cancer healing journey

I have the obsessive worrying of Woody Allen in a Midwesterners body.  And cancer has been, and is, something that I worry over.  I’ve watched so many friends and family duke it out with the big “C.”  Last month, a friend passed away after a year and a half battle following her stage 3 ovarian cancer diagnosis.  She had surgery, but declined chemotherapy.   Instead she embarked on some alternative treatments:  a stint with Chinese herbs, some energy healing, and a Weston Price inspired diet…yet her cancer progressed.

Our mutual friend, Darcy, who had introduced us, and I were discussing cancer therapies one day.  Darcy, a nutritionist, recommended the book Cancer Healing Odyssey.  I read the book in one day.  It inspired hope with its detailed story of a woman’s battle with stage IV ovarian cancer, a most terrifying opponent.  I was so charged that I had to know if the woman was still alive.  So I called the number on the book and spoke with Sarto Schickel, the author and husband of the woman, Sun Hee.  Sarto and I briefly talked about their healing journey and where Sun Hee was today… alive and living a normal life.  He then graciously agreed to be interviewed for my website.

Sarto would speak in his wife’s stead.  My takeaway from our conversation, is that his wife is in a mental and emotional space where she cannot relive the details of her past battle with cancer.   She’s had to focus only on the present healing space that she’s in.  One cannot discount this need to ‘keep her eyes on the prize’ with focus on moving forwards and healing—leaving behind diagnosis, prognosis, testing… to embrace the symptom free life and the work it demands.

I post this Q&A of my interview with Sarto Schikel author of Cancer Healing Odyssey:  My Wife’s Remarkable Journey with Love, Medicine, and Natural Therapies below, transcribed from a phone interview conducted mid-August 2013.

Sun Hee and daughter, Ari

Sun Hee and daughter, Ari

Healing Hacker:  Please tell us about your wife’s health history six years ago.  The diagnosis?  Prognosis?  What lead you to a diagnosis? 

Sarto Schickel:  It was September in 2007 and Sun Hee had developed a really bad cough. It wasn’t a normal cough, or even like bronchitis­­­­—it sounded horrific. That’s what drove her to the doctor. The doctor listened to her lungs and immediately knew something was wrong.  On the left side he could hear her breathing, but on the right side he couldn’t. He ordered an x-ray and it revealed a large fluid build up on the right side in the chest cavity.  That first x-ray is in the book on page 44.

Two days later they drew some of the fluid out of her chest cavity in a procedure called a thoracentesis.  That gave her some relief.  Just to be clear, the fluid was not in the lung; it was in the space between the lungs and the wall of the chest cavity called the pleural space.  It was putting pressure on her lungs.   In fact, she had a mostly collapsed right lung.  They tested the cells in the fluid and found malignant cells.

At this point, they hadn’t done any surgery.  But, they strongly suspected, based upon a scan in the abdominal area that this fluid was a malignant pleural effusion.  You see they knew she had an ovarian tumor.  And the combination of the two is particularly bad. They suspected that the primary source was in the abdomen and it had spread to the chest cavity.  That meant it had metastasized out of the abdominal cavity, and therefore, was a stage IV cancer… The diagnosis was stage IV ovarian cancer.

The prognosis was that she might live 6 months to a year without any treatment and with treatment hopefully longer.  The doctor’s plan was surgery and follow-up with chemotherapy—with the goal of getting her into temporary remission. The doctor stressed that remission would only be temporary and that the cancer would come back.  With ovarian cancer, they couldn’t keep her in remission on a permanent basis. It was the type of cancer that always seemed to come back.

In fact, there’s a wonderful website put out of Minnesota—and there are very many women sharing their stories of how they are fighting ovarian cancer.  And, while a great deal of them pass away, there are some longer-term survivors. []   Most of those women were on and off chemo.  They would switch chemo and try to get temporary remission, but it always seemed to come back and come back they never seemed to be free of it.   That is what we were faced with in the beginning.

So my wife was scheduled for surgery two weeks after her diagnosis.  And during that first two weeks I said to her ‘why don’t we try the Gerson therapy.’  Because my uncle had used Gerson in 1952 for lymphosarcoma after he was told that he had 2-6 months to live. And he had made a full recovery in a year and a half and lived for another 57 years.   He died close to age 90 in 2009.  Well, because of my uncle’s experience, I had Dr. Gerson’s book in my bookcase.  So, I studied it.   For those first two weeks, we started on nine juices a day, which included carrot juice, carrot apple, and the Gerson green juice, which has like eight different green ingredients.  She also detoxed with coffee enemas three times a day and had vegetarian cooked foods and salads.

