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It's been 90 days today since my husband was pulled from sea (finally) and we learned my fear was accurate - he had colon cancer.
The SHORT update is: Nick is doing great! He is healing and deeply immersed in a new anticancer lifestyle.
The LONG update is below and is not meant to hurt, offend, or tell anyone what they personally should or should not do, so it may be something you don't wish to read. But it is the real, raw, authentic full update of where we've been, and where we are at, told from my perspective, with Nick's input and blessing, and because we are tossing around the idea of sharing further what we've been learning with those who are interested/may benefit, the full story is bound to come out in one way or another at some point.
Cancer is a *very* personal topic, and I fully believe each individual has to decide for themselves what they believe, what they desire, and what actions they feel best taking - this could look very different from one person to the next, and it could change along the way for any one individual, and that's okay.
90 days ago today Nick learned he had Stage 3 Colon Cancer, on the eve of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. This came with a 90% blockage from a very large tumor that had grown through his sigmoid colon wall and entered into the lymphatic system. Hearing the news -- each of us in different rooms, apart from each other (the Navy is never very good at presentation of sensitive information) -- was shell-shocking, despite the fact that I was expecting it, based on previous knowledge of colon cancer and experiences with those who'd been through this before. Still, it was a numbing, spinning, stand-still time to have a surgical and oncology team say it out loud to me. Due to the size of the tumor, there were oncologists, gastroenterologists, and surgeons all coming together immediately to discuss Nick's case and see how quickly they could get him into an OR. None of these individuals typically worked on the same floor, but they just happened to be there between their own patients this day, at this time, when this was found. When they spoke, my ears buzzed; my tired, worried head was fuzzy; the room kept spinning.
A kind Navy (male) nurse put his hand on my shoulder. He didn't say anything, but I could read the words he wasn't saying - "I am so sorry." It was the closest thing to a hug either of us would get that day, but his kindness mattered to me. "Cancer. Did they say cancer to you, too?" Nick asked as soon as anesthesia wore off enough that they brought us back to a room together.
Oncology is one floor directly under gastro at the Naval hospital here, and because they are SO busy with cancer cases these days they only treat those who have cancer and are active duty. If you're a family member, regardless of Tricare coverage, you will not be seen here. It is estimated 1 in 3 people will get some form of cancer now, and this is occurring at younger and younger ages. Cancer among active duty military personnel is also skyrocketing. And so is colon cancer among those younger than 50 -- 1 in 23 Americans will have colon cancer
at some point, and it is becoming a "young person's cancer." We were certainly not the only ones there with such issues, but the teams shifted things around, and Nick became their top priority case. The gastro and surgical teams we had were fantastic. They explained everything in detail, they included me in each step of the way -- going beyond hospital protocol to allow me to be by Nick's side through everything.
Colon cancer is something I am not unfamiliar with... My first real and raw experience with its devastation was in college. My then-boyfriend's mother was an absolute sunshine in my life. She was grace and kindness, love and support, laughter and encouragement, all wrapped up in the beauty of one woman named Barb. I was so ignorant at that time -- despite watching my own grandfather die of cancer, and knowing how very prevalent it is on one side of my family, especially. I stood by while Barb underwent conventional cancer treatments of chemo and radiation that destroyed her body, her livelihood, her ability to truly LIVE. And I knew nothing about how I could help. I assumed there was nothing any of us could do. Pray. And let chemo do its thing. We would go to her house for dinners -- meats and pastas and sweets and tasty things. To the end she was an amazing cook. Her dog, Maggie, got the scraps, and was my furry buddy soaking up the tears when she left this earth. Maggie would pass away also from colon cancer months after Barb. At the time we all thought this was so strange...but assumed they must have been 'connected' in some way.
Still to this day, I cannot fathom the heartache of losing your mom SO young. I would do anything to go back and share what I now know with her. Knowing she would be leaving her kids is what destroyed her the most. The last evening before she flew free from this earth I was beside her bed in the hospital. She had greeted me with as much JOY and excitement as she had every single time before -- "Dannnnelle!!! Hello!!! It is so good to see you..." As if I was the very person she wanted to see -- she had a way like that - making you feel so special and wanted and cherished.
I told her that night that she was an amazing mom, and that her sons are forever blessed because of everything she has done. They will live incredible lives because of her steadfast love, influence, and wisdom imparted. She held my hand as we talked, and I sensed it would be the last time.
Before she left there were a few things she gave to me -- a sailboat chime that has always hung above my kitchen sink, and still does to this day. A butterfly vase that I use for special occasions. A butterfly candle holder that sits on our counter, and a small succulent plant that still grows in my living room window 15 years later. I still feel her here. And if I am honest, I still miss Barb, too. She was the unconditional love of a mother I so dearly needed -- one who would wrap arms around me no matter what, and offer advice and wisdom drenched in big-hearted compassion. I hope I am some of this with my own children as they grow.
