Basically, I’ve been writing about cancer almost exclusively for nearly 50 years, and I want to tell you about my own personal encounter with cancer and then give you some idea about my professional journey.
How I got to the point that I’m at today.
So my wife and I took a test.
It was called an oncoblot and it’s no longer available, but it was a test devised by a very eminent professor at Purdue University in Indiana.
And the test was able to detect and I forget how many there were, like 20 or 30 different types of cancer with great accuracy.
In fact, if there was a problem with it, it was too accurate.
It could detect even tiny amounts of cancer, and they had started to give this test and I was interested in it.
So I thought more out of curiosity than anything else that I would take that test that my wife and I both would take that test and it came back.
My wife, thankfully, was fine.
And it said loud and clear that I had prostate cancer.
So it’s hard to know what to do in a situation like that because you’re dealing with a very unconventional test.
It hadn’t been really vetted or approved by the FDA or anything like that, but I decided to take these results to my urologist and when I showed them to her she looked at my PSA score, which is a test, a conventional score for prostate cancer and everything else, she said.
I could absolutely guarantee you that you do not have aggressive prostate cancer.
But I wasn’t convinced with this because I hardly knew her.
And I did. I did know what a great scientist Jim Morré was.
And so I asked her, Could I get an MRI magnetic resonance imaging test and specifically the most advanced test at that time, which is called the three Tesla Magnet? The three T MRI.
And after some, you know, dickering back and forth, she finally agreed to write the prescription for that.
There were no three T MRIs in the town where I was living.
So I wound up driving about 200 miles to go to an Ivy League medical school. And it was kind of a disaster from the start.
I mean, first of all, they tried to pawn off the 1.5 T Tesla on me and then they told me, you’re going to have to wait in order to get three T.
I said, fine, I just drove 200 miles.
I’ll wait, however long I need to wait.
So then I had the test done, and once the results were available, we were given an appointment.
It was a late Friday afternoon with one of the senior urology oncologists in the department, and this was a really an awful encounter.
The man came in. He didn’t make eye contact.
He kind of shuffled into the room. He gave. He just mumbled his last name by way of introduction, sat down at the computer, started pecking away at the keyboard.
And the next thing I know he’s saying, Well, you’ve got prostate cancer.
You have a large prostate, you have two large tumors in your prostate and they’ve broken through the capsule.
That’s about the worst thing you can hear when you’re getting a diagnosis of prostate cancer, meaning the disease has now gotten outside the prostate and it’s in the process
of spreading around your body and there’s basically nothing we can do for you.
We can’t operate. There’s no point to it. We could give you some radiation and hormonal therapy, and I’ll make an appointment for you to have the biopsy because this was still just based on the MRI.
But, you know, I’m giving you some bad news here.
And I said, Well, what – stunned because we had no indication that that was what the MRI showed.
So I said, Well, what are the chances of being following what you do by becoming sexually impotent and incontinent? And it was almost gleeful. He said, 100%, 100%.
So we, my wife and I looked at each other, you know, like, what the heck is going on here? We left there completely dejected.
We went to our hotel room and it was really one of the worst moments of my life. I wound up in the middle of the night, sitting…
I found myself sort of sitting on the side of the bed, kind of moaning and just feeling like, you know, the end is near.
And. And then we went back to sleep and when I woke up, I had an inspiration to call somebody whom I had only met once in a public setting.
That was Geo Espinosa, Geo Espinosa.
I knew him because he had somebody make a film about me a few years ago and we had a theatrical opening in New York, and Geo had very nicely come to that theatrical opening.
So that’s where I had met him. And I knew he was a naturopathic doctor on staff at NYU New York University Langone.
So I figured if anybody’s going to give me some words of sympathy or advice, it’s going to be him.
So I called him and basically he was very nice and very reassuring and calmed me down and basically said, You know what? I want to push our program on you.
But if I were you, I wouldn’t do anything.
Don’t make any decisions about biopsy.
Or any further treatment until you’ve had a second opinion until you’ve come and he gave you the name of the doctor that he thought I should see at NYU.
Samir Taneja. So armed with that, we canceled the appointment for the following week for the biopsy and made an appointment to see Dr.
Taneja and I felt much better, at least knowing I was going to get a good second opinion.
But I did. I did make one contingency, and this will be of importance and interest to all of you who may find yourself in somewhat similar circumstances.
I asked that doctor Taneja put the MRI slides and the pictures of the MRI themselves directly on the screen so that my wife and I could see them.
And the reason I said that was because when we asked the doctor at this other Ivy League school that I will in courtesy not mention, but it was another famous school.
I asked him if he would just show us where this cancer had gone outside the capsule.
He actually yelled at us, yelled at my wife because she was the one who made the request and said, I’m a urologist, I’m not a radiologist.
