Michal Ginach, a recovered breast cancer patient, was a speaker al the 1994 F.A.C.T . Annual Cancer/Nutrition Convention. We are pleased to present her talk here, transcribed from the original tape and minimally edited for space considerations.
Ruth Sackman: I want to introduce our next speaker, a recovered cancer patient. I’m so glad she’s here. I’ve asked her to speak for over a year, but she has been very hesitant about taking the microphone. She has become brave and called after I’d filled the program to say she was willing to come. I said, “That’s all right, I will make room for you.”
Now, the reason I was so anxious to have Michal on the platform, which I hope she’ll explain to you, was because of the trial she went through making a decision to move from conventional therapy into the so-called alternative area. This lovely lady is Michal Ginach. I’m so delighted you’re here.
Michal Ginach: I am delighted, too. I cannot come here without saying a word about Ruth. It has been important to me in my recovery and I don’t think I’d be here if it wasn’t for her. I don’t know how to thank her. But I thought that coining here and telling you this story is my modest way of thanking Ruth.
It’s right. I have hesitated to come and talk to you because I didn’t want to be presented as a recovered cancer patient because I don’t see myself as recovered, even though my diagnosis was 12 years ago. I think cancer is a fight that goes on, it’s never over. So I don’t see that the job is done and now I can go back to eating badly and living a stressful life, go back to all the bad habits. I think that every moment of my life I have to keep remembering that I have to choose life over death. But I think that what I have to tell you may be helpful to somebody here. So I thought it’s worthwhile to say to people that it’s not like regular medicine- that you take a drug and that’s it and it’s over. FACTis offering a different understanding of what this disease is like and what it means to us. It’s different in the sense that it’s not just, “take a drug and go home and go do everything that you used to do.” You have to change everything about your life if you are to make it.
I’m invited here not only because I’m a recovered cancer patient. It’s also because I chose not to take chemotherapy for breast cancer. I’m a breast cancer patient and a breast cancer patient is offered chemotherapy prophylactically, even if the nodes are negative. They recommended chemotherapy to me, too.
I was 32 at the time of my diagnosis. I went to a doctor at Sloan-Kettering, the top oncologist in breast cancer, to consult with him. He said to me I have “65% chance of survival.” I didn’t know then that he was talking 5-year survival and in my heart I was praying for 10 years. He said “survival.” He never explained what he meant, but he said, if you don’t take chemotherapy, your chances of surVival are 65%. If you do take it, your chances of survival are 85%. He said very emphatically, “I put my 40 years experience on the line. Do it!”
It was very hard not to do it, I tell you. I don’t know how many of you are cancer patients. If you’re not a cancer patient, you have been to doctors. You know how hard it is not to be a good girl to a doctor. Not to do what the doctors say is so hard, almost as hard as not being a good girl to your mother and father. Very hard, especially when somebody says something like this, “I put my 40 years…” And he’s the top oncologist of Sloan-Kettering. I tell you it was very hard.
But you know what helped me not to do chemo? I was walking down 2nd Avenue after meeting with him and I was just imagining to myself how my life would look like from now on. I would go to visit him once a week. I would come home, nauseous to death, throw up until I wanted to die even though he may promise me survival, lie awake at night to expect the results of the next test and just basically sit there and wait for my cancer to come back.
Also, I thought to myself, so what is he offering me? He tells me my body’s not good enough to do anything basically. “We have this wonderful drug that will poison you totally. Also, by the way, it will kill your cancer, too.”
I thought, so what will I do? Would I use chemotherapy for the rest of my life? That didn’t make sense to me. It just didn’t make sense to me that the body that is already shattered can recover with chemotherapy. I wouldn’t have a cancer if I didn’t have a problem with my immune system. I can either live another year or 2 with these drugs, with a quality of life that I don’t even want to consider, or I can think of what else I can do. I didn’t want to live like this. I didn’t want to be a chemotherapy patient because the life that they offer even though they make a promise to prolong your life was just unbearable to me.
