to avoid medication, she adopted a plant-based diet, inspired by seminal works like The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and writings by Dr. Neil Barnard. Remarkably, within four months, Joanne’s health metrics improved dramatically, and her arthritis symptoms vanished. This transformation spurred her to teach plant-based cooking and eventually contribute recipes to Glen Merzer's book Food Is Climate.


The turning point in Joanne's career came when she encountered Dr. Kelly Turner's book Radical Remission. Deeply moved by the stories of cancer survivors who defied the odds, she delved into Turner's research, which identifies ten key factors that contribute to cancer remission. These factors include nutrition, exercise, herbs and supplements, strong reasons for living, empowerment, releasing suppressed emotions, increasing positive emotions, social support, spirituality, and accessing and strengthening intuition.


Joanne emphasizes, "Nutrition is just one part of the equation. The mind-body-spirit connection is crucial for healing." Her personal experiences with her father’s colon cancer and her husband’s rare neuroendocrine cancer highlighted the power of hope and holistic care. Through dietary changes, meditation, and emotional support, Joanne's husband extended his life significantly beyond his initial prognosis.

Her involvement in the Radical Remission Project underscores her commitment to these principles. Joanne now coaches individuals on integrating these factors into their lives, fostering an environment where physical health and emotional well-being coexist harmoniously. She passionately advocates for plant-based nutrition, stating, "Flooding your body with nutrients can be a powerful strategy, especially when battling cancer."


Joanne's story is a testament to the transformative power of a plant-based diet and the holistic approach advocated by the Radical Remission Project. Her journey from personal health challenges to becoming a beacon of hope for others exemplifies the profound impact of combining nutrition with a strong, positive mindset.


For more inspiring stories and insights, tune into The Glen Merzer Show on your favorite podcast platforms, or visit Real Men Eat Plants.



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DISCLAIMER: Please understand that the transcript below was provided by a transcription service. It is undoubtedly full of the errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions. To understand the interview more completely and accurately, please watch it here: Joanne Irwin on Radical Remission



Glen Merzer: Welcome to the Glen Merzer show. You could find us across all your favorite podcast platforms. You could find us on YouTube and please remember to subscribe. And you could find us at RealMenEatPlants .com. My guest today is Joanne Irwin. Joanne is a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Certified Lifestyle Chef. She has often taught cooking classes to teach people how to create healthy meals. She also contributed a couple of recipes to my book, Food is Climate. She contributed an olive tapenado and a bok choy quinoa and mushroom saute. But she now has a new interest. She has become a certified educator and personal coach. in the Radical Remission Project. So we're going to learn all about that. Joanne, welcome to the show. 


Joanne Irwin: Thank you.  Very happy to be here. Thanks for having me. 


Glen Merzer: So before we get into the Radical Remission Project, what was your route to becoming a vegan and a certified chef? How long ago did that change in your lifestyle? 


Joanne Irwin: Wow. Back in 2006, yeah, if anybody told me in 2004, I would become a total plant based eater and teacher. I'd say you're crazy. But now in 2006, I went into my doctor for my yearly, you know, physical. And, you know, you first does a lot of things. I thought I was very healthy, never had a weight problem, ate low fat, I ran, okay, my numbers were terrible. My cholesterol was up to 246. My LDLs were 179 at the time. Not good, not good. So my doctor was originally from India. And I said to him, look, I'm never going to go on a statin. I will not do that. Won't take drugs. And he looked at me and he says, well, would you be willing to give up beef, pork, lamb and dairy? I said, sure. And I did. I went cold turkey that day and I you know, began to read everything. I read first book I read was the China study by T. Colin Campbell. I read Dr. Neil Barnard. I read Dr. McDougall and in four months, my numbers came down to way normal ranges. But the thing that really made an impression on me is that I had terrible osteoarthritis in my wrist, which started in 2003, three years before that. And I was much younger then, you know, we're looking at 17, 18 years ago. And four months, it melted away. I was in the kitchen cooking one day and I'm like, my gosh, no more pain. I was chopping. I actually, I went out, I raked my whole yard, was in December raked the whole property. I painted a hallway and I was delighted. Not only did I see the change on a piece of paper with my labs, but I felt a tangible change physically. So I've been plant -based ever since. Many doors opened. I started doing some classes for my doctor at his practice doing plant -based cooking. I did some private classes and I met a gal online who had become a new instructor with physicians committee. And she said, you know, you should be doing this. And, and then 2008, I was down in Florida. My doctor on the Cape called. They were having their first ever health fair for his medical practice. He said, would you come up and do the cooking demo? I said, sure. So I flew back up to do the demo and who was going to be the guest speaker, but Dr. Esselstyn. He was there with his wife, Anne. And when I told her what I wanted to do that I was applying, she said, you need to do this. And she sent me her email that she sent to Neil Barnard and his response. So that's how it all happened. 


