Saturday, 15 November 2008

Cancer is not just an illness of the body. Often a diagnosis follows a period of  mental or emotional stress. The cause could be linked to work, relationship, family, money or any number of other button pressers. While cancer is a symptom of the physical body, stress is a symptom of the mind. It is a pre-curser. Its a condition that pre-dated the cancer diagnosis. Can we go back further to a less tangible level of existence. Prior to the cancer diagnosis was there a symptom we may have been unaware of on a spiritual or soul level. Was there a symptom manifesting there, an imbalance linked to sense of purpose, or connectedness. These are existential questions which some find the answer to through formalised religion. When I was diagnosed with a primary malignant melanoma at the age of 41 I sought advice from the late Dr. Andrew Lockie, a wise friend and homoeopathic doctor. He told me that a person diagnosed with cancer was certainly sick physically but that's not all. They are also sick emotionally and spiritually.   For them to get well they had first to work with the physical condition. Second, emotions and thirdly spirit or soul. You have to go from the outer to the inner. The cancer starts as an imbalance deep inside and over a period  travels through the mind and then finally manifests in the physical body as cancer. The healing journey starts in the physical body and continues back through the mind and then to the soul. We call this holistic healing acknowledging we are not solely a physical body but layers of interdependent forms which make a complete and whole and unique individual. 
Most people faced with a cancer diagnosis follow their doctors advice and go for chemotherapy, surgery or radiation. The treatments are effective in removing the symptom. Personally I chose a nutritional therapy which was also effective removing the symptom. By the time I started Gerson Therapy the cancer had spread to my lymphatic system, 9 months after being diagnosed with the primary. The Gerson regime mobilised my immune system to destroy the life- threatening tumour. A battle took place in my body which I described in the Reset Button.
Doing Gerson Therapy, like doing conventional medicine removed the symptom and bought me the time I needed to consider the emotional and spiritual I needed to do to get well.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The Reset Button

This is the story of my experience with the disease, malignant melanoma, a particularly virulent and fast spreading form of cancer. To be truthful, this is more an interim account of my experience with the Gerson Therapy after 12 months of the 2 year regime and an expression of the fundamental movements that have occurred in the deepest part of my life since having the original cancer diagnosis 21 months ago. Initially, I was able to carry on my life as normal until 9 months later I was told that the cancer had spread to my lymphatic system and I was not expected to survive a year.

It would be far too presumptuous to celebrate a cure at this stage but instead of following the normal pattern of swift destruction I am still alive. After 4,745 freshly pressed juices and 1,288 coffee enemas I am in good health. All visible cancer symptoms have disappeared and I am confident, most of the time, that I will survive another 12 months.
This work is dedicated to Lesley, my wife, to my dear family and friends who love me and have carried me through the darkest times, and supported me emotionally, physically and financially; to the compassionate and loving healers who continue to work with me and, of course, to the memory of Dr Max Gerson and his daughter Charlotte who continues his work uncompromisingly.

The first sign was a mole at the top of my back on my right shoulder blade. It looked harmless enough, it even looked friendly, but I was totally unaware of the potential horrors of which this tiny mole was a symptom.
I watched it grow over the months, glancing at it now and then in the mirror. At one point it started to itch. I had heard about these. I thought it was time I took it to the doctor.
I arranged a visit and casually called in on the way to work one morning. My GP had a reputation for being very laid back even a bit slapdash so it really took me by surprise when she insisted that I do not leave her office until she had made an urgent appointment with the consultant at the local hospital.
The appointment was made for the very next day and I continued on my way to work. My thoughts were no longer on planning for forthcoming client meetings.
Instead they had been superseded by this strange turn of events and I was now juggling with new and totally unexpected priorities. Even at this early stage I was beginning to feel that my foundations were being threatened. Things in other areas of my life at that time were far from harmonious. I had been experiencing serious business and personal financial problems for the previous 2 years and as a result I was facing bankruptcy. At home my marriage was close to collapse. I had been feeling a state of confusion and disconnectedness building in my life for some time and this new development, which carried an ominous aura was not altogether a surprise.
