A Health Guru Dies of Cancer

Last week, I wrote of the sad and untimely death of the great nutritionist and educator Robert Crayhon who lost his battle with colon cancer at the age of 49.

Last year, around this same time, we lost another of our greats, the nutritionist and author Shari Lieberman, who died at 51 of breast cancer.

Both of these wonderful people were in amazing health. Both of them knew all the right things to do. Both ate in the most healthy way you can imagine, both were avid exercisers, in great shape, and did all the right things when it comes to supplements, stress-reduction and detoxification.

Yet both died of cancer.

In both cases, I received a ton of letters which all asked a variation of the same question: “How can this happen?

In the long run, do all those healthy habits we all try so hard to cultivate amount to nothing? Does nutrition really make a difference or have we been fooling ourselves? What’s the justification for doing all these healthy things? If avoiding processed carbs, taking the right supplements, nixing trans-fats, getting enough fiber in our diet, exercising on a regular basis—even being a good person—can’t offer any protection against disease, what’s the point?

I understand the question and the frustration behind it.  And while I don’t have the definitive answer, I do have some thoughts about the subject.

First and foremost: Stuff happens. Sometimes really bad stuff. And sometimes it really is out of our control.

You can adhere to every rule of safe driving, wearing your seat belt, putting your cell phone in the trunk, never touching alcohol when you’re going to be behind the wheel, obeying the speed limit—and yet some drunken teenager who’s texting can still jump the divider without warning and take you out. Or a boulder can fall on your car from the overhead pass.

It’s tragic- but it doesn’t make taking those precautions is stupid or unnecessary.

See, every one of those driving “rules” does, in fact, reduce the risk of you being an automobile casualty. Every time you ignore one of those “rules”—i.e. you text when drive, you have a couple of drinks, you forget to put on your seatbelt—you actually increase the risk, statistically, that you will be hurt.

That doesn’t mean that every drunk, stupid, unbelted driver gets killed— clearly some don’t. But like the old saying goes, “You can run with a lighted match through a dynamite factory and live to tell the tale. But you’re still an idiot.”

Eating a ton of fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly, taking the right supplements, eating enough fiber, avoiding trans-fats and processed carbs, meditating every day and getting good quality sleep all reduce the risk for many diseases, just as wearing your seatbelt and not drinking while driving reduces the risk for getting killed in a crash.

But reducing the risk isn’t the same as eliminating it.

Cancer is a multifactorial disease, involving diet, genetics, environment, and probably a dozen other variables we don’t yet fully understand. And sometimes it happens, unfortunately, even to people who do “everything” right. It’s tragic—but it would be even more tragic if we concluded from that fact that doing the “right” things don’t matter.

They do.

Both Shari and Robert—(and I knew them both)—would be utterly mortified if people concluded from their respective deaths that all the lessons they taught about healthy living were meaningless.

We can reduce risk- and we should- but we can’t, sadly, eliminate it. Smokers get lung cancer at a much higher rate than non-smokers, but sometimes even non-smokers get lung cancer. Does that mean it doesn’t “matter” if you quit smoking? Of course it does. You immediately shift the odds in your favor, maybe from a 1 in 7 risk to a 1 in 70. Sadly, however, you can’t reduce that risk to absolute zero.

As Shakespeare said, “There are more things in heaven and earth than you can dream of in your philosophy”. We don’t know everything there is to know about cancer- nor about many other diseases. We know things that make the likelihoodof your getting these diseases higher, but we don’t know how to completely eliminate the possibility of ever getting them.

Which brings us back to the beginning: Sometimes… stuff happens. It just does.

As Robert said so brilliantly: “The two biggest dangers in nutrition are thinking that it does nothing and thinking that it does everything.”

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  • cheryl

    They might have been assassinated by Big Pharma. I’m not joking.

    The CIA has lots of “tricks” up their sleeve for ways to kill people and make it seem like ‘natural causes.’ One thing they do causes cancer. The new technology of being able to peer inside cars or houses by these powerful xray machines emit rays many times more powerful than ordinary xrays. Dr. Mercola published an article this past week that CT scans are hundreds of times more powerful than xrays also, and can cause cancer.

    Then there’s the chemtrails.

    I would definitely not put it past the corporates to kill off health gurus, especially if they could do it in a way that will discredit the health claims being promoted by the same gurus.