Glen Merzer: All right. So so you have been actively, you know, part of that Lifestyle Medicine program with PCRM. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah. 


Glen Merzer: Or a couple of decades almost. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah. 


Glen Merzer: But now there's a new project you're involved with. It's based, I guess, on this book that I've been reading called Radical Remission by Dr. Kelly Turner. So tell us about that and what what brought you into that field of endeavor.



Joanne Irwin:  I will. And her second book, too, is Radical Hope.


Glen Merzer: Have follow up is excellent. It seems to be a radical. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah, yeah, I'd be considered a radical at times. and it started for me way back in 1985, for 84 when my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. And I read a book then by Dr. Carl Simonton called Getting Well Again. And Carl Simonton was considered the father of psycho neuroimmunology, you know, the mind body spirit connected healing. very interested in that. It goes with my teaching background, my counseling background. And so I read that, became interested. And my father, as a matter of fact, was 75 when he was diagnosed and lived to be 93. So he was a survivor. About three years after he was diagnosed, my husband was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer called a carcinoid syndrome, which is a neuroendocrine cancer and there's no cure for it. And it's one of the very rare familial cancers. So at the time he was diagnosed, there's no treatment. They didn't know what to do. An oncologist said, you know, I can get you on a Social Security disability. Go enjoy the next two years. Really? So I started learning about macrobiotic cooking and eating, started doing that. 


Glen Merzer: What was your husband's attitudes? towards this news. Did he have hope or did he feel that the diagnosis was unbeatable? 


Joanne Irwin: Well, number one, it was very frightening because very little was known about it. Even the doctors couldn't tell us much about it. But he held on to hope, I have to say that. And he did kind of follow along with what I started to do. We started to meditate, macrobiotic eating. And I wound up calling in Dallas, Texas at the time. Dr. Simonton had a center like a week long center where you go and you learn about mind, body, spirit, connect and healing. The person who answered the phone was a fellow by the name of Bill Irvin. And Bill was the psychologist who worked with Simonton. And he said to me, we were in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the time. He said, you know, I'll be willing to come up and spend a weekend with you and give you what you would get. over a week in the program. The program at that time transitioned to California. And he did, he flew up. And I taped the whole weekend. He was remarkable, absolutely remarkable. We just split the plane fare and gave him his therapy fee. He was wonderful. And so much of what he shared is a lot of what Dr. Kelly Turner has found out among radical remission survivors. You know, when I do my food for life classes, I always make a point of telling people, you know, a lot of people think, you eat plant based, you're going to live forever. You're never going to get sick. No, you know, illness is a lot more than nutrition. It's a lot more. It's the mind, body, spirit connect. It's what we're saying to ourselves. It's how we feel about ourselves. It's what stress we have carried. It's perhaps maybe resentments we carried and we haven't healed. There are many, many factors which can suppress the immune system. So that was a gift then. And then when I read Kelly Turner's book about seven, eight years ago, became very interested. So during COVID 2020, I had to go through a preparatory program, two weeks online to hear about her work. And then two years ago, I was admitted.into her training program, and that was another two week program. And, you know, quite frankly, what I tell my kids because the cancer my husband had, he passed from it after 17 years. 


Glen Merzer: After 17 years, 


Joanne Irwin: 17 years. 


Glen Merzer: And he was when he was diagnosed, he was told two or three years. 


Joanne Irwin: Yes. Yeah.


Glen Merzer: So 17 years is an achievement. 


