My story begins in March of 1971 when I began to feel tired, depressed and irritable. My normally healthy appetite grew poor. Since my life was very busy, I thought my symptoms might just be fatigue or a delayed reaction to an automobile accident I had been in two years earlier (1969).
Although my age was only 37, irregularities in my menstrual cycle made me wonder if I was beginning change of life. I had bleeding and an unpleasant smelly discharge both during and between periods.
When I told my friends about the way I was feeling, they urged me to get to a doctor, but I was too nervous and afraid of what might be found and so kept putting off calling for an appointment.
Then one day in October, 1971, I discovered a lump in my right breast. Both my husband and my chiropractor told me it was important to see a medical doctor right away.
Although it scared me terribly to think what he might find, I made an appointment. The doctor examined me and said that my breast appeared to be badly bruised. However, the look on his face convinced me that there was much he was holding back. He called my husband into his office and suggested that we find a surgeon and have a consultation immediately. He tried not to alarm us by saying that perhaps nothing was seriously wrong, but it was important to follow through with an additional examination.
A good friend of ours who was a nurse in the hospital recovery room, recommended a surgeon that she knew to be very skillful and kind. When I went to see him, I really appreciated his gentle treatment. He said that my condition could be dangerous a biopsy should be taken to see if the lump was benign or malignant. As most people know, the procedure, if malignancy is found, is to perform a mastectomy or breast removal. I put this thought out of my mind.
Because it took ten days before I was admitted to the hospital, I tried to fool myself into thinking that things couldn’t be too bad or the doctor would have rushed me in sooner. But the day came (November 1, 1971) and I settled into my hospital room. It was my first time there as a patient and the prospect of surgery was terrifying. As I walked down the hallways with my husband the evening before the operation, we talked about my fears. He lovingly assured me that whatever happened he would love me I would always be his wife whether I had to lose a breast or not.
His loyal, positive attitude helped me tremendously. And so too, the next morning, did my favorite scripture as I got out my Bible and read these works from Isaiah 41:13, “For I, your God, am grasping your right hand, the one saying to you, do not be afraid, I myself will help you.”
Of course, I was unaware of what happened during surgery, but later learned that the biopsy confirmed the doctor’s worst fears and so he performed a radical mastectomy.
When I regained consciousness, my friend, the nurse in the recovery room, was by my side. She was a real comfort to me. By evening I grew more aware of my surroundings and found myself back in my hospital room and realized my husband was there with me. I heard his voice telling me, “Don’t worry, it’s all over.”
The next morning my doctor came in to see me. He told me he was very sorry that the mastectomy had been necessary. When I asked if he felt he had gotten all the cancer he said, “I’m not God but I did my best.” Though it would have been nice to have heard him say he was sure everything was alright, I respected him for being honest with me.
I had entered the hospital on Monday, and had expected to go home the following Sunday. However, a few days later, as I walked down the hall with a nurse at my side, my doctor stopped me. He took me aside and told me the shocking news that another operation was needed a complete hysterectomy. He felt it necessary because of fears that the cancer might spread to my reproductive organs.
At first I was too taken aback to say anything, but when I was able to speak I told him that my husband would have to be consulted. When I got back to my bed I wept and wondered, “What else are they going to do to me?”
When I talked to John, my husband, he assured me that the doctor knew what was best, and encouraged me to trust his judgment. After that operation, my husband’s support was even more appreciated. He visited every day without fail. He ate his meals with me and walked me up and down the corridors to be sure I got my exercise.
I had a frightening episode one day. As I was walking, I experienced heavy vaginal bleeding. The nurses rushed me back to bed where I had to stay for three days of strict rest.
Before I was released from the hospital, the doctor removed my stitches, causing pain and bleeding. He bandaged me quickly, shook his head and said, “You need a lot of rest.” Finally, after twelve days in the hospital I was able to go home, but I was very weak and in a lot of pain from both operations.
