The first step is to quit listening to anyone who puts a number on the years you have left in your body. One of the most important things anyone, who has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease, can do is to maintain a positive attitude! It never ceases to amaze me how crippling a person’s attitude can be to their health and well being! I have experienced financial stress developing into low back pain and I’ve watched grief over someone else’s illness turn into an allergy and asthma attack. My own experience of developing thyroid cancer is one of the most obvious examples of disease caused by not addressing the root issue.
Back in the 90′s I was a police officer in Anaheim, California. I had a number of experiences necessitating the development of mechanisms that would allow me to repress my emotions and still be able to fulfill my duties during my ten year career. Unfortunately it becomes difficult to shut these repressive mechanisms off. For example my father suffered from bipolar disorder all of his adult life. After numerous cycles of getting on medication, which helped him greatly, and then going off the medication he eventually hung himself on July, 1st 2000. I was able to fly from California to Wisconsin, clean out his house, arrange and attend his funeral and be back to work on July 6th all without shedding a single tear. It didn’t take long for my inability to express myself to literally come bubbling up to the surface. In July of the following year, I was scheduled to have a biopsy of a lump I found on the front of my throat.
I put my faith in the hands of several doctors, the last of whom was a surgeon who was going to remove the lump, examine it and if it were cancerous, remove the rest of my thyroid gland. This would be followed up with radioactive iodine treatments and having to take at least one medication for the rest of my life. I had the procedure and the first thing I could remember after waking up from the anesthesia was the surgeon telling me “We got it all out. It wasn’t cancer, go home and heal up.” I felt a great sense of relief from a worry that I didn’t even realize I had. I suppose I should have known I was suppressing some fear because I didn’t do a bit of my own research as to what this lump might be. I simply took the doctors word that thyroid cancer in a 30 year old male who did not grow up near Chernobyl is not very likely. After being told I didn’t have cancer, I finally felt free to explore what that lump could have been. I got on the internet, read all about thyroid cancer, the latest course of treatment and all things thyroid. I had no idea what a vital gland it was to my body. I was surprised that I hadn’t done this research sooner and realized that I had been using one of the most dangerous mechanisms for dealing with stressful situations, denial! I had buried my head in the sand and let someone else do the thinking for me. I literally signed on the dotted line and said, “Go ahead take out the gland if you find a malignancy.”
About a week later, I went back to my surgeons office so he could give my wound a final check up. He sat down and said, “We need to talk.” Not the words you want to hear from your wife, your boss or your doctor. He began to explain that on the final pathology they found a few abnormal cells indicating I had a Papillary Carcinoma and we needed to schedule another surgery so we could take out the rest or my thyroid gland. I asked him why he didn’t see this abnormality when he examined the tumor, under a microscope, during the first surgery. He said, “ I realize it is difficult for a lay person to understand but this sort of thing happens all the time.” Now at that point in my life I was far from being a calm well balanced yogi and the only ego I can think of that might rival that of the size of a surgeon’s is that of a police officer. However there is a bit of shock that comes with being told you don’t have cancer one day and a week later, oops wait a minute, yes you do have cancer. That is probably the only thing that prevented me from pulling out my baton, beating him, and explaining that this “lay” person understands insulting my intelligence, isn’t the best way to smooth over the fact that he missed the cancer the first time around. Instead, I scheduled another surgery with his receptionist and drove home feeling a bit dazed and certainly confused.
