You can find specific resources that helped me at different times on my journey on the What I Did that Helped page.
November 2010: A well-care visit found a benign-looking mass followed by surgery that resulted in a stage three colon cancer diagnosis and a temporary colostomy.
- I used USANA supplements after surgery until chemo and radiation began in January 2013.
- I was given resources by Dr. Lorraine Day on using a plant based way of eating to get started on getting well. I was too overwhelmed emotionally, physically and mentally to choose that rigorous route.
- I allowed myself to go through standard medical treatment after much research, many tears, and agonizing hope that going through this grueling process would mean that the cancer would not return and that the colostomy could be reversed and bowel function preserved. I was already into the medical treatment process after waking up with a colostomy and a surprise cancer diagnosis and didn’t see any other way.
- Statements I remember during this time:
- “Wow. Your body was working hard to fight this tumor.” – Oncologist reviewing my pathology at our first meeting. (My response was, “Then can’t we continue watching to see if my body will keep fighting? The tumor load is gone. I don’t think I got cancer for a lack of chemo in my body.” Oncologist, understandably, was not a fan of my reasoning.)
- “We feel you are young enough that going through this tough treatment is your best chance and you should not deal with this cancer again.” – Oncologist at second opinion consultation in Buffalo in December 2012.
January 2011 through June 2011: Chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries, including an ileostomy and the colostomy take down/reversal. Local doctors followed treatment recommendations from a major cancer center in Buffalo, NY.
Statements I remember during this time:
- “I don’t care what you do with nutrition before and after treatment. During treatment, I don’t want you using any supplements. They could counteract the treatment.” – Oncologist response when I asked what he thought about my plan to use supplements to help protect my body during treatment.
- After the colostomy was fully reversed I found helpful information from MD Anderson on using Metamucil to gain bowel control. The local doctor had no such information for me. I was on my own once I left the hospital to figure out my new normal.
- I went back on USANA supplements as soon as chemo and radiation treatment were completed.
- I did some juicing and dabbled in plant based eating but did not fully embrace the way of eating.
- I had a consultation with a nutritionist in August or September 2011 and she told me about bentonite clay (www.livingclayco.com) as a strategy to remove radiation from my body. I was highly concerned about late effects of radiation. I used the clay consistently for a number of months.
September 2011: Clean CT scan.
- I returned to work full-time.
- I did not properly address stress in my life.
- I started out careful about what I ate but did not fully avoid foods that can burden the liver and immune system. I returned to “normal” eating after a number of months.
October 1, 2012: CT scan to monitor my status revealed a new 5 cm mass in the area of the previous treatment. The tumor was threatening my iliac artery. The left kidney was shutting down due to the mass and required a stent to preserve the kidney function. Stage four cancer.
- I breezed in to get the CT scan results with my husband. He would be taking me to my new job afterwards. We were stunned. When we left the office after our world fell apart again, Tom said, “Do you want me to take you home?” I said, “No. This time, I’m angry. I will not go back into treatment after all I’ve been through.” (Perhaps a naive statement, but it was how I felt at that moment.) “I need to get to work. They’re expecting me.”
October 8, 2012: Juicing and raw foods regimen began at my personal choice in conjunction with consultations with medical doctors about potential (in my mind) treatment. I refused to accept the urging to have an immediate permanent colostomy to surgically remove the mass. I also refused the recommendation to immediately start – again – chemotherapy.
- In the first week of October 2012 I immediately dove into juicing and raw foods using the following resource as a day-to-day “how to” guide: Dr. Lorraine Day’s Super Starter Package. It was not just about the food, by the way. It was emphatically about dealing with managing stress, changing what I ate and how I viewed the power of nutrition, and submitting it all to God. The process was an exercise in examining how God designed our bodies to function, to be powered up with food, and if He allowed, to be able to heal.
- “If it doesn’t come out of the ground or off a tree, you probably shouldn’t be eating it while on the recovery eating plan.”
