The moment anyone is told by an oncologist that they have cancer is a life-changing one and they know their life will never be the same again. They have to confront their own mortality, perhaps for the first time, they have to contemplate how their family and friends will deal with such devastating news, and they know that big decisions and massive consequences lie ahead with respect to how they’ll deal with the disease. It is, without doubt, a frightening experience, but it doesn’t have to be so terrifying if you’re equipped with the knowledge you need to help you make the right decisions and have the tools to implement them.
My cancer journey began in January 2013 when I was diagnosed with nodular melanoma while living in Qatar. It stunned me, especially as a dermatologist had told me just two months before that the reddened and raised lesion on the right side of my upper body was a much less dangerous basal cell carcinoma. He’d told me to go to Hamad Hospital in Doha to get a clinical diagnosis, so the result did come as a shock, particularly when my research discovered that, not only is nodular melanoma far more dangerous than the non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, it is the most aggressive form of eight main melanomas as it tends to rapidly penetrate the skin vertically rather than growing across it.
So, in March 2013, I had this small 1cm cigar-shaped tumour removed under general anaesthetic, but to provide a lot of space around the margins to try and ensure they ‘got it all’ (they rarely do as my e-book shows) they removed tissue the size of a small hamburger. This was followed by a blood test to check for a high level of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) which indicates the melanoma has spread to other distant parts of the body, a Computed Tomography (CT) scan which is an imaging procedure using special x-ray equipment to locate cancer inside the body, stage it and discover any metastasis (i.e. spread), and a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan which reveals the metabolic changes of cells in the body’s organs and tissues. After an anxious wait, I went with my wife, Yasmin, to see an oncologist the next month and was told they’d removed all of the malignancy and that there was no metastasis.
At this point, I thought it was all over, but was informed in the meeting that the oncologist wanted me to meet with a surgical oncologist to discuss having a biopsy of the sentinel lymph node, which is the nearest lymph node to the primary tumour, in order to test for cancer cells. My first indication that I was about to get ‘locked into the conventional cancer treatment system’ came when I questioned the necessity of having a sentinel lymph node biopsy when the blood test, CT scan and PET scan had all come back negative for cancer only a week or two before. The surgical oncologist’s response was “Good question. I don’t know. I’ll talk to the nuclear radiologist.” Although I was then expecting a telephone call from either of them to explain why I needed this biopsy (it was my body after all and had already been through so much), I simply received an impersonal SMS the next day to inform me of the time and place for the procedure. After extensive discussions with Yasmin, we decided that I would now take back control of my body and so I e-mailed the cancer coordinator at Hamad Hospital to politely decline the surgery and thank the team for their efforts.
All was well for the next three years until December 2015 when I felt a lump under my right arm. I immediately went to the dermatologist who told me that it was probably not melanoma metastasis because it was soft, not hard. However, he referred me for another PET scan the following month and, when that revealed some anomalies with two of the lymph nodes, a fine needle aspiration biopsy followed later in the January. Once again, I was hopeful that all would be OK, but a call from the oncologist while I was at work confirmed that both lymph nodes were melanoma. He then proceeded to tell me that he was going to schedule me for surgery and then put me on an immunotherapy drug specifically for melanoma called Ipilimumab (also known by its brand name, Yervoy). He then asked if I was insured and when I told him that my company provided private medical insurance through the highly-regarded British United Provident Association (BUPA), he said that they’d certainly pay for the treatment. Note that I was not asked if I wanted this drug, I was told I was going to have it.
I was in a state of shock and tearfully called Yasmin with the news. Luckily, I have the calmest, most level-headed and deeply spiritual wife, who calmed me and said she’d research alternative and natural therapies to treat cancer, so I wasn’t to worry. When I returned home that night, she’d printed out masses of information from multiple websites like Cancer Tutor (https://www.cancertutor.com), the disease of cancer itself (wikipedia was really helpful here), the horrible side effects of Ipilimumab immunotherapy treatment (as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments) and the road we should consider going down, which was mostly centred around nutrition in the form of a healthy diet, food supplements and other alternative therapies. We spent the entire weekend reading through this information from the most eminent and respected professionals in their various fields with more Ph.Ds after their names … than I had cancer cells! At the end of the weekend, our minds were made up. Natural was in … Ipilimumab immunotherapy was out.
