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Longest Living Lung Cancer Survivor Used Natural Interventions

by Carl O Helvie(more info)

listed in cancer, originally published in issue 218 - November 2014

Have you ever thought about how you would feel if your doctor told you that you had cancer? And what questions you would ask him/her at that time? And what information would be helpful? Many people are frightened when faced with a diagnosis of cancer and the doctor may add to that fear by giving a prognosis. For example, forty years ago my doctor said, “You have lung cancer and we can offer you chemotherapy and surgery. Without these you will be dead in six months.” Did the doctor tell me there are less invasive therapies that are sometimes more effective? Did he tell me the side effects and effectiveness of chemotherapy and surgery, if chosen? Did he encourage me to make the decisions about MY care? The answer is no to all of these questions. Realizing answers to these and other questions would have been useful at the time; my goal for writing this article and my lung cancer book is to provide some information that might be useful when faced with a cancer diagnosis. Information will better assist you to make the decisions that are best for you because it is YOUR Body and YOUR life and I feel strongly that you should be in charge of decision making that can be empowering and facilitate healing.

You can beat Lung Cancer

Regarding the prognosis of “6 months to live”, I have learned over the years that this is not a medical diagnosis. Instead, it is a God diagnosis because only God knows when we will die. And from interacting with many cancer patients over the past 40 years I have learned that this is a relatively common practice of oncologists to proclaim “3 months to live” or “6 months to live” or some other amount of time. For patients facing cancer, this may be a disservice because it can create additional stress and also can become a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the influence of the mind on the body. I personally would prefer that the doctor tell the patient that they have 50 or 100 years to live.

I have also learned that cancer does not have to be a death sentence; there are less harsh, non-invasive interventions that are very effective and may offer a greater probability of long-term survival without recurrence than chemotherapy and surgery. I have also read the research that chemotherapy and radiation may actually spread cancer or leave behind the most resistant cancer cells that often cause recurrence that are more difficult to treat. However, I believe that it is important to support the cancer patient in his/her treatment choice even when they differ from mine because they need to be in control and be optimistic about their choices.

If patients make the decisions they are more likely to follow the prescribed interventions and recover from the disease. In order to make the best decisions they should learn as much as possible about available cancer treatments before being faced with a diagnosis. They can then discuss their decision about care with their doctor and follow the appropriate interventions. Without information it is likely their oncologists and primary doctor will discuss surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and avoid discussing other effective alternative treatments.

I also believe that a holistic approach to cancer treatment is important. In public health I learned that there are multiple factors leading to a disease or wellness process, not a single cause-effect relationship. Thus, it seems that if this is true, then there must be multiple interventions to reverse the cancer process and return to health. Although all are interrelated, I conceptualize the holistic treatment process as including physical, mental, spiritual, relationships, environment, and political aspects because all influence cancer at the individual and/or group level.

My cancer journey discussed in You Can Beat Lung Cancer: Using Alternative / Integrative Interventions began 40 years ago when I had a dream telling me to go for a chest x-ray. I pay attention to dreams because I believe this is one way that God speaks with us, if we listen. Following the dream, I went to my primary physician and asked for a referral for an x-ray that was required by my insurance at that time.

The x-ray showed a spot on my lungs that had not been there previously and a follow up biopsy confirmed that it was lung cancer. Following their report of the diagnosis my primary doctor and surgeon told me they were planning chemotherapy and surgery. I told them their responsibility was to tell me the pros and cons of surgery and chemotherapy and mine was to make the decision about the type of care I would use. I also told them that I would go home, pray about it and make a rational decision. They re-emphasized several times that I would be dead in 6 months.

I talked with a friend, Ursula, who offered to pray for guidance with me and watch her dreams for answers. Ursula also suggested a psychic reading and since I had nothing to lose I agreed. Our dreams and the reading all encouraged a natural approach to treatment of the lung cancer. Ursula referred me to a physician in our state who had continued treating patients in his office after being closed for providing successful natural treatments at the National Cancer Institute. I made an appointment with Dr Tom who confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed a regime of physical interventions.

Prescribed care included laetrile (vitamin B17, amygdaline) 2,000 mg and 25 or 30 apricot kernels (one of the greatest sources of laetrile) daily. The theory for its use is that cancer may be a result of a deficiency of laetrile in the body. Some may be afraid to use laetrile because contemporary medical literature says it contains cyanide and can kill you or cause you to seek emergency medical care. However, the literature fails to state that enzymes are needed to activate the cyanide in laetrile, and cancer cells have those enzyme but normal cells do not, so it is specific for destruction of cancer cells and normal cells are unaffected. Over the two years I took laetrile and apricot kernels I had no side effects.

