Caring for an Elder with a Cancer Diagnosis
Rose arrived at our place pale and anxious. Five days before her arrival, she had gotten a rectal cancer diagnosis, stage one. Luckily, Rose’s cancer was one tumor and had not spread. Her liver, spleen and pancreas were ok. The tumor could be surgically removed, but because none of us can stop using our rectum like we could an arm, leg or joint after surgery, healing from rectal surgery can be a real challenge. Rose, who is my mother’s cousin, is a few months shy of 82. She, her daughter Amy, and her granddaughter Toni who's a wellness life coach in Las Vegas, agreed with me that a detox that cleanses the colon, rectum and liver of fecal matter, food waste and metabolic waste was a healthy response to a diagnosis like this.
After all, surgery always brings risk of infection and scar tissue. Even surgery that is successful is traumatic to the body and creates a wound that must heal. But rectal surgery always runs the risk of damaging the function of the rectum, causing fecal incontinence. Rushing into rectal surgery can sometimes mean rushing into adult diapers. And rushing into a rectal surgery dehydrated and nutrient-depleted, impacted with old feces, with a toxic, congested, dehydrated liver and weakened immunity, only increases the risk of antibiotic-resistant infection post-surgery and slower healing. It takes time to grow a tumor, and a stage one tumor won’t change much in a few weeks. Especially in an elder, because everything grows slower. So why rush into surgery? There’s no benefit to rushing into surgery. But there’s lots of benefits to taking a few weeks to detox in order to clean up one's internal bioterrain to support the healing process. Including eliminating old feces and healing the chronic constipation.
A few phone calls through our community network put us in touch with a colleague's father who is a prominent surgeon who develop a less invasive technique for rectal surgery. He offered to refer two surgeons in LA for a second opinion, and concurred that at Rose’s age with a stage one tumor, and Rose's willingness to detox her colon, address chronic constipation, and make dietary changes, there was little reason to rush into a difficult rectal surgery.
The truth is, a 10-day detox is a healthy response to any cancer diagnosis. First of all, chronic constipation, which Rose had suffered from for years, is a precursor not only for cancer, but for every chronic disease. For the simple reason that the easiest way to get sick is to have a chronic waste management problem in your internal ecosystem. Living in your own waste is the opposite of healthy living. It’s as true inside of us as it is outside of us. A detox tends to the fundamental rules of self-care. Reduce exposure to toxins coming into the body, hydrate and detox to flush toxic waste out of the body faster and more effectively, oxygenate and nutrient saturate to restore healthy cell metabolism, stronger immunity and hormone balance. But in any chronic healing crisis, you have to deal with your own crap first and foremost—emotional and mental as well as physical. So detox is the natural place to start to get unstuck and get things moving to start the healing process.
Emotional and Mental Detox
Luckily, the best time to do emotional detox and release unhealthy thought patterns is when you are physically detoxing, because mental thought patterns and fixed emotional postures and habitual behaviors all come bundled together. It's time and energy efficient to detox them all together. 10 years of therapy in 10 days. That’s how I describe it.
Rose had several somatic-emotional-thought patterns she needed to reset. For example, Rose believed that being in the sun was bad for her, and so she never did. For decades she deprived herself of the warmth of the sun on her skin and the Vitamin D produced by skin exposure to sunlight. Rose, like my mother, is Filipina. Dark skinned. Our ancestors had to adapt to the tropical sun. With her genes, the truth was she was far more likely to get rectal cancer than skin cancer, and the Vitamin D she deprived herself of all those decades by always covering her skin and staying out of the sun only weakened her immunity. Our livers use Vitamin D to metabolize a key component of our immune system: glycoprotein Macrophage Activating Factor (GcMAF). GcMAF is a metabolite of vitamin D binding protein, and is used to mark cancer cells and pathogenic microbes for targeting by macrophages, including lymphocytes in the lymphatic system, alerting other immune cells to the presence of infections and cancer. Without this vitamin D metabolite, macrophages could pass by cancer cells or pathogenic bacteria without any response.
Rose also thought that she was hydrated when she really wasn't. She had lived with chronic dehydration for so long, she didn't know she was dehydrated. Chronic dehydration is a common mistake far too many people make with their health, and it feeds every chronic disease—from diabetes and heart disease to cancer to neurological disorders to gut illnesses. All of us need to have enough water and enough electrolyte minerals to get H2O across cell membranes and into organs. It takes both to hydrate. Rose didn't have enough of either, for years.
