This is an excerpt from a phone interview I did with Cortney Campbell, blogger at GreenDrinkDiaries.com and natural lymphoma survivor.
It has been transcribed and the boring parts edited out to improve your reading experience. (The boring parts were mostly me)
CHRIS WARK: Hey everybody, today I have the pleasure of speaking with Cortney Campbell. So I want to give a little bit of history here. You sent me a message through the blog and gave me your story, and I thought it was so great that I asked you if we could do an interview. And you said yes, so here we are!
So tell me a little bit about the circumstances around when you found out you had cancer; your symptoms, etc.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Sure. Well, I had cancer in my family, my mom’s identical twin sister had Hodgkin’s disease when she was a teenager.
When I graduated from college in 2004, I had a swollen lymph node in my neck. I went to the doctor, and they actually suggested an MRI, so I went and I did that, and the results came back but there was nothing alarming to them. The doctor offered to give me antibiotics, and I went on antibiotics. The lump shrunk, but only for a few months, then I noticed it was starting to come back. So I just kind of accepted that I had this swollen lymph node in my neck.
Four years later in 2008, two months after I got married, I was sitting at my desk at work, and I felt a very large lump in my armpit. I went home and told my husband that night. He was more concerned than I was. About a week later, I went to the doctor. Not even a minute after she felt it she said, “I want you to go to a surgeon. I want you to get this checked out. I want chest x-rays…” you know, the whole deal. It was just like a whirlwind. The next day, I was in surgery getting the lymph node in my armpit removed.
About two weeks later I found out that it was lymphoma, but it was another week before they identified it as Nodular Lymphocyte Predominant Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2A, which was most common in African-American men over 40. And I was a 26 year old caucasian female.
CHRIS WARK: Well I was thinking you were an African-American man over 40. So you’re not?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: No, sorry. [laughs]
CHRIS WARK: Okay, okay. So what about the lump in your neck? Was that still there?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: The doctor told me that they thought that the cancer originated in the lymph node in my neck and then spread to the lymph node in my armpit on the opposite side of my body.
CHRIS WARK: So after they identified it as Hodgkin’s 2A, what happened then?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: We went in had a bone marrow biopsy, which they actually put you to sleep for. It’s very painful. It’s so painful that you actually wake up in the middle. They shoot a needle into your hip basically, and they extract bone marrow to see if spread to the bone.
I had a PET and a CAT scan done at the same time. And that all just confirmed that it was 2A. The doctor told me the recommended treatment was R-CHOP chemotherapy, and I can’t remember the cocktail of chemo drugs. But basically it was the worst chemotherapy for a lymphoma patient, worse than most Hodgkin’s patients. Most Hodgkin’s patients who have classical Hodgkin’s, which is the most common in young people, have ABVD which is less-toxic than the one that he wanted to give me. The cancer I had was actually more like a non-Hodgkin’s, so they treat it as a non-Hodgkin’s.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: So I’m learning all this, and the doctor is telling me all of the side effects, and the nurse is telling me that they have drugs to help treat those side effects. And they want us to see a fertility specialist, because there was a chance I would go into early menopause or just not be able to have children. It was all so overwhelming. I was newly married, 26 years old, and I wanted more than anything to have children.
At that point we decided to wait on making the appointment to put the port in, because that was the next step to get the chemo. That was when we went home and started looking for other options.
CHRIS WARK: Courtney you might know this, but I was also 26 when I was diagnosed.
I was 26 and I was married. I had just been married a couple of years. Didn’t have any kids. So I have a feeling we were both experiencing the same sort of emotions being that young. Also, there was a risk for me as well that if I did chemo that I would be infertile, that I wouldn’t be able to have kids either.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes I read that. So at that point I was lost. I was all over the place emotionally. I was pretty good about handling my anxiety with the cancer. I felt very strongly I wasn’t going to die. I had support in my family, and from people who had gone through cancer and through chemo. Everyone was just telling me, “it’s only for a short time.”
The anxiety was about losing my fertility, I wanted so badly to have children. I’m a teacher. I work with kids every day. I have a big family. So that was where I was and I was interested when my husband brought up alternative treatment. Specifically, he found a man named Jerry Brunetti through a random Google search. Jerry Brunetti cured his stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma with natural processes and I think he did a clinical trial as well. But through mostly diet change.
He was the first person we heard talk about how food could actually heal your body. It sounded so foreign to us. I got angry at my husband at first. I was like, “Are you kidding me? Would you seriously risk my life to try some nutritional whatever-you’re-calling-it?”
