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How I Bucked the System and Beat Cancer

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December, 2016

I recently was a pallbearer for a longtime friend, Willie. He died of cancer, about a year after he was diagnosed with a tumor on his liver. He had all the standard chemo and radiation treatments, as well as surgery, but all the pain and suffering didn't come close to curing him.

We're all familiar with this story, aren't we? By now, nearly every adult and many children know a friend or family member who succumbed to cancer of some sort. My father died of prostate cancer that wasn't caught early enough and spread to his bones. My cousin died of a brain tumor. His sister recently had surgery for a brain tumor. A longtime friend in Lafayette died of a form of leukemia. Other friends and relatives have been treated for cancer with varying degrees of success. We live in a toxic world, full of environmental threats that can cause cancer, and many people have poor health habits that help bring it about. Sometimes it just seems to strike randomly, for no reason at all.

I've had it, too – three years ago. I beat it. It's time to talk about how I did it.

I didn't publicize my experience except to relatives and a small group of friends because it's not my nature to air all the details of my life on social media or to seek sympathy for anything. My friend's passing, though, makes me want to tell my story, with the hope it will help someone.

I refused the standard treatment procedures. I don't believe they are always necessary. In many cases, in fact, I believe the protocol of chemo and/or radiation treatments is a virtual scam, a tool for the industrialized medical industry to drain as much money as possible from patients and insurance companies.

Here's my story, and it's forever sticking to me. Everything is true, including the names.

The beginning of it all: a lump in my neck.

In November of 2013, I discovered a lump on the right side of my neck. I felt no pain and I had no other health issues, so I ignored it for about a week. You know how men can be about these things. When it persisted, I met with my nurse practitioner. She thought it probably was an infection or virus and suggested an antibiotic. I decided to take it more seriously and asked for an MRI. That turned out to be a good thing.

You don't forget where you are when you first hear you have cancer. I was in a studio at a radio station, working on my show when I got the call. It didn't surprise me all that much, but it seemed surreal. I immediately called my wife and apologized, because I knew it was going to be a major disruption for her, too.

My particular cancer was squamous cell carcinoma, which all things considered is one of the best cancers to have if you’re going to insist on having it. Technically I was a Stage 4 cancer patient, because it had begun with a tumor on my tonsils and spread to my lymph nodes, which caused the lump. I was assured, however, it wasn't as dreadfully serious as most Stage 4 cancers; it wasn't as if I had tumors in my neck and on my liver, which would have indicated it had spread throughout my body and could emerge anywhere between. Mine was the result of a virus, HPV 16, which was better than if it had resulted from poor health habits.

I had surgery to remove my tonsils the first week of February in 2014, having missed the fun of that experience as a kid. The surgeon, who seemed like a true pro and a good guy, then directed me toward a cancer treatment center, and I soon met with a team of specialists – an oncologist, a radiologist, a team manager and some other guy whose purpose in life I don't recall. They arrived together like a well-oiled machine, and had their presentation down pat – it was obviously a routine they had performed many times before and could have taken on the road. For a couple hours, at least, I felt like I was in good hands. They recommended the standard treatment for my type of cancer: seven weeks of radiation, consisting of five zaps a week, and three chemotherapy treatments at the beginning, middle and end of that period. And, they all but guaranteed it would rid me of the cancer cells. The success rate was 94 percent.

But.

They also said I would lose my salivary glands, because radiation would have to be sprayed throughout my neck to make sure all those pesky cancer cells were killed off. I would then have dry mouth for the rest of my life, need to carry a water bottle with me at all times and see my dentist four times a year instead of two, because the absence of saliva hastens decay. I also would be more prone to fatigue and infection. But, no worries! A monthly support group was available, and I would be welcome to attend and share my misery with patients undergoing the same treatments.

What was left unsaid was even worse. I soon realized if I took that approach I would have an increased risk of cancer in later years because of all the radiation and poisonous chemo that had been injected into my system. Strange, isn't it, that radiation causes cancer, and yet is used to treat it? Their 94 percent stat is time-sensitive, too. They can't promise cancer won't return five years down the road, and if it does you probably can't have radiation treatments again because the body can only take so much of it.

