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CANCER: Increasing Your Odds for Survival. This Emmy-nominated documentary, hosted by Walter Cronkite, is designed to help people survive cancer. It provides vital information which cancer patients and their families need to make informed decisions. The documentary and book deliver a comprehensive overview of the disease, treatments, latest developments, organizations and resources to assist cancer patients in doing all they can to win their fight against cancer, as well as, improve the quality of their lives.

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Cindy's Story

Cindy, although on the surface a very energetic and happy person, maintained a wall around the feelings she did not want to experience. It was like a dark area in her body she didn't go to. Cindy had a habit of ending conversations about feelings as soon as they began.

We all have the ability to suppress emotions we don't want to feel. This is an essential survival tool when we are children since strong emotions are too much for our small bodies and minds to process. We utilize a number of techniques to stop the natural energetic flow of feelings. Feelings, however, are electro-chemical events and interrupting their flow inhibits full expression and release. The result is that the electro-chemical feeling-event is actually stored in the muscles and tissues of the body. It can then block the flow of other feelings and electrical nerve impulses. In many cases, according to the Eastern view of medicine, the result can be physical ailments.

Cindy's past included mental and, to some extent, physical abuse. Little Cindy was shuffled back and forth between parents who seemed unable to care for her. Her only real refuge was a loving grandmother who cared for Cindy in her parent's absence. Cindy told me that she had had a childhood fantasy that someday she would become dreadfully ill with a disease like cancer and then her mother would feel sorry for her and come and give her the loving care she wanted.

Most oncologists believe that cancer is a condition that develops over many years. Some experts believe that certain cancers have more to do with psychological causes than others. It is my opinion that Cindy's childhood set the stage for Cindy's cancer. Cindy had a large capacity for love, but she had not learned to love herself. I believe her experience as a little girl wondering who, if anyone, was going to take care of her, and learning how to avoid the physical wrath of a drunken father, caused her to doubt she was worthy of being loved.

Cindy's job had also taken a stressful turn. Cindy had been employed for seven years booking airline reservations. She enjoyed talking with people. Her friendly personality translated well over the phone and she was good at it. So good that she was recommended for a management training program. Against her judgment, she was convinced it was a positive career move. She hated it. She wasn't well-suited for the pressures and challenges entailed in management, but to return to the phones seemed like a failure to her, so she stuck it out, becoming less satisfied and more doubtful of her ability and worthiness. Cindy not only had some of the prominent characteristics associated with cancer prone personalities but she also was subject to the type of stressful life event commonly associated with the development of cancer.

Cindy, like many women, had fibrous cysts in her breasts that came and went. Cindy became concerned after she discovered lumps that did not go away. A biopsy revealed it was cancer. At that point we didn't know enough except to hope for the best. Cindy was given a choice between a mastectomy, removal of the breast, or a lumpectomy, a removal of the tumor and surrounding area. Statistically there was no significant survival difference between the two so Cindy had a lumpectomy and went through the standard treatment at that time, a course of adjuvant radiation treatment. Cindy was told that her odds of surviving five years were seventy percent. Given Cindy's otherwise good health and attitude, we naturally assumed she would fall on the success side of that seventy percent.

I suppose this was our first mistake. We thought there was nothing more to do. We continued our lives not thinking much about it. I believed that emotional factors could affect disease and was concerned about the impact of Cindy's past. I gave Cindy books and encouraged her to get involved with ECaP, the Exceptional Cancer Patients Program started by Dr. Bernie Siegel, the author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles. Cindy went to a couple of group meetings, but experiencing her feelings frightened her and she stopped.

A year passed. Cindy's mammograms continued to come back negative. All was well, until she discovered another lump. Her doctor ordered X-rays.

We hoped the results would be like the first time, only localized cancer. They were not. The cancer had spread to Cindy's spine and liver and her odds for survival were given as only ten percent. (Since then I have been told by more than one physician that survival odds for metastatic breast cancer are realistically much lower).

