We are grateful to Weston A. Price Foundation members Trudy Fallon and Mary Cupp, who have volunteered to share their stories with us so that other women may benefit from the lessons they have learned.
1. Living with Cancer, by Trudy Fallon
2. The Wrong Diet, by Anonymous
3. A Belated Discovery, by Mary Cupp
Living with Cancer
By Trudy Fallon
What a road it’s been the last five years. Little did I realize that the typical life-style choices of my twenties and thirties (dieting for perfection and success, working long hours) would eventually factor themselves into a devastating illness. In retrospect, I believe they did. I’ve survived biopsies, a mastectomy, chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant, radiation, two breast reconstruction surgeries, more radiation for metastatic bone recurrence, two more years of chemo, going bald three times, bone replacement therapies, hormone therapies and a partridge in a pear tree. (Never lose your sense of humor!)
I’m doing well. I’m not cured, but I’m still here-to the surprise of my doctors-living a life of decent quality, despite the daily pain. I generally look well. Some people can’t believe I really have the “Big C.” Many women haven’t been so lucky-they’re dead. I’m grateful for the added time.
There’s great propaganda in our modern world, telling us that we can have it all-career, children, marriage, an ageless body-all the while maxing out on credit cards and saving time with processed foods. It’s a myth. While I tried to make it come true, I lost myself and almost lost my life.
I believe I’ve helped to save my own life. My most important lesson has been my discovery of the body’s extraordinary resilience and healing abilities, despite tremendous abuse, whether from life-style or medical procedures (slash, burn and poison.)
In the past I’d downed many diet cokes, scooped numerous fat-free-with-nutrasweet yogurts and filled up on iceberg lettuce salads smothered in artificial dressing, all to keep my weight under control. And on this meager diet I worked a superwoman schedule.
It took me a while to learn but I am now convinced that attention to nutrition is essential in increasing the odds of survival. Preparing high quality, nutrient-dense foods that the body can utilize to repair cells and fight disease is vital. Reducing the burden of chemicals and toxins from as many sources as possible is imperative. I would have been much wiser to have turned to prevention long ago, but I believe at any stage of illness, good nutrition can make a positive impact.
I used to think organic foods were too expensive. I believed they were probably sold by disingenuous “quick-buck” salesmen-people who preyed on consumers’ fears and carried a roll of “organic” stickers in their back pockets to slap on and double the prices. Again, I needed educating. With any of the organic distributors I’ve since dealt with, nothing could be further from the truth. They are dedicated, courageous individuals who make modest profits. They fight an important battle for our health and that of our children. Of course, some vendors misrepresent themselves, but these types are found in any industry. My advice: do your homework and buy organic.
I thought cooking fresh foods from scratch was too time-intensive. In fact, I didn’t know much about cooking and didn’t think it was important to know how. Now I realize that there’s a direct connection between what we put in our bodies and our state of health or illness. It’s so obvious, why did it take me so long to learn? The poor nutritional value of the food we put into our systems, combined with our particular genetic predisposition, environmental toxins and too many stresses in a demanding society, can ultimately overpower our bodies, creating devastating illness. I had to discover that the hard way.
My first attempts at cooking were to make oatmeal for our breakfast, and broth. These became staples in our diet-porridge and chicken soup. Many friends and health professionals urged a vegetarian diet. All the books say the same thing-avoid meat and fat. It took me a long time to have faith in real foods. Now I eat butter and meat and take cod liver oil. I’ve gotten rid of the microwave. I know these changes have given me strength-and this diet is better for my children as well.
At the hospital, they told us to have soy shakes every morning. But one nurse, a Philippine lady, whispered to me, “Eat beef, eat beef.” Now I’ve cut out the soy, knowing that it’s a processed food, promoted with a lot of hype.
We all find our own ways to survive. I think it may well have been divine intervention that brought me to my knees with cancer. I’ve had to rebuild my life in so many ways. I’m now more aware of the purpose of my life, and appreciative of the strength and humility it takes, especially of women, to nurture a marriage and children. “Quality not quantity” is a joke. Kids need both. A marriage needs both-be there.
I also had a lesson to learn (and I’m still learning it) about myself. Practice self-care. It doesn’t come naturally for many. Get yourself off the end of the proverbial laundry list.
I almost died from niceness. I was a good girl who seldom questioned authority. I was untrained in setting limits. I felt guilty for saying no to people’s requests. In contrast, a better attitude is modeled on traveling by plane. To put the oxygen on yourself first, then on your children, is to offer the best chance for survival for you both.
I believe that I’m still here for many reasons. First, I’ve set my mind to it. I have a dear husband to love and two beautiful sons to raise. Fortunately when I was pregnant, I ate as best I knew how at the time-I gained fifty pounds with both.
I have a few hard-earned insights to share. I’ve given myself permission to open up to areas before unknown to me. I’ve learned to seek support from family, friends, medical professionals and others. I’ve learned how to cook fresh foods, create family meals filled with time, love and beauty that celebrate life. I’ve learned to use foods, supplements, medications, counseling, visualization techniques, acupuncture, meditation, breathing and prayer for support. I’ve allowed myself to be loved; I’ve allowed myself to be helped each day, walking the corridors of Cancerland, comforted through its halls of terror and the shadows that lie ahead.
