Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The "yet" factor

Here it is September 19. Two days ago, September 17, Britain was celebrating the Battle of Britain turning point of WWII, and I was celebrating my 77th Birthday. For some reason that was a momentous occasion - primarily because I AM ALIVE going on two years soon in cancer recovery.

I just finished reading a Young Adult novel by John Green, The Fault in our Stars, about a 17-year old teenager with cancer. It illustrates so well the mixed feelings, the fear, the fleeting joys, and the family during and after, when terminal cancer strikes. I cried my way through it, because, although definitely a work of fiction, it is so true to life with cancer. And it took me out of my recent complacency by reminding me of the "yet" factor.

When things are going well, and cancer seems nowhere near, it is so easy to be complacent, and forget diet, forget exercise, forget natural healing processes at work. At one point in The Fault in our Stars the oncology team reviewing Hazel's recovery process argue about next steps. One oncologist remarks, "we know from other patients that most tumors eventually evolve a way to grow in spite of [a chemotherapy drug], but if that were the case, we'd see tumor growth on the scans, which we don't see. So it's not that yet." And during my first follow-up at Cross Cancer in Edmonton about two months after the operation in December 2015, the head oncologist mused out loud that since my cancer had not grown, in fact seemed noticeably smaller, the new immunotherapy drug they were planning to prescribe for me would not be necessary yet. There it is again, the YET factor.

But the important thing about the yet factor is that it has mobilized me anew to live one day at a time and be truly thankful for the love of the One who has enabled me to experience the mystery and the miracle of cancer recovery, at least for now. And to get back on track and stop cheating by eating sugar-based food and quickly putting that out of my mind, or by overloading on chemical laden prepared foods and meats and carb-only fast foods. So it is back on track for me.

I also wanted to mention again, as I talked about in my last post, that prolonged cancer operations, where the patient nears death, but then continues in life, can alter the way the mind works. This happened to me in many ways, as I mentioned. Also, if you are interested there are two other books I will mention. There is Wondering Who You Are, a memoir by Sonya Lea that highlights the complete personality change of her husband that became almost impossible to live with, because she was faced with the thoughts and feelings of "this is not the man I married." And, then there is Anita Moorjani's memoir, Dying to be me: My journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing where Anita experienced profound changes in thought after her near death experience and cancer-free recovery and came to truly believe in the heaven of eternity.

I am truly excited to write about my joy in cancer recovery. I am spending two full days per week now as my writing goal. I want to finish my recovery book by December 6, 2017, the second anniversary of my life-threatening 6-hour kidney cancer operation where my Stage 4 Clear Cell Renal Carcinoma was confirmed.

May your week be one of joy and gratitude for each day.

Monday, 4 September 2017

A summer in my healing journey

I am a writer. So -- if I am a writer, where is the evidence? Certainly not on my blog obviously. I must try to correct that. I have had a wonderful summer. Sandra was able to take 7 weeks away from work, so we travelled far and wide - Edmonton/Sherwood Park (Alberta), North Battleford/Chuchbridge (Saskatchewan), Toronto/Ottawa (Ontario), Chicago/Seneca (Illinois), Hayward (Wisconsin). We had a very uplifting 4-day spiritual retreat near Seneca. We spent a weekend at a cabin on the lake near Hayward in Wisconsin and kid-sat two wonderful precocious 8-year old girls, Madison and Lillian. They were the Rug Rats and we Sandra and I were dubbed Tickle Monsters! Unfortunately, the photos I took on my cell are too big for me to post on this blog and I don't have any way of making them smaller. One photo shows Sandra and the two girls during our 6-mile (10km) walk with the two girls one afternoon.

My last CT scan showed no cancer, but a few lymph nodes are still enlarged, which to me means that my immune system is still fighting something at the cellular level. But my health is just fine as far as we can tell. My one kidney is doing fine.

I may have mentioned that my depression went away after my 6-hour cancer operation on that fateful day 06 December 2015. And I may have mentioned strange medium and long-range memory lapses that don't really seem to have any pattern. There are some other noticeable changes in my brain function since that op. Now, are these things all due to oxygen starvation in the brain because of the 6-hour op? Are they after effects of the anaesthesia? Or are they psychological in nature, i.e., my upbeat determination to heal, to redeem past time lost, to find joy, to be more prayerful - spending more time in prayer and meditation, to be spiritually sound?