Once I was home my condition got worse, not better. The area of the mastectomy continued to drain and bleed. Though I visited the doctor once a week, there was nothing he could do to stop this unpleasant situation.
After several months, on June 14, 1972, I was readmitted to the hospital for a skin graft to cover the affected area. Skin was taken from my right upper thigh and grafted to my chest. The pain was so intense it felt like a knife was cutting into me. I was given medication to relieve the soreness in both my thigh and chest. After fifteen days I went home, but paid frequent visits to the doctor’s office as before.
Despite the application of ointments to promote healing, the graft did not take. So, on July 26, 1972, I went back to the hospital for another graft, similar to the first. Skin was again taken from my thigh and grafted to my chest. I felt very depressed and wondered when all this pain would end but I never gave up.
During this difficult period, my husband’s devoted care kept me going. He would use a syringe to irrigate the graft area, and tried to cheer me up, but despite constant efforts to keep the area clean, it kept draining a thick yellow substance with a very disagreeable odor. This second graft did not take, either.
During this time I was given strong medications (like Darvon) to help me bear the discomfort I felt. Because my doctor wanted so much for the next treatment to work, he suggested a skin specialist. On October 8, 1972, once again I was put back in the hospital for the third graft, this time done by the specialist. Again skin was taken from my thigh, and I had to be in the hospital for fifteen days. From my medical records, I later learned that during this time I received radiation therapy, though I don’t remember it myself.
After I returned home I saw the specialist twice a week. Though I felt very discouraged, my feeling of hope never gave out. My religion was a great comfort to me, and our Bible study meetings gave me the strength I badly needed.
The pain and weakness were so extreme that I fainted several times. During some of my office visits, the doctor tried to cauterize the unhealed areas on my chest and thigh, but to no avail. I continued on strong pain prescriptions.
When, at their worst, my thigh and chest looked like raw meat, I was admitted for my fourth graft.
I went in April, 1973 and this time stayed for eighteen days. I was put on a water mattress in attempts to keep me comfortable and to prevent my moving too much, to avoid re-opening the wounds.
There were tiny holes in the bandage on my chest so that a solution could be dripped through to help keep the area clean and moist. It was painful, and despite these measures it continued to drain. I needed strong pills for pain and pills to help me sleep and calm my nerves. I had lost a lot of weight, but still I was determined to get through.
It was necessary to be very careful about how I moved but despite all my efforts this graft, too, never healed properly. The doctor said that it did take, but that the skin was very thin and delicate. I asked him if I could go for a fitting for a bra with a prosthesis, but was told I was not ready for that.
Though I was still optimistic and felt things would soon get better, in actuality I was going downhill and getting worse. This became evident when I felt a small lump in my neck and started to feel pain and several lumps in my right abdomen. Because of these symptoms, the doctor decided to put me back in the hospital for a Gastro-Intestinal series in December, 1973. The tests I went through were more difficult for me than all the previous operations, and made me feel terribly weak. My weight had dropped from a normal 135 pounds to 108 pounds. I went home after fifteen days with the assurance that everything would be alright, but the doctor told my husband privately that the tests showed that there was nothing more they could do to help me. From this point on I continued to slip it was only the medications that were getting me through.
I had to think of others beside myself as family problems developed. At this time, my mother-in-law became very ill following a heart attack, and after being hospitalized for a short time she needed care at home. My husband and I urged her to stay with us, and this she did until her death a few weeks later in September. It was very hard caring for her, since I was so sick and weak myself, but I loved her and was happy to do all I could.
Since her death left my father-in-law alone, John and I moved into his home with him to help care for his needs. We were thankful to friends who assisted with packing and moving.
My condition continued to worsen. Even strong medications did not ease the discomfort I felt my legs and back ached terribly. When I went to my chiropractor for adjustment, he was barely able to touch me because of my pain. Other alarming symptoms developed. I was only able to move my bowels with the aid of suppositories and it was even difficult to urinate. The abdominal pain was only eased by holding a pillow firmly against myself. The only thing strong about me then was my faith, and I prayed often, as the Bible urges at Psalm 55:22, “Throw your burden upon your God himself, and he himself will sustain you.”
