Two Mothers Overcome Life-Threatening Cancer And Rheumatoid Arthritis With A Simple Change In Lifestyle
One expected a long and painful battle with cancer; one was facing a future where she would not be able to move her body anymore. Both were full-time mothers and professionals, with families that will fall apart and a life ahead of them cut short if they succumbed to their conditions. But it only took them one doctor, a much more healthier lifestyle, and rock-hard discipline to defy all odds and regain their health in no time.
Melinda Acosta, 62, freelance interior designer and mother of two
It all started a couple of years ago when Melinda’s gynecologist found a small mass in her right breast. Despite her doctor’s recommendation to take a mammogram test, Melinda dismissed the finding and convinced herself that she was fine.
It is not uncommon for people to refuse to take tests and lab exams if they felt their bodies were fine. Many refused because they were afraid to find themselves in a terrible condition; many were even more anxious to go through clinical procedures that can be too painful on them and on their families.
And so Melinda passed on the mammogram, and then again a second time, when another gynecologist found that the mass is now getting bigger, the size of a santol seed.
But it did not take long for Melinda to regret her decision when in 2016, she started feeling pain and discomfort on her right breast, radiating to her right side and armpit area. “Now, I felt afraid and concerned, thinking that the mass might have become bigger and turned malignant. Cancer exists in the family. My father died from lung cancer,” Melinda says.
“Fear now has set in and dire scenarios sometimes invaded my mind,” Melinda admits. “But I was determined to do something to change all that. I began searching for natural healing methods on my own but told no one in the family about my condition.”
It was one fateful day when she stumbled upon the Facebook page of Dr. Farrah Agustin-Bunch, a doctor based in Tarlac who specializes on non-invasive and all-natural immunotherapy, a way of treatment that focuses on the capability of the patient’s own immune system to eradicate cancer cells instead of using traditional methods like surgery and radiation.
“When the date of my consultation with Dr. Farrah was set, I decided to tell my children about my condition and how I wanted to be healed,” Melinda recalls. “That was the first time they heard of my situation.”
Melinda’s treatment was fairly simple: focus on the immune system’s capability to fight off the cancer cells, eradicate the chemicals that surrounded her home, detoxification, and an overhaul of her diet.
“Dr. Farrah recommended detoxification for a month for my condition using Boston C (the clinic’s proprietary concoction made with a blend of herbs and extracts, researched and tested through the years), and local leaves and herbs to be blended and eaten raw. I was also told to take turmeric tea with virgin coconut oil and a pinch of black pepper three times a day,” Melinda shares about her treatment. She was also given a list of food to avoid, and was tasked to research about parabens, xeno-estrogen, and GMOs, which are harmful toxins that usually contribute to the destruction of the body.
Dr. Farrah Bunch-Agustin
Melinda followed her treatment dutifully for a month, blending, boiling and pounding natural ingredients for her new diet. “I would attend Christmas parties bringing my own food. I stayed away from all the heavenly delicious Christmas treats that I was always fond of,” Melinda recalls.
It was not just her food that Melinda had to change, but everything that surrounded her that was worsening her condition—toiletries, cleaning agents, and even cosmetic products that were not organic.
But Melinda was determined to get better. It was also fortunate that her family supported her every step of the way, taking her to restaurants that served organic food. Her son even prepared organic pork sinigang for her on New Year’s Eve.
The overhaul in her lifestyle was sudden and challenging, but the month soon came to an end. She went back to Dr. Farrah after the detoxification period to take an axillary ultrasound and see how the treatment has affected her.
“I lost a lot of weight but did not feel weak at all. The joint pains I used to feel went away, so did the pain in my breast and sides,” Melinda shares, just a month into her new regimen. “And it was a happy disbelief that I felt when the doctor said that I was negative for any mass on both my breasts and armpits. I was only too eager to share the news with my children.”
Melinda’s fear of the painful and costly chemo sessions, the months or maybe even years of suffering, and the possibility that she might end up following her father a bit too early, all vanished. Melinda shares her realization, “That day (when I visited Dr. Farrah), I was to find out that cancer—or any disease for that matter—is not a death sentence; it was a lifestyle change sentence.”
A lot has changed in Melinda’s life now that she’s fully recovered, including the contents of her refrigerator and pantry.
But the biggest change in her life, she says, is “I learned to live in the moment. As a woman and a mother, I have learned that it is within our power to change things for the better—for us and even our family. The determination of women to overcome adversity is so inspiring. Tools are all around to help us. All we have to do is to be informed, educated, and vigilant.”