So here is the list of post-op behaviours that I experience:
  • sporadic memory lapses, medium to long term
  • no depression after so many years suffering from it
  • less prone to procrastination
  • less anxiety
  • fewer mood swings
  • set stronger personal boundaries, and more argumentative (in good ways, so I am told!)
I really must not forget to mention our visit in Sherwood Park with Ray and Tina Der. Ray is suffering from Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers known. A few months ago I recommended that he consult a naturopathic doctor in Edmonton (recommended by our Dr Nicole Redvers in Yellowknife). That naturopath has been giving Ray 3 injections a week of mistletoe extract (different commercial name than my Iscador which is from mistletoe grown on oak treas) from mistletoe grown on apple trees. The research literature often shows that mistletoe alleviates the side effects of chemotherapy. 

Surgical removal of the cancer has been deemed not possible by Ray's oncologist. He is taking chemotherapy (using a new immuno-therapy drug) at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton. I have great respect for oncologists and their knowledge of immunotherapy and radiation treatment, but I firmly believe that natural healing has its place and is often the key to survival. Ray is also taking hyperthermic treatments, and high doses of Vitamin C. He is also minimizing sugar and simple carbs in his diet, and is eating apricot seeds which some claim to be helpful regarding reducing cancer. 

As a result of this complex mixture of western medical treatment and natural healing Ray is regaining the weight he has lost and has a good appetite again. He seems to be winning the life and death battle with pancreatic cancer. And that is wonderful news.

I believe that natural healing by naturopathic means and special nutrition can be most beneficial in cases like mine, where the primary tumour and source of the cancer is removed through surgery (my left kidney in my case). I don't recommend that chemo and radiation be avoided, but rather than natural healing be explored at the same time. In my case, the natural healing took over immediately after the surgery, so much so that I have never had to endure any chemo or radiation.

If any of my readers would like to contact me with questions about cancer or about any aspects of my recovery journey, please feel free to contact me by email at david.malcolm@mcri.ca or text me at 1-867-446-7017. 

Best wishes to you all this wonderful autumn.

Friday, 12 May 2017

A busy start to 2017 - working and writing

I am sorry to take so long to add to my story of recovery. I seem to be getting stronger every day, and I feel better than I have for at least 3 decades! As far as I can tell I am quite cancer free, but will get another CT scan checkup later in the summer of 2017.

During February and March I had the opportunity to do some consulting work for new local tourism businesses in Tuktoyaktuk and in Sachs Harbour. It was my first time in Sachs. March is a beautiful time of year, with the sun returning and the days lengthening at 8 minutes per day or more. I really must post some photos of the North in early spring. I will not try to add to this blog once a week or so.

The biggest news right now is that I tentatively have a writing mentor, Melissa Addey, who lives in the UK - an accomplished published writer who works through an agent. I say "tentatively" because we are trying out the mentor relationship where I send Melissa some of my writing - she reads and critiques and responds with suggestions for improvement.

Of course that news needs to be supported by the announcement that I am working on two books, one is the story of my cancer recovery journey using natural healing rather than chemotherapy and radiation (including the limitations of this approach) to bring encouragement and helpful suggestions to other cancer sufferers, and the other is a young adult novel centered here in the Arctic, with a lot of the action around Mount Thor, a mysterious mountain in Nunavut that is famous for being the highest flat vertical cliff face on the planet, 4200 feet in height. Some of my fictional story takes place underneath that mountain.

This blog entry is a short one. In the next episode I will concentrate on the research behind mistletoe extract injections such as Iscador to battle cancer. Notice I said RESEARCH. There is a lot of hype against naturopathic methods because of ignorance (and drug company lobbying of the medical profession) on the one hand, and inadequate certification requirements on the other. As explained near the beginning of this entire blog, I work with Dr Nicole Redvers in Yellowknife, who is one of the best Naturopathic Doctors on the planet. Sandra and I have trusted her, especially after she literally saved Sandra's life from severe liver problems stemming from food allergies.

