Surviving Cancer: A Story

Daring to Heal My Cancer with Alternative Medicine

Cancer survivor Cheryl Wilkins writes: What prompts a person with cancer to say no to chemotherapy and radiation? As suspicions build today that scientists are misfiring in their battle with cancer, more people like me are investigating other ways of treatment. Two-thirds of Americans are now choosing alternative care, and not just those needing cancer treatment. But if you want to know about cancer, I have a firsthand understanding on why this is so.

My own medical experiences opened my mind to alternative medicine. It all began in July 1991, when a tumor on my knee and three moles on my back were surgically removed. The surgeon told me the tumor was merely fatty and the moles were benign. The following month the lump returned to the same place on my knee, but all he said was "it's scar tissue, don't worry about it."

In December, I was back in his office again because the lump had grown dramatically and it felt hot. No longer thinking it was scar tissue, he operated at once. He told me it was a high-grade malignancy, a kind of cancer called histiocytoma. He said he was sure he got it all with his scalpel. But the next day the lab said he had to cut out an even bigger chunk of my knee, which he did, leaving me with a 15-inch scar, somewhat disabled, and in constant discomfort.

Two weeks later, I sat in the oncologist's office. He glanced through my medical file then recommended the maximum treatment of chemotherapy and radiation over the next six months to kill any remaining cancer cells. He said he wanted to check with other institutions over the weekend for a second opinion. But when I saw him again the next week and asked him what he had learned, he said he had gone skiing instead. When I told him I'd be seeking a second opinion at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and with New York City physician Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, he abruptly stood up and walked out.

One of the first shocks I got at the Mayo Clinic was that while my surgeon had said there was no evidence of a malignant melanoma, when the Mayo Clinic doctors examined the pathology slides for my moles they called it "a superficial spreading level three melanoma (skin cancer that has begun to spread or metastasize to the lymph nodes)." They also told me, for the first time, what the likely side effects of chemotherapy might be, such as damage to my kidneys, heart, and gallbladder.

Back home again, my surgeon asked me to visit his office. He "warned" me that I had been the topic of conversation for 15 top cancer specialists and that none of them had heard of Dr. Gonzalez' metabolic-nutritional therapy. They all said I shouldn't waste my time on a New York City "quack." The way the surgeon looked at me would have crushed the hopes of many patients, I'm sure, but when he saw I wasn't convinced, he looked uncomfortable, dropped his surly posture, and changed the subject.

He pulled out a report from the National Cancer Institute that said there basically weren't grounds for believing chemotherapy would be effective for my histiocytoma. Yet here he was telling me I should go through with it because alternative treatments were useless. Meanwhile, my knee wasn't working right because the surgeon had removed my patella tendon. Of course nobody told me about this until much later, when I discovered it by reading through my records. Now my knee wasn't strong enough for me to even walk up stairs.

I thought about things. I'm 43. There is cancer in my family. My father, grandfather, and great grandfather all died of cancer. With that kind of history, I thought: maybe it's time to take a different approach to treatment. When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are introduced to yourself. You find out what you are made of. And when you choose an alternative therapy, you find yourself living in a glass house. People watch what you do—they watch everything—and often with a skeptical eye.

In February the next year, or seven months after my first office visit for my knee problem, I walked into the Park Avenue offices of Nicholas J. Gonzalez, M.D., in New York City for my first two-hour appointment. I was reassured to learn that he tapes his office visits for future reference. I suppose I wasn't quite as desperate as many of his patients who come to him bearing prognoses of 2-3 months more to live, after having survived unsuccessful courses of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Still, the results from his analysis of my blood and hair weren't good news. I had a great deal of cancer in my body, most of it in my lymphatic system.

I saw Dr. Gonzalez again the next day for two hours when he laid out the details of his comprehensive program of metabolic therapy. This is based on 25 years of research by a dentist named Dr. William Donald Kelley, who developed a program featuring nutrition, detoxification, and supplements as a way of treating many degenerative diseases, including cancer. Dr. Kelley described ten categories of metabolic types. As he saw it, there are ten different body styles of needing and assimilating foods. Nutritional therapy should be based on this, he said. Dr. Gonzalez spent five years studying cancer patients in Dr. Kelley's program to be sure it worked.

