Contributed: May 2003
On May 22, 2003 at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with EOPPC : Extra-Ovarian Primary Peritoneal Carcinoma, stage IV. The following is a brief summary of my medical history, my cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery.I may be facing a similar situation, to raise awareness of the options available, and to spread the word about the success of Gerson. The Gerson Therapy more than healed me from cancer; it’s an extension and culmination of a life of being chronically ill, seeking wellness, and finally discovering a way to heal.
I was born with jaundice. By the time I was four or five I have chronic bladder infections, and had already had to be catheterized for a kidney check. At the age of about ten, I began to having headaches. Doctors prescribed different antibiotics and pain killers on and off for about 25 years. In the process I found that I am allergic to erythromycin, penicillin, all sulfa drugs, Band-Aid adhesive and some latex. By the time I was 21 my headaches turned into migraines. The headaches eventually became so severe that I had to either be on heavy pain medications to function or I was in bed with a towel over my eyes. My father, who also suffered from migraines, took me to the migraine clinic at Abbot Northwestern in Minnesota. I was diagnosed with chemical sensitivity disorder and put on the drug Doxepin. Doxepin is a tricyclic antidepressant and used to raise serotonin levels.
The doctor said that he had good results with this drug and migraine patients. I took Doxepin on and off for about 10 years. It did not help much; I would still get headaches that lasted up to three weeks from just one whiff of bus exhaust. Mostly I just suffered through the pain.
When I was in college I realized that I could not live this way and I began to explore diet and lifestyle alternatives. First off I started doing yoga which lead me to learn about and practice a vegetarian diet, veganism, macrobiotics and raw, live food living. I became conscious of the benefits of stretching, relaxation and balance and started feeling better. My studies improved and my headaches lessened. I began to realize which foods and environments I had to avoid. These lifestyle changes, along with a full course of body work called Structural Integration, a deep-tissue realignment similar to chiropractic, opened my awareness to the possibility of well being. As the pain lessened I begin to feel other imbalances that had been masked by the headaches. Its one of these ironies where as you begin to get better, you realize how bad off you are. I had only scratched the surface.
My continued interest in what I will call “the real” traditional healing arts lead me to Mysore a city in Southern India. I learned southern India is considered the home of the mother medicine and went to practice and study yoga and Ayurvedics with a determination that if I was ever to become fully healthy this was the time and the place. In India I woke at 5 and from 6 to 9 am I was in a rigorous aerobic yoga series. Then I would mostly rest for the rest of the day eating coconut, mango, sugar cane and toast. I lost weight and had some insomnia. It wasn’t until I stopped doing my daily practice and got on the plane back to the states that I began to feel very sick in my guts. I believe the illness was there all the time and the yoga and healing therapies had kept it at bay.
Six weeks later I arrived in Honolulu with the worst gut pain I had ever had. I continued to lose weight and my abdomen began to swell. The next six weeks were filled with doctors’ appointments and remedies that proved useless. Over and over I was told that nothing was wrong with me. One doctor on Maui put me on a sedative.
Another doctor in Alaska put me on Flagyl, a potent antibiotic for parasites. The tests showed no parasites, but the doctor said, “Oh well, sometimes that happens and you have them anyway.” Our local doctor, Dr. Yates, palpated my stomach and said I had to go to the emergency room immediately. At the emergency room they gave me a shot of Demerol and it was like somebody turned on the lights. All of a sudden I realized how much pain I had come to tolerate. Panic set in. They took an X-ray, told me there was nothing wrong and sent me home. Whoa!
After dead-ends with seven doctors my parents had set up an appointment with a germ specialist at the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic is known for being the best conservative medical institute in the west, if not the world. Within days I was on a plane to Minnesota and admitted through the emergency room because I was in so much pain I could not wait for my appointment. They took me in right away because I could not walk, or talk without crying, and I was emaciated. After a battery of tests, one of which was an ultrasound, they found ascites in my abdomen, did a paracentesis and diagnosed the ascites with cancerous cells. There was no sign of cancer on my CT scans and my CA-125 was elevated to 300. At about two o’clock in the afternoon on May 22, 2003, five doctors, all on my case with an older doctor as the chief, came into my hospital room and explained to me with arms folded across their chest and heads shaking that I had end-stage cancer and that death was imminent. They explained to me that I had stage IV EOPPC , but if there were such thing as stage V that I was there because ascites is not treatable and incurable, it is a complete breakdown of the body organism, and not only that, but my ascites was cancerous. They said I could try this chemotherapy that would not cure me; they only said it might give me an extra six months to a year, if I was lucky. Whoa, again.