- I juiced five pounds of pounds of organic carrots juiced six organic green apples every day (including seeds) to make about 48 ounces of carrot and apple juice; I drank 32 ounces of green drink (BarleyMax from www.myhdiet.com).
- I ate unprocessed food that was 80% raw and 20% cooked. I ate WELL and felt great for a person with stage 4 cancer affecting my bowels and potentially creeping up towards my stomach.
- I drank lots of water all day and through the night.
- I continued taking supplements from USANA and other sources as well. Technically one can get complete nutrition from eating organic foods and juices when properly done. I chose to add supplements, against Dr. Day’s protocol recommendations of using only food, because of all that my body had been through. I decided that was best for my personal journey.
- I was in bed at 9 PM every night. Every morning I juiced and packed raw foods for the work day.
- The only other social commitments I made were to participate on our church’s worship team as a musician. Giving back to the Lord during this new time of crisis in my life was very important to me.
- I read about the Gerson Therapy and the book about Gerson helped direct and solidify my thoughts about the juicing/plant based recovery plan, coffee enemas (yep), and whether this protocol was good for my type of cancer.
- I went through testing both locally and in New York City to determine what I would be comfortable accepting by way of further treatment while the doctors determined what they thought would be the proper plan of attack.
- The MRI in NYC found a life-threatening clot in my iliac artery. I started on Lovanox shots daily. Maybe that was why I went to NYC for that consultation? Who knows. (God does.) While I cringed at a daily injection, I saw God’s hand of protection in this because the injection allowed me to continue with the plant based eating plan. A pill form of blood thinner would have meant a stop to the plant based eating plan.
- I told my husband (respectfully) to stop asking the oncologists and world-renowned surgeons if they thought the carrot juice I was guzzling every hour would make any difference. They didn’t understand it, believe in it, or care to consider it for healing and recovery. “Well, it’s good for horses (snicker), but no, it won’t make any difference for a cancer patient.” I kept on sipping my carrot juice while staring at the cancer surgeon in her NYC office suite surrounded by interns.
- I asked and was told that without any further medical intervention I would have 6-12 months to live.
- I gave myself permission to decide what I would accept on my own terms after prayer and much discussion with family. I was not afraid of dying because my eternity is secure in Jesus Christ. I was afraid of the horrendous treatment process based on my previous experience.
- I learned that nutrition experts may view medicine as more harmful than good and medical experts may often view the preposterous idea of using nutrition for healing as foolish and unproven. I had to decide how, or whether, to make both work for my crisis.
- Insurance doesn’t pay for carrot juice.
- Medicine offered only three things: chemo, radiation, and surgery (otherwise affectionately known as poisoning, burning, and cutting).
- Nutrition offered a world of nurturing options to work with my body and not tear it down.
- I researched for myself what I believed God wanted me to do by incorporating both for MY benefit. I have to live or die with my choices. Every situation is unique.
- Could I trust nutrition to build up my body, then run the gauntlet of medical treatment again using supplements to protect, and then turn back to nutrition again to restore my body?
January 2013: I chose to accept targeted radiation treatment and a daily chemo pill at a major cancer center in New York City with the goal of shrinking the cancerous mass.
- I juiced during the first week of targeted radiation and chemo pill, but the juice became harder for my bowels to tolerate.
- I researched and made the personal choice to include the use of specific supplements during treatment to protect my body from the negative effects of chemo and radiation, and to help the chemo and radiation work better.
- I used Natural Strategies For Cancer Patients (Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.) as a guide to determine what I chose to use for supplements during treatment in NYC. I mapped out what I would do daily using the book’s recommendations as a guide. I got supplements from various sources based on what I could afford.
- I did not ask permission to use supplements this time. I told the oncologist what I would be doing with supplements to help protect my body and help treatment be more effective. To her credit, she said, “I’m okay with you doing that. We don’t know everything there is to know about cancer.”
