Melanoma Healed with a Macrobiotic Diet (Marlene McKenna)

Marlene McKenna heals from malignant melanoma with a macrobiotic diet

It was 1983 when Marlene Mckenna first noticed a suspicious mole growing on her back.  Her doctor removed the growth and testing confirmed that it was a melanomic lesion.  She had a second surgery a few months later to excise a lump from her neck and once again the pathology reports indicated that it contained melanoma cells.  Then, In 1986, she began feeling weak and complained of severe stomach pain, accompanied by significant weight loss. Doctors performed another surgery to remove 5 malignant tumors and 20 centimeters of her small bowel, but they failed to remove all of the cancer from the area.  At this point, chemotherapy was recommended and Marlene was given only 9 months to live.

Marlene McKenna


She says she first heard of using macrobiotics to heal cancer from her brother, and then they both traveled to the office of Macrobiotic Counselor, Dr Marc VanCauwenberghe, to learn more about using this healing diet. She says she was hesitant at first and doubtful that anything would help her, let alone something as simple as following a diet, but she began incorporating the macrobiotics diet on May 1, 1986 and she reports that her condition began improving within a few months. Marlene gradually regained her strength and her overall health continued to improved and in 1988 she was officially pronounced to be cancer free.

Exercise, yoga, meditation, and spirituality were all integrated into her new lifestyle and she says that she learned to slow down and was able to change her fast-paced, negative-thinking lifestyle into a more positive one.  A few years later she ran for State Treasurer of Rhode Island, safely gave birth to her fourth child and wrote a book about her journey back to health which is titled  When Hope Never Dies: The Story Of My Recovery From Cancer And The Program I Used To Heal Myself.


An excerpt from the Incurables which featured Marlene’s story


Macrobiotic Dietary Principles

In 2002, the Kushi Institute, the world’s leading macrobiotic educational center, located in Becket, Massachusetts, presented five cases of healing cancer 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 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.


Whole Grains
Approximately 40 – 60% of the diet.  Traditionally grains are the base of various cultures throughout the world.

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 feature prominently in macrobiotic recipes, author 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, and use a variety of seasonings.
  • Miso is a common base for these soups because it is rich in nutrients and enzymes.


  • Asian seasonings, sea salt, rice malt and the sea vegetable kombu are used to add flavor to foods.
  • Garnishes may include Asian pickles, freshly grated ginger root or horseradish, fresh scallions or onions.

Foods to avoid:

  • Refined sugars and flour should be avoided when following a macrobiotic diet.
  • This means no cookies, muffins, chips, popcorn, white rice or bread products.
  • 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


 More Testimonials for the macrobiotic diet:

Janet Vitt heals Stage 4 Lung Cancer Metastasized to Liver and Pancreas with Macrobiotic Diet

Kevin Raymond heals brain cancer with macrobiotic diet

Christina Pirello heals leukemia with the macrobiotic diet

Sanae Suzuki heals ovarian cancer with a macrobiotic diet

Update- In early 2012, Marlene was diagnosed stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.   She began chemotherapy treatments in March which continued for almost a year until all further conventional treatment options were exhausted.  She passed away in October of 2013.

Macrobiotic Book List 

The Great Life Diet: A Practical Guide to Heath, Happiness, and Personal Fulfillment

The Cancer Prevention Diet, Revised and Updated Edition: The Macrobiotic Approach to Preventing and Relieving Cancer

When Hope Never Dies: The Story Of My Recovery From Cancer And The Program I Used To Heal Myself

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Cancer is a wake up call which needs to be addressed on multiple fronts.  It is the result of an overly toxic body with an overwhelmed and collapsed immune system due to eating nutritionally depleted diets, exposure to toxins, and having poor lifestyle habits. Research an anticancer diet, adding supplements, detoxing the body, and making lifestyle changes so you can address a cancerous situation with a multifaceted approach.


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