Janet Vitt heals from stage 4 lung cancer metastasized to the liver and pancreas with a macrobiotic diet
In April of 1995, Janet Vitt received a diagnosis of stage IV small cell-lung cancer. She says that a dull pain in the center of her chest led her to have a CAT scan which revealed that she had three tumors in her left lung and seven tumors growing in her right. Worse yet, the disease had spread beyond her lungs as doctors also found three tumors on her liver, one on her pancreas, and another was causing her abdomen to swell.
Janet had been employed as a registered nurse since 1971 and she says that she fully understood the gravity of her situation. “When cancer is above and below the diaphragm we say people aren’t going to make it.”
Though her mother had died of lung cancer at the age of 42, Janet had always believed that her fate would be different. She didn’t smoke, she worked out three times a week and she assumed that she was living a fairly healthy lifestyle, although she admits to experiencing a lot of stress from holding down two part-time teaching jobs in addition to working full-time as a nurse manager. She says, “I foolishly thought that being stressed-out was exciting.”
When her abdominal tumor was removed eight days after the diagnosis it had ballooned from the size of a nickel to an 8 x 11 centimeter mass. At that time her oncologist gave her three to six weeks to live, and another suggested she had three to six months. She grabbed onto the more promising prognosis and agreed to participate in an experimental chemotherapy trial hoping this would extend her life by a few more months.
Three weeks after receiving the first dose of chemotherapy she had dropped 46 pounds from her already slender 118-pound frame. She says, “During those first three weeks, if I had even a sip of tea I would puke for a half an hour.” Her Internist, Dr Grossman of Cleveland Ohio says that he quickly realized that a second dose would probably kill her, so he suggested something that sounded completely outlandish… and it involved a healing diet. Janet says. “I asked him what he thought I should try, and he replied ‘macrobiotics'”.
Through a chance meeting with a macrobiotic counselor, Dr Grossman had been studying this highly specialized diet. “I knew there was no harm in it,” he says. “The oncologists had nothing more for her, and I thought it might help to change her immune system and enhance her quality of life.”
Janet says, “I would have done anything at this point to live.” Her sister proceeded to search the Cleveland phone book to find a macrobiotic counselor. When one arrived at her home, he found the 72-pound Vitt was gasping for air. “I was on oxygen,” she recalls. “I was bald, my nails were blue and my color was gray.”
At that point she was relying on hospice workers and had signed her do-not-resuscitate papers. After observing her face and hands Vitt’s macrobiotic counselor uttered a statement no doctor had ever made to her: “You could be healed,” he said.
“That was the first positive thing that anybody had said to me,” she recalls. Although she was too weak to cook for herself, she enlisted the help of her parents along with 8 good friends and her ex-husband to do it for her. After learning the principles of macrobiotic cooking, they all signed up for shifts that would work to provide her breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even to spend the night. “Basically,” she says, “they gave up an entire year of their lives to save me.”
Gasping for air made swallowing difficult, so Janet had to ease her way into the diet with very small portions. After two days of meals consisting of just two tablespoons of pressure-cooked brown rice, a half cup of miso soup, and some steamed kale and bok choy, her vomiting stopped. After only one week on the diet she was able to stop all of her medications, which included painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs. “I decided if I wanted to clean out my body,” she says, “I couldn’t be putting drugs into it.” To address her pain she had a massage therapist come over three times a week.
Janet says that she had two frightening episodes of discharging toxins. The first time there was a terrible odor emanating from her skin and body. As a nurse, she says that she knew the smell that the body takes on when it approaches death, so she feared that this now happening to her. She called her counselor and was told not to worry, that her body detoxing and he recommended that she start doing a body scrub. She says, “It was unbelievable what happened. As I scrubbed my body, a tan-colored film was present on the washcloths. This smell and film continued for almost eight weeks. Now my skin is as clear and as when I was 18.”