HH:  Were you also using the Gerson supplements?

Sarto Schickel:  At that time in those first two weeks we didn’t use any supplements yet.  We cut out oil in cooking per Gerson as well. But we did use some olive oil on salad dressing at that time.

HH:  Talk about what happened in those first two weeks on Gerson.

Sarto Schickel:  That was very interesting. In the book on page 175, I have 11 daily log sheets. We kept track of juices and meals and took notes.  Even at the end of day one I had a note—‘feeling somewhat better, less coughing is positive.’ Even after one day my wife had improved a little bit.

On the third day—‘feeling somewhat better, very little cough and lighter in tone, healing pulse sensation in the abdomen.’ That’s after three days.

After four days—‘…virtually no cough, bloated liquid in abdomen seems to be gone.’  I was also taking note that she had some bloating in the abdominal cavity and that seemed to be going down as well.

HH:  When she had the fluid removed from the thoracic region, did she still continue to cough?

Sarto Schickel:  When she had the fluid removed that was essentially day two—she still continued to cough. They only removed part of the fluid and that did not magically take away the coughing. But it did go away over the period of a week, week and a half, as we did the Gerson protocol.

HH:  I’m just curious, what was the diet and lifestyle like prior this?

Sarto Schickel:   For me I had been on macrobiotic type diet for the last 30 years. For my wife, who is Korean, she liked to eat white rice, salty Kim chi, and sweet pastry things.  And, judging her diet now, she was not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables.  Also the white rice was constipating; and, the meat and sugary pastries were not very helpful. For my wife, once she got diagnosed, she recognized that her diet might be a source of the trouble, so she was quite compliant and happy to make a radical change.

HH:  So it was a radical shift?

Sarto Schickel:   I ate in a more healthy way and I tried to get her to eat in a more healthy way—and sometimes she would… sometimes she wouldn’t.  She tended to go back to her habits.

HH:  So at this point, you’re dong Gerson for 1.5 weeks with the plan of going in for surgery?

Sarto Schickel:   Yes after ten days my wife had a pre-surgical appointment.   The doctor did another check up and chest x-ray. One thing he noted (ten days after diagnosis)—he noted that the abdomen fluid had gone away.  The chest x ray plate looked much improved compared to the 28th of September, the one taken ten days earlier.  The fluid level had dropped quite a bit, which was clear in the x-ray.  She was also less waterlogged if you will.

We were very encouraged. We felt that was evidence that the Gerson-type therapy had been helpful—no cough, the x-ray showed great improvement, and the abdominal fluid had gone down.  And, this mind you, all happened prior to getting surgery and chemo.  We think it’s pretty strong evidence of the Gerson-type therapy.

HH:  It seems with Gerson the response is pretty immediate.  From what I’ve read and heard, people who respond to it—respond within the first two weeks definitely.

Sarto Schickel:   Right.  But, it doesn’t work for everyone.  However, my wife I feel is one of those who it worked for; she showed a significant improvement in only ten days.

HH:  You cover a lot of this in your book.   The reason I ask this is because I think having people know why your wife is not speaking… clarifies things.

Sarto Schickel:  I’m happy to answer it, and by the way I had asked my wife to speak to you, but she is in general shy and private.  She is not comfortable talking about details—but in the interest of benefiting others she has allowed me to write this story and talk about it.  We had an offer to do a TV interview in the Philidelphia area and she turned it down. I wish she would be more open—our story and presentation would be much more effective. But I can’t force her to do it and she is who she is and she’s shy. I tend to be more extroverted and she is more introverted.

HH:  In terms of her health, what testing are you continuing?  Where are you at with all that?

Sarto Schickel:   The last testing we did was in July of 2009.  At that point, my wife’s CA125, which is the ovarian cancer blood test, was in the normal range.  She has since refused to go for any more testing. I’ve encouraged her to go for more follow up blood tests and scans, but she just will not do it.  It’s ironic that she’s taken that position, because prior to this experience she was quite a believer in the medical system.  And certainly, for the initial treatment she went right along with the standard way because she did get surgery and she did get chemotherapy. But at a certain point, once she regained her health she just does not want to go to the doctor.  And she just does not want to get any testing.

It’s been frustrating for me because I like data…and to collect the blood test results to see where she’s at.  But, I researched it, and what I found was there have been studies of people who have had ovarian cancer.   The study compared ovarian cancer patients that got constant testing with ones that don’t do any testing and just wait for symptoms to recur.  They found that there’s virtually no difference in longevity whether they test or don’t test and wait for symptoms to reappear.