I arrived at the office and immediately checked that my sickness insurance policy was still in force. I was in the insurance business and it occurred to me that all of a sudden at that point in time my life was uninsurable at any price, at least until the results of the medical tests were available. The hours stretched out before me, waiting for my hospital appointment. The wait was interminable and my mind was fixed on nothing else.
When my appointment finally arrived I was shown into a room to await the doctor. I admit that I have little respect for the way medicine is distributed and I disagree with the medical philosophy of symptomatic treatment so I was pleasantly surprised when I was greeted by a consultant with a friendly face and a warm approach. He did not have a big antique desk that separated us, instead he put his arm on my shoulder and called me John; we were both wearing exactly the same ties. I warmed to him.
After a close look at the mole he said he thought it looked malignant and before I knew it I was flat out with the upper part of my back numbed as a surgeon was carving a section out of me as if I were a Sunday roast.
The mole was whisked away to the laboratory leaving me in shock, feeling feeble and abused. I was going to have to wait a week for the result of the biopsy and I was being thrown back out into my life expected to make a lunch appointment and talk business sense while my mind was totally absorbed in matters of impending death. The film “Love Story” came back to me in vivid remembrance as I recalled how the woman played by Ali McGraw was carrying on her life as normal, and then, without warning, came the devastating prognosis. It gave me this vaguely romantic and unreal feeling of being special. The speed of this new turn of events left me reeling and without knowing my life had already changed.
The next seven days was the worst week of my life. I didn’t know whether I was about to die, had five years to live or that the whole thing was a false alarm. All the options and how I would deal with them went round and round in my mind ceaselessly. I kept remembering the words of the surgeon which were that if it was malignant and if it spreads to the lymphatic system the prognosis would be very poor.
Finally after this week of endless days and nights contemplating life and death and everything in between I was sitting with the consultant who spoke to me softly and sympathetically but in a somewhat resigned manner. The mole was a malignant melanoma with a depth of 2.5mm.
Everything will be OK, try to be positive and continue life as normal. He told me I was a borderline case, if I had left it any longer it would have been much worse but it would have been room with my wife Lesley. Oblivious to our surroundings we tried to come to terms with the diagnosis and to understand what it meant to us. My feelings at this time were hard to understand; I wasn’t sick but I had just been told that I had a life threatening illness. I could walk out of the hospital as well as any man, I could go to work, I could carry on canoeing (my passion) but I was to understand that at any time this disease could, without further warning, take over and very quickly finish me off.
During the months that followed I built up a library of cancer books trying to get a more rounded understanding of the disease. I avoided the orthodox medical books which seemed most despondent and concentrated on nutritional and mind body books which seemed more hopeful.
(I avoided the orthodox medical literature as I couldn’t find any hope there. I remember breaking out into a cold sweat in the medical section of Milton Keynes Central Library. Instead I concentrated on nutritional and mind-body books which offered more hope if only because they helped me to believe that there was something that I could do about my condition. Rewritten 2/05)
I started to understand that despite the doom and gloom presented by conventional doctors and the overwhelming fear of the disease experienced by just about everyone I spoke to, cancer is a constitutional disease affecting the whole of the body. It is therefore common sense to treat the whole of the body rather than to concentrate on the tumour which, after all, is just the symptom.
I also spoke to a homeopathic doctor friend who suggested that Gerson Therapy had particularly good results with melanoma. He went on to tell me that, in his opinion, for someone to get cancer they had to be broken down not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. His parting words were that I should treat it with respect.
This was a loaded phone conversation leaving me in no doubt that I had work to do. The doctor told me I was a borderline case which I had translated to mean that there was a 50% chance of the cancer spreading so I lived on the assumption that I was going to do more than I expected 50% of people to do with the same diagnosis. I set about reorganising my life giving up all of my old and long-standing unhealthy habits. I changed my diet, ate fresh organic food and consumed bottles of vitamins in an attempt to restore perfect health. After a couple of months I started to enjoy this new regime. I was feeling healthier and happier but despite the hangover free mornings I still felt uncomfortable at social events and I realised that for a seasoned drinker, Hagger the teetotaller, was an image that was going to take some time to get accustomed to.
