Me and my mom at my book release party

Me and my beautiful mom, Bonnie, at my book release party back in January 2011

About 10 days ago, I awoke to find that my mom’s condition was noticeably worse. She’s had some pain and swelling in her feet and ankles for about a month now, but it’s been somewhat manageable with combinations of castor oil packs, soft tissue massage, acupuncture, and aspirin. Her seemingly incurable anemia only served to compound the problem by making her weaker and weaker. Even as other health markers—like her white blood cell count—were looking to be on the rebound, no amount of iron supplements and other tweaks to her treatment could seem to get her red blood cell/hemoglobin count up.

That morning, as she was eating her oatmeal and drinking her orange juice, it was clear that something was wrong. Her hands were twitching occasionally and she was having some serious trouble forming complete sentences or answering simple questions, such as who the current President is. I called our doctor from the clinic in Mexico where we began her alternative cancer treatments through the Gerson Institute in mid-March (this was after an unsuccessful round of chemotherapy) and let him know that I was going to take her to the emergency room. After getting her admitted, she was given some electrolytes via an IV drip, followed by a blood transfusion to help curb the anemia.

We stayed in the hospital overnight for monitoring, and we got to chat with the doctor the following day. He was a very kind and gentle man—apropos that his name was Dr. Gandhi—and was respectful of her choice to seek alternative therapies. While the nurse had asked several times if we had any interest in speaking with an oncologist about further chemotherapy or radiation treatments (uh, definitely not), the doctor was quick to note that her cancer had progressed so far, chemotherapy would likely not be effective and would take away what little quality of life she’s already left with.

He examined her and noted that the lymphoma had likely spread to her bone marrow, which would explain the lack of red blood cell generation and her anemia. Dr. Gandhi again expressed his respect for her treatments, and offered that if there was anything he could do to help or make her more comfortable during this time, that we should never hesitate to call or come back to see him.

In speaking with our doctor in Mexico and explaining the prognosis, he advised that we cut back to a minimum on the Gerson Therapy so that we could focus on bringing her strength back up before attempting any more strong detoxification: three juices daily along with her meals, and one coffee enema every other day. In our first full day back home, she refused to drink a third juice, resorting to a childlike tantrum when I pressed that this was the bare minimum that the doctor can recommend. And with that, I let her sleep after just two juices, and knew a more serious conversation would follow the next day.

Mom’s spirits have been in the shitter for the past month. Understandably, of course, given the cards she’s been dealt lately, and this trip to the hospital certainly didn’t do much to help that. But I don’t know if she was ever fully invested mentally in these treatments, the alternative or the allopathic. That is to say, I think she thought both could be a “magic pill” so to speak that could just wash away the cancer if the treatments were followed as prescribed. But the fact is that either route requires a huge amount of mental fortitude and determination… a voice in your head constantly reminding yourself that you can beat the cancer, and that indeed you are beating the cancer. As much as I tried and others tried to instill that strength in her, it must come from within, and it just wasn’t something she could manage to muster up. At the age of 61, she still bears emotional scars from her cold, demeaning mother and an absentee father. She’s kept the burden of anguish from her ex-husband’s verbal and physical abuse, and she’s long shouldered self-inflicted blame for the fact that her other son (i.e. my half-brother) never amounted to much besides a drifting opportunist. And while she’s largely let go of those feelings, now that her final days are approaching, they’ve plagued her for far too long, and their heavy weight took a toll on her ability to stand up for herself… her ability to know she could fight and be strong. Loved as she was—and still is—by me, her sister and brother-in-law, and a wonderful circle of friends, I don’t feel that her mental resolution was ever fully convinced that she could, and would, beat this disease. A tenacious drive to overcome the odds is essential when pitted against such a vicious ailment. Endlessly telling yourself that your treatments are working, and sending a constant, clear, conscious message from the mind to the body that you will win is crucial.

