Bill Asenjo, PhD, CRC, Freelance Writer and Consultant

— From the Whole Life Times, January 2001

Health on Her Mind

SURVIVING A BRAIN TUMOR

When Cheryl Clark went horseback riding one sunny October afternoon in 1997, little did she know that a time bomb ticked in her head. As her horse picked up speed, a violent seizure threw the 48-year-old former athlete to the ground with a bone-crunching thud, fracturing her spine and ribs and damaging vital organs.

The bad news didn't stop there. A CT scan revealed a lemon-size brain tumor. Surgeons quickly removed the tumor; two days later they fused her spine. The worst, it seemed, was over.

But as Clark recuperated, a pathology report delivered a devastating diagnosis: Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM IV), the most aggressive of brain tumors. Even when surgically removed, this tumor grows back with a vengeance. Radiation and chemotherapy only slow its growth. Few patients survive more than five years; conventional cancer specialists consider it incurable. Doctors gave Clark three-to-six months to live.

Yet more than two years later, Clark not only survives, but thrives. After several brain and spine surgeries, weeks of radiation and a Gamma knife boost, today she jogs, helps conduct brain tumor research, and remains active in a brain tumor support group she helped form.

Cheryl's Nutritional Treatment Plan

Clark's remarkable recovery is due in large part to an intensive nutritional program designed by Jeanne Wallace, a Ph.D. in nutrition and nutritional consultant. Wallace has worked with a variety of cancer patients, but now focuses her practice on brain tumor patients.

Wallace created a healing protocol of diet, nutritional and herbal interventions. First, she had Clark greatly reduce sugar intake. Sugar suppresses the immune system and feeds cancer cells. Wallace emphasized omega-3 fats, found in fish and flax, to slow tumor growth and strengthen Clark's immune system. The protocol also included Siberian ginseng, astragalus, cats claw and mushroom extracts (Maitake D-fraction, Chinese reishe, shiitake, cordyceps and Coriolus versicolor).

"Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are not the only ways to make an impact on cancerous cells," says Wallace. "Select agents can slow the growth of new blood vessels to the tumor (angiogenesis), preventing tumor progression. The immune system can be strengthened to more effectively identify and eliminate cancer cells. Inflammatory processes, which fuel tumor growth, can be interrupted. Certain substances tell cancer cells to mature into healthy cells (differentiation) or to undergo natural cell death (apoptosis)."

The most prominent natural substance in Clark's regimen was IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate combined with inositol). Research reveals IP6 inhibits tumor growth, stimulates immunity, and prompts cancer cell differentiation. While including 16 IP6 capsules taken daily on an empty stomach, Clark's regimen also encompasses soy genistein, bromelain, berberine, glutathione, quercetin, alkylglycerols, St. John's wort and proanthocyanidins.

Nutrition & Radiation

Rather than blindly accept whatever treatment her doctor chose, Clark insisted on working in partnership with her oncologist. After weeks or researching radiation, chemotherapy and brain tumors, she refused chemotherapy and chose radiation therapy.

Because radiation alone is ineffective against GBMs, Wallace recommended select herbs and nutrients to make the tumor more vulnerable and reduce side effects. Since low oxygen levels increase tumor resistance to radiation, Clark took 500 mg. of niacin daily and germanium (GE-132, 1000 mg. daily) to increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood and antioxidants to the tumor. "Although some oncologists hold the outdated belief that antioxidants are contraindicated during radiation and chemotherapy, 30 years of research reveals taking antioxidants during radiation and chemotherapy can be helpful," explains Wallace.

An hour before her daily radiation treatments, Clark took vitamin C (1,500 mg.) and vitamin E (800 IUs) to protect healthy brain tissue and reduce swelling. To maximize radiation effectiveness and further protect healthy brain tissue, Clark included shark liver oil (200 mg. daily), melatonin (5 mg. nightly), St. John's wort (900 mg. daily) and whey protein (4 Tbs. daily). "Research suggests these supplements can maximize radiation's effect while protecting healthy tissue," Wallace says.

As a result, Clark had no fatigue, side effects or complications from radiation. An MRI revealed the tumor responded well. Encouraged, in June 1998 Clark chose an experimental therapy: gamma-knife radiosurgery, which directs high-intensity radiation from many angles. Once again, Clark's nutritional regimen kept her free of side effects. Since then, her MRIs have been stable and she has foregone further conventional treatments, but maintains nutritional and herbal support. Today Clark is free of any signs or symptoms of the tumor, has no neurological deficits and requires no medications.

More Than a Physical Fight

Rather than just limit her struggle to the physical body, Clark's holistic approach included acupuncture, Belle Ruth Naparstek's visualizations for cancer, affirmations, prayer, massage (zero balancing, polarity, Shiatsu), and a positive attitude.

As Clark admints, "I haven't always had a positive attitude. Before this brain tumor journey began, personal losses piled up, causing serious depression." Clark lost both parents to cancer — her father to lung cancer in 1982, her mother to colon cancer in 1985. In addition an important seven-year relationship ended in 1989. "My attitude bottomed out, and I felt like giving up on life," Clark says. "It took a long time to pull myself to the surface. And just as I began enjoying life again, the tumor struck."

"Ironically, since my diagnosis, I haven't been depressed — a little sad at times, but not depressed. For years I didn't care if I lived, but when faced with the prospect of dying, every molecule of my being ached to live. Instead of focusing on my losses, I focused on all that was good. Instead of telling myself I might only have a short time to live, I chose the attitude of, 'I stil have many days to live, play, love...and I'm going to make the most of them."

At first, Clark joined a support group for women with cancer because she needed help. Later, grateful to be alive and interested in helping others, she and several others formed a local support group for people with brain tumors.

Wallace also provided emotional support, helping keep Clark's attitude "adjusted." Clark collected cancer survivor stories, asking friends and family to channel their energies into prayer.

"This journey has been exciting and rewarding," Clark says. "Exciting because I'm still here; rewarding because I can help others."

Clark now works as Wallace's research assistant. "Work keeps me very busy," Clark says with a smile. "It's now two years and seven months since my diagnosis. I'm enjoying life fully and passionately, and I treasure every day."


Bill Asenjo, a survivor of six brain tumor surgeries, is completing his Ph.D. dissertation (Alternative Medicine and Disability) at the University of Iowa.

Jeanne M. Wallace, Ph.D., CNC, Clinical Nutrition Consultant, works for Nutritional Solutions, 1697 East, 3450 North, North Logan Utah 84341, USA. Phone: (435) 563-0053, Fax: (435) 563-0052. Ms. Wallace can be reached at nutritionalsolutions@comcast.net

If you call you'll likely speak with Cheryl Clark herself — she began working for Jeanne as a research assistant during her recovery, which is now more than FIVE YEARS!


© 2009 Bill Asenjo

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