Joanne Irwin: It was an achievement because at the time people who were usually diagnosed with carcinoid that had already metastasized had a seven or eight year prognosis. He died from it. My sister -in -law passed from it. When my sister -in -law was diagnosed, she was entered into a study at the NIH. There's one doctor there, Dr. Stephen Wang, who was studying familial carcinoid syndrome. And when I spoke with the researcher, because she wanted to know everything about my husband, his lifestyle, eating, she said to me there was a nutritional link. Now, my husband was raised in a German deli. His parents owned a German deli. He lived on processed meat. And when we started dating in college, he said to me, this is the first time I ever had a salad with my meal. I mean, he lived on all of the bologna and the salami. And he would tell me his mother would roast the roast beef on the rotisserie and save the blood and make him drink it. Yeah. So also my sister -in -law had three children. two girls and a boy. My niece died from it. My nephew, the first time he went to the NIH, he was clean. My kids go down every five years, so far they've been clean. The second time he went down, they found that they were able to operate on him before it metastasized. If they can catch the carcinoid before it metastasizes, you can pretty much be assured of a long life. If it metastasizes, they'll give you seven years. So and then my my husband's brother was also diagnosed and operated on and he's OK now. So and then my niece, the one who's been clear for years, she's been vegetarian since she was a teenager. So, yeah. 


Glen Merzer: So there have been a lot of cancers in the family. 


Joanne Irwin: a lot. Yeah. You know, it's funny, I was always afraid of cancer, you know, in my youth. And even in my early marriage, we had lived in Tulsa seven and a half years. And I remember working in the garden one day and I had the radio on and a report came on that, you know, one out of four family members, you know, would be diagnosed with cancer. And I just, I froze. I said, no, no, no, not us, you know, always not us. What would we normally say? And at the time, one of my very dear friends there, she was younger than me. She was 36 at the time. No, she was 28 at the time. newly married, she was diagnosed with breast cancer operated on and her prognosis was not good. And I went through cancer with her, you know, taking her to chemo, being with her the week that she died. And I no longer became afraid of cancer. You know, it was interesting how walking the journey with her, opened my eyes, to, to the gifts that can come to from a diagnosis.


Glen Merzer: And I imagine that this whole radical remission program makes people less afraid of cancer. 


Joanne Irwin: Sometimes, you know, I think a lot of people when they're diagnosed, they have a whole array of emotions. And the first one is fear. You know, so many people focus on, my God, how am I not going to die? How am I not going to die in the radical remission program? Dr. Kelly Turner found 10 factors. a common among survivors. And the whole focus is, well, how do we want to live? You know, how do you want to find joy and passion in your life? You know, what is your reason for living? And to go back, I don't know if you know, but Kelly Turner is out of Harvard and UC Berkeley, and she was always interested in cancer, you know, as I was. And she did her PhD work at UC Berkeley, and she wanted to meet with radical remission survivors, oncologists who had a remission in their practice would refer that person to her. And initially she interviewed 24 persons and now she's interviewed over 1500 survivors. And she found originally 75 factors, but 10 common factors among survivors. And one of them has to do with nutrition. One, the rest of them are the mind, body, spirit, connect and healing.


Glen Merzer: All right, well, now I have to ask the big question, Joanne, do you have the 10 factors memorized? 


Joanne Irwin: I sure do. 


Glen Merzer: Tell our listeners about the 10 factors.  One is nutrition. 


Joanne Irwin: One is nutrition. The three are like physical factors. You have nutrition, exercise and movement, and then you have herbs and supplements. Those are those are the three. But the other factors are reasons for living, finding strong reasons for living, empowerment, you know, how empowered are you? One of them is releasing suppressed emotions. The other one is increasing positive emotions. Spiritual support is very important. I should say spirituality is number we on now. 


Glen Merzer: Are we on number eight?


Joanne Irwin: And also how to grow your intuition. 


Glen Merzer: OK, did we do nine or ten there? I got lost. 


Joanne Irwin: We did. We did. We did. Positive emotions, releasing suppressed emotions, OK, social support, spirituality and how to grow your intuition. All right. 


Glen Merzer: Well, let's take them one by one. That way everybody doesn't have to read the book. 


Joanne Irwin: Important to read the book. 


Glen Merzer: It's a good book. 


Joanne Irwin: It is a good book.


Glen Merzer: But in case you don't have time. So number one is nutrition. Now, it turns out that the nutritional advice Dr. Turner gives is to eat plant foods, not sausage. 


