Sunday, May 6, 2012

Can our diets cure Cancer?

There was an article posted on the web recently about a 16 year old boy who ran away because he wanted to stop his chemo treatments. This happened 18 years ago and the good news is he’s alive, and well, and most of all cancer free. He had absolutely no chemotherapy treatments once he left his home in Boston back in 1994. Billy Best was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was given six months to live.  He had five rounds of chemotherapy which were making him very ill. "I could smell what I thought was poison coming out of my body. I didn't think I would make it through the treatments," said Best during his interview with television station WCVB – Boston. 
Best decided that taking off to Texas was the only solution.  He lived in a warehouse and learned about the worry of his family for him, not knowing if he was dead or alive. After an outpouring of support and suggestions from people who heard his story, Billy wanted an alternative approach.  He sought out ways to heal himself naturally.  He altered his diet that consisted of no red meat, sugar, white flour, and substituted brown rice for white, and soy for dairy. In addition to that Billy also incorporated a large amount of organic vegetables and filtered water.  He took supplements, Vitamin C, and started drinking Essiac herbal tea.  "Taking a therapy that would boost my immune system so that my body could fight the cancer itself made more sense to me than poisoning me with chemotherapy when I was already so sick," said Best during a WCVB-5 interview. We have to admit, he makes a lot of sense.
The interview also reported that along with his diet, Bill took 714-X, a Canadian immune-system injection that he claims saved his life.  This drug is not available or approved in the United States, and has no real evidence of this injection having effective results in treating cancer according to the National Cancer Research.  However, in March 1995, Bill returned to Dana Farber and after CAT and Gallium scans, Bill was cancer free and is still cancer free today. 

 So is there something to be said for herbal/alternative therapies?  Some say absolutely.  Our own NECC professor, Dr. Michael Speidel strongly believes that diet has everything to do with how we can prevent and fight disease. When asked about what his feelings were about Billy Best’s story Professor Speidel commented, “The Bill Best story is nothing new to doctors. For every ten patients with cancer one patient can be cured by just taking a placebo (water, glucose, herbs, vitamins, etc.). Because with a strong will to survive, the brain can stimulate and boost our immune system and we could win the battle against cancer. 

Sadly, however, most patients with cancer need modern and aggressive treatment. As in the case with Apple creator, Steve Jobs.  Jobs refused the potential life-saving surgery for his pancreatic cancer and decided to use only alternative treatments of diet and spiritual remedies when he was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  A confidant stated in an October 2011 Forbes interview that the reason why Jobs refused the surgery was because, “I didn't want my body to be opened. I didn't want to be violated in that way.”  Jobs waited nine months before having the surgery and deciding on traditional cancer treatments.  He went on record with the man who was writing his biography (Walter Issacson) that he regretted not having the surgery sooner. 

Do we really know what is good for us, or are we just taking a roll of the dice?  There is a balance here that may apply to each individual and each individual’s level and type of cancer illness.  Some say that due to the five rounds of chemo treatments Bill Best had prior to his diet and immune injections, were the only reason why he survived.  Clare Shawcross of Brown University posted this comment from the online article, “Happy ending is awesome but, you know, you gotta figure there's a decent chance those five rounds of chemotherapy played a role in his cure.”   

          For some, this is the only avenue to take. However, there is the other side of the spectrum. Beth Martin, a Licensed Massage Therapist at Northwest Health and Lifestyle Center posted, “Had a good friend who also walked away from chemo for Hodgkin’s. She was in her 20s and when her family said, "don't quit now, honey" she said "You're not listening to me. I won't survive this treatment." She also used diet and today she is a mom in her 40s.” 

          Even though the chemo may have had some effect on his remission, the overall effects of chemotherapy on us or our loved ones are devastating.  There are emotional, physical, and mental challenges that go along with this radical treatment.  It’s stressful for our families, and more so for our bodies.   The American Cancer Society website defines chemotherapy as, “Although the word chemotherapy can mean the use of any drug (such as aspirin or penicillin) to treat any disease, to most people chemotherapy refers to drugs used for cancer treatment. It is often shortened to “chemo.” Two other medical terms often used to describe cancer chemotherapy are antineoplastic (meaning anti-cancer) therapy and cytotoxic (cell-killing) therapy.” “… It was noticed in World War II; a group of people were accidentally exposed to mustard gas and were later found to have very low white blood cell counts. Doctors reasoned that something that damaged the rapidly growing white blood cells might have a similar effect on cancer. So, in the 1940s, several patients with advanced lymphomas (cancers of certain white blood cells) were given the drug by vein, rather than by breathing the irritating gas. Their improvement, although temporary, was remarkable.”

             Do we really know what our bodies are telling us or is it just the exception to the norm? Each of us have natural instincts that signal to us warnings of fear and danger, so why can't the body send us signals of what it needs in times of sickness? Some would say that the body does send us messages, and that we are just not listening.  One of those doctors is Dr. Max Gerson, founder of the Gerson Therapy. According to The American Cancer website, “Max Gerson, MD, was a German doctor who immigrated to the United States in the late 1930s. He designed the dietary program to treat his own migraine headaches. He later expanded his method to treat other conditions such as arthritis, tuberculosis, and cancer. In 1945, Gerson published a preliminary report of his results in treating cancer in the Review of Gastroenterology.”  The therapy is extreme and strict by omitting all sugars, except honey, all white flours, oils and fats. Regular foods consist of certain organic vegetables and soy.  Only after the third week is plain yogurt involved. Some truly believe in this therapy and that it has enabled them to be rid of the disease that inflicted their bodies. 
The discussion on treatments when dealing with cancer is vast and greatly detailed depending on each specific person’s diagnosis and genetic makeup.  Luckily, as it has turned out Bill Best listened to his body and made the right choice for him. For Billy, in my opinion it wasn’t about the quantity of life, it was the quality, and he’s now living proof.

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