I refuse to see myself as a victim. I’ve gone deeper into my soul and found such a capacity to love life. How fleeting it is for us all. I’ve learned to look at others’ sufferings, loneliness, disease and despair and try in turn to pass on the help so many have given me. Most people do care. I’ve learned to be grateful for each breath, each day as I work to stay engaged with life’s moments. Cherish the good and believe in times of trial that “this too shall pass.” For it’s true. I’ve learned to have faith in the powerful life force within both body and soul. I believe our essence, our love, lives always.
The Wrong Diet
My story begins about eight years ago when I was busy working part-time on a computer science curriculum as well as a UNIX system administrator. A system administrator in this environment generally wears multiple hats in maintaining the health of mission-critical computer systems. The field is highly challenging but can be very rewarding.
Now at this point in my life I began to examine my lifestyle and health. At that time I was still dealing with eczema and allergies that I had suffered since childhood. The allergies were getting worse with each successive year. That entire summer I needed to pop Sudafeds to relieve my congestion and irritated eyes. I had heard of a naturopathic doctor in the area and decided to set up a consultation.
She advised me to change my diet. I replaced the normal American diet of processed foods, fast foods and canned or frozen vegetables with a more vegetarian diet including fresh vegetables, carrot-apple juices and lots of tofu and brown rice (not prepared by soaking.) I also started getting colonics (to detoxify) and found that I was able to eliminate my allergies in three months. I also lost weight and felt a lot better-even better able to handle the stress of my field.
Unfortunately the great results gained with that program began to change. I noticed my weight creeping up and my stomach started to bloat after drinking carrot juice. I started having trouble digesting the tofu and grains. When I mentioned this to the naturopath, she suggested pancreatin capsules.
I basically went on like this for about two years, tormenting myself because my diet was no longer bringing me the benefits that I had previously seen. I thought, “I must be doing something wrong, what a failure I must be.” Then in 1997 during a routine pelvic exam it was discovered that I had fibroids. The nurse practitioner noticed that my stomach seemed distended and I explained, “Yeah, I’ve been having trouble with gas.”
I had two very large fibroids and the doctor at the HMO asked whether I would have any objections to a hysterectomy. I told him yes, I certainly would mind! Since I was not having any symptoms (bleeding, back pain, pain during intercourse, etc.) he said we would watch and wait. I was not really familiar with what was involved with a condition of fibroids, but I had the feeling that what he wanted to watch and wait for was for me to start having severe symptoms so I would not oppose a hysterectomy.
I then switched out of the HMO so that I could find a doctor to perform a myomectomy (removal of the tumors only) instead. I went to a doctor whom I had seen on panel discussions with my naturopath. She presented herself as a doctor who felt that lifestyle changes definitely had an effect on female conditions. I thought she would be a safe bet so I made an appointment.
Even though I clearly explained that I was not interested in a hysterectomy and even though she agreed that a myomectomy could be performed, I ended up with a total abdominal hysterectomy. She also removed the cervix and one tube. After talking with other women in my situation, I discovered there were numerous tactics doctors used to perform hysterectomies, even on patients who didn’t want them.
Six months after the surgery I started experiencing severe symptoms-symptoms that I did not have before the surgery and never had had all my life. They ranged from tailbone pain, loss of muscle, severe nausea, hair loss, joint pain, fatigue, memory loss, decreased cognitive function and malabsorption.
When I informed the doctor who had done the surgery of the severe symptoms, she dismissed them. At that point I realized something was very wrong. The same doctor who had rushed me into surgery when I had no pain or symptoms (because, in her words, it was an emergency) now could do nothing for my back pain that had already gone on for five weeks and had me bent over.
It took five months to find someone interested enough to help me get relief. At that point I began looking into some type of natural hormonal support, vitamin program and a diet that could rebuild my body. I went to see a doctor who promoted Peter D’Adamo’s Eat Right 4 Your Type. I was given supplements that were better than the previous ones I had used but even after the first visit, he was already talking about discharging me from his care.
So that brings us to today, three years after my surgery and my life is still in shambles from a one-hour procedure. Recently I discovered the Weston A. Price Foundation and its philosophy of diet and nutrition. At the moment, with so much imbalance and lowered function that has occurred throughout my body I’m in need of not only nutrition, but super-nutrition. The philosophy of nutrient dense foods, including the animal foods and fats, now makes a lot of sense.
It is ironic that in spite of many hours reading about health and all my efforts to practice a healthy life-style, I have ended up with crippled health. Even more ironic is the fact that my problems were not the result of drugs, alcohol, smoking or even fast food, but can be blamed squarely on the bad advice I received from professionals in the field of medicine.
A Belated Discovery
By Mary Cupp
My story begins in 1986 when I sought dietary advice from a doctor who promoted herself as an expert in the nutritional care for women’s illnesses. Her recommendation was a strict, dairy free, vegetarian diet (she underlined “no dairy” on the prescription pad) with soy used in place of dairy in recipes.
