What to Do, What to Do?

Nothing like a “Terminal IIlness” to make you appreciate the turning of the seasons. This long, cold, and deeply introspective winter has finally broken, the frogs and morning birds have started singing again, and all things seem possible once more.

We are deeply thankful of our time in the sun this winter. From friends’ generous offer of housesitting in Maui over Xmas to spending Steve’s 60th birthday on the beach in Mexico with friends, it was therapeutic to swim in the salt water and to be anonymous among the travellers. Not having to be “the girl with Stage 4 cancer” was cathartic and liberating; and I wept when we left, knowing I was coming home to more tests and scans.

On Valentine’s Day I went in for another PET scan, because nothing says romance to Steve like a radioactive spouse. My oncologist called the next morning to tell me that there were some troubling lesions on my liver and that they were ordering more tests. Mr. Google told me that the prognosis once the cancer metastasizes to the liver is dire; on average less than 6 months life expectancy. I’ve had the odd crappy friend in life, but sometimes Mr. Google verges on being the very worst. A following CT two weeks later confirmed two small tumours; let the vertigo begin.

After a good week of roller-coaster nausea and depression, the practical problem-solving part of my brain kicked in. What to do, what to do? Give in to the oncologists’ pressures and get chemotherapy which cannot save my life and could only further weaken my already compromised immune system? Meh. Go to Ecuador or Peru and put my faith and life in the hands of an Ayuahuascan shaman? Hhmmmm. Then my friend Tom, a fellow cantankerous, non-conforming Stage 4 cancer patient told me of his plan; he was going to a clinic in Vienna where they were doing cutting-edge immunotherapy treatments (not available in North America), coupled with intense hyperthermia and induced fevers. The clinic is having great results with Stage 4 cancer patients of all sorts, currently running a 30% remission rate. These are amazing odds. He is there now, and while the treatment sounds intense and arduous (“dragon medicine for dragon disease”); he is bravely enduring it with good humour and strength of will, his eyes on the prize. He has advised me to “get here as soon as you can, however possible”.

So, I have been asking (some might call it praying) for some sort of sign as to what I should do. The cost is wildly prohibitive (of course), and the treatments sound terrifying, to be honest. I believe the sign appeared this morning in a phone call with my oncologist. When I told him of my tentative plan he said that while he couldn’t attest to the efficacy of the immunotherapy agents that they were proposing (as they are still in trials here in North America), the data coming in suggests that they are being proven to be highly effective against a variety of cancers. He was behind the use of interleukin-2 (the fever inducer) and said that the data is showing it’s extremely beneficial to “re-energizing” patients’ immune systems. He carefully said that it was “reasonable” for me to consider going, as opposed to most of the other clinics he had seen, and that he would schedule me for a port-a-cath insertion immediately. It was about as strong an encouragement as I could possibly expect from my conservative oncologist, maybe a sign doesn’t need to be something as dramatic as a tree falling down in front of you.

So please, any words of encouragement you might have would be welcome. Let’s forgo the tears, and opt for positivity and hugs instead. Not sure yet how or when we will go, but at least it looks like we are going to try and get to Vienna and do this immunotherapy.

Because it is finally spring, and everything is possible.

Note: Katya’s sisters have recently started up a crowdfunding campaign to help Katya get to Vienna for this immunotherapy not available to her in Canada.  Please donate and/or share if you can.  Every small amount brings her closer to our goal.  With gratitude.



Katya’s Protocol

I have been asked to write up my protocol, the health program I put together for myself to share with others on the same journey.  I have purposefully left out the emotional roller coaster aspects in order for people who don’t know me personally to be able to absorb the information.  If you are interested in the whole experience, I will be writing more posts soon in a more intimate voice. This is how I managed to get to remission of Metastatic Breast Cancer without Chemotherapy or Tamoxifen.



In August 2010 I discovered every woman’s worst fear; a lump in my left breast.  My family doctor poo~poo’d my fears, as she had done with most concerns I had brought to her.  After some insistence on my part, she agreed to schedule a mammogram for me.  Within two weeks, I had been given a mammogram, an ultrasound, a MRI, a core needle biopsy and had had a lumpectomy of a 2.5 cm tumor.  The system can move very quickly in times of crisis.  It was grade three, (the most aggressive type) but there was no lymph node involvement.   My oncologists strongly recommended Chemo and Tamoxifen; both of which I declined.  I qualified for the RAPID radiation trial: intensive radiation twice a day for 5 days.  My body shut down for three months trying to heal, I have no recollection of this period, other than peeling, oozing second degree burns.  I took the winter to recover, and then basically resumed life as normal, albeit with a few naturopathic additions.

