Sue Olifent was given no chance after a two-inch tumour was detected on her liver. Husband Robert didn't agree and so she embarked on a strict diet. Today they are dedicated to telling the world about the miracle that happened in her home city
When Sue came home with her good-bye cards, Robert refused to accept there was nothing that could be done
If you drop into a small bookshop in Nottingham most afternoons, there's a good chance you'll bump into Sue and Robert Olifent. They will probably be seated at a small table surrounded by a small group of people. Each person in the group has cancer and they want to hear for themselves about the miracle.
Back in 2011, Sue was diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of cancer: she had a two-and-a-half-inch tumour on her liver. Looking at the scans, all the doctor seemed able to say was: "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry." Traumatized, Sue left the surgery and spent lb25 on packs of good-bye cards.
Six weeks later, Sue was back in the surgery and the life-threatening tumour had been replaced by benign scar tissue. The doctors put it down to one of those rare cases of 'spontaneous remission'; beyond that, they didn't want to know what Sue had done.
So Sue and husband Robert, both 49, make it their duty to tell the world themselves. They have afternoon sessions in the bookshop, and they hold regular meetings in and around Nottingham for which they don't charge.
Robert's also written a short book entitled Do You Want to Know What We Did to Beat Cancer?
When Sue came home that day with her good-bye cards, Robert refused to accept there was nothing that could be done. For the previous three years, Robert had been researching cancer, alternative treatment approaches and diets. He was on some sort of quest after having witnessed the appalling way his parents suffered from cancer-and the treatments they endured-in 2008. Both parents died within a month of each other and, afterwards, Robert started to read everything he could lay his hands on.
Sue worried about him and thought he had become a little too obsessive. But they carried on with their lives-Robert with his carpet-cleaning business-until Sue started experiencing terrible pains whenever she ate. She had a few other health problems, including a Candida infection, and it was odd that all her toenails had a fungal infection, so she'd cover that up with nail varnish.
But this was something more serious still. The pains started even when she just put food in her mouth, let alone swallowed it, and she started to lose weight alarmingly. Within a few weeks, she had lost 21 lb (9.5 kg).
The family doctor was also worried and ordered scans. When Sue went along to the hospital to see the results, the doctor there pointed out the large tumour on her liver and three smaller growths on her pancreas. The large tumour was pressing against the tubes going in and out of the liver-"it was like Charing Cross station", as he unhelpfully described it-and it was inoperable. In fact, there was nothing that could be done, although he prescribed sleeping tablets "as you'll need those", and recommended a biopsy. Robert put his foot down when he heard about that; biopsies can spread cancer, and he didn't want Sue's cancer to go any further than it had already gone.
"To be honest, if the doctor had offered chemotherapy, I would have grabbed it there and then," said Sue. But he didn't, and a private chat that Robert had with another oncologist confirmed that cancer of the liver was one of the more aggressive types. The chances of survival were virtually nil. He also warned Robert to expect a swift deterioration in Sue, as the tumour would prevent the liver from functioning and so would be unable to process toxins. Effectively, Sue would be poisoned to death.
Sue didn't hear any of that, but she got the message anyhow. "When I came out of the doctor's office, I felt numb. I got on a bus into town, and it seemed so surreal, looking at all the people chattering away. I just wanted to scream out that I had cancer, I'm going to die."
In the card shop as she was carefully selecting the good-bye cards, she broke down and couldn't stop crying. Strangely, she felt she was letting everyone else down-her son Jordan, who was 16, and not being around to see him start his career and being a grandmother to his family, and then there was Robert, who was still grieving for his own parents.
So she didn't tell Jordan and Robert. Instead, she phoned her best friend, who told her she would be fine, but she knew those were just words of reassurance, just so much whistling in the dark. Then she phoned her boss and told him because she couldn't stand the thought of telling everyone when she was there and breaking down.