I made these dietary changes but over the next two years my health deteriorated markedly until I developed severe anemia, along with gastrointestinal bloating and other problems. I was placed on iron supplements by a chiropractor and shortly afterwards developed a severe uterine hemorrhage. It seemed to me that the iron had triggered the hemorrhage but at the time I didn’t know why. I went back to the doctor hoping to get some help in avoiding surgery, but her first recommendation was a hysterectomy. This I refused. I felt certain that there had to be a reason for my ill health that could be corrected, so I commenced a search among other holistic healers. I went on an extended pilgrimage looking for answers but none of the healers I went to knew what to do.
During this time, I continued to see the doctor for the prescription drug that I required to control the bleeding. This search required great fortitude on my part as I was chronically weak from the bleeding. At one point my teeth started to shift from the chronic stress and I mentioned this fact to the doctor. (I later had to have middle-age braces.) She made no comment but tried on many occasions to convince me that my symptoms were mind/body psychological manifestations. When I questioned this assumption, it was put down to my “resistance.” Additionally, despite the fact that other holistic healers were able to help me somewhat lowered my dose of, (but not totally discontinue) the medication by using natural thyroid supplements, she continued to urge me to have a hysterectomy. After four years of searching, I ended up in the emergency room with life-threatening bleeding. The doctor told me that I had no choice but to accept the surgery I had tried so hard to avoid.
Several months after my hysterectomy, I discovered an article about a 1977 South African Medical Journal study of vitamin A as therapy for excessive bleeding. The article cited the use of vitamin A at Johannesburg General Hospital and documented a 92 percent cure rate over a ten-year period. I researched vitamin A and also discovered that the extreme vegetarian diet, recommended and promoted by my doctor, could deplete the body’s stores, leading to malnutrition. And in searching through standard nutrition textbooks, I found that those with low thyroid function are unable to convert beta-carotene (found in vegetables and used in place of vitamin A in most vitamin pills) into usable vitamin A. Patients with low thyroid often have excess bleeding and are at extreme risk of unneeded surgery to the reproductive organs. In addition to this, foods that the doctor had recommended, particularly the soy foods, are known to depress thyroid function. The textbooks also state that vitamin A is needed for iron absorption and the building of blood, but I was never told to take vitamin A with my iron supplements. I discovered that the doctor in question was very familiar with the work of Dr. Price but had totally failed to heed his advice.
Upon learning these facts, I began to take relatively high doses of vitamin A supplements (100,000 IU) in the fish oil form and I soon experienced a dramatic improvement in my health, including healing of long standing gastrointestinal problems. I came to realize that malnutrition from the doctor’s initial dietary recommendations was more than likely a very significant contributing factor to my bleeding and ultimate hysterectomy.
The following February (1994) I wrote her a letter asking for an opportunity to share some important information that I had gathered, but instead of showing interest she responded by cutting off relations and terminating me as a patient. Several months later, in a new publication she had just released, I discovered that she specifically recommended high doses of vitamin A for bleeding, citing the same South African study! (This publication has greatly enhanced her career and reputation as a holistic healer.) Moreover, she also connected vitamin A to the health of the gastrointestinal tract. I was shocked and dismayed.
When I sought legal advice I was told that I could not claim malpractice because, notwithstanding the doctors claim to be a holistic healer, vitamin A is not generally used in conventional American medical practice. I was told that a doctor’s claim to offer holistic care had no legal teeth to back it up. I then realized that although a doctor could further his or her career by catering to the public desire for holistic healing, he or she could not be legally held to deliver appropriate holistic care.
Shortly afterwards, I entered a complaint before my state’s medical board citing lack of truth in advertising, fraud and deceit. In her response to the medical board, the doctor dismissed her failure to follow her own advice by claiming that vitamin A “didn’t work” and was “toxic.” Yet she published the same recommendation in two other publications while the case was still pending! Despite such blatant disregard of the issue at hand, the board dismissed my case without giving it a review.
I now understood that although a doctor may enhance his or her career by posing as a holistic healer, such a claim begets no obligation to the patient to deliver. On the contrary, the doctor can have it both ways and profit on both ends, while the patient who is cheated is left without recourse. A medical doctor who claims to practice holistic medicine is in a position to switch treatment modalities and belief systems on the patient without any accountability for having done so. In fact, under current malpractice arrangements, a doctor who plays “bait and switch” is more protected from lawsuits that one truly attempts to give bona fide holistic care. The public is not aware of this legal reality. Cases of this kind are not reported by the media because they cannot get into court. The problem is circular.
This experience has turned me into an activist. I tried to introduce a bill into the Maine State Legislature. The aim of the bill was to begin to define the obligation to patients that a doctors incur when they advertise themselves as offering holistic care. One of these obligations would be the disclosure, to the patient, of available research and treatment alternatives. Unfortunately, the medical lobbyists were out in force to argue against it and had the bill tabled.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2000.