Majestic Night Sky with a Full “Wolf” Moon over Istanbul (or anywhere you are!), January 17, 2022
I have always been a big believer in science. All the way to a Ph.D. in chemistry at MIT. That’s commitment. My career has also included lots of technology-related work and tech-based economic development. I believe in progress through carefully chosen science.
But my body has been something of a failed experiment in the last decade, and that’s hard to swallow. In this way, despite all of my education, I can relate to why people are so fatigued with the state of the world in a pandemic, many distrustful of the scientific advice they are getting.
Experiment #1: Better Living Through Chemistry
The promise to my generation was that science and technology would save us…time, effort, aging, pain, our earth home, etc. The results haven’t been so great. I’ve since learned – with lots of data – that my body couldn’t clear all of those time/age/effort-saving chemicals, leading to increased food sensitivities, illness, and ultimately cancer. Mother Nature reminds us with ever-increasing frequency (fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, glyphosate and other toxic waste wreaking havoc in our water and food system, etc) that we’re failing to keep up with our mortgage on the Earth and in our own bodies.
Experiment #2: Healing the Body through Functional/Natural Medicine
After I woke up (~40 years old), largely thanks to our daughter’s health issues, we cleaned up our act at home. I worked with experts and tried most of the diets you all might believe in. Certainly always clean. Gluten-free. Dairy-free. Sugar-free. Sometimes (2 years) vegan. Often (many years) grain-free/lectin-free. Celery juice. Smoothies. Believe it or not, with careful planning and a lot of effort, there is still plenty to eat and a way to balance meals. Saunas. Yoga teacher certification. Meditation. Exercise. Better sleep. We did heal Sophie’s hemiplegic migraines. Yay! We did ultimately learn about our sensitivity to molds and heavy metals, and how to safely clear them. Yay! I did feel better for a while. Then, I didn’t. Then I got one of the more difficult cancers to heal, all while I was doing “everything you can do” to avoid the health issues that tend to come with aging, regardless of my genes. Maybe it was too late in my life to reverse that course. Maybe my body is especially sensitive. It worked for Sophie (and lots of other people), and I’d make that tradeoff over and over. Heal my daughter, leave me with the work.
Experiment #3: Treating Ovarian Cancer with Traditional Medicine
February 2020 to May 2021. Surgery. Chemo. It works sometimes. 20% to be exact. I’m not particularly lucky in this case. I relied on science and a Rockstar nutritionist to fare well through that whole onslaught, continuing to eat, run, do yoga, parent, work, and have a life. But when I finished chemo with my cancer marker out of range, I was told to go into palliative care. That wasn’t my fault. The chemo was ineffective against my cancer, as it is the majority of the time. Why do they use it? It’s the “gold standard” despite 30 years of bad results. I believed it would work because my oncologist was encouraged about “how well I was doing.” I believed it would be a blip before I could begin healing again. This lab mouse’s hopes were again dashed, but knowing all I did, I leaned back into my faith in…
Experiment #4: Naturopathic Medicine/Metabolic Approach to Cancer
May to October 2021. The marker went down with mistletoe, ketogenic diet, hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen, targeted foods, and supplements…until it went up. A lot. Fast. No matter how hard or fast I worked. It turns out that unless those cancer stem cells are squashed with chemo, it’s hard to fight the tidal wave of high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma naturally, at least in my body. And I haven’t met anyone else who’s managed that particular trick (a triple lutz with a half twist and 5 backflips) either.
“Failure is success in progress.” Albert Einstein
So, here I am in Istanbul, taking on Experiment #5. Let’s call this, “Hit it with All We’ve Got.” Everything above worked, some. Just not enough. So now, here I am upgrading and combining all of it (chemo that’s been tested in vitro against my cells, whole body and local hyperthermia, HBOT, nutritional infusions, keto, metabolic approach, and more) with hopes that the combo will be powerful enough to get after the stem cells and finally put me in a stable place. That I’ll still be able to look back on these 2.5 years as a (long) blip in an otherwise reasonably long life of logical, intuitive approaches to health and healing. I have good, scientific reasons to believe again: the current chemo protocol has been tested and found effective against my cells, all of those methods worked somewhat just not enough alone – hopefully, the combo is at least additive, if not multiplicative. Full-body hyperthermia alone is a regular 2.5-hour sauna which I suspect keeps the mold (which featured prominently in dysregulating my immune system prior to cancer and after front line treatment) at bay/cleared, as do the antioxidant and vitamin C infusions and HBOT. This integrative approach should leave me less vulnerable than I was after traditional (and ineffective, as it turned out) chemotherapy. Finally, they’ve healed people here with even later stage and more difficult cancers than I have, including ovarian.
