Writing is hard work.
I’ve been thinking about this topic for over a month now and this is my fifth rewrite of my thoughts. Ever since I’ve started this “side project” of explaining how it feels to be told you’ll die, I typically don’t spend too much time reevaluating my words.
This topic has proven difficult. After the second rewrite and twelfth title change, I decided I wouldn’t even post it. But I fall asleep at night thinking about a better way to get my point across. I need to get it off my chest somehow. On the long walk into work today, (hopefully) a better way presented itself.
Here goes nothing.
You don’t have to be a miracle.
I had another person at work tell me last week that I’m a miracle.
At church two weeks ago, the pastor told the congregation I was a miracle.
A few weeks ago, I was facebook messaging with a woman about her mom’s battle with cancer and after learning a little bit about my story, she said I was a miracle and that she hopes for similar results for her mom.
A few other people said that God healed me and it was God’s will.
The list goes on and on…
And I have a hard time every time I hear it.
Not because I believe something indeed amazing didn’t happen to my body, and not because I think God wasn’t involved in the process. I just have a much different perspective now that I’ve been through the circumstances that deem me miraculous.
I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in March of 2015. I’ve never prayed and believed so hard in my life that it wouldn’t spread and I’d be able to beat cancer before it became terminal. So many others were praying and believing too, so it had to work. I was going to go in for my CT scan and they were going to see that it wasn’t anywhere else, thus allowing the statistics to prove I had a good chance at beating cancer.
And then they saw spots on my liver.
But that’s okay. Those weren’t cancer. They would biopsy those spots and it would come back as nothing more than benign tissue.
Stage 4, metastasized to the liver.
I’ll never forget that phone call. I’ll never forget being alone and receiving another devastating phone call. I remember asking the doctor on the phone “Why is this happening to me?” I remember falling down in the hallway and just sobbing and screaming “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?!” I remember giving up – actually believing I would die. I remember telling Heather when she got home from the kid’s Kindergarten entrance exam. I remember how her head fell and hung in silence. Defeated. Stage 4. I remember telling Grandpa Joe and Grandma Trudy, as they were visiting that week. I remember the same silence. I will never forget how empty and pointless the world felt to me that day. I remember losing all hope and faith.
I remember the trips to drop off the kids at my brother’s house as Heather and I headed to chemo. I remember how little I believed any of this was worth it. I was just going with the flow. Faithless. Hopeless.
I remember during this time I would lay in bed saying very empty prayers. “Please heal me. Please. Don’t let me die. Don’t take their dad away. Don’t make them go through that. Please.” They were just words. Lifeless. Meaningless.
Then little things started to happen.
My wife calls them God moments. Running into Brenda at the movies. I know that sounds like something that could happen any day, but we had a rough day that day trying to get my chemo-body out to the movies to see Inside Out with the kids. We missed the first 3D showtime at Troy, drove to Royal Oak only to have it be sold out, and then back to Troy just in time for the next non-3D showing. We all sat down in the theater and Heather went to buy some popcorn for the kids when she ran into Brenda. Here we were frustrated and angry with the day’s events, not even realizing that we were right where we needed to be. Brenda lit a fire in my wife to start focusing on natural treatments for cancer and gave us a few phone numbers to call. She literally started this all for us… gave us the shove we needed right when we needed it most.
Those phone calls led me to my naturopath Dr. Green, who had been referred to me two other times by random people, but that third recommendation finally made me make the phone call. Then we found Angels of Hope, which without them, we likely would’ve lost our house. Then there were the countless other people who helped us financially during this time, including complete strangers giving us money, and most times it was the exact amount we needed to buy the next month supply of supplements/treatments.
These little miracles started to add up and bring my wife and I back to life.
As I went through the 9th round of chemo and chose to stop, I can’t tell you how hard that decision was to make. I remember family calling us and asking us what we were thinking and that we shouldn’t stop. I remember being told that people who do alternative therapies die much faster. I remember doctors telling me I’d be dead very soon if I chose to forego conventional treatment.
I remember watching videos and documentaries and reading Radical Remission, feeling the life and hope pour back into me. I remember reading books about other cancer patients and seeing the world through their experiences as well. I remember being so focused on knowledge that the begging God to heal me stopped. I no longer had this need to pray for miraculous healing. I simply had faith it was possible. I had hope.
