Hacking anti-cancer with green tea and attitude

Green tea---the first step in hacking anti-cancer
Green tea—the first step in hacking anti-cancer

My research starts with two core assumptions:

  1. I am not a helpless victim of my life, but an active and engaged participant capable of making changes and altering outcomes.
  2. I am bigger than my cells.

It starts with two core philosophies:

  1. Life is wonderful and worth hanging onto.
  2. Joy is a process, not a goal, and is an internal program I run intentionally and mindfully. It’s something I’ve modded into my personal copy of OS-Human, not a fantasy I chase.

And it starts with two core attitudes:

  1. Learn everything, because nothing is wasted—the weirdest bit of arcane shit may some day save your ass.
  2. I’m probably not the first person to ask this question (where this question=x)Β and therefore, I can probably find some answers quickly, but if I am the First Asker, I can work with that, too.

I am by nature and culture a hacker, with my day gig being to hack writing, my hobby being to hack life, and my life goal being to successfully and completely hack joy.

If you’re going to hack joy (and hacking joy is essential if you’re hacking anti-cancer), then you modify and adopt one of the core rules of writing—Don’t write the boring parts.

You modify it to “Don’t feed the boring parts of life.”

You can program your life to skip over the boring parts, and give yourself more time to think about and live the stuff that actually matters.

Here is my life-hack for skipping life’s dull spots.

That which is necessary, but which does not interest me, I automate.

My personal weird example:

I have decided that clothes are a non-optional social convention, but that they are not interesting. Wearing clothes, therefore, must be done, but doing it does not need to interrupt my thought.

So I have have a seasonal wardrobe that consists of fourteen short-sleeved women’s T-shirts (this means they’re made of high-grade cotton rather than T-shirt cotton, and that they come in blindingly bright colors, which I like). When it gets colder, I swap these out for identical shirts in identical colors, but with long sleeves.

I also own seven pairs of denim shorts, and seven pairs of denim jeans.

Life-hack note: If a social occasion mandates a dress, I’ll have to go out and buy one, and all the crap that goes with it.

I rotate my clothes directly out of the wash, with fresh clothes always going to the back, so that all shirts and pants wear out evenly.

I hang shirts to the right of my sweater storage bag. (Sweaters are not clothes, because they’re intriguing to make—they incorporate arithmetic, geometry, spatial puzzles, colorful yarn spun from cool fibers, and complicated stitch patterns which have histories and lore. I like designing and making my own sweaters).

I hang shorts/jeans to the left of sweater storage.

I have a little plastic three-drawer container on the floor where most folks store shoes. (I own three pairs of shoes: classic blue Converse sneakers and two pairs of Sketchers walking shoes which sit by the front door, so shoe storage is not an issue for me.) This little container holds socks and underwear. All my socks are identical white cotton, which goes with jeans and sneakers. All my underwear is identical. Nice…but identical.

With my system set up, I reach right for shirt, left for shorts, down for socks and underwear. I can do this in the dark in about ten seconds and have my clothes for the day. Everything will match, everything will fit, and I will be appropriately and comfortably dressed for any situation I’m likely to encounter.

I had to replace my summer shirts recently. I walked into JC Penny, found the St. John’s Bay section, picked out seven V-neck and seven U-neck short-sleeved T-shirts in my size in colors I like, and was finished with my wardrobe shopping for the next couple of summers in under ten minutes.

Having spent some concentrated time one day outlining and then building this system, I don’t ever have to waste time or thought on what I’m going to wear again. My vividly colorful uniform frees my mind to do better things.

I’ve designed most of my life this way.

And I mention this because part of my hacking anti-cancer has to be automating the stuff that is necessary but isn’t interesting, so that I’ll do it and benefit from it while getting to think about and do the things I actually love.

It turns out that doing what you love helps you hack anti-cancer, too.


Back to hacking anti-cancer

The thing about hacking (not cracking—assholes crack) is that it rewards thought, humor, exploration, curiosity, lots of reading, andΒ is a helluva lot of fun. Hacking at its best is the process of thinking and working with joy. You cannot hack cancer, because there is nothing fun about cancer.

Anti-cancer, though, is entirely hackable.

To hack anti-cancer, you ask the question:

What can I do to give myself the healthiest cells possible?

That’s it. It’s such a simple question.

And the first answer is astonishingly simple.

Drink green tea.