The second discharge consisted of thick white mucus from her throat and lungs which occurred even as she slept. She says that her lungs eventually started filling up with the fluid. She says that her left lung collapsed and spontaneous fractures developed in several ribs from the severe coughing that she was experiencing. She says there were days when she didn’t think she could continue on, but her family and friends continued to cook the food and kept encouraging her to eat it.
Months passed and she began to feel better. She no longer needed to have oxygen around the clock and she was even able to get to the supermarket with some help. Vitt said that she became cautiously optimistic. “I thought I might have some quality of life before I died.” Although she was relying on an alternative therapy, she also continued seeing her internist. “I told him, ‘No more scans; no more Western medicine.’ Our agreement was that he would support me as long as I came to see him once a week. Mostly he listened to my lungs, and we talked about sadness and death.”
One year after her diagnosis, and only ten months after she beginning the specialized diet, Vitt’s health finally turned the corner. “I was still weak, but I could feel that I was getting better.” And soon she got her proof when a CAT scan revealed that her tumors were gone.
Janet now says that she is just happy she was one of the lucky ones. Nearly a decade after her life came dangerously close to ending she still remains remains cancer-free. She is has now become a certified macrobiotic counselor and says that she still follows the diet, and that “food is her medicine.”
Gone is her habit of eating without thought and working without rest. These days she rises at dawn and goes to bed at every night at 10:00. She makes room for quiet time in her life which includes taking daily walks and has intimate conversations with God. There have been other positive side effects of eating and living in a more balanced manner. “I used to have migraines, joint pain, and restless sleep,” she says, “but not anymore.” The biggest changes in her life, though, are less tangible. “I’m no longer afraid,” she says. “I don’t care about impressing others, and I don’t judge myself. “All the cells in my body are different,” she adds. “I’m really not the same person I was before.”
Janet shares her story of healing with macrobiotic diet
A news report about Janet’s story
Macrobiotic Dietary Principles
In 2002, the Kushi Institute, the world’s leading macrobiotic educational center, located in Becket, Massachusetts, presented Vitt’s case along with five others to the Cancer Advisory Panel for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAPCAM) at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A panel of 15 physicians and scientists reviewed all the evidence presented and unanimously recommended that the Kushi Institute receive government funding for a clinical study on the use of macrobiotics for those diagnosed with breast or melanoma skin cancers.
George Yu, a clinical professor of urology at George Washington University Medical Center, and the person who presented the cases on behalf of the Kushi Institute, offers one explanation of why macrobiotics might help. He says that the diet’s reliance on fermented foods like miso have good bacteria, which produce many enzymes. He explains. “Those enzymes may have some way of keeping the body in balance, breaking food down, preventing inflammation, and decreasing toxic accumulation.” The simplicity of the diet also improves the elimination process, which contributes to its detoxing effect. Yu says approximately one-third of people who adopt a macrobiotic way of life recover from their illness after three to six months on the diet. “Why it doesn’t work for the other two-thirds, I don’t know,” he admits.
Macrobiotics is much more than just a diet; it is also a way of living your life in balance. Exercise along with rest; socializing along with solitude; adopting sensible sleep habits and keeping a tidy home are all considered aspects of leading a macrobiotic life. Most people associate macrobiotics with the nutritional regimen that was developed by Japanese writer-philosopher George Ohsawa in the early 20th century. This diet was later popularized in America by Michio Kushi in the sixties and seventies. Macrobiotics has an emphasis on eating whole grains, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and beans, along with restricting your intake of meat, dairy products, refined sugars, and processed foods. Macrobiotics aims to provide the body with essential nutrients while limiting the accumulation of toxins within the body. The diet is based on the Eastern concepts of yin and yang, which are the two contrasting universal energies believed to be present in all things, including food. By consuming foods with the least pronounced yin and yang qualities (like whole grains and vegetables), one can supposedly achieve a more balanced condition and initiate a healing process. It’s thought that the standard American diet, with its emphasis on red meat (overly yang) and sugary foods (overly yin), can throw the body out of balance and lead to disease.