For one thing, she drank Reverse Osmosis filtered water and thought that was great water. She was shocked to hear me tell her that RO water is pure water in the sense that all toxins have been filtered out, but so have any minerals, so it is 'dead' water so to speak, and acidic at about 5.0 pH, whereas neutral water is 7.0 pH, and mineral water can be 8.0 or above. Because of the way the pH scale works, pH 5.0 water is actually 100 times as acidic as pH 7.0 water. Drinking acidic water day after day can not only leave you dehydrated even while you drink water, it can also cause the body to leach minerals from the bones, teeth and joints to maintain blood pH at 7.4. Rose also thought she was suppose to drink water with meals, which dilutes HCL stomach acid and causes indigestion—which she has suffered from for years. To replace all these dysfunctional patterns around water, Rose had her daughter order a mineralizing water bottle online, and started hydrating at least 30 minutes before meals and an hour or two after, as well as first thing in the morning before drinking coffee or eating breakfast. And she started a daily regimen of magnesium, potassium and colloidal minerals.
Rose also had a common bodymindset that causes so many people to ignore, dismiss, minimize, and normalize early warning symptoms—like chronic constipation and constant burping and gas in Rose's case. It sounds like, "I'm fine." Even when you're not. Even for years. Even decades. By definition, chronic diseases are chronic, not acute, meaning they develop over a long period of time. Not responding to early warning symptoms that persist over time, that never seem to go away, accepting them and then normalizing them—all of that prevents a person from adapting. And healing is adapting.
Luckily, Rose understood that food is the most important medicine, because she had BA in Education with a minor in nutrition. When Rose asked about diet after her cancer diagnosis because she knew in her heart she needed to improve her diet, her physician told her she could eat anything! This surprised Rose, because she was expecting her doctor to share some healing food wisdom with her. It didn't surprise me, however, because the surgeon who surgically removed my father's gallbladder had told him the same thing, leaving my mother and me utterly shocked and disappointed at another failed opportunity to lead my father away from the poor eating habits that had created his gallstones in the first place. Worse still, my wife's father, who died at the young age of 58 of stomach cancer, was told by his doctor after his diagnosis that he could eat anything he wanted. So many missed opportunities for nutritional counseling to make healthy changes when one becomes ill.
While there was no need to rush into surgery, why wait to detox? Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death in women in the U.S. For Rose, it was time to take action. And for her relatives, including me, the time to step forward to support her was right now. Because when someone falls ill and gets a diagnosis, they need family healing. There’s nothing like it. You need a great doctor, you need a second opinion, you need the most efficacious treatment protocol (whether your insurance pays for it or not)—you need all that, but you also need support at home to make necessary changes to return to balance and to better health. Because if you don’t, you’ll be back in the doctor’s office later with a host of other problems, chasing the serpent’s tail in a downward spiral. Elders, like children, especially need help. But the truth is, we all do. So Rose arrived at our house 5 days after diagnosis to start her 10-day detox.
After one day on the detox, Rose already looked so much better. She arrived pale, burping and farting the broccoli she'd eaten hours before. By the next day, she was calm with a little color returning to her face, looking less bloated. Her constant burping and farting from gas, a sign of poor digestion, had dissipated by 70%. By the morning of day 5, she truly looked and acted like a different person. What could happen in 5 days that could make such a difference? What had Rose done?
The fundamentals of self-care
Rose hadn't done that much really, just the most simple and obvious nuts-n-bolts. She started the detox. Which means she stopped eating dehydrating cooked foods to give her digestive tract a chance to hydrate, nutrient saturate and restore with organic raw veggie juices including cabbage and cucumber juice, carrot and apple juice, superfood drinks with apple juice and ground chia seeds, potassium-rich vegetable broth, coconut water, kombucha, spicy cayenne lemonade, and detox tea. She stopped eating and started drinking all day long.
She took Dr. Schulze’s Intestinal Formula #2, a binder made of powdered activated charcoal, apple pectin, marshmallow root, psyllium and flax seed, and bentonite clay, to absorb the gas causing her burping and farting and to bind with toxins to make them easier to excrete. Every evening before bed she took natural supplements to help her poop in the morning: Oxypowder and Dr. Schulze's Intestinal Formula #1. She did a morning gut shot of sauerkraut juice for good probiotics, 3 shots a day of fulvic acid colloidal minerals to help her make more HCL stomach acid and help her become more alkaline (Rose arrived very acidic), and took digestive enzymes to improve her digestion. To learn more about the 10-day detox I put Rose on, see the Superfeel Detox Challenge info page. From there you can read a quick explanation, download the ebook or coaching program, and even have our partner Pure on Main send you all the detox products you need with free shipping (U.S. only).
