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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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July 2020 (Vol. 5 Issue 5)

Saying no to chemo

About the author: 

Saying no to chemo image

David Passmore used meditation, visualization techniques and nutrition to overcome his cancer-and 30 years on, he's still clear of the disease

David Passmore used meditation, visualization techniques and nutrition to overcome his cancer-and 30 years on, he's still clear of the disease

Of the oncologist (cancer specialist) sat you down and, putting on his gravest face, told you that you had a serious life-threatening cancer, how would you respond? While it's hard to guess what we would say in that dreadful moment, almost none of us would refuse to have any conventional treatment and instead decide to treat ourselves by effectively 'cleaning up our act'.

But that's what David Passmore did, and 30 years later he's still around to tell the tale. He used meditation, visualization techniques, and good diet and nutrition while putting all the things that mattered back into the centre of his life; within six months he was given the 'all clear'. The cancer-follicular lymphoma, a disease of the lymph glands-had disappeared without chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery, and that's how it has been ever since. David still goes to the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton every year for a check-up, where he is surrounded by the latest generation of incredulous doctors.

David was recently told that only he and a man now living in Texas had refused chemotherapy out of a thousand patients being treated at the clinic David attended-and they are the only two still alive today.

"When I was diagnosed, I was just angry with myself. How had I allowed the cancer to happen? I knew immediately that it was my responsibility, and chemotherapy wasn't going to solve it," says David, now a fit, lean and healthy 66-year-old.

In a way he did know how it happened. At the time he was working all hours on his successful media business, and any leisure hours were taken up with building a national network of Japanese martial-arts centres. The things that really mattered in his life-time to be with his wife and three children, and just attending to his own personal needs and nourishment-were ignored. "I was completely taken up with the peripheral stuff in my life," he said.

Ominous results
David realized something was wrong one day when he was showering. As he reached down to his groin area, he touched a swollen gland. "An alarm bell immediately went off and so I organized a quick appointment with my local doctor," David recalled. The doctor ordered urgent tests, and the following day David had a biopsy. The tests revealed that two of the three lymph glands tested were malignant, and this was confirmed several weeks later when further tests were carried out on a sample of bone marrow.

The prognosis was grim and alarming. David had an advanced cancer that would eventually kill him unless he immediately started a course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, his oncologist told him.

"Against all considered opinion, I refused to take any treatment. The doctor was aghast as no patient of his had declined to do as prescribed," said David. Exasperated, the doctor referred him to another oncologist, Professor Timothy McElwain, a celebrated practitioner based at the Royal Marsden. On their first meeting, McElwain wanted to know why David was refusing the best treatment available and what he was proposing to do instead.

"I told him that I wanted to learn more about the disease. I would alter my diet and lifestyle considerably. I would continue my regular martial-arts training and exercise, and I would meditate on the subject," said David.

Alternative cancer therapies are considered to be ineffective at best and sheer lunacy at worst, but the idea that you could meditate away the cancer really tested Prof McElwain's credulity. However, he also picked up the force of David's convictions and so he agreed to go along with this strangest of alternatives, but urged David to always look out for any sudden weight loss or tiredness.

David went back to his New Forest home and immediately started the programme he had described to McElwain. For the first five days he fasted and meditated before getting hold of some old medical textbooks, which gave him an idea of how the lymph system looked. "I started to visualize clusters of cancer cells in the lymph glands-I knew my affected glands were in my neck and arms-and I willed the areas to be well and free of disease."

He also used every spare minute-when he was on the train or driving-to do 'conscious breathing'. Most of us breathe around 20 times a minute, using shallow breaths. Conscious breathing, on the other hand, involves deep breaths just two or three times a minute.

"Looking back, I now realize that by breathing consciously I was introducing more oxygen into the blood, and I'm sure that played a part in helping beat the cancer." He also took mega-doses of vitamin C, as suggested by Nobel Prize-winning nutritionist Linus Pauling.

David dug out his old books on spirituality and philosophy that had been gathering dust on his shelves for years, and found the time to read them again.

"My life's perspective began to change. It became plain to me that we mostly immerse ourselves in the trivia and complexity of living in the fast lane, as most of us do. Being seen to do something becomes more important than doing it. I began to simplify my life and to engage with my children, family and friends in a different and more meaningful way.

"My senses began to change, my eyes saw the same things more vividly, my taste became more discerning, my hearing more acute," said David, describing a gift to himself that has never left him.
He carried on with the 'day job', but now there was more perspective and balance to his life. "The key is in finding time each day to ensure that your body and brain synchronize together so that each minute you come back to you, and live each moment to fulfil yourself.

