When I was diagnosed with stage II, aggressive breast cancer I chose alternative therapies to heal. My choice was a direct result of watching someone whom I loved dearly, die of cancer at 36 years old. Christina had just delivered her third child when she started having trouble swallowing along with severe heartburn. Her dad called to say he was worried. Several weeks later, I received a phone call to say she had stage IV, esophageal cancer. At the time, I didn’t know much about cancer other than it is an unpredictable and often life-threatening disease. 

My mom died in 1992 of lung cancer, but her cancer wasn’t surprising.  She had started smoking when she was 12 years old; she died at 54. She smoked for 42 years, but how does a 35-year-old get stomach cancer? Out of a need to calm me, I began researching her disease. I panicked. The first thing I read stated stage IV stomach cancer is not survivable.  I dug in.  I had to know she was going to be okay but the more I read, the more frightened I became. It was when I stumbled upon alternative therapies I began to feel a sense of hope.  I started sending her information about the foods she should be eating; the supplements she should be taking. She was doing research and found hope in lifestyle changes, too. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Her prognosis was grim; she got scared.  Her doctor told her chemotherapy was her only chance for survival. 

Christina, 24 years old

When Christina first started chemotherapy, her doctor told her that she had responded beautifully to the treatment; that he was going to write a case study about her. Toward the end, when her doctor told her the chemotherapy stopped working, she went to Mexico for alternative treatment, but it was too late.  She died March 7, 1999, less than a year after her initial diagnosis. Her children were too young to lose their mother! We had been friends most of my life. Just like that, she left us. 

Beyond the disease and her brave, unwavering fight to live, it was what chemotherapy did to her that forever instilled in me that I would never, not for any reason, ever choose chemotherapy.  So, here I was with cancer, and I decided to go with what the only thing that gave me a sense of hope, alternative therapy. 

One of the lasting impressions of the research I had done during Christina’s fight to heal is that cancer is a disease triggered by nutritional deficiencies, exacerbated by toxicity. Cancer is a lot more complicated than that, but it’s how I interpreted the information I was reading, which created the room I needed to embrace alternative healing – it resonated for me.  Since we all have cancer cells, for those cells to turn malignant, they need a trigger. What was my trigger?  

I went to work researching ways to heal my body and stumbled upon The Gerson Therapy.  I immediately implemented two of their healing protocols: juicing and coffee enemas. I did two coffee enemas a day and drank 32 oz of fresh, organic juice daily. I discovered the docu-series, ‘The Truth about Cancer.’ I found a website devoted to breast cancer, breastcancerchoices.org where I learned about the importance of iodine and how, as a society, we’re all deficient; I scoured information on Chris Wark’s website chrisbeatcancer.com, and from the information, developed a list of supplements to take, and essential oils to use.  Every day, any free moment I had, I educated myself.

During my discovery phase, I learned about a clinic in Mexico that treats early-stage cancer and other illnesses.  After researching the clinic, I made an appointment with Dr. Michael Hino.  The cancer diagnosis was on September 15, 2015.  My first meeting with Dr. Hino was at the end of that October, one and a half months after my initial diagnosis. When we met, he had my blood drawn. I was asked to come back the following day to discuss the results.  During the blood test review meeting, Dr. Hino said I had a strong immune system; my cancer marker was 15.6; the oxygen in my blood was low; I was borderline anemic – iron deficient; a candidate for osteoporosis and had low thyroid.  Because of financial issues, I was unable to return for treatment for over a month.

First Ensenada sunset

When I returned to Mexico for treatment, it was one month and one week since I had last seen Dr. Hino, so he asked to take another blood sample. Like before, I was asked to come back the following morning to review the results.  As he was scrolling through the results, he looked up with a puzzled look on his face and said “your cancer marker dropped to 11.4!  What did you do? Did you start chemotherapy?”  I told him no. He asked me what I did to have such a dramatic effect. When I told him what I had been doing, he said ‘I have never in my career met anyone who personally affected their cancer marker without some form of treatment.’ He also asked me what I had been doing for my thyroid because it looked amazing (I had started supplementing with iodine after my first meeting with him – more on that in another post, but in the meantime, you can   click here   to read more about iodine deficiency and the importance of supplementing). 

