Norma Cole believes the body has great powers to heal itself naturally.
She’s banking her life on it.
A couple of years ago, Cole was diagnosed with invasive lobular breast cancer. At that time, doctors said surgery was her only option, but the prognosis was very good.
“He said there was 90 per cent chance of recovery without radiation, without chemo, without anything, if we remove the whole thing,” said her partner, Mike Hughes.
Despite the odds, the 66-year-old Cole refused surgery.
“I refused. I had a partial mastectomy on my right side in my 30s,” she said. “But I want to just keep doing what I am doing. I don’t believe we should just be sliced to pieces.”
Her situation was complicated by severe psoriasis on the lower part of her body.
“I didn’t feel that I was up for the surgery; I didn’t feel that my body could withstand the surgery,” she said.
“Ever since she refused the surgery, the [medical profession] has turned their back on her,” said Hughes. “There’s no help once you say ‘no’ to the man.”
Cole opted for natural treatment – diet and lifestyle.
“I believe the body heals itself when you give it the right things and take away the wrong things,” she said.
Cole is learning as she goes, gathering the bulk of her information from the internet.
She estimates her supplements cost up to $400 a month, and she has also purchased a membership at the Comox Community Centre, specifically for use of the infrared sauna.
Cole’s only source of income is her old age security (OAS).
“I was on PWD (persons with disabilities) and went from PWD to OAS last year, so I have a very limited income,” she said. “I’m trying different foods and supplements, and it’s all very expensive, and there is absolutely no help for the treatment. All types of medicine should be available to everyone, not just the rich. We can’t just keep throwing pills at everybody.”
Cole said she has visited naturopathic doctors locally, but they are cost-inhibitive for her.
Glenn Cassie, executive director for the BC Naturopathic Association, said the price for visiting an ND varies, but generally costs in the vicinity of $90 for a 30-minute appointment ($180 per hour).
“We had extensive coverage through the end of the last century but by 2002, government removed it except for a modest subsidy for low-income individuals (up to 10 visits a year amongst all ‘supplementary’ health professionals, such as NDs, DCs, PTs, etc.) at $23 per visit,” said Cassie. “The flip side of this is that there are no subsidies or coverage for the clinics NDs run; it’s not simply about a fee for the ND but the structure to run a full-service clinic.”
Cole said despite being ‘on her own’ for treatment, she’s doing fairly well.
“Right now I am doing better than anybody can expect me to be doing,” she said. I sure don’t feel like I am dying.”
She says she feels better today than she did two years ago, although doctors disagree. The results of an ultrasound Cole had last month showed the original tumour as basically unchanged, but “underneath is something else that they think is probably cancer.”
Cole said her own diet and maintenance has the original tumour under control. She plans on ‘staying the course’ with her treatment methods.
“They are telling me I am about ready to die,” she said of her last visit to the doctor’s office. “They told me if I was planning on seeing my grandkids again I should go soon. I told them I plan on going next month and they said I should go sooner. I’m not giving up. I will fight this to the end.”