And so, the next morning, I asked what it was that she wanted to do. Did she want to continue with these treatments? Was three juices a day manageable until she got her strength back up? We’d gotten on each other’s nerves a bit as I had to often struggle getting her to keep with her regimen. I didn’t want to argue with her anymore, and I needed to know what it was that she wanted. She looked me right in the eye and said, “I’m done.” This spurred a longer conversation in which I made sure that she was certain of what she’d decided. She was through fighting; she’d given it much thought and ultimately chose to live out her remaining time enjoying some of her favorite foods. I had her call her sister as well to discuss it with her, who then called to chat with me. My aunt and I were both saddened by the decision, but as she was quick to note, it’s my mom’s decision to make, and the best thing we can do is offer her our support and honor her wish, making her as comfortable as possible as she peacefully fades in her twilight time.

Her health and appetite have diminished significantly each day since, as has the time spent with her eyes open. Her dynamic, contagious smile is all but gone. She’s become weak and disoriented, and I know she’s ready to go. We started hospice care yesterday with no orders to extend life; our goal is simply to enhance comfort with oxygen and low doses of pain medication, along with visits from nurses who can help her with bathing, etc. Her time left with us is short, and while it is most unfortunate to have her taken so early, I’m at peace with the decision she made. She gave the treatments her best try, and I’m so proud of her for being as strong as she was.

The support of friends, family, and strangers has been invaluable. To those who have offered their words, their wisdom, their time, and their energy: THANK YOU. To those who brought over food and little trinkets, or donated money to the fundraiser we started for other potential Gerson Therapy patients: THANK YOU. Which brings up a point worth addressing: my faith in the Gerson Therapy remains as strong as ever. I witnessed some incredible transformations while we were at the clinic in Mexico, and felt a HUGE positive shift in my own health from following their guidelines. To the many great people who we met there, and to those elsewhere who may be undergoing similar alternative treatments: STAY STRONG. To anyone who reads this and thinks to themselves: “Pffff! See? Those hokey naturopathic pseudoscientific therapies are just a sham.” Don’t. In my humble opinion, more research and respect for programs like the Gerson Therapy are what will ultimately save mankind. We must proactively nurture and strengthen our minds, bodies, and spirits with healthy, organic plant-based foods, while working to remove the toxins that are becoming ever-present in our society. And when disease strikes, rather than masking symptoms, we must strive to treat the underlying cause by supporting the immune system and restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself. The “prescribe a pill, send a bill” method that’s overtaken Western medicine will be the death of us all.

I will miss my mom dearly, but I am grateful for all that she taught me, all that she’s done for me, and all that she’s sacrificed from her own life to further enrich mine. I will live life to the fullest, so that her selfless efforts to raise me right will not have been in vain. She always encouraged me to work hard and never shy away from my passions. The Golden Rule was her guiding principle and it shall always be mine, too. Never was I told that my dreams were too wild or outlandish to be realized, and I was taught that the strongest questions in the English language are “Why?” and “Why not?” I’ve never been afraid to ask them and that isn’t bound to change any time soon.

I believe in me. And I hope you believe in you. It’s a vital piece of your overall well-being. And if you can’t take my word for it, ask your mama… she’ll tell you the same. After that, give her a hug and tell her you love her. A day will come when you no longer can, and it’s going to be a very strange feeling, so do it now while you can. I just did, and despite what’s coming soon, she still managed to crack a little smile.

[EDIT: My mom ultimately passed away peacefully in our home less than a week after this post. I certainly don’t regret our time spent at the Gerson Clinic, and there are several elements of what we learned there that I still practice regularly. I do also recommend to those inquiring about Gerson Therapy and other alternative treatments to look into Optimum Health Institute to see if it’s something that feels like an option for their healing. (Several BIG differences: OHI is incredibly more affordable and is far less invasive, in my opinion, and going there doesn’t require any international travel from the U.S.)]

Before heading down to the Gerson Clinic, my mom and I began a fundraiser to help others who may not be fortunate enough to afford these life-saving alternative cancer treatments. It is quite costly, and is NOT covered by insurance. While we were able to scrape together the money to pursue the Gerson Therapy ourselves, we really wanted to do more and turn this ugly circumstance into something positive. Click here if you’d like to contribute to our fundraiser and help those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to finance their recovery. We’re working with the Gerson Institute to find the perfect recipient for these funds and should have an announcement about that shortly. No amount is too small.

And you never know who may need the help, but chances are that someone close to you will. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females will develop cancer in their lifetime; 1 in 4 males and 1 in 5 females will die from it. The time to change that statistic is NOW.