I don’t read, I don’t read the scans.
I only read what the radiologist tells me, which we thought was very odd.
I mean, you know, all of the years and years and years of training that this guy had to have had didn’t qualify him to be able to look at an MRI scan and say whether where and how he would. He would conclude that the cancer had escaped the capsule, which was the key issue.
So Dr. Taneja had no problem with that.
And so we looked very short, so we went in to see him.
So the first thing was the bad news – The bad news was that there were two large tumors in the prostate gland.
The good news was he showed us on the screen.
It hadn’t escaped the capsule and they have professional level pathologists at NYU who reevaluated the scans and also agreed there was no escape of the capsule.
I had gotten a death sentence for nothing.
I mean, essentially, you know, it’s not. Not everybody dies with cancer that’s escaped the capsule, but you know, it’s an order of magnitude more dangerous than what I had.
So here’s you know. So it was still bad. I still needed treatment. And he first did a biopsy. This is the new order, by the way of doing things in the prostate is you do the MRI first and then you do the biopsy.
It makes sense. Why do you have to go punching holes in a person’s tender parts if they can see pretty accurately what’s going on, you do the biopsy to confirm your suspicion that something is cancer and mine was suspicious looking.
So he did the biopsy. It turned out that both cancer, both of these growths were highly cancerous.
We don’t have to go into details on this, but this Ten would be the highest score in the Gleason scale.
And if you look up Gleason 8, you know, in the NCI or National Cancer Institute guides, it’ll tell you undifferentiated or poorly differentiated, highly, highly dangerous.
So this was no exaggeration. I had something very dangerous, but the great news was…
That really I don’t I don’t even know if this was just luck or whether I had said something to Dr Espinosa, but it turned out that Dr Taneja is one of the very few doctors in the United States who uses Cryoablation to destroy tumors, and cryoablation is something that I’ve been writing about for decades.
It means to use cold, extremely cold probes in order to stick a hole into the tumor and then freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw the tumor until it’s gone.
And in that way, you perform what somebody called the male lumpectomy.
In other words, this is the equivalent of doing a lumpectomy in a woman.
And this is what we decided to do.
And he did it. This meant that I could avoid all radiation and I could avoid all surgery.
It was just a thin needle, you know, just poked into that area and I walked on my own steam out of the hospital after it was done.
It was no bleeding.
I don’t even think I had a Band-Aid. It was.
It was really remarkable. And the long story short is that here we are.
But I think that we’re coming up now.
This is this when I’m recording.
This is the six year anniversary of the procedure or yes, of the procedure.
Certainly of the diagnosis. No sign of the cancer having progressed.
My PSA has remained virtually the same over the six years.
I was taking PSA tests twice a year. I was having follow up MRI’s every year now because I passed the five year point,
They moved me to a once every two year schedule for the MRI and a once every year schedule for the PSA.
But essentially, there’s no movement, there’s no sign of cancer and nothing actionable, and there’s no progression.
So that’s essentially my story.
And I did take supplements because I believe in them and Dr.
Geo believes in them also. I took supplements. I started to study, of course, even more intensively on the question of prostate cancer and the supplements and diets and so forth.
But if I were to draw some lessons from this.
First of all, I completely agree with what you hear from a lot of conventional centers, which is that you should always seek out the highest level of expertise that you can find.
I think it was hopeless.
And none of these things that I wanted to do that eventually were done for me were going to happen at my local level.
It’s all just textbook, you know, guidelines driven.
Nobody steps outside the boundaries that I knew of.
And then you also have to maintain a very skeptical, a friendly skeptical but skeptical nonetheless attitude towards what you’re being told by the oncologist.
I’ve often said, don’t make friends with your oncologist and people are like, what? You’re such an unfriendly person you wouldn’t make it.
Why wouldn’t you want to make friends with your oncologist? I’ve had three people close to me tell me, Oh, my oncologists so wonderful?”
In fact, we’re personal friends and we go out to dinner and my visceral reaction is, don’t do that.
You can make your friends wherever you want, but you don’t.
You don’t want to become emotionally attached to a particular doctor or what you think, you know, because you’re so anxious, you think, Well, I’m going to get much better treatment from this person if I’m friends with them. No.
Keep a distance. Maintain, you know, again, be friendly, but maintain a professional attitude in the sense that don’t think that they’re going to treat you better because you’re their friend.
You want to be, you want to maintain your critical faculties just as if you were buying a car.
It isn’t all that different.
And you don’t make friends with your – usually with your used car dealer.
You know, you try to keep your objectivity as hard as it may be and be friendly.