When she got home, Robert was still at work, so she settled down to write all the good-bye cards. Robert was the first one home. "My heart was racing, and I couldn't stop shaking. I couldn't hide
my feelings and emotions from him as I had planned to; it was just impossible," Sue recalled.
They sat down together and Robert started telling Sue all the things he had discovered about cancer, and how it could be treated with diet and nutrition. With doctors offering no hope, Sue realized that Robert's approach-extreme as it all seemed to be-was her only option.
"I sat down and discussed at length the details of the research I had been doing into nutritional cancer therapies," said Robert. "I remember wrapping my arms around Sue in the kitchen, and telling her that everything would be fine, even though I felt inside like I had lost sight of the shore and was swimming out into unknown depths."
A few friends thought Robert was peddling false hope. "It really made me cross," said Robert. "Hope is hope and it is a good positive thing. What about doctors who pronounce what is in essence the death sentence of 'you have only three months to live'?"
Up to getting the cancer diagnosis, Sue's diet was pretty typical. She enjoyed bacon, steaks and cheese, and she had her fair share of white bread and cakes. All of that went under Robert's radical new health regime, although he joined her and ate only what she was eating.
His programme (see left for full details) started with a detox and cleanse of the colon for 10 days with magnesium oxide (magnesium salts) powder, which she drank with water every day for a week. After that, she detoxified her liver by blending one-third of a pineapple with a two- to three-centimetre chunk of ginger, one clove of garlic and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, mixed into a glass of filtered water. She drank this every day for 10 days in the morning before eating.
All processed foods, red meats and dairy were eliminated and replaced by fresh vegetables (raw or very lightly cooked) and low-glycaemic (low-sugar) fruits like apples, pears and lemons, which were put into a juicer and diluted with warm water.
Essentially, Robert was trying to wreck the environment in which cancer flourishes, so high-sugar fruits, starchy vegetables and processed sugars were banned.
"To labour the point," says Robert, "because I can't get enough of saying it, Sue's tumour is now totally gone and only scar tissue remains."
Along the way, all of Sue's other health problems cleared up too. Her toenails became healthy and clear of fungal infection on their own and her Candida disappeared, as did her eczema. Robert's arthritis in his hands also went, and he was able to stop taking steroids and painkillers.
Today, three years after the diagnosis, Sue is sticking to the diet, although she admits she does miss eating a bacon sandwich.
They continue to work part-time-Robert at an inner-city farm and Sue in a nursery-but their passion is to tell everyone who will listen about her amazing cancer turnaround. And judging by the crowd in the bookshop every afternoon, there are plenty who want to listen to their story of a miracle.
What Sue ate to beat cancer
What she ate
Extra virgin olive oil
Regular high doses of vitamin C
Apricot kernels (B17; 30 a day)
Niacin (B3) supplements
Juiced dark-green leafy vegetables, cucumber and celery, with apple, pear or carrot to sweeten
Raw vegetables and salads (organic, locally sourced)
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, cabbage (raw or lightly cooked)
Fermented foods for good gut flora and supplements of acidophilus probiotic
Onions, garlic, ginger, chives and coriander; all common garden herbs are "wonderful"
Plenty of water-at least 1.5 L a day
Small portions of white meat (organic) and oily fish
What she avoided
No dairy products
No vegetable cooking oils, artificial trans fats or hydrogenated fats
No processed foods
No preserved or tinned foods
No white bread, white flour or white rice
No fizzy drinks, energy drinks or diluted fruit drinks
No coffee and very little caffeine
No red meat
Only limited amounts of starchy root vegetables, including potatoes, turnips and especially parsnips, and pasta
Most fruits other than pineapple, and organic apples and pears
No processed table salt (replaced by Himalayan rock salt or Celtic Sea Salt in moderation)
Robert's book, Do You Want to Know What We Did to Beat Cancer?, can be purchased by sending a cheque for lb12.49, incl p&p, made out to 'S Olifent', to: Active Cancer Therapy Support, 9 Walton Crescent, Carlton, Nottingham NG4. Sue and Robert's website: www.cancer-acts.co