It was really impossible for me to care for myself and a household any longer, so in September, 1975 I moved into my mother’s home so she could help me. My husband stayed with his father, but as I worsened, he would come after work each day to spend evenings with me.
Both my husband and my mother felt helpless and distraught as they saw me slip more and more each day. When my mother called my medical doctor to see if he could make a house call he said, “All I can do is giver her stronger pain pills to make her comfortable.” He also suggested we call the surgeon, but said there wasn’t much more that anyone could do.
By now I could not get up or walk on my own. My weight had dropped to 80 pounds or less. I slept most of the time probably due to my medication and pain and no longer recognized friends or relatives when they came to see me. Knowing how sick I was, the woman I had previously worked for fifteen years came to see me at my request (although I don’t remember her visit at all). She was very distressed at my condition and was sure I would die that very night.
My family began to think about funeral arrangements. My sister told my mother to prepare for the worst, that there was no more hope for me. From the end of October, 1975 on, I was unaware of anything so my husband, John, will take over my story at this point.
It was not easy to see my wife in such constant pain and so close to death. All of our friends were terribly concerned, and one day one of them told me that she had heard of a young woman in similar circumstances who had been helped when she went to Germany for treatments.
When I asked what had been done for her, she explained that it was mainly a diet of raw juices and fresh fruits and vegetables. It seemed inconceivable that a diet program could help my wife, but still I reasoned, “What could we lose by trying?”
We were referred to an organization in New York City called Foundation for Alternative Cancer Therapies (FACT). When I telephoned, I spoke to a Mrs. Ruth Sackman there. She suggested taking my wife to a clinic for treatment, but I explained how desperate Doris’ condition was, and that moving her was impossible. Her response was a firm, “Then we will do our best, if you are willing to cooperate fully.”
I said, “I am so afraid of losing her that I will help any way I can. Let’s start right away I just hope it’s not too late!”
Mrs. Sackman sent us folders with information about the Alternative Cancer Therapy methods of treatment, but in the few days before the material arrived we began a few measures of our own.
A friend who knew a great deal about balance in vitamins started Doris on what she felt would be safe amounts, and we also gave her freshly extracted carrot juice.
Because Doris was unable to eat at all at this time, it was difficult to feed her even juice, but we used a straw and urged her to take a little at a time. She could get the vitamins down if they were crushed.
She also drank, alternately with the carrot juice, a nutritional drink mixed in a blender, of yogurt, ripe banana, diluted frozen pineapple juice, digestive aids, bone meal and kelp powders, brewer’s yeast, A & D capsules and small amounts of honey and vanilla to taste.
When the folders came, we read them eagerly, then called Mrs. Sackman to discuss the best way to proceed. She recommended that we buy the Dr. Walker book on raw juices and some books on raw vegetable salads.
We began the program in earnest in November, 1975, gradually at first, as Doris was unable to tolerate much solid food. But, eventually she progressed to a super-nutritious diet of freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juices, raw vegetable salads grated very fine, unsweetened concord grape juice, vitamins, herbs and enzymes.
With the help of loving friends, who volunteered to come two at a time around the clock seven days a week for at least three months, she very slowly began to improve. To see her progress inch by inch, from her lowest point, along the road to recovery was very exciting.
However, at first she was in such pain, so weak, and still so disoriented, that her friends had to help her in many ways. She needed a bedpan for a while, then later had to be nearly carried to bathroom. She had to be constantly turned and adjusted in her bed, her hair had to be washed in her bed, and she had to be hand-fed. Constant encouragement and large doses of love were the order of each day. We were truly blessed that her mother, her sister, and her friends were so generous with their efforts.
