Yesterday I visited the Liphe Balance Center (“ph” as in “f” or “life”) in Weston, Connecticut, (http://www.liphebalance.com/index.php) not far from my home in Stamford. There was a time when visiting would have been a problem, what with the demands of my once-successful New York City-based career. Now it just meant arranging a babysitter for my Alzheimer’s-stricken mother. I was able to drop mom off at the after-school play rehearsal of Aladdin that my art-teacher daughter and her music-teacher partner were directing. And mom was seeming just a tad steadier and more with it, perhaps due to the coconut oil smoothee I have been feeding her (http://coconutketones.blogspot.com/). But more on that another day.
“How about 2:30,” said Barbara, the director of Liphe Balance Center. She mentioned that she’d be wrapping up with the alkaline feast/fast for the clients who had signed up for her week-long alkalinizing cleanse. She would have a chance to talk and show me around then.
Well it was beautiful. A masterpiece. Warm, welcoming, womanly, not New Age-y pretentious, slick, or superficial, but truly lovely, serene, healing, and fun. It was a house with a woman at home. Different vibe entirely from the profit-at-all-costs model, yet extremely polished and well done. I met Barbara’s alkaline cook, her staff, and some of her clients. But maybe best of all was Barbara herself. How can I say this without sounding like a narcissist? Can’t be done, so I won’t try. She reminded me of me. Only younger, thinner, and less fiscally challenged. But, our outlooks were so similar. Both of us are dedicated to spreading the word. Both of us want to see this way of eating and living come out of the gilt closet of elitism and costliness. Both of us have experienced the profound changes in health, energy, and world view that come with having faced serious dis-ease and alkaline-balanced our way out of it.
When she asked me what she could do for me, I said that I was really looking to create and be a part of an alkaline support community. And it had become clear pretty quickly that Liphe Balance Center would be a big part of my community. With the many wonderful alk-world services the center offers, I see my lonely life as an alkaline warrior woman coming to an end. But then, as is the way of people with shared interests, we came to find that our lives were even more connected.
After having some success getting my health and my blood cleaned up through alkaline eating, I mused to a friend that I would love to share the extraordinary benefits of alkaline living with someone in need. To stop and pass on the goodness had not been a particular goal of mine in the years spent scrambling to earn a living, getting the kids through college, and surviving a corporate life in the city that was lucrative, demanding, and cutthroat. But that was before the polyp. It changed everything. The goddess of health had been trying to get my attention for years, and she had finally had to come beating the door down. Having been given another chance, I went full throttle alkaline. And eventually decided to preach the gospel.
I got what I asked for and found myself hauling bags of coconut milk, avocados, spinach, celery, cucumbers, lemons, limes, and grapefruit as I marched up the front steps of the home belonging to a woman I had never met. One who had stage 4 breast cancer. My heart was pounding. She had taken the first step by inviting me. But, how could I be of real help? How could this not be intrusive, presumptive, offensive, or confused with mushroom tea concoctions and peach pits? Well, she would have to be the judge. The only thing I knew was that she had nothing to lose and everything to gain if she decided to try. And I hoped that she would be able to see and hear my living testimonial. After all, this way of eating would not harm her and certainly represented an improvement over her Cheeto-based diet. I was not there to offer false hope. She, like I had done, would have to weigh the benefits herself and ultimately decide whether what I had found was right for her or not.
My own experience of alkaline eating was prompted by the discovery of a malignant polyp. After the goddess of health delivered that kick in the butt, she somehow guided me to the strange and wonderful universe of green that is alkaline living. And as I started learning and adopting the alkaline diet in the weeks before surgery, I had a sense that it was indeed the real deal. There was a small voice inside urging me to reject the surgery. I did not. My family was perhaps rightly appalled at the thought. Crazy, self-help mommy is at it again. They said that the promise of 100% prevention of recurrence the surgery promised was decisive. We were a battle-hardened, tight-knit little band. Their love and devotion was unquestionable. If the cancer came back, they would be the ones who cared for me. I had to depend upon the their wisdom as well as my own realization of the radical changes in living and eating waiting for me on the other side of surgery. I thought and still think that it really had to be a group decision. Even if I was right about not needing surgery. After all, the offending polyp had been removed at the time of the colonoscopy. Biopsy showed that the cancer cells had not reached the colon wall, but were contained within the life-preserving polyp. The polyp-removal-only strategy was given an 80% prevention rating. And 20% possibility of recurrence was not ok with my family. They wanted the 100%. But, we will never know who was right. And it does not matter anymore.
The surgery was a success and a debacle. Through the laproscopic incision, they never found the metal markers that would guide them to the removal of about 5 centimeters of colon. Surgery dragged on. Part of my exposed colon was becoming necrotic (tissue death). The surgeon wound up taking out 15 centimeters of my colon. Fortunately, removal of that much colon would not involve waste-disposal apparatus. The colon would function normally.
The alkaline eating that followed surgery enhanced recovery and put me on the fast track to a level of health I had never experienced. Extra weight vanished. Well-being abounded. But, I knew well the kind of decisions she was facing and how important it was not to paint any miraculous cure stories about cancer, especially with an unproven diet I had read about in a book. And especially since I had availed myself of the conventional surgical route along with going alkaline. Many of the health benefits I had realized could as easily be achieved by any number of healthy changes. I just knew this was different, because I had never ever felt so good.
As it turned out, this warrior woman was both open and did her own research. She drank the smoothee I made her–or as much as her ascities-swollen abdomen would permit. She stayed in close contact, challenging me and dissecting my advice as she should. Calling experts. Telling her horrified doctor brother. And finally deciding to skip her next round of chemo. Over the months her tumor markers plummeted. The ascites vanished. Her skin shown. She bounced on her rebounder. She drank green concoctions that would make Popeye grimace. Her oncologist was amazed and encouraging and told her to keep doing what she was doing.
Tragically, she was unable to address the other stress factors I have come to believe helped create cancer. She continued to live a life of unfathomable and unmanageable stress. Single-mom stress, deadbeat dad stress, ferocious family-of-origin conflicts, and an eating disorder lurking beneath the cancer. The regular old stuff we try to deny, that ultimately gets us. I could no longer help, support, or advise her. If she could not work on the stress, get into therapy, find meditation, a guru, yoga, or whatever she could to reduce her stress, I surely could not do it for her. I could no longer fill the bottomless hurt of her need. My heart broke and we drifted apart.
Before dying, her journey took her to the woman who would establish Liphe Balance as a result of her own experience with cancer and recovery through alkaline balance. She introduced Barbara to a leader in the field, Dr. Robert O. Young, the man whose book put me on the alk path and who would eventually lend his support to Barbara’s creation of Liphe Balance. Barbara was able to extend our mutual friend healing wisdom and support in a way that I could not.
Neither Barbara nor I realized the connection at first. While talking about our experiences, I mentioned a friend who was not able to go beyond dietary recovery and did not make it. Barbara looked at me intently and said, “who are you talking about?” I told her. “She always wanted us to meet,” said Barbara.
As I write, Barbara and I have survived our respective cancers. Another pH warrior woman had not. We shared our impressions of her battle. Her life was way too painful for her. She received a bit of the love she had always craved right at the end and then flew away. And there Barbara and I stood in a place her courage to try an avocado smoothee, handed to her by a stranger, helped create.
And so we spread the word.