Is it odd that before I was ever diagnosed with serious illness, I knew two people who had beaten cancer using quite unconventional means? And by unconventional I mean fruits and vegetables, though to be sure there is a universe of treatments—some evidence-based and some rather outlandish—all crowded together under the umbrella of unconventionality.
At the time I thought nothing of it because—let’s get real—most of us in our 20s, 30s and 40s don’t walk around thinking of getting seriously sick or, heavens forbid, dying. In retrospect, of course, I wondered. Whether the two of them, these survivors that I knew personally, were a form of grace—some glimmer of hope for later, when I would encounter my own storm.
The first was a youngish man who had skin cancer. He was the father of one dear friend and the uncle of another. It was the late-1980s. I hung around their house often. I knew he was sick. I knew that for some reason he had declined chemotherapy and radiation. I saw mountains of carrots and other vegetables atop their kitchen counters every time I visited. And also, an odd-looking juicer. The gravity of his illness never registered.
The second was my aunt—my father’s much younger sister who has lived in Holland since the 1970s when she was swept off her feet by a Dutch man who happened to be passing through Iran as he hiked around Asia. She was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma almost a decade ago. She changed her diet drastically by cutting meats and dairy, began eating and juicing loads of fruits and vegetables, and drinking copious amounts of teas made from wild herbs—particularly stinging nettles—that she would pick fresh in the woods near her home (which, I always thought, made her story sound even more fantastical than it already appeared).
My aunt often tells of the time she went in for a follow-up visit about a year after diagnosis. Holding her scans in hand, her doctor waltzed into the examination room and said with a great deal of excitement: “There is absolutely no sign of the cancer! Our treatments are working beautifully for you!”
And then he began rifling through her chart to see what exactly she had been treated with. That’s when my aunt interjected. She told him: “You never gave me any treatment. You sent me home to die. I treated myself.”
Even now, even knowing these two and their stories—both very much alive and healthy—my rational mind questions. (And, I’m not proud to admit, doubts.)
Carrot juice what?
Stinging nettle who?
Beets? To do what? Clean the blood?!
Most medical doctors will listen to you tell stories like these and many will look at you askance, a bit like you are mad.
And as you recount these stories for family, friends, total strangers in waiting rooms, even you yourself will feel a bit mad.
But there you have it. It is what it is. The power of the carrot. The power of the mind. The power of the placebo. You may call it whatever you like.
There are many fantastic combinations of juices for cleansing, for healing, for renewing. Here’s the one given to me by my much-loved clinical nutritionist. I drank it several times a day in that first year after diagnosis. And though organic is ideal, it is not a deal-breaker:
Beet & Green Apple Juice
1 small beet (including the leaves)
A couple stalks of celery
A handful of kale
A handful of spinach
1 green apple
Drink within 20 minutes of juicing.