After arriving home, I remembered reading something about a papillary carcinoma during the week I thought I was cancer free. I went back to my computer and read everything there was to read about it. I learned many technical terms and medical acronyms and scheduled another appointment with my less than compassionate surgeon. I showed him the research I had done (through traditional allopathic sources) stating that he was following an outdated protocol. With great pain he finally conceded that if there were ever a case for not removing the rest of a thyroid gland, mine was it. However, he still had to recommend that I have a second surgery to remove my entire thyroid gland. Thank God I was finally starting to get it! To him, covering his own behind was more important than my health. I got a second opinion from an endocrinologist who virtually quoted the research that I had done on the internet. I thought here we go, a man who knows his stuff. And then he ended it all with a word for word iteration of the surgeons last words “however I would still recommended that you have the rest of the gland removed.” I couldn’t believe it. I likened it to having cancer in one of my toes and having it removed. Since there was a 20% chance that cancer would develop in one of my other toes, they were telling me to have the rest of my toes removed so I would not have to risk having a problem with my toes again. Now that may be too “lay” an interpretation but it seems to me that these two doctors could use a little more common sense. I took what the two doctors had to say, mixed it with the research I had done and decided that having an 80% chance of never having the cancer return were pretty good odds. Shrugging my shoulders a bit and feeling like I was risking getting into trouble for defying an authority figure, I said no to the surgery. To my surprise, the endocrinologist didn’t even try to change my mind and offered to monitor my gland while I explored “alternative therapies” I believe we have been conditioned to think that the words of a doctor are somehow final. Couple that with the insurance and pharmaceutical industry’s influence over how medicine is practiced, and we forge that we are the final authority for our own health and well being. Saying no was the best thing I ever did! It started me on a path of promoting my overall health rather than just being another cancer survivor or worse yet a victim. Instead I am now a vibrant and healthy human being.
I began practicing yoga to reduce my stress levels. I read amazing books like, The Gerson Therapy, which outlined cases where people are sent home to die with stage 4 cancer and Through Dr. Max Gerson’s protocol of vegetable juicing, supplements, extracts and coffee enemas, shrank and subsequently destroyed their tumors.) The China Study that links cancer with the consumption of animal based proteins. The pH Miracle that speaks to all disease being due to an acidic condition in the body from a stressful life style and the excessive consumption of acid causing foods like coffee, alcohol, chocolate, sugar, meat, dairy and reverse osmosis filtered water, like most bottled water. I learned to cook for myself and shifted my perspective from feeding myself to nourishing myself! The American diet has swung way to far in the direction of just eating what tastes good, like sweet, salty or fatty foods. I also learned how the food choices I was making not only affected my body, but the lives of countless animals and the global environment. I took away the acidic environment in my body that disease thrives in and began adding huge quantities of fresh vegetables, juices and changing my omnivorous diet to a plant based vegan diet. My new diet is heavy on greens (juicing) and alkalizing foods. I drink alkaline water and continue to make choices in my life that allow me to stay balanced and stress free. Instead of looking for the next fast food drive through at two in the morning, I tend my own organic garden insuring that only the highest quality foods make it to my families table.
My life has changed considerably since I developed that tumor, I recently turned 40 and have been cancer free for nearly ten years. In fact, according to the last ultrasound I had over five years ago, the part of the gland that had been surgically removed has grown back! I left the Police department in 2004. Now my wife and I own, operate and teach at Maya Yoga Studio in Kansas City Missouri. Looking back through the eyes of a yogi, I see how not expressing my grief from my father’s suicide turned into a tumor. I remember overhearing a relative insensitively commenting on how he could see the rope imprint on the front of my father’s neck at his funeral. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that just a year later I had a tumor on the front of my neck. I believe it has to do with the fact that the 5thth chakra, the energetic center for self expression, resides in the throat. Perhaps if I had not choked back the tears that started to well up as I walked under the open rafters of the garage where my father had taken his own life just a few days earlier, I would not have had to learn such a hard lesson. Even as I write this, a few unshed tears find their way to the surface, but I know better now so I just let them flow.
So to my friend Andy; please extend this story of hope to your friend. Encourage him to look a little deeper and see if there is more that he can be doing to promote his perfect health rather than just allowing his body to be a battle ground for disease. I wish him luck and remind him that the information is out there. There are other possible outcomes and this does not have to be a three year death sentence with long rounds of allopathic torture while he waits.
In closing I want to say I do appreciate doctors and nurses and their innate desire to serve their fellow man and to follow their divine calling in life. Countless people have been healed and saved by medical professionals. Ultimately I am thankful for that surgeons mistake because It led to taking control over my own health. I have learned how to express and nourish myself, I still have my thyroid gland, I don’t take any medication and I have never felt better.
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