Flash forward to October 2013… I had skipped my summer mammogram due to a heavy work load.  My scans showed my left breast to be riddled with tumors, they lost count after 10.  Even the oncologists wondered if the intensive radiation trial could have played a part in the dramatic recurrence.  My husband Steve and I decided that I would have a bilateral mastectomy, even though there was no sign of disease in my right breast.  In November I had the mastectomy, which again showed no lymph involvement, although they performed a partial lymphedectomy as a precautionary measure.  In a followup appointment with my oncologist, they again recommended systemic therapies: Chemotherapy and Tamoxifen.  I asked them why they wanted to treat me like I had Metastatic Disease when there was no evidence that I actually had it.  I lobbied hard for, and received a PET Scan to determine if there indeed was any cancer elsewhere in my body.   In late January 2014 we received news of every cancer patient’s worst fear; there was in fact a tumor in my sacrum on the left side.  I was told that I was now officially Stage 4; terminal cancer.  2 to 5 years estimated survival if I did the Chemo and Tamoxifen.  I again declined.

I spent the next 8 months trying to heal myself through diet and naturopathic remedies that I had researched myself, as well as a private study for Metastatic Breast Cancer patients that had literally fallen into my lap.  But my commitment wasn’t resolute and I still had not adopted major lifestyle changes.   I had not yet gone to a Naturopathic Oncologist, or sought outside help of any sort.

My September 2014 PET scan revealed that the cancer was accelerating; 3 tumors in my chest (including one large sub clavicular one I could feel) and that the tumor in my sacrum was growing, now at 5 cm.  Bone mets can be quite painful, I had been feeling alot of discomfort and knew the tumor was increasing in size.  This was the lowest point emotionally for me.  There was a very real potential of me dying sooner rather than later and I was terrified at the thought of leaving my husband and family.  I had been trying to give my body what I thought it needed, but the cancer seemed to be taking over.  The oncologists were sweet, but frustrated with me and my refusal to take their medicines.  This is when I started to really put together a protocol with the assistance of my Naturopathic Oncologist, and when I decided that I would try anything, even things way out of my comfort zone.  I followed my regimen faithfully and I opened my mind to the possibility that my body could heal.

In early January 2015 I had my most recent PET Scan.  On January 7th, I received the news that I was officially No Evidence of Disease.  The tumors in my chest had disappeared, and the tumor in my sacrum was sclerotic, just scar tissue.  My oncologist said “What did you DO, Katya?  I can tell you for a fact this is not because of anything we did, but because of something that you did.”  The oncologist, Steve and I hugged and cried for about 1/2 hour.  Nothing prepares you for the best possible news in Cancer World, you are instead always braced for the worst.   Every scan brings “scanxiety”, that new tumors will appear or the existing ones progress.  Three months later, my bloodwork has been deemed “pristine”, and my tumor markers are virtually indetectable.  Even my oncologists now use the word “Miracle”.  I plan to stay on my protocol for at least another year, my oncologists have insisted that I keep doing whatever I have been doing.

First and foremost, I am not a healer and I have no training. I am not extraordinary or unique. All I have is my personal experience and my intuition, which I have relied heavily on throughout my journey. And I have spent hours a day for years studying about Health, and Breast Cancer in particular. I have spent considerable time researching every medication and supplement thoroughly before I considered taking it, often refusing to take anything if my intuition said no. Most importantly, I do not believe there was/is any magic bullet in any of this. I think my remission came about from a synergy of intention, faith, lifestyle changes, medicines, genetics and love.

Family Experience/ Allopathic Oncology


My father has had three different cancers in the last thirteen years; the most serious being aggressive Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He has braved the most extreme conventional treatments only to have it return. The oncologists have repeatedly told us there was nothing more they could do for him. My father has been in remission for the last 4 years. One more year and they will call him cured. Coincidentally, my father started alternative therapies a short time before he got declared No Evidence of Disease. You can draw your own conclusions here; we certainly have.