Rose also did two coffee enemas a day to flush her liver and colon of toxic waste and boost her glutathione production. She took 10 drops of CBD infused oil every morning and night for its anti-cancer effects. She also sprayed 20 sprays of transdermal magnesium on her thighs and arms every day before sunbathing in her swimsuit on our roof deck to boost Vitamin D metabolism for better immunity. Her pale white skin slowly began to tan and get some color. We spray magnesium before sunning because magnesium is needed to metabolize vitamin D. And both magnesium and vitamin D are needed for the proper metabolism of calcium, transporting it from the blood where it can clog arteries, into the skeleton where it is needed for bone growth. Magnesium also opens the colon for faster elimination.
Rose also got a somatic session with me to teach her to stop collapsing on top of her stomach when sitting and then folding her arms and resting the weight of them on top of her stomach. She learned to stretch up and hold her self upright so that the organs in her abdomen had room to breathe, digest, absorb and excrete. And she became aware that she gulped her food. She even gulped her detox drinks, and then would burp and have indigestion. Instead, she learned to sip slowly and consistently throughout the day.
What else did Rose do? She shat! A LOT. She had to deal with her own crap. All of it. It needed to come out, and it was stuck. And we unstuck it, by flushing the body in the River of Life and opening the dam downstream.
Rose woke up on her first morning of detox to several massive dumps of fecal waste. She followed those massive dumps with a coffee enema to back-flush the liver and stimulate it to produce more antioxidant glutathione enzymes to break up old sticky bile and wash clean the walls of the colon and rectum of fecal plaque. She repeated the coffee enema again in the evening. Purging the colon and liver of waste, and hydrating with liquid nutrients and detox drinks, explains why, after just one day, Rose already looked better. During her second night, Rose shat 10 more times, each time releasing more compacted waste. In the morning, she looked exhausted, but had shed 3 lbs. of fecal waste in two days.
Who wouldn’t feel better and smile more? Rose weighed 121 when she arrived with quite a bloated belly, pale as a sheet, constipated and burping and farting constantly. After five days of detoxing (where we are as I finish this blog post), she weighs 116. Because she’s hydrated—drinking about 3 quarts to a gallon of fluids a day—that means her weight loss isn’t from water loss. It was from backed up fecal matter, food waste and metabolic waste from poor digestion and chronic constipation. Rose looked and felt better, because she was hydrated and wasn't full of crap! She said several times, “I can’t believe I have this much poo in me!”
I could. My cousin Natalie Boss, a colon hydrotherapist who taught me this detox method and co-authored the Superfeel Detox Challenge with me, says her clients often say what Rose said after a colonic—because they can see what is coming out of them through a clear section of tubing. People who have let their gut health go and are trying to restore better gut health with colon hydrotherapy are often shocked at the sheer volume of shit that comes out if you flush it out with a colonic. Seeing your own waste coming out is a critical aspect of the healing effect of colonics and detoxes—you get to see the waste you have personally created, that you have carried, and held onto. And you get to experience how much better you feel when you let it all go. You may not think you’re full of shit, you may have rationalizations and excuses about why it couldn’t happen to you, but the truth is in the toilet.
Checking elders for overmedication
Supporting elders in their healing process also requires checking their prescriptions for overmedication and medications with toxic side effects. Over-medication is a common cause of dementia and other health problems in elders—including constipation! Rose had been prescribed the pharmaceutical stool softener Linzess. Side-effects of Linzess include stomach/abdominal pain, gas, bloating, heartburn and headache—all of which Rose was suffering from now on a daily basis. In fact her primary complaint was stomach pain and discomfort and gas, bloating and burping. I want to emphasize that natural intestinal movement formulas are very different from the pharmaceutical stool softeners and laxatives prescribed by many physicians, like MiraLAX that’s listed on the FDA Adverse Events Reporting System for neuropsychiatric disorders, including getting mad or forgetful. Natural intestinal movement formulas have no toxic side-effects. So the first thing we did was get her off Linzess and replace it with Dr. Schulze Intestinal Formula #1 and #2, and Oxy-Powder Natural Colon Cleanser.