As I drove back home, I thought that maybe more doctors should ask patients about their bowel movements. All my life I have been constipated. If I went once a week, I considered that normal. Now I see how abnormal and toxic that was, how it contributed to my illness. And I thought: if a body is smart enough to create a disease, then it makes sense that it must be smart enough to cure it, too.

I began to figure out how best I could make Dr. Gonzalez' program work for me. It called for a daily regimen of, literally, 150 vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, starting at 3:30 a.m. I had to do four coffee enemas a day, starting at 2 a.m., to help rid my system of the toxins being released as the tumor dissolved. This would especially help my liver and gallbladder, which would respond quickly to the caffeine and contract vigorously, releasing stored wastes.

About once a month I did a special bowel clean-out (Dr. Gonzalez calls it the "clean sweep") using psyllium seed husks and a bentonite liquid. This really scrubbed out my colon. Along with this I did a liver flush (using olive oil, apple juice, ortho-phosphoric acid, and other ingredients) to help purify my liver. Both of these procedures took about a week.

There were other practices I didn't have to do, but that Dr. Gonzalez often prescribes to cancer patients. There is a detoxification program Dr. Gonzalez calls the "purge." You drink a mixture of citrus fruit juices and Epsom salts. This is to aid in the rapid removal of metabolic wastes from the body. Dr. Gonzalez also has patients do skin rubs, salt and soda baths, mustard foot soaks, and castor oil compresses—and again, all of this is to draw the toxins out of the body.

I had to start eating organically grown foods and whole grains, only meats produced without hormones or antibiotics, raw vegetables and fresh fruits, fresh juices, especially eight ounces of carrot juice every day, and no canned, processed, or deep-fried foods. I figure that by the end of my first year on the Gonzalez program I drank the juice from over 2,000 pounds of carrots and an untold amount of apples. I avoided refined sugar out of consideration for my pancreas; I avoided aluminum cooking utensils, as well as aluminum-containing deodorants and lotions. white flour, soybean products, and peanuts also had no place in my diet as part of this program.

Sometimes I had doubts about it all. I would say to myself: "Who do you think you are that you can drink some carrot juice, pop vitamins, do coffee enemas, and get well when there are sophisticated technologies for cancer?" Except they aren't winning the cancer war with these supposed marvels.

My doubts usually came when I wasn't feeling well or was overtired. My husband was a strong support. "It's a done deal," he'd say whenever he saw me in these funks. He meant that, as far as he was concerned, this was the best and only way to whip cancer. That made me able to trudge on. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. The same applies to completing a comprehensive regimen like this one. Just hit away at it one day at a time until it becomes second-nature to you—which took me about three years, by the way. Anyway, the alternative to the alternative—conventional medicine—doesn't really work.

Looking back at the last 40 years of cancer research, it seems like digging in your pocket for a coin that's not there. Somewhere in my healing journey I took on the attitude of this Chinese proverb: "Man who says it will not work shouldn't disturb man who's making it work." And I thought: Until God opens another door, this alternative treatment is the best for me.

Perhaps my greatest discouragement comes from the fact that a program like this—that works—is not covered by insurance, even though it costs less than chemotherapy. I paid for this out of my own pocket. The supplements ran me about $400 a mondi and my two sessions with Dr. Gonzalez cost $1,800. It was a huge financial burden, yet it was a price I was willing to pay to get well. Of course it meant I had to keep my full-time job during this period even though Dr. Gonzalez generally recommends you concentrate your time on healing.

Today, I am nearly cancer free. According to a standardized blood test used by conventional cancer doctors, I do not have any cancer. But according to the more refined test that Dr. Gonzalez uses, I still have some cancer activity. So I will always have to keep up a nutritional maintenance program.

Am I lucky? Yes, I am lucky—lucky to have taken control of my own health care. Lucky to have been introduced to this form of treatment. Lucky not to have burned up my body with chemotherapy and radiation. Let me tell you something a little grim. In the three years I've been on this program, I have known many people with cancer who chose chemotherapy and radiation. They are now either dead or on yet another chemotherapy series for a relapse. Yes, I am lucky!

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