People have repeatedly asked me why I have declined Chemo.  There are many reasons, but foremost was this: I knew Chemo would kill me.  I have witnessed what brutal medicine it is, and I intuitively knew that my body would not be able to withstand it.  Also, my belief is that my body can heal itself, given what it needs.  A healthy immune system, medicines I believe in, healthy organic, non GMO food and pure water.  I believe that it is my job to support my immune system, and Chemotherapy doesn’t fit into that philosophy.  I have not turned my back on Western Medicine completely, but I carefully pick and choose where I will put my trust.  This drives my oncologists (and my sweet Mother) crazy, but ultimately it is my body, my decisions and my life on the line.

The only conventional medicine I have agreed to take is Zoladex shots to shut down my ovaries as my cancer is Estrogen Receptor Positive. This has thrown me into the Deep End of the Menopause Pool.  Trust me, hot flashes are way more amusing in theory then they are in actual fact.

Overcoming Fear


If I could only point to one thing that influenced my healing process it would be this. You MUST lose your fear and regain your trust in your body’s ability to heal. Your body is fully capable of repairing the damage but NOT IF IT IS IN FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE. If it’s just tensed ready to escape the sabre toothed tiger; it cannot divert the necessary resources to heal. Using war based language to describe your experience compounds your stress, in my opinion. Fighting a battle, being a warrior, kicking ass, all this imagery makes my neck muscles tighten, and my teeth grind. It also implies to me that you are battling YOUR OWN BODY. My DNA mutated, but it is still MY DNA. I resolved early to help it along, to be my body’s ally in reversing the damage, rather than to wage war on myself.

So I learned to meditate, I take long walks in Nature, I do yoga when my body can. But a Stage 4 diagnosis is pretty damn stressful, how could I lose that fear? This is when I started reading about Gabor Mate and his work with Ayahausca and addiction. Paul Stamets and his work with Mushrooms and their use as sacraments. Psychiatrists treating stage IV cancer patients with psychedelics to help them accept their diagnoses, and give them peace. And the Huichols and Native American Church using Peyote in ceremony for healing.

I am not, by nature, someone who enjoys mind-altering drugs. I am much more of a whisky girl. But when my good friends insisted that I meet a Marakame, a Huichol shaman who they deeply respected and felt could help me, I felt compelled to honour their intuition. Don Chabelo is a powerful presence, and when I finally sat in ceremony with him; I knew that he was an authentic healer.

On Day of the Dead 2014, we gathered at a friend’s home for ceremony.  For nine and a half hours we sat in cramped quarters around a campfire, with sacred singing, medicine and focused intention. Don Chabelo reached to me and grabbed my arm at one point and shook it hard while he sang. A few hours later, I reached up to my neck and realized that the tumor I had had there had disappeared. Vanished. In this profound moment I realized that truly; everything was possible, and that we control all of our experience with our minds. That metastatic disease was not an automatic march towards death. And that my overwhelming fear had disappeared with the tumor. Vanished. I have never been given a greater gift. Speaking with him later, through my great friend Luisita who acted as interpreter, he said “Your fear is weakening your flame inside. You must concentrate on getting rid of all your fear. And it will take time. Illnesses like this can come quickly into your body, it may take a long time to get them out.” And he also affirmed my feeling “Trust that your medicine will come to you”.

The relief I got from the fear lasted for months, and I believe that it was during this respite that my body actually healed itself.  The difference was dramatic, both inwardly and outwardly.  I would wake up singing and happy every morning.   Optimism and Joy were my natural emotional states.  People who knew me were startled at how relaxed and calm I was in this period.  For me,  it felt like I had become the best possible version of myself; at peace and accepting.

Lifestyle Changes


This is all based on what I have researched for my specific type of Breast Cancer, which is IDC, Estrogen and Progesterone receptor positive, HER2 negative, grade III, stage IV, mets to bone, chest and lymph system.