And for my wife, you know, from her point of view her cough has not come back, the bloating in the abdomen has not come back, the shortness of breath has not come back… So she’s not planning to test unless she has a symptom. If she had a symptom she would go back and get testing.

HH:  When she tested back in 2009, was she cancer free?  What was the result?

Sarto Schickel:    I think certainly from the point of view of the blood test that would have indicated she’s in remission.  On page 82-83 of the book, the blood test—the last test was June 11, 2009; the CA125 was 26.8, which is in the normal range.

The scan that she did, is somewhat subject to interpretation.  It didn’t absolutely state that she was cancer free.  Our standard doctor didn’t really interpret it this way.   His feeling was… in general it looks fine and lets do a follow up some months or a year from now…  However, I can’t remember what he told us at that time.  Her Gerson doctor, Dr Hernandez, thought the scan in 2009 was a really great result.   He felt that it indicated that she was in remission.  But I think you’d actually have to read through the report. Personally, I think it’s subject to interpretation.

What I say is, at minimum, she’s recovered to a remarkable degree.  People can argue is the person cancer free 100% or not.  Is there a residue of something?  The answer is that we don’t know for certain.  But what we do know is she’s fully functioning, she has no symptoms, and she’s living a normal life.  I never say she’s cured, for the record.  I always say she’s recovered to a remarkable degree.

HH:  What is her position on the testing?  Why does she not want to do follow up tests

Sarto Schickel:   I think it’s partly that she’s just happy that she’s functioning normally and she doesn’t feel the need for tests.  Normally she would go see her doctor when she had some kind of symptom develop, she had a cough or cold or this or that—she would go to the doctor.  I think going through the chemo was such a trying experience.  I think she’s literally afraid that if she goes back and if the CA125 is a little bit out of the normal range, or even a lot, she’s going to freak out and her doctor will recommend some strong chemo. And she’s afraid she’ll end up taking that chemo and that… she’s going to die.  She’s got so many fears that that could be the pathway that she’s afraid to test—that it will open the door to that pathway.  Now to you, or I, that may seem like an irrational response; but she is the patient.  I can’t force her to get the tests.  Chemo was pretty traumatic.

She would have chemo, be ok for a few days and then she’d be wiped out in bed for a week and half—then she’d get better and they’d hit her with it again.  Her hair fell out eventually.  And it was a very traumatic experience.  Even after the first eight sessions, the doctors wanted maintenance chemotherapy.  But she turned that down.  At that point we went to the Gerson clinic in Mexico and we got more fully into the therapy.  And she was on that for 2-3 years.  Once you get to a certain point of recovery, you’re just not anxious to go down that road again.

She’s grateful to be alive, I’m grateful, the kids are grateful.  But we’re all still concerned.  I mean the history of this thing, even for women who go into remission is that it does come back.  So is she going to be one of those women that it comes back, it’s possible.  We don’t think the Gerson and macrobiotic diets are an absolute protection against that.  We think it’s helpful and that’s why she does that.  We think she’s improved her chances of preventing a recurrence. And that is why she is so careful about her diet.

HH:  What is she currently doing?  Current protocol?

Sarto Schickel:   Well she follows a combo of Gerson and macrobiotic.  We created a name for that which we call Paxdieta prevention plan. You can see the full diet on page 202.  You can see that is more or less what she’s being doing for years.  She eats vegetables, large salads, some fruits, some protein dishes like beans or non-fat yogurt, or white fish or salmon, but she doesn’t go heavily into that.  She currently takes about two juices a day, some teas, and spring water.  She doesn’t eat any canned or processed foods, or meats, or milk, sugared cakes… or salt except for the salt that is in miso.  She’s cut out a lot of what I would call the commercial foods. She really eats foods that grow from the ground primarily, with exception of fish and yogurt.  It’s getting back to more natural foods.  You know some foods like oatmeal are minimally processed.  But it’s not like commercial off the shelf bread, where they’ve added 30 ingredients, most unpronounceable, to extend its shelf life.

HH:  Back to Gerson Protocol, how do you handle the water?  I know water with chlorine and fluoride for bathing are no-no’s on Gerson. 

Sarto Schickel:   For drinking we have a source of well water.  We go to this well and fill up many five-gallon drums and boxes full of gallons, and I bring back 120 gallons a time.  We use that water for drinking.  Now it seems a little crazy to do that.  But another way would be to get a distilling machine and make our own distilled water.  In the future we may switch to that.  But this particular well water is pure and delicious—and we like it and use it.  But we definitely don’t drink any city water.