Joanne Irwin: Right. She we encourage people to to eat, you know, the healthy foods, your fruits, your vegetables, your grains, your legumes, your nuts, your seeds, basically to kind of eliminate dairy. And most of the survivors in their stories have eliminated dairy and animal protein. You know, some include fish, you know, we don't, or as a coach, I don't tell people you must eat plant -based. I have to draw a fine line because I'm always telling people to go plant -based pretty much, you know, but to encourage them and encourage them to do their own research too. You know, we give them sites on PubMed, go and do your own research. You know, I always tell people too. Don't believe everything I say. Do your own research. Make it your own. But for the survivors, they have given up animal protein and dairy. 


Glen Merzer: Well, there have been many nutritional therapies for cancer. There's the Gerson therapy. Yes, yes. There was a wonderful documentary made about the Gerson therapy called The Food Cure. And it just seems. to always be the case that when you flood your body with nutrients, a lot of vegetable juices and so forth, often an alkalizing diet, a lot of vegetables, people do well. I have never heard of a cure for cancer involving animal foods. You never hear a report. I just ate sausage all day long and my tumor melted away. That doesn't happen. It's just another indication that the whole plant food diet is the optimal human diet. But particularly, it seems to be the case that flooding the body with nutrients when one is challenged with cancer seems to work or at least to be a helpful strategy. 


Joanne Irwin: Absolutely. 



Glen Merzer: Not a guaranteed cure, but a helpful strategy. So that's the nutrition part of it in a nutshell. physical part of it was exercise. Anything in particular for cancer patients or just all of us should exercise? Well, we all should. 


Joanne Irwin: But for cancer patients, you know, we hear a lot. Well, you know, chemo takes a toll, zaps your energy. You know, we even encourage people, if you can walk around your dining room table or walk around room to room to start. Don't just sit, you know, get up at least every half hour and do something. Move your legs, move your arms. You know, when you're able, walk outside, you know, find a friend to walk with. You know, if you're able and you're not able to go outside for whatever reason, you know, turn on some YouTube videos. There's, you know, great videos like chair yoga, something simple, but to keep moving. That's that's important. 


Glen Merzer: OK, now there was a third physical factor. And what was that? 


Joanne Irwin: Herbs and supplements and supplements. 


Glen Merzer: And as I recall, some of the patients described in radical remission didn't take supplements.



Joanne Irwin:  It's up to the individual person per se what their diagnosis is and also meeting with their own physicians. But we do say that this is the one area where you need somebody who is either a physician or licensed or an herbalist. somebody licensed to give recommendations. Don't go listening to your friends because you know, when somebody is diagnosed and I know this when my husband was diagnosed, everyone has a cure or a remedy. Well, if you try this and if you try this or if you try that, no, you don't, you don't want to do that because you don't know how things are going to interact, especially if you are choosing chemotherapy. So you have to be careful. And for that, you need somebody who is licensed. We, we do not, you know, give any per se recommendations. We do say that there are certain supplements which can impact, you know, your immune system can help with digestion, probiotics. That's about it. You know, don't go giving any medical advice. No, do we even in the Food for Life program, physicians committee, we do not give any medical advice. 


Glen Merzer: Right. OK, so those are the physical factors. Now let's move on to some psychological factors. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah, yeah. Well, strong reasons for living. And that's really a foundational factor to really encourage people. And the program is hands on. If I even coach one on one or if I'm doing it in a group, and hopefully that will come, people have a chance to interact, to have reflection time, to write things down, and then to share in a group. But having strong reasons for living, we get people to really analyze, what are your reasons for living? Who do you want to live for or live for what? What is your passion in life? What is your joy? Make a point about that because when you do exercise that, you're boosting immunity rather than being filled with fear because when you're filled with fear, we know what that does to the immune system by increasing those stress hormones. And when you're walking around fearful and worried, your cortisol is increasing and that impacts DNA. You know, so you want to put your body in a state where you are boosting immunity in any way you possibly can. So that's strong reasons for living. 


Glen Merzer: In your experience, and I don't know how many patients you have coached, but do people always know immediately, I know my reason for living or is that something that stumps some people? 