The virtue of green tea is not just that it’s full of anti-oxidants. It’s that cancer cells excrete a pro-inflammatory factor called “nuclear factor kappa B” (NF-kappa-B 1, 2), and green tea contains large amount of the catechins that block its actions.3, 4, 5

I’ve never been much of a tea drinker, but after I discovered that green tea is an actual weapon against cancer, I went to Tevana at the local mall and asked the girl at the counter, “What do you have in an organic green tea?”

She set an enormous tin in front of me and popped it open, to display what looked like a bunch of bright green dried grass clippings. It was Guyokuro Imperial, a Japanese green tea, and two ounces of loose leaf cost eighteen bucks. I almost balked—but with some questioning, I discovered that you can re-use the leaves up to three times, you only need a teaspoonful to make three big cups of tea, and it stores well.

Also, after some slightly deeper thinking, the stuff costs a whole less than having to pay for radiation or chemo somewhere down the line. That may come someday, but how about I do what I can now to point myself away from that?

I am a big fan of the following concept: Prevention is better than Cure.

Partly because prevention is cheap and cure costs like hell. Partly because I like breathing, and I want to do a lot more of it.

  • So I have been drinking three big cups of green tea a day. Mostly Guyokuro Imperial, but also cheap, boxed, bagged organic green tea from Whole Foods. I like the stuff that’s mixed with pomegranate—but the Guyokuro is genuinely delicious.
  • Along with this, I’ve eliminated all but one soda a day. Have cut out sugar (turns out sugar feeds cancerous cells in preference to healthy cells, and running your blood sugar high makes it easier to activate the pre-existing proto-cancer cells we all carry around inside us). I’ve also cut out natural sweeteners (excluding that one can of diet soda a day).
  • I was already exercising—I’ll hang on to that. In the work-and-stress crush of the last couple years, I got out of the habit of meditating. For me, meditation is just sitting on the floor with my eyes closed and counting “One” on each inhale, and “Two” on each exhale, and dismissing thoughts as they bubble up with a firm “later”. There’s no mysticism to it—there’s just breathing, and focusing on my breath. So now I’m picking the habit back up, starting with ten minutes a day.
  • I was already eating Paleo, but I’ve decreased my meat intake and increased my fruit intake a bit, and am looking for free-range meat rather than conventional meat.
  • I found the way to release anger I’ve held toward two men who worked pretty hard to destroy my life, and who for a while looked like they might succeed. To set myself free, I let myself see them not as the men they were when they hurt me and my kids, but as they were as children. Both of them were horribly mistreated as kids, and neither of them was able to overcome the mistreatment; instead, they broke inside. From that perspective, I was able to let go of my anger toward them, and to find pity for them in realizing everything they lost.

Shortcutting the research

When I set out to research my situation, I already had the right assumptions, philosophies, and attitudes in place to make my research easier (listed at the top of this post).

I also asked the right question: What can I do to give myself the healthiest cells possible?

I had already decided that I would hang on to conventional medical treatment, but that I wanted to find things I could do on my own to improve on that treatment.

With those parameters set, I very quickly found a shortcut to the hard research I’d anticipated, because I was not, in fact, the first person to ask this question.

Having found the shortcut incredibly useful, I’m going to recommend it here to the following folks:

  • If you already have cancer—you’re not alone, you’re not helpless, and there are a lot of things you can do, no matter what stage your cancer is in, to improve and possibly extend your life
  • If you have faced or are facing a pre-cancerous condition
  • If you are a diabetic: Diabetes sets up conditions in the body that can encourage the growth of cancer
  • If you are overweight or obese: Fatty tissues provide available fuel and easy growth spaces for tumors, frequently in tandem with the high blood sugar tumors love
  • If you are or have been a smoker
  • If you are or have been a drinker of alcohol
  • If you routinely eat foods that contain pesticides, growth hormones, or chemical preservatives (anything that isn’t grown organically or free-range), wear perfumes, use aluminum-based anti-perspirants, or have other high-risk elements in your life

You can make a surprisingly big impact on cancer-proofing your life and yourself with small, doable steps.

Green tea is an excellent place to start.

From there, you can choose to make additional small or large modifications, depending on how YOU want to live your life.

So what was my shortcut?

