Death by cancer is one of those ominous threats that hovers over many people. Cancer has been a leading cause of death for decades. But surviving the disease can be brutal as well.
If caught early enough, the abnormal cell growth that characterizes cancer can be isolated and removed. But the disease often spreads silently throughout the body, and once an advanced case is finally found, it may be very hard to treat.
The conventional approach—typically a mix of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, as well as the symptoms they cause—leaves the grueling signature of cancer treatment. But specialists insist conventional methods are vital to survival. At the very least, these treatments may grant a cancer patient a few more precious months to spend with loved ones.
This is the protocol doctors overwhelmingly recommend. But it isn’t the only choice. Some patients turn down conventional treatment yet still manage to recover and even thrive.
James Templeton is dedicated to sharing these triumphal tales as part of his Templeton Wellness Foundation. He interviews both doctors and patients who have witnessed real healing with natural modalities. Templeton’s mission is to offer hope to those facing a frightening or even a seemingly hopeless diagnosis. He documents the details of his own battle overcoming stage 4 melanoma in his book, “I Used To Have Cancer.”
Templeton said he was ready to share his own story once he managed to stay cancer-free for more than 30 years. He credits his long-term success with deceptively simple tools: a macrobiotic diet and copious amounts of vitamin C. But he said the most powerful medicine, the engine that really drove his recovery, was hope.
“I learned a lot, and it all started with not much hope. The hope came to me through prayer, and putting the energy out there that I was desperate for help,” he said.
When Templeton was first diagnosed, he seemed like an unlikely cancer candidate. He was 32-years-old and a dedicated runner. However, during a routine physical, Templeton’s doctor noticed a suspicious mole on his back. The growth was cancerous, but the fix was easy. After the mole was removed, Templeton was given a clean bill of health.
But a follow-up exam a few months later uncovered a new development: a lump in Templeton’s groin. Surgery revealed the lump to be part of a deep, fast-growing cancer. Doctors removed a large chunk of diseased lymph nodes, but they couldn’t get it all. So they recommended an experimental protocol to kill the remaining cancer: 80 sessions of whole-body hyperthermia combined with chemo.
For each treatment, Templeton was given a typhoid serum to raise his temperature to 105 degrees or more, and he was covered with weighted blankets to keep him even warmer. Another aspect of the treatment made him feel as though he was freezing to death. One full treatment took about 8 to 10 hours.
Templeton was determined to get better, so he embraced the rough regimen. But it was by no means a cure.
“I asked my doctor, ‘What are my chances of surviving this long term?’ He said, ‘You’ve probably got a 20 percent survival of 3 to 5 years. If you can get through these 80 treatments without dying,’” Templeton said.
Such poor odds for such harsh treatment left Templeton devastated and depressed. The surgery that aimed to remove his cancerous lump had left his leg sore and stagnant. Since nearly all of his leg’s lymph nodes had been removed, the fluid had to be manually drained with a pump, or else he risked losing his leg.
Templeton said he wasn’t really a religious guy, but the circumstances of that hopeless moment in the hospital inspired a call for help more powerful than he could have ever imagined.
“I was desperate, so I started to pray to God. I felt like every cell in my body was praying. It was like a prayer I never felt before. This was a heartfelt, gut-wrenching prayer,” he said. “After I got through praying I had tears in my eyes. And I bet it wasn’t 20 minutes later when I got a knock on the door in the hospital. This was when it all started.”
When his door opened, in walked an old college buddy Templeton hadn’t seen in several years. He had heard about Templeton’s illness through a mutual friend and had just read about an actor who had cured his prostate cancer through something called a macrobiotic diet. The book was called “Confessions of a Kamikaze Cowboy,” and the author was Dirk Benedict, best known for his role in the 1980s action-adventure TV show “The A-Team.” By strange coincidence, the character Benedict played was also named Templeton, Lieutenant Templeton “Faceman” Peck.
The story spoke to Templeton immediately.