But another thing: I had an experience before with doctors because I was trying to conceive for many years and wasn’t able to. I suppose that it was for a purpose that I had this experience. It helped me to decide not to use chemotherapy. What I learned with my infertility problem was that doctors can do a lot of harm. They mean well, they do the best they can, but they can do a lot of harm because they have very powerful tools and they have no trust in the body. They think that their tool is the only way that is going to heal you.
What I learned about doctors was to use the information they gave, but make my own decisions. They were not there to make decisions for me. They were there to give me information. So I got what he had to say as information. That’s what he thinks. I don’t believe in God like Doris Sokosh, but I do believe in something and I also believe in the body. I believe now; I didn’t believe when I was with cancer at the age of 32.
It was very hard to believe that my body could do anything right. I was very disappointed with my body for betraying me like this. So in this stage it was very hard to believe that my body could do anything positive for me. And yet, I felt that it was the only chance I could take. It was the only thing I could choose because I wouldn’t want to live a life with the other choice which the conventional way offered me.
I think that’s what FACT, that’s what Ruth offered me. It’s not only not to take the chemotherapy, what they offer you is to be your own agent of survival. It’s not somebody else, it’s not from outside. It’s you. It’s your struggle, it’s your fight. You’re going to make it. It’s a very hard step to take; cancer patients have maybe the hardest decisions to make.
When I didn’t take the chemotherapy, I didn’t know if I was choosing life or choosing death. I just chose what made sense to me and what I thought was the only way I could go. But at the time I didn’t know that it would not lead me to death. It was a possibility that my body could not recover and that I would not stand here 12 years later and talk to you. That’s why I’m saying that a cancer patient has a very difficult decision to make and my feeling was that we have to choose the life that we can live and whatever it means to each of us.
That’s why I’m a psychotherapist and people come to me with this decision to make at times. I never tell them what to do because I think it’s a decision each of us individually has to make according to what we can live with. I could not live with chemotherapy and I could not live with making this doctor my total authority, putting all my trust in him and sitting at home shivering and waiting for his word. I could not take that position. It felt to me that I had to take a fighting stance and I thought FACT offered this to me.
FACT offers this to each and every one of you, if you’re open to it, if you want to make the choice. What they really offer is the opportunity to do what feels right to you. I cannot tell you how important this was for me. It really was the most important thing that happened to me. Sometimes I feel that maybe I’m privileged, that I was lucky to have cancer at that early age because it gave me an opportunity to stop and think about my life and what did I do so far that was wrong and what should I do differently. I have to thank also my therapist, Dr. Jane Goldberg, who really helped me a lot.
But the physical aspect of recovery is very important. I didn’t leave the colema board 1 day for 5 years. And still, to this day the colema board is my road to living. I think that detoxifying is the most important thing, at least to me. I’m not here to say to you what’s right, but to me the colema board was very important and still is. I cannot live without it.
But I think the emotional aspect was very important to my recovery because I think that cancer patients tend to be nice people, people to whom other people are very important. As I said, it’s hard to be a bad girl to the doctor. It is very hard to be a bad girl to other responsibilities that we have in our lives. It’s hard to be bad people to a family, to a husband, to children, to people at work.
I think one thing that I learned was absolutely crucial for me and without it I would not be here today I would be dead today. I think that if I took chemotherapy, I would be dead if I didn’t learn this lesson. The lesson is that you have to listen to the body and you have to make changes, to say “no” at some point to your loved ones even though it means to be bad to them. I don’t know if it’s really bad, but not your usual nice, very reliable, very responsible self. Because if you’re always responsible to other people, then you can slowly die. You have to listen to what you can do, what your body is allowing you to do.
