Survivor Story: Mike Smith*

Posted by | April 02, 2014 | Stories - Survivor Stories | 17 Comments

On my Caring Bridge site, my wife captured our journey into the world of cancer and allowed many of our friends and relatives to travel by our side and make the journey a lot less lonely and perhaps even less scary.

In brief, the situation is:  After many months of misdiagnosis, I was finally diagnosed with colon cancer on Sept 18, 2008. Within a week, I went into surgery. A tumor the size of  a coke can was removed, metastases discovered in the lymph nodes and liver, and I was staged at IV. On November 6, I started FOLFOX. After two rounds, Avastin was added to the regimen. After four rounds of chemo, the scan on December 23 showed no metastases. However, given the rarity of remission in two months, the oncologist ordered me on another cycle of chemo. In March, after another four rounds, the scans reconfirmed that the liver and lymph were clear and I was declared to be in remission. However, we continued with yet another cycle of chemo. In June of 2009, scans and a laparoscopy and an inter-operational ultrasound confirmed that there were no metastases, and I continue to be in remission.  As of today, January 1, 2010:  ten months of remission.

Obviously, I cannot explain why the disease took this path in my case –especially since there are others who have been a similar situation, done most of what I have done to battle cancer, but have had less favorable outcomes. There are those who have seen this and are convinced it is divine intervention. Others believe that there is evidence that the latest chemo regimens are very effective in certain cases. Others attribute this to attitude and changes to my diet. Personally, I do not know. All of the above seem probable and improbable. There is so much we do not know about colon cancer (or any cancer for that matter), that it is hard to tell which parameters are sensitive in a fight against it. Besides, we have now discovered that there are two varieties of colon cancer (the garden variety and KRAS – these are now considered different diseases). They both react very differently to chemo. (By the way, I had the garden variety). But how many more varieties are there? Could there be 600 different varieties, each of which is fundamentally different? Are we trying to treat different diseases with the same treatment? Do some of these varieties go into spontaneous remission?

Perhaps the path the disease took is partially under my control, in which case I need to share what I did. There were several factors, of which none, some or all contributed to my being in remission.  In alphabetical order:

1.    Attitude – for better or worse, I have a skill of not dwelling on negative experiences. Less charitably, that attitude can be described as denial. But in this case, it worked out for me. Every piece of bad news came with a wisp of a silver lining that I grabbed and focused upon. For example, when I was told that  no, it was not stage II and instead it was stage IV, since they found small metastases in the liver, I heard SMALL. When 6 of the 33 lymph nodes were positive, I thought of the 27 of 33 that were just fine. It was a much easier journey for me – with stage IV, all I could do was get better – a benefit of starting at the bottom.

2.    Chemo – FOLFOX+Avastin. (I understand that this and FOLFIRI are standard first line treatment for colon cancer. I did not have FOLFIRI)This was not too hard on me. The first round was the most difficult. The subsequent rounds were well tolerated although the post-chemo symptoms became increasingly difficult to bear as the doses went on. We stopped after eleven treatments when I developed Lhermitte’s syndrome. Lhermitte’s disappeared about four months after chemo. The first ten doses were at 100% and the last one at 50%. The neuropathies from this regimen remain with me  even today – nine  months after chemo. It is a minor inconvenience – painful cold sensitivity on the finger tips and toes.

3.    Community/Support – It has been overwhelming, the amount of community support our family has received during this time. From all the delicious food – made with so much love and caring, the time people spent with us, the shoulders to lean on, the arms and the hearts that were opened up to us, boosted our strength. In my mind’s eye, I felt like that Verizon guy with a phalanx of incredible hearts and minds behind me as I entered the ring at every chemo session to battle my quivering enemy. I imagined the cancer regretting the day it ever entered my body. It was not prepared for a fight against an angry village.