    These people are literally devil worshipping monsters, no regard for human life. I’d say that anybody standing up for the good of mankind today would find their life in danger from these people.

  • cheryl

    One other thing I meant to say and forgot, is the naked body scanners in the airports. I understand these are very powerful assaults on the human body also. Did Robert and Shari do a lot of flying to go on speaking engagements?

  • Aziel

    Thank you for such a encouraging article. I used to listen to Dr. Shari Lieberman at WBAI and when I learn that she had died it was shocking. Such a beautiful, healthy woman died and she knew everything about health? My hopes went down the drain.
    Thank you for this article and for encouraging us to keep going.

  • cathy

    Thank you for this article. I have been wondering about this also, as I myself was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, after years of healthy living. I keep wondering what I did wrong. I thought I was eating an anti-cancer diet. But I won’t stop the way I eat. I will be more vigilant in eating natural and organic whole foods.
    And yes, “stuff happens”. My best friend, who was so worried about me, was just killed in a freak accident when a tree fell on her car during a tornado.

  • I can relate to everything you said in this article. I am a Traditional Naturopath and recently, I lost a very close dear friend who was also my mentor in the health field. He was a Master Herbalist and in extremely excellent health — did all the right things, etc. But died last month unexpectedly (he had had a stroke back in February of this year but was doing well).

    Everyone who knew him was shocked because of his vivacious spirit and energy. Even, we — natural health enthusiasts, etc. — forget that although we do the right things — stuff happens. His death at the age of 54 has brought to light that all that we do we cannot and will not avoid the inevitable and that we are only putting the odds in our favor but not eliminating them.
    Thanks for the article!

  • Sonny

    I’m sorry to hear about this. One thing I recall from Taubes book is that exceptionally low levels of fat intake (10% or below) seem to be associated with an increase in cancer occurence. Perhaps this was a factor? I recall many small populations being cited where fat intakes were above 60%, protein very high, carb very low where they experienced none of these diseases of civilization.

  • Pamela

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jonny! Bless you and all you do to bring the messages across to your readers, clients and fans!
    In health,

  • […] A Health Guru Dies of Cancer – Jonny Bowden. Jonny discusses a very important question; if even some of the smartest and healthiest people on […]

  • I challenge that any person eating a perfect diet of organic vegetables, low sugar fruits, sprouted organic grains and sees. Nuts and sprouted beans and hemp oil can get cancer of any kind. It is one thing to be sad they died but another thing to deny the truth that every step away from perfection is a step towards cancer. Be sad they took too many steps, be sad they strayed but do not deny the truth. There is one prime cause of cancer. genes, toxins and other triggers depend upon the prime cause being ignored.

  • Well done Jonny, that’s a great response to those individuals who will undoubtedly use these tragedies as an excuse to dismiss good nutrition and regular exercise as a waste of time. The values that Shari and Robert stood for will add Quality to life. Quantity, unfortunately, can never be guaranteed.

  • thanks for this article, i too had those same questions of why, when one takes such good care in their nutritional efforts would they have such an early demise? i appreciate your thoughts on the subject and will continue my journey of healthy living.

  • Perhaps the growing number of practitioners who support the thesis that ‘cancer is fungus’, fits in here. Eating lots of fruit in a system overgrown with systemic yeast, would be counter-health promoting. Please see studies here:

    Thank you-
    Pamela Gerry

  • Steve

    You make a good point, Jonny. One that I will use with my clients. Thanks for addressing that.

  • Great comments jonny. Sometimes bad stuff happens and that is life – doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to prepare yourself for it though!

  • Debby

    Thank you.
    Thank you for Shakespeare.
    Thank you for balance.

  • Tracey Walker

    Thankyou firstly for the tribute to Robert last week and secondly for this article. It is sad to see someone so brilliant pass, it makes you wonder why; but also shows we do not have all the answers. Yourself, Robert, Charles Poliquin and many others have done excellent work bringing the latest nutrition and supplementation advice to the world. Unfortunately Robert will no longer be able to do this but I know you will continue to carry the baton and make sure Robert’s legacy of knowledge lives on.