Joanne Irwin: Well. To be honest, I've only worked with two individuals right now, you know, in doing Zoom. And they knew right away what they wanted to live for. And these two particular gals, one with stage four ovarian, beautiful, beautiful woman, college professor, mother of a five -year -old, her family, her son, you know, she wanted to be around for her son. And one of my fellow colleagues who I've done some work with too, she said to me, she said, I would visualize my daughter's wedding and being at my daughter's wedding and holding that image in my mind. And when we can project an image out there that is filled with joy and hope, okay? And really taste that emotion that impacts our immune system.


Glen Merzer: Well, I'm very lucky with one factor that could increase my longevity. I went to college at the age of 18 and I decided I want to be a playwright and I want to have a play on Broadway. Now, I've never had children. So I have always had this one thing I'm living for to have a play on Broadway and the way it's going, I'm going to have to live to at least 140 for that to happen. It just keeps me going. 


Joanne Irwin: Yes.


Glen Merzer:  If I ever face any health challenges, I'm going to say, come on, I'm too, you know, it's too soon. I got to get a play on Broadway. And, you know, at 140, I may give up. But right now I'm going for that. 


Joanne Irwin: That's great. There one story, one radical remission case that I heard about through my training and Kelly Turner was a man who had he was given a stage four terminal cancer and he decided at that point, you know, I'm going to go back to my homeland of Greece and I'm just going to enjoy, you know, the heck with it. You know what I mean? I'm just I'm going to live. If this is what they're telling me, I'm going to put it aside and forget about it. And I'm going to go ahead and drink wine and have my my Greek food and my taboo and you name it and I'm going to dance and I'm going to celebrate. Ten years later, they wrote his story. So, you know, again, we don't know, but he had he had a reason for living, you know. Yeah.


Glen Merzer: So that was the number one psychological factor reason for living. What would be another psychological factor? 


Joanne Irwin: Another one is empowerment. I think we try to encourage patients that we work with to be the CEO of their own health, to ask questions. Many people sit back and just rely on their doctors. You know, doctor is God, I'm not going to question, I'm not gonna try anything else, whatever he says, I'm gonna do it. And being an empowered patient really puts some responsibility in your court. And again, That does help our immune system instead of feeling like a victim and sitting back and I'm not going to do anything.


Glen Merzer:  That was the theme of my book, Own Your Health. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah. 


Glen Merzer: Do not just do whatever your doctor says without asking questions and making up your own mind. And if you're a doc, if you've got a doctor who resents that, then get a new doctor. 


Joanne Irwin: Absolutely. 


Glen Merzer: Because your health is your own. 


Joanne Irwin: Absolutely. Yeah.


Glen Merzer: All right, we're going to take a quick break and we'll be right back with Joanne Erwin. OK.


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Glen Merzer: All right, we're talking with Joanne Irwin about the Radical Remission Project, and we've been going over the 10 factors that people who have had success overcoming cancer have in common. So, Joanne, what would be the next factor? 


Joanne Irwin: Well, I would say accessing and strengthening your intuition.


Glen Merzer: How do you do that? If I wanted to strengthen my intuition tomorrow, how would I go about it? 


Joanne Irwin: Well, there are many different practices that can be undertaken to do that. What is intuition? Intuition is listening to that gut, that little voice that speaks to us way down deep inside. A lot of times we turn that off. We have a lot of intraday. Well, I shouldn't think that or I shouldn't feel that way or I shouldn't question but it's just eking at you, constantly nudging you. And somebody said to me once, when our gut is speaking to us so loudly, that's our soul speaking to us. So we give people some options. We talk about meditation. We talk about different ways that you can meditate. We talk about journaling, which is a good way to get in touch with that intuition and what you are feeling. Getting to know yourself. So those are ways that intuition can be strengthened. So you get to really find your own voice. 


Glen Merzer: Now, do you feel that since you've gotten involved with the Radical Remission Project that your intuition has improved? And did you know that I was going to ask that question? 


Joanne Irwin: No, no, I did not know that. No, but I would say quite honestly that that's something I've worked on for many, many years. in many different ways, especially journaling. Years ago, I went through a program, what was it called? It was a couple program. We had to do an awful lot of journaling and writing down. And of course, when my husband was diagnosed, we began meditating. And I try to make that a daily practice. I don't all the time, but it is important. Meditation, meditating, just to kind of calm down get in touch with my feelings, get in touch with what I'm hearing inside, just finding peace because my life is busy.