HH:  Can you talk about why wrote the book and what you want to achieve with it? 

Sarto Schickel:   The purpose of the book is to bring hope and essential knowledge of alternative healing methods to those who need it, to save lives and get people on the trail to good health.  And that’s really it in a nutshell—I’ve had an altruistic streak in my life.  Even 30 years ago, when I started macrobiotics, I used to buy the books and give them away to people because I thought it was just such an amazing thing.  At that time, I had digestive trouble and my problems went away in about five days.  I was so stunned at how effective it was that I became a bit of an evangelist about it.

I think the book is in that same mode, but this time we are talking about Gerson and macrobiotic and the Paxdieta combination.  They are all very healthy and beneficial and they can solve a lot of problems.  I’m not saying that they can solve all cancer problems, but these types of diets, can be very helpful for heart disease (because the arteries on this more vegan type of diet tend to clear out over time), diabetes, digestive ailments, like Crohns, diverticultis, and ulcerative colitis—and they are very helpful for cancer and obesity.  On page 202, I call that a one page health revolution if the American people were to follow a program like that, in a serious way. For some people there is access to food issues and difficulty buying organic—but even if you are buying non-organic vegetables and fruits, it is still way better than buying processed and commercial foods.

HH:  I remember reading Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy by Dirk Benedict.

Sarto Schickel:   Yes, I read that one.  The one that made an impression on me is the one called Recalled by Life, by Dr Anthony Sattilaro, a Philadelphia doctor who had testicular cancer that had spread all over his body to his bones and all over.  He was told it was hopeless, and nothing more the conventional doctors could do for him.  He went on a macrobiotic diet and within 14 months he was cancer free.  I was so impressed.  That is what made me try the macrobiotic diet.  And within five days my digestive trouble was in control.

However, when my wife got sick, because my uncle’s experience with Gerson was so positive, I got her into Gerson therapy.  But then during chemo my wife used a more macrobiotic type approach with just three juices a day.  Just a limited juicing program.  It was hard during chemo to do ten juices a day.  So during chemo, it was more macrobiotic with a limited Gerson juicing influence. And once she was done with chemo, she went to the Gerson clinic and for 2-3 years she was on the program.  But she kept bringing into it the miso soup and the brown rice.  So we kind of dance between the two:  Gerson and macrobiotics.

HH:  What do the allopathic doctors say?  How do they explain where she is? 

Sarto Schickel:   We haven’t been back to them.  We did have a few conversations with them at certain points, or we attempted to talk about diet and what we were doing.  But the conversations didn’t go very well.  So we just decided ‘you know, we’ll take from the conventional doctors what we can, we’ll take from the alternative doctors in Mexico what we can and we’ll be the integrators of it all.’  So we haven’t had extensive conversations with them and we haven’t been back to see them since 2009.

And I did explain in the book a conversation with an assistant surgeon who said that the fluid drop that happened in first 10-day-period was rather surprising.  She hadn’t seen that kind of result before. And that was in the first 10 days before the surgery.

I thought that was interesting. And at that time, I’m not sure she even knew that we were doing all this alternative juicing and enemas. We were just looking at an x-ray together and she said it was very unusual.  So I took that as a confirmation of the benefits of the Gerson therapy.

At the same time that I’m an advocate of people looking into Gerson and macrobiotics.  I’m also quite respectful of what the conventional doctors did.  First, they successfully and accurately diagnosed Sun Hee.  That was very helpful because once you know the kind of battle you are facing, you can deploy the kind of forces you need.  So if we hadn’t had that, we would have been in a much weaker position.  Second, the surgery, by objective standards seemed to be very helpful because her CA125 went from 3,745 down to 366 after surgery.  So it was a 90% drop in CA125 as a result.  And then the chemo, although I didn’t like it… I was trying to persuade her to delay it and try to solve the problem with Gerson approach.  But she did take it.  And that brought her CA125 down from 321 to about 30.  So the chemo seemed to be helpful certainly in the short term.  I give credit there.  It’s not easy for me to give credit to chemo; it’s such a difficult thing for a person to undergo.  But on the other hand, and this is my frustration in this whole area, there really haven’t been studies done.

We were taking the conventional stuff and mixing in the alternative stuff, and you call that integrative—but there really haven’t been a lot of studies done.   It would be nice to know, what if there were two groups of patients:  one took only conventional medicine and one took conventional medicine plus Gerson or macrobiotic.  And it was a serious study to see which group turned out the best.  If the combined, integrative approach proved to be significantly better, then it should be recommended for all patients.  But those studies have never been done because they are very expensive.  And the people in the alternative world, they just don’t have the money and the resources to do those studies.  And that’s really unfortunate.

