6. Stage IV Melanoma
I am amazed that I can look at every day with such excitement and joy. I Love Life! I feel fantastic. I’m currently training for a half marathon and work out almost everyday. I have been blessed to have such a loving supportive family. The future used to be completely out of reach for me. I was afraid to plan anything in advance because I wasn’t sure if I would be here. It may sound scary, but it was reality for me.
I was diagnosed in 2005 with melanoma. I didn’t know much about the disease, so I had never realized how serious it was. I had skin cancer. After having surgery to remove a mole from my knee, I thought I was cured and on my way to a long and happy life. The only reminder I had was an ugly scar. That all changed when, three years later, I felt a little lump above the scar. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but my husband insisted that I get it checked out. It turned out to be melanoma that had metastasized up my leg. I went through surgery again and was put on interferon treatments that were supposed to last a year. Two months into the treatment I found another lump on my upper back. The biopsy came back and it was positive for melanoma. That’s when everything changed. Scans showed that Melanoma had begun to take over my body. For the next 18 months I endured six more surgeries and my cancer elevated to Stage IV. I tried different treatments, all unsuccessful, and was told by my doctors I had little chance of recovery. How was it possible that I couldn’t find anyone who had been able to conquer this disease? I began searching everywhere to find hope.
On Jan. 29, 2010, I was given the dreaded news that the cancer had spread to my lung and liver and multiple other locations—too many to count, and surgery was no longer an option. There was nothing that could be done except for clinical trials that had very aggressive side effects that I knew I wouldn’t be able to recover from. I was confused and I didn’t know what to do. I felt that if I did the clinical trials I might be able to help someone else in the future with this disease, but I was not ready to sacrifice myself. My head was spinning. There had to be a way that I could beat this. My competitive nature kicked in and I gathered myself and decided I was going to do my own “clinical trial.”
I remembered reading about Hippocrates Health Institute in Kris Carr’s book Crazy Sexy Cancer. I was on the phone with Hippocrates Health Institute by the end of the day January 29 and visited the campus on February 4th. I enrolled in the three-week Life Transformation Program and began my journey on February 7, 2010.
I will never forget that day. It was Super Bowl Sunday. Having grown up in Pittsburgh, I’m a huge football fan. The Super Bowl was in Miami and I was driving from Central Florida to South Florida, which was the same route that people going to the Super Bowl were taking. They had their cars decorated and were thrilled and excited about the big game, and here I was driving alongside of them scared to death—in search of a bona fide miracle. Millions of questions were popping into my head. Would my clinical trial work? Was this the right decision? If my doctors only knew what I was doing what would they say? Would I ever be able to see my new grandson who was due in August?
I had no choice but to save my life and I knew I could do it. I had way too much to live for. I arrived at Hippocrates Health Institute around 2 p.m. Sunday. The grounds were absolutely beautiful and there was a peaceful calm over the entire area. In the entrance door there was a sign that read “Welcome to Life.” I knew I was in the right place.
The first evening was orientation. I felt blessed to meet such fabulous people. Some guests were at Hippocrates Health Institute to deal with health challenges (of all types and degrees)—and others were just striving for optimal health. We had a great group. Some people had experience with the raw vegan lifestyle, and others like me had absolutely no idea how or where to begin. So we started with dinner. It was kind of funny looking to me; sprouts, beans and greens galore. I had never eaten this way but I knew it was right. You just know.
I received a schedule for what was in store for me for the next week and I honestly didn’t know how I could fit everything in. I would be spending the next three weeks focusing on my healing and that alone. I had to become selfish for this experience if I expected to get results. There would be no distractions, no television, no computer (they are available but I chose not to partake), and limited cell phone usage. I made it a practice to call my husband once a day and have him call the family with updates.
I graduated from the Hippocrates Health Institute Life Transformation Program February 27, 2010. The experience was beyond mind-boggling. I actually felt like I was healing even though my tumors were swelling and my body was detoxing. It is so hard to explain but you can just feel it. By graduation day I felt sad to leave, but I knew it was time to bring this new lifestyle home with me.
Part of my healing focused on exercising, because I was determined to run a half marathon for my birthday on March 5. I had always been a runner and I was determined to get that part of my life back. My friends and family came in from all over the country to help celebrate my birthday. I had an awesome party and ran the Disney Princess half marathon on March 7.
My reality check came in the form of a doctor’s appointment March 12, 2010. My doctor was very upset with me. “Why wasn’t I part of one of the clinical trials?” he asked. He told me I couldn’t just throw in the towel and I needed to do what he said (little did he know he was about to see I’d already started healing). He wanted a scan right away and I agreed. I had my scan March 19 and to my doctor’s astonishment, I was in remission. My tumors had all shrunk—not by much, but the tumor in my liver now measured 1.5 cm (down from 1.8 cm). He said that this was so weird and he wished I had been on one of his clinical trials so that he could take the credit! I told him I changed my diet and all the things I was doing, but he wasn’t interested. It had only been six weeks since I had changed my lifestyle and the results were already evident in the medical examinations. I have to admit I was a little worried. I thought there might have been a mistake or a fluke, that maybe the radiologist had measured wrong, but I stayed positive and let myself enjoy the elation that came with knowing I was healing. My doctor didn’t want to treat me with anything at that time and he said I needed to keep doing whatever I was doing. And I did!
Fast forward to May 20, 2010—my next scan. My results got even better. The tumors were continuing to shrink! The liver tumor now measured 1.2 cm. The doctor told me that I was in the one percentile of metastatic melanoma patients to go into remission. He said my immune system had kicked in for some reason. I felt this was a great opportunity to inform him of everything I was doing. Eating raw and completely taking care of myself were what caused my immune system to “kick in.” All he could say was for me to keep doing what I was doing. When he got up to leave he looked me in the eye and said, “Congratulations! You’re winning!” I’ll never forget that—moreover since I’m competitive by nature.
As of this writing, my most recent scan was August 19, 2010. Results continue to improve. The tumor in my liver measures just 9 mm (down to half the size it was in my first scan) and others don’t even show up on the scan. My doctors have told me that these results are exactly what they would hope to see in one of their clinical trials. These are the best-case results they strive for and it was all happening for me through diet, exercise, meditation, and peace of mind.
I continue my raw vegan diet and get some help from Grass Root, an organic, vegan restaurant in Tampa, Florida. Combining living vegan food with exercise, yoga and an abundance of love around me, I have regained my health, along with a peace of mind that had been missing from my life for years since my diagnosis. Making the choice to change your life isn’t an easy one, but what you will receive in return will far surpass any sacrifices. For over two years, I searched for any kind of hope for survival of my disease and I couldn’t find any. By embracing what I learned through the Hippocrates Health Institute Life Transformation Program, I truly feel that I have found my hope and I can help others in their search by telling them all about my clinical trial.
I will continue to fight this battle every day, even after the day I’m told I’m cancer free. I will keep doing what I’m doing, doctors orders!
Cindy Nevills: Lakeland, Florida, USA