My life was changing. I would wake in the morning feeling fresh and happy with my new lifestyle but despite this, the knowledge of its possible existence in my body never left me. I lived in fear of metastases.
Nine months later I noticed an annoying lingering cough and when I visited the gym for my twice weekly workouts my performance was down on normal. In spite of my attempts at health a little lump appeared in my right armpit. Just where they said it might. It was about the size of an almond, sitting there: solid, painless and defiant.
After all my efforts I couldn’t believe that this was it. A week later after taking fluid from the lump by needle aspiration, my soft and sympathetic friend at the hospital gave me the news in an even more resigned manner than before. The cancer had metastasised to the lymphatic system and there was no effective treatment. In his words I had months not years to live.
Earlier, when my doctor friend had told me about Gerson Therapy I had investigated it, reading Beata Bishop’s book A Time to Heal but because I felt well and in control was not interested, at the time, in such a regimented approach. I knew, however, that Gerson was my contingency plan and the time had arrived to call on it.
In my investigations I had also learned about the Debra Stappard Trust which loaned juicers and water purifiers to people doing Gerson therapy saving them the purchase price of about £1500. It was time to pay a visit to the Trust at the home of Colin and Sheila Compton, who by coincidence, lived a few miles away on a farm at the foot of Box Hill in the North Downs of Surrey.
Colin and Sheila’s daughter Debra had died of melanoma. Despite her dying her experience on Gerson Therapy was positive enough for her parents to now work tirelessly to spread a deeper understanding of cancer and its treatment with alternative therapies. Sadly, debra, it was felt, started with the therapy at a point where her body was too depleted for her immune system to fully recover.
This is where the magic began.
I explained that I might possibly be embarking on the therapy if the report from the doctor proved positive and Sheila invited me round to discuss how the trust could help should I need it. It happened that the next day a Gerson patient was visiting to collect a juicer and would I like to go at the same time for a bit of first hand experience.
Her name was Eileen who had been on the therapy for almost a year after she had been told she had less than a year to live with advanced lymphoma. After I got over the shock of her carotene tan I became inspired by her soft spoken determination. She was courageous, she was faced with the greatest battle of her life and she was winning. Eileen was taking control and she had direction. I envied her. I left Chapel Farm that day with a secret wish that my test would be positive so that I too could have this Gerson experience. It was becoming clear that this represented, to me, more than just a cancer cure, it was an opportunity for radical change on every level: physical, emotional and spiritual. With it came the realisation that I had been crying out for this for years.
This “chance” meeting with Eileen was so important to me as it somehow saved me from total desperation; we had an alternative which made scientific sense. After the initial, dazed, where am I? feeling it was a matter of the practical preparations for Mexico, not least the fact that a 3-week stay was likely to cost £10,000 and we had nothing.
We booked the flight and the hospital, I gave up my job thankfully (I’m sure I would never have quit as a life assurance salesman otherwise) and I felt like I was formally closing the doors on my old life never again to return.
Every day for the next two weeks I filled a full page of things we had to do in preparation which included sorting out the long standing damp problem on our house and getting a new kitchen fitted, the thought of doing the therapy on a jumble of rickety old cupboards without proper worksurfaces just could not be considered. I was beginning to realise that the therapy alone was going to be a major challenge without even thinking about the other implications of having cancer, so it was important to remove all possible other obstacles at the outset.
We went to the solicitors to make wills made arrangements for the children, sorted out a temporary home for the dog, arranged passports and currency and tried to tie up some last minute business deals to hopefully give us a bit of cash on our return. We also fitted in taking the dog to his first bull terrier show. He unfortunately came last but Matthew our son did win first prize in the raffle – a big Easter egg.
Once family and friends heard of our problems cheques started arriving and during those two weeks we received enough money to cover our trip. We received cards and letters bringing warm wishes from all sorts of people some who I haven’t heard from for years It was a very special time and a very emotional one especially when I stopped and sat down to give my feelings a chance to catch up with what was going on. It wasn’t at all how I would have expected it to be, not that I ever had expected it, but it all seemed so normal.