HH:  I think it’s a money thing.  But also, doctors, when they are going through medical school, they’re not really trained in nutrition. 

Sarto Schickel:   Right, my understanding is that it is one or two hours.  And, I don’t mean credit hours.  They cover nutrition probably in one or two lectures.  It’s just not… using food as a healing modality is just not taught.  There is one area, I mention in my book, where I think that the diet aspect is even more clear than in cancer—that is Crohn’s disease.

Yes, in cancer diet helps, but it’s not a magical cure.  But in something like Crohn’s disease, a medically incurable illness, people who use modified and macrobiotic diets have stellar results.  I know this because I have friends who are macrobiotic counselors.  And they are able to help a high percentage of people make apparently full or near full recoveries.  The conventional doctors use drugs to suppress it or use surgery if it gets bad enough—to remove all or part of the large intestines.  That is really unfortunate, if there is a good dietary solution, which I believe there is for Crohn’s disease.  I can’t say it’s unethical or immoral, because frankly I think the doctors are unaware that there are good dietary solutions.  But if they were aware, and if it were proven with proper testing, then they would be obligated to recommend these dietary solutions.

There’s a big divide unfortunately between the world of conventional medicine and the world of all these alternative holistic areas.  Patients are torn between the two and there’s not that much going on in the integrative realm.  It’s beginning a little bit; some hospitals have small departments called integrative medicine where they’re attempting to piece these two worlds together.  But it’s not really happening fast enough, as far as I’m concerned.

HH:  Do you think it’s solely that the doctors’ don’t have knowledge or understanding of the nutritional field?  The protocol you describe in your book, with the juicing and enemas and food preparation, is an extensive time and effort investment.  Do you think it’s also that for the patients living in this world now… that it’s too much?  The protocol you followed, that’s a full time job.

Sarto Schickel:   Yes, when you’re on the full Gerson therapy, it’s pretty much a full time job.  So, that is an issue and not everyone can pull that off.  And not everyone has the interest.  The alternative stuff takes more work and the patient has to be more involved and proactive.  And frankly, a lot of people do simply want to show up and get an injection, get chemo… get a pill … have surgery… and essentially have the doctor solve the problem for them.   In fact, this brings me to a chart I have in the book–—the integrative healing paradigm…a pyramid shaped diagram. In the middle it has the medical program, the green is nutrition, the yellow is the detox, and the blue is the mind and spirit.  These three are the holistic elements, things that the patient and their family can do in the home.  To the extent that they do more of those holistic types of things, there is less and less medical program needed.  But unfortunately, for many Americans they say ‘hey I’m broken, let the doctor fix it.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll get more medical program.  If that doesn’t work, even more medical program.’  And they never really face the dietary and lifestyle issues that are causing the problem themselves.

HH:  You almost can’t even call macrobiotics or Gerson a diet.  They’re more of a lifestyle. 

Sarto Schickel:   To some degree they are.  Particularly in the beginning it feels that way, but I think eventually you can integrate. Because I know when I first got into the macrobiotic diet I was so into it I carried my own food.  But now when I go out, I can pick and choose wisely. I can usually find something to eat that more or less satisfies my dietary desires and my program.  But it’s a bit of a lifestyle; so therefore, you can feel a bit isolated.  You know when the family gets together and everyone is having ice cream, we don’t eat ice cream.  When everyone is eating hot dogs, we don’t eat hot dogs.

HH:  We go through that with food allergy.  We carry all our food.  And on a certain level it is an isolating experience.  But on another level, what we’re eating is usually a lot better than what everyone else is eating.   And we are used to it.

Sarto Schickel:   Yes.  I’ll give you an example.  Before Sun Hee got sick and we traveled, we would stop at the typical rest stops and the kids would want this or that—all the processed food. Now we just carry fruit with us, make a few sandwiches, hummus on whole grain bread, and vegetables and have some spring water.  We just pack that before we go and eat it on the way. We don’t have to use the commercial rest stops.

So there are ways to do it.  It’s really all about getting closer to nature.  Eating food that grows out of the ground and not from a commercial enterprise that is processed.  It’s hard. You know 100 years ago Americans ate…even if they ate meat it was from a cow that grazed on the hillside on grass, the chickens were running around in the yard… and people grew their own vegetables.  We didn’t even know the term organic because everything was organic, there weren’t all the chemicals… and you know it was just a much more natural type diet.  There wasn’t the obesity problem and maybe one in thirty got cancer.  Now there’s a huge obesity problem and one in three gets cancer and it may even go to one in two getting cancer.  It’s a real degeneration in the dietary culture over the last one hundred years.

