Please note: I, Alice Hardesty, am writing this on behalf of my husband, who has since passed away, but he lived more than 20 years cancer free and died of a heart attack in 2006.
Despite two “terminal” diagnoses of metastatic esophageal cancer, Jack was healed and lived for 20 years cancer free. After conventional medicine failed to provide a cure, Jack tried a great variety of alternative and complementary treatments. These included cancer counseling, vitamins and enzymes, different kinds of body-work, meditation and visualization, spiritual healing, and intensive psychotherapy. In the process of the physical healing, our marriage was healed as well. Jack died of a heart attack at age 77. Our full story is available in the memoir, “An Uncommon Cancer Journey.”
Jack Hardesty and I married late. He had been married before and had three children, one of whom had died before I met him. I had been very serious about my career and stayed single until age 40. We lived together for a while, had a good time partying, drinking a bit more than we should, working hard in our professions, and traveling. He had smoked a pipe since college days, and after he gave that up, occasional little cigars. He never smoked cigarettes, but he had ingested nicotine and tars from the other tobacco products. Our marriage was strained in the first few years because I was having a hard time getting used to the changes in my life, and Jack was drinking quite a bit. He was also dealing with unexpressed guilt and grief about the recent death of his oldest child, as well as anger about the politically motivated firing of his boss and his own transfer to a job that he hated. So there was a lot of stress in our lives, especially in his. A physician friend told us that the risk of developing esophageal cancer increased 65-fold for someone who both drank and smoked.
Jack’s cancer was diagnosed after I noticed that he was having trouble swallowing. We were fortunate that he was able to be admitted to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in an experimental chemotherapy and surgery protocol for esophageal cancer. Jack tolerated the chemotherapy well, despite the toxicity of the chemicals: cisplatin, vindesine, and bleomycin. The surgery was radical. The surgeons removed the entire esophagus and pulled the stomach up, attaching it to his nasopharynx so that he swallowed directly into his stomach. The doctors told him that he would have to eat only small amounts, several times a day, but he ignored their advice and he didn’t experience any significant problems. He recovered remarkably well and seemed fine for the next three years. We thought he was cured. But the cancer came back in a lymph node and started growing rapidly. The doctors at the NCI offered palliative treatment, but told us that we should not hope for a cure. They suggested that he might live for about six months.
After that, Jack and I became a very strong team, working together to beat this cancer, and spending the better part of a year trying every alternative we could think of. We went to Germany for treatment at the Robert Janker Klinik in Bonn, which turned out to be chemotherapy again, although different chemicals, combined with radiation and ultrasound therapy. This treatment seemed to help for a while, but then the cancer came back, growing rapidly, and the German doctors gave up on him.
But Jack was in no mind to give up — each time he would receive bad news he would say, “OK, let’s try something new.” He must have had a very strong will to live. We consulted an amazing spiritual healer in Germany, an experience that stayed with us always. Then he had “live cell therapy” in Hanover, German, and after that we came home. (Actually, I wouldn’t recommend live cell therapy — it is now banned in Germany because it is considered dangerous.) During all this time and for the next year he took several kinds of vitamins and enzymes prescribed by a German doctor in Washington D.C. He never again had any conventional treatment for cancer. In 1986 his CT scan showed that the cancer was gone, although he kept working on his healing through every possible way. After that he had no more CT scans or X-rays.
Once back home in Maryland, we started seeing a marvelous therapist, who made us both work on ourselves and on our relationship. Jack also saw a counselor who specialized in cancer patients, and he had lots of body-work: Reiki, massage, and Johrei. I had learned foot reflexology and an acupressure routine for the upper thorax, and I performed them on him every day for more than a year, even when he was obviously well. Jack used to say that he was a sponge for body-work.
We both started to meditate every day and Jack used visualizations specifically for cancer patients. He also gave up alcohol completely for several years. Later he would have a couple of glasses of wine in social situations, but nothing more.
Although in the past, Jack had been pretty negative about anything having to do with religion, he became interested in spiritual matters and very open minded about things he would have scoffed at before. He could sense the power of the healers who worked on him, and he respected and appreciated them. He even learned to perform Johrei, a form of energy healing, on others who needed healing.
Our marriage also slowly healed, due to hard work by our therapist and much hard work on our part. There were moments when we could hardly tolerate the stress, but we stuck it out and did everything our therapist suggested, including walking on hot coals, both of us, to experience first-hand the power of the mind-body connection.
All was not perfect with Jack’s unconventional treatments, but after a narrow escape due to mistreatment by his alternative doctor in Washington, D.C., he recovered completely. Once he was well, it was clear that he had changed. We both had. Our marriage thrived, he followed his dream of opening an art gallery, he remained open to his intuition and matters of spirit, and he kept up his meditation practice for the rest of his life. He used to say that he was grateful for the cancer because it forced him to change his life — that it was his “Cosmic kick in the ass.” I’ve told the whole story in the book, “An Uncommon Cancer Journey: The Cosmic Kick That Healed Our Lives.” [Editor’s note: It is available on Amazon here: http://amzn.com/0990641104]
[Regarding what may have caused Jack’s cancer], Jack was open about stating that his lifestyle and his emotional condition profoundly affected the development of his cancer, and knowing that he felt better enabled to participate in his own healing. I believe that he was right, at least as far as his cancer was concerned. But I also believe that cancer can be due to a variety of factors: genetic, environmental, and psycho-spiritual, and that it’s very difficult, maybe even hazardous to generalize. Each individual’s condition is different, as is each life’s story.
[Editor’s Note: Alice’s website is: http://bachopress.com/]