It has been almost ten months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I wanted to share my healing journey so far with you. Part One of my blog deals with the physical side of things while Part Two, next week, will focus on the spiritual. I want to emphasize that my healing journey is unique for me and not offered as a prescription for anyone else. God wants us to be in relationship with Him, not follow a formula. My decisions have been driven by “Take It to the LORD in Prayer” as the good old hymn encourages us to do. Because my journey represents an alternative to what many of us and our loved ones have been offered when faced with cancer, my desire is to edify and inform.
This is the second round for me, my breast cancer reoccurring five years to the month from my first diagnosis in California. In 2015, I was fortunate that the cancer was diagnosed early, during a routine mammogram, and was treated utilizing traditional methods – biopsy and guided lumpectomy. My cancer was downgraded from Stage 2 to Stage 1 because it had not metastasized and the small tumors had definite borders, minimizing the risk of spread because of surgery. I remained cancer free for five years.
So why did the cancer return? Good question. Bad timing. Because of COVID, routine medical and dental visits were cancelled in Spring 2020. My annual mammogram was two months overdue and I had already noticed dramatic changes in the breast that had cancer previously. The mammogram and ultrasound in June confirmed the cancer had returned – at a more aggressive rate and had metastasized into several lymph nodes under my arm. I readily admit that the diagnosis freaked me out for several days. I immediately sought the LORD in prayer for guidance and direction.
This time I decided to conduct extensive research before deciding on a course of treatment. I reached out to sisters in Christ who also had been afflicted with cancer or supported someone who did. I was richly blessed by their experience and resources. I want to especially acknowledge my daughter Margaret, who has been a tireless researcher and staunch advocate for my healing and health.
After much research I learned some surprising things:
Traditional western medicine is “allopathic” – referring to “a system in which medical doctors treat symptoms of disease using drugs, radiation or surgery”. The intended goal is symptomatic relief rather than healing the underlying cause of the ‘dis-ease’ in the body’s systems. Frustration with this limited approach and well-known side effects of some of these methods has resulted in the growth of specialties such as Integrative Medicine and Functional Medicine.
These whole person-based approaches, which are focused on “identifying and addressing the root causes of disease,” offer a wider variety of treatment protocols. While they may be slower to achieve full healing, they are less invasive, result in fewer side effects, and take into consideration the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect health and well-being. For cancer patients, the goal of these medical modalities is to offer sustained and less harmful options to the traditional uses of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.
In listening to the experiences of friends who have undergone traditional cancer treatment, I began to see a pattern where the patient’s health is compromised by methods that may eliminate the cancer, but don’t guarantee it won’t spread or return, harm healthy cells, produce permanent side effects, and can overwhelm the body’s defenses to the point of death. It didn’t make sense to me that my treatment should result in additional stress and trauma to my body so I continued my search for a protocol that would not only identify the cause(s) of cancer, but also offer more supportive ways to recover, heal and sustain health.
As I discussed treatment options with my traditionally trained PCP, breast surgeons, and oncologist, I was greeted with consternation, fear, and anger. I felt intimidated and manipulated into conforming with their protocol. They uniformly disrespected or distrusted colleagues that specialized in wholistic treatments or an integrative approach. I found my experience is, unfortunately, all too common.
I learned through experience that the KEY factors in my healing are 1) take responsibility for my health, 2) control my own care, and 3) make informed choices.
My research taught me cancer is a metabolic disorder – something that has gone awry within my body, not an invader from without to be killed. I resolved, the second time around, to determine the factors that caused my cancer to reappear. I wanted more than just symptomatic relief and I also wanted to avoid, as much as possible, the serious side effects of traditional treatments. I started treatment with a Functional Medicine M.D. and a Naturopathic Oncologist. After extensive lab work, a battery of tests, and a comprehensive intake process, I learned several crucial metabolic processes were way out of whack. This combination of factors created a cellular environment where mutated cells (that occur on a regular basis) were not able to be controlled by my immune system and developed into cancerous tumors.
I began a comprehensive regimen to restore a healthy cellular environment that would support my body’s natural defense against cancer. Major contributing factors to my breast cancer included: obesity, elevated blood sugar, high cortisol levels (indicative of chronic stress), reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, overwhelmed immune system (low white blood cell count), and hormonal imbalance (excessive estrogen levels). I learned fat cells generate estrogen so losing weight became a high priority. Chronic elevated blood sugar leads to insulin resistance and feeds cancers cells so a healthy diet became paramount. With testing I identified food intolerances that prevented my body from properly absorbing nutrients needed for cellular restoration and repair. My research disclosed a variety of vitamins and supplement that restore metabolic imbalance and create an unwelcome environment for cancer. I completely changed my diet – what I ate, how much and when – and gained understanding of how micronutrients contributed to healing.
Something that really changed my outlook was the video series “Exhausted.” I learned the necessity of re-establishing healthy routines – getting enough uninterrupted sleep, staying hydrated, regular exercise, and intermittent fasting (at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day). I also learned detoxification and immune support are essential to creating a metabolic environment detrimental to cancer. After 5 months of this protocol, my lab tests came back normal indicating healthy cellular metabolism had been restored and I had lost over 40 pounds of excess weight.
Time to get to work on eliminating the tumors. Starting in November 2020, I began working with a physician who specializes in Integrative Medicine. I am still committed to cancer treatment avoiding the traditional “big three” and we are using a variety of protocols that include natural substances such as Mistletoe, Vitamin C, Alpha Lipoic Acid, and Melatonin; prescription drugs such as Naltrexone and Metformin HCL; reduction of body fat mass to healthy level; and continued use of specific therapeutic grade supplements.
Next week: My Faith journey with its ups and downs and my desire for God to get ALL the Glory.