“I couldn’t stop reading it. I was so excited,” he said. “I thought: If it would work for him following this diet and lifestyle to overcome cancer, maybe it could work for me.”
The next day, Templeton got another visitor and another book. This time it was his stepmother and the book was by Nobel Prize Winner Linus Pauling. It showed evidence of late-stage terminal cancer patients who did really well with high doses of vitamin C.
On the third day came another knock. This time it was the hospital psychotherapist. He had come to address Templeton’s depression. However, by then, Templeton was no longer depressed. But he was curious about the new treatments he had read about. So he asked the psychotherapist for advice.
“I asked this guy if he knew anything about this macrobiotic diet. He said, ‘Hold on,’ and started going for the door. I felt like he was just going to leave. He looks out in the hall and shuts the door,” Templeton said. “He comes back in and says, ‘I do know about the macrobiotic diet, but I don’t want to talk to you unless you promise that you won’t speak to anybody about this conversation. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m telling you about this because I’d lose my job and my pension.'”
The psychotherapist gave Templeton a couple of titles on the macrobiotic philosophy and said he personally knew cancer patients who had done very well with it. But he stressed that success didn’t come easily.
“It takes a lot of work,” Templeton said. “You’ve got to make changes in your life. But it’s attainable if you give it 100 percent and you’ve got to dig in at the beginning. At least for a couple years to get the results.”
A New Lifestyle
The macrobiotic diet is based on the ancient Taoist principles of yin and yang. A typical meal consists primarily of whole grains, vegetables, and beans, with exotic additions such as seaweed and miso soup. Compared to the hyper-palatable, calorically dense, and nutritionally deprived foods that often comprise the modern American diet, macrobiotic meals feature subtle flavors and simple, healthy ingredients that have long been used in traditional Asian medicine to treat chronic disease.
In addition to achieving balance through healthy food, the macrobiotic philosophy aims for balance in every aspect of life: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Templeton was intrigued by those ancient Eastern ideas. But what convinced him was how much better he felt from putting them into practice.
“Little by little, I got stronger. I was able to do things again. I even started to go for runs and exercise, even though I was in a lot of pain,” he said.
This was in stark contrast to how he felt from his hospital treatment. At first, Templeton decided to combine the cold chemo sessions with his macrobiotic meals. But the more treatments he endured, the worse he felt. So late one night, he decided to sneak out of the hospital, and he never looked back.
“The chemotherapy felt like torture,” he said. “I was so weak. I couldn’t eat. I was losing weight, and I had already gotten really thin from the whole ordeal. I thought, ‘I’ve got to get out of this hospital. I don’t think I’m going to make it if I don’t.'”
From that point on, Templeton poured his heart into the macrobiotic lifestyle and began taking vitamin C just as the books he read had described. He even spent some time at the Kushi Institute—a macrobiotic teaching center located in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. It was founded by Michio Kushi, who’s credited with introducing the philosophy to the West.
According to Templeton, the goal of a macrobiotic philosophy is to rid yourself of emotional and environmental toxins and being thankful for what you have.
“It’s a very powerful way of living and eating,” he said. “To me, cancer is just your body out of balance. It’s trying to get your attention. The body wants to be healthy and feel good. A macrobiotic diet gets your body back to balance.”
Based on his own success, Templeton is naturally a big advocate of the macrobiotic lifestyle and vitamin C. But he also admits that those tools don’t work for everybody. Cancer is complicated, he said, and not every path to healing looks the same.
However, Templeton believes that there are a variety of natural approaches that just might speak to someone out there in need of a little hope.
Of course, not every cancer survival story comes with a natural approach. Many are able to reach remission along a conventional path. But Templeton believes that whatever recovery method you choose, you can only get out of it what you put in.
“I can look to other people to point me in the right direction and give me some guidance, but I have to do the work,” Templeton said. “Some people are not ready to do it. Maybe they’re at a point in their life where they’re ready to move on. But some of us are here to do other things, I believe.”