I went to another doctor at another hospital to get the proverbial second opinion, but he recommended the exact same program: seven weeks of radiation and three chemotherapy treatments. It quickly became apparent I could have gone to every traditional doctor in the country and received the same advice. There’s a standardized treatment for my cancer, and they assume it will work the same for every patient. I’m not even a fan of homogenized milk; I can’t imagine a homogenized treatment program for every single patient would be appropriate.

So.

It didn't feel right to me. I was headed toward doing it their way, and in fact was scheduled to go in on a Monday to be fitted for a mask to wear during radiation treatments. On the previous Friday, however, I called to postpone. The more I had thought about it, the more I realized I was willing to put up with any amount of pain, suffering and expense in the short term, but didn't want to be compromised for the rest of my life.

I also felt I would be turning my back on my family, to a degree. My parents and older brother have owned a natural food store, Georgetown Market (your family-owned natural foods store, conveniently located on Indy's northwest side, 12 minutes from downtown, thank you) since 1973. I know of and believe in the world of natural “medicine,” and have always believed instinctively the body usually can heal itself with the proper nutrients. I also believe traditional medicine is mostly a corporate, profit-motivated enterprise, filled with some great minds and good-hearted people but also no shortage of brainwashed money-grubbers who care more about their bank accounts than their patients. It requires massive overhead to keep all those high-tech cancer centers operating, and the only way for them to do it is with the income from chemo and radiation treatments. A “cure” might shut them all down and put thousands of people out of work.

Therefore.

I decided to follow as natural a path as possible. Although my tonsil surgeon said I could put off the suggested treatment protocol for a few weeks, he strongly recommended I not wait any longer than that. I decided to try more natural approaches, keep an eye on things and wait until a baseball was sticking out of my neck before going the scorched-earth route. Through my brother, I learned of a woman in Indianapolis who is knowledgeable in holistic medicine, and met with her. She didn't push me to refuse radiation and chemo, but said she could help me deal with the after-effects of those treatments if I decided to take that approach. That heightened her credibility in my eyes. But, she also said she had successfully treated other cancer patients without the zaps and poison

Giving blood, again, for testing.

It felt right to me, so I began seeing her twice a week for IV's of high dose vitamin C, DMSO and/or curcumin, and began taking more supplements, per the recommendations of her and my brother. I altered my diet, which already was better than average, and began going to my brother's house for treatments with his Rife machine, a device that's been around a long time and is believed to purify the blood – but, of course, isn't approved by the FDA.

The IV lady also introduced me to an interesting doctor in Cincinnati. He was born in Siberia and was a member of the Russian military, then emigrated to the United States in 1979 and became a member of our military. He has an American doctor's license, but also is a great believer in natural medicine. Obviously, he's a versatile fella, and he took things to another level. I received IV's from him along with recommendations for more supplements. On one of my visits he introduced me to a doctor from Los Angeles who had updated an old technique to filter blood, but my blood was too thick that day – thicker than water, for sure.

Eventually, the Cincinnati doctor arranged for me and another cancer patient from northern Indiana to go with him to Tijuana in May, to see a Mexican doctor who's an expert in IPT – insulin potentiation therapy. It's a low-dose chemo application (about one-seventh the amount of normal chemo treatments, with the impact amplified by temporarily lowering the blood sugar level) that includes other nutrients, which protects internal organs and eliminates side effects.

In the Tijuana hospital, awaiting my IPT treatment.

I know what you're thinking. Tijuana? Actually, the hospital was only a few years old, and was thoroughly modern and professional. The nurses wore white, and the doctor and his staff could not have been more trustworthy. I felt I was in good hands, and was encouraged by their approach as well. Insurance did not cover it, so it helped to save so much money by going to Mexico. I got the best of both worlds there.

My doctors conferring on my low-dose chemo treatment.

