Written by Pip Cornall, men’s health advocate and author –
Once upon a time I held very different views. In 1971 I owned a health food eatery in a small Australian surfing town. New to ‘health foods’ I proselytised everybody about the benefits of eating vegetarian. An avid Rodale junkie; in a few short years I became a ‘born again natural food fundamentalist.’ I soon sold my shop and bought a little plot of land in the mountains behind Byron Bay, to go ‘organic.’ I fervently believed in the power of nature to heal our bodies and I mistrusted western medicine. As much as I wanted to believe totally in the nature path, gradually evidence that came my way worked against it.
So I changed? Time is an amazing teacher—it mellows one like fine wine. With time I’ve seen that elements of the nature-health movement was about as fundamentalist as the western medicine I’d mistrusted. As an ‘older’ person you’ve been around a while—you’ve watched things against the backdrop of time—you see what works and what doesn’t. There is no substitute for time!
Three years ago my world changed requiring further adjustments to my ideology. I entered the cancer healing world. Assisting my partner with her cancer patients, I became privy to a fast growing trend. Many patients had put their faith in extreme diets widely promoted via books and the internet. I saw how they became lulled by nature-cure ideology while simultaneously their bodies were silently ravaged as the cancer spread. These diets included Gerson, vegan, raw and various combinations. They had become nature fundamentalists like me, ignoring contrary evidence and exceptions to the rule.
Because of my belief in nature I’d desperately wanted to see people curing themselves by following the natural path—but I haven’t—and it rocked my foundations like a force 7 earthquake. That was also my partner’s experience in her decades of cancer work. In the mid seventies, at the tender age of 21, she’d become full time care giver for her boyfriend, after he lost his leg to bone cancer.
Against all odds she persisted! When family, friends and the medical profession gave him up for dead she always maintained he would survive. Demonstrating her optimism—they married when he had just 2 weeks to live. Imagine if you can; the calibre of this woman—she married a one legged man with cancer when he had two weeks to live. It wasn’t even a good relationship but she refused to desert him. They tried everything and won—he was in remission by 1978. Their story made history in Australia and birthed a famous foundation helping people with cancer. Her healing skills established, my partner has since assisted 13,000 cancer patients in a career spanning 35 years.
Nobody wanted the nature cures to work more than she—a vegetarian from the age of five, rare at the time in Australia with strong beliefs in natural diets, she admits she had never personally seen extreme diets work successfully with cancer patients. I’ve questioned her thoroughly on this topic. Over the years she’d observed some of her wealthier patients go to clinics in Mexico and other countries where diet based treatments were legal. Sadly she’s seen many die following such regimes and did not witness any successes. Today she advocates a middle of the road diet such as healthy Mediterranean but in not at the expense of other treatment.
Indeed even her husband’s recovery has been widely misreported. It’s a well known cancer recovery story and has impacted millions but it is inaccurate! It has been attributed to a vegan diet, meditation and loving support. But she states he was never on a vegan diet in the 22 years she was his full time cook and care giver—he ate calf liver, fish, other seafood, eggs, and milk products. She said Ian had little luck with meditation while ill; such was the extent of his pain. In fact they pulled out of the Dr Ainslie Meare’s meditation classes after 6 weeks since Ian was getting sicker and, by his own admission, he only developed his meditation skills long after he recovered.
Even medical journals can get it wrong! Incredibly, some years later, the remission was incorrectly highlighted in the prestigious Australian Medical Journal (MJA). Perhaps Meares, like the diet fundamentalists, had his own agenda, to prove his meditation method could cure serious diseases like cancer. If you Google Ainslie Meares you’ll find it written in cyber stone. However it’s not true information, but patients the world over had no reason to doubt and thus faithfully followed the regimes promoted.
Despite decades trying to address what my partner knew to be false information, reports of her husband’s recovery have spidered out across the internet, vigorously promoted by nature-cure people like I was. Multiply my story by thousands and we see how ‘memes’ are born. (Ideas that grow) Indeed as a trained yoga and meditation teacher, I keenly advocated the benefits of meditation. ‘Hey did you hear about that guy who cured his cancer doing intense meditation? Yes, another good reason why we should all be meditating.’ I proselytised. Due to my zeal, my ‘emotional fundamentalism,’ certain contradictory information was invisible to me—for example, I’d not remembered the many famous meditation masters who had died from cancer—it would have been an inconvenient truth. Like Dr Meares, I had an agenda!
I’m concerned to see such urban myths snowball into dangerous avalanches which result in unnecessary deaths. In her practice my partner attracts numerous ‘end stage’ patients aware of her reputation for getting the ‘worst cases’ through.’ Many of these are close to death having tried to emulate what they believed to be their path to wellness. Unfairly it falls on her to straighten them out. It comes as a shock to be told the accurate account—especially after having endured years doing 3 or more hours daily meditation (with resultant social isolation) and distress from extreme diets and fasting.
She says the story is perhaps one of the most misreported in the new age healing industry but tragically, it is not isolated. Unfortunately there are other prominent ‘celebrities’ in the cancer healing industry whose stories don’t equate with their medical histories. Desperate patients are vulnerable and will want to believe what they read if it offers hope for them—but it must not be false hope.
Fear of surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments drive many to the internet where anecdotal cancer healing miracles abound. Upon deeper scrutiny, many are flimsy at best and few are evidence based. Just because a story is repeated on numerous websites does not testify to its veracity as she knows in their own healing situation. Nature-health fundamentalists such as I have been, pick up and spread the stories without much thought to the consequences—cancer patients may live or die depending on the accuracy of the information. I now realise I have a responsibility to promote the truth—as we all do.
The fundamentalist approach (Try talking to a raw food advocate about this topic) can be one sided and makes it even harder for desperate patients to navigate the cancer maze. Beware, of your own fundamentalism—like me, you will want to believe you can cure cancer with a raw food diet, meditating 3-5 hours a day or eating apricot kernels–whether true or not.
With millions of web articles responding to a Google search for vegetarianism, vegan, raw diets, meditation cancer cures—many misquoting the story; my partner advises patients doing internet searches to insist that the claims made by self-proclaimed cancer ‘experts’ who supposedly cured their cancer by ‘natural’ means, be medically authenticated (view the medical records)
For genuine recoveries from cancer that are medically recorded, she recommends the IONS publication available on the internet for free – Spontaneous Remission – An Annoted Bibliography. Most of her memoirs are available for free via Google books. She also refers prostate cancer patients to the work of Dr ‘Snuffy’ Myers found on Youtube and the internet. We suggest that you be informed, choose wisely, walk the middle path, take the best from all modalities—your life may depend on it. – Pip Cornall – Qld – Australia