Dr. Al Danenberg ● Nutritional Periodontist
June 10, 2019
I see my journey to heal from my incurable bone marrow cancer as an inspiration to all those who are dealing with a serious illness. I have been confronted by a horrendous diagnosis and turned it into a crusade to allow my natural healing ability to deal with this challenge. You too might be able to turn an apparent dismal situation into a learning and health-restoring experience.
On 5/20/19, I described the details of my current protocol to help my body heal (HERE). In this article, I want to explain what has gone through my mind to get me where I am today. I’ll share my personal thoughts and my deepest emotions.
All along, my underlying goal was to maintain my quality of life. I never have been concerned with only longevity. A quality life has always been more important to me than the number of years I could live. Setting this parameter has helped me focus on what I needed to do for myself.
With that in mind, I rejected any medical treatment that could interfere with my quality of life. I began to research what was possible to heal my body naturally. My go-to source was peer-reviewed medical science in PubMed.gov. This website is a repository of all published medical abstracts from all over the world. The United States National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health maintains this extensive and impressive database.
I also searched for practitioners – both conventional and alternative – to learn of their approaches to my malignancy. I considered and weighed their ideas with my personal research. It took time for me to develop my integrated healing protocol. And my current protocol has been tweaked many times. It is not the same as the program I started at the beginning of my diagnosis 9 months ago. And it probably will not be the same in another 9 months. One must be flexible enough to be able to discard what is not working and include newly-learned ideas that might improve results.
I am open-minded and receptive to all forms of therapy that make sense to me. But again, my overwhelming criterion is that I maintain a quality of life, or else I would not be interested in the treatment.
Obviously, my journey is not just about me. My wife, our children, and grandchildren are more important than I am. I am sensitive to what would be best for them as well as what would be best for me. If you are dealing with challenging medical issues, don’t become so self-centered that you ignore all those around you who love and adore you. These precious people get frustrated because they don’t know how to make you whole again. They also are suffering in their own ways from the fear of losing you.
Being practical, I knew I would not travel down the road where treatment would be significantly more expensive than my wife and I could afford. How could I leave this life knowing that my wife would be burdened by overwhelming financial debt from my care? To me, this would be unconscionable. One of my conventional oncologists asked me, “Why does it matter how much it costs?” That question still resonates within me as totally absurd and insensitive.
Being a realist, I needed to come to terms with my mortality. The fact is that I have an aggressive form of multiple myeloma for which there is no conventional cure. I am completely aware of the depth of that statement. So, my wife and I discussed what we wanted to do together before I died. We also explored how we wanted to share my quality time with our kids and grandkids. A fruitful life is made up of many marvelous memories up until the end. What would you include in your “bucket list”?
Although I am not a religious person, I have a strong spiritual belief about my soul and my transition after life. This has given me comfort for the most part. I know where my soul is going after physical death. Your belief system should be one you can rally around that brings meaning and solace into your life.
With everything considered, I believe I am dealing with my prognosis relatively well. However, I still have rare but serious bouts with depression. I try not to go down this deep and dark hole, but sometimes I become overwhelmed with a wave of impending doom. This doom is not related to a fear of death. It is related to my fear of moving on without my wife and not fulfilling my purpose in this life. I need to get a handle on these emotions since my rational mind tells me that I am managing my mortality quite well.
Inspiration for You
At the time of my diagnosis, I was given 3-6 months to live. Today, I am recovering from my setback in March 2019, but I feel fortunate. For the most part, I have maintained the quality of life I insisted upon. Naysayers thought I would be dead by the end of 2018. They were wrong!
Sadly, but understandably, medical doctors do not have all the answers. They generally are myopic and can only see what they have been taught traditionally. Bring all your resources together to make a plan that makes sense to you. There is so much more to healing the human body than just caustic chemicals disguised as medicine.
My wish for anyone who is dealing with a life-threatening disease is to be proactive. As best as you can, don’t allow yourself to enter a state of denial or depression. If your body is confronted with serious health issues, force yourself into the mindset to heal. Ask your doctor as many questions as you can. Do the research and think for yourself. Explore scenarios outside-the-box. And above all else, continue to make awesome memories for yourself and all the loved ones who surround and support you.