Ann Fonfa, Activist

| February 23, 2013 | 0 Comments

by Ann Fonfa

I was braver than I knew.”

Ann_F_at_IHS_2010I was diag­nosed with inva­sive lob­u­lar car­ci­noma of the left breast after find­ing a lump in Jan­u­ary 1993 while doing my breast self exam. Because I have extreme mul­ti­ple chem­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity, I didn’t take chemother­apy, and I chose not to do radi­a­tion or hor­monal treat­ments.
I had recur­rences in the left breast, and on the chest wall after the mas­tec­tomy. I was told I was stage IV in 1997 although the dis­ease had never spread beyond my chest wall.
One of the great­est obsta­cles was not hav­ing any sup­port from the med­ical com­mu­nity. When I showed them that the tumor kept occur­ring, but grew slower each time, they were aston­ish­ingly unin­ter­ested — no doc­tors were even will­ing to say I might be on the right track. Because I hadn’t done chemo or radi­a­tion, doc­tors said they couldn’t really ‘track’ my progress. It was quite a strug­gle deter­min­ing what to do. My hus­band was com­pletely sup­port­ive of my deci­sions but nei­ther of us knew what the out­come would be.
Hav­ing sup­port from oth­ers who had breast can­cer was some­thing that I really enjoyed. When I started a study group in NYC as part of non­profit SHARE, it was in order to learn from oth­ers and get help with what I was going through. Through advo­cacy, I met women and men through the National Breast Can­cer Coali­tion. I joined an online group called Ama­zons, oth­ers who were inter­ested in com­ple­men­tary and alter­na­tive med­i­cine (CAM).
I had some suc­cess with Maitake Mush­room D-fraction and high dosages of vit­a­min A in reduc­ing the chest wall tumors. Even­tu­ally I began using Chi­nese herbs which resolved all of them, no new ones occurred. What I also believe helped me heal was that  I changed my eat­ing habits to mostly organic and vegan. As part of my research, I learned about, and went to a Mex­i­can clinic offer­ing the Ger­son Ther­apy; I included many of their holis­tic pro­to­cols into my life. My research brought answers that I needed to know about my body’s tox­i­c­ity lev­els and how this affects can­cer growth in my body. I took sup­ple­ments, learned what was best to juice after a diag­no­sis of breast can­cer, and con­tin­ued my research in the fields of alter­na­tive med­i­cine for can­cer.
I wasn’t one to sit back and just hope that things would get bet­ter. I became proac­tive and did what I could. I learned how the west­ern civ­i­liza­tion diet is caus­ing more dia­betes, heart dis­ease, high blood pres­sure, obe­sity and can­cer. I also learned that one size does not fit all. We are always look­ing for one cause instead of causes. We are always look­ing for one treat­ment instead of look­ing to include a holistic/inclusive approach.
I think one solu­tion is to focus on pre­ven­tion — pre­vent­ing occur­rence and pre­vent­ing recur­rence. We can act on this by avoid­ing known pol­lu­tants and trig­gers for ill­ness.
There are five things I do for my well-being every day and to help reduce pol­lu­tant and toxic buildup in my body:

  • I eat real food — fresh (organic) fruits/vegetables every day (after all the National Can­cer Insti­tute sug­gests 5–9 a Day). I never eat junk food (no fried foods or soda) and I reduced salt — using herbs instead. I take dietary sup­ple­ments that boost vit­a­mins and nutri­ents good for my immune system.
  • I drink clean water.
  • I exer­cise mod­er­ately every day.
  • I apply detox­i­fi­ca­tion meth­ods that I have researched.
  • I do at least one thing every day that makes me happy and that relaxes me.

