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Natural Awakenings Chicago

A Survivor’s Guide to Kicking Cancer

Oct 26, 2011 09:58AM ● By Megy Karydes

Dena Mendes

Hearing the words, “You have cancer,” might feel like a death sentence for some people, but Dena Mendes doesn’t feel that way at all. In fact, as someone who has been battling breast, bone, lung and brain cancers for more than a decade, she chose to look at the news as an awakening experience.

Mendes, a respected public health specialist and consultant, combines alternative therapies to fight the disease. As the author of the new book, A Survivor’s Guide to Kicking Cancer’s Ass, she felt compelled to document her experiences after being asked by clients repeatedly about how she battles the illness.

Mendes attests that writing the book was a cathartic experience, because it forced her to delve deeper into her past, as well as outline the steps she took to heal herself mentally and physically. “The book isn’t just for people who have cancer,” she says. “It’s also great for those who are looking at preventative measures, who may be at high risk for getting cancer or those taking care of others with cancer.”

The book is full of recommendations and checklists, from what to ask your doctors every step of the way to what to eat and not eat, as well as how to assemble your own team to help you survive this “health awakening journey” in your life.

Mendes admits her team has changed over the years, and can’t emphasize enough how important it is to surround yourself with people that have your best intentions at heart. “I have a completely different team now than I did when I first learned I had cancer,” she says. “Your life changes, you grow, you get new doctors and relationships ebb and flow.” Having the resources of that support team, though, is a critical part of the healing process.Beating cancer book

Food is another critical component, and it plays a strong role in the book, with healthy recipes and recommendations for foods that will support you throughout any health awakening experience. Mendes is adamant that everything we put into our bodies either positively or negatively affects not only how we feel, but also how well our body is able to fight the cancer.

Mendes is a patient advocate who encourages her clients to speak up when working with medical practitioners, including surgeons, who she notes sometimes think they know your body better than you do. “We have to demand respect from these doctors and remind them that we’re not a slab of meat,” Mendes says. “The more knowledge you have about what is happening, the more powerful you are and a more active participant in your healing process.” She recommends taking time to be still so you can learn to listen to your body’s cues and signals and trusting your intuition.

Mendes uses an earthy, sassy tone throughout the book that helps her connect with readers on a human level. She says the book is, “… meant to be like a friend to guide you, whether it’s for you or to be used by someone who is helping someone else through this journey.”

A Survivor’s Guide to Kicking Cancer’s Ass is available at local retailers and online. For more information and for more support, visit

Megy Karydes is founder of World Shoppe, a fair trade importing business that works directly with artisans in South Africa and Kenya. To learn more, visit