This decision had partly been made by a feeling in that telephone call that I was, once again, being corralled into conventional treatment. My research into Ipilimumab also helped in our decision due to both its limited effectiveness and its awful side effects. Ipilimumab is supposed to kill cancer cells directly and stimulate the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, but its success in doing so is greatly weakened when Science Daily, a US website that aggregates and publishes edited press releases about science, stated this about Ipilimumab in 2013: ‘It is already known that some patients treated with the drug survive for long periods, with one phase III clinical trial showing an overall survival rate of 18% after five years.’
With this in mind, I had to ask myself whether a less than 1 in 5 chance of overall survival (i.e. the length of time from either the date of diagnosis or the start of treatment that patients are still alive) after 5 years was actually worth it when measured against the side effects of Ipilimumab. Well, here’s a list of it’s 6 common ones cited on Cancer Research UK: feeling or being sick, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, fever, fatigue and itchy rashes. The list of 21 occasional side effects include mood changes and confusion, indigestion, bruising, bleeding gums or nosebleeds, and pain in your muscles or joints. The 14 rare side effects include a split or tear in the wall of your bowel, sadness and depression, fluid around the brain, irregular or abnormal heart beat, and effects on the covering of the brain and spinal cord (the meninges) ‘which can be serious’ . Moreover, this was written as standard on the PET scan report I was given by my oncologist: ‘The recommended dose of Ipilimumab (10 mg/kg) was associated with adverse events which led to the discontinuation of treatment in 52% of patients. There was a 1% drug-related mortality rate.’ (National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Guidelines Version 2: 2016 Melanoma). So, considering these horrendous side effects of Ipilimumab, it’s not hard to see why the drug was discontinued for half of the patients taking it, and when you also add to the equation an overall survival rate of just 18% after 5 years, it’s clear why I’ve chosen to keep my immune system strong, my mind positive and opt for the natural approach to prevent recurrence.
Anyhow, in the follow-up meeting which Yasmin and I attended with my oncologist, he already had the Ipilimumab literature on his desk on the assumption that I was going to go with it. When I explained that I was going to follow the alternative, natural route, he was honest enough to say that he didn’t know anything about it and so wouldn’t comment on my decision. He then made a note on his desktop to the effect that I’d refused the Ipilimumab treatment and was going down an alternative and natural route. We thanked him and went on our way. I had surgery in the February to remove the two melanoma-infected lymph nodes and suppose you could say I had some ‘good’ news in my follow-up appointment when the oncologist informed me that the surgeon had actually removed 28 lymph nodes ‘to be sure’, but only two had turned out to be melanoma. So, I followed an almost purely vegan diet for the next six months which comprised plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, no meat or dairy, no processed foods, lots of dietary supplements in the form of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and, a key part of my anti-cancer diet, juicing, with lots of of carrot, celery and wheatgrass juice in particular. Purchasing a juicer was really the first major expense for us as we had to get one which was capable of preparing loads of juice two or three times per day and didn’t break the bank while doing so. I’ll be discussing this natural approach in future blogs, but suffice to say that when I had my follow up PET scan in August 2016, there was no recurrence of melanoma found. So far, my approach is working for me and, as far as I’m concerned, I’m cancer-free.
I must stress, before you go on, that this is my experience, and that the choices I‘ve made over the past two years to live by a natural approach to try and prevent cancer recurrence are mine. I’m not a doctor but, thankfully, I’ve always been the type of person who questions what he’s told by government, media and, in this case, the medical establishment. While discussing an alternative, natural approach to cancer treatment in my e-book, I present a vast amount of powerful scientific evidence in support of it. You’ll find references to both the natural and conventional approaches to cancer from over 60 sources taken from medical journals, web sites, books and video documentaries, with healing protocols and opinions on this vast subject from more than 25 eminent advocates of the natural approach; and in excess of 20 studies and literature reviews pointing to the efficacy of natural approaches to cancer treatment from countries as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany, France, China, Japan, Korea, Israel and Burkina Faso. However, I absolutely accept that those who wish to validate the conventional approach to cancer treatment (i.e. chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation) will find their own studies which contradict those that I present. As far as I’m concerned, that serves no useful purpose whatsoever, with two opposing sides trying to ‘out intellectualise’ each other, leaving the cancer patient befuddled and unsure which path to take. I made the decision to have surgery to remove a cancerous lesion from my skin and then another operation to remove melanoma-infected lymph nodes from under my arm so I‘ve not been averse to surgery in the past. However, I won’t be doing it again should I be diagnosed with cancer in the future. For me, there has to come a time when you say ‘no more’ to having pieces of your body cut away: I, personally, reached that point in February 2016.