Rose had also been put through two rounds of IV antibiotics by one of her attending physicians before she started to feel really bad, and asked to be referred to a gastroenterologist who ordered a CT scan and colonoscopy and found the rectal tumor. The antibiotics were prescribed because lab results showed signs of infection. Where the infection was wasn't clear. IV antibiotics are notorious for causing severe gut dysbiosis after, as all the beneficial bacteria are killed along with the pathogenic ones. So Rose is taking Ultimate Flora Probiotics daily during the detox and Heather's Acacia Fiber prebiotics. Gut dysbiosis could make the healing process take even longer, and we discussed her granddaughter Toni donating some healthy feces for a home Fecal Microbiota Transplant in a few weeks if the probiotics and prebiotics didn't seem to be enough.
I was truly shocked to realize one of the meds Rose was prescribed was donepezil, the generic form of Aricept, a controversial drug with toxic side-effects usually prescribed for people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Average monthly cost of Aricept is $367 and cost of generic donepezil is $185. Here's what Consumer Reports says about this drug:
"Because most people who take an Alzheimer's medication will receive no meaningful benefit, together with the relatively high price tag and the risk of rare but important safety concerns, we are unable to choose any of these drugs as a Best Buy. Generic donepezil has a lower risk of adverse effects and higher tolerability, and since it's generic, its price is significantly less. But if the person taking the drug does not show signs of improvement within three months, it is unlikely that they ever will, so the drug should then be stopped."
Lack of effectiveness of donepezil and Aricept aside, Rose does not have Alzheimer’s, or dementia! The mental fogginess she complained of to her doctor when asked verbally if she had memory problems was typical of someone with chronic constipation and over-medication, not Alzheimer's. Rose talked to us about politics, problems with our health care system, and nutrition. She also knew exactly what was happening to her and why. She was perfectly capable of making decisions, used her cell phone to talk to friends and relatives, and used her iPad to read the news, watch movies, and follow a popular evening drama series in the Philippines featuring my actress cousin Alice Dixson who does the Superfeel Detox Challenge regularly to maintain optimum health. She also read my blog posts on The Healist, and consumed a collection of Dr. Schulze's blog posts on natural healing in one day. I sent her some content links that she read on her iPad, and she took notes in her notebook about the detox and products we were using so she would know how to detox herself at home. In short, Rose should never have been prescribed an Alzheimer's drug in the first place. Common side-effects of Aricept and donepezil include nausea, appetite loss, dizziness, weakness, drowsiness, insomnia, tremor and muscle cramps. More serious side-effects include muscle breakdown and a neurological disorder called neuroleptic malignant syndrome. After sharing this information with Rose, I was relieved to hear she had already made the decision to stop taking the drug because it made her feel bad.
Rose had been prescribed two more pharmaceutical products that were incredibly expensive and equally questionable. One was Vascepa, a pure EPA omega-3 extract of fish oil that cost about $300 for a one month supply instead of somewhere between $20 to $60 dollars for a month supply if you just bought high quality fish oil. I shared with Rose that Dr. Max Gerson, the creator of the Gerson Therapy, found cold-pressed flax seed oil to be the only healthy fat that did not feed tumor growth in his cancer patients, so Rose decided to switch to flax seed oil. Also one of Vascepa's common side effects is joint pain, which Rose was suffering chronically in one of her shoulders.
For her chronic shoulder pain, Rose was prescribed Pennsaid, a transdermal non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug in the same class with ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) and naproxen (Aleve) used to treat osteoarthritis. Pennsaid cost a whopping $2,605 for one bottle! Common side-effects include stomach pain, upset stomach and indigestion—all of which Rose was suffering from—and serious side-effects include stomach ulcers, liver damage, and kidney/bladder infection. It was easy for Rose to give up this outrageously expensive drug, because by day 4 of the detox her shoulder pain had totally gone away. That was a result of the cumulative effects of several factors, including purging 4 lbs. of waste (the combination of toxic waste buildup and dehydration make being in a body painful), more daily vitamin D through supplementation and sunlight, magnesium supplementation, daily potassium broth, the Earthing Mat we put under her shoulder at night while she slept, movement of lymph during walks on the beach, and her first IV ozone therapy session.
