Against the Odds, One Woman's
I was born in 1956, to a mother who had a history of not being able to carry a fetus full term. Her doctor used the anti-miscarriage drug DES. With a great deal of luck and hope, I was born prematurely, but able to breathe and without need of incubation.
From the very beginning of puberty, my periods were painful and the bleeding abnormally profuse; but the prevailing belief in those days was that menstrual pain was mostly a bid for attention, and the rest resided in the imagination of the silly female unfortunate enough to be so dysfunctional. I knew that it was not the case, but what could I, a young teen, tell all those "wise men" who looked down at us females with such withering scorn and condescension? I had my hands full just dealing with my parents and teachers over missing at least one day per month of school, while my insides pulsed with tearing pain.
In 1977, I began to realize again that something really was terribly wrong with me. I was a college student, and I went to the health center to address the terrible menstrual cramps that I was experiencing. I was given some Darvon, and a pat on the head; and was told again that medical science had established long ago that these things were mostly female hysteria and lollygagging. I went back to my room, enraged and still in gut-wrenching pain, and pitched the pills into the trash.
Five patronizing doctors and two years later, the proverbial manure hit the fan. The one doctor that deigned to actually touch me was more concerned with the fact that my visit was cutting into his lunch time than with what was going on inside of me. He kneaded my stomach for about 10 seconds, and said that he didn't know what I was making such a fuss about. He then said grudgingly that he would authorize some tests--in 3 months, after he returned from his vacation. I left in disgust, after telling him firmly and loudly that I didn't have 3 months. During this entire time, I could feel a huge mass growing in my abdomen. It was quite firm to the touch, and would roll away slightly when palpated. It was quite obvious, and could be felt even with the flat of the hand, but not one of the doctors I visited would even seriously look for it. Only Dr. Lunch-timer would even touch me, or listen to anything I had to say, and he seemed determined to find nothing that would interfere with his personal plans.
While all this was going on, I was taking a course in alternative nutrition, and was taking the advice of Dr. Linus Pauling, in consuming megadoses of Vitamin C per day (5-6 grams). I was also drinking a strong tea of red clover, eating raw almonds, and plenty of cruciferous vegetables daily. In addition, I had been a strict vegetarian for two years before-hand. Later, I was able to look back and realize that these practices saved my life.
Ten days after my visit to Dr. Lunch-timer, I was in the ER. I had awakened in the night with pain so tearing that I could not move. I could barely gasp out a cry for help. I could feel the mass in my abdomen contorting and suddenly there was this bursting sensation, and I could feel a gushing of fluid flooding out into my abdominal cavity. I vomited profusely, and dragged myself to the phone to call an ambulance. I was kept waiting in the ER for 8 hours while they decided what to do with me. Finally, I just leaned over and vomited blood everywhere, and then passed out.
After the surgery, I was told by a surgeon that the situation was grave, and that I was scheduled for a radiation treatment and a chemotherapy workup the following afternoon. He told me that they had removed a cancerous ovarian tumor the size of a football from my body. He asked me why I had waited for so long before seeking medical attention. I simply could not believe it! If I had not been in such pain, and concerned about popping my stitches, I probably would have chased him out of the room and down the hall! As it was, I hissed my displeasure, letting him know exactly how it was, what I had been through, and what I thought of him and his profession. I also told him to keep his radiation and chemotherapy, and exactly what he could do with them -- in very colorful terms. He pointed to the other bed in the room, and made reference to my room-mate, a young black woman who had arrived during the night, and whom I had barely seen. She was away from the room, having a battery of tests. He said she had cervical cancer, not in as advanced a stage as my ovarian cancer, and that he was sure that even with all the treatments they could give her, that she was going to die. He then told me that I was worse off than she, and if I wanted to go ahead and die, he couldn't be bothered to waste his time on such an ingrate. I told him that his medical ethics were definitely questionable, since he felt so free to discuss her case with me, a stranger, and was so casual about his right to decide who would live and who would die.
I later got to know this room-mate fairly well. She was a lovely person, but very fearful of her prognosis, and determined to follow her doctor's orders to the letter. It was then June of 1979. By Christmas of that year, she was dead, after suffering horribly from the treatments even more than from the cancer.
