To Life, to life, L’chaim!

Food as Medicine

Food as Medicine

I have written this blog post over and over, trying to write the surprising essence of what I have learned in the past few years. Cancer toppled my former regime as effectively as a military coup and the re-building of my life has been profound on many levels. Cancer was a wake up call and a gift. Until recently, my focus has been on healing my body. Now I understand how deeply I’ve been changed psychologically. The old story “The emperor has no clothes” keeps running through my head. Once you start to see that, you can’t stop.

I got a deadly disease that could have killed me very quickly. The chemo stopped it and the transplant, (God willing and fingers crossed) gave my body a chance to start anew. I know that. I am deeply grateful to be alive. That’s true.

But there is more of the story. This is the beginning of my exploration of all the things I experienced first hand but was too sick to express. I can’t just go back and do business as usual. Because it turns out that means… asleep at the wheel.

Friend Gary's viking funeral.

Friend Gary’s viking funeral.

Even at its zenith I was aware that I had more (way more) drugs than I needed or wanted because they were the only weapons in the arsenal. Literally anything natural was regarded by the medical world with much suspicion. Now I reflect back on this and recognize that after this long and lonely battle, I regard much in the allopathic medicine chest with the same kind of suspicion. So here we have patient and doctor who speak different languages. I can’t even say our goal is the same… because while I believe that most doctors are essentially good people, who genuinely want to help people, as a profession, they have been “Bought” by the pharmaceutical industry.

As my daughter Elena and I drove away from the SCCA the last time, we tried to put a voice to what we both observed. It felt almost, well, heretical to say it out loud. But there is no denying that cancer is big business and that if people were able to treat it with natural means the immense cancer industry would come crashing down. We didn’t read that anywhere, we witnessed it.


Being a Whitely Center Scholar for a month gave me this amazing place to work.

In a teaching hospital, you see many young interns and residents, trailing after the high ranking “attending”. I remember witnessing the unintentional sharing of more than medicine. Compassion fatigue was one.

I had observed this in my own small town medical clinic. Doctors are crunched into inhuman schedules where the average time to listen to patient is 18 seconds and the average visit is under 7 minutes. No wonder this system, which doesn’t work for patients, also doesn’t work for doctors. I felt sorry for them and wasn’t surprised to read about the high suicide rate of doctors.

For now, I feel like I am changing so fast that I hardly know what to say. If I get a broken bone, or need surgery, I will definitely go to the allopathic world. For anything else, I will research and go to “alternative” healers to learn how to help my body heal itself. Yes, even for cancer. I don’t know how I would react should I have a relapse. Would I do it all again? That question will have to wait for its answer. By even thinking about a relapse, I would be moving against my health because the mind-body connection is that powerful.

Friends are good medicine.

Friends are good medicine.

Since cancer and because of cancer, I have learned SO MUCH about the role of real sustenance and deadly stress. I had to fight a sense of betrayal at first at about what was never mentioned. But then… they don’t know. Bottom line, I am only sure of one obvious aspect of our foundering health system. Which is how critically important YOU are. YOU need to be on the medical team. YOU can’t hand power over completely to a system that knows so little about food as medicine. YOU need to ask the questions they don’t want you to ask. YOU need to connect the dots they can’t connect because they are specialists and you live in a whole body. YOU need to take control of the power of your own mind. YOU need to research, challenge, guide and assist. I’ve had people tell me they don’t want to do this because they didn’t go to medical school. But maybe that’s the very reason YOU are so important. YOU didn’t go so, you are free to consider things that they don’t (or can’t) think about. YOU need to question the automatic use of drugs and question how a medical system that thrives on the use of drugs can possibly give you any other solution. It simply isn’t profitable. This system also demands doctors meet a quota, forever shortening the time to assess your whole health and life. Who can fill the void? YOU and a host of “alternative” (why are they alternative? Ask yourself that.) practioners that connect food to health, mind to body and have tools that are both ancient and brand new. You have to find them. I will try to give more information on that as the blog goes on.

Nature as medicine

Nature as medicine.


  • My health is good. The best news is that I don’t have to talk about CMV any more.
  • I did not have to get the Pericardiocentesis, a “lovely” procedure where they insert a catheter into the jugular and thread to centimeters from the heart to drain the fluid. I credit this to my naturopath who flooded me with critical nutrients and to my own gamely fighting body saying NO. Could it have been the return of a healthy immune system? Something drained the effusion naturally. Something healed the CMV. My blood counts have nearly returned to normal.
  • If you haven’t ever been anemic, you might not know how amazing it is to be nearly normal. My naturopath told me I have Macrocytic anemia – when the average volume of the red blood cells, known as the Mean Corpuscular Volume (MCV), is larger than normal. So what’s wrong with enlarged red blood cells? There are all kinds of issues from anemia of any kind. It is a very bad thing to have long term because less oxygen carrying capacity mean less oxygen to crucial places in the body like the brain. Thus, I asked repeatedly about anemia to the nurses and doctors. (But it’s not cancer and won’t kill you immediately, so I didn’t get much information.) They told me very specifically not to take iron but not why.
  • The cause behind Macrocytic anemia is caused by lack of folate. I think they did check my folate level a time or two, but it was the naturopath who discovered I need a different methylated form of folate (along with millions of others), which I now take regularly.
  • My naturopath pointed out that I had kidney damage. This rarely explained or interpreted information is neatly tucked into the blood test on a line called GFR. According to the National Institute of Health: “…measures how much blood your kidneys filter each minute, which is known as your GFR (glomerular filtration rate). This shows how well your kidneys are working. A GFR of 60 or higher is in the normal range. A GFR below 60 may mean you have kidney disease.”
  •  I already knew the link between my kidneys spilling lots of protein and heart effusions. Those numbers have been cut in half thanks to the kidney healing humble dandelion, Tulsi and burdock. My blood pressure has remained high. Bad for kidneys. The drugs for high blood pressure say “may cause kidney damage”. Eyes crossed. Rather than take yet another drug to damage my already injured kidneys, I am taking hawthorn and working on reducing the cortisol stress hormone. An example of participating in my medical team :).