- I used bentonite clay every night before bed to help draw out radiation and help protect my colon.
- I was very nervous about more radiation because the first time, even with a colostomy bag, it was awful. This time, it was more targeted on the mass, and I had no major problems. I was fatigued. I ate what tasted good to my body within reason and focused more on the supplements. It was ok.
February 2013: I returned to juicing and raw foods at home after spending almost a month in NYC.
- I continued using bentonite clay nightly.
- I took clay baths.
- I returned to the plant based recovery eating plan with juicing.
- I rested.
- I returned to work in April 2013.
- I used Youngevity Selenium for a number of months.
- I went back to USANA multivitamins for a number of months.
- I continued following the protocol for supplements from Russell Blaylock after treatment for a number of months after treatment ended.
May 2013: An MRI in NYC revealed that the cancerous mass had shrunk by 90%, which was “remarkable” according to doctors at a major cancer treatment center in New York City where I was treated.
- The blood clot was no longer a threat and the daily blood thinner shot was able to be stopped.
- The suggestion was made by doctors in NYC that the 10% remaining mass could be surgically removed. The price I would pay for this surgical intervention would most likely be a permanent colostomy due to nerve damage that would most certainly occur. I made the personal decision to decline any more surgery based on the positive outcome we were seeing.
- I continued with the juicing/raw foods recovery plan.
August 2013: PET scan reveals that there was no cancer detected. “Your body is normal; there is no cancer detected as this time.”
- We were stunned again. I called back immediately to ask, “What, exactly, do you mean by ‘normal’, please?” His answer was, “We do not see evidence of cancer in your body; your body on the scan looked like any other person’s normal body would look.”
- Juicing/raw foods continued. PET scan in six months.
- I danced at my daughter’s wedding.
February 2014: PET scan one year after second round of targeted radiation and chemo pill were complete. There was no cancer detected.
- Juicing and raw foods continued. PET scan in a year.
- I shared my testimony at a women’s conference to maybe give someone else hope.
- I walked on the beach and put my toes in the sand at the edge of the ocean for one week in a condo that was gifted to my husband and I while he ministered at Spring Training in Florida. I and my body breathed a deep sigh of relief for the first time since November 2010.
May 2014: Left kidney stent removed. The stent had been replaced every few months since October 2012. We had become friends, but I was glad it was gone!
May 2015: The CT Scan showed.. nothing. Clear again by God’s grace.
April 2016: The CT Scan was stable. Clear again by God’s grace.
- The oncologist locally told me I have had a lung nodule on right side since 2012 that I was never told about. It was benign, 2 cm.
May 2017: The CT Scan was stable. Clear again by God’s grace. (Lung nodule was stable.)
- I began using essential oils in Spring 2017 for hormonal wellness support after cancer treatment. I fell in love with the oils and the toxin free support they provided and continue to provide in every area.
May 2018: CT Scan was stable. Clear again by God’s grace. (Lung nodule was stable; it went from 2 cm to 1 cm.)
- I researched essential oils that would specifically help with respiratory support in the month before my annual scan. Translation: I wanted the nodule stable, or less, but not more!!
- I did a plant based reset/detox (I feel much better eating this way) in the month before the annual CT scan.
In between the dates listed above please include dashes of sorrow, tear filled pleas to the Living God, moments of life saving joy, days clouded with doubt, steps of faith big and tiny, clinging to God’s promises that He can work good in spite of fear and painful procedures, a growing understanding of how little we truly know about cancer, and how much God loves to help us grow through challenges when we take him at his word.
Sharon O’Connor is a stage 4 colon cancer survivor. She enjoys sharing wellness strategies that have supported her personal cancer journey. She is married to Tom, a professional athletic chaplain in the New York Mets organization with Baseball Chapel. Sharon and Tom have two grown daughters and an adopted Pug-Maltese mix name Ace.