People come from different backgrounds. From where I came from I cannot tell you how difficult this was, not just to be wonderfully responsible, reliable and nice. It’s still hard. It’s not a struggle that is over. I feel that a cancer patient has to struggle with issues every moment, every time you have to decide whether to answer a phone call or to go to a meeting that you said you would go to, to do a certain thing or to cook a meal for your family or to read a story to your child. Each time you have to think, can my body do it now? I have to go lie down on the slant board for 10 minutes. It seems very trivial, but I don’t think it’s trivial. It’s very important for cancer patients always to ask the question, what’s right for me? What should I do now? At least that’s what brought me here.
I just started to say about the emotional aspect. I think that at times it’s too difficult to do this on your own to make this transition from being a nice girl to take what I need into consideration, too. It doesn’t mean that I became a monster about my responsibilities.
I have a practice, I have children, I have a husband, I have a home. It’s not that my life is over. I have been able to not only maintain a life, but to improve my life in a lot of ways. What I’m saying about the emotional thing: it’s sometimes too difficult with this condition, this dutifulness attending to other people’s needs instead of attending to your own needs. It may be too difficult to do it on your own. I think that’s a reason for cancer patients to get help.
It is my therapist’s theory that there’s something in our Psychological immune system that is not quite working as it should in the sense that our psychological immune system will not tell us when to stop, when we are too tired or when this situation is too poisonous or too harmful to us. We take on more than we should. The same way that we take toxins in from the environment more than we should, we take in too much emotional toxin and we have to train our alarm system to sound off when it should.
I think most of us need help with it. I think that in my recovery, in my process of recovery, the emotional aspect has been very important, especially as a mother. I see there are a lot of women here and I’m sure it’s very hard to say no to your children. It’s harder than to say no to your husband sometimes. I’m not saying that it’s easy to say no to people at work or to friends. But with children I tell you it’s very hard. I think that without help I would not have been able to get well.
By the way, I wouldn’t have these children if I took the chemotherapy. The first thing this doctor told Me was that I would lose my period and that will be the end of my chance of having children.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, it was on December 29, 1982; on December 29, 1983, I gave birth to my first child which was the anniversary of the day of my diagnosis. Interesting. To me this child was a gift of life in a way that sort of confirmed that the choice that I had made was the right choice, even though it was only a year after my diagnosis. I still didn’t know if I would make it or not , but this child that was given to me was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I thought that was a gift for making the choice that I did. If I had done it differently, I would not have this child. I just feel very lucky and privileged to have been given the chance to make the choices that I made and to be here to tell you of it. Thank you very much.
RS: I think one of the bonuses of changing her dietary program and her attitude, too (because we always feel the psychological aspects can be what has contributed to the problem and therefore, has to be cleared up),but the bonus was that she suffered from infertility and now has two daughters.
MG: That’s right. And not only my cancer healed. I also had colitis. The healing is total, not specific.
Q: Did you have a mastectomy?
MG: Yes, I did have a mastectomy. I did call Ruth. I got Ruth’s number right after my diagnosis. She told me that I don’t need to take a mastectomy, but then I was too scared to listen to her. Now, I regret it, but it’s too late. So I had my mastectomy, then I had to choose between chemotherapy and FACT. I chose FACT!
RS: I remember the struggle.
MG: It’s very scary.
RS: Since Michal won’t tell you this, I must because I think it’s important. She had a mastectomy, but chose to nurse her children so that they could have the advantage of mother’s milk. She worked it out and it worked fine, didn’t it?
MG: Just fine. There was no problem. I nursed both my children a year each.
Q: How did you hear about FACT?
MG: A friend of mine gave me the number.
Q: What diet did you follow?
MG: I followed the diet that Ruth recommended. I was very, very religious about it. I felt that my life depended on it. I didn’t go a day without a colema. I kept this diet without any deviation for 5 years. After that I allowed myself to stray here and there, but I still keep to this diet. It’s still my diet.
RS: It’s not too radical. It’s the kind of diet one can live with.
MG: Absolutely. No fried food and a lot of raw food, carrot juice everyday. You know what I recommend? Having a dog because I find that you walk out 4 times a day, take a deep breath, you walk out of your life. I find that this is a new discovery! It’s very helpful. Also, I do yoga which I find very helpful. And what else?
