Pancreas: Protector, Provider, and Manufacturer

cropped-sunset.jpgThe sad loss of Patrick Swayze brings to light the devastating effects of pancreatic cancer.  The pancreas is not an organ that is often referred to, it stays out of the limelight providing its services without recognition until something goes wrong.  The difficulty with pancreatic cancer is that it often goes undetected until it is too late and once detected less than 5% diagnosed survive after 5 years.  As for Patrick Swayze, he battled the painful disease for 20 months before laying to rest.

The causes of pancreatic cancer are still unknown although diet and lifestyle factors, as with any health or dis-ease, are said to play a role.  Dr. Michael Gershon explains the pancreas in this way, “The pancreas is at once a protector of the intestine, a provider of the kind of environment digestive enzymes need in which to function, and a manufacturer of digestive enzymes.  In its spare time, the pancreas also secretes hormones (insulin and glucagon) into the bloodstream.  These hormones regulate the blood sugar level.  The enzyme-manufacturing capacity of the pancreas is impressive.  There is very little that we eat that cannot be digested by at least one of the enzymes the pancreas makes.”  With this level of responsibility it is no wonder when it begins to malfunction the survival rate is low.

Without knowing the biochemical cause of pancreatic cancer and with limited resources currently available to cure cancer, what can we do as preventative?  The basics are to stop smoking, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. These are all good steps for everyone to take, but how does a man like Patrick Swayze, a fit and determined man get pancreatic cancer?

As Dr Gershon mentions above, the pancreas plays a lead role in blood sugar maintenance and digestion.  We can only postulate on the mind-body-emotion connection to pancreatic cancer, but if we look at the role that the pancreas plays in our body we can find parallels that match our life and behaviors.  Louise Hays states that the pancreas represents sweetness in our life and cancer represents deep hurt and long standing resentment.  This withholding of sweetness is akin to grief.  One can say that it is the inability to breakdown and digest life – pull the sweetness out of it, the richness and the nutritive aspects.  When stress and resentment builds up we limit our resources we have available to heal and to think clearly and prosperously.  We don’t need to hold in our pain and grief; with the right support they can be released.

In this vein another way to be preventative is to enjoy life now.  To find the sweetness and richness of life and let that be our focus.  Stressful situations may never go away but how we approach them can change our life dramatically.

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