In a recent blog, I emphasised the potential for using a change of diet as a form of treatment for cancer (1). It just so happens that as I was working on that blog I heard from Archie Robertson via Facebook who has made an amazing recovery from a very nasty cancer. I am most grateful to him for this account of his experience which should provide hope and encouragement to many faced with a similar disease. Here is his story.
“I’m a 60-year-old Scot who has been living in France since 1983. I’m a physics graduate, and spent over 20 years in computing, before becoming a translator of French to English in various fields, a teacher of English as a foreign language, and adapting my computer skills to the Mac. I started helping visually-impaired people with their Macs because my wife is blind. She is also a programmer and translator, and uses a Mac for all her work.
I’ve been a sceptic about medicine for many years, because of the numerous mistakes made in the treatment of my wife. But at the end of 2008, we both read Barry Groves’ “Trick and Treat: How ‘healthy eating’ is making us ill”(2), which made total sense to us. We changed to a low-carb way of eating. I lost a great deal of weight, finding renewed energy, stopping the sleep apnoea, and even snoring no more! While Anne did not slim very much, she did reverse the previous decline in her liver and kidney functions. These are monitored closely because she is a double transplant recipient. Prior to this she needed to be treated twice a year with antibiotics, but since April 2009 this has not been necessary.
The problem starts
In autumn 2013 bad lumbago forced me to take an oral anti-inflammatory (AI), which gave me gastro-œsophageal reflux disorder (GORD or GERD). This persisted long after I stopped the AI, I assume because the lower sphincter of my œsophagus was damaged. I had no idea that it could cause cancer!
Things get worse
During May and June 2014, I found I had more and more difficulty in swallowing, so I saw a gastroenterologist and had an endoscopy on 29th July. The results showed that I had squamous-cell carcinoma of the œsophagus, and the gastrointestinal surgeon I saw on 5th August told me that I should stir a raw egg into my soup, and that I would be eating a lot of ice cream! His only dilemma was whether surgery should precede or follow the chemo- and radiotherapy that were all inevitable.
Surgery is offered
The radiation oncologist that I saw on the same day decided that surgery should come later, and prescribed a programme of chemo- and radiotherapy, intended to shrink the tumour enough to make the surgery easier. Halfway through this dual treatment, I saw the surgeon again. He told me “the good news” that he would be able to operate on me, that the treatment was working “exceptionally well” and that the tumour had “shrunk hugely”, but when I speculated as to whether surgery would prove necessary after all, he growled, “Don’t kid yourself! Œsophageal cancer always requires surgery!”
The ketogenic diet kicks in
During the treatment, I explained to the oncologist that I was following a strict ketogenic diet (low carb high fat) (LCHF) and to his credit he expressed no opposition but only mild skepticism.
On 8th December I had a CT scan. Surgery had been scheduled for 10th December, but I had never consented to it. So I cancelled it on the grounds that there would not be time to interpret the scan results properly. There was some confusion over the Christmas period, so I only received the results of the scan on 3rd February.
I saw the oncologist again on 23rd February 2015. He promptly castigated me for “only having done half the treatment”. Nevertheless, the CT scan had shown further significant shrinkage in the tumour, and that the secondary adenomas had disappeared. As I was by then eating almost normally again, I insisted that I did not want surgery if it could possibly be avoided, and we agreed that more tests should be scheduled.
On 9th March, I had another endoscopy and a PET scan, and the preliminary reports from both were encouraging. I saw the oncologist again on 30th March. He told me that the biopsies from the endoscopy were all negative, and that the PET scan showed only “echoes” of the tumour. He described me as “a right mule-headed so-and-so”, but had to admit that I’d not been wrong. Further tests were scheduled for 29th June.
So, what did I learn from my own research into the topic? First of all, I discovered that œsophageal cancer is one of the deadliest, with an untreated five-year survival rate of 5%, and even with treatment, only 25% to 40%. According to the surgeon, that could be raised to 65%. Known associated risk factors include gastro-œsophageal reflux disorder (GORD) (40% of all cases), smoking, consumption of spirits, very hot drinks, and eating fast, all of which applied to me. And why is it so deadly? Because of the difficulty in swallowing, and the associated immense weight loss (I lost 17 kg in 3 months), most patients consume high-calorie liquid supplements, which are largely sugar. They also eat high-carb foods; tentative experiments showed me that both potato crisps and pizza went down with astonishing ease. And the net effect of such a diet is high blood sugar, which of course feeds the cancer very nicely.
