Six months ago I found myself sitting in the cafeteria of UC San Francisco Medical Center. Upstairs, my husband Dave was undergoing brain surgery to remove a rather large tumor.
Second time around...
At the age of 50 and father to our 9 year old daughter, Annika, this is my husband’s second bout with cancer. The first occurred three years ago and came completely out of the blue. What we thought was a rotator cuff injury in his right arm turned out to be a rather rare type of bone cancer called an osteosarcoma. Over the next year, Dave underwent an aggressive and very nasty form of chemotherapy which was ineffective in killing the tumor. Then surgery to remove the tumor (and part of bone and deltoid muscle), followed by a second chemotherapy series. The surgery caused the permanent loss of any overhead movement in his right arm which forced him to become left handed in many areas. Recently, Dave described this time saying it left him a "shell of a man." That year was really hard on our family, but we got through it and moved on. We made some changes in our diet, lost a little weight but truly didn’t embrace the cancer. Life goes on. So we Hoped...
A couple months ago in the midst of decluttering our house, Dave started getting headaches and complaining of a mental fog. We both hoped (but feared the worst) that he was just suffering the symptoms of stress. When he could still remember how to drive but not know how to actually get home without a GPS, we knew something was terribly wrong and we finally went to the doctor. A CT scan revealed a large tumor in his brain. His symptoms rapidly got worse and when he was unable to walk, I took him to the emergency room. Within four days, he underwent surgery to remove a very large tumor from his brain. Talk about turning your life upside down!
The brain surgery was successful in removing the tumor and his initial symptoms went away. However, the brain tumor was a meningioma, a rare and aggressive tumor and totally different from the cancer previously in his arm. Additionally, scans taken in the hospital revealed that the osteosarcoma from three years ago had metastasised to his lung and shoulder. Not good...
Both types of cancer Dave has now had are rare and we are finding that oncologists at the top hospitals don’t really have any answers for us. Dave is and has been healthy in every other way and has no history of cancer in his family. What’s more, doctors don’t even ask about diet, environment, or stress levels that may have contributed to creating two different types of cancer. This is frustrating and seems so short sided.
In our search for answers, the nutritionist at our hospital’s cancer center highly recommended Dave begin a ketogenic diet, which we started and have now been on for a couple months. We also came across Dr. Nasha Winters (http://optimalterrainconsulting.com/
) who offers personalized, whole body assessments for people facing cancer. Within the first 5 minutes of our appointment with Dr. Winters, Dave asked his most pressing question; “Can I come back from this? Can I live?” Her answer, “Absolutely!” I can not tell you how amazing that was to hear! Dave lost his father at the age of 3, so one of his biggest fears has been that the same thing will happen to our daughter.
Dr. Winter’s approach is to treat the whole body, not the cancer. She did a comprehensive assessment of Dave’s health in 10 different areas. Dr. Winters went over each of Dave’s 10 “terrain” areas and explained specifically how those factors influence sarcomas and meningiomas. She is the first doctor to talk not only about how we treat the metastatic sarcoma, but ALSO how we keep the brain tumor from coming back. She told us repeatedly that sarcomas in general do not respond well to chemotherapy. BUT that a metabolic approach using the ketogenic diet, coupled with immune therapies and hyperbaric oxygen treatments do work very well.
She said again that we absolutely have the power to stop this cancer in its tracks. And we’ve already started by taking control. That is no small feat. Dave has already lost 35 pounds and cleaned up other areas of his life. We’re taught that you go to the doctor and they fix you. In reality, each person needs to take responsibility for their health, and Dave and I now believe this wholeheartedly. For us, we are reassessing our lives in every way - mentally, physically, and spiritually. We call it, “the new normal”. It's more work, no doubt. And it will take time. And money. And it will require consistant and persistant effort. But he will do the work. And he’ll be better for it. Our whole family will be better for it. It puts the future in our hands.
It is hard to ask for help. Its makes us feel very vulnerable. I struggled for many months just about creating this site. But I’ve recently come to realize our vulnerability is what makes us human and to admit our vulnerabilities in a way makes us stronger. So I’m asking for your help in our journey back to health.
The money raised here will go only go toward paying off our remaining medical bills from three years ago, current mounting medical bills and costs of upcoming treatments. Many of the “healthy” treatments are not covered by insurance with is frustrating because we feel they, and the work Dave is doing, are what will save his life. Dave recently said, “if this doesn’t kill me, it will be the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
Just before sugery
Check in with the Caringbridge website on Dave’s status and our journey toward health. We truly appreciate your help and thank you in advance!