When my father was in his early fifties, he was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. He had a famous doctor and the best of treatment. He prepared accordingly: left his job from a company he had been with his whole adult life; sold the large home, his dream house, where I grew up – and prepared to die. After six months he was still alive, though disfigured from surgery in his jaw and his beautiful speaking voice was distorted. The doctor said he was lucky but should not expect to live out the year.
In brief, my father lived another seventeen years which would sound like a success story until you look closer. Accepting the doctor’s prognosis with blind faith, he terminated much in his life that gave him happiness and fulfillment while neglecting to do what would have given him satisfaction and, possibly, a total cure. He never had the cosmetic surgery that would have repaired his jaw and ability to speak, thinking it a frivolous indulgence for one with such limited days.
Although I was very young, I witnessed what I came to realize was arrogance on the part of the doctor. He was skilled and the first operation saved my father’s life in the short term. But the doctor never considered the profound effect of self-awareness, intentional dietary intake of nutrients while avoiding damaging foods, or his own fallibility. He was wrong about how much time my father had to live but never admitted that his estimate, though educated, left so much unknown.
Young as I was, I had an instinct for seeking out natural remedies, supplements and daily practices that not only curbed the American tendency to indulge in processed foods, prescription drugs and skepticism of anything not stamped with the approval of a medical degree, I found that it opened me up to a more interesting life.
My early attempts at herbal medicine, outdoor exercise and rediscovering forgotten folk remedies were met, in my family, with ridicule and even annoyance. How could a young girl challenge the dictates of a world famous surgeon? At no point did I challenge his achievement, but I saw the day-by-day reduction of my father from a person of hope, loyalty, hard work and faith to a broken, sad and confused man. Near the end of his life, he tentatively said (even then, he was programmed not to challenge authority) that he should have sued that doctor for malpractice. Assuming my dad would live such a short time, the doctor used methods so harsh that it was their side effects that finally killed my father, not the original cancer.
But the seeds of discovery had been sown, and once you have a taste for the gifts of Nature, offered up to those who seek, it becomes a lifelong fascination and delight.