However there are signs of hope, I mean the natural food movement. The evolution of big organic stores and commercial enterprises that are bringing healthier fare.  Unfortunately, it’s now becoming a kind of class distinction. I notice the wealthy and more educated shop at places like Whole Foods.  And the poorer and more uneducated shop at the more regular commercial grocery stores.   And it’s partly the pricing.  They can’t afford Whole Foods.  But at least there is some movement back towards sanity and better health.  Then that affects the agriculture, there is more demand for organic crops and animals, then there are more organic farms cropping up around the country.  But we have a long way to go.

HH:  We are going back to the beginning but now we have to take out all the garbage that we’ve put into the soil and…

Sarto Schickel:   The soil can heal over time.  Back in the 60’s and 70’s some of the great lakes were greatly polluted and then stricter regulations came in, and the lakes have somewhat regenerated themselves.  So nature has a great regenerative capability, but we’ve got to get the pollution and mankind’s destructive tendencies under control.  And then nature has a great healing power.  Not only individually for a person, but the whole ecosystem has the ability to bounce back.  But I think that is the challenge going forward for humanity—to be healthy personally, and for the family and for society and to not wreck the environment and let nature heal itself.  Global warming is a big issue and as the population grows larger and larger, the demands get greater.  I think we’ll reach a plateau where the population doesn’t go up anymore and that will be good.  The ecological issues for the planet are very significant.  And the ecological issues for the individual person, which is their own dietary system, are very important.

HH:  How about your daughters, what is their diet like? It can be challenging to get children to eat healthy. 

Sarto Schickel:   Well they eat maybe around 65% to 70% the healthy way and the rest is more regular fare.  It depends on how much they get out into places where they have access to more ‘normal’ or ‘regular’ food.  Also, depends on how much my wife gives in.  I always tell my wife ‘just cook what you are cooking for yourself and just feed it to the kids.  Don’t do anything special for them.’  My wife wants to please them, so she gets foods that the like. She has a tendency to make healthy food for herself and feed somewhat less healthy food to the kids because that’s what they like.  And I’m always battling against that.  But in general, I’d say they get 65%-70% of the healthier food.

HH:  How old are they?

Sarto Schickel:   My younger daughter is 14 and the older is 18.  She’s going off to college.

HH:  What perspective shift or insight can you give to someone looking to become a more self-driven patient?  And what is that?

Sarto Schickel:   Education and personal experience.  When a person reads more… reads books about people who recovered…and is focused on attempting to make changes then they start to gain experience.  I think the experience factor is so important.  Because 30 years ago when I tried the macrobiotic diet, first of all I read a book. The book gave me the idea to change my diet. So it started with education.

Then I made changes.  That is personal experience.  Then I found, low and behold, my digestive system works much better. That personal experience confirmed I was heading in the right direction. I think those are the key factors. Getting the knowledge and the education, reading some sort of book or getting on the trail… that is sort of the first mental shift that gives you the idea to try it.  That is critical.

That is really why I wrote the book.  A book inspired me. And I thought this book could be inspiration for other people.  They read the book and they think ‘she did it. We can do it too.’

And also associating with other people in that healing food group.  Associate with macrobiotic or Gerson counselors or people into raw or vegan—get into the mix with others studying and living this type of lifestyle.   And that will help.  Try not to isolate yourself in the conventional world.  It takes a lot of desire and a certain amount of faith and belief, ‘that yeah, if we do this, it might help.’  Because some people say ‘I just don’t believe this. My doctor said that diet doesn’t have anything to do with cancer, or heart disease, I can eat whatever I want.’ As long as they have that attitude they’re never going to get started.  So it’s a process.

HH:  It sounds as if you didn’t try a lot of treatments.  Try and fail and discontinue and try again.

Sarto Schickel:   Well no, really the one discontinuing thing we did—well we shifted.   In the beginning we used the Gerson, before the surgery.  Afterwards, during the chemo period we used the macrobiotics.  Then we shifted to the Gerson.  Then we shifted to the combined approach we call Paxdieta.  So it was a series of shifts to the left, to the right, to the middle, etcetera.  Although she did decline the conventional, what they call maintenance chemo.  So that was a discontinuation of the conventional medicine if you will. That was a choice my wife made. And she was pretty clear about that.  She didn’t want to do more chemo.  The first eight treatments were so traumatic; she didn’t want to get more.  And that goes back to your earlier question about why she doesn’t want to get any more testing.  She’s just afraid that it will draw her back into that whole world.