Cindy wanted to stay alive and a ten percent chance of living wasn't good enough. Prolonging life a year or so didn't appeal to Cindy. She wanted to go for broke-- for life. We decided to see what else was out there. I was a good researcher. I knew how to find information and answers to questions, but it is much more difficult when someone you love is fighting a potentially fatal disease. We also obtained reports specific to Cindy's cancer and stage of cancer from two research services. The Health Resource provided an excellent volume of information resources and research at a reasonable fee. At a cost of four hundred dollars, Can Help, operated by Pat Grady, a former medical journalist, provided a ten page letter that highlighted the unconventional and conventional treatment options which his research had determined to be the best treatment options. Grady recommended a variety of options. One of the treatments he recommended was offered by Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez in New York City.

Gonzalez' approach appealed to Cindy. It was based on supplements, health foods, and natural healing techniques; things with which she was familiar. Participating in The Gonzalez/Kelly program was a full time job. The schedule of enzymes, juicing, preparation, cleansing procedures and supplements took up most of the day. It would by impossible to keep a job and do the program, but when your life depends on it, what is more important?

At first, although hectic, the program went relatively smoothly. I still wanted Cindy to do the psychological work, but it wasn't more than a month or so before her deteriorating physical condition made this unrealistic.

I would ask Cindy if she wanted to continue with this very demanding program and the fight for her life. She always answered yes. She remained faithful to the program, believing that success depended on her commitment. Then, one day, she lost consciousness.

Cat scans revealed the cancer had spread to her liver and brain. The enzymes had not worked. Because Cindy had brain metastases that were considered untreatable in this country, she was labeled "terminal." I knew of a Dr. Scheef in Germany who had successfully treated patients with cancer that had metastasized to the brain, so Cindy, and I, were unwilling to give up.

Scheef's treatment uses a chemotherapy not available in United States and is very aggressive. Sheef wants his patient's liver to be at least fifty percent intact in order to handle the chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the CAT scan of her liver revealed tumors had replaced over fifty percent of Cindy's liver. The backup plan was the Falk Clinic in Toronto.

Rudy Falk was the chief oncologist at Toronto General. He had his own cancer clinic in Toronto where he could apply more experimental treatments than at Toronto General. He used a combination of conventional and alternative treatments that success in dealing with both brain and liver metastasis. It seemed like our best bet. Cindy agreed. We flew to Toronto.

It was heartbreaking to see Cindy as debilitated as she was. I remember choking back tears as I wheeled her through the airport in a wheelchair. She was still engaging with a half paralyzed smile as she tried to keep up our spirits. I smiled a crooked grin too. Crooked because I was afraid, and I didn't want her to see my fear and my tears. The cancer in her spine had destroyed vertebrae and her ability to walk. She was in a great deal of pain but we had established a level of pain medication that made her comfortable and still able to communicate. For me everything was a blur of stress, decisions, actions, with no time for feelings. This was our last chance.

Toronto

For the next two weeks, Cindy's sister Lisa and I would wheel Cindy into the clinic every morning where she would receive treatments until three or four every afternoon.

Then, good news. The treatment was working! The nurse showed us on ultrasound how the tumors had changed indicating that they were dying. We were told that if the brain tumors did dissolve, normal or near normal brain function could return. We thought we had at least bought some time and that survival was still a possibility. Unfortunately, there is a point were the body has been compromised beyond a point of return, and treatment of any sort seldomly works. The day before we were to leave we had one last treatment scheduled. After her treatment that day, Cindy feel into a sleep, as she often did, but we were unable to awaken her. The staff said critical body systems were beginning to fail. The clinic was closing for the day. We tried to get her admitted to a hospital, but for various reasons, to our surprise, this was not possible. We hired a nurse to come in for the evening to help us.

And then Cindy just stopped breathing. There was this horrible stillness. Everything stopped. Then, the realization... Cindy was dead. It was so unbelievable. The idea that she was not ever going to move again, be here again, talk to me again was inconceivable. I had never experienced the loss of someone I loved. It was totally incomprehensible to me that people actually left the planet. People died and left, never to be seen again. I realize now how naive I was, a novice in life, how lucky to never have lost to death, until the ripe age of thirty-five.

I remember being thankful for the presence of the kind nurse who had witnessed death before. Her simple knowing presence was comforting. She had seen this before, many times. People died, and people lived on.

Cindy's healing journey ended in Toronto on January 23, 1990.

January 23rd, 1990 was the beginning of my healing journey, a major part of which became the making of the a documentary and a book to help others with cancer.





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