James Talks: Surviving Cancer, Part 2
Leaving Mainstream Medicine
I felt like a guinea pig. All I could do each day during 8 to 10 hours of experimental chemo was lay in my hospital bed. I was feverish, weak, tired and nauseous all the time. It was like the worst case of flu I could imagine. I threw up constantly, I had no energy and kept losing weight. Everything I ate went right through me. My leg swelled to 3 times its size from the surgery. I needed a pump for the lymphedema in my leg, to help the swelling go down. I felt like I wanted someone to put me out of my misery.
If you’ve been through this type of chemo yourself or with a loved one, I’m sure you can relate to what I went through. You get to the point you just don’t care anymore because you hurt so bad all over. I couldn’t imagine beating cancer feeling like this. I had no hope and I was depressed. It was a friend who turned it around for me and brought me hope, in the form of a book review in a magazine.
That book was Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy, written by Dirk Benedict, a well-known actor who healed himself from prostate cancer using a macrobiotic diet. He grew up on a ranch in Montana, and I could relate to him. What stood out was how he completely changed his life, walked away from all doctors and went for broke. I thought if he can do it, then I can do it.
I understood that what I was doing in the past had to change. My way of looking at food, my whole approach to life had to change. I had to look back at my life and see what really made me sick. And I felt poisoned even more by the chemo, so I knew I needed to leave that behind. And that’s when I snuck out of my hospital bed at 2am, and literally crawled out of the hospital determined to find a better way.
I went all out, even though I didn’t have much energy – I was very weak from chemo and surgery, and had lost a lot of weight. I studied macrobiotics and started cooking the foods, with my stepmother’s support. She helped take care of me and helped me cook a macrobiotic diet, (as much as we understood at the time) until I could fend for myself. To give you an idea of the diet, a typical breakfast was miso soup, brown rice, and cooked greens. I read every book about macrobiotics I could get my hands on, trying to understand the keys to why it works. I wanted to get well, and prove macrobiotics was going to do it for me.
I charged like a bull into my new lifestyle. I was really excited! I spent many hours reading, studying, meditating on it, using positive visualization. I did stretches and exercises that consisted of tapping on meridians, the energy highways of the body. I practiced deep breathing. I was careful to chew each bite of food 180 times. I began to realize what real food tasted like, and started getting a tremendous amount of energy from what I ate. And, although not part of the macrobiotic program, I also took a lot of Vitamin C, about 20,000 mg per day, which I still do today.
I felt like I needed to exercise to get this poison out of my system. Getting back into exercising was a slow, gradual process. I started to run as much as I could, usually just a mile before I would throw up, which felt like a purge. I’m the kind of person who sets goals, and wanted to prove to myself that I was going to make it. I believed if I could run 18 miles, then that would prove to me I was going to beat this cancer. I exercised like I hadn’t in a long time. And still sore from major lymphatic surgery, I eventually ran that 18 miles. I felt dead tired after, and my leg swelled terribly, but I did it. Now I felt like I had a fighting chance. Running was too hard on my leg, so I bought a bicycle and rode 100 miles per week.
Diet, stretches, exercise, deep breathing, visualization – this new healing lifestyle kept me busy. I went back to work, which was sometimes 12 hours a day or more, driving up to 300 miles some days. Many times I would find myself dozing off at my desk just to keep my energy up. Then, I rode my bike in the evenings. I planned my meals ahead and ate leftovers at work.
It was amazing to me to feel so alive from natural therapies after feeling like I was dying using medical treatment.
After just 3 months, I had gained some weight back, was sleeping well, and even the swelling in my leg was starting to go down. I felt like a different person, better than I had in my whole life! It was amazing to me to feel so alive from natural therapies after feeling like I was dying using medical treatment.
I was lonely, and wanted support in my new healing way of life. I read a book where a couple of hippie hitchhikers led a big city doctor to healing his cancer by way of a macrobiotics institute. I knew this was an adventure I couldn’t miss out on.
Whatever you decide you need on your healing journey, I encourage you to jump in with both feet. Do whatever it takes for you to understand your treatment completely, and follow it to the letter. There is no quick fix for cancer, and no one can fight this battle for you. Healing is a lifestyle, a permanent change away from what got you sick in the first place.
Even though macrobiotics was part of my healing journey, it isn’t right for everybody. A lot has changed in the past 30 years. Down the road, I want to share what I’ve learned about cancer healing diets, and the universal keys they all have in common. But next time, I want to talk about the value of a good, supportive healing community, and the role it played in my healing.