One of the new rev­e­la­tions I learned about myself was that I was braver than I knew. I was raised in a fam­ily that prided itself on stand­ing up for what is right — I have marched for Civil Rights, against nuclear weapons, for Gay and Les­bian, and more. So I was used to being in a minor­ity and had learned that I could stand my ground. I was actu­ally proud that I could expand my hori­zons a bit and learn about mind-body pro­to­cols which I orig­i­nally did not think much of. But look­ing back I saw that pos­i­tive beliefs and con­cepts were very help­ful to me too. A woman talked to me the night before my first surgery when I was scared and feel­ing alone, telling me she was a TEN year sur­vivor. In that instant I KNEW that I too could sur­vive.
I believe in alter­na­tive and inte­gra­tive med­i­cine because I researched this con­cept for sev­eral years while act­ing in bits and pieces of the infor­ma­tion that I liked. I found so much that made sense to me. I was angry that the busi­ness model was in charge of our health. I felt that nat­ural strate­gies had a clear place in EVERYONE’S can­cer jour­ney.
When I was asked to talk to the Social Work­ers of Can­cer Care Inc about alter­na­tive treat­ments, back in Novem­ber 1995, I real­ized I had sub­stan­tial infor­ma­tion about other pos­si­bil­i­ties and heal­ing modal­i­ties. So I began using the name The Annie Apple­seed Project and started hand­ing out book­lets and then finally started a web­site. The actual all-volunteer non­profit came four years later. It is the con­cept of our orga­ni­za­tion that every­one should make more informed deci­sions. We can­not influ­ence exactly what any one will decide, but we can offer another side of the story. What is done now in con­ven­tional can­cer treat­ment attacks ALL cells of the body even though such a small per­cent­age has can­cer. Some­day I believe we will look back in hor­ror at the harm caused to our bod­ies. The teach­ings of the Hip­po­cratic code is “First do no harm”.
I am now almost 65, I stopped work­ing for pay years ago. I now devote myself to advo­cacy and Annie Apple­seed Project’s web­site, Face­book and Twit­ter pres­ence. My skills are in net­work­ing and I have been able to reach out to other can­cer advo­cacy groups to join forces and share the infor­ma­tion widely.
I am mar­ried to an amaz­ing man who sup­ports my goals. He retired almost ten years ago and wishes I did less, but doesn’t harass me over fol­low­ing my pas­sion and doing what I believe needs to be done.
Steve and I mar­ried after five years of liv­ing together, but we knew each other for 15 years before that. I like to bowl and even though I rarely do, I am proud to still bowl well. I scored 147 the last time, know­ing that I can still bowl is some­thing that makes me feel good! Steve’s step­son (whom I adored from our first meet­ing when he was 15) now has two sons aged five and seven. Steve and I are grand­par­ents which is lots of fun.
I am not a doc­tor, I do not claim to be one. I do not have med­ical train­ing, although I have spent the last 18 years attend­ing med­ical con­fer­ences and gath­er­ing use­ful infor­ma­tion. I am a patient like most of you. I am an advo­cate and an activist. You can choose to make your life count as you feel called to do. But stand up for what you believe in and in what works for you. If you are inter­ested in com­ple­men­tary and inte­gra­tive med­i­cine, explore the stud­ies to help you learn more so that you can decide what is best for you. Ask the Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion, the National Can­cer Insti­tute and any other can­cer cen­ter to con­tinue to research these options for us. Doc­tors are trained to accept a cer­tain level of evi­dence, but it costs mil­lions to con­duct those tri­als, we need sup­port.
In the past decade, more can­cer cen­ters have added com­ple­men­tary, inte­gra­tive and alter­na­tive med­i­cines to what doc­tors now offer their patients for can­cer treat­ments. Just as each med­ical cen­ter has to choose what is best for them, each per­son diag­nosed with can­cer has to choose accord­ing to their beliefs and research and to do what will help them to heal.
Peo­ple come to Annie Apple­seed Project’s edu­ca­tional con­fer­ences to learn more — the speak­ers and top­ics are fas­ci­nat­ing, the net­work­ing is amaz­ing, and we serve ONLY organic food. That’s walk­ing the walk for sure. Join us.
I was braver than I knew. Each of us are.
There are many resources on our non­profit web­site includ­ing world­wide sup­port groups, and CAM prac­ti­tion­ers: www.annieappleseedproject.org n

Category: Inspire

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