Atty. Veronica Cuyo-Avila, 63, lawyer-CPA and mother of two
Rheumatism and arthritis have become commonly heard words in any household with aging members. But a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis can be a matter of life and death, and Atty. Veronica “Veronne” Cuyo-Avila was fortunate and strong enough to not let her condition get the best of her.
Atty. Veronne was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2008, forced to see a doctor because of the pain and stiffness she would feel in her fingers and joints. She remembers the pain was too excruciating that she is unable to lift a glass of water with one hand, or reach out in front of her.
Having just been widowed two years prior, Atty. Veronne chose to hide her condition from her two daughters—one has just passed the CPA Board exams and the younger one was enrolled at UP Diliman. Disquiet ate her as she thought about the future of her children if she did not get better.
“It is not easy to send a child to a school in Manila. I was afraid that I won’t be able to sustain their financial needs… that one day I may be very sick that I will not be able to work anymore, and my daughter will not be able to finish her studies and I won’t be able to fulfill my dreams and plans for them and for myself,” Atty. Veronne says.
And so, while her daughters were trying to establish themselves in Manila, she sat alone in their huge house in Naga City, battling with an illness that was starting to eat her mind and body. “I did not tell my daughters about my condition; I did not want them to worry. I underwent depression for a year,” she shares.
Despite the pain and living with the fear that her daughters would find out about her condition, Atty. Veronne continued with her daily tasks. But tasks that before were a breeze to do have started to become almost impossible feats—dressing up in the morning have started to become cumbersome, taking care of the house and driving to work are so much harder, and shooting pains would arrest her in the middle of her trials.
A strong woman in the court and in life, Atty. Veronne did not let the pain deter her from fulfilling her tasks as a mother. “I would often visit [my daughters] during weekends, bringing foods from the province. I take the evening trip to Manila by bus and travel time is eight to nine hours, so I sleep in the bus and would wake up upon reaching the bus terminal early morning. Sometimes, all the passengers have alighted but I could not yet get up from my seat because I am stiff all over and my joints are so painful. Sometimes, tears would just roll down my cheeks because of the pain and because sometimes, I pity myself. But I had to bear the pain. I cannot put off travel to Manila because I have to visit my daughters and attend to their needs,” she shares.
Feeling hopeless about her condition, Atty. Veronne gave up hope on the medications and steroids that were prescribed to her. Because not only were the medications not helping with the pain, the side effects were also starting to take a toll on her body and bones. In 2017, the doctors said it was not just rheumatoid arthritis anymore—she also had Lupus.
But just like a trial, whose outcome is not decided until the judge makes a decision, Atty. Veronne’s condition was not yet a lost case. Following the advice of Melinda, her high school batchmate, she decided to finally visit and consult Dr. Farrah.
Atty. Verone and Melinda wearing their high school uniforms during a recent reunion
“Atty. Veronne arrived here with significantly debilitating rheumatoid arthritis,” Dr. Farrah recalls. “Typical treatments are long term use of pain relievers, steroids and chemo, all of which are immunosuppressive, leading to additional issues. It really is sad when I see a patient who is undergoing typical treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, since they often end up taking numerous drugs, with no real or lasting relief.”
By this time, Atty. Veronne had been under medical prescription for almost a decade. Just like with Melinda, instead of the usual medications, Dr. Farrah instructed her to overhaul her lifestyle and diet, and concentrate on preparing organic food and juice extracted from different leaves.
“Initially, I thought that there would no longer be anything else to eat because of the many, many food that cannot be eaten!” Atty. Veronne shares in jest. “I remember the staff of Dr. Farrah saying, ‘Lahat ng masarap na prutas ay bawal.’ She also totally banned the use of makeup, jewelry, and even toothpaste.”
Atty. Veronne’s new diet consisted of regular dosages of Boston C, Vitamin C, self-prepared juice extracts, and all organic food. It was all about bringing back the strength of her immune system, which was debilitated not only by her disease but the years of painkillers and steroids.
The years that Atty. Veronne suffered felt like distant memory when after just three months, she came out negative for antinuclear antibody (ANA), a test usually associated with autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
“Knowing that my ANA is now negative has of course changed my outlook and attitude. Each day that is spent at the office, at home, or in other places becomes more joyful and less stressful because I no longer have to worry about my health. Although, of course, I know that I still need to observe certain rules,” Atty. Veronne shares, as she continues to live a healthier and more organic lifestyle to keep her body strong and to keep diseases at bay.
“As mothers, we dedicate our lives to our children; we will not serve our purpose if we are ill. If synthetic medicine does not work, don’t be afraid to try natural medicine. Nature, coupled with prayers and faith in the Lord, is the best cure.”