  •   I got rid of all light sources in our room. Even LED display from a digital clock is a problem. We must sleep in complete darkness for melatonin production. Use an eye mask if needed. Melatonin has been shown to switch off Breast Cancer cells.
  •   I gave up all dairy, even hidden dairy such as whey. There are growth factors in dairy that feed breast cancers. This was the most challenging for me, but I believe the most crucial.  Read the Plant Programme by Jane Plant.  I also severely limited my soy intake, as there are too many conflicting studies on the effects of soy on breast cancer.   There are great recipes for nut based vegan cheeses and “sour creams” and dips out there. I was a completely dairy focused vegetarian before this lifestyle change. I feel so much healthier without it.
  •   I adopted a plant based diet.  I am an organic gardener and our family grows a large percentage of our own food.  We eat a low carb vegetarian diet with occasional fish.  (2-3 times a month)
  •   I gave up all refined sugar, and severely limited natural ones. And of course, no artificial sweeteners, they’re all known carcinogens. Honey, Maple Syrup or Xylitol are the best bets and only in minute amounts. Stevia if you can tolerate it, but I have never liked the taste. Sugar feeds cancer, it’s not worth the risk. If you crave sweets, munch on raspberries and blueberries; high in ellagic acid, a powerful antioxidant. I chew sugar free gum sweetened with Xylitol.
  •   I “ground” as often as possible. I walk barefoot whenever I can, and get my hands in the dirt. I think that it’s important to grow flowers and food, always organically. I get a lot of sunlight whenever I can.  I have learned to use breathwork to get through stressful periods.
  •   I opened myself up to my mind and body’s healing potential. I have found it essential to cut all stress and toxic people from my life.
  •   I did peyote in ceremony
  •   I gave my body as much sleep as it wanted;  as our bodies only produces Natural Killer T cells when they are asleep. Rest, sleep, don’t feel guilty about it. As my best friend Hilary kept reminding me ” on a cellular level, you’re incredibly busy, even if outwardly you’re not”.
  •   I learned to visualize and meditate.
  •   I make a point of watching my language and checking my attitude frequently. I won’t use the language of war to describe my experience with cancer. I believe this keeps us in the flight or fight response, and interferes with healing. This is not an alien invader, this is your own DNA, corrupted or not. Every woman knows that self hate is something we have to work against already, why make is worse by waging war on yourself? Love and trust your body and your ability to heal. Accept that cancer is your body telling you that something needs to change.
  •   I learned to focus on the positive, to cultivate gratitude and compassion, and to express love freely and openly.

Natural Therapies and Supplements


I have “medicine time” three times a day.

Now the pills – three times a day I take:

  • 5-500mg capsules of “Procerna/EDP” Curcumin, Green Tea Extract and Sulfuraphane, available through Prana Therapeutics.  This is a trial I am involved with in the States for women with Metastatic Breast Cancer.  synergistic combination of anticarcinogens that help prevent angiogenesis and metastasis http://www.cancertutor.com/mirror_lymphoma/

Morning and evening I also take:

  • 2-500mg caps Purica brand Menopause Relief (mushroom and herb blend)
  • 2-500mg caps of Purica brand Coriolus (see above)
  • 2-150mg caps of R-Lipoic Acid to control blood sugar
  • 1-400mg cap of Red Reishi Mushroom, polysaccharide with strong anti-tumor properties
  • I also self-administer Iscador Mistletoe therapy by injection, about every 3 days. Currently at 80 units.  Mistletoe exerts immune modulating as well as direct anti-proliferative effects.  Also increases levels of anti-cancer cytokines.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3yHlFy0g-0
  • I brew gallons of chaga and turkey tail tea (ground up and simmered for an hour) , I drink at least 3 cups a day. (see above)
  • I have recently started making and using Cannabis Oil suppositories.   You can obtain CO in Canada through Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, such as the Vancouver Compassion Club.  https://thecompassionclub.org. Used this way, it is less psychoactive, and really helps with pain. If necessary, I can use Citocoline to cut the “high” effects. I plan on staying at a low level maintenance dose until I ever need to increase it. I have access to 1:1 oil (THC TO CBD) which seems to be the preferred ratio for Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients. My current dosage is quite low (10-20 units/suppository). I take these twice/day. I also use Cannabis Oil mixed with castor oil topically over the sites I knew to be where my tumours were located. It is non-psychoactive this way.  CBD (cannabidiol) has the ability to switch off the gene responsible for metastasis in breast cancer. http://bbm1.ucm.es/cannabis/archivos/publicaciones/Caffarel%20Cancer%20Treat%20Rev%202012%20online.pdf

In Conclusion

I don’t pretend to understand why my body went into remission.  I have hunches, but couldn’t point to any one thing as the “cure”.  I know that everything turned around during the ceremony with Don Chabelo, and that my decline stopped.  I feel that losing my overwhelming fear was the catalyst for my recovery.  I would encourage any woman going through a similar experience to take control, do your own research, trust your intuition and to let your heart feel Love instead of Fear.  Our bodies are powerful and capable of reversing damage, if we give them what they need.

Wishing you all Health and Strength.