  • Aggie

    Hi Johnny
    Just wanted to say that you are such an inspiration especially to us over the age of 50. I have always tried to eat right, exercise, take my vitamins, and live a clean life. At 55, people mistakenly think I’m 42-45 years of age. I take as a compliment.
    Not sure how old you are, but you look fantastic, and very sexy, I might add. When I listen to your videos, it gives me hope that, I, too, can continue to look great even in years to come. Thanks so much.


  • cheryl

    Gina’s post is spam. Why is her post allowed and mine not. Why is my post “awaiting moderation?” I am insulted. Are you afraid Homeland Security will “get you” if you don’t censure my post?

    My post is serious. I disagree with you that the reason these health gurus are dead is because “stuff happens” — for no reason in particular.

    In my opinion, and many others’ opinion, the stuff that’s happening is deliberate “soft kill.” You should check out Alex Jones’ documentary Endgame. Haven’t you noticed the trendy move today is to depopulate the world? Did you ever hear of the Georgia Guidestones? You should Google those words and learn the goal of the people who own and run the world, which goal is a world population of 500 million, meaning they want to kill off (cull) 6 BILLION human beings.

    The flouride in the water is not a misguided attempt to help Americans have nice teeth. It is a deliberate soft kill plot, a way to take the edge off our intelligence, make us compliant, sickly, and more easily controlled.

    Did you never learn about the robber barons in high school? You should Google up Eisenhower’s address to the American people regarding the Military Industrial Complex, and check out JFK’s warning to the American people regarding the secret societies.

    I am hurt that you would not include my perfectly legitimate opinion regarding total distrust of Big Pharma and our government regarding, but that you allow spam in.

    I have a transcription service myself, and I can punctuate and write much better than this spammer who has dropped a turd into the discussion. Maybe I should just leave a few spams around here instead of serious postings?

    I am very disappointed in you.

  • salvador castillo

    I personally follow a healthy life style not to prevent or eliminate completly any disease but to enjoy life NOW. if i died tomorrow of cancer good, i would happily died. i follow healthy nutrition and habits because my body feels great, thats all. who wants to live forever in this planet? is good to move on. health to all NOW.

  • Hi Dr. Johnny, I am truly saddened by this news. Robert Crayhon’s book Nutrition Made Simple was one of the first nutrition books that I read when I got onto this bandwagon. To hear that he has died of colon cancer came as a shock to me and my wife.
    I agree with you that despite our best efforts, bad things can still happen. Our lives are in the hands of a higher power. I am however curious to know if both he and Dr. Shari Lieberman used conventional oncology to treat their diseases. Because from what I’ve seen, radiation and chemotherapy kills the patient before the cancer does.

  • Thought provoking article Jonny.

    Just curious, do you know if either Shari or Robert used AGS? I heard about this on an HSI report, and seriously want to know your thoughts on it.

  • With all respect, but it is very much the question wether eating a ton of fruits and vegetables, taking the right supplements and eating fiber is healthy at all.

  • Thank you for the tribute to my son, Robert Crayhon. It brought tears and much joy. I find it fascinating to learn more about him through the eyes and words of so many people who knew him as a healer, teacher and friend. He was all of those things to me as well, and one of the kindest and most ethical men I have ever known. Even in the days before he died, we were healing together and his passing was calm and peaceful.

  • One of the latest insights in modern medicine is psychoneuroimmunology. Simply put thoughts and feelings( emotional health) have the most profound effect on your health. Making great food choices helps your biochemistry to be healthy but if your thoughts and feelings are a mess it can and does manifest as disease. Put another way the average person eats 3 to 6 times a day and thinks 60-100,000 thoughts a day. The greatest challenge of the human condition is learning to work with our thoughts and feelings in a healing and transformative way.

  • cookiesncream5

    With all respect, but it is very much the question wether eating a ton of fruits and vegetables, taking the right supplements and eating fiber is healthy at all.

  • shanks

    How sad all of us we must die for cancer or any disease that in your body.. | 🙁

  • wynonix

    Nobody is indispensable, everybody come and go. Even how expert are they in a certain field no one knows when death struck on us. We certainly ask questions for ourselves why they die when they are expert on the field of health. But when it comes to the big C, no one know what organ it will strike.

  • Eleanor

    I believe that stress is such a strong factor in causing illness, speaking from experience. I think that all those people who gave Shari a hard time caused her unnecessary stress. I admired her and am learning just today, 5 years after, of her death.

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