The issue of discontinuing a treatment. Sometimes people might ask me about, ‘we’re doing this and thinking about shifting.’  I don’t generally tell people ‘you should do this or that.’ All I can do is tell them ‘this is what my wife did. And this is what I might do if I were in your situation. But I don’t know what you should do.  You need to consult with your doctors and your holistic healers … and you need to figure out whether it’s right for you to discontinue any, particularly the conventional treatments, it’s better to have the doctor involved in that decision.  But unfortunately, a lot of times, there isn’t a good interface between the conventional doctors and the holistic healers who may be involved.

It’s difficult.  But in general, at minimum, you can do both.  If your doctor’s insisting and you believe you can benefit from chemotherapy, it doesn’t mean you can’t improve your diet.   Because you still have to eat and drink something.  Why not eat and drink the healthy stuff, rather than the unhealthy stuff.

HH:  This sends me back to your wife’s protocol.  Is she currently doing any herbs or supplements?

Sarto Schickel:   No.  She did the Gerson supplements for a couple years and then over time, she slowly began phasing them down.  And at this time, she does not do any supplements.  But, she did use them for two, almost three, years.

HH:  Have you been back to Gerson?

Sarto Schickel:   No, we have not gone back to Mexico.  And if we had done any conventional testing or course we would have shared that with the Gerson doctors.  But we haven’t done any testing since July of 2009.  We keep in touch with them.  We’ve given them a copy of our book.  They like it.

HH:  You mention in the book speaking with some other ovarian cancer patients who used Gerson.  Can you give some details there?

Sarto Schickel:   We did.  That was very early on in the research period.  I called the Gerson Institute.  They gave me names of several people.  We also met with a macrobiotic counselor.  He gave me the name of at least one person who had used macrobiotic diet.   We called these women.  In general, I would say that most of the Gerson patients I talked to seemed to have done the surgery.  In fact, I believe that had all done the surgery.  And most of them then went directly into Gerson therapy.  They skipped the chemo.  That is what most of the ones that survived did.  Some of them did chemo, but most skipped.

What was impressive is that the Gerson Institute gave me five or six names.  And I talked to these women. There was one lady in England, now it’s coming back to me.  And I discuss it in the book.  Her name is Evelyn.  And she had done surgery and chemo… then I believe it came back… or it wasn’t ever completely gone.  She went to the Gerson clinic, and then everything improved.  She went into remission.  It’s been for her now, I think about fifteen years.   She does a protocol a little similar to my wife.  I think two or three juices per day and one Gerson detox, coffee enema per day.  That is like my wife’s current protocol: two or three juices a day, vegan food, and one coffee enema.

There’s a lady down in Florida that I talked to.  But I can’t remember the details.  But they were all confirming that Gerson therapy helped them.  That was very reassuring.

While I think people should look into these things.  I don’t want to give the impression that if you do this, you’re guaranteed a result. That’s just not true.   Because the cases you hear about are the successful cases.  You’re not hearing about all the failed cases.  Now as for people that tried alternative stuff and failed—you simply don’t know whether they got on it too late… Or if they didn’t follow it properly… or in some cases they got on it and it still didn’t work.  I don’t think there are any absolute guarantees.  Cancer is a difficult challenge.  People have to work their way through it.  The key point that I hope comes across in my book; I want people to realize that Gerson and macrobiotics are definitely not quackery.  Some people have tried to present it as quackery.   Both of them are very helpful, healing types of diets.  If someone sells it as an absolute guarantee you can say that’s a quack statement.  But they are helpful diets.

HH:  It sounds like your family was open to Gerson because your uncle had such a positive experience.  Can you talk about that?  Did he follow Gerson for his entire life after that?

Sarto Schickel:   His name was William Schikel.  He was an artist and designer.  He lived in 1952 in Loveland Ohio.  In fact there is a book written about his work put out by Notre Dame Press.  It’s called Sacred Passion the Art of William Schikel.

Bill, had lymphosarcoma in 1952.  He was told that it was hopeless.   Someone handed them an article from a magazine about Dr Gerson.  They read it and were impressed.  They went away for a week, prayed on it, thought about it.  They ultimately decided to put their trust in Dr Gerson.  Partly, because there wasn’t any good alternative.  So they traveled to New York City, met with Dr Gerson.  He told my uncle that he couldn’t guarantee anything, but that he had about 30% good results in cases like his.  And of course, my uncle was very happy.  He went from feeling like there was 100% certainty of death, to now having 30% chance to survive.