When Barb passed away I began experiencing some of my own (auto-immune) health issues. This was likely due to the stress of multiple grad school programs I was completing, and 30 years of ignorant living (and eating)... 20-somethings can eat anything, right?! Pre-30s you're indestructible. Ah, so naive. It was commingled with what I ignorantly allowed to be injected into my body (vaccines are NOT without side effects), and the onslaught of toxins from every angle of the Standard American Lifestyle. In my quest to heal I found the books "Spontaneous Healing" (https://amzn.to/2HM2L5d
) and "Patient, Heal Thyself" (https://amzn.to/2HKX5s0
). Much of what Jordan Rubin presented spoke to me. If we eat in a way that the human body was designed to eat, it has miraculous abilities to heal. If we treat the body in a way that it is meant to be treated, renewal can come. God doesn't make mistakes with this perfect design and GOOD plan...
Fast forward to the fall of 2012 and my first official "cancer scare" came. There was a 5-inch mass on my thymus that thoracic surgeons and oncology said was "likely 1 of 3 types of cancer and needed to be removed." It could not be biopsied without removal, and to do so would require collapsing my lung, going through my chest, and a pretty hefty hospital stay to recover. It did not sound fun. At that juncture I dove head first into what I would come to know as anticancer research. I found Chris Wark's (https://amzn.to/2QzBA0l
) compilations of research he had done -- his Stage 3 Colon Cancer having been found the same year Barb passed away from colon cancer/treatments... I decided that for at least the first 6 months I would make radical changes, pour anticancer things into my daily life, and "wait and watch" the mass on my thymus. As I went into the following year, there was not even close to the amount of material available today, but I sought out everything I could, and saved my pennies to implement every single thing possible while we lived in a small 2-room apartment. I bought a rebounder, a Vitamix, Nick bought a juicer (though in hindsight it was *not* a good one ;) ), and I did my best with the information I had at the time.
I read Kris Carr's materials ("Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor" and others https://amzn.to/2HOlP2U
). And I was thrilled to find Dr. David Servan-Schreiber's compiled research in his aptly titled book, "AntiCancer: A New Way of Life" (https://amzn.to/2JQ4mcv
). Every study Chris Wark found, I was on it -- going back to the original to investigate the methodology, results, and see what I could learn. There are over 100,000 peer reviewed studies published annually on nutritional/healing/health research. A LOT have to do with anticancer eating. But only a minuscule fraction of these end up in our mainstream media or oncology offices because there simply is no money to be made in eating plants and focusing on individual behavior modification and radical lifestyle change. Plus, humans don't like to be told they played a role in cancer cell growth. At least not at first. Doctors know it is "nicer" in the short-term to tell someone there is nothing they did or did not do to cause this -- just crappy "bad luck." The reality is most cancer cases are absolutely things we do, or are exposed to, or eat, or take part in, or don't do, or a combination of all of the above, that feed cancer cells and support their longevity, growth, and blood supply. The awesome, empowering reality is that when we know how and why and what we do that causes cancer cells to grow, we can then make the radical changes necessary to STOP growing these same cells. If my lifestyle (or my eating) is resulting in cancer cell growth, then a dramatic change to my lifestyle (and eating) can result in cancer cell destruction.
Taking ownership is empowering.
By summer 2013 the mass on my thymus had all but disappeared, and it was deemed to not be a threat.
Fast forward to 2017. Another "cancer scare" for me -- this time, with my thyroid. I knew something was really wrong in this regard (thyroid, adrenal gland, auto-immunity) because although I eat impeccably well most of the time since 2012, and I'm always active outdoors with my kids with every waking/free moment we can squeeze in, I am also considered "obese" by BMI standards (and have been shamed by physicians, random strangers at the store, family members, and society at large). People make assumptions when they see a fat person, and these assumptions are usually pretty brutal. Plus, the cold hard reality is that excess fat on the body is a perfect breeding ground for cancer cell growth. No matter the positive steps and healthy lifestyle practices taken, thyroid issues and extreme adrenal fatigue are real and powerful in not so great ways, and this has played out in my own body. With Hashimoto's, PCOS, early-onset-extreme-arthritis, and cold urticaria, there are obviously some major things wrong. As I began to learn more about healing in this capacity (thyroid, adrenal, auto-immune), my endocrinologist told me a mass on my thyroid was "solid, dark, and resembled what is usually thyroid cancer."