As the departure date was approaching I was pushing myself harder and harder to get everything done just as I was used to doing, but now it was different; I had always had the reserves of energy, now something was definitely missing. My passport photo taken a couple of days before leaving was a shock and is now a vivid reminder of how I felt during those few days.
At the airport we said a tearful farewell to our two teenage children and we were soon in the air leaving the fruits of many days planning and organising well behind us.
It had all been very different to the preparation for say moving home or going on holiday although the actions were no different; they belied the true purpose, they were an excuse, the true feelings lurking under the surface were too powerful to appraise.
As we took our seats on the aeroplane I became aware that there was only me and Lesley left and we sat quietly and softly stroked each other and cried.
As soon as we arrived at the hospital we were swept up and thrown headlong into the rapids of the Gerson system which is a regimented regime of endless juices, coffee enemas, cooked meals and medications I realise that this in itself has its own therapeutic effects, but more of that later. I was introduced to my doctor, a glamorous lady around thirty in tightly fitting denim jeans and a white coat left open flapping as she walked. Dr Bravo greeted me with a big warm smile and in her Spanish American accent took my case history and officially got me started; as soon as she left another Mexican lady arrived “joos” she cried as she knocked at the door. I got to know her quite well as I saw her 13 times a day. Another knock at the door, a nurse introduced herself and wanted to know my “vital signs” which turned out to be temperature pulse and blood pressure. This happened 3 times a day and on top of this I was having daily visits for ozone therapy, “liver sharts” (intramuscular crude liver injections). Someone came to clean the room another to refill the fruit plate, the herb tea, the coffee for enemas and then our coordinator to keep us in touch with the various lectures and other happenings and to generally help to make our stay as trouble free as possible. It was like Victoria station sometimes as they trooped in and out occasionally having to queue outside waiting for a space. Mealtimes happened 3 times a day; a breakfast of porridge with a splendid selection of stewed and fresh fruit; lunch and dinner were both 4 course cooked meals and we were encouraged to eat as much as we could. In addition to this and the 13 juices we were given a large plate of fresh mixed fruit every day.
After a few days at the hospital I started to feel my energy draining from me to the point where just getting around became difficult, I had to use the lift to go up one short flight of stairs and I thought it was a good job I hadn’t gone to Mexico to sight see. I was exhausted all the time. The food became a lot less appetising particularly on the mornings of every other day when we had to get up at 5 for 2 desert spoons of caster oil. In spite of it being cold-pressed and free from additives I find caster oil to be one of the nastiest experiences of my life although its cleansing effects are something to be experienced. It is repulsive, similar, I would imagine to drinking engine oil. Once swallowed (its best warmed, not quite so claggy) it takes between 4 and 5 hours to pass through the body during which time its safer to stay horizontal! Unlike other organic matter the body doesn’t absorb the oil and seems to want to be rid of it as soon as possible. A caster oil and coffee enema is taken after 5 hours and then the whole lot is eliminated. This is gruesome but it is quickly followed by a wonderful experience of mental clarity and physical cleanliness. This treatment together with 5 coffee enemas daily starts the long haul of ridding the body of harmful and toxic waste products left building up after years of abuse and mismanagement. This part of the regime was a revelation to me. For the previous 9 months I had been sticking to a strict purification programme and I had assumed the elimination of toxins was happening automatically but this firstb week in Mexico was so intense, such a massive assault on my system that I realised that I hadn’t really even scratched the surface.
Towards the end of this first week I looked in the mirror in amazement as I noticed that my eyes were turning blue, it was as if the murky greeny brown was clearing to reveal the true blue colour underneath. It is said that the iris tells a detailed story about the health of their owners and I was sure that this was evidence of my body rejoicing at the prospect of this super spring clean.
The fact that I had a life threatening illness was sinking in, a disease that continues to confound the finest of the worlds medical brains, incurable by conventional means and that if I was going to recover I would have to draw on a source of very powerful healing to arrest and reverse this cancer process which, without treatment, kills its victims between 2 and 6 months after it travels to the lymphatic system, so I am led to believe.
