Help Breanne Beat Cancer

I woke up in the middle of the night lying in a pool of blood. That’s how it started. I had spent the weekend in Vermont skiing; visiting with old friends and classmates; and had nailed the job interview I’d made the trip up from Atlanta for—my first since finishing grad school a few months prior. I thought my life was about to take a turn for the better. But at 1:45am, as blood poured out of my body in sheets, a terrifying reality struck: I was alone, 1200 miles from home, unemployed, without health insurance, and in serious trouble. A short call to the only open hospital I could find made me realize something else: I needed to be home, near my family to face this crisis. So, I did the only thing I could think of: I prayed to God for the bleeding to stop. And then it did.

A few hours later, I called on God again to give me strength to zip my suitcase; to give me strength to get my suitcase to my rental car; to give me strength to get my suitcase into the trunk; to give me strength to get to the airport; to give me strength to get to ticketing. Each step required more energy than I had to give. My heart pounded in my ears. More than once, I stopped to catch my breath, arms braced on my rolling suitcase for support. How had skiing been so effortless only the day before? The Chicago Marathon felt easier than this.

When I landed in Atlanta at 9:30, my stepfather met me at baggage claim and took me straight to the emergency room. Within two hours of arrival, I had been admitted. “I’m not going home today?” I asked when a nurse started wheeling my bed out of the semi-private room on the ground level of the hospital. A second nurse followed behind us pushing the beeping heart rate monitor and the saline IV attached to my chest and arm. I don’t belong here, I thought. A hospital is for sick people.

For three days, I endured endless tests, nurses in and out of my room at all hours of the day and night; latexed and lubed fingers poked my ass; needles stuck in my arm; humiliating and invasive questions about my health history; terrible hospital food, and starvation. “You need a blood transfusion,” they told me. “You’re severely anemic.” The normal blood count range for a female of my weight and age is 12-14. Mine hovered around 6. The next morning, doctors scheduled me for an emergency colonoscopy—the first of three I would endure over the coming month. When I woke from anesthesia after the procedure, my mother and sister were standing at the end of the bed when the surgeon said, “We found a tumor.” My mother immediately burst into tears and turned away. Her mother had died at age 57 from colon cancer that spread to her liver before my sisters and I were born. But my response was flat, perhaps because I was still drug-induced. “I know,” I said. “I knew that was there.” I thought I had hemorrhoids.

A few hours later, they wheeled me to my first of two CT scans and scheduled the first of two MRIs. Images taken the first week of December revealed no detectable tumors in my liver or lungs, but did reveal a mass the size of an orange midway up my rectum, resting against my uterus. Based off the MRI imaging, on December 18th, they diagnosed me with Stage 3 adenocarcinoma of the rectum. Initial tests reported two lymph nodes involved. The tumor had penetrated all the way through the third layer of my colon. Metastasis could be imminent. Merry Christmas to me.

No one wants to talk about the realities of cancer, especially colorectal cancer. No one wants to imagine what it looks like, or what it feels like, or what to do if it happens to them. I never imagined it would happen to me. But here’s the thing… it’s not the cancer that scares me. It’s the cancer treatment. Doctors recommend a total of 32 weeks of chemotherapy, five weeks of radiation, then a highly invasive surgery that will leave me with an ileostomy bag for six months. They tell me that I am in the curative phase, but then they tell me they can’t guarantee the cancer won’t come back.

The long-term effects of chemotherapy and radiation have me frozen in place, unable to accept that my only chances of survival are dousing my system with near-toxic levels of a substance originally derived from mustard gas. The standard of care in the United States for administering chemotherapy originated in the 1940s as a way to treat blood cancers. Doctors discovered that high doses of the drug injected into a patient over a short period of time—a few hours—proved effective at treating illnesses like leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. So, they adapted the technique to treat all types of cancer. But colon caner is not a blood cancer—it’s a hard-tumor cancer. Furthermore, dosage is determined by evaluating the height and weight of a patient, then prescribing him or her the highest amount tolerable, without causing death in the process. Dosage levels are adjusted up or down accordingly, depending on how the patient and the cancer respond to treatment. Chemotherapy liquid that spills during IV administration, and any amount remaining following an injection, is treated as hazardous waste! Nurses dispensing the substance must wear protective clothing and masks… So how is it safe to inject directly in my veins???