We were surprised at first, but later grew to expect, that reactions took place that made it seem that she was getting worse, not better. Frightening things like increase in pain all through her body, skin rashes, muscle spasms, headaches, back pain, elevated blood pressure, fever, disagreeable body odor, dark stools, hemorrhoids, flatulence, cramps, poor circulation and dizziness. But we were assured that these reactions are all a normal part of detoxification, as the body cleanses itself from years of disease, chemicals, and medications.
We had to keep reminding ourselves not to be alarmed, rather to expect these things to happen, and to see them as proof of success, not failure. Healing was taking place, though it was a very slow process. It was such a delight to see the gradual signs of improvement.
In the beginning of December, 1975 Doris began to smile again, to enjoy the foods and beverages she took, and to regain her strength. She became aware of her surroundings, her family and her friends once again. And so, because she remembers her recovery from this point on, I will let Doris resume her story.
Yes, it is true that I began to feel alive again. I could appreciate the value of my treatment and I knew that it was vital to cooperate fully. I wanted to live!
As John has said, it was early in December of 1975 that I began to smile no doubt because I began to feel that I would get well again. The detoxification was not easy, but I learned that it was all part of the healing period. At one stage my neck, injured in the car accident I mentioned previously, became so painful that I had to wear a neck brace again. The arm on the side of my mastectomy went into muscle spasms at times, and I would actually need help to hold it down. At night, it was often hard to sleep and to breathe normally. It sounds odd, but my teeth felt as fragile as glass.
But, despite all this I was growing stronger, and did not need as much help from my friends. They cut down to one person at a time during the days, and my mother lovingly cared for me during the nights. My husband’s enthusiasm kept me from being pulled down by the reactions I was experiencing. He told me that they would lessen and gradually ease away. That hope kept me going.
Another feature of my treatment was taking cleansing enemas, needed to flush out the toxins as they were released from the system. Since I was too weak to give them to myself, my mother administered them faithfully twice each day or as often as needed.
About this time a friend who had been through the same therapy three years before came to visit me. She looked wonderful and told me how well she felt. I asked her, “Will I ever feel that healthy?” She assured me that I would indeed, as did all those caring for me. Their faith in me and in the program made me work hard to make progress.
By the way, about two and one-half years later I saw this friend at a religious convention. When I went up to speak to her she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Doris you are alive!” , she said. She reminded me of how desperately ill I had been and told me how thrilled she was that I, too, had recovered.
Many cancer patients find that they are deluged with conflicting suggestions about treatment. They try ‘to doctor themselves, or listen to well-meaning friends who give advice. This is dangerous! Cancer is a life or death illness and there is no time to delay in getting started on the proper treatment.
In my case, I feel that the help of FACT, information in the Dr. Walker book, the devotion and support of loved ones and my strong faith in God were the most important factors in my recovery. A determination to live and finding a reason for joy in each day are also invaluable. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A heart that is joyful does good as a curer.”
I believe that life is a precious gift from our Creator, and it is our own responsibility to care for our bodies with the best possible diet, remembering to be moderate in habits.
We remained in close, constant contact with F.A.C.T, knowing that my continued cooperation was essential. John kept Mrs. Sackman up to date on my reactions and she advised us as we went along. And, so, with time, my diet grew to include more solid foods. The grated fresh raw vegetables and fresh fruit combinations were a pleasure to eat. (Proverbs 15:17).
It was exciting to actually see my body respond. The scars on my thigh and chest began to heal. Hair even began to grow again under my right arm which it hadn’t done since my mastectomy. Though I still had occasional reactions, they grew less frequent. When I did experience stomach pains or nervous upsets (the latter I suspect being due to withdrawal from the many medications I had taken), herb teas and gentle rub-downs with warm castor oil were of great comfort. Everyone was careful to keep any bad news from me to prevent stress. It tells us at Proverbs 14:30, “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism.”
Two friends who were nurses came often and recorded my temperature, pulse, respiration, blood pressure and general condition so we had a good record of my improvement.