The proposed surgery I wanted to avoid at all costs because it was brutal. It would have involved removing the lowest third of my oesophagus and the top end of my stomach, then sewing the two ends together, so that I would have GORD for life, controlled only with proton pump inhibitors. As I was convinced GORD was the prime cause of my cancer, I was highly sceptical that this surgery would improve the odds of my surviving at all.
Not long after my diagnosis, Anne suggested that I contact Drs Colin Champ and Dominic d’Agostino, to find out whether a ketogenic diet would help. Both were encouraging, and d’Agostino told me of a patient who was successfully avoiding surgery through ketogenic diet, appropriate chemotherapy, and hyperbaric oxygen. Anne was also devotedly inventing palatable soups and other soft foods that would maintain the ketotic state, and generally helped me to keep on the straight and narrow. I bought a Ketonics breath ketone meter to make sure I stayed firmly in ketosis, and a glucometer to help me determine which foods raised my blood sugar excessively. To my disappointment, it turned out that coffee was one of the worst offenders, despite the fact that I drink it black and unsweetened! So I switched to green tea instead, having learned that it is supposed to inhibit angiogenesis. I wanted to use other medications, such as Vitamin D supplements and berberine, but couldn’t swallow either.
So what did I eat? Soup by the gallon, some off-the-shelf, carefully selected for low carbohydrate content, but mostly invented and prepared by Anne: started with bone broth and featuring chicken, duck, beef, lamb, or pork, with low-carb vegetables. Lots of cream, stirred into soup or with dark-chocolate buttons as a dessert. Soft cheeses—some of them manufactured as spreads. Taramasalata and guacamole made good portable lunches. Breakfast was soup alternating with very soft and runny scrambled eggs. Pâté. And for dinner, whatever Anne was having, but put through a tiny electric mincer, then with cream or butter stirred in. I added turmeric to every dish possible, for its reputed anti-cancer effects.
A few final thoughts
Throughout this whole process, I took no time off work; in fact, my commitments in this area changed the chemotherapy prescription! In confirming my usefulness, I’m certain that work was an important boost to my morale and my resolve to beat the disease.
Things are not yet perfect… some foods still get “stuck half-way down” as there is still excess, though benign, tissue in my œsophagus. In July 2015, the oncologist said, “I don’t like to go there, but you’re cured.” In January 2016, I had another endoscopy and CT scan, and both still show negative. It’s getting easier all the time, in a “two-steps-forward, one-step-back” way, and I’m no longer afraid to eat in restaurants.”
Comment by VW
This case history should give encouragement to all cancer sufferers. There is now overwhelming evidence that the current conventional approach to the treatment of cancer is fundamentally flawed. Despite the huge resources devoted to research and treatment the results are disappointing to put it mildly (3). In addition there is an almost universal failure to identify the cause so that patients can be advised to take appropriate steps to alter lifestyle, eg, by changing diet or eliminating exposure to carcinogens. Confirmation is provided by the growing recognition that cancer is actually a metabolic disease (4). This is based on the original work of Otto Warburg who discovered that cancer cells can only survive if they have a regular supply of glucose, whereas healthy cells can utilise ketones, which are derived from fat. This means that if the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in the diet is restricted and healthy fats such as butter and coconut oil become the main energy source, there is every chance that the cancer can be conquered as Archie has demonstrated here. He is certainly not alone so while we lack the randomized controlled trials that obsesses the professionals I am sure that there are lessons which may well be helpful to those who are struggling with the disease.
- B Groves (2010) “Trick and Treat: how ‘healthy eating is making us ill”. Hammersmith Press Limited London. ISBN 978-1-905140-22-0
- T Christofferson (2014) “Tripping Over the Truth: The Return of the Metabolic Theory of Cancer Illuminates a New and Hopeful Path to a Cure” CreateSpace North Carolina ISBN 978-1-500600-31-0
- T N Seyfried (2012) “Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer” John Wiley New Jersey ISBN 978-0-470584-92-7