I commissioned my dear cousin Aleta Karstad to paint an oak tree, with a sprig of mistletoe, and a haiku I had written about mistletoe as a healer. I have yet to figure out how to copy the photo of the painting and paste it here, but here is the haiku:

Wind and oak whisper
Cherishing the mistletoe
Mystery healer

It would mean a lot more if you could see the painting. Got it! Here it is:

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Personal attributes of healing

Once upon a wintertime! Winter indeed, warm (for the Arctic) at between -6 and -12 C day after day. But with 40 cm or so of snow here in Inuvik within the past 72 hours. And thigh high snow drifts. One local resident says she can only remember one other year when there was this much snow. And of course the winter is far from over. But the sun is coming back. The sun is now up for about 6 hours a day with long drawn colourful twilight at sunrise and sunset.

I recently received a beautiful card from a dear friend in Illinois who wanted me to share about what really keeps me well in body and spirit. And my dearest friend and spouse Sandra agrees with her! I talk about the Iscador, the turmeric/curcumin, avoiding sugar, the good nutrition - but that is only the physical part of my cancer and kidney healing. What about the personal part: attitude and emotion and belief? And the spiritual part?

Because I am a very private person, having grown up as an only child, I don't often share my inmost thoughts and cares and beliefs. Ok, here goes - !

We often read of people who recover from grave ailments simply because they believe they will recover. People in drug trials who are given a placebo rather than the real thing, but who recover simply because they believe they have received a healing treatment. This underscores the importance of attitude.

Right from the beginning, the quite miraculous discovery of my Stage 4 renal carcinoma (chest, abdomen, and lungs) at age 75, discovered only when I was sent south out of the Arctic by air ambulance with a false alarm of heart attack, made me wonder about other wondrous support. Combined with the intervention of a truly exceptionally-gifted surgeon, Dr Adrian Fairey. Why was I still alive, when the surgeon expressed surprise about that fact before the operation, because a tumour was possibly within minutes of stopping my heart?

When I awoke from the anesthetic I had two first thoughts. The first was "I'm still alive." The second was "Nothing matters but salvation" - meaning being entirely ready and willing for whatever God had planned for me. And I began to develop a very positive attitude toward post-operative healing. I knew of my cousin Aleta who had healed from leukemia many years ago with little help from the conventional medical profession. If she could do it, I could too! That was good enough reasoning for me at the beginning.

Following close on the heels of a positive attitude was joy. Joy goes far beyond mirth, happiness, peace, and comfort. It includes all these but transcends them as an integral part of spiritual well-being. I realized that, in whatever time I had left in life I needed joy. 

Those of you who know me well know that I treasure the wisdom recorded in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. I read many, many, authors and books old and new, but none have the depth of meaning contained in the Bible. I prefer the King James Version of the Bible because I love the poetic resonance of old English. 

So, getting back to joy. Every time I read Joel 1:12 I have a profound sense of wonder. After naming several fruit trees Joel says: "all the trees of the field, are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men." From this came a profound personal revelation, that JOY is necessary in order for fruit to be produced. Anything of lasting value in my life, any spiritual fruit, cannot be produced without joy being there at the beginning. So if I want the miracle of healing, I need joy, first and foremost. When I refer to spiritual fruit I simply mean what the writer Paul refers to in his letter to the Christian church in Galatia, Gal 5:22: "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance -." Spirit with a capital "S" means that I need spirit way beyond the spirit of man, I need the Spirit of God. And of course I note that joy is mentioned right after "love" as the preeminent fruit of God's Spirit.

So both in terms of natural and spiritual healing in life, I am kept by the power of God. I can't help but think of the 10th verse of chapter 35 of the book of Isaiah: "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."

In conclusion, I ask myself: what else is necessary for healing to continue? And the only answer that comes is - thankfulness - gratitude. Being thankful to God that I have been given these added days of joy. Which leads to my "new year's resolution" for 2017, that I must show my gratitude by living the last days/years of my life to be a help to others as I journey.

Finally, back to the natural side of healing, my kidney is responding, slowly but surely, to better nutrition and plenty of water in my daily diet. The eGFR rating is now between 36 on the low end and 47 on the high end, much better than a year ago, when it hovered around 32 to 35, and the corresponding creatinine number now usually falls below 150. And I feel full of energy most of the time, not lethargic and tired out. My physical strength is returning, however slowly, and working out at the gym helps, not to mention shovelling snow!! And being virtually cancer free is wonderful, with the only cautionary note being that I need to keep my two enlarged lymph nodes in my chest shrinking to normal size. For that I need to continue to keep my immune system happy and healthy every day.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Cancer recovery reaches a milestone

Great news to report. I hopped on the Boeing 737 and visited the Stanton Medical Centre in Yellowknife on January 9th for a CT Scan of both chest and abdomen to see if there was further reduction of my kidney cancer. The radiologist gave the following final comments the Scan: "there is no evidence of recurrence or metastatic disease." This is really quite amazing when I compare this radiology report with the Feb 3, 2016 report (first one after the Dec 6 op) that still showed my lungs quite riddled with cancerous and other abnormal stuff. Other notes in this most recent report showed that for the first time the two enlarged lymph nodes in my chest are shrinking, still enlarged, but smaller than they were at the last Scan in August 2016.