I listened to an interview yesterday between Patton Oswald and Stephen Colbert about grief. Patton Oswald is a comic who recently, suddenly lost his wife. He said something that was so profound it made me realize it was exactly what I did when I started to heal.
“My daughter is helping me immeasurably through this. When you see someone who is only 7 and you think I’m 47 and I’m the wise one here. But you realize that when someone is younger they have so much more resilience than you do because they’ve experienced less of the world and because they’re still creating the world as they go along. Grief has been introduced to them in a world that they haven’t yet completed so it’s way easier for them to say ‘I’m just going to place grief over here because I have all this other cool stuff that I’m still constructing and forming.’ That’s a reminder to me to get out of your own head and place grief where you want it to be.”
I was able to get cancer out of my head and I placed it where I wanted it to be. I was able to stop obsessing over it and letting it destroy me, and I started to control it instead of letting it control me. And most importantly, I stopped saying empty prayers driven by fear. I replaced the prayer with faith, if that’s possible. I just don’t remember having doubt – when it decided to show up – stay for very long. I battled all the negativity with “I Am Greater Than Cancer” and “I Am Wonderfully Made” reminders. I started blogging and emptied the jumbled mess of thoughts running through my head. I released the bottled up emotion and put cancer in it’s box. That’s not to say that any of that was easy to do. It wasn’t. My wife can attest that to this day I still fight doubt. But we talk it down quickly and I put it back in it’s box.
I’m working on a detailed list of my colon cancer treatment protocol – from diagnosis until today – upon request of many interested people. My protocol for cancer post-chemo included an EGFR Inhibiting protein combined with IV Vitamin C, Mistletoe Injections, Acupuncture, Chiropractic care, Reiki, an army of well-researched supplements and a fairly strict plant-based diet. Then there’s surgery, which is a very big part of healing from a solid-tumor cancer like colon cancer and to a lesser degree the HIPEC procedure. Surgery itself is very much considered a “cure” for colon cancer up to stage IIIC and even some stage IV disease. Unlike breast cancer, colon cancer has a much less recurrence rate after 5 years because of the nature of the tumors.
What can’t be explained conventionally is the fact that the pathology report came back with such extraordinary results. Dead cancer tissue in the large intestine tumors. Dead cancer tissue in the liver. The golf-ball sized growth by the gallbladder wasn’t cancer. All the suspected peritoneal tissue that looked suspiciously like cancer was benign. The only cancer I had was an undetected 2cm tumor on the small bowel which was resected with clear margins – a tumor the oncologist said was likely always there just in different hiding places during every CT scan. It wasn’t new cancer; therefore I would have to assume it was well on it’s way to experiencing the same healing the other tumors enjoyed.
So… here comes the frustrating part about healing cancer. My protocol wouldn’t work 100% of the time in everyone. I do think if we took one-thousand stage 4 colon cancer patients and did a study of standard-of-care conventional treatment versus my exact protocol, we’d get my exact result at LEAST twice (hopefully much more than that), but that study would never be done. So that begs the question, what else contributed to my radical remission? Was it a miracle?
There is this heartbreaking story going viral of a father sharing the “real face of childhood cancer“. I know cancer from a personal standpoint, but I don’t know cancer from a father’s standpoint and I can only imagine it is 7-million times worse. He’s sharing this picture to raise awareness that we aren’t winning in this battle against cancer. Cancer is our era’s epidemic. It’s growing, not fading. More and more people are being diagnosed earlier and earlier. Kids have cancer at an alarming rate.
And there’s more cancer in recent headlines. Musician Michael Buble’s oldest son has been diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3 or 4, I believe. Their statement to the media about their son was that they “hope that with the support of family, friends and fans around the world, we will win this battle, God willing.“
Do people who believe in God truly believe that God doesn’t want their child to win the battle against cancer? I can’t believe that to be true. I believe that God would want to heal every child – every person – with cancer. So why doesn’t he? Where is their miracle?
