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Surviving a Brain Tumour

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As Cheryl Clark began a weekend horseback ride one sunny October afternoon in 1997, a time bomb ticked

As Cheryl Clark began a weekend horseback ride one sunny October afternoon in 1997, a time bomb ticked. While 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, ribs and damaging vital organs.

The bad news didn't stop there.

A computed tomography (CT) scan revealed a brain tumour the size of a lemon. Surgeons removed the tumour and fused her spine. The worst seemed over.

As Clark recuperated, a pathology report delivered a devastating diagnosis: glioblastoma multiforme (GBM IV), the most aggressive brain tumour. Even when surgically removed, this tumour 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.

Yet more than three 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, conducts brain tumour research and remains active in a brain tumour support group she helped form.

Cheryl's Treatment Plan

Clark's remarkable recovery is due in large part to an intensive nutritional program designed by Jeanne Wallace, a PhD in nutrition and a clinical nutrition consultant. Wallace focuses her practice on brain tumour patients.

Creating a protocol of diet, nutritional and herbal interventions, Wallace had Clark greatly reduce sugar intake. Sugar suppresses the immune system and feeds cancer cells. Wallace emphasized omega-3 fats (fish and flax seed oils) to slow tumour growth and strengthen Clark's immune system. The protocol included Siberian ginseng, astragalus, cat's claw and mushroom extracts (maitake D-fraction, Chinese reishi, shiitake, Cordyceps sinesis and Coriolus versicolor).

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

Among the natural substances in Clark's protocol, the most prominent is IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate combined with inositol), which inhibits tumour growth, stimulates immunity and prompts cancer cell differentiation. As well as taking 16 capsules daily on an empty stomach, Clark's regimen includes soy genistein, bromelain, berberine, glutathione, quercetin, alkylglycerols, St John's wort and proanthocyanidins.

Nutrition and Radiation

Rather than accept treatments her doctor chose, Clark researched radiation, chemotherapy and brain tumours herself and chose only radiation therapy.

But because radiation alone is ineffective against GBMs, Wallace recommended select herbs and nutrients to make the tumour more vulnerable and to reduce side-effects. Clark took niacin (500 mg) and germanium sesqioxide (GE-132, 100 mg) daily in divided doses.

"Although some oncologists hold the outdated belief that antioxidants are contraindicated during radiation and chemotherapy," says Wallace, "thirty years of research reveals taking antioxidants during radiation and chemotherapy can be helpful."

An hour before radiation treatments, Clark took vitamin C (1,500 mg) and vitamin E (800 IU) to protect healthy brain tissue and reduce swelling. To further protect healthy brain tissue, Clark included the following nutrients daily in divided doses: shark liver oil (200 mg), St John's wort (900 mg), whey protein (four tablespoons) and melatonin (five mg once nightly). "Research suggests these supplements maximize radiation's effect while protecting healthy tissue," Wallace said.

As a result, Clark experienced no fatigue, side-effects or complications. A magnetic resonance image (MRI) revealed the tumour 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. Clark has foregone further conventional treatments, but maintains nutritional and herbal support. Today Clark is free of any signs or symptoms of the tumour, has no neurological deficits and requires no medications.

More Than Physical

Clark's holistic approach included acupuncture, affirmations, prayer, massage and cultivating a positive attitude.

"I haven't always had a positive attitude. Before this brain tumour journey began, personal losses caused serious depression," Clark admitted.

"Instead of focusing on my losses, I focused on what was good. Instead of telling myself, 'I might only have a short time to live,' I chose the attitude 'I still have many days to live . . . and I'm going to make the most of them.

Today, as Wallace's research assistant, Clark says, "I'm enjoying life fully and passionately. And treasure every day."

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