I was overjoyed to discover one day that the lump in my neck was gone, and soon the lumps in my abdomen began to disappear. I had advanced from the stage where I had to use a bedpan to where I was now able to get to the bathroom with someone to lean on. John gave me more and more help as he saw me improve; at my worst he had been nervous about handling me.
In February, 1976 my chiropractor came to visit me. What a nice surprise! When he had heard how well I was coming along, he decided to come see for himself. He was amazed at my condition and pleased to see me looking so well. It had been five months since he had seen me last, and he confessed that at the time he hadn’t expected me to live much longer.
Although I still needed help during the daytime, I tried gradually to get on my feet by myself especially in the mornings after a good night’s rest. It felt wonderful to be up, but by around 10 a.m. I would have to lie down again. When I got tired I would begin to cry probably from weakness and that was my cue to rest. But, by taking it a little at a time, my strength continued to grow.
It was a joy to feel so well, and not to be dependent on any medications at all. When I started the FACT program I gradually eliminated my pills over a two-month period which wasn’t easy as I had become so addicted to them. I have been drug-free ever since, not even taking an aspirin for all these years. Whatever aches and pains I have are treated naturally with herb teas, massage, rest and enemas.
It had been a long hard winter for me, so when we had a lovely clear, warm day in February 1976, I asked my mother if she would help me get dressed so I could go out in the back yard. I had not been out of the house since October 1975. After I was dressed and stood outside at last, I looked up and thanked God with all my heart that I was still alive. I had thought I would never see the beautiful sky again. After about five minutes I felt a little weak so I went back inside it seemed as if I’d been on a long, long trip. From then on, when the sun was shining, my friends would take me out for short walks. I would come back tired but very happy.
My husband was so proud. One day he asked “How about going on a date? Let’s take a little drive in the car.” Although the idea frightened me, I didn’t want to let him down so I agreed. We didn’t go too far, but as we drove along I felt as if I were floating on water. I was really light-headed. It was a wonderful feeling to feel alive again and appreciate all that one has.
Now I saw myself improve in even more ways. I was gaining weight and was able to graduate from sponge baths to a regular tub bath. Since things were coming along so well, I began to yearn to go back home to be with my husband. But it was a conflict – here at my mother’s I was cared for and pampered – if I went home, would it be too much for me? In the middle of March, 1976 John called Mrs. Sackman, as he always did when he had a question, to ask if she thought I was ready for the move. She asked if she could talk to me, so for the first time I spoke to this wonderful woman who, through her knowledge, patience, and endless encouragement, had done so much to help save my life.
She made me promise that if I went home I would be extremely careful not to overextend myself. I knew that my loyal friends planned to continue to help me, so I decided to go home.
My mother was not happy to see me leave; in part because she lived alone and had gotten used to having me with her, but mainly because she was afraid I might regress without her care. She had been so loving and worked so hard to help me in every way that I knew I could never repay her.
But I did return home and my husband was delighted. Here it was March, 1976, and when I had left in September, 1975, he had thought he would never see me back again! John would wake me up each morning and say, “Are you okay?” He just couldn’t believe how well I was.
I had to be especially alert to my body’s responses from this point on as I was taking on more and more responsibility for my own care. My friends were concerned, but when they saw me continue to improve, they were relieved. They continued that year to check up on me, help me, and encourage me not to break my diet program. It took at least 18 months to two years to regain complete strength and be on my own.
I realized that I had to stick closely to my natural diet and avoid undue stress. I couldn’t cheat and stay well. In my case, as mentioned previously, two clear water enemas a day were needed to keep my body cleansed as it continued to detoxify.
Besides the enemas, I also went for colonics beginning in September, 1976 about a year into my recovery, when I was feeling stronger. It is important to cleanse the body in this way, but only under proper supervision in the care of a licensed and skillful person. The procedure is not painful and does not interfere with normal bowel function. In fact, it encourages regular elimination. I continued colonies about once a week for a year, reduced them gradually, and now go once in a while as necessary. I still take the morning and evening enemas.