One VERY painful biopsy later, it was found to be benign. Praise Jesus! But I never want to go through that again, and I desperately want to be able to run with my children again; to be outside with them when it is below 70-degrees and not have hives from cold urticaria reactions to cool air, water, and surfaces; to play with them and not have my knees snap and give out in horrific painful agony at any given moment. I do not want to die of cancer, or any other preventable disease. I love my kids too much, love life too much, and just want to be here to adventure along the way with them.
SO my research continued. And while it broke my heart to see how Nick was choosing to live and eat, I made the decision the summer of 2017 that no matter what, I would take responsibility for myself - even if it had to be without the support of a partner - and that I would keep moving in a direction of healing for the sake of our kids and their mom. I do not want them to lose me as Barb's kids lost her. 50 is way too young to die. I want to see my children grow up, and to know and play with my grandkids, should that be in the plans for their lives...
2017 was tough. I was often sad and bitter that I didn't have a supportive partner in it all. Nick would say the right things, but bring home pizza, soda, cookies, donuts, ice cream, pancakes, pasta, and meats for him and the kids. He said that he wanted to "eat healthy," but he had no clue what "eating healthy" meant, and couldn't wrap his head (or desire) around eating plants. It was so foreign to him and everything he grew up with. I would have to suck it up and keep silent (watching my loved ones slowly poison themselves), finding my own things to eat, or I'd have to be the "bad guy" and try to get everyone to nourish their bodies with what I knew they needed. I would try banning certain things from the house (if you eat it at work, just don't bring it home)... and then be heartbroken all over again to find boxes, containers, and bottles from junk food in the trash or in Nick's car.
I shed quite a few tears, and I prayed massive amounts.
In Feb 2018 God shifted something inside me. I know it was divine intervention because while nothing changed in the way Nick was living (or eating) or the poor influence this was having on our kids, my HEART toward him and these things was altered overnight. The bitterness and anger and sadness and frustration and loneliness and hopelessness was all lifted away.
"It is WELL with my soul." "I know the plans I have for you ... plans for GOOD and not destruction..." Promises were repeatedly spoken to me. I could not see the plan, or how it would work out, but I knew I would be held, and loved, and healed. So would my children. So would Nick.
Most of 2018 Nick was away for very long days and weeks with the Navy. We saw little of each other due to military life, and the day after my birthday in October came another dreaded long-term separation. He would be gone until the end of December, home for 10 days, and then back to sea Jan-March 2019. He was expected to be back and forth to sea, and then overseas for most of 2019, all the way to March 2020. I was fearful of this, not because I hadn't been through deployments and underways before, but because this time something didn't feel right to me. I was overwhelmed with this intense, pressing feeling that Nick was not meant to be at sea, and across the globe for the next year-and-a-half. During this time, as I was having all these feelings, and Nick was gone, he started bleeding... and it didn't stop.
I knew something was wrong right away when I saw photos (that Nick took) and he told me more of what had been going on while he was away. However, the Navy kept writing it off as something minor. He was too valuable in his position with the submarine fleet to let go for testing -- and even when he was checked for this or that while at sea, it was dismissed and not taken as seriously as it would be if he had been a less vital part of the command. At one point he was even told, "If you were anyone else, you'd be off this boat..." but he was too important to "clean up" one of the worst-functioning submarines in the U.S. Navy, and get its crew ready for deployment.
Despite not being able to get messages through (so many problems with transmission, and not being able to speak as freely as you otherwise can when someone isn't reading all your email between the boat and home, with "trigger words" like 'blood' and 'cancer' not allowed), I kept pushing him to say things - to speak up and get the testing he NEEDED. They kept putting it off. Finally, after intensive tears and praying over it all, Nick was off the boat the next day, and in for testing.
We would find out on the very eve of Barb's passing 15 years earlier, that Nick had Stage 3 colon cancer. This came with a 60% chance of making it 5 years. We were shown images of the 90% blockage, and Nick was placed into emergency surgery that was expected to last 2-3 hours. It ended up taking 7.5 hours in the OR that day. His entire sigmoid colon was removed, in addition to surrounding tissues, supportive ligaments, blood vessels, and lymph nodes.
I asked every. single. doctor. involved in Nick's case about potential risk factors for this (not so much because I didn't know myself, but because I wanted to see what they would tell me). Surprisingly, they would all say, "heavy meat consumption" and "the standard American diet..." ALL that is, except the lead oncologist, whose job it was to push chemo as the only option and tell us there was nothing Nick did that caused this, and nothing that he could do to heal. "If you don't start chemo within 3 weeks, you are crazy, and your likelihood of survival goes down significantly." We were given every standard line in the chemo book.