At the end of my five-week treatment plan with Dr. Hino, where I received an intravenous drip of vitamin C, laetrile and DMSO (four times a week), my cancer marker dropped to eight. He told me it was an indication the cancer was no longer active. However, in April I had my first thermography, and the tumor showed active. The thermography, like the blood test with Dr. Hino, showed a strong immune system but it also showed cancer had infiltrated my lymph nodes. I was told my lymph nodes had not been affected but were infiltrated.

Back to Mexico! I went to see Dr. Hino for another blood test. I needed guidance. He told me my cancer marker jumped to 18. He said he didn’t know what could be causing it – he suggested it could be inflammation. The jump in my marker, along with the results of the thermography scared me. I asked him what I should do.  He recommended I reduce the tumor load by getting a mastectomy, which I did in May of 2016.

The oncology surgeon and plastic surgeon expressed astonishments at the biopsy results. My plastic surgeon told me he had never met anyone in my situation where cancer hadn’t spread. The tumor hadn’t gone anywhere. The margins were clean, and just like the thermography showed, my lymph nodes had not been affected. Proof for me that with the right nutrition, my body’s immune system was doing what it was designed to do, heal.

Four months after my mastectomy, it was time again for my well-woman exam. During the consultation with my doctor, she asked me what treatment plan I had decided on as a follow-up. I told her I hadn’t decided; that I was continuing to do what I had been doing. She expressed respect for my healing choices but asked me to please meet with an oncologist to make sure I had all bases covered. Even though I was reluctant, I agreed. Besides, I was a little curious about what kind of post-op treatment plan an oncologist would prescribe. A week later, I met with the oncologist. I left the appointment with a prescription for Tamoxifen and an $800.00 bill.

When I researched the side effects of Tamoxifen and how long I would be on it, I grew weary. The long list of possible side effects wasn’t something I was willing to risk. Instead, I started down the research path again to find out if there was an alternative to Tamoxifen. Not only did I find the alternative information I was looking for, but I encountered a lightbulb moment.

The question I had asked, “what was my trigger?” was answered. I had a leaky gut. Since “all disease begins in the gut” (Hippocrates), it was the link I had been searching. What is leaky gut? A condition that occurs when the gut lining becomes abnormally permeable; meaning undigested food and toxins spill from your intestines into your bloodstream.

Dr. Josh Axe goes into detail about the cause of leaky gut on his website. He also provides guidance around how to heal it. The following information and the above photo I captured from Dr. Axe’s site:

7 Signs of Leaky Gut (1)

  • Food Sensitivities – the onslaught of toxins that enter the bloodstream make bodies more susceptible to antigens in certain foods like gluten and dairy, think IBS or ulcerative colitis.
  • Autoimmune Disease – think fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis – eating gluten can often trigger this dangerous cascade.
  • Thyroid Problems – can lead to hypothyroidism – Hashimoto’s.
  • Malabsorption – nutritional deficiencies include vitamin B12, magnesium, iron and key enzymes that help digest food.
  • Inflammatory Skin Conditions – can cause a slew of skin conditions like acne (milia) and psoriasis.
  • Mood Issues and Autism – shown to cause various neurocognitive disorders (like depression).
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease – researchers from Hungary have recently uncovered that elevated gut permeability is often localized to the colon in people suffering from IBS, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Following is why I concluded my breast cancer diagnosis originated with leaky gut:

At 25 years old I was told by my ophthalmologist because I had dry eyes, I would have a difficult time wearing contact lenses. I have read dry eyes is a symptom of slow lymph flow; digestive issues cause slow lymph flow. 