Even after I felt strong and well again, problems sometimes arose. Probably because of too much stress, or fatigue, or failure to follow the diet zealously, at times the body weakens again. This has showed itself in my case in various ways. I have had vaginal bleeding, lumps under my arms, poor vision, upset nerves, and jaw alignment difficulties. Specifically, three to four years ago, I had a very frightening episode. I experienced a very pink discharge which turned dark red for a day or so. I immediately got in touch with Mrs. Sackman who recommended enemas and rest. I passed large blood clots, but quickly recovered after several days of complete rest.
Recovery is an ongoing process. I can never say, “I am cured,” and return to my old way of life and poor eating habits. To feel well, I must be conscious of caring for myself every day. My husband and I feel that it is certainly worth the effort. Life is a treasure and it would be the height of foolishness to neglect it.
About two years ago, in 1982, I had the privilege of telling my story to a group of people in my home town who were interested in the natural approach to cancer treatment. The talk was advertised in the health food stores in the area and in the local newspaper. When my surgeon saw the newspaper notice, he called me on the telephone. I’m sure he had been astounded to see that I was still alive. He asked all about what I had done to get well, told me how happy he was for me, and said, “Keep up the good work.” Because doctors sometimes deny it, I asked him if I, in fact, had had terminal cancer. His reply was, “Yes.”
Since then, I have received a thorough medical checkup, including blood tests, and have been told that everything is under control.
One of the nicest things about my experience is that I’ve been able to help other cancer patients. People who have heard of my case have called from all over the country for advice and encouragement.
I always try to make it clear that each case is different. There are various types of diets and treatments that are appropriate for different individuals. Each patient needs and deserves a program tailor-made for him or her.
I do feel strongly that there is a way to help everyone. But, once that help is extended, it is crucial to stick to it faithfully. Cheating or bending the rules can mean losing the fight for life.
A super nutritious diet rebuilds all the body cells, including the immune system, making it possible for a person to resist and fight off disease, thus getting at the cause of the trouble. As Albert Schweitzer, M.D. once said, “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. We are at our best when we give the doctor within each patient a chance to go to work.” Orthodox medicine is more geared to treating symptoms than preventing them or finding the cause.
Personally, I had to eliminate certain things completely and permanently from my life. Refined foods like white rice, white flour and sugar, salt, beef, pork, alcoholic beverages, coffee, regular tea, and soft drinks.
In time, my rather limited diet of juices, salads and fruits was expanded to include fertile eggs, nuts of all kinds, legumes, sprouts, whole grains, baked potatoes, and steamed vegetables. Herb teas, especially red clover, comfrey and peppermint, were very soothing.
Today, I am on a moderate diet and have been able to add organically-raised chicken, fresh fish, unsalted cheeses, goat milk, yogurt, raw honey, pure maple syrup, whole grains, whole grain flours, cold-pressed oils, natural seasonings (like Jensen’s) and cooked dishes that combine these foods in various ways. Many people ask how I manage when I go to a restaurant. I briefly explain my diet, tell them how I would like my fish or chicken prepared, and they usually are more than pleased to accommodate me.
Cooking has always been one of my favorite pastimes and it has been a real challenge to make healthy eating taste good in fact, to make it taste delicious. And, I am happy to say that not only my family and I find my recipes very good, but our friends just rave about them.
So, in order to help and inspire others who may find it a problem to find specific directions on how to combine foods imaginatively and for best flavor, I am compiling a cook book. It is made up of my favorite recipes including my own inventions, suggestions from friends, and adaptations of recipes from various sources.
Eating well has helped me to stay faithful to my life-sustaining program and I hope this book will, in turn, aid many others.
In conclusion, I would like to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all my friends, my family and my husband who helped me in so many ways: spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I appreciate those who assisted in compiling this book, and feel a special debt of gratitude to Ruth Sackman and FACT for their marvelous work and encouragement.