Furthermore, according to the results of a 14-year study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in December of 2004 called, The Contribution of Cytotoxic Chemotherapy to 5-year Survival in Adult Malignancies, “the overall contribution of curative and adjuvant cytotoxic chemotherapy to 5-year survival in adults was estimated to be 2.3% in Australia and just 2.1% in the USA.” Their conclusion stated that chemotherapy only makes a “minor contribution” to long-term survival. A minor contribution to survival, BUT life changing side effects to boot. And we’re only talking five years. Besides the chances of developing secondary cancers as a result of chemotherapy, some side effects include: sensitivity to sunlight, which may or may not go away, hair loss, loss of appetite, nausea, unusual tiredness or fatigue, dizziness, “chemo brain”—described as mental disorientation, brain fog, and cognitive impairment —which can last for years, changes in vision, sores in mouth or throat, diarrhea, vomiting, impaired immune system function, rash, hives, itching, difficulty breathing/swallowing, nosebleeds, coughing up or vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds (WTF?!), pink, red, or dark brown urine, unusual bleeding or bruising, and neuropathy—which could be permanent. Neuropathy is tingling in the hands or feet that renders a person unable to perform basic functions like zip a zipper or button a shirt. I’m a writer, so I pretty much need to be able to feel my fingers. Oh… and then there’s the side effect of infertility and sexual dysfunction. Also permanent. I may be on the slow track at 35-years old, but my long-term dreams always included being a wife and a mother. I guess I’ll need to re-think that. The FDA isn’t required to list emotional side effects of drugs, therefore they aren’t required warn you that weathering such symptoms may lead to depression, loss of identity, and extreme despair.

To combat the side effects of the potentially deadly drug, doctors do exactly what you think… prescribe more drugs, which have—you guessed it—more side effects. To further the case against chemo, approximately 10-30% of people have a gene mutation that makes chemotherapy deadly at any given dose… meaning, even a little bit can kill you. And the only way to determine if you have this particular gene mutation is genetic testing (RGCC test, Caris test). So, I asked my oncologist, who urgently suggested I begin treatment immediately, if she planned on giving me this particular genetic test. Her answer? No —at least not until after treatment begins. That seems a little late and too big a risk for me to take, but this is the STANDARD OF CARE for cancer treatment in the United States. (For more information on the risks of chemotherapy, visit 5-FU is the shorthand name for Fluorouracil, the drug my doctor has prescribed for me, and a common drug used in the treatment of several cancers.)

Between the two rounds of neoadjuvent induction chemotherapy, each 12 to 16-weeks long, I would undergo five weeks of radiation therapy to shrink the tumor. In addition to carrying it’s own boatload of hefty side effects, high levels of radiation can cause secondary cancers as well—a new type of cancer that develops as a result of the primary cancer treatment. A new cancer from a primary cancer treatment! What’s the point? While advancements in medicine do include the benefits of targeted radiation, my tumor is in my pelvic region—a highly sensitive area of the human body packed with lots and lots of very sensitive organs. If chemotherapy doesn’t kill all the remaining eggs in my ovaries, five weeks of radiation certainly will. Other side effects include: diarrhea, rectal bleeding, bladder and vaginal irritation, redness and itching to the treated area, brittle bones (akin to osteoporosis), sexual side effects, and incontinence—or more commonly, the inability to control your bladder. Cool. So, in addition to carrying around a shit bag for six months after surgery, I get to wear an adult diaper, just in case I wet myself in public. Does the cost of treatment include a full-time nanny and an endless supply of baby wipes, too?

If you’re still reading at this point, perhaps you’re thinking what I am thinking: there has to be another way. There has to be a better way. The answer is, yes, there is. Most of us blindly accept what a doctor recommends for treatment because that’s what society conditions us to do. Doctors are doctors because they spend decades of their lives studying disease and disease treatment, and we’re conditioned to trust that they know what is best for us.

But the truth is, the only person that will advocate for your health is you.

Remember: Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said, “first, do no harm.” When did our healthcare system abandon this truth? Can we make a stand and return to it? I believe we can. Thus, I am seeking a type of treatment—a way to heal the cancer—that doesn’t do the rest of my body (and the rest of my life) seemingly irreparable harm.