Maybe there is no good answer. Maybe it’s because cancer is too deadly. Maybe it’s because cancer is complicated and/or misunderstood. Maybe it’s caught too late. Maybe it’s because treatment is too harsh. How can every child or person with cancer sustain the chemical toxicity needed to kill cancer? Treatment can kill you, prayers or not, and I truly believe it would have killed me; and all the prayers and faith in the world wouldn’t have prevented it. Maybe the 2.1 month life extension that a decade worth of research and new drugs have bought cancer patients means that treatment isn’t working? Almost every cancer patient I’ve ever met and talked to mentions recurrence. If recurrence is a norm, is treatment truly effective? Should I expect it? Maybe Radical Remission cases should be studied in depth and not dismissed as anomalies? Maybe we need to pay more attention to why this disease and many others are increasing instead of regressing? Shouldn’t it be going the other way? What are we doing to our environment, to our bodies to cause this increase? I took IV and injectable drugs to treat Crohn’s Disease KNOWING that they cause cancer. “Lymphoma and other types of cancer” was a known side effect! There are cancer causing substances in things we use, eat, drink, take, breathe, apply, inject – chemotherapy itself has a side effect of causing cancer – and then we sit here and beg the question as to why God’s miracle wasn’t performed for ourselves or our loved ones disease? And then we apply that it was or wasn’t God’s will depending on the result. I don’t believe that God chooses not to heal us or our children when we ask it. Maybe, just maybe, He can’t make us fly if we jump off the cliff.
There’s a story many people have likely heard about the man stuck in a flood who has faith that God will save him. As the waters rise, he turns down many chances to be rescued by others, saying “God will save me.” Eventually he drowns and wonders why God never saved him.
I believe we need to do more than just do the status quo and expect to be healed. If anything, I believe it’s God’s Will that we do our part and we get in the boat, or even better, take the initiative to build our own. I’d never tell someone not to use conventional therapy (although I’ll never understand it’s use for palliative care), as it’s not my place and because I did benefit from some conventional therapy/surgery. But if I survive the treatment, recover from surgery and
kill heal my cancer, I would do whatever I could to put my body in the best position to never let cancer take over again.
I do remember thinking/praying to myself “if it’s God’s Will to heal me”, but I honestly tried not to pray for God’s will because it doesn’t make sense to me. I start to put myself in this Chicken or the Egg scenario and say “If it’s God’s Will to heal me, was it then also His Will that I get Cancer?”
No. I don’t believe he controls the world at that finite of a level. He isn’t willing out cancer, he isn’t controlling our elections, he doesn’t know who you are destined to marry… we make the choices that shape our lives. And sometimes bad things just happen.
I think some people get so hung up on God’s Will for their lives. They’re always trying to figure it out and make sure they’re still following it. And then when something bad happens they assume it’s because they fell off that path he’s set for their lives. Disease (or healing) doesn’t happen because it’s God’s Will, it happens because of choices we make. Stop praying for a miracle cure for any disease that’s affecting your life. Instead, change your life and take steps to put yourself in a position to heal. Pray for strength to take the first step, and then the next. And the next.
I don’t want to call it a miracle.
Maybe it’s because I understand the disease all too well and there’s always that possibility that my body hasn’t completely rid itself of cancer yet. I hesitate to want the label because so much of what I choose to do to my body on a daily basis has a cause and effect now with how my immune system functions. If cancer rears it’s ugly head again one day, does that mean I wasn’t a miracle? Do I need another miracle?
A miracle seems impossible.
What I did wasn’t impossible or even improbable. There were definitely God moments – little miracles – that surrounded us during the harder times, and everybody experiences those moments that are more than just coincidence.
I just want people to know that I’m very ordinary, and while my results have a slight unexplainable, extraordinary chapter, I truly believe my story can be documented and is reproducible in a scientific study. However, my unique and individual circumstances and every single obstacle I faced in 35 years led me to my result. We are wonderfully complicated works of art and you need to see and understand the whole picture to ever try to recreate it.
If you are facing a cancer diagnosis, always remember that ordinary can be extraordinary. You don’t have to be a miracle. Just be you. That’s all I did.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
I like this quote. I’d rather live my life that everything is a miracle rather than try to explain the ones that seem like an impossibility. All the little miracles that built my extraordinary event, when you look at the whole picture, that’s the miracle.
Some people get so hung up on waiting for a miracle instead of having faith that a miracle isn’t necessary.