A Cancer Miracle in the Hamptons
Summer in the Hamptons, the weather is beautiful, the sky is clear blue, hydrangeas are in full bloom, wild bunnies are in my backyard. Life is great. The beauty of the Hamptons always amazes me. My husband and I have lived here for over twenty years. But for me, the summer of 2014 was to change my life forever.
Late that summer, I experienced unexplained bleeding. After multiple procedures, endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) was confirmed in October. It is well known that breast cancer rates are higher on Long Island than anywhere in the country, but I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer, the fastest growing women’s cancer.
One month later, my surgeon performed a total abdominal hysterectomy at Lenox Hill Hospital in NYC. Remember the movie Sex and the City? I was in the same room where Charlotte had her baby, facing Park Avenue. You have to find the good in a bad situation, though I did not see Carrie (a Hampton’s resident) or Mr. Big.
Two weeks after surgery, the pathology report confirmed advanced endometrial cancer, Stage 3b, Grade 3, which means the cancer spread outside the uterus but remained in the pelvic area. Grade 3 cancer grows fast and has a high rate of recurrence.
I decided to go to MSKCC for my cancer treatment. The oncologist recommended radiation and chemotherapy, as expected. Treatment was determined without any information about my gene mutations or underlying health conditions. Unfortunately, nobody was talking about the fact that my internal body chemistry was the same after surgery as before surgery, fertile ground for cancer to grow, though I did not know it at the time.
In January 2015, right before I was to start treatment, a CT scan of my chest, abdomen and pelvis revealed that my cancer metastasized to my liver, spleen and outer rectum. There were also nodules on my spleen, lungs and outer colon. Within two months, I advanced to metastatic cancer before I had even started treatment. I had THIRTY-FOUR centimeters of new tumors. My condition went from “we think we got it all” to a death sentence. It was a dire prognosis. My chance of living five years was about fifteen percent. But I never let the statistics depress me. God determines your destiny, not statistics.
Before I could begin treatment, a liver biopsy was performed that confirmed my metastasis. My husband was told I probably had four to six months to live. The good news was that I would no longer receive radiation treatment. I thought everything was going to be okay, but now I could die. I couldn’t believe I developed so much new cancer just two months after my surgery. How could this happen so fast? I had never heard of this before. I had more cancer after surgery than before surgery. You can cut out the tumor, but you can’t cut out the cancer.
Even though I was diagnosed with advanced cancer, I never believed it was my time to die. I believed I was going to live. You have to fight for your own life. Nobody is fighting for your life but you. Once your cancer has metastasized, it is believed you will have a poor outcome because the cancer industry has no known effective treatments for metastatic cancer, nothing long lasting. But there are exceptions. And miracles do happen. Had there ever been a cancer miracle in the Hamptons before?
I own a swimming pool. They are all over the Hamptons. I learned a lot about cancer from my swimming pool. Keeping your pool clean and clear is about balance, just like keeping your body healthy is about balance. If you don’t have enough chlorine in the water, you don’t kill bacteria and can develop algae. If you have too much chlorine or a high ph level, you can experience burning skin. In our bodies, if you don’t have the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and other building blocks that make our bodies function, cancer can develop.
I realized that whatever I was doing before my surgery, I was still doing after my surgery. My internal chemistry was the same. The health conditions that led to my cancer were still there. I changed nothing and the cancer came back. I needed to change my internal chemistry if I was to get rid of my cancer. I realized that I needed to radically change my lifestyle if I was going to survive.
The Hamptons lifestyle has several advantages for a cancer patient. You have fresh air and fresh organic fruits and vegetables at local farm stands. The environment is conducive to all forms of exercise. I love to swim and take long walks. Most nights, I would look up at the stars in the night sky in my backyard and talk to God and ask him to heal my cancer. I immediately started living a more healthful lifestyle, including monthly massages at Naturopathica. A healthy diet and exercise helped get me back to my ideal weight, key to preventing a recurrence.
I learned that insulin resistance is a major risk factor for endometrial cancer, along with high levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor. I learned that a drug called metformin would treat my insulin resistance. It is the top diabetes drug in the world and is also known to have anti-cancer properties. Since I had been told I was insulin resistant many years prior, I figured I needed to be on this drug. So I enrolled in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan that added metformin or a placebo to my six chemotherapy infusions.
My next step was to meet with an integrative oncologist, who was recommended by my surgeon when my cancer metastasized. I remember my first meeting. He said that my cancer was growing very quickly but we could turn that around. I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t tell me I had four months to live. I felt so relieved and hopeful. He told me the goal was to make the cancer dormant.
At that initial meeting, my doctor prescribed metformin for my insulin resistance and I immediately removed myself from the trial. I was only in the trial for one month. I learned that the drug was a common drug that my own doctor could just prescribe for me. I was now treating some of the key sources of my cancer growth, the only way I believe you can hope to heal your cancer. Metformin is part of the core list of drugs considered the most “efficacious, safe and cost effective medicines for priority conditions” by the WHO. After all, it was believed I could be dead in four to six months. I would consider that a priority condition.
My integrative oncologist also helped me heal my cancer with complementary treatments like supplementation to boost my immune system and lessen any potential side effects of my treatment. Chemotherapy kills both the cancer cells and your normal cells and destroys your immune system. Supplements help replenish everything that is being destroyed by the treatment and help repair the damage.
I began taking the real metformin after two chemotherapy sessions and remain on the drug today. After one month on metformin and my third chemotherapy infusion, another CT scan showed my tumor surface area shrank from thirty-four centimeters to FOUR centimeters, all without additional surgery. Most of my cancer had just vanished. I was almost in complete remission. It was unheard of really. I formed no new tumors from this point forward.
After three additional chemo sessions, for a total of six, another CT scan showed I was now down to TWO centimeters of tumors. I was offered more chemotherapy, which I refused. It was time to let my own immune system do its job, as it had done all my life.
The miraculous news came in September, three months later. A PET/CT scan confirmed I was cancer-free, in complete remission. Those last two centimeters of tumors were gone. It was a miracle. This was a few days before my birthday, the best birthday gift I could ever receive.
Sometimes I think I’m the lucky one. Not everyone gets cancer after all. Maybe cancer was a warning to change the bad habits that were going to kill me. Scientific studies consider it a “rare” event to achieve complete remission from late stage cancer. I call it a miracle. Cancer forced me to get healthy and saved my life. Sadly, I had never realized how much I was abusing my body. My body woke me up by giving me cancer. It was screaming for me to stop what I was doing. Since I was not listening to the previous health warnings, cancer appeared. Cancer got my attention. Cancer said, hey Linda, since you didn’t listen before, maybe you’ll “wake-up to cancer.” I remain in complete remission today, three years from beginning my journey.