There was at that time, I think, a Gerson clinic in upstate New York.  But he couldn’t afford to stay there.  So he just got the instructions from Gerson and went back home.  They lived on a little farmstead in Ohio.  So, they just started doing the protocol.  And his wife, my aunt Mary, was very diligent and helpful… very dedicated to him.  I think she did a lot of the work preparing everything.  And over a year and a half, he recovered.  His symptoms disappeared.  I don’t know what testing he got to prove he was in remission.  I’m not sure he did further testing.  But all of his symptoms of pain and discomfort he had disappeared.  He went on and lived for 57 more years.  He was 32 when he got sick and he was 89, almost 90, when he died.

So that story which I knew so well, gave me a lot of confidence.  I didn’t have to worry about finding that someone claims Gerson is quackery on the internet.  I knew that was not true. I knew Gerson was solid.  It helped my uncle.  We were not afraid to try it.  In fact, we had my wife on nine juices a day and the Gerson detox program, literally the day after she got diagnosed.  And that’s very unusual.  Usually people waste a lot of time researching and maybe six months later… two years later… they suddenly come across this alternative and meanwhile a lot of damage has been done.
HH:  Did your uncle then follow the Gerson protocol for the rest of his life?
Sarto Schickel:  No, he didn’t.  I think he was on it for a couple years.  Then he went on a modified program for a couple more years.  Then he went to a fairly normal diet.  But I would say that their diet was healthier than the average American. But he did eat meat again.  He would even eat a little bit of ice cream.  I know they used to eat a lot of rice and lentils, and salads… so they did eat healthy.  But they did embrace meat and sometimes a little dairy and so forth…

HH:  When you say your wife is engaged in a normal life, does that mean she is engaged in all the activities she was prior to diagnosis?

Sarto Schickel:   Pretty much.  Although, she used to have a business that she worked in and that has pretty much phased down.   Because she needs to rest a little more and she needs more calm and quiet.  She is mainly focused on taking care of the children and her own dietary needs… cooking meals for the family… taking the kids to school…or picking them up. But she goes to church, goes grocery shopping, and takes the kids to music classes all the things a mother would do.  But she does need more rest probably than she had in the past.

HH:  In people I’ve spoken to, for example, one woman who is a forty year terminal cancer survivor  said it took her eight years to be cancer free.  The healing process can take years.

Sarto Schickel:   Yes, I think so.  Because I know initially when my wife, particularly because she’d gone through the chemo, during that period and shortly thereafter she couldn’t even go to the grocery store.   She couldn’t even drop the kids off at school.  She was housebound.  But over time, she’s regained—she’s almost fully back to 95% of normal.   And it’s interesting, her blood results, the last ones we saw—you know the platelets and the white blood cells, red blood cells—they had restored themselves into the normal range.  But they weren’t where they were initially before the chemo.  The chemo had done some damage to her blood values.  And while she has recuperated some, or most of it, she hasn’t regained all of it.  So I think that is a lingering effect of the chemotherapy.

HH:  I think, as you’ve said, that nature will bounce back, people will bounce back… maybe that’s a ten-year bounce back.

Sarto Schickel:   It’s possible.  You know we are hoping that she goes to 90-95…whatever is possible for her.  We are very grateful for the six years we’ve gotten.  In the beginning, we were taking it a day at a time.  Now, we are taking it a year at a time.  And we really have a desire; this is my motivation for writing the book… I have a great desire to help other people get on the trail.  I see people suffering and dying and never getting access to this kind if information.  Or if they find the information, there are people telling them its quackery and things like that. Which is definitely not true.  It’s really… I met an 11-year-old girl who had Crohn’s disease.  She was in such bad pain.  No matter what they did, they couldn’t stop the pain and rectal bleeding.  Finally, in desperation they suggested removing the entire large intestine and giving the girl a colostomy bag.  At that time, the mother came across my friend’s book, Controlling Crohn’s Disease the Natural Way

She read that book.  She said ‘Oh my God, there’s a solution.’  She went and got on that trail.  Found a macrobiotic consultant, got some cooking classes, and started on that protocol.  And within six months, when I saw her, she was 90% recovered.  She did not have to have that disfiguring surgery, which would have scarred her life forever.  And sometimes people even die of Crohn’s Disease.

This whole dietary area is one that really should be… these stories need to be told.   I was actually involved in helping get that book organized… and it’s very rewarding for me when I hear about someone who was in deep trouble and they got on the road and made a recovery. I’m hoping my book can inspire a lot of people.

Buy the book here: Cancer Healing Odyssey: My Wife’s Remarkable Journey with Love, Medicine and Natural Therapies