We are very strong believers in God. But I couldn’t quite find that peace in my heart that my husband had. He kept telling me, “I just don’t feel right about chemo, and this feels right to me. This is where we’re being led.” He was my knight-in-shining-armor and I didn’t realize it, I was so angry at the time. But now I look back, he really did save my life, because Jerry Brunetti led him to another man named Bill Henderson.
CHRIS WARK: I know of Bill, yes.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, love Bill. I’ve emailed with him and shared my story with him. He’s wonderful. He’s a man who lost his first wife to cancer through conventional treatment and ended up doing a bunch of research to find other ways to beat cancer.
CHRIS WARK: For anyone who doesn’t know, Bill Henderson has a book called
Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing
And it’s a great book. I own it. It’s completely legit. I didn’t find it until a few years after I did everything I did, but as I read through it, it was like, “Yeah. Right on!” Everything that he was talking about was stuff that I had read about and researched and found on my own. So he has compiled all of these alternative therapies that have had proven success.
There isn’t one cure-all for cancer. Your body has to heal itself. What we did was similar in the fact that I did everything I could find; anything and everything that was a natural healing method. If it was some kind of food that would detox my body, and boost my immune system, and feed my cells; I did it. Bill’s big on that. And any person out there who is trying to sell you the “cancer cure-all”, some exotic herb, or berry, or whatever; it’s a scam.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Right. That’s what I’m talking about, we had to weed out things. Certain things just felt right, and I knew it wasn’t going to be an “easy way out” or a one-shot therapy. So having said that, I kind of agreed with my husband after I had read Bill’s book. And thank goodness Bill writes it so simply. I sound like I’m plugging this book, but it literally saved my life.
CHRIS WARK: It’s worth plugging. (Buy it here)
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: His intentions are just so good and so honest. I remember I flew home to Florida that weekend—to see my parents. I read the book the entire flight. We hadn’t quite told them what we were doing yet, but the fact that I had that book, they were kind of like, “Oh, that’s great, but you’re also going to do the chemo, right?” I had to be like, “Well, you know, we haven’t decided yet. We think we’re going to put it off for a little bit.”
They were just completely…it was just an awful, awful time, because my family was extremely upset with us, especially with my husband, because he was the one “feeding me these ideas”. It was a rough time for sure.
CHRIS WARK: I dealt with the exact same thing. There is a tremendous amount of social pressure to do chemotherapy.
To just go along with the doctors; not to challenge the system; and not to do anything different. I had a lot of family pressure to do it, which I had to basically stand up to. But you know, you are really blessed to have a spouse who was so supportive.
And frankly, my wife was not very happy about it in the beginning. She was very scared, of course, and a lot of the family was too. So I didn’t have my her on my side at the beginning, but over time she eventually accepted the fact that that’s what I was going to do, and then as time went on she became a believer in it. But I just wanted to clarify for anyone out there that if they they may not have their spouses support at first.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She felt fully in her heart that she wasn’t supposed to do the chemo, but her husband was not on board. And in her family, he had more of the leadership role in their relationship. He needed to do his own research, and that’s what I pretty much told him. I felt like if he would seek the research and the knowledge, he would see what I was talking about.
You have to spend time doing the research. I think sites like yours and mine are places they can go to to find legitimate information about what kind of treatment and protocols are available. Hopefully, our sites will even lead them to other people who know even more than we do.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, that’s right. That’s what it’s all about, just sharing information. Your story, my story, and more. When I started this, basically my plan was to just get my story out there for anyone who wants to know if there are other options…maybe they’ll find my story and it will encourage them.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Absolutely.
CHRIS WARK: Anytime I would find another story of a survivor who did it all natural, it was so exciting. You know what I mean?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Oh gosh, yes.
CHRIS WARK: So tell me about some of the therapies that you did.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Well I was diagnosed in October of 2008. And November 4th, the Obama was elected, was the first day I really started my protocol, like “100 percent, no going back, let’s do this.”
And at that point we had left my oncologist. After the bone marrow biopsy appointment where we were supposed to learn all the side effects of the chemo and everything, we just never went back. They would call us and call us, and I was so scared to tell the oncologist that I wasn’t going to do chemo. So instead of telling him, “Sorry, I am not doing your chemotherapy,” I just said, “Oh, we’re going with somebody else.”
I was going with me.
