Vickroy: Cancer survivor credits alternative treatment
BY DONNA VICKROY email@example.com Twitter: @dvickroy July 16, 2013 10:38PM
Gloria Crawford talks about being a cancer survivor at Jedi's Restaurant and Grill in Oak Lawn. | Donna Vickroy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 18, 2013 6:14AM
Gloria Crawford found her cure off the beaten path.
The South Side child care worker credits a combination of an organic diet, prayer and a personalized treatment plan with helping her beat breast cancer.
“I am proof that this system works,” Crawford said.
Crawford is cancer-free and runs a support group for others in the throes of the terrifying disease.
“God healed me, so I have to pay it forward,” she said. “Since my diagnosis, I’ve lost eight friends to cancer. I need to get the word out about what works.”
She was 49 when she was diagnosed in 2007. Fatigue was her only symptom. She’d worked out regularly and began to notice that no matter how much sleep she got, or how much coffee she drank, she was always tired.
When her local primary care doctor didn’t have an answer for her, she went to see a gynecologist. That doctor knew immediately that something was wrong, she said.
“She asked me if I had had a breast implant,” Crawford said. “When I told her no, she ordered a biopsy right away.”
Within a few days, Crawford was told the devastating diagnosis and given the recommendation of a double mastectomy.
“I did the whole flipping-out thing. I cried, I prayed,” she said.
She sought a second opinion and it was the same.
“But that doctor was so terse, so unkind, I just began to freak out,” she said. Again she refused the surgery, as well as chemotherapy and radiation, and was put on a medication, which she said gave her severe mood swings.
“Everybody wanted to cut me or put poison in me,” she said. “I just knew there had to be a better way.”
When she told her mother she had cancer, the elderly woman put two hands to her daughter’s face and said, “You do not have cancer.”
So began Crawford’s search for a new way.
“I began with my attitude. I started saying to myself that I did not have cancer, I did not have cancer,” she said.
She also began researching various treatment plans.
At the time, she was working as a special-education aide for Chicago Public Schools. She had an HMO, which did not allow her much leeway in terms of seeking alternative treatment plans.
“I had to wait a few months, until November of that year, to change my insurance plan,” she said.
Then one night, as Thanksgiving drew near and she was enduring another sleepless night fraught with worry, she asked God for a sign. A commercial for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America came on the TV.
She called the next day. During her initial visit to the Midwestern facility in Zion, Dr. Dennis Citrin confirmed the diagnosis. By this point, the cancer had already spread to her spine, liver, kidney and skull.
Doctors there put her on a new medication. Because her cancer was estrogen-sensitive, they recommended an estrogen-blocking drug. They also sent her to a naturopathic therapist, who gave her lots of information about cancer-fighting foods.
She began to research that angle and found a friend who introduced her to juicing.
In addition to the new meds, Crawford began a strict regimen of drinking a blend of fresh fruits and vegetables 12 times a day, every day.
The routine began at 8 a.m. with prayer and water. At 10 and again at 11, she’d drink 4 ounces of apple and carrot juice. At 11:30, it was a mix of spinach, broccoli and apple. Then, after lunch, she’d start the whole routine over again. In between standard sessions, she’d work in whey protein drinks and a mixture of berries.
She admits it was an expensive routine and that it would clean her out so thoroughly that she often had to rely on Depends, especially when leaving the house. But within four months, she said, she noticed a marked increase in her energy level.
“They put so many chemicals in our food today, and we’re putting those chemicals into our bodies,” she said.
Within a year, Crawford’s cancer was gone. Today, at 56, the mother of one and grandmother of two has the energy to run a child care business from her home in Chicago.
“I feel great,” she said.
She marked her five-year celebration of life last month.
Citrin said that while Stage 4 breast cancer is highly treatable, only about 20 percent of patients will enjoy a complete remission of the type Crawford has experienced.
“The approach to helping Gloria fight cancer was not to surgically remove the cancer but, rather, use drug treatment to control the totality of her disease — in other words, to not just treat the cancer present in her breast, but in her whole body,” Citrin said. “Because her cancer was estrogen-sensitive, we chose an estrogen-blocking drug. With this treatment, not only did the secondary tumors in Gloria’s bones respond, but the large primary cancer in her breast also disappeared. For this reason, Gloria has not required surgery or radiation treatment. She continues in excellent remission and has been in remission for more than five years.”
He said the Cancer Treatment Centers of America approach differs from conventional medicine in that it strives to provide care that not only helps fight cancer, but also supports the entire body through nutrition, naturopathic medicine, mind-body support and pain management.
But will Crawford’s system work for other cancer patients?
“Just as no two women are identical, no two cancers are identical. The modern approach to breast cancer treatment is to recognize that every patient and cancer is unique,” Citrin said.
“There is no longer a ‘standard’ treatment plan for all women with breast cancer. We are now living in an era of personalized cancer care where treatment is determined by the unique gene structure of the cancer and of the patient, whenever possible.”
Today, Crawford works to get the word out about her success story. Thirty to 40 people attend her support group sessions the first Saturday of the month at New Life Covenant Church, 7757 S. Greenwood Ave. in Chicago.
“I’m fine and I’m glad to be alive,” she said. “I am blessed.”