Glen Merzer: You've worked with two cancer patients. Did you talk with them about this intuition enhancement?


Joanne Irwin:  Yes.


Glen Merzer: And how did they deal with that? 


Joanne Irwin: One better than the other. One gal I knew personally and very hard time really centering. And it's hard when you're not used to meditating or developing a practice or writing things down, you know, journaling. Sometimes it's hard to get into that. One gal I worked with who had ovarian cancer stage four, it was wonderful to go through that with her. It was very, very healing. And she does continue that practice that I know. So I You know, it depends upon the individual, you know, no judgment. There's no judgment on our part. You know, we share with them. We can encourage them. We can give them some of the tools that we know have helped to build immunity. But then again, a person has to go ahead and make it their own. 


Glen Merzer: OK, so what is the next factor after intuition? 


Joanne Irwin: I would say one that's really very powerful is releasing suppressed emotions. And, you know, with that, we explain to patients about the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. What are they? How do they operate? And when you're in the sympathetic nervous system, you're in that fight or flight mechanism all the time. And that increases our stress hormones. Not good for us when you're dealing with cancer or any chronic disease. The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest and repair nervous system. So how do you go ahead and move into that? And again, you know, meditation is a way to do that. Sometimes having to go to a therapist and if people, you know, have a lot of maybe trauma issues, which can impact health and wellness, we know that it might be a time to go ahead and to, as you're going through treatment, talk with someone who can help you release some of that. If you have some things that are buried, maybe some resentment, some anger, some hurts llack of self -worth, confidence. 


Glen Merzer: Now, is the best approach to releasing old resentments forgiveness? 


Joanne Irwin: part of it, sure. Yeah, absolutely. You know, and we do talk about that. But again, I think for a person to do that, sometimes you need therapeutic help. 


Glen Merzer: If you have an old resentment towards somebody who who you believe caused you some harm. Is it usually optimal to just forgive them in your heart or to talk with them or to to express to them the nature of your resentment?


Joanne Irwin: I think it depends upon the severity of the hurt. It depends upon the time frame. You know, a lot of times, you know, in the AA program, they encourage you to go tell people if you hurt someone to ask for forgiveness. We don't talk about that. But I think if someone has experienced a terrible trauma, you know, somebody hurt them and, you know, you could talk about, you know, child sexual abuse. I did social work for 10 years. So a lot of that, you know, are you going to go back and tell the person, I'm sorry? I mean, you can forgive that person. Perhaps in your heart, understanding who they were at the time. But you never forget. You don't forget. The idea is to not carry that. So it's damaging you. 


Glen Merzer: All right. So what would be the next factor that we're dealing with here? 


Joanne Irwin: Well, I think the other one is increasing positive emotions. How do you go ahead and increase those positive emotions of joy and laughter and happiness? We talk about, we suggest going to like a laugh session. There are therapists out there who do two laughter. Watch comedies on TV, stream some movies, laugh, be around people who are light and having fun. Get together and play board games with people. Do something that you like, increase the positive emotions, a whole variety of them. Take it up for the nature.


Glen Merzer: And again here, if I could get one of my comedies produced on Broadway, then you could send people there. 


Joanne Irwin: Absolutely. So absolutely. 


Glen Merzer: You know, we could kill two birds with one stone as it's sure. Yeah, right. So so there is getting positive emotions, laughter, happiness into your life. Yeah. What would be next?


Joanne Irwin:  I think social support. Social support. Social support, which is really important. I think I'm dealing with someone now and she is a friend. She's a daughter of a friend who was diagnosed at the age of 41 with stage three colon cancer. And I met with her to go over all of the factors. We talked about that and she's very, very open and she's very empowered. She's gone to all the medical facilities up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and choosing who she wants to work with and what she wants to do. Family was very much against what she was choosing to do, but she was making a choice for herself. And it's very important to be around people who are going to support you in what you want to do. And it's important to ask for friends to come and to help you. A lot of people say, I want to do this alone. I'm on my own. I don't want to bother anybody else. I don't want to share my woes with anybody. I always tell people one of the signs of strength is to say, I need you. And that's a lesson I had to learn very early in my life. I came from a family where somebody does something for you. You have to run out and kind of do something in kind. You know, a friend one day was helping me out when I was having company and she was doing ironing and I says, well, I'll do it for you next. And she says, no, wait, stop. She said, I'm doing this because I love you. You're my friend. And that was a tremendous lesson for me. So not to expect anything, but to ask people to come in and to be there for you. You're giving them a gift too, by being able to help you. So social support is important. Sometimes going to a cancer support group could be a way to get support having maybe a spiritual person to talk with, a friend, but social support is important. 