RS: Did you find the Saturday meetings helpful?
MG: Yes, at the time Ruth was running a nutrition group that was very helpful because it gave me a lot of information quickly about how to do things. Also, it helped me emotionally because it’s a very scary time and meeting regularly with Ruth and other patients is helpful especially with you, I would say. It was very helpful.
Q: You say the colitis also went away?
MG: Absolutely, in 3 months I had no more colitis.
Q: Why do you say now you wouldn’t have had the mastectomy?
MG: Because I understand cancer differently. The tumor is not the problem. The tumor is the body’s way of encapsulating the cancer cells. So, why get rid of a breast for a tumor? You have to take care of the cancerous process of the body. Once you have done that it either will stay there encapsulated or the body will dissolve it itself. The conventional way of thinking is that the tumor’s going to kill you. The tumor is not going to do anything to you. It’s the cancerous process that you have to take care of.
Q: What is your daily diet like?
MG: I have the thermos-cooked cereal in the morning. Did you hear about that? I usually have a salad at lunch, although it’s better to have the heavier meal at lunch like we do in the Middle East. But here I’m not at home and I cook for the family every day so I eat with them. I usually have either fish or beans or… By the way, for my kids they like more normal-looking diet. So I get meat, too. But I get it not treated with hormones or antibiotics and I get organic chicken. I will have a salad in the evening with either fish or chicken or beans or rice or baked potatoes, too.
That’s the basic diet. Carrot juice everyday. Absolutely. How much? It’s not up to me. I drink one very large glass. And my kids as babies used to drink carrot juice in the bottle. Kids just take what you give them.
Q: What is organic chicken?
MG: It’s free-range chicken fed with organic grains- no hormones or antibiotics – that’s what it means. You can get it either in the market or in a health food store or you can get it frozen. Ask for it. Q: You used the colema board every day?
MG: Every day. And when I was on a fast, I used it twice a day.
Q: Was the colitis bleeding?
MG: Yes. It was bleeding very heavily. That was the most outstanding symptom that I had, the bleeding. That’s very scary, too. I had all these x-rays and everything, so I had a serious case.
Q: You can get Bell & Evans chickens which are organic in the A & P and Grand Union.
RS: That’s true. Now you can get some organic beef in Grand Union. You can get Coleman’s Beef in Sloans. A lot of the stores are starting to carry the organic meat at a little higher price, but not that much.
Q: What about water? Do you use filtered water for the colema?
MG: It’s better if you can get distilled water. But the colema uses 5 gallons of regular water.
RS: It’s too much of a struggle to use distilled water for a colema.
Q: How did you detoxify?
MG: I use the colema everyday. When I was pregnant and breastfeeding my children, I couldn’t fast. I don’t recommend fasting when you’re pregnant because you don’t want toxins to run into the system. But as soon as I finished breastfeeding I started fasting. I did the Walker fast a few times. I still occasionally do 3 days of the Walker fast. Whenever I feel that I’m too toxic, I do this fast.
Q: How do you know when you are toxic?
MG: First of all, I feel that I don’t want to eat. When you don’t want to eat, your body tells you you don’t want food. But sometimes I get headachy, I get sickly feeling, sort of depressed and tired. You feel just not your regular energy.
Q: Did you do coffee enemas?
MG: No, I did not. Maybe I did once or twice in the beginning.
Q: What is the Walker fast?
MG: The Walker fast is just a 3 day citrus fast. You can find it in the Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices book by Walker.
Q: With epsom salts?
RS: It doesn’t have to be with epsom salts. It’s in a book by Norman Walker which is called Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices, which you’ll find on our book table. It’s the bible of this movement, actually. It’s the basic book. Walker was a sick man as a young man. He survived until he was 117 years of age. I keep saying this to people. He died normally. That may be rarer than one thinks. He went to bed one night, didn’t wake up in the morning. He was functioning normally, wrote a book just 6 months before he died.
Thank you, Michal.