 Enjoy this season of Persephone. Life is extraordinary.

Take every chance you can to hold a baby. This is sweet Larkin.

Take every chance you can to hold a baby. This is sweet Larkin.


12 comments on “To Life, to life, L’chaim!

  1. As much as I know you deplore all the drugs and “traditional” treatments for cancer. (In a strange way that’s why my father became a surgeon – he wanted to know that he was having a “real” effect for healing on his patients…), And as much as you want to figure out the “real” reason that you are “cured”, I hope you can just enjoy your return to health and live whatever your best life is. I am profoundly grateful to all those who have assisted you in this journey and hope the healing and health continue for many, many years. “Beauty before you, beauty behind you, beauty all around you.”

  2. Dear Shann: I am so happy you are enjoying life and better health now. Your information and the medical world is so interesting. I also think the clinical and the natural should both be in collaboration. You are a very brave woman and I for one am so very proud of you.
    Happy days!

  3. Amen. We soldier on with Parkinson’s and do similar research and experimentation with brain placticity on our own. Fight on! Nancy and David


  4. way to call a ‘spade a spade’ wifee! You are a holy terror when it comes to doing the
    research and implementation—I am in awe!

  5. Hi Shann, This is an amazing piece that you composed. I need to save it, for your wisdom, and for the reminders that I need to put to use. I need to read it again, and allow it to sink in. Wow. You look so good. It’s very busy here at work now so I have to go. Are you coming to the wedding? I hope so. Love, Steve >

  6. SOOOOOOO Cool mama!!!! I am smiling and smiling reading this blog post! Mind/Body connection, oh my!!! It is amazingly powerful. And you are such a gentle and steadfast warrior, in your own life, in your daughters and husband’s life, and in Planet Earth’s life. I love you so. Thank you for taking the time to write this and give me some excellent inspiration to head into the day with!

  7. Dear Shann, You, your wisdom and insight are extremely inspiring. Your included photos also make me very happy. Please continue sharing. Love, Amy

  8. Lovely Shann, you look beautiful! I hear you on the self-healing side of recovery, even scientific research has proved that believing in healing is a big part of healing. So much health comes from what we take into our bodies that it must have an effect on preventing cancer, or it is even proven. Your strength and determination has no doubt brought you health as well.
    I spoke to a friend of mine who recently became a cardiac nurse at age 50. She found to keep her health, she had to not get involved in individual patients, other than showing care, being kind and professional. If she did let herself get too involved with her patients, she would not be able to do her job. She’d be feeling what you feel for your friends and family when they are ill. Yet she got into nursing to help people. Her father died of a heart attack.
    I love you as you are and am excited by your discoveries in healing! Jill

  9. Shann, it does indeed show that you have written it and re-written it. It is compelling and brilliant, and I am saving it. Steve >

  10. This is such a brilliant post Shann. I’ve read it several times and it really rings home now for me as I have a brother who is living with cancer and who is really not participating on any team of medical support. He takes what “they” give him and still he goes down and down in more and more pain and disability. It’s very hard to watch but us sibs are trying to honour how he is choosing to live with this. He knows we love him, that we are there for him whenever he and his family needs but it’s very very difficult for him and his wife to actually look at what is going on and seek more, better, different, alternative support. “The Docs have our number, they’ll call us if there is anything else we need to know”, “The chemo is working”, as he becomes more riddled with pain, “I’m just doing what they tell me”……which is not very much because they never ask…….or rarely ask and seek information on other options and advise. Shann, you have so boldly traveled this path and continue to do so every day. You have faced the facts and odds with painful honesty and always remained an active, determined, informed warrior. We sibs struggle with just jumping in and taking his hand and leading him to discover the truth of where he actually is and then encouraging him to actively start participating on this very very difficult, personal journey. He’s the only one who can really do that….he doesn’t recognize that HE has that power. It may be too late now, which makes us all sad. But, my oldest brother, Steve (who IS A STEVE PORTEN DOPPLEGANGER in EVERYWAY…looks and spirit…which just fills my heart….) is coming out tomorrow from Quebec to spend a couple weeks with my sick bro and his wife so that will be a very powerful visit. Steve gets in to the “real” places with such a warm and caring, compassionate, committed and humourous heart, we sibs are hopeful that something magic may just come from this.
    Thank you so much for sharing your vulnerability, your strength and your courage. You inspire me every day!!!! See you soooooooon!!!!! So much love to you and Steve, Mariya and Elena and JACK!!!!! xo Juliana

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