4.    Diet/Supplements – For four months, every day, my sister-in-law Sarah made me fresh juice on a Norwalk Juicer. I would drink eight  16oz. Mason jars of juice a day – 1 gallon of juice – made of carrots, kale, apples, beets, spinach, and celery – each with a teaspoon of turmeric. In addition to this, I stopped eating meat, dairy and sugar. I would eat fish and eggs.  I increased my fiber intake as much as I could. In terms of supplements, during chemo, I took AHCC, Vitamin K2 (on recommendation of naturopath), L-Glutamine (to reduce neuropathy), Vitamin D, Curcumin, Green tea extract  and multivitamin.  Since being in remission, I have continued the multivitamins, curcumin, and vitamin D, and added folic acid (controversial) and aspirin. I also take two glasses of water with a tablespoon of psyllium husk in each. I have remained on my diet of no meat, no sugar and no dairy – I don’t miss them and don’t believe I will ever eat them again.

5.    Exercise – Right before I began chemo, I started on a regular and rigorous exercise regimen, with the goal of running 20 miles a week. Typically I would do 15 miles and occasionally 18 miles. During chemo, I would walk 2-3 miles with my chemo pack and run 3-5 miles the day after chemo. I believe this really helped ward off the fatigue that chemo typically brings on. I also imagined that this pumped the chemo through ALL parts of my body. Since then, my workout routine has been sporadic.

6.    Prayer – There have been numerous people praying for me. My extended family in India offered Novenas and masses and held vigils for me. Prayer groups implored. My brother Mathew laid hands on me in prayer every other day. The love and concern that I received through the prayers were very moving and powerful. The prayer and love that I received was a constant and great sense of comfort. My visitor page at the CaringBridge site listed above was a reservoir or “love-lets” that I drew from frequently.

As I mentioned, all, some or none of these helped in the fight. But one thing for sure: mounting an aggressive fight against the disease helped me be focused and have a sense of very important and very clear purpose, so I never felt helpless in this fight. That might have been a key contributor to me being in remission.

The threat of cancer has reduced in my life because of the remission and also because of constant vigilance. The diet continues to be without dairy, meat or sugar. I eat little or no processed food.  Food is almost always organic. Supplements continue to fortify me. Household cleansers are nontoxic; cooking materials are mostly stainless steel.

Cancer has also left me more deliberate with life, a thousand fold more appreciative of every minute I spend with my wife, children, family and friends.  I don’t sweat the small stuff as much. And I appreciate people in their variety. While cancer is a cruel disease like all life-taking disease, my experience through it, partly because of those around me, has been remarkable and wonderful. To go to the brink, to realize how short and precious life is, and then be given another lease … I am so grateful!

*This is a pen name, author chose to remain anonymous.

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17 Comments

  • Michael Edwards says:

    My son was Diagnosed with Colon Cancer in May 2014. Tumor removed surgically and scan showed multiple tumors in all lobes of the liver. Began Chemo in April FLOFOX-AVASTIN-OXYPLATIN and LEUKOVORIN. After seven treatments the scans showed that he was in remission. He has continued chemo and had a repeat scan today. The Oncologist said that he had never seen this in his career and used the word miracle. My son is 26. Young with a positive attitude. Changed diet by cutting out most meat and sugar. Has been pretty sick from the chemo which has kept his activity down but has been able to maintain weight. He worked up until Sept. Cold sensitivity and minor loss of sensation in fingers and feet. Says he will take it.

  • Debbie says:

    Never give up hope. Nothing is impossible with God. I was diagonosed with stage 4 colon cancer that metatized to the liver. I am in remission, I am on chemo , supplements and believe that God has cured me! Nothing is impossible with God and of course the doctors and supplements etc., that God provides.

