Published in Organic NZ May/June 2018 – 1.5.18, Health & Food Section
Tremane Barr shares his experiences of surviving pancreatic cancer.
“Sorry, but the cancer has spread from the main 12 cm neuroendocrine tumour in the pancreas to throughout your liver and there is nothing we can do. We expect you probably have around 3–6 months left to live.”
These are not the words one wants to hear from one’s doctor at the age of 44. I got this diagnosis in July 2012. For the previous six months I had been feeling unwell with nagging symptoms of bouts of diarrhoea, a sore lower back, sore muscles and feeling increasingly lethargic. I put these down to post-traumatic stress from the then ongoing earthquakes in our hometown of Christchurch, and battling EQC, but finally relented to my wife’s insistence to get a scan done which revealed the awful truth. Knowing we had no conventional options we quickly consulted with alternative health care practitioners, but they all agreed that there was nothing that could be done.
However, my wife is a formidable woman who rarely takes no for an answer. She asked a naturopath friend to at least think about what could be helpful. Fortunately, the naturopath did come up with a plan for an organic diet and supplements, which provided the foundation for my recovery and ongoing survival to this day.
At the time I only vaguely knew I had a pancreas and very little about what it actually does, but it turns out it is rather crucial to one’s health as it is central to secreting the chemicals necessary to digest food upon which one’s health depends. Pancreatic cancer is a particularly deadly form of cancer because once the pancreas is compromised it is not possible to get the nutrition needed from one’s food.
What follows is a brief overview of the diet developed for my particular condition that I strictly followed for the first three years until I started to recover.
- 2 apples – take core out and stuff with walnuts and barberry berries and bake for 1 hour at 180ºC. While making and baking this I would do coconut oil pulling by having a tablespoon of oil in my mouth for 20 minutes followed by drinking 2 large glasses of water with the juice of 1 lemon squeezed into them.
- Buckwheat and millet porridge with coconut yoghurt and homemade almond milk. I would wait until an hour after eating the baked apples before having the porridge.
- Carrot juice: after drinking (500 ml) of juice I waited at least half an hour before eating lunch.
- Bread (homemade and gluten-free, containing linseed, almonds, chia and chickpea flour), topped with tahini, homemade hummus, avocado, cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and sauerkraut.
- Rosehip and berry drink: I make rosehip tea the night before in a thermos, then blend with 250 g blueberries, and some raspberries in season. When I could not get fresh berries in season I used frozen ones.
- Green juice: broccoli, silverbeet, spinach, celery, kale and parsley. To the juice I added in nettle tea along with a teaspoon each of wheat and barley grass with a pinch of broccoli sprout powder (about 500 ml in total).
- Quinoa with salad made of raw broccoli, carrot, sauerkraut and avocado.
- When I was feeling peckish between meals I would snack on macadamia, cashew, almond and/or Brazil nuts.
None of the above food would have done me much good without the use of digestive enzymes and acidophilus pills to help break the food down, making it digestible, so my intestines could get the nutritional value out of it to fuel my body and immune system.
The next key supplement is herbal tonics. While people would like to know what was in them, the naturopath tailored them to my particular circumstances and the evolving state of my health over time – there is no one magic herb or herbal mix. An experienced naturopath or herbalist should be able to tailor a tonic to suit the individual.
Other key supplements I use are:
- Vitamins B, C (natural acerola) and D (fish oil)
- Curcumin (turmeric contains this)
- Minerals: zinc, magnesium etc.
- Seaweed (Irish moss or New Zealand wakame)
- Essential oils e.g. frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, lavender, vetiver etc. (diffused not taken internally).
The above diet was tailored specifically to me. I only list it above to help inspire people who might find themselves with a similar diagnosis to mine, and are wondering what type of diet potentially might be a useful starting point. Unfortunately, this diet alone would simply not have been enough for me, and if it was the only thing I did then I would have died a long time ago.
It can also pay to do an audit of one’s life to find out where the toxins came from that might have caused the cancer. In my case we were lucky enough to find out that my organic garden soil was contaminated with the carcinogenic heavy metals of lead, cadmium, chromium and arsenic (see Organic NZ Sept/Oct 2014, organicnz.org.nz/magazine-articles/is-your-soil-toxic). Once I stopped touching the soil and eating from my garden then my health really started to recover.
A total lifestyle change
In my opinion to survive a serious cancer diagnosis using only natural methods requires total commitment to a complete revision of one’s lifestyle.
I don’t have the space here to go into the details of everything I did, but fortunately Dr Kelly Turner has managed to sum it up through her research into over a thousand cases of people who have survived and healed cancer using natural methods. Her book Radical Remission – Surviving Cancer Against All Odds describes the nine key factors that are common to people who do survive using natural methods (see radicalremission.com). These are those nine key factors:
- Radical change of diet to an organic plant-based one.
- Using herbal tonics and supplements.
- Taking control of one’s health.
- Following your intuition.
- Releasing repressed emotions.
- Increasing positive emotions.
- Embracing social support.
- Deepening your spiritual connection.
- Having strong reasons for living.
I also found this website very useful: www.dralexanderloyd.com.
Today the cancer is gone from my liver and the tumour in my pancreas is either sleeping or dead, as the marker in my blood is now back within its normal range. It may, or may not, wake up and kill me some time in the future, but for the time being I am very healthy and back to being physically active and working full time.
I said to myself when I was told I only had months to live: “Be reasonable – expect a miracle!” Miraculous my survival may be, but it has only come about through bloody-minded self-discipline, hard work and painful persistence.
Tremane Barr (Ngāi Tahu/Kāti Mahaki ki Makaawhio) is currently a research fellow based at the Ngāi Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury and is working on the Māori case study in the NZ Sustainability Dashboard Project.