Walking Away from Traditional Medicine:
On Feb. 1, 1982, Nancy Bastow made a discovery that changed the course of her life – she found a lump on her breast. About two weeks later, she had a meeting with her surgeon for a biopsy; cancer in the breast was found, and it was removed that same day. When Nancy returned home, she felt she was “home free.” Then on February 23, her doctor’s office called asking her to come in right away. To her and her husband’s horror, they were told that during the surgery, lymph nodes were removed and sent to Boston for testing. The results had come back positive. The doctor told Nancy that the cancer was terminal and had probably spread throughout her body.
In March she had a consultation with her oncologist. “When I got there, the specialist gave me a referral from the surgeon and said I might want to read it. After reading it I discovered that I was more sick than I’d thought. I hadn’t expected it and was quite overwhelmed. I also discovered that the doctor and the surgeon expected me to begin chemotherapy that day. I had gone expecting alternatives to be offered, but it was apparent that they wouldn’t be. Dismayed, I went home.
“I had taught nursing for 12 years so it was rather routine for me to see a patient diagnosed with cancer to have chemotherapy and think positively about it. I slipped into that mode and, quite frankly, it didn’t occur to me to say, “I don’t want it,” and not take it. So under the pressure from everything, including myself, and recalling the successes I had worked with in the past, I began chemotherapy.
“I was to have two weeks of treatment and two weeks off – a massive program using three drugs. Between the first and second visits I lost 80 percent of my hair and felt extremely nauseous. After the surgery I had left the hospital with plenty of energy and motion in my arm. I lost all of it. My incision broke open and bled.
“The timeframe they gave me was a 50 percent chance of living one year if I had chemotherapy for the entire year.
"On May 31, I started my third series of treatments. By then I was so debilitated that it was a chore to bend down and pick something up. I was convinced that if I took chemotherapy for the whole year, I would either wind up in a nursing home or in a pine box. It was all I could do to force myself to get out of bed, dress, and eat. Someone would drive me to work and then bring me back. As soon as I got home I went back to bed. I told my husband, ‘If I have a 50 percent chance of living this year with or without chemotherapy, I’ll live without it.’ When I returned for my last treatment, I asked the oncologist about the drugs they’d been giving me. At first there was a strong refusal to even talk about it. Summoning up courage from somewhere, I said that I knew there was a right-to-know law in the state of Maine. I stood my ground and eventually got the information I wanted. The literature accompanying the drugs said there was an 80 percent chance that chemotherapy to one breast could cause cancer in the other.
“That did it! Everything I read spelled death to me. That same day I decided that was the end of my therapy. That was a Friday night. “Sunday morning there was an article on nutrition in the newspaper. I’m sure it was divine providence that I picked that article to read. I had had a nagging concern for some time that I hadn’t done enough with nutrition. In the article, Dr. Christiane Northrup, was quoted as saying that 60 percent of cancers in women were diet-related. I called Dr. Northrup and saw her the next day. After examining me she asked, ‘Are you willing to walk away from traditional medicine and make a complete lifestyle change?’
“I replied that I’d love nothing better. I had never heard the word “macrobiotics, but Dr. Northrup offered it to me as an option and gave me a two-page pamphlet on Dr. Sattilaro and his success with cancer. She further suggested that I get two books, Healing Miracles Through Macrobiotics by Jan and Mary Kohler and Food for Thought by Saul and Jo Anne Miller. In addition, I was encouraged to call a woman in Massachusetts who had recovered from lung cancer by eating macrobiotically and to call Ted Keller at the Way of Life Center in Waldoboro. ‘Go talk with Ted, have a meal, take a cooking class, and then go to Boston for a consultation,’ Northrup urged, in that order.
"I did as she suggested and found myself in Boston on June 1. As recommended, I saw Bill Tims, a macrobiotic counselor. He did a complete diagnosis and said to me, ‘I have some good news and some bad news.’ ‘Give me the bad news first,’ I said. ‘First of all,’ he said, ‘I don’t know why you’ve been considered terminally ill, and given such massive chemotherapy. The bad news is had you come to me in February instead of June, I probably could have treated your breast cancer without surgery or chemotherapy.’
“I blanched. I would have given anything to turn the clock back. ‘What’s the good news?’ I asked.
“If you want to choose the alternative of macrobiotics, you’ll go on a therapeutic diet that I’ll give you today, and you’ll not cheat one mouthful for three months. When you return after those three months, I’ll probably be able to tell you that you have the same life expectancy of anyone else your age.”
“It seemed to me that one course offered me death and the alternative offered me life. There was no choice. I went home macrobiotic.
“It was my support systems that enabled me to keep going. My husband and daughters were first, and a holistic cancer support group, whose meetings I attended, was second. They kept saying, ‘You’ll make it – everyone who fits makes it.’ That kept me going, fighting for the alternative I now believe in heart and soul.
“In January 1983, I began to have weekly consultations with a local macrobiotic counselor, Corinne Parady. This step really accelerated my healing process. At each session she would give a shiatsu massage and thorough diagnosis, making adjustments in my diet and lifestyle as my condition changed. I know this is the reason I recovered so quickly. As someone healing through macrobiotics, it was my experience that having my progress monitored by an experienced counselor was very important. What was a proper diet for me one week may not have been the next, for as the toxins discharged, my body chemistry changed.”
Nancy continues to see her counselor faithfully and keeps a close watch on her diet. Although she has not returned to the doctors for confirmation, she feels she is cured. She has had no illnesses since beginning macrobiotics, her thinking is clearer, she works 40 hours a week, and has great reserves of energy.
Nancy is alive and well and living and helping people with macrobioics n Auburn, Maine. She is on the board of the annual Living With Cancer Conference in Augusta, Maine