But don’t be. Don’t be friends, I would say. Another lesson is that you want to really know what all your options are and to do that…
It isn’t enough just to ask the doctor in charge what the options are, because even though they are sort of duty bound and maybe even legally bound to tell you your options, those options are a spectrum of A to B, and you want to know the options from A to Z.
And in my case, you don’t find Cryoablation in the guidelines.
It is. It is recognized. I mean, it’s unusual because it is recognized by the FDA and it and my procedure was paid for entirely by Medicare and supplemental.
And I imagine most other insurance plans would pay for it.
But if you don’t know that it exists, you’re not going to ask for it.
You’re not going to know. So it’s absolutely necessary to do research when.. If you find yourself being presented with certain choices and you suspect that perhaps those are not the only choices that are available.
Leaving aside the question of quote unquote alternative medicine, but even within the realm of American, academic or European or Chinese academic medicine, there might be other possibilities.
And that’s one of the reasons that I’ve written so much about alternative and complementary medicine because I want people to know what I have found over a period of almost 50 years in terms of researching the possibilities and what makes that alternative or makes one thing alternative and have another one.
Not – that those are shifting sands.
What’s conventional today is or is alternative tomorrow and vice versa.
So you have to explore and don’t get caught up in quacky websites where people are telling you that they were cured without any conventional treatment whatsoever.
I would just point out that, as I said, I took a bunch of supplements after my procedure and think how easy it would be for me to go running around the world telling people that I had cured myself of prostate cancer by taking green tea supplements, which I did.
That was Dr. Morré’s discovery or advice.
But I found a certain diet that was going to be a sure fire way of preventing you from cancer or maybe even cure your cancer?
I mean, look, I’ve seen this, I’ve seen this, this happening over and over again.
There was once a kid. He was being treated at Dana-Farber Big Cancer Center in Boston.
Then he decided he didn’t want to have any more treatment.
He wasn’t quite 18 yet, so it created quite a big stir when this happened some years ago.
So he went and got this herbal treatment in Canada, and he took the herbal treatment for a while and then he took another alternative treatment.
I think it was like a concentrated soy extract or something, so I would run into this kid at different medical meetings that, you know, alternative type medical meetings.
So it’s funny in a way. The good news is, yeah, I mean he had a kind of kind of a lymphoma or leukemia.
It didn’t recur. So the people at Dana-Farber said, well, it didn’t recur, but that’s because of the treatment we gave him because not everybody who gets the initial treatment for this leukemia has a recurrence.
So he was in the lucky group that didn’t have the recurrence.
He was, he had made some kind of deal with the people selling this herbal formula and basically was sitting at their table telling people he was cured by the herbal formula.
Then he then the deal with the herbal firm, fell apart and he wound up at the soy table, telling people that it was the soy supplement that cured him.
So everybody wants, you know, because they say success has many parents.
Everybody wanted a piece of this kid because he really was in remission.
But you know, it was easy for him to transition from having had a very arduous course of chemotherapy at Dana-Farber to.
The, you know, to the herbs cured me, and it wasn’t none of those were definitively true.
If you ask my opinion, I think it might have been a combination probably more the chemo than anything else.
But I’ve seen this over and over. People can, push an agenda by telling you that they had taken a certain supplement or a certain diet or a certain plan, and they were cured and therefore you are going to be cured.
You have to look at these anecdotes with a great deal of skepticism.
I have seen outrageous things happen in this field and I’ve seen what I would consider near miracles happen.
I’ve seen absolute saints who have devoted their life to curing people and complete scoundrels who, you know, have taken advantage of other people’s misery.
So I often tell people, you know, there are sharks in those waters.
It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get through and you don’t have to, you know, make the journey, but be a little cautious.
Be a little skeptical. Maintain your skepticism about the alternative side, just as you do of the conventional side.
This is not a situation like where you’re rooting for one team over another team.
This is a situation where you and your close people, your loved ones, your family, your friends, your closest friends are making an arduous journey and you, you have to keep your wits about you when you do this.
That’s my ultimate message to everybody.
And believe me, I know how hard this is.
As I said, this experience that I went through was one of the hardest things I’ve gone through in my life.
But in a weird way, I’m glad I went through it because here I was in the position of counseling cancer patients, but I really didn’t really understand the full extent of this.
I knew these things intellectually, but when you know them know something intellectually, it’s quite another thing to grasp it with your whole, you know, being emotionally and spiritually and intellectually and whatever else there is physically.
So this is my main message to you and why we continue to try to educate the public so ardently and why I can maintain this enthusiasm and clarity after doing the same.
You know, being in the same field for 50 years with no desire to stop doing it is, I think, you know, I am on a mission, but it’s not a mission to sell you something.
It’s not a mission to promote a particular treatment.
I’m on a mission to bring clarity to this very muddled field of cancer treatment and especially the topic of complementary integrative and alternative treatments.