Author: Judy Mackenney
Seven years ago, this January, I began the greatest challenge of my life. My husband, Larry, our oldest daughter, Lauren, and I were sitting in an oncologist office at a prestigious cancer hospital in Boston, being told I have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, an inoperable, metastatic, incurable disease of the lymph system. It would develop to stage 4 in a few weeks! The tumor was situated on the right side of my abdomen, surrounding other organs. Lymph nodes were swollen on the left side of my neck and cancer cells were found in my bone marrow. We were numb.
CANCER! The diagnosis sounded unbelievable to us. My mind was saying, “There must be some mistake,” but my heart knew the myriad of tests I had been through had uncovered a life-threatening condition. The thought came to my mind that God never gives you more than you can carry. I prayed he would give me the strength to rise above my health challenge. We had so many questions. Good health had always been so important to me. I never smoked, drank minimally, was really sick, and ate a healthy diet.
The doctor called me “superwoman” when he learned of my lifestyle. I was busy juggling the activities of a family and managing my home business as a fashion designer. I was a nurturer and saw to the care of both my parents. My dad had died of heart disease 7 years earlier after several years of illness, and my mother had died of breast cancer, like her mother, the previous January.
At the urging of the oncologist, I agreed to take oral chemotherapy. I remember seeing fear frozen on many of the patients’ faces in the clinic waiting room, everyone trying to make sense of their afflictions, desperately seeking a ray of hope and a miracle cure.
It was only a matter of days before my body and soul were telling me that the chemicals were not right. I watched my body swell and contort with sickness as I continued the oral chemotherapy. I donned my old maternity clothes. Nothing else fit. What does one do? Buy a whole new cancer wardrobe? I was so uncomfortable and bloated through my abdomen and my stomach was burning with pain. I had to sit upright in bed to sleep at night. I was exhausted, my nervous system a mess. I had difficulty walking, and I developed ulcers. The side effects were devastating. The doctors gave me numerous prescriptions and elixirs to take care of my digestive tract, but nothing seemed to work.
One of my dreams was to vacation with friends in Aruba again. In May, for my birthday, four of our favorite couples chipped in and gave Larry and me an all-expense paid trip to join them in Aruba that October. When my registered nurse friend asked the doctors if I would be capable of making such a journey, they disclosed to her that my disease was terminal, and I would not live long enough to make the trip.
In October, we made that miraculous vacation with our friends! The week after returning from the memorable trip, I got good news and bad. I was admitted to the hospital and placed in quarantine for five days due to a painful case of shingles on my face and body. The good news was that the cancer was “in remission”.
I was inspired by Dr. Bernie Siegel, founder of ECaP, a support group for exceptional cancer patients. I lived in Eastern Massachusetts at the time and drove more than 3 hours each way to attend his Monday support group in New Haven. My immune system was very depleted from the chemotherapy, so when I got fatigued on the drive down and back, I would pull off the road several times to “power nap”. I respect the power of positive thinking. I had read over 30 books in the library on cancer. Every article I read on Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma said it was incurable. The ECaP lending library offered many books on alternative and complementary therapies. One title stood out, The Cancer Prevention Diet: Michio Kushi’s Nutritional Blueprint for the Relief and Prevention of Disease. The book stated that compared to other forms of cancer, lymphoma was relatively easy to relieve. I joyously brought the book home, read it, and proceeded to search for a macrobiotic counselor.
To my good fortune I was able to locate Marc van Cauwenberghe, MD, a well-respected counselor. My friend (the registered nurse), and I met with him and were very impressed. “You will heal yourself,” he assured me.
Life is too precious to just lie there and have it taken away. I had to CHANGE–that was the keyword in my healing. In my weakened state, every waking hour I researched, read, meditated, visualized, cooked and prayed. It was a full-time job to heal. Allotting myself the time to heal is the best gift I ever gave myself. I had so much to live for and so much still to give in my life.
For 11 months after I was diagnosed. I had struggled with chemotherapy, its insidious side effects, and the standard American diet. I threw out all the drugs and elixirs and started to take Natural Remedies. The sweet vegetable drink stabilized my blood sugar and cured my ulcers. The ume-sho-kuzu tea strengthened my digestion and restored my energy flow. After eating macrobiotically after only two weeks, I felt noticeable improvement. The pain in my joints and feet disappeared. My innards embraced the nourishing whole food, and I started to discover energy I had not felt in years and I was experiencing peaceful sleep at last. I felt strong enough to take walks with my friends, deep breathing oxygen and blowing toxins out. I chewed my food thoroughly and listened to joyful music.
I attended the Macrobiotic Winter Conference in Miami in 1993, where I heard Michio Kushi, Bernie Siegel, Deepak Chopra, and other highly respected healers lecture. The conference was an educational and inspiring affair. I also assisted Aveline Kushi in a macrobiotic cooking class in a private home and attended the spiritual and healing workshop with Michio. I then participated in his group consultation. Michio was amazing, diagnosing people and offering them help or suggestions on how to improve their health in a natural way. It was a turning point. I had to get well and teach others this lifestyle.
Update by Judy McKinney, September 2000– I recently had total body CT scans taken with and without dye. Not a trace of cancer was found. I’ve been cancer-free for 22 years. I am most grateful to Michio and the teachers at the Kushi Institute for giving me the knowledge and ability to heal myself.