The visiting oncologist from the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Dr John Walker (named after the famed brand of scotch no doubt) was very pleased with the result at the consultation the next day, Tuesday January 10th, and suggested that the next scan could be deferred for a period of about 6 months. He also suggested that I should return to Edmonton for a consult with Dr Adrian Fairey, my now renowned surgeon.

On Tuesday the 17th I journeyed to Edmonton, including an airline and aircraft change in Yellowknife, for an appointment with Dr Fairey the eminent surgeon the next day, Wednesday the 18th. Dr Fairey was all smiles, said how he always looked forward to seeing me (I am one of his success stories as far as cancer surgery is concerned), and his remarks re the radiology report were: "It doesn't get better than this!" He did caution that renal carcinoma was infamous for returning aggressively at any time. I am glad he said this because my natural inclination at such good news would ordinarily be: Yay, now I can eat chocolate, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and mountains of pasta, and ice cream, and----   and on and on. However, I am going to continue my chosen regimen of daily doses of concentrated curcumin and Iscador injections three times a week, and the minimization of sugar and simple carbs. And also minimizing the inflammation character of wheat in favour of oats, in porridge, in home-made bread, etc.

Although there would be no need for a definite appointment in the future with the oncological  results as they are, Dr Fairy encouraged me to contact him if I noticed any significant changes. He gave me this task because in his opinion oncologists often do not recognize situations that could be better addressed by surgery than by drug or radiation-based cancer treatment. So he wants me to alert him of any new thing happening by way of cancer recurrence.

Since no cancer can now be seen - I want to keep it that way. It is hard though, because I really crave sugar and carbs from time to time. And I am sure that I will be on Iscador injections for the rest of my life. And remember that Iscador is a commercial name of a medically active ingredient of mistletoe. With a reminder mistletoe was used in ancient times as a natural healing agent (see http://www.blackhillscelticevents.org/Events/CelticMistle.htm, for example). Here is a quote from this site: "Mistletoe was known by the Celts and the Vikings as a healing plant upon which superstition and myth had bestowed miraculous healing powers."

Which leads me to my cancer recovery mantra. And that is, that God has given us bodies that have very effective immune systems to fight all manner of disease, including cancer. Therefore we should use all natural means in God's creation to encourage the T-cells in our bodies to target the destruction of cancer cells. Only if natural healing systems fail should we turn to artificial medical means for killing cancer cells such as chemotherapeutic drugs and radiation. I find it amazing that good naturopathic medicine practitioners always recommend seeking help from the medical profession, whereas medical doctors never recommend natural healing. To their credit though, oncologists now are seeking those drugs or healing agents that influence the immune system to target cancer cells, and this healing system is loosely referred to as immunotherapy. Here is a definition taken at random from the Internet: "Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.

Huge amounts of money are being put into immunotherapy, not only in North America, but also in China for example. Part of an extensive chapter in an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) supplement to Science Magazine, Precision medicine in China, December 2016, is devoted to immunotherapy treatment as part of what the Chinese medical fraternity refers to as precision medicine - in this case precisely programming T-cells to target and kill cancer cells.

The western medical system is completely brainwashed by the major drug companies, in the sense that drug administration is included in their medical training, whereas natural healing mechanisms are not. I repeat, I believe that chemotherapy and radiation should only be chosen if natural healing fails. My cancer recovery is a case in point. I have not been able to find renal carcinoma just going away on its own on any of the best medical sites that I visited on the Internet in 2016, including a special site for medical practitioners that a doctor friend introduced me to by giving me his password. Neither he nor the site shall be named!!

So, why me? I believe that my great and wonderful Creator (Isaiah 9:6) has kept me alive, not to strut and keep advertising the personal miracle of recovery, but to set to work to the best of my ability to help others, in whatever ways I can. That is my new-year's resolution for 2017.