It’s a book by David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD, titled Anticancer: A New Way of Life The link goes to the author’s website. I picked up my copy of the book for the Kindle on Amazon, but am offering the website link rather than book links because A) the author’s website has some fantastic information on it, and B) a Google search will hook you up with the actual purchasable book in about ten seconds.

The author beat brain cancer for twenty years by following his own research and recommendations, and though he died in 2011, he gave himself probably nineteen extra years of life by doing so.

While I’ll keep digging and hacking on anti-cancer, the book offers an excellent starting point with lists, diagrams, and steps you can start taking immediately to hack your own anti-cancer life.


You matter. And if you’re dealing with any of this, you can post here any time. Describe what you’re doing to hack anti-cancer. How you’re taking control. What you’re afraid of and how you’re handling that. What you life means.

I’ll cheer you on, you can cheer me and the rest of the folks on. None of us gets out of this alive—but while we’re alive, hacking joy lets us make each breath count. And we can each live so that we die with no regrets.

image_pdfDownload as PDFimage_printPrint Page

By Holly

Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and indie-publish my new ones.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Linda Marie Menkens
7 years ago

Clothes matter very little when you lose your face. I have just spent the last year recovering from a very aggressive cancer that had eaten away half my nose. During the surgery to cute it out they found another basil cell that went deep into my cheek.
I now have most of my forehead on my nose.
This has healed surprisingly well. I did lose my will to fight during the worst of it and the thing that helped me was a meditation by Dr. Joe Dispenza called “You are the Placebo”. The book is great as well.
I was not able to wear my glasses for months because of the full face bandages, as I sat home and healed. But I made sure I wrote everyday at 9 pm no matter what.
I just wrote till I got tired which was about 45mins to an hour. I ended up with a story I will be posting on Amazon this week. It has taught me that life is short and to stop waiting till the stories I write are perfect, since that will never happen. I showed me that I was stronger then I ever thought I could be and if I could face having no face, then I could face anything the critics had to say.
I wish you all the best in your search for a cure.
I will be ever lurking in the background of your life as I have been for years.
Love and best wishes, Linda

Kathryn Kistner
Kathryn Kistner
7 years ago

Holly I LOVE your wardrobe hack. A few years ago I actually hired a specialist to design me a “writer’s uniform”.

I wanted something comfortable that I didn’t have to coordinate. I was imagining multiples of the same item in the same color. She talked me out of it.

I’ve been doing something like you, but I’ve recently “deleted” 50 lbs. and am still in transition, size-wise, so I’m doing pants and t-shirts (and frequent trips to the thrift store as I shrink) until I “arrive”. It works for now.

I usually combine my green tea with other herbal teas, for yummy flavor and variety. I don’t even miss the soda. To get “beyond” soda, I added a TINY amount of baking soda and lemon juice to herbal teas. Slight fizz.

I had a brain crisis in 2000, when I couldn’t remember the name of ‘shirt’ (and other words). I had to resort to saying, “that fabric that covers the top part of your body”. Awkward. And embarrassing.

I was drinking diet Dr Pepper (with aspartame). When a friend told me her experience (same as mine), I went cold turkey. It took a year to get my brain back. It had taken her about as long. I now use stevia for sweetening.

I’m eating a version of Paleo. Lots of veggies. VERY low carb; no fruits while in the losing phase, since they are so high in sugar. LOVE this way of eating. NO sugar cravings when you don’t ingest sugar (and things that turn to sugar); super-easy.

Bruce Lipton (LOVE him!) is on YouTube:

Biology of Belief – by Bruce Lipton (full documentary)

(Or just search for Bruce Lipton and/or Biology of Belief on YouTube if the link doesn’t work.)

I wish you the best, Holly.

7 years ago

Hey, Holly,
Way to go.
I’m forwarding this post to a friend of mine who has cancer and is done with chemo and looking for other ways to enhance her life and cure herself.

Take Care.

7 years ago

I’m glad you’re on the mend Holly! I’ve had my own health issues off and on through the years, and sometimes my body told me “Hey, time to get some sleep!” Even though it did seem excessive, it helped my body recover and heal.

Katharina Gerach
7 years ago

I know I’ll have to get much more active on this side of m life. When I was diagnosed with beginning diabetes, I pulled myself together and lost 10kg of weight. I’ve been doing regular exercises at least once or twice a week (I know I need to up that but it’s not easy with kids, although it slowly does get better the older they get). I’ll try the green tea even though I hate tea, because I saw a friend lose weight rather rapidly after she began drinking it. Cancer has been a scare in my family (my granny died of it and one aunt had breast cancer), so I’m all in for preventing it. And the first step is to go the final mile to get off diabetes medication again (I’m very, very close). All the best, Holly. May we both write many more books in the years to come.