"Sometimes life got in the way, so I would compromise and would find time to meditate when I was on the train, washing the dishes or ironing. I would use those everyday activities to help me become conscious of myself."

Doctors would probably maintain that David was one of those lucky ones who experience 'spontaneous remission', those rare instances when cancer just goes away. David doubts that version; he believes that he was able to activate the body's own remarkable healing system by putting his life in order.

Today David puts into practice the techniques he developed to overcome his cancer in his spiritual and martial arts teaching. Buddhism, and Zen Buddhism in particular, lie at the core of his teachings and the way he lives his life. He takes enormous pleasure from helping others to reconnect with themselves and get their priorities right-just as he did 30 years ago when he was told he had cancer.

Find out more about David and his teachings by visiting his website at

When miracles happen

Yasmin said she needed a miracle when she was given two weeks to live. And it duly happened after she used a combination of conventional and alternative treatments

Yasmin (not her real name), 44, was given just two weeks to live after a 7.5-cm tumour was discovered in her rectum-and yet within months the tumour had completely disappeared. This extraordinary healing was the result of a truly holistic approach, she believes, combining mind, body and spirit, conventional and complementary medicines, and her faith.

Her cancer was diagnosed in February 2011 after she had been passing blood in her stools for over a year; initially her local doctor thought she had piles. But a battery of tests revealed something much worse: a very rare cancer had created an enormous tumour that was inoperable, and a secondary cancer had spread to the pelvic lymph nodes.

The cancer specialists recommended a two-phase treatment: in phase one, she would be given megadoses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and if that could shrink the tumour sufficiently, it would be removed three months later as phase two.

Yasmin had worked as a nurse, and she realized from the behaviour of the doctors that the cancer was advanced, so she asked the oncologist how long she would have to live if she didn't start treatment. "I thought he was going to say something like 12 months, but he told me I had just two weeks to live when the tumour was discovered."

She burst into tears and asked the specialist if he believed in miracles. He told her he did-although even he probably wouldn't believe what would happen in the months ahead.

The treatment was certainly extreme, and the oncologists admitted later that it was a kill-or-cure approach. Yasmin underwent five weeks of treatment, two of them as an inpatient when she was given chemotherapy on a drip 24 hours a day. "The treatment made me feel awful. I got infection after infection as my immune system was hit by the chemo, and the radiotherapy had given me second-degree burns in the pelvic area," she recalls.

Her friends believed the doses were so high that they would kill her, yet Yasmin seemed to survive and even looked surprisingly well as the chemotherapy used for her cancer didn't cause hair loss.
Despite looking so healthy, Yasmin's immune system was poor to non-existent, and her friends urged her to see a naturopath in the area. They had heard good things about Shaf Khan, a naturopathic herbalist who worked from his clinic, Shifa Herbs, in Birmingham, close to Yasmin's home.

"I decided not to tell him anything about the cancer. I didn't want to make it too easy for him," said Yasmin, who was still quite sceptical about alternative treatment. Shaf started out with an iridology examination-where the practitioner examines the eyes with a bright light-and concluded that Yasmin needed help in absorbing the nutrients in food because she had a blockage in her bowel and lymph system.

Impressed by his diagnosis, Yasmin agreed to take a concoction of six herbs to help her detoxify and improve her immune system following the chemotherapy. She mixed the herbs in a cup of hot water, which she sipped twice a day. Shaf also recommended a radical change to her diet: white flour, white sugar and dairy were all forbidden in favour of fresh fruits and vegetables, green tea and healthy snacks such as raw almonds. He also told her to regularly meditate and visualize healthy and cancer-free bowels and lymph nodes.

"The dietary changes were hard for me because I always had two sugars in my tea and I would drink around eight cups a day," said Yasmin.

When she returned to the hospital three months later to see if the tumour had shrunk sufficiently for surgery, the doctors made an astonishing discovery: the tumour had disappeared completely, and the secondary cancers had cleared too. The burns from the radiotherapy had also healed.

Although the oncologist was sure that the high-dose chemotherapy and radiotherapy had been responsible, Yasmin believes that the combination of conventional and alternative therapies all played their part, as did her faith. "So many people were praying for me and I'm sure that had an effect," she says.

Perhaps, after all, it was the miracle that Yasmin was hoping for.

Shaf Khan works at the Shifa Herbs clinic in Birmingham (tel: 07867 978 647; email:

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