The Mexican doctor advised my Russian doctor on how to administer the IPTs, and I was to have four or five more in Cincinnati. First, however, I had surgery to remove lymph nodes at the University of Cincinnati hospital, with a surgeon recommended by the Russian doctor. The lump in my neck had shrunk significantly in recent weeks so I was tempted to forego surgery and maintain my course, but I finally decided to take the safe route and have some nodes removed. If nothing else, a peek inside my neck might provide information on the state of my cancer.

The squad of cancer docs in Indianapolis had said I couldn't have surgery because I had “billions” of cancer cells in my neck, and they would have to cut into my muscle wall to remove them, which would leave my neck misshapen. The Cincinnati surgeon said he could perform the surgery, but recommended I follow the standard chemo and radiation protocol instead. He liked the favorable odds that were given for my recovery. When I said I didn't want to go through life with all those side effects, he told me at least I'd be around to experience the side effects.

That was confusing to me, because he had been friends with the Russian doctor for a long time and also had studied natural medicine. My best guess is that he was obligated to toe the corporate line and not recommend anything outside the mainstream of treatment, being a hospital employee and all. But he did agree to perform my surgery, somewhat reluctantly, on June 4.

I assumed he would merely take out my few swollen nodes and look around for other signs of cancer cells, but he dug in and removed 42 of them. It's called a modified neck dissection. If you want to know the truth, he slit open my neck from near my Adam's Apple to my right ear, folded the skin up over my face and went to work. Just goes to show that it pays to communicate with your surgeon. It all seemed a little over the top to me, but he probably would have done it his way regardless. And his way did provide some comforting information: only two of the removed nodes showed any sign of cancer, and it was contained within them. Nothing indicated it had spread. The surgeon also did a terrific job of cutting on me; my scar is barely visible now. I was told feeling would return everywhere but my right ear lobe, but I have some there. I get a tingling sensation in my neck every once in a great while, but that's the extent of the impact of the surgery.

My neck, post-surgery. Stitches, and a hole for the drainage tube.

I then had the remaining IPTs in Cincinnati, continued IV treatments in Indy, and stayed with the supplements and nutritional therapies. Finally, I had another MRI that fall, and it showed no signs of cancer. The official report used the term “unremarkable” to indicate the lack of cancer in various places in my neck. Personally, I considered it rather remarkable. I haven't looked back since.

This is a somewhat abbreviated version of all that I did. I also drank alkaline water. I had multiple blood tests. I took plenty of supplements, including Protandim. My blood was spun and sent to Greece, from where a report came back that indicated which treatments – both natural and forms of chemo – would be most effective for me. I also tried healing touch treatments and essential oils, courtesy of Carrie, and one customer at Georgetown Market I had known for many years – another physician, in fact – volunteered to hold his hands near my neck and chant a special prayer. Why not? It couldn't hurt, he was sincere in his desire to help and he didn't charge me for it. We met two or three times.

In short, I tried just about anything that seemed to have even a remote chance of helping if it didn't have negative side effects. That included putting garlic in my salads, which I realized later gave me an unpleasant body odor that I couldn't smell, but got the attention of others. Sorry, but it was a small price for them to pay for my recovery.

So, here I am, apparently as good as new, or at least better than I was when I first noticed the lump. I try not to boast for fear of jinxing myself, but I'm proud that I beat the system. I'm also grateful for the education I received along the way, as well as the help and concern of so many people. The treatments never made me feel sick or weak, and in fact my overall health improved during my recovery. I never missed a day of work, other than a few days after my second surgery. Insurance covered barely anything beyond those surgeries, and I wound up spending $15,000-20,000 of my own money. But that was a small price for me to pay to save my salivary glands, not to mention become cancer-free again and reduce the risk of a re-occurrence.

My neck today, almost as good as new.

Looking back, it was a worldwide effort. The IV lady in Indianapolis is of German ancestry. The doctor in Cincinnati is Russian. The visiting doctor from Los Angeles is Asian. The surgeon in Cincinnati and the doctor who laid hands on me are African-American. The doctor in Tijuana is Mexican. There were plenty of Caucasian folks involved along the way, too, including, coincidentally enough, my brother Rick. I should have been sponsored by the United Nations.

