Beating cancer nature's way
In a week that's seen the deaths of Bob Monkhouse, Alan Bates and Dinsdale Landen, all victims of cancer, here is a story of one man's successful - if unorthodox - struggle against the disease
Sunday January 4, 2004
The dull ache in my groin and the appearance of a small amount of blood should have sent me rushing to the doctor. But it didn't. I hoped it would go away. The mind, that master of self-deception, invented an endless list of ridiculous possibilities. Diverticulitis, irritable bowel, ulcerative colitis, haemorrhoids, washing-up scourer. Anything but cancer. That happened to other people.
Eventually, cornered by unimaginable pain, I dragged myself to my GP who referred me for tests. Following a colonoscopy, I was informed that a tumour blocking my colon was so advanced it had prevented passage of the camera. My blood had also tested positive for hepatitis C. I was a mess. The doctors explained that an appointment had been made to arrange for urgent surgical intervention during which any further spread would be assessed.
'You mean that you want to take out half of my colon without knowing the full extent of my condition,' I gasped, visions of colostomy bags filling my mind's eye. The pressure to conform was intense. I wanted six weeks to think about it, I told the doctors. 'You probably don't have that long to live,' they said. 'Immediate surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy is the only cure. Everything else is snake-oil quackery.'
One in two people in the West will be afflicted with cancer at some point despite the trillions of dollars spent on decades of research. I wanted better odds than those. I took my six weeks. In fact, in the end, I took three months.
Returning home, I decided to take time to go deep into myself mentally in order to make what was probably the most crucial decision of my life. Sitting back, I took a breath and let go.
When I'd left behind the chatter of a restless mind, something remarkable happened. I felt as though I was embraced by a vibrant stillness, a feeling that would stay with me for the next 20 months. In that very moment, I knew I had reached the heart of listening that lies at the core of the healing process and that whatever happened it was going to be OK.
A lifelong interest in holistic therapies meant that I could make informed choices. I'd read a book by a Dr Max Gerson about his successful use of nutrition in the cure of chronic metabolic diseases and advanced cancers. He recommends the use of copious, freshly made organic vegetable juices, detoxing coffee enemas and intense supplementation designed to help regenerate a compromised metabolism.
Accordingly, I put myself under the guidance of a holistic physician who favoured a modified model of the Gerson therapy that took into account the increased toxicity of contemporary life. He included cutting-edge, high-dose supplements and enzymes uniquely geared to fighting cancer, a sweeping detoxification programme and a total revision of diet and lifestyle.
The key was to boost and nurture the immune system so that the conditions of cells are transformed, no longer providing a toxic ground for cancer to flourish. Although case histories show it to be effective in the treatment of even late-stage cancers, it should be understood that pursuing such a course is rigorous, lengthy and expensive, requiring the discipline of a monk.
After three months of this therapy combined with a six-week fast, during which I sustained myself on organic vegetable juice, my immune system was boosted to help protect my cells against metastasis during surgery.
Sue Rose, my partner, and I were lucky enough to find a surgeon, who although she didn't profess to understand my methods, was sympathetic, agreeing to remove the minimum amount of malignant tissue, for I needed as much of my colon as possible for the enemas. Her major concern was that given the amount of time I had left it there was a real danger of the cancer having spread into the liver, in which case it would be inoperable. A CT scan showed that it hadn't. For this I thank my regime.
After surgery, the biopsy showed the cancer had spread into the lymph, hardly surprising given the amount of time I had been in denial. This didn't concern the holistic physician I was under, who was completely confident of being able to deal with it. Not wishing to have chemotherapy, I was discharged.
I was deeply moved by the devotion of nurses and doctors working to save lives within an overwhelmed National Health Service and grateful for their understanding which allowed me to combine conventional and holistic treatment. In my view, if holistic, nutritional medicine, instead of being so unfairly and short-sightedly vilified, got the smallest crumb of research funding, compared to the astronomical sums allotted to pharmaceutical cartels, many patients would benefit.
My day would begin around 6am when I drank the morning mid-stream of my own urine (urea helps to protect the liver), took my first juice, followed by the first of three daily coffee enemas. I grew my own wheatgrass, which formed part of a daily requirement of 10 freshly prepared juices. Three times a day I ate a porridge bowl full of pills and capsules, knocked back with a witch's brew of liquid supplements administered under the guidance of the physician, who understood the importance of not disturbing the balance of electrolytes when using high-dose supplements.