Finally, Rose had been prescribed knee replacement surgeries back in 2012 and 2014, four to six years prior to her cancer diagnosis. Knee replacement surgeries are extremely invasive requiring surgical removal of the knee joints and cutting off the top of the tibia and bottom of the femur bones to place the prosthetic joint. Recurrent infections afterwards are not an uncommon side-effect. Because I am aware of the risk of chronic recurrent infections, and because as The Healist I support natural, minimally-invasive, cost-effective, systemic and preventive approaches to health and medicine, I'm not a fan of elective joint replacement surgeries which are so trendy right now, especially for elders. They are traumatic, invasive, costly, require massive antibiotics, and can cause a host of other chronic problems later. Could Rose's two knee replacement surgeries have weakened her immunity, setting her up for a cancer diagnosis later?
In addition, I also helped Rose reduce her toxic exposure by replacing toxic toiletries and toothpaste with safe natural products without petrochemical sudsers and foaming agents. I explained to her how to read labels to choose organic green products.
The healing journey
Rose prays everyday, and she asked her friends and relatives to pray for her on her healing journey—a journey she is willing to take step by step and day by day in good spirits and a positive mindset, starting with taking action to detox in order to heal her chronic indigestion and constipation once and for all. She now understands that living with those symptoms year after year without taking action created the environment in which her body made a cancerous rectal tumor. Owning that she created her illness herself has given her the power to take personal responsibility for creating better health for herself. And that attitude is more healing than any prescription drug for the journey we will take together with Rose as a family dealing with an elder's cancer diagnosis. This is the holistic, quantum healing Dr. Deepak Chopra taught to me, along with meditation and Ayurveda.
It will be a journey, and the path will rise up to meet us. After this 10-day detox, Rose faces making permanent changes in her diet, which basically needs to be an elimination diet because inflammatory, hard-to-digest foods and cancer go together. And she will need our support for that part of the journey too. But today, we gave her a grounding mat so she could ground herself electrically while she's sleeping at night or resting during the day. Tomorrow we’re going to add aloe vera juice to her daily detox routine, and we scheduled an IV ozone treatment too. This morning, I set up the massage table for my wife Marni to do some visceral body work on Rose's gassy abdomen, after which Rose got up and pooped again, releasing another two big dumps. She came out of the bathroom smiling because she feels so relieved when toxic waste finally comes out. I suggested it would be nice to follow her massage with a comforting hot water bottle and a restorative nap. But she said, no, tonight she’ll lie down with a hot water bottle, but right now, she wants to do her coffee enema, and then take a walk on the beach! After the enema, she only made it as far as the roof deck to take a nap in the sun. No rush, we have time. We got to the beach the next day, on the morning of day 3 of detox. And it felt fantastic. We made it back to the beach on the morning of day 5 and Rose walked three times farther. She was feeling lighter having dropped 2 more lbs of crap into the toilet, a total of 5 lbs in 5 days. People often don't believe me when I tell them it's typical to drop 10 lbs of waste during the 10-day detox, but I've seen it over and over and experienced it myself.
The hope of ozone therapy
After IV ozone therapy on day 4, Rose was energized and hopeful about her situation. In my blog post on Ozone Therapy, I talk about this common emotional-spiritual effect of ozone. A door opens when you realize you can help yourself return to balance by using a simple, powerful systemic healing agent so easily available to anyone. That realization just fills you with light. It feels truly divine. Hope is brought within reach for us vulnerable humans who have made ourselves sick with unhealthy lifestyles, nutrient-depleted and toxic foods, and environmental contamination. The practitioner who administered Rose's ozone treatment suggested rectal ozone insufflation to treat the rectal tumor directly. Rose was clear; she wanted to try it. So we have made arrangements to borrow a portable ozone generator with disposable nozzle for rectal application so that she can do ozone treatments at home. The borrowed ozone generator costs about $3K, cost-effective for a family purchase for longterm self-care and health maintenance at home, especially if multiple family members contribute to the cost of the initial purchase.
What I like most about the detox with Rose so far is there’s no panic around it. It reminds me of the wave of peace surrounding a home birth. The body chooses the rhythm and pace of the process, not the doctors or nurses or hospital administrators. And the changes that will naturally occur come from the inside, not from outside. Those are the kind of changes the body knows how to make, if given the nutrients, water and time it needs. Time to adapt and to change, time to heal.