  • Dannielle says:

    My 14 year old son has been doagnosed with non hodgkins lymphoma t cell lymphoblastic lymphoma.Feel sorry for him that he has to be on steroids & chemo.He has constant headaches,fatigue & struggles to get out of bed.He had a 12cm tumour in his chest,jad trouble breathing.And had to jave two litres of fluid removed from his lungs.The streoids & chemo have shrunk his tumour by 80% which is good.We are lucky that treatment is working for him and also i praise the lord everyday

  • Jo says:

    Hi Mike , I also have stage 4 CC with lung and liver mets. 2 years of 5FU and no sugar, no meat or dairy for the last 3 months. Scans have shown only dead tissue where tumours were. Diet is so important.

    • pat says:

      Were you microsatellite stable ? It should say in your pathology report.

    • Dawn Lee says:

      Thank you for posting – starting chemo this week for colon/liver cancer. Meat and sugar are a thing of the past. I pray amazing nutrition, juicing and all organic (which I already do) work for me.

  • Hi Michael, Great story and thanks for sharing. I was diagnosed stage 3 two and a half years ago and my tumour had spread to my small intestine, lymph nodes, right ovary, and stomach muscle. I refused the chemo and radiation, changed my diet, supplements are still a big part of my regime, I treated my self with Ozone therapy, had a very positive attitude, exercise etc etc. It’s been 2 1/2 years now and I am thriving. No sugar, no dairy, no grains or processed foods, YES I eat red meat every week always slow cooked, I have loads of fermented vegetables, enzymes and have the odd vegetable juice. Diet is a big part of it but I have lost several friends around me, who also ate very clean diets, no processed foods and had chemo. I believe their demise came down to STRESS! We are all so individual, what works for now doesn’t work for all….Interesting stuff!!!
    I hope you are still fir and well, would love to hear how you are doing these days 🙂 Thanks again

    • Ella says:

      Hi justine. What an inspiration you are. May I ask what enzymes you take? And what does a typical eating dAy look like for you? Thank you so much.

    • Neeraj says:

      I had surgery of tumor.i have been diagnosed stage 2 of colon cancer. The doctor recommended chemo which I am not interested in. Can u please talk to me at my local no (226) 6061303.i am very confused.

  • Maria says:

    Hello Mike,

    Your story is extremely uplifting. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer with metastases in the liver and lymph nodes. A very similar situation to yours. He had surgery less than 3 weeks ago to remove part of the Sigmoid Colon where the tumor was located. He will be stating chemotherapy with the same combination FOLFOX+Avastin on November 8th. Diet wise he has followed a very similar diet to yours (lots of fish, vegestables, frutes and juicing everyday) with the addition of chicken breast and turkey breast. I will be buying all the vitamins and supplements this week and would like to know if there are any brands that you would recommend for each vitamin/supplement you mentioned and where to buy them. A friend who went through chemotherapy also recommed 4Life Transfer Factor I don’t know if you have heard of this.

    Any info that you can provide in regards to vitamins/supplements will be greatly appreciated.

    God bless you!

  • Maria says:

    Also, if you could let me know about dosages I would greatly appreciated!

    Thank you

  • Carrie says:

    Never give up hope. God bless you. Colon cancer is one of the dangerous disease ! Don’t wait until you suspect something is wrong. Go early ….stay healthy ! Visit http://colorectal-surgeon.com.au/

  • Lemetrious Kelly says:

    Good morning/afternoon/evening,
    My name is Lemetrious Kelly and my father has stage 4 CC. The lymph nodes in his chest and stomach are cancerous. There’s a protrusion in his stomach area that gurgles & gives him gaseous pain & discomfort.
    His doctor has him on a xeloda chemo regimen which consists of 4 pills he takes in the AM, & 4 pills in the PM (14 days=2weeks, then an IV on the 3rd week).
    Now I’ve read many testimonials about people beating this terrible disease & what they’ve done to beat it (juicing, vegan diet, alkaline water, etc.)
    Is there anyone that could share with me a detailed regimen of juicing/vegan diet/etc. that my father could do daily, with a time table,to beat this, please??? I would certainly appreciate it.
    Lemetrious Kelly

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