I found it interesting that my acquaintances were split about 50-50 upon learning how I was conducting my treatment. Some congratulated me for not being sucked into the vortex of the industrial-medical complex, while others thought I was crazy for not doing what the “experts” recommended. I went off on one longtime friend, Dick, who kept interrupting me while I tried to explain my approach, telling me I had to do what the doctors recommended, that this was serious and I shouldn't mess around with it. I quickly apologized, but I wasn't going to be hushed by someone who wasn't familiar with all I had learned and experienced. Dick has since died, too, by the way. He didn't have cancer, but he was in poor health and he refused to listen to any of my advice on ways to improve or to my suggestion that he make an appointment with one of the specialists who had helped me.

I can't help but think about all the “celebrity” cancer victims. Broadcaster Craig Sager just died of leukemia. Beatle George Harrison died of cancer. Steve Jobs died of cancer. The list is ever-expanding. You know people such as them get the very best of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but it doesn't save them. Once someone is injected with an excessive amount of poison to kill the cancer cells they are likely doomed, because the immune system can only handle so much.

Here's a happier story about a high school classmate, Steve:

About five years ago, he had tumors throughout his body and was given just a few months to live. I know that’s true, because a mutual friend of ours told me about it at the time. Steve had been undergoing chemo treatments, and felt so miserable he had nearly reached the point of not caring whether he lived or died. But then one night when he couldn't sleep he was listening to one of those 3 a.m. radio programs and heard a doctor talking about his dietary approach to cancer – which basically consisted of consuming greens and little else. Steve decided he had nothing to lose, so he bought a juicer (from Georgetown Market, in fact) and began living off greens and little else.

He's fine today.

I'm not going to tell you what to do if you or a friend is diagnosed with cancer. I don't want anyone's life in my hands. I'm not a doctor. I have nothing to sell to you. But I believe people with cancer, or any other serious illness, should take control of their lives, conduct their own research and consider alternatives. Human beings have evolved within nature for hundreds of thousands of years, so it seems logical to me that many illnesses and conditions can be treated within nature. Plenty of information can be found on the internet. Some of it no doubt is quackery, but if you research enough and consult with the right doctor or health practitioner, you can get a feel for what makes the most sense for you. Many books are available, too. The one I liked best was “Cancer: Step Outside the Box,” by Ty Bollinger. It's a good starting point.

It seems logical to me that cancer treatments should focus on strengthening the immune system rather than weakening it, and radiation and chemo obviously weaken it. A bad diet that includes excessive sugar will do the same. To me, treating early stages of cancer with radiation is the equivalent of trying to get rid of termites in your closet by setting your entire bedroom on fire, and then hoping the rest of the house doesn't burn down, too.

(I should add, not all conventional treatments cause serious harm. Some forms of radiation, such as CyberKnife, target a small area and don't affect other parts of the body. I was told this was not appropriate for me, however. And, in Canada they have come up with a method of temporarily moving the salivary glands out of the way so that radiation treatments don't harm them.)

Of all the treatments I tried, I can't tell you exactly what helped and what didn't. I'm sure some of what I did was a waste of time and money. But something worked. The lump in my neck had shrunk to where it was barely noticeable and I had the second surgery to remove lymph nodes after the cancer squad said I couldn't. I'll always wonder if I could have avoided the surgeries altogether, but there's no point in dwelling on that. I've got a lovely scar to remind me of the experience, and perhaps spark a conversation, although it probably isn't visible enough to accomplish that.

Feel free to e-mail me at mark@markmontieth.com or send a message on Facebook or Twitter. I'll be happy to answer questions or pass along the names of some of the people who helped me. I've seen too many people die from cancer already, and others suffer from the treatments they received for it. I think there's a better way. You can go the conventional route and lose your hair and/or a lot of weight and get plenty of sympathy from your friends for all your suffering. And then if it doesn't work out, they'll talk about how courageously you battled. But maybe it doesn't have to be a battle. It didn't feel like one to me. More like a costly educational experience.

There's no guarantee a natural approach will work, of course, but there's no guarantee chemo and radiation work, either. We know that all too well. You have a choice, and you have the means of conducting your own research. You should exercise those freedoms.