The days passed and we became more and more absorbed in the therapy. Daily lectures explained the theory while my own experiences of the healing reactions or “flare ups” provided the practical. I was into the second week when I became aware that far from shrinking and disappearing as I was led to expect my malignant lymph node was getting progressively bigger. The bigger it got the more worried I became until it grew to the size of a small apple. 17 days after I arrived at the hospital it was so painful, so hot and swollen, that I didn’t know how to relax or get comfortable. The clay packs that the doctor recommended for drawing out toxins and easing the pain were no longer effective. I was depressed even though Dr Bravo seemed to be taking it in her stride. I didn’t believe that this was a sign that the treatment was effective, from where I was sitting it seemed very much like this was a typical progression of the disease.
Then suddenly in the middle of the night it changed. It was still painful but in a different way, almost like a bruised pain and the heat started to subside. It felt like the pressure had been released and then I experienced a tremendous feeling of euphoria. I had to get up and walk about, I couldn’t possibly sleep, I had this joyful feeling welling up inside me that made me want to laugh. I went up on the roof and watched the stars in the warm night and then looked down into the dusty Mexican streets and watched the town close down for the night the last few pedestrians walking home alone, hands in pockets, heads down, I loved them all.
I woke up the next morning and still felt bruised and saw that all round the area of my armpit was black and blue, the pain had spread down my side, round my back and along my arm. I knew that I had just experienced some of that healing power that I so desperately needed. I phoned home immediately, joyfully telling my anxious family and friends that the therapy was working.
With more confidence I stood back and watched, as an observer, as these healing reactions, strange and unusual to orthodox medicine continued.
Our three weeks at6 the hospital soon passed and we left amid emotional farewells and good wishes armed with flasks full of juice, bags of food, and a huge packing case of medications enough for the first year. On top of this an enema bucket and coffee for 2 enemas which I was going to have to negotiate wedged into an aircraft toilet.
I was totally unprepared for this journey. In my debilitated state a 10 hour plane trip with all the associated hassles was a horrible experience eased only marginally by the assistance of a porter and wheelchair.
We arrived home and all we wanted to do was sleep but what about the juices and the enemas. The responsibility rested firmly on Lesley’s shoulders. Not only was she jet-lagged but as a result of living for 3 weeks on pure Gerson food and abstaining from her own vices she was also suffering from detoxification reactions. The month that followed was the worst of the therapy; if there were any alternative I would have seized it without a second thought. It seemed impossible that we could reproduce the care and rigorous detail needed to run the therapy that we had experienced in Mexico. We calculated that it takes 14 person hours a day 7 days a week to do the juices, make the coffee and cook the meals. Additional help is needed to do the shopping for the necessary supplies and to do the other normal household chores and then more help is needed to deal with the unexpected problems which invariably crop up. During this time I kept remembering a passage from Dr Gersons book: “A major portion of the day is needed to prepare this treatment. It is also more expensive than the normal 3 meals. Where affection and devotion in the family exist, all difficulties are disregarded for the sake of saving a life”.
Fortunately I am blessed with that kind of family and those kind of friends who together carried me through this period in my life when I was at the lowest I had ever experienced. I could do little other than sleep and although I tried to put on a positive front I could see everybody was worried. One of my close friends couldn’t even bring herself to look at me, she told me later.
I started to feel despair, and this was unusual. Not because the emotion was inappropriate, but just the fact that it was an emotion. This was new. I was never one to either feel or express emotions. Feeling desperate was certainly not pleasant, but “feeling” was, in a way, exciting. I began to realise there was another part of me that was also sick, cut off, suppressed and ignored and to get better that part also needed a therapy of its own and I wasted no time in finding a psychotherapist. This person has, over this year, has become very dear to me, not just as a friend but also as a compassionate and loving listener who helps me to uncover the layers of suppressed feelings accumulated and unexpressed over many years. Although the Gerson therapy does not pay attention to the emotional involvement in recovery it does play a part in stirring up deeply embedded feelings, just by virtue of the state that the patient has to be in to consider embarking bon the therapy in the first place ie. close to death.
I find it impossible to adequately express the mental and physical chaos of these first few weeks at home not only dealing with my own illness and setting up the routine but also dealing with everybody else’s emotions; I felt that I was responsible and that I should try to appease them by presenting a positive front.
To be continued .......