Every moment was taken up with preparing the next fresh juice, washing equipment, preparing and taking enemas, pills and potions along with daily saunas and hyperthermic baths which help the process of detoxification. Sacks of organic vegetables and fruit were organised in industrial quantities. A water purifier was installed. Supplements were ordered from around the world.
Friends came and went, filling the place with fresh flowers, making sure I wanted for nothing. 'If anyone can do it, you can,' they enthused. Often, they arrived at enema time, which with the help of a blanket and a half-open bathroom door I was able to perform discreetly while holding court, much to their amusement. But in the face of death, trivialities such as modesty are hardly a serious consideration.
One of the demands of a diagnosis of cancer is that everything must change. All activities inessential to survival stopped. Some days, overwhelmed, I crawled around the floor sobbing. At the same time, my monthly blood tests showed a steady improvement, as my cancer markers dropped.
One night, nauseated by a blinding headache, the process reached a crisis. Becoming progressively weaker, I lay down like a dying animal. Gaunt and hollow-eyed, I lost muscle mass rapidly. Physical anguish penetrated deep into my bones with every attempted movement, preventing me from sleeping, even though I was exhausted.
For the first time, I acknowledged the possibility of death. Yet deep down, I understood this heavy torpor to be nature's way of imposing the long healing rest that was needed. In the end, I surrendered, trusting the process.
By December 2002, my legs had swollen and my belly grotesquely bloated with fluid pressed painfully up under my diaphragm, making it hard to breath. My haemoglobin count had halved. Catching myself naked in the mirror I gasped in horror at the pestilential image that stared back, unrecognisable with its big belly, protruding ribs and skeletal limbs. Friends sat around, whispering in hushed tones.
Just when it seemed as if death had me checkmated, a miracle turned the tables and I began to recover. Before Christmas, I went to hospital, and a barrage of painful, scary, intrusive cameras, needles and probes explored every orifice. Then we waited for the results. No gift could have been more wonderful than the morning of Christmas Eve when the doctors telephoned to tell me that there was not a sign of cancer anywhere.
In January, the liver doctors diagnosed advanced cirrhosis due to long-term hepatitis C. Thinking of Muhammad Ali on the ropes during 'the rumble in the jungle', I continued with my regime. Sue Rose did everything. Carried sacks of carrots and apples up the stairs, prepared the juices, attended to every need. In many ways, it was harder for her than it was for me. She could only watch and help as best she could and while she put on a brave face in my company she spent much time crying when she was on her own. Nevertheless, she had complete faith in me, and only in rare moments did she doubt that I would make it.
There is no evidence to date of the return of cancer and my liver tests are normal. Happier than I have been for years, I cycle around London while friends tell me I look 10 years younger than I did before all this started. When it was obvious that I really was on the mend, Sue Rose collapsed, having held things together for so long.
There are other equally important factors in the process. I spend hours tending my garden, running my fingers through the soil. Watching its transformation has become a metaphor for my own recovery. Sitting down to play music, I soar with inspiration as my fingers run over the piano keys, the Bach Fugue, my early morning prayer of gratitude. I'm thankful for every God-given moment. Life is exhilarating and precious.
There is an irony in my recovery, however. Last year, in spite of opposition from 200 MPs and a million-strong petition, the Government passed the European Union Food Supplement Directive into UK law. This will effectively remove some 5,000 vitamin and mineral products from this country's health-store shelves from August 2005. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour MP, says he 'sees the hand of the pharmaceutical industry at work'. For millions of us who choose to take supplements to maintain our health in the face of chemically drenched food crops, this is catastrophic.
For myself, having survived cancer through nutritional methods, it is a life-threatening disaster.
· Tony Jackson lives in London where he works as a jazz musician and craniosacral practitioner. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer by W. John Diamond MD, published by Alternativemedicine.com Books, £20.64
The Gerson Therapy by Charlotte Gerson and Morton Walker (HarperCollins 14.99)
Living Proof: A Medical Mutiny by Michael Gearin-Tosh (Scribner£ 7.99)
Information on the EU directive: http://www.alliance-natural-health.org