Carol Ann Adams, Breast Cancer Recovery
(In her own words.)
I’m a grade school teacher in Tacoma, Washington. I enjoyed good health, and went for annual preventive exams to make sure that I stayed healthy. In August 1993, at the age of 46, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Before my diagnosis, I was happy, and I thought healthy. I had no symptons or reason to believe that anything was wrong. My husband and I had a great marriage and enjoyed our three wonderful sons, ages eleven, thirteen and fifteen. After my shocking diagnosis, I cried for two weeks straight. I remember wondering if I could ever re-enter society, as I was so devastated with the news.
For years the physical exams indicated I had lumpy, fibrocystic breasts with microcalcifications present in both breasts. The mammogram showed a suspicious clustering of these microcalcifications in my left breast, and wanted to check them. I had two biopsies, both extremely painful. The first was a stereotactic breast biopsy, involving needles plunged into my breast like darts. The second was a guided wire biopsy, a procedure that involved having my breast so tightly clamped in the mammogram machine that I couldn’t breathe well and I began to have dry heaves and almost passed out. The edge of the machine was pressed so hard on my rib cage, that after that painful ordeal, I had a four inch bruise on my chest.
From there I immediately went into surgery so that the microcalcification cluster could be removed for further testing. When I woke up after the surgery, the doctor said he had both good and bad news. The good news was that the microcalcifications were benign, but he also removed a small, 6-8 millimeter tumor that did not show up on the mammogram due to the lumpiness in my breast. The doctor said it looked suspicious, and sent it to the pathologist. I was weak and vomiting from the anesthesia. I was not prepared for all this drama and certainly in shock and denial that this could be happening to me.
Waiting for the results was difficult. The next day, my doctor called me to give me the news that the tumor was indeed malignant. He tried to reassure me: “You’ll get this taken care of; you’ll be just fine,” but, of course, I was devastated. He highly recommended a surgeon, Dr. A. I arranged an office visit.
My mother was visiting at the time, and my youngest son asked her, “Grandma, when my mom dies, will you take care of us?” My mother said, “Of course I would, but your Mom is not going to die.” I was reassured by my mother’s confidence in my tenacity, and I was comforted that she would be there for my children if her confidence was misplaced. But, honestly, I did think I was going to die. I remember thinking ‘How could I do this to my family?’ I remember feeling cruelly zapped with cancer, and being mad at God one minute, and praying, pleading and bargaining with Him the next. I was in total shock and my life felt suddenly completely out of control.
Dr. A. recommended a mastectomy. He said that the type of cancer I had involved three worrisome conditions: lobular in situ, lobular invasive, and ductal hyperplasia. This type of cancer is both bi-lateral (both breasts involved) and multi-focal (many places in the breasts). There was so much involvement that he felt it would be best to remove the breast. He was leaving for vacation for two weeks, and we could schedule a mastectomy upon his return. I asked, “If I want to be cancer-free, shouldn’t I have both breasts removed?” He replied, “Well, if you can handle that.” Truly, if he had had a cancellation that afternoon, I was so panicked that I think I would have had the surgery immediately. I knew I wanted to be cancer free as soon as possible. Luckily, I had to wait.
Now, I am so grateful he left for vacation, although then, I thought, ‘How could he leave me just when I needed him?’ His vacation gave me the critical thinking time I needed to process the diagnosis, and do research to make an educated and informed decision. During those seemingly long two weeks, I reached out, through a network of friends, to seven distinguished doctors and specialists across the country for advice on my situation. While some thought I should have a mastectomy, and others a double mastectomy, they all agreed the surgery was necessary for treatment. One radiation oncologist said, “If you were my wife or daughter, I would beg you to get a double mastectomy.” Deep inside, I just felt there had to be a better way.
Meanwhile, the school year had begun, and I was teaching again. A friend informed me of someone who had cured herself of cancer with the help of an alternative doctor in Greece. This gave me the hope I needed that there were alternatives! I remembered that my husband had a friend with pancreatic cancer who had been told that he had three to six months to live, and that was five years ago. He had outlived his prognosis by adopting a macrobiotic diet. We contacted him, and he suggested that I visit a macrobiotic haven, the Vega Study Center, that then existed in Oroville, CA. I went there for a two week ‘Cancer and Healing’ class and that experience changed my life. I began to understand that the food I put in my mouth could change my destiny, therefore, I should choose wisely to go in the direction of health, not disease. After studying macrobiotics for those two weeks, I began to have hope it could help reverse my cancer.
Previous to my diagnosis, I had eaten the standard American diet, including plenty of sugar, meat, dairy, fatty and processed foods. I simply ate for taste, and to satisfy my hunger. I didn’t think about how important it was to nourish my cells with life fortifying nutrients. I decided to give “food as medicine” a try, and if it didn’t work, I could always have the mastectomy. I realized that surgery would be only a short term solution, and that to be truly cancer free, I needed to change the environment that allowed the cancer to grow in the first place. I ate a low fat, low protein diet of brown rice and common vegetables, like carrots, corn, peas, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage and miso soup, devoid of sugar and all animal products. Within four months, my blood test was in the normal range and there was no indication of cancer in my system.
I began the healing macrobiotic diet nineteen years ago, and it is fair to say that I’ve enjoyed better health, joy and vitality than I did in the in the previous forty-six years. I lost fifty unnecessary pounds at the same time! I have never re-visited the issue of my cancer that every doctor thought I should treat with either single or double mastectomy. I continue to have my yearly physical exam, which indicates all lumpiness is gone. I no longer have mammograms. My doctor says the surgeon still asks about me!
My husband, Ron, has had heart disease, and he now practices a similar diet. He’s on the macrobiotic diet that includes some fish, and I am on the vegan macrobiotic diet. Neither of us take any prescription drugs, and Ron’s condition has improved dramatically.
Until I was diagnosed with cancer, I had taken my body and life for granted. I now live with more intensity, passion and purpose. I am gratefully aware that cancer wasn’t put upon me as I had previously thought, but I did have some responsibility for turning on my cancer genes with my high protein, fat and sugar laden diet. Once I changed that and ate a delicious whole foods, plant based diet my body had the tools it needed in which to heal with God’s grace. I continue to learn more about life, healing foods, and spirituality. I try to live one day at a time and make it a masterpiece. I truly feel every day is God’s gift to me and I am deeply appreciative and very thankful for my healing and my life.