|LE Magazine May 1999 |
Profiles takes a look at real people who exemplify the Life Extension Foundation way of life: a commitment to great health and nutrition, and an abiding respect for body and mind. Are you a candidate for a future Profiles, or know someone who is? Contact us at Life Extension Magazine, 3600 West Commercial Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309. Phone: 954-766-8433 or e-mail the Editors at LEmagazine@lef.org.
Do Your Homework!
A Lesson in Josephine LaRue's Battle Against Cancer
Four years ago Josephine LaRue, then 59, received the news that everyone hopes never to hear. A routine chest X-ray had turned up a suspicious nodule on her lung: further testing confirmed the worst-a malignancy. Still, thanks to the early discovery, the cancer had not spread into her lymph nodes and the surgery that followed to remove the lower lobe of her right lung seemed so successful that LaRue's doctors were confidant enough to recommend against chemotherapy and radiation. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and life returned to normal. That is, until a follow-up X-ray last August revealed another nodule-this time much more threatening. Though CAT scans revealed no spreading into her bone, brain or abdomen, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
Rather than plunging into despair, LaRue, who describes herself as having a longstanding health orientation and who never smoked, immediately recognized the recurrence as a most unusual opportunity-a second wake-up call. "After the surgery in 1995, I felt [the cancer] was all gone, so I really didn't make any changes in my lifestyle and that was my mistake," she says. "What I should have done was realize that my immune system wasn't working right. I should have gone to a nutritionist. Maybe, in that way, I could have done something to prevent a recurrence."
Indeed, this time around things are different. LaRue's doctor delivered the bad news last August 3rd and by the 4th she had calls in to cancer specialists, as well as nutritionists and acupuncturists, in her home region of South Florida. Determined to exhaust every option available to her in both the traditional medical community and in the world of alternative health options, she joined People Against Cancer, a non-profit organization of health professionals with a strong focus on alternative treatments. As other cancer specialists ordered more tests, the treatment recommendations came back alarmingly similar-chemotherapy, radiation and removal of the lung.
Meanwhile, her nutritionists were changing her diet and upping her supplement intake. LaRue had always eaten healthily, favoring fresh vegetables and fruits, and had long taken regular doses of Coenzyme Q-10, Selenium and vitamins C and E. But her regime was about to go into high gear. One nutritionist put her on a vegetarian diet, low in carbohydrates, with no dairy products and no sugars or caffeine. She also began taking daily doses of a multi-vitamin, high doses of vitamin B12, a high-protein drink, mega doses of vitamin A and vitamin C, A Emulsion and up to 1,600 IUs of vitamin E. Through her own research she learned of the important cancer fighting properties of vitamin C and signed up for twice weekly intravenous drips of 50 grams of vitamin C supplemented with vitamins B12 and B6.
A trip to Life Extension's own Gary Prater confirmed the merits of the diet change. He quickly put LaRue on an even more intensive cancer fighting regime, which emphasized soy. She began taking 10 to 15 700 mg Mega Soy tablets four times a day to inhibit tumor-promoting enzymes . LaRue also took 600 mgs Coenzyme Q-10 to bolster the immune system, 50 mgs of melatonin as a cancer treatment, and vitamin A and 1,000 IUs vitamin D3 to inhibit cancer cell division and induce cancer cells to transpose into mature, non-cancer cells. Seven capsules of curcumin were added as a way of shutting off the blood supply to LaRue's tumor, and she also took two green tea extract tablets with each meal and used Life Extension Mix.
Though the Chinese acupuncturist LaRue met with recommended against conventional treatment, he did put her on an herbal tea blend. Two other books on fighting cancer suggested two more herbal therapies. She tried everything, "taking more pills than I care to think about," while still seeking second, third and fourth opinions from the traditional medical community. By early October, after two months of this regime, LaRue was feeling symptom free, pain free and fantastic-all of which made her impending decisions about treatment that much harder to make. Why put herself through such pain, when she still didn't even feel sick? But when her immediate group of medical consultants, from the oncologists to the alternative professionals, told her it was time for chemotherapy and radiation, she listened to them.
"I began the chemotherapy in early October and it was terrible," she says. "I was very tired and weak throughout and after the treatment." Still, she believes that her earlier dedication to vitamins and supplements helped build her strength and prepare her for the weeks of grueling treatment ahead. Though she was forced to cut down on the Mega Soy when the radiation and chemotherapy began, she continued the vitamin C drips and as many other aspects of her cancer fighting program as she could. Two weeks after finishing the treatments, LaRue went back for a CAT scan of her lung. The results were entirely unexpected.
"Originally the radiologist told me that I probably wouldn't see any significant difference [in the size of my tumors] because things just don't show up that fast," she says. "So the doctors were shocked to see that the tumors had actually shrunk to where they appeared as scar tissue. I feel that all the alternative therapies and regimes I undertook did play a major part in the tumor shrinking to the degree that it did-especially considering that the doctors told me not to expect too much."
LaRue still had a tough decision to make. As remarkable as the shrinking of her tumor had been, everyone from her chemotherapy doctor, to her nutritionists, to her family still believed that her best chance to beat the cancer was to go ahead and have the lung removed. The fear was that even if just one or two cancer cells had survived, they could multiply rapidly and would themselves be highly resistant to further treatment. The good news was that LaRue's early penchant for exercise made her a prime candidate to maintain a healthy and active life with just one lung. Years of workouts at the gym, biking and swimming had left her in excellent shape. Her physicians determined that with one third of her lung already having been removed in 1995, she still had an amazing 94 percent of her lung capacity.
LaRue's surgery took place in mid-January of this year. It was very difficult, but she is slowly climbing back to her old vibrant self. Gary Prater has tailored her regime and diet a bit to adjust to the special needs of post surgery. She has now eliminated the mega doses of vitamin A . Seven capsules of curcumin, vitamin B12 and green tea to give her a comprehensive way to continue fighting the cancer while boosting her immune system at the same time. Though she had to briefly reintroduce meat back into her diet to fight a bout of anemia, she's now vegetarian again, building her strength with grains, vegetables and fruits. Right after surgery, she got onto the treadmill or stationary bicycle for 20 or 30 minutes a day and began extensive arm exercises to regain her mobility. "I'm getting better gradually," she says. "But I do get tired. I have one lung, and my body has to adjust to having less oxygen."
It will likely take more than a lack of oxygen to keep LaRue down. In fact, she admits she's far from a "senior-citizen-home candidate." Her bout with cancer has turned her into a one-woman resource center on the disease, and she's not done yet. Her next project is to find out why she got sick in the first place, which will likely include a visit to a homeopath for a complete work-up. "My research is devoted to finding out why someone like myself, who's very healthy and very health conscious, had my immune system fail like that," she says. "I still have to get to the bottom of it."
In the meantime, LaRue has a tip for any one else in similar circumstances. "The main thing I have to tell people is that you've got to do your homework," she says. "You can't take one answer as the truth. You have to go to health stores, go to meetings, get out and explore the alternative, as well as the traditional, treatments and find out what other people are doing." -Twig Mowatt