This is a story that had to be told.
Whenever I told people that my husband had been healed from one of the worst kinds of cancer, that allopathic medicine had given up on him twice, and that we had tried every kind of alternative and complimentary treatment we could think of, they would say,
You’ve got to write that down!
Then I told them about how our marriage was not too great early on and how we found a therapist who made us work like hell, forcing us to reveal shameful secrets and pent-up rage, focussing on keeping Jack alive a well as rescuing our marriage. Since people seemed very interested in the story, I would go on about how we both learned some wonderful healing practices, like acupressure, meditation and visualization, how we walked on hot coals to really get the power of mind over matter, and how Jack nearly died from one of the alternative treatments.
With that, everybody wanted to know more, and specifically, what we did that made the cancer go away. The answer to that question was to tell the whole story, after which they could make up their own minds.
But some of this story was rather unflattering for both Jack and me, so I procrastinated for years. Finally, my supportive writing group acted as witness during our regular Tuesday afternoon meetings while I pieced together the story’s fabric using scraps of journals and threads of memory. This process lasted about a year, and then the draft languished in its cardboard folder for several more years until I decided the time was right to find an editor and prepare the story for the wider world. It seems that as I grow older, honesty becomes easier. And perhaps it would help other care-givers come to terms with feelings and behaviors that are not always socially acceptable.
Although I’ve become a huge skeptic of longevity statistics, I recently read that the three-year survival expectancy for esophageal cancer is 1%. One of the textbooks I read in 1982, when Jack was first diagnosed, said that virtually no one survives esophageal cancer. I now know that statement is not true, not just because of Jack’s experience, but I also know of others who have beat the odds. In the years between 1982 and today, physicians and scientists have begun to document a vast number of cases where people with terrible prognoses have survived for many years. Some of these patients have been lost to the medical world because they simply dropped out of the allopathic system. Others have been labeled “spontaneous remission,” or just considered mysteries. Jack Hardesty is one of the ones who dropped out of the system.
Our journey took us to Bonn, Germany for medical treatment, where we lived for four months, savoring the cafe life in summer evenings, and traveling through France on one of our holidays from treatment. During most of this time, Jack felt surprisingly well, despite his dire prognosis and the rigors of treatment. Each time we got a piece of bad news about the tumor’s growth, Jack would just say, “Time to try something new.” So we did. These new approaches left chemotherapy and radiation behind and concentrated on the nutritional, psychological, and spiritual approaches to healing. Which one or which combination worked, we will never know.
Life-threatening illness has been likened to a journey through the labyrinth, for the caregivers and loved ones, as well as for the patient. You can be pretty sure how you got in, and sometimes you’re just thrust in, but it’s not at all clear how you’re going to get out. I have learned that in the process of navigation, it becomes all about the journey rather than the destination.