Trust me - if you're thinking it yourself right now, we have already heard it. Save your breath and know that we've gotten the spiel already.
But here's the thing:
Everyone we've known personally, or have read their stories of, who has had colon cancer and opted for standard chemo treatments either died, or got much worse. Everyone we've known personally, or have read their stories of, who has had colon cancer and opted for radical anticancer life and eating change is alive and well and thriving. And research - if you look deeper than the surface drug reports and big pharma and oncology brochures - supports healing through life-change too.
Nick made his decision (at least for the first 90 days), and thanks in BIG part to friends who stepped in when we were at our weakest, to make sure we would be off to a good start and have what we needed to get going, we were able to fully dive in to anticancer eating and detoxing the moment we walked out of that initial diagnosis.
You've seen our posts
(and if not, you can ask ;) ). We have made efforts to get every known anticancer substance into Nick's body in massive amounts (with the exception of THC containing CBD oil due to his active duty position and the Navy testing that comes with that --- which, for the record, I think should have exceptions in medical cases where THC containing CBD oil will aid in healing). We are overdosing in anticancer nutrition, and praying circles around these matters (see "The Circle Maker" https://amzn.to/2I8Jzxn
and "The Healing Code" https://amzn.to/2YZuQvG
We've eliminated everything from toxic bug spray to sunscreens to cleaning products. I've tossed all the alcohol and perfumes and anything that could be carcinogenic. We've ditched processed foods, animal products (with the exception of occasional eggs), simple sugars, etc. We have Air Doctors cleaning the air on both floors of our home, and a Berkey filtering all the water we drink.
Overnight, Nick went from being a junk-food loving carnivore to being a plants-eating herbivore. He now makes his own cashew milks, grows broccoli sprouts, juices 40+ ounces of carrot/beet/celery/turmeric juice daily, takes (almost) every supplement I put in front of him, jumps on the rebounder and plays outside with the boys to get his lymphatic system moving. I still need to get him doing daily DDP yoga, and consuming more garlic, onions, lemons, aloe, and greens... But as of the night that I cried, telling him that he HAS to be the one to decide for himself if he really wants to LIVE or not (and that I do want him to, and the kids need their dad), he has chosen to make massive, radical, dramatic changes for healing.
Side Bonuses: At 2 weeks post life-change Nick was able to stop all medications for blood pressure and cholesterol that he had been on for the past 5 years. It was on this day of celebration in March that we took this photo (above). He also noticed after several more weeks that the back pain he has experienced for years is gone! Nick has continued to gain health and energy, and says that he feels better than he has in his entire life. Let me say that again: post-Stage-3-cancer-diagnosis he feels better than he has in his entire life! Because he is finally fueling his body with what it needs to THRIVE. He is eating to live, and using real food (plants) as medicine.
At 10 weeks -- two weeks earlier than follow up testing is supposed to be done, which I admittedly grumbled about -- Nick was brought in for scans and bloodwork. I suspect, given what oncology told us, that they thought Nick's cancer would be spreading and they wanted to 'catch it' and get chemo started.
Instead, the scans last week are 100% clear. There is NOT ONE SIGN OF CANCER in his body.
The bloodwork that came back this week is the same: NOT ONE SIGN OF CANCER CELLS in his body.
These results stumped oncology so significantly that they called last night to tell us this is "unheard of" and that they would like Nick to return to the hospital to repeat the tests "just in case they are wrong..." "This has never happened before" we were told. "It is impossible for someone with Stage 3 colon cancer in the lymph nodes to be 100% clear with CEA levels this low 10 weeks later without chemo..." Nick asked what the likelihood of the tests being inaccurate is. "Not likely." He asked if it would make a difference If he just waits to have the tests repeated in Aug (at the next 3 month mark) instead of now. "No, it wouldn't make a difference." So he is declining the repeat, and we will celebrate this miraculous, fast healing and move forward!
God is good. Prayer is powerful. Our bodies are designed to heal. And plants from the earth that we are meant to consume MATTER and make a real difference.
Update: At the encouragement of friends, because we’ve faced a significant reduction in pay ($853 less/monthly) during this next 24 month treatment period, during which Nick cannot complete full duties of his position, and while Tricare will not cover any cancer treatment options beyond routine scans and bloodwork (about $930 more in expenses we need to cover monthly), we have created an Amazon list for some of the healing needs Nick has: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/B7Y1VC90MRIJ?ref_=wl_share
If you wish to help us make ends meet during this time, friends helped to set up a GFM here: GoFundMe.com/f/healing-hubby
♥ Sincere thank you for your kindness, love, and support.
#AntiCancer #EatToLive #Healing #Nutrition #FoodMatters #ColonCancer #Stage3 #HealingHubby