I was assigned Dr. Roa for an oncologist. When he came in the room he looked very sad. I remember reassuring him that I was not going to die and him looking at me like I was pathetic and crazy. I called everybody I knew, and as soon as I was out of the hospital I began researching every possible angle. I would do everything and
anything. I was not going to let this cancer kill me. NO WAY! I knew there was an answer and I was going to find it. My oncologist arranged for me to do six months of carboplatinum and Taxol. It was like being sold a car. I got a second opinion and when I told this doctor that I had been doing some research on Pub Med and many other web and library resources, he said, “Don’t do that. That will only confuse you. Just trust me.” My hair stood on end when he said that, and I decided to trust my hair instead of him. Keep in mind that in the course of two years, I visited numerous specialists from the top medical centers in the world, including Mayo, M. D. Anderson and Sloan-Kettering, and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. “It’s all in your head,” they told me. Dr. Borone, an oncologist at the UC San Diego Medical Center, gave me one $6,000, 20-minute infusion of carboplatinum, after which I got worse, and had ascites.
After notifying all my friends and relations I received two e-mails that mentioned the Gerson [Therapy]. I started looking into the Gerson Therapy among many other non-toxic treatments. I could see that Gerson was the most rigorous and disciplined therapy, but I honestly thought it was nuts. I remember thinking a person would really have to be fanatic to do something crazy like that. A primary goal of my research was to find a woman who had survived the same diagnosis. I searched every cancer resource and found only two surviving women who had a similar diagnosis: both were Gerson patients. At the same time I was told by Dr. Roa that the chemotherapy was not effective. He pulled up a list of what looked like about 20 different chemotherapies and said, “Even if one
chemotherapy doesn’t work, we know that the others most likely will not, we could just start at the top and try them all.” I felt like he was telling me, “Well, you’re going to die anyway, so lets just try anything.” That was when the Gerson Therapy started to look way less crazy. At this point I got yet another opinion, this time from a woman oncologist who in her own words had seen this disease “hundreds and hundreds of times before.” She told me no one survives it, and wrote me a scrip for hospice [care]. I remember looking at her shoes and thinking what does she know? With those shoes? They were too green and too tight and matched her suit too well. I just knew someone else picked them out for her and told her to buy them.
I applied to Gerson and was accepted. Throughout the process I kept thinking it was like applying to Yale. The people involved had no time for pussyfooting around. You have to want it. That was a good thing to me. Upon my arrival I was welcomed by doctors, nurses, staff and other patients, all with encouragement. That afternoon was pivotal. I was assigned Dr. Bravo, who came to my room and sat [with me] to talk. She proceeded to tell me that this therapy was up to me. She asked me if I could face the seriousness of my illness, and did I have what it takes to cure myself? I was so affirmed. I knew deep inside that it was up to me, and it was in my power to heal myself. I only needed the right tools. She told me I had a night to think about it and if I wanted to leave in the morning it was up to me. Game on!!! I honestly felt like I had discovered the clinic I was dreaming of. I spent the next four weeks at the clinic, and my CA-125 went to normal. Right away my abdomen started to shrink and I felt much better. [During her time at the Mexican Gerson Therapy clinic, Betsy appeared in Steve Kroschel’s first documentary, The Gerson Miracle.—Ed.]
I made all the arrangements from the clinic to return to Alaska and proceed with two to three years of the Gerson [Therapy] in a 16 foot square cabin. On the Internet at Gerson.org I found a man in Alaska who was already ordering organic produce for two people who were doing the Gerson [Therapy]! Every week I got a delivery of all
the goods. I hired two caregivers and many friends and townies came by to see what I was up to. The following summer I had my first full-on garden of romaine, carrots potatoes and more. In the summer what I could not get from my garden I got from the farm down the street. I discovered the life blood of the romaine. I would go from grocery to grocery ripping the leaves of the greens trying to find the creamy white substance that is there when you rip lettuce from the garden. I found none. The grocery store was becoming a thing of the past.
For a year and ten months I followed the Gerson routine from 7 am to 9 pm, all day, every day. After consulting with Dr. Bravo and seeing consistent, optimal blood work, I decided to have surgery. I found a female gynecological surgeon who would do a low impact surgery and just clean up what looked unhealthy. I opted against a radical surgery, because the surgeons at Mayo said, “You don’t need that part anyway …”! After the surgery my ascites went away and never came back. I continued the Gerson [Therapy] for several months. My surgery healed and my strength increased. Since I started the treatment, my migraines have all gone away and my bladder infections have subsided. To this day, I rarely get even a cold.
Throughout these past few years I continued annual checkups at the Mayo clinic and I also went back to the Gerson clinic twice during my two year treatment. On February 23, 2006, after blood work and a CT scan at Mayo, Dr. Roa said I had no sign of cancer. He was astonished. He asked me several times if I had chemo elsewhere, as if I forgot or something. Right! He left the room and came back and said I am the only survivor they know of with this diagnosis. Once again he folded his arms across his chest, only this time with astonishment. He said, “Not only is there no sign of cancer, but all the scar tissue from the surgery has absorbed. This is unheard-of. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.” I told him, “You know what I am doing,” because he knew the whole time, but from his chair, he just couldn’t understand it. To this day Dr. Roa and I remain friends. I was going to quit seeing him several times, but my father said “No, you have to teach him.” I told him that day, that great day, “Well doc, if you ever get sick, just give me a call.” He looked at me funny, but you know what? I think he will.
Betsy has agreed to answer questions for anyone with similar problems. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.