Glen Merzer: All right. I think there's probably only one left. 


Joanne Irwin: Spirituality. 


Glen Merzer: Spirituality. 


Joanne Irwin: Yeah. And for, you know, it's interesting, the remission stories, and I've read so many remission stories. This is really a big one, too. Because spirituality doesn't mean maybe just going to a church or a minister, whatever, having a religious practice. It can be that, but it can also be walking in nature. It can be engaging in reiki sessions or meditation or yoga or Tai Chi, anything that really brings you an inner sense of peace and wellness but it's important to develop some type of a spiritual practice and to make it your own.


Glen Merzer: And the two patients you worked with, what did you say to them about spirituality and how did they make any changes as a result? 


Joanne Irwin: I believe the young mom who had ovarian cancer was a deeply spiritual person. And you could just sense that in getting to know her and talking with her. And her practice, she was getting into meditation. She really got a lot out of the meditation that we did. I do take folks through a guided meditation. And my other friend who I worked with, who is down south, her spiritual practice, believe it or not, is being with her family. That's what she talked about. She's an absolutely wonderful involved Nana and just loved being with her family and for someone that can be a spiritual encounter. Spirituality and encounters come in many different forms, many different ways. 



Glen Merzer: Now, there's one perhaps psychological, perhaps spiritual factor that we haven't discussed here. And I wonder how it plays into the radical remission program. And that's the issue of acceptance. Sometimes you hear of somebody getting a cancer diagnosis and they say, I'm too young to die. I'm going to fight it. I'm going to beat this thing. And that attitude sometimes works and they beat it. Sometimes you also hear of people who say. I'm accepting it. I'm not fighting it. I'm good. There was even a story in the book of someone who says, I love my cancer. Yeah, I embrace my cancer and that person beat it. Yes. So should you fight it or should you accept it? Or is there a way to somehow combine the two? 


Joanne Irwin: You know, I almost think there's a way to combine the two, as you say it. You know, if a person, let's say I'll accept it. All right. I'm going to die. What do I have to live for? I don't know why. How did I get this? But I got it. All right. That's not going to really bode well as far as building immunity. Somebody might say, well, I accept it. OK. And I'm going to love my cancer. I'm going to sit back and say, what is this teaching me? And sometimes that works as well, too. to say to anybody that if you do these 10 factors, you're going to go into remission. We can't say that. The only thing that we can say right now, what we know is that doing factors boost immunity. That's it. Harvard is now doing a clinical study of Dr. Kelly Turner's work, and she's excited about that. But some people too, you know, like the individual I mentioned who went to Greece, he had a very short diagnosis and he lived for 10 years. He said, all right, I have this thing, but instead of sitting back and being fearful and afraid, he said, I'm going to bring some joy into my life. I want to go back to my homeland where my family is in Greece and I want to dance and I want to enjoy, and I want to sit out and I want to look at the beautiful sea and I want to have olives and wine and bread and whatever. And he lived. So there's a way. But how are we accepting? Are we in fear mode or are we saying, OK, I have this, but am I going to try to live with some type of joy and purpose while I have it?


Glen Merzer: Now, we all know that there are certain actions people take that can bring on cancer. We know that smoking cigarettes can bring on lung cancer. We know that eating pastrami you know, can bring on colon cancer. If somebody has been a smoker, been a pastrami eater, gets a diagnosis and then they realize or maybe they already knew, they already knew the risks that what they have done may be responsible for their cancer. What should they think about that? Should they begin by forgiving themselves? 