I was 23 years old, full of piss and vinegar, and determined to live through it.
My entire stay in the hospital was one battle after another. The personnel seemed determined to torture and dominate us, trying to force me to drink grease-encrusted, ice cold meat broth, and various other horrors. An orderly actually tried to force feed me and I crowned him with the garbage he was trying to shove down my throat.
As soon as I was able to walk around some, I checked myself out, and refused all further treatments. I went to live with my mother to recover, and she was horrified that I would be so defiant and troublesome to "those good doctors." I told her exactly what I had been through, but she was unmoved.
I pulled myself back together as best I could, and moved across the country. I spent the next two years following a strict cleansing diet and a regime I had designed for myself, consisting of continued mega-dosage Vitamin C therapy, supplementation with other high potency anti-oxidants, 3-4 cups of strong red clover tea daily, and directed healing visualizations in the mornings and evenings, using a tape I had made. I worked, often holding several jobs simultaneously, and studied herbology on my own time. After two years, I loosened up on my diet somewhat, and let myself have a few treats now and then. I began performing and creating/selling artwork on the Renaissance Festival (RenFest) circuit, and participated in as many life-affirming activities as I could.
Nineteen years passed, and it was as if I was in a time loop, with events repeating themselves almost exactly. This time, I knew pretty much what to expect, yet I was still shocked at how little had been accomplished on behalf of all of us who have to battle stupidity and indifference in order to stay alive. Again, I went from one doctor to another, trying to get some help. Again, I was treated like a mentally deficient, rude child, or someone suffering from delusions. Again, I had a midnight crisis and wound up in an ER, where I was treated with great disdain. I was shoved into an oubliette and kept there for nearly 12 hours. I was asked again and again all sorts of irrelevant and ridiculous questions. Finally, when I could sense that another crisis was imminent I tottered out into the most public area I could find and started screaming. It was the only way I could get anyone to do anything! They hurriedly rushed me away and insisted upon doing X-rays. I told them: "This is a soft tissue condition, you will not be able to find out very much from X-rays. They kept wanting to do more and more X-rays. Finally, I said, "Where are the consent forms?" The nurse pointed to a file, and I took them and tore them up. "You no longer have my consent to do X-rays. Now take some tests that are relevant!" They brought me to another area, and did a cat scan. As they stood there, scratching their heads, I snatched the film out of their hands and shouted at them, while pointing- "This is my spine, these are my kidneys, this is my liver, and THIS is a VERY LARGE OVARIAN TUMOR! Now DO something!" What they did do, was decide they couldn't deal with me; and so they shipped me to a big city hospital about 2 hours away.
Everything was completely different there. I was placed in the terminal ward, and treated with considerable respect. The room was amazing in itself, framed limited edition prints on the walls, antique furniture, porcelain chinoiserie lamps with silk brocade shades, custom made draperies, polished parqueted floors, and a view of a formal English flower garden thru large, bright windows. I was stunned. It was as if I had died and gone to Martha Stewart land.
The surgeon came in to talk with me, and asked a series of questions about my situation. He was horrified at what I told him of my treatment upstate. I was completely honest about my herbs and lifestyle, and while he was less than enthused (to begin with) he was respectful and made no inappropriate remarks. All the tests and preparations were made, and I again was operated upon.
When I awakened in the recovery room, he was there, and told me that I was to be hooked up to a morphine pump, and that I would have complete control over both frequency and to a limited extent, dosage. I wondered about this, but said nothing, and avoided using it unless I was in extreme misery.
Later the next day, he came in again, and said "You are one tough bird, I must say. We removed an ovarian tumor so large, that it was crushing you internally. You told me all about your lifestyle and beliefs, but I didn't take you very seriously. Now, I have to ask you some questions about all this, because you have really started to make me sit up and take notice."
I asked him to tell me exactly what he meant, and also told him I would answer any questions he had. He looked at me oddly, and said, "You don't appear to be particularly athletic, and I wouldn't have thought you to be in very good shape at all; yet all your organ functions are normal ---for a woman half your age--- even in the middle of this situation. What, exactly, are you doing?"