I’ve become inspired by the books, Chris Beat Cancer, by Chris Wark, and Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life, by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD—both which promote nutrition as the true way to combat cancer. Both promote the use of juicing and raw food diets to aid in the healing process. Inside, one finds a wealth of knowledge on not only how to fight cancer naturally if you’ve been diagnosed, but also how to prevent cancer from ever occurring. I believe our severely toxic society is to blame for the state of our health in this country… we depend on over-processed, over-chemicalized, ready-to-eat foods and have fallen away from eating real food that feeds our bodies the nutrition it needs to survive. An overwhelming percentage of people diagnosed with cancer suffer from malnutrition, which typically worsens with traditional treatments because chemotherapy destroys the body’s immune system. If you treat the malnutrition, you also treat the disease. However, the standard of care in western medicine doesn’t do this; it treats the cancer, not the underlying causes of cancer. I find the massive gap between health care and health food confounding. Doctors are not nutritionists, and Big Pharma can’t profit off of fresh produce. Thus, limited research grants exist for scientists interested in studying the effects of foods, teas, and spices on cancer, and because so many natural products can’t be synthesized in a laboratory and mass-produced for profit, the public rarely hears about the curative possibilities of food. But a revolution is underway.

I’m not naive enough to think that food alone will heal me. But, since my diagnosis I have drastically changed my diet to a raw food, whole plant based diet with A LOT of fresh-pressed vegetable juice, and in less than a month, I’ve already seen improvement. My tumor is shrinking. How do I know this? Because my tumor prolapses during a BM and I can see it. A part of the mass turned black then shriveled away. Doctors confirmed this was a positive thing. And now you know more about me than you (or I) ever wanted you to know. The conclusion? I am doing something right. But I need more. And I need help.

Other therapies that exist are practiced under the guise of natural, holistic, or alternative medicines in the United States, and thus the stigma alongside them is one of disregard. But in places like Finland, Greece, and Germany—who has the highest cure-rate of colon cancer in the EU— these therapies are commonplace and even preferred. Therapies include treatments like IV-vitamin A, IV-vitamin C, IV-mistletoe, IV-curcumin, far-infrared light therapy—which uses heat to kill cancer cells, hyperbolic oxygen chamber, Rolfing—a form of soft tissue massage to help with bodily alignment, acupuncture, mind-body therapy, and many, many others. The problem is these treatments are not covered by insurance because they are not accepted as “medically necessary.” But for someone in my situation who believes there is a safer, healthier alternative to healing cancer, they are my only hope for long-term survival. Our bodies were never meant to be poisoned.

During the past six weeks of my life, I’ve been called stupid and was told that I am dying by members of my family that disagree with my choices. I’ve been blatantly told that if I do not listen to what doctors recommend, then I do not have their support. At times, I’ve never felt more alone. So, I am leaning on God for guidance to a safer way to heal. Through answered prayers, I was lead to the books Chris Beat Cancer and Anti-Cancer, A New Way of Life. And it is through these books that I have hope for a better way. Now, I am leaning on God once again as I seek help from the public to fund my treatments. Its never easy to ask for money, especially because I am asking for help with medical bills that have accrued since my diagnosis—when I was uninsured—and that will continue to accrue, no matter what treatment I undergo. Thanks to the generosity of my parents, I have insurance, but due to the circumstances of my health crisis, I am still unemployed. And until this battle is behind me, that is unlikely to change. The brutal reality is that, no matter what, I need medical help. I’m just hoping for the least invasive, least harmful therapy possible. And with help from God and from you, I believe I can and will find a way to it.

Please help me find and fund a better way for treatment. Donate a dollar. Donate a word of advice or recommendation to a doctor. Forward my story to friends or someone you know that may be able to help. Share with me your stories of success and failure when you were battling your own illnesses. Say a prayer for my healing. I can’t promise I will ever be able to pay back the money I hope to raise, but I can promise to pay it forward. I can promise to be an advocate for health and nutrition; I can promise to keep you informed every step of the way; and I can promise to help the next person in line who finds themselves in my situation—terrified and fighting for her life with a glimmer of hope that toxic medicine isn’t the way to survival.

Help Breanne Beat Cancer

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13

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