Joanne Irwin: I think anyone who, for instance, let's say was a smoker for 30 years, then all of a sudden gets a diagnosis of lung cancer. I don't know, but my guess would be the natural inclination is to say, God, what did I do to myself? Gee, I should have known better. But again you know, holding on to guilt or shame is not going to serve you well at all. We have to love ourselves. And that's part of to that empowerment, you know, to know that you you are a special human being with a spark of the divine within you. If you can let it go, what can what can you do now? Let's take a look at the research, you know, go to PubMed. What does it say about people who perhaps change their lifestyle after a diagnosis. But some people have a hard time forgiving themselves. That's not easy. But it's important. And again, this is where if someone has that experience, perhaps to get professional support. So you will have that support to understand about loving yourself that all of us, I mean, look. How do I know all the foods that I ate before I changed in 2006 aren't playing havoc on my body? You know, it's the time that we lived in. We didn't know any better. My daughter has suffered with allergies for years. When she was a baby, my pediatrician who was wonderful, like an old wonderful Dr. Marcus Welby individual told me to give her milk. Whoa. You know, thank God she hasn't gotten type one diabetes but she's had allergies and as a young kid, I was taking her two times a week for allergy shots because of that milk. So I can't be hard on myself. It's who I was at the time. It's what we know. What do we know today? Because constantly life is constantly changing. We're evolving. Information is evolving and that's the gift of it. People like Dr. Simonton, father of secondary immunology. Dr. Kelly Turner, all of the plant -based docs, we keep learning more and more. And you know, the one thing that I can say too, look at the paradigm shift in plant -based eating. You know, when I started in 2006, there was virtually nothing. And now they talk about laundry detergents being plant -based. I mean, we've gone to that extreme. So, you know, the science is constantly changing. We're constantly becoming more awake and more aware.


Glen Merzer: Final question, Joanne. Since you've gotten involved with the Radical Remission Project, has it changed your life in any way?


Joanne Irwin: I definitely would say so. It makes me more aware of the gifts of the moment. I'm going to be 78 years old. You look great. It's the beans and the greens, I'll tell you that. But nothing is a guarantee. I mean, we lost our head nutritionist at PCRM from cancer, a young mom who was a runner who developed a lot of our you know, programs. And everybody was like, my gosh, how can somebody who's eaten this way die of cancer? And I got very frustrated and shared that we need to talk about this. We need to tell people that that healing and health is more than the foods that we eat, although it plays a very, very, excuse me, major role. It's so many other factors. And we do live in a very high stress world right now. You know, there are a lot of things that are impacting individuals and families. And so what do we do to take care of ourselves? And I'm very much aware of that. And I have to say letting go of PCRM was something I had to do for me. There are other projects I want to work on this, but another project, my parents World War Two Letters, which I've been working on for years, like you're going to get that play out there. I'm trying to get the book on Amazon. I have two hardcover books made for my kids with their 1300 letters. But that's been something I want to complete before the end of life. 


Glen Merzer: These are World War II letters between your parents. 


Joanne Irwin: Yes, over 1300. Yep. Amazing. So it has impacted my life. I'm trying to really develop a more serious meditation practice, which is important, staying more in the present moment. Not running around trying to do everything, you know, everybody was you have more energy than anybody, you know Well, no, I'm just see I broke my back. It'll be five years ago August. I yeah I had a terrible fall almost killed myself very very bad fall Ruptured my t12 vertebrae fractured my t11 broke my ribs on my left side Yeah, I had a brain bleed in the spinal bleed and if my partner was not with me if he didn't Maybe he wasn't there. I probably would have died because I couldn't move. And, you know, the doctor said to me, I was in one of these big braces for, my gosh, 12 weeks. He said, if you weren't eating the way you're eating and working out the way you worked out, you'd have a much longer recovery. So that was a very sobering experience for me too. Cause I thought I could do anything. You know, I used to lift my suitcase and coolers doing all the classes and I can't do that. I have to be careful. So it's letting go.Yeah. 


Glen Merzer: All right. Yeah. Thank you.  Thank you so much for joining us, Joanne.


Joanne Irwin: Thanks for having me. Good to see you, Glen. 


Glen Merzer: Good to see you. And we'll see you again down the road.


Joanne Irwin:  Absolutely. Good luck on your play. 


Glen Merzer: Thank you. And please, I'll get you a discount ticket, but please. 


Joanne Irwin: Thank you. I'll come. Good. Be well. 


Glen Merzer: You too. 


Bye bye.




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