Finally, after my surgery to remove those two infected lymph nodes (as well as 26 others) and when the oncologist then wanted me to have intravenous Ipilimumab with its horrendous side effects, I made an informed decision to take the natural approach to try and prevent cancer recurrence. It’s a continuous journey of discovering new sources of information in the form of video documentaries, podcasts, books, articles and so forth. In early 2017, for instance, I discovered the 9-part docu-series, ‘The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest‘, made by author, radio show host and documentary film producer, Ty Bollinger.
The series contains interviews and expert opinions from over 100 doctors, scientists and researchers in 20 countries all over the world who are preventing and treating cancer today. These countries include the United States, Canada and Mexico in North America, Argentina in South America, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands in Europe, the Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and India in Asia, as well as Australia. The final episode in particular, ‘Cancer Conquerors: Their Powerful Stories Of Victory’, also gave me such encouragement that the alternative and natural route is the best way to heal and prevent recurrence for me. ‘The Truth About Cancer: A Global Quest’ comprises episodes on the preventable causes of cancer such as genetically modified organisms and heavily processed foods (particularly those high in sugar), which are accompanied by a vast array of added toxins including artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame), flavourants (e.g. monosodium glutamate), chemicals (e.g. fluoride), colourants and pesticides. It also exposes the true history of chemotherapy and its lack of any real success in healing solid cancer tumours, and discusses the pharmaceutical monopoly in producing and dispensing these outrageously expensive and toxic drugs.
Furthermore, the docu-series provides much information on the many anti-cancer natural dietary interventions available, particularly organic plant-based diets and juicing, more specialised diets like Gerson and those rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, apricot kernels which contain vitamin B17 and the positive impact on cancer treatment of herbs, vitamins, minerals (e.g. iodine, selenium, chromium etc.) and essential oils. I must say that for the first year, my wife and I were running a little bit blind when it came to preparing vegan food for me, but then ‘The Forks Over Knives Plan: How To Transition To The Life-Saving, Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet’ book was published in the January of 2017 and that gave us a nice structure to prepare my meals. The book provides 100 simple and tasty recipes to help in the planning and preparation of both regular meals and healthy snacks in between meals. It also contains a 28-day eating guide to help make this quite radical dietary transition. My wife and daughter also provide me with support as they’ve gone vegetarian!
Moreover, ‘The Truth About Cancer’ documentary-makers note the importance of the mind-body connection, discussing the necessity of a positive emotional state, the ability to handle stress well and commitment to regular exercise as valuable components of a cancer-fighting strategy. Along with a multitude of alternative therapies presented in the docu-series, it’s clear that there’s so much hope out there for cancer patients: you just need to tap into it.
I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m not afraid. I’ll never say that the natural approach prevents and heals all cancers because if that were the case, everyone would be doing it! However, I will say, firstly, that a very small percentage of solid tumour cancers respond to chemotherapy, secondly that most oncologists advocating post-operative conventional cancer treatments talk almost exclusively about 5-year survival rates only (alternative approaches often lead to much longer survival rates and even outright cures: see a selection of ‘survivor stories’ in my e-book) and thirdly that oncologists never treat the causes of cancer, just its symptoms, whereas alternative, natural treatments target the causes of cancer (particularly through dietary interventions) as well as its symptoms. Therefore, the alternative road was the decision I took in February 2016 and, should I be diagnosed with cancer again, it’ll always be the one I choose to take. I won’t second guess myself and I’ll have no regrets.