Laetrile is not a stand-alone treatment for cancer. Other supplements were prescribed that are very important to be used with laetrile. Pancreatic enzymes assist in killing the cancer cells by softening the shell. In addition, vitamins were prescribed such as therapeutic doses of vitamin A (between 300,000 i.u. and 50,000 i.u daily) to help prevent precancerous cells from converting to cancer cells, vitamin E 800 i.u. to help prevent toxicity from the vitamin A, vitamin B15, B5, and Vitamin C. Minerals and herbs included calcium, magnesium, zinc (acts as a carrier for the laetrile), comfrey pepsin (a digestive aid), yeast tablets, bromelain, and lecithin were also part of treatment. In addition, A/G Pro, a protein supplement, was used daily.

Most of these supplements have been proven effective for cancer prevention and treatment through research over the past 40 years. For example, in the April 2014 issue of the International Journal of Oncology researchers concluded that a derivative of vitamin A known as retinoic acid found in carrots and sweet potatoes helps pre-cancer cells revert back to normal cells.

The prescribed diet was similar to a current vegan diet and consisted of 75% raw fruit and vegetables (to increase enzymes in the body and to support the pancreas), with additional cooked fruit and vegetables. In addition, grains and nuts, except peanuts (a high source of protein) were allowed. No protein such as meat, chicken or dairy was allowed for the first few months and no simple carbohydrates such as cakes, pies, candy, or ice cream. It should be noted that 40 years ago our food supply was less polluted than today and anyone who wants to prevent or treat cancer today should eat organic or locally grown foods when the farming practices are know. This helps one avoid genetically modified organisms, growth hormones and other food pollutants. The prescribed diet remains the basic diet of choice for many alternative cancer protocols today and includes organic as much as possible.  Exercise and smoking cessation were also part of the care plan

As a public health nurse, I believed there was more to cancer care than the physical interventions. Consequently, I developed a holistic approach specific to my lung cancer by adding mental, spiritual, relationship, environmental, and political interventions. Mental and spiritual activities included daily prayer, meditation, visualization, affirmations, relaxation exercises, serving others, strengthening the spiritual attributes of patience, faith, and forgiveness, and remaining positive and optimistic. Environmental activities included maintaining a smoke free environment, evaluating the house for radon and asbestos, airing the house daily, if possible, and removing all pesticides, mould and other chemical contaminants that could further compromise my lungs.  Relationship aspects included maintaining friendships with students, colleagues, and friends, and giving and receiving emotional support. Political aspects included being active in lecturing and publishing about complementary, holistic treatment for cancer, participating in the political process and professional organizations to bring about change in cancer care, financing, and access to care.

Research has also supported many holistic interventions. For example, radon exposure results in about 3 percent of the lung cancer incidence, social support has been shown to help resolve stress and crises situations, spiritual or religious people have been shown to overcome illnesses more quickly and live longer than those who are not, optimism and faith are related to shorter illnesses and living longer, and meditation has been shown to have many health benefits.

During my treatment I saw my primary physician periodically for x-rays to measure progress that was the only method available then. He thought we were in a wait and see mode because I had not shared with him that I was using holistic natural interventions. After two years the spot was gone, I was cancer free, and my doctor said he guessed he had made the wrong diagnosis. However, a national leader physician friend asked to see all of the materials - lab, biopsy, x-rays and reports - and after reviewing them he was the third physician to conclude that it definitely was lung cancer

For the next 38 years I followed a slightly modified version of my cancer care plan and remained cancer free and healthy. At age 82, I was also free of other known chronic diseases until a few months ago when I was diagnosed with Atrial fibulation that has since been mainly overcome using natural interventions, . Although I take supplements, I take no prescribed medications. I walk on the beach for an hour each morning and live in a 3-story house so I am up and down stairs often.. I keep mentally active writing books, hosting a radio show, marketing my recent book on radio, television and in magazines / newspapers and providing free cancer education and resources to many patients monthly. To my cancer diet I added some chicken, fish and dairy and ate primarily organic or locally grown produce for many years. Since being diagnosed with A-fib I am again on a vegan diet with the exception of fish or seafood two nights a week. I have also found natural solutions for occasional health concern that arise over time such as an enlarged prostate, diverticulitis, seasonal allergies, and cataracts. I rarely take drugs for any reason. Other holistic aspects of the care plan were continued.

The book also includes chapter by Dr Bernie Siegel, Dr Francisco Contreras, Dr James Forsythe, Dr Kim Dalzell; and Tanya Harter Pierce on additional alternative medical, and nutritional interventions for lung cancer used in clinics and at home. July, 2014 marked 40-years since my diagnosis making me the longest living lung cancer survivor known.


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About Carl O Helvie

Carl O Helvie RN DrPH is a registered nurse with two masters (U of California, Johns Hopkins U) and a doctorate (Johns Hopkins U) and 60 years of experience as a nurse practitioner, author, educator, and researcher. He developed a nursing theory used in 9 countries, established and administered a nursing center providing primary care to homeless and low income individuals. He has published 8 books and contributed to 4 additional ones, and wrote over 100 articles and papers presented internationally. He has been host of the Holistic Health Show on BBS Radio since 2008 and is currently establishing The Carl O Helvie Holistic Cancer Foundation. More information is available at:;    or

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