But can I admit that it’s hard sometimes to keep the faith in medical science? That’s a lot of disappointment, right? The truth is that science is always an ongoing experiment. I’m a scientist at heart and an entrepreneur, so the unknown doesn’t usually bother me. But it’s a different experience when you are the lab mouse. And when you’ve watched other healthy, positive, well-supported people “doing cancer just right” succumb to it. No need to cheerlead; I find simply listening to be the biggest help when I occasionally, understandably feel discouraged. Also, mindset is a great tool, but so is discernment and deep, honest, two-way conversation with (hopefully entrepreneurial and smart) doctors about how the experiment is going. Because science IS experimental. No one has all the answers. If someone is doing well, it’s a combo of luck (chemo worked, yay!) and effort. These stories – hopefully including mine someday – can inspire, but the science around many kinds of cancer is still pretty raw and nascent, even after decades of investment. I say all of this from a well-educated, inside-out view.
So, I’m not going to tell you to drink juice, make smoothies, avoid fruit, eat berries, take chemo or not take chemo, “stay positive,” or any of the other formulae that are out there. The pieces and parts may or may not help you heal or avoid cancer. It’s best to find out what works for your individual health challenges at any given time. Certainly eating clean, avoiding toxins, getting good sleep, managing stress/mental health, discerning and receiving effective treatments, and getting smart bio-individualized approaches and nutritional support whether you are trying to stay healthy or bear the onslaught of treatments…all of that is good. Most of which, your grandmother could have told you.
So what’s the lesson from my story, really? I think it’s this…
Be the first author in your story. Be the head scientist. I’ve been the first author on scientific papers, so I know what that feels like. It was natural to approach cancer this way. That’s the one thing I can tell you that I know will always be true. It’s not a fad or marketing gimmick. Part of how you know this is true is it’s not about me. It’s about you. Especially for cancers with bad outcomes, the results show the researchers and doctors do NOT have everything, or even much, figured out. Be in that conversation. Get information from multiple sources and angles and then do what makes you feel good. Listen to your body – the real expert, from whom we were often disconnected during the “better living through science” phase. Be ready to pivot. Forgive people who don’t have all the answers, because that’s just where we are. Science is ALWAYS an experiment. That anyone ever presents it as done, known, finished…is great for marketing programs and personal brands, but it has done a tremendous disservice to both science and all of us, especially the people who didn’t make it. Because when those methods don’t work, it causes us to lose faith in science and scientists, or blame ourselves for not trying hard enough. Conversation stops. Priorities get decided by a few, with only a few in mind, whether it’s global warming or individual cancer treatment. The power in the experiment is including all voices, especially the intuitive and divine ones like our bodies, other sentient beings, and the natural world.
I still have faith in science, but I’m a realistic optimist about what we know and don’t know. At this point, I’ve done soooooo many of the experiments from every side of the lab bench. I know the outcomes and limitations. What occurs to me is not that science is bad or flawed but that living systems are miracles we will never fully understand. In many ways, my faith in higher powers than humans has always risen in parallel with my scientific education. The more I’ve looked into the night sky or at molecules through x-ray crystallography, the more I’ve realized that this astonishingly beautiful world is not something we could create or recreate. The symmetry. The thoughtful design. It’s something we can only ever approximately understand. It’s awe-inspiring.
I’m still very much in this cancer healing experiment. I’m most definitely the first author…with a litany of partners, starting with my husband…in the story of my health. Results TBD. What I know for sure is this…
I’m still here, and I haven’t lost faith.
Photo credits: John LeMay and Grant LeMay