At 27, I had a major breakout of milia all over my face along with boil type eruptions along my collar bones; one I had to have surgically removed.  Milia looks and feels like little cysts (inflammatory skin condition).  Acne is an indication of digestive issues; malabsorption. Malabsorption occurs when something prevents the intestines from absorbing essential nutrients and fluids, including proteins, fats, and vitamins.  Malabsorption is a sign of intestinal damage; leaky gut. (2)

At 29, the dentist told me I had the beginning stages of periodontal disease. Destructive bacteria from gingivitis can be swallowed and carried to the gut, causing an imbalance. It’s a chicken and egg scenario. If there were healthy gut bacteria, it might have warded off periodontal disease. However, the periodontal disease could have contributed to an unhealthy microbiome.

When I was 34, I developed chronic yeast infections.  At first, I treated the symptoms with over the counter creams like Monistat.  As I got wiser, with supplements like Caprylic acid. Candida is a fungus – its job is to aid with digestion and nutrient absorption, but when there is an overproduction, it breaks down the walls of the intestine, penetrating the bloodstream and releasing toxic byproducts into the body; causing leaky gut. (3

At 38 I was on Paxil for depression – I have since learned depression is a symptom of poor gut health.  Because of the side effects of Paxil, I stopped taking it after six months then continued to go through bouts of depression and just dealt with it. 

At 49, annual blood test results showed I had hypothyroidism.  I started taking a supplement called Nature Throid.  Through research to treat hypothyroidism, I read about the cause: iodine deficiency, but dismissed it.  I wasn’t sure what to do with the information. 

A few years earlier, concerned about my hypothyroid diagnosis, I met with my friend Catie Norris, a naturopathic doctor and founder of  Simply Young. She said I appeared to be vitamin B deficient. I asked her why – the pores on my face were big, and my tongue was engorged. Vitamin B deficiency is another indication of malabsorption.  To treat my hypothyroidism, she recommended that I supplement with sea vegetables which are high in iodine. 

During my annual well-woman exam at 54, my doctor discovered a tumor in my left breast.

Interestingly enough, the first thought that came to mind after my initial cancer diagnosis was my hypothyroidism diagnosis three years earlier.  I wondered if there was a connection.  When I began to research hypothyroidism, I discovered hypothyroidism is an offset of hormonal issues created by digestive problems. (4) Everything, I mean everything, pointed to a severe problem within my digestive track. What causes a leaky gut? To learn more, click here  

The oddity is I didn’t experience any glaring symptoms one would expect with a digestive issue, like cramping, bloating or frequent bowel movements, although I did suffer from constipation, which is hugely significant on its own. And bouts of depression that would come and go, but when I look back over my health history, the symptoms I was experiencing seemed subtle, and when issues arose, I dealt with them.  Or so I thought. 

A few months ago I did a fecal test, and the results revealed I have gut dysbiosis. Gut dysbiosis is an imbalance in gut flora caused by too few beneficial bacteria and an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast, and parasites. The more clinical term is “Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth” (SIBO), and this term refers to the gut flora that crawled back into the small intestine from the colon, where it belongs. (5) Get this; gut dysbiosis is linked to breast cancer! ( 6 ), ( 7 ), (8), (9)

The way I understand gut dysbiosis is it expresses itself in a plethora of ways. I expressed it as leaky gut that led to malabsorption that ultimately led to breast cancer. Someone else may express gut dysbiosis as IBS, ulcerative colitis, lupus, prostate cancer, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriasis/eczema, etc. A gut dysbiosis diagnosis only confirms what I initially thought: breast cancer was the result of a much bigger issue. It means if I don’t heal my digestive track, then my health will continue down a path to metastasis.

The gut dysbiosis test results I received stated it is “very, very common.” Anyone reading this who is struggling with a health issue, you may want to find out if your microbiome is out of balance. The test is easy and painless. I used a company called BIOHM, but you can ask your doctor to prescribe a gut-health test. If you would like to order a test kit through BIOHM, click here,They accept HSA and FSA as payment. I used my HSA. It takes approximately six weeks to get the results.  Use my code AHW10 to receive a 10 percent discount.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical or nutritional professional. I am simply recounting and sharing my own experiences. Nothing I express here should be taken as medical advice and you should consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. To read my disclaimer, click here.