Approximately 40 – 60% of the diet. Traditionally grains are the base of various cultures throughout the world.
- From brown rice to oats to millet and spelt, there are many different varieties of grains available.
- Grains are soaked overnight to neutralize enzyme inhibitors and to increase the absorption of nutrients when consumed.
- how to soak brown rice and other recipes
- how to soak grains, nuts and seeds.
Approximately 20 – 30% of diet
- A variety of leafy vegetables, root and sea vegetables are an important supplement to every meal because they are rich in calcium, beta carotene and many other vital nutrients. Some include: bok choy, carrot tops, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, daikon greens, dandelion greens, kale, leeks, mustard greens, parsley, spring onions, turnip greens, watercress, acorn squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, buttercup squash, butternut squash, cabbage, cauliflower, hokkaido pumpkin, onion, pumpkin, red cabbage, and turnips.
- Okay to eat these occasionally: celery, chives, cucumber, endive, green beans, green peas, iceberg lettuce, Jerusalem artichokes, romaine lettuce, snap beans snow peas, and sprouts.
- Eat plenty of roots vegetables: burdock, carrots, daikon, dandelion roots, lotus root, parsnip, radish.
- sea vegetables are also a mainstay of this diet are a great source of iodine and minerals.
- There are also certain vegetables that should be avoided or used sparingly, they include members of the nightshade variety: potato, tomatoes, peppers of all kinds except for black pepper.
Approximately 5 – 10% of diet
- Although all organically grown dried beans are featured prominently in macrobiotic recipes, author and macrobiotic expert Michio Kushi recommends you eat the small beans such as lentils, chickpeas, black soybeans and azuki beans more frequently than navy beans, lima beans or other large varieties, which contain more oil and fat.
- beans are washed and then soaked for 8 hours or overnight in filtered water to make them more digestible.
- organic tofu, tempeh and natto are eaten daily.
- Soups are the most flexible dish, and may be made with vegetables, grains, or beans, using a variety of seasonings.
- Miso is a common base for soups which is rich in nutrients and enzymes. It is stirred in at the end of cooking so that the enzymes remain intact.
- Asian seasonings, sea salt, rice malt and the sea vegetable kombu add flavor to foods.
- Garnishes may include Asian pickles, freshly grated ginger root or horseradish, fresh scallions or onions.
Foods to avoid:
- Refined sugars, flour and white rice should be avoided when following a macrobiotic diet.
- This means no cookies, muffins, chips, popcorn, or bread products.
- no processed foods
- Dairy and meat products also should be avoided when following a macrobiotic meal plan.
- Fish is allowed for occasional use.
- The food has not been genetically altered and is organically grown when possible
- Beverages are non-stimulating (non-caffeinated)
- Water should be spring or filtered for drinking and cooking
Macrobiotic Book List
The Macrobiotic Way This book has practical advice on living in harmony with nature with the latest research on nutrition and health care. Macrobiotic foods and where to find them, cooking methods, dozens of delicious and easy-to-prepare recipes, sample menus, a simple exercise program, and a plan to design your macrobiotic home make The Macrobiotic way the definitive guide for the journey to a macrobiotic life.
The Cancer Prevention Diet, Revised and Updated Edition: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer Includes a complete theoretical explanation of the macrobiotic approach, chapters on the 20 most common cancers, basic dietary guidelines and home remedies, recipes and menus, scientific and medical information, brief case histories, way of life suggestions, meditation and visualization exercises.
The Macrobiotic Path to Total Health: A Complete Guide to Naturally Preventing and Relieving More Than 200 Chronic Conditions and Disorders “The laws of yin and yang govern all phenomena, from the movements of subatomic particles to the composition of blood and tissue, from the formation of the planets and moons to the relationship between the sexes. By knowing how to balance these forces in our own lives, we can turn sickness into health, conflict into peace, and sadness into joy.”