inflammatory breast cancer AND high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma
No evidence of disease
I first tried some conventional treatment (e.g., surgery), and my doctor wanted me to have additional treatment (e.g., chemotherapy), but I declined the additional treatment. Instead, I decided to use other healing techniques, and now I am well.
Biopsy or Pathology Report, Imaging (CT, PET, MRI, Mammogram, X-ray, etc)
Chemotherapy, Surgery, Radiation
Diet Change, Herbs & Supplements, Increasing Positive Emotions, Releasing Suppressed Emotions, Following Your Intuition, Deepening Your Spiritual Connection, Increasing Social Support, Finding Strong Reasons for Living, Taking Control of Your Health
Energy Healing (e.g., acupuncture, reiki, kinesiology, etc), Exercise, Massage, Psychotherapy, Sleep (getting more of it), meditation and visualization
I was first diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer, which was truly noticed by my horse before the doctors figured out what was wrong with me. After countless doctors appointments in various disciplines couldn't sort out what I was up against, Simon did. Then, using ultrasound, biopsy, punch biopsy, and breast MRI it was confirmed by my doctors. I was given Adriamycin/Cytoxan followed by Taxol/Avastin along with a pharmacy of medications. After the first pair of chemotherapies, the tumor did shrink. I then had a modified radical mastectomy, oophorectomy and tissue expansion surgery. The cancer had metastasized to the skin and out of the lymph nodes but it was unknown where it had gone. Once healed from surgery, I was given non-skin-sparing radiation and a variety of prescription medications to manage the side-effects along with an aromatase inhibitor. One month after my last radiation, I was diagnosed with a high-grade mucoepidermoid carcinoma in my parotid gland. I was diagnosed by MRI then biopsy. I underwent surgery to remove the tumor, then radiation. Over the following several years, I've had numerous other surgeries to manage complications the last of which was in 2013.
Conventional treatment damaged many of my organs, so it's hard to say if I believe the treatments alone put me in remission. More likely it was the integration of medication with meditation, visualization, food, and reiki that put me into remission. However, I do feel confident that the treatment helped knock the cancer back far enough to allow the energy modalities and cancer fighting foods to clear cancer from my body. I continue to use nonconventional healing modalities to stay cancer free.
After receiving two devastating diagnoses - stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer and a high-grade mucoepidemoid carcinoma in my head and neck - I refused to accept the prognosis of death, and found myself tallying the limitations of conventional medical protocol, which led to my decision that neither cancer nor doctors would determine my fate. Despite taking advantage of everything my hospital had offered, my body was failing, leaving me to live half dead, seriously questioning conventional wisdom and hoping to not become one of the nearly 20% of patients that die from treatment. Without fully understanding what was happening, I found myself spending hours meditating and visualizing myself healthy and strong as I underwent treatment. I dabbled with finding another way during my first diagnosis, dipping my toe in the deep waters of integrative medicine without any support from my medical team. My medical team, charged with "doing no harm," seemed to be killing me slowly by upholding the status quo of cancer treatment, and that left me at a veritable fork in the road. It wasn’t until my second diagnosis that I decided if I wasn’t all in, I wasn’t in at all. After the near failure of many vital organs, I embraced the idea "that which you give attention to grows," and turned my focus to using unconventional modalities rather than layering on additional pharmaceutical treatments. The striking improvement to my overall physical health impressed my oncology team enough that they supported my decision to finish the battle my own way. With two children aged two and seven, I white knuckled my way through self-evolution, self-advocacy, and my ongoing transformation to connect with my body's healing abilities and untangled from established protocols to finish the battle by healing my mind, body, and spirit.
Through self-advocacy and self-empowerment, I used science in a way not widely done in the oncology world, and even though they embraced my choices, I left a lot of doctors scratching their heads. My life expectancy after diagnosis was 21 months, and I'm coming up on my 15th year with no signs of recurrence and fewer and fewer residual side-effects lingering after treatment. Today, I'm enjoying living my best life cancer-free.
My case is currently being studied as part of Harvard University’s People Powered Network of Enigmatic Exceptional Responders, which is looking at individuals who had unexpected success battling cancer. How I did it is absolutely replicable. I know this because as an integrative health and cancer coach, I've helped many patients through their own difficult recoveries and have been inspired by their incredible success. In 2009, after having watched too many of my peers die from the beast, I decided to start a non-profit organization called NuGenesis (nutritional beginning) to teach how to eat with the intention to heal. Our unique work served thousands ranging in ages from three to 85, and used community gardens to train individuals, dietitians, chefs, famers, corporations, hospitals, schools and many other organization on how to use food as medicine. I whole-heartedly believe that true health care reform starts with clean, high quality food, and was grateful to discover that my unexpected recovery offered hope and inspiration to others, including the medical community. NuGenesis closed its doors in 2016, and ultimately served as a business incubator by using my story to lead a movement of sorts in southeastern Wisconsin that changed the way my community viewed food.
The success of NuGenesis got me thinking that I could take my message to a much wider audience and help countless others across the country. Hence, I chronicled my story in the four-time award winning book E.A.T. An Unconventional Decade In The Life Of A Cancer Patient, using the 18 journals I kept during my battle. Putting the truth of our current model out front and center, will hopefully make it impossible to ignore that nearly 20% of patients will die from toxic treatments and another 20% will die from malnutrition because they are unable to eat during treatment. Like so many others before me, I was told that winning wasn't a likely option, but my willingness to dig deep, try everything and ultimately succeed proved them wrong.
My book is a transparent, honest and relatable accounting of battling cancer through the prism of healing. I shared the frustrations and hardships of taking on a harrowing battle within the context of the U.S. healthcare system while illuminating the path I traveled to self-advocate, evolve my thinking and transform my life from merely surviving to thriving. It is my steadfast belief that true health care reform starts with clean, high quality food together with emotional and spiritual healing that not only improves the quality of our lives but prevents disease, improves disease outcomes and prevents recurrence.
When one door closed, I knew another one would open if I just turned the knob.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As of October 2020, Kathy is thriving in health post-diagnosis. Here is her update:
On the advice of my integrative medicine doc David Rakel, MD, I chose to ditch the heart meds my cardiologist had prescribed and have only used CoQ10, Reiki, meditation, food as medicine, movement, etc. to recover since the later part of 2011. Of course, my docs did not think it was possible to recover my heart. So, here I am providing evidence that it is indeed possible. There was a moment, my cardiologist thought I was a candidate for surgery because of the dense calcification in my left artery. When I received that diagnosis, I upped my energy healing game and it worked very quickly.
I would really like your folks to know that heart damage (truly any damage whether to the mind, body or spirit) does not have to be a long-term result of cancer treatment. We lose so many (15-20%) to the long-term side-effects of conventional treatment and that just isn’t the way it has to be. My heart issues weren’t diagnosed until 2.5 years after I had quit conventional protocols. So, clearly it does take a specific focus, using the correct combination of modalities to recover.
Here I am 15 years after the first diagnosis, and I almost have my old normal back!
My understanding of causes has evolved over time. In the beginning I looked to toxic exposure, then stress moved to the forefront. Today, I might be of the understanding that cancer was allowed to grow in my body because I had lessons to learn and unresolved emotional wounds to heal. Then again, maybe it was the chicken pox virus that has been loosely tied to both of my cancers. For me, understanding the cause isn't important anymore. Generally, I think it's difficult to say for sure, but what I can say for sure is that I now have a deeper understanding of what is expected from me as I travel down my divine path. How I m one through my days isn't always pretty, but it's most definitely more mindful. 🙂
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