Why My Ribs Hurt and You Don’t Want Cancer

Last Monday two important things happened in the world: the World Health Organization (WHO) published their report, a summary of over 800 studies, categorizing processed meats — bacon, sausage, deli meat, hot dogs, etc — as category 1 carcinogens and red meats — mammals like cows, pigs, and sheep — as category 2A carcinogens (SEE: It’s Been A Bad Week For Hot Dogs).

And the second important thing that happened in the world last Monday is I bruised my ribs playing basketball.

Most of you reading this would probably argue that those two things are on very different levels of significance. However if you ask me, I’d say they are pretty much on par. I am, after all, the one writing this, and the one dealing with the pain.

Now it’s my job to convince you of the same, and show you how these two things are related.

Meat Eaters React

The reaction to the news from the WHO among meat eaters varied from reasonable to comical to downright dishonest. Among the most common reactions was to throw up one’s metaphorical hands and say one of two things, either “we’re all gonna die from something!” or “everything causes cancer these days.”

While the second statement is just false (in fact, we know a lot about foods that protect against cancer, not cause it! here and here), I’d like to talk about how it relates to the first one.

There seemed to be a level of apathy among meat eaters upon hearing this news, sort of a feeling of “yeah but I’ll be old when I get cancer and I’m going to die of something anyway so…who cares.”

This might be a good way to rationalize your current dietary habits, but let’s evaluate the statement a bit closer. I want to talk about my ribs.

The Dirty Play

While on the court last week for my basketball rec league, a player on the other team, notorious for hard fouls and non-stop complaining when calls don’t go his way, pulled a pretty dirty stunt. He and I were competing for the same rebound when our arms got tangled up. No big deal, it happens, just separate them and move on.

Not this time.

This “gentleman” grabbed my arm with both of his, yanked it downward, and refused to let it go. In shock, I reacted by trying to free my arm and I pulled back with force. He did not relent.

The force of the struggle lead to a strain in my ribs that would prove excruciating as I lied down in bed that night. I am talking nearly unbearable. For the last 8 days I have been subjected to this same agony every evening while climbing into bed and every morning upon waking.

Ribs are notoriously slow healers, and every deep breath, cough, sneeze, or laugh causes me real pain.

“How Does This Have Anything To Do With Cancer?”

You may ask yourself..

Here’s the deal. Think about yourself, right now. Are you sick? Have a cold? Are you dealing with an injury, chronic or acute?


Are you thankful for that? Is it on your mind 24/7? Or are you taking it for granted?

Think about the last time you were sick as a dog. You couldn’t think about anything else could you? And you swore, “when I finally get better, I am never going to take another mucus free breath for granted again! I’ll never take a pain free deep breath again without thanking my ribs for being healthy! I’ll never take another step without feeling truly blessed that this ankle is no longer sprained!”

Of course we get healthy and we don’t feel this way anymore. We forget. We take it for granted.

That’s The Point!

This idea that “we’re all going to die from something so it doesn’t matter what we do now even if that means ingesting known carcinogens day in and day out” is hubris!

It’s easy to say that when you are relatively healthy now — you are taking your health (and lack of pain) for granted!

But cancer is painful.

Cancer treatment is, if you’re lucky, a long and painful process that saves your life. If you’re not as lucky, it can be a long, painful death.

You say that now, that you’re going to continue eating your processed and red meats because “we’re all going to die of something.” But when that day comes, and you are faced with the pain of cancer, you are likely going to rethink this decision and pray for a natural death in your sleep at a very old age.

You have a choice to eat a diet centered on whole plant foods, avoid known carcinogens like tobacco and processed meats, and give yourself a better chance of that painless death at an old age. Or you can choose to stay the same and dream of that time when you weren’t in pain every single day for the rest of your days. Choose wisely.

(One More Note About My Ribs)

Yeah yeah, I know. They hurt!

There are a few ways I have been treating the pain with whole plant foods. Pain is essentially inflammation, and most pain killers are just anti-inflammatory drugs.

There are several great plants that are highly anti-inflammatory that I have been eating more of and noticing a difference. Of course I’ve also taken some actual pain killers when it gets unbearable, but I prefer to avoid them if possible.

For me the name of the game has been cherries, watermelon, and turmeric (+ black pepper). There is great research behind all three as being very anti-inflammatory, good for exercise recovery in general and for pain management. Check out the links to learn more about these foods and learn how a plant-based diet can help prevent cancer!

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