7 years ago

Bruce Lipton, The Biology of Belief … I think you will love this book.

7 years ago

Great post, Holly. One other category of person to take note of this hacking approach is the one who’s lost a close family member to cancer. Having lost several members of my family to the disease, it’s one I live with daily.

Green tea does lots of good things for the body. I’ve been drinking it for years and Japanese is the best, both in flavor and results. Roobios and Oolong are also terrific hackers. They encourage the body to rid itself of fat. The effect is slow, but measurable.

You’ve set yourself up for improvements in your life and that’s always a winning approach. As for the stress factor, I can say from experience that it can put you at death’s threshold. The body never fully recovers. I’m twenty+ years past my initial brush with major stress deterioration and relapse easily if pressured to long. I’ve been told by MD’s that it’s normal to relapse in that way. Rest and a change of environment (physical or mental) is the best way to relieve it.

Just my two cents worth. I’ll be watching how you progress with interest. BTW, I love your clothing hack. Having come out of the corp. world, I appreciate personal clothing comfort and non-conformity to fashion. Great system you’ve got there.

Katharina Gerach
Reply to  Holly
7 years ago

Your approach to clothes is much like mine. But I also own a wide summer skirt for days when it gets too hot. πŸ˜‰

Katharina Gerach
Reply to  Holly
7 years ago

I don’t even care if the stuff I wear goes together. As long as my hubby doesn’t complain, I’m fine (although I suspect he might, at some times, like me with even less to dress).

7 years ago

Hi Holly!

I’m going to have to make a trip to our local Teavanna – that green tea sounds worth the trip πŸ™‚ I’ve cut out all soda with the exception of a once a month at most treat and am drinking a TON of filtered water. I had to make changes due to a diabetes diagnosis – sugar addiction caught up with me πŸ™ But where I was once an idiot, I have become a fighter. Taking control of my A-1C to the point I’ve been off insulin for over a year and if I can get it down another .5 we are looking at weaning me off the meds. My son introduced me to Paleo for a few months ago, I was skeptical at first, but I feel a lot better. Now that its more a way of life it is actually a simpler way to prepare most meals.

Life is worth living and health is worth fighting for. Thank you for sharing your journey.

7 years ago

Have been catching up on your blog posts, and very interested in the ‘stress’ side of it.

I had my own “red flag” incident with stress 15 months ago. My family doctor told me it would take 3-12 months to recover physically. He was right. Like you, it took a combination of losing the things that were causing the stress, plus introducing healthier things in my life to boost/repair my immune response.

Keep looking after yourself Holly, and you’ll get where you want to go.

Betty Z
Betty Z
7 years ago

I’m more of a lurker on your blog than anything else, but I just wanted to say that your avid and fiercely proactive approach to everything that matters to you is an inspiration. I’m glad you’ve found strategies that work for you. <3

7 years ago

Some additional information on recent research:


And – off topic – do you think that losing all your information from our first series made you a better author?

7 years ago

Green tea probably won’t do you any harm, and it may even be helpful (tho as someone put it, all plants are to some degree toxic; the question is how resistant your particular species is to specific plant toxins. Sheep can eat many plants that would kill a human.) But don’t get too hung up on “anti-oxidants”… your body RUNS on oxidation.


The “fatty tissues/high blood sugar” connection with some cancers is probably actually caused by low thyroid, with fatty deposits and high blood sugar being correlation, not causation (given both are directly caused BY low thyroid). It’s important to trace back to the metabolic foundations of any disorder, not just stop at the point where a symptom can be manipulated.

Reply to  Holly
7 years ago

Well, don’t get carried away with catechins either:


Generally they are melanin inhibitors, which isn’t a good thing either.

I also feel compelled to note that such compounds have been subject of far less research and far smaller sample sizes than were, say, trans fats and dietary cholesterol, and look how wrong they went there.

Tho the fact is, unless you’re guzzling concentrates, you’re unlikely to ingest enough to be harmful. (Some negative effects are seen from these compounds in tea at a level of 7-8 cups of tea per day.)

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x