I remember just looking at him, thinking "What if I do tell him everything? Will he believe me? Well, I gave my word, and what can it hurt?" And this is what I told him:
"I was a vegetarian for some years, but when I moved to the southeast, that became very difficult to sustain, so I began to eat some animal products, sparingly. For the most part, I avoid flesh foods, but I am currently eating fish, and some poultry. I eat 8 to 12 raw almonds per day. I take large doses of Vitamin C, E and B Complex, on top of a good multi-vitamin, and a multi-mineral. I take flaxseed oil, fish oil and lecithin capsules. I eat red clover sprouts, and also lots of parsley. I eat shiitake mushrooms at least once per week, and usually more often. And, I make a tincture containing red clover tops, astragalus, reishi mushrooms, foti, and codonopsis, of which I take 7 drops twice daily. I also drink lots of water and grow most of my own herbs. I maintain a salad garden system, which I replant every two weeks, so that I always have a fresh supply of greens to eat. I mostly eat cruciferous vegetables, greens, legumes, fresh fruits, fish and soy products. I occasionally eat whole grains, or bread made of whole grains, but always combine them so as to make a protein bond. Every day I listen to a homemade tape of healing affirmations with soothing classical or new age background music. And, I do not use a microwave, and will not stay near one that is in use. And that is basically it."
He stared at me as if I had announced that I believed I was an alien from Mars, but said nothing more, just made some notes, and then took his leave of me.
When they started me back on solid foods again, they respected my dietary preferences, and brought me salads, fresh fruits, plain yogurt with honey on the side, whole grain bread and light broths.
During the next few days, he came in several times with his entourage of students, interns, assistants, etc. and asked a barrage of similar questions. The last 2 times, he recorded everything I said.
My only trouble there was that I was bored out of my mind and felt very confined. I watched the nurses fiddle with the morphine pump device, and I would disarm it, unhook myself leaving the shunt in place, and escape to that flower garden I could see from my window, or the med-school library. I put one hospital gown on "forewards," and another backwards, so that I wasn't flashing the world, and slipped on the deck shoes I had arrived in, and tried to look nonchalant. I was chased out of the library on several occasions and learned to hide in the stacks or in a stall in the ladies room when I heard the librarian coming in her distinctively squeaky shoes. The nurses and orderlies were beside themselves, but learned to take it in stride, and even started bringing me books to keep me in the building. They were especially intrigued with the fact that I tried to avoid the pain medication as much as possible, and that I had so quickly learned the secret of the reset button. I was released in two weeks, and went home.
I refused chemotherapy and radiation treatments again. This time, they did not pressure me or get nasty, but just asked respectful questions and took careful note of what I said. I went to 2 follow-up appointments at the cancer center connected to that hospital. Both times they examined me and kept asking me what I was doing. I was told that my incision was healing at an unheard of rate and all my functions were at optimum levels. I was very gratified when the main attendants who had cared for me in the hospital made time to come and visit me while I was being examined, even though they were no longer connected with my case. The surgeon told me he had discovered that one of the lab technicians was studying Chinese traditional medicine. He made a point of telling me that before I had come to them, he would have done everything he could to get the fellow fired and barred from any medical job; but that now, he was considering offering him a consultancy.
I had a very mild flap with one of the personnel at the cancer center about Hormone Replacement Therapy, and again, refused the medication they offered-specifically PremPhase.
Now, 4 years later, this same hospital is pioneering a program where they are contracting with organic growers of herbs throughout the state, and performing limited clinical trials of several promising herb extracts.
I designed myself an HRT tincture, consisting of Dong Quai, Black Cohosh, Raspberry Lvs, and Wild Yams. I take this once per day for three weeks of each month, then give myself a rest from it for the next week, starting over again after the week off is over. I take 7 drops orally in the morning, and put 7 drops in a handful of skin lotion that I make, which I use on a daily basis on my face and body.
I am still alive, and in
reasonably good shape, still taking my supplements and herbs, keeping to my
sensible dietary regime, listening to my homemade tape with healing
affirmations, and gardening among my cats.
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