CHRIS WARK: I don’t blame you one bit.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I followed Bill Henderson’s protocol with other therapies in addition. Just like you, I did whatever I could find, and sometimes I got angry at my husband, because he would be like, “Okay, now you’re going to do this,” and “I found out this new therapy…”
We were newly married. We hadn’t quite learned each other yet. We never lived with each other before we were married, so it was just a whirlwind of compromise and learning how to communicate, and learning how to stay calm when the other person angered you. It was a very stressful time.
Every morning I would get up about an hour and a half before I went to work, to make all my food for the day. My claim to fame is my Green Smoothie. I drink them all day long, because I don’t like salad. That’s basically the only way I could survive on a beating-cancer holistic diet.
“Everything I eat comes from the ground,” is what I ended up telling people, because I didn’t want to go into all the stuff I ate. I said “If it comes from the ground I pretty much eat it, and I don’t cook it. I just put it in straight into my salad bowl or my blender, and I eat it.”
The only thing I ate that wasn’t raw was Ezekiel Bread. I would toast two pieces of Ezekiel Bread, and I would pour a little bowl of olive oil with some oregano and a little bit of sea salt, and I would eat that every day. It was like the best thing I had ever eaten in my life at the time, because it was the only cooked thing I had all day long.
CHRIS WARK: I love Ezekiel Bread.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, yes, and I mean never in my life would I think just plain toast with some olive oil and a little salt and oregano would be so good, but it was amazing, and I looked forward to it every day when I came home from work, from teaching. I would come home, and I would put those two pieces in the toaster. Oh, it was just like heaven.
I also drank Essiac Tea which is definitely a legitimate cancer treatment in my opinion, but you have to make sure you’re getting it from the right places, because there are knock offs. So I would have Essiac tea in the morning and at night.
I would also make Japanese Matcha Green Tea in the morning and at lunch and when I got home from work.
CHRIS WARK: Yes that’s the same stuff I drink!
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: So yes, I see you can relate, and I still drink that. I’m not quite as strict as I was then, but I’m pretty much on par, with a little variation.
The thing I consider the most important thing that I did on a daily basis was The Johanna Budwig Protocol.
Dr. Johanna Budwig was a German biochemist. She was I believe a seven-time Nobel Prize nominee, never won. I think there’s reason for that, but she did research on basically artificial fats and how fats affect your body. She found that oils high in omega 3s mixed with a sulfuric protein like cottage cheese, those combinations actually would bring oxygen straight to the cells. And if you know anything about cancer, and I’m not an expert, so I hope I’m getting all of this right. But that particular mixture of cottage cheese and flaxseed oil brings oxygen straight to your cells. Cancer being an anaerobic functioning cell does not like oxygen, does not want it, does not function with it. Cancer cells get their energy from glucose.
CHRIS WARK: That’s right.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I ate cottage cheese and flaxseed oil every morning. And for the first year and a half, I ate it holding my nose.
CHRIS WARK: Are you serious? Do you just not like cottage cheese?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Oh, I hate it. I hate cottage cheese, I hate flaxseed oil. I just wanted to get it over with. So I would hold my nose.
CHRIS WARK: Let me just mention, if anybody out there likes cottage cheese, it’s easy to eat with flax seed oil. But if you don’t like cottage cheese, then you might not enjoy it.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Right. Bill’s recommendation was two-thirds cup cottage cheese and six tablespoons of flaxseed oil. And I used a hand held immersion blender instead of a standard blender, which cut my prep time by like five minutes, which in the morning is a huge amount. It was just an awesome investment to get the hand blender. (Get one here)
CHRIS WARK: Yes, those come in handy. So tell me about your Green Smoothie. Did you pretty much make the same thing every day, or did you mix it up?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I would mix it up, mainly because I just felt like a little variety could only do better. So I researched all the cancer fighting vegetables-We have probably about 50 books on cancer and nutrition.
CHRIS WARK: I do, too. That’s just what you have to do. You don’t have to read 50 books, but you’ve got to educate yourself. There’s no way you can fight cancer, and there’s no way you can get healthy without educating yourself. And so yes, it does take work. You do have to sit down and read a lot. And it’s not like doing homework or something; trying to read a bunch of clinical textbooks. I mean, this is information I wanted to know so I was devouring it as fast as I could to try to learn something. That’s just a big part of it. You’ve got to educate yourself.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, you have to know, because if you don’t, and people ask you questions, you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. I feel almost like a responsibility to know.
CHRIS WARK: Another thing that happens as you start reading these books, you find a common thread that goes through a lot of them. If you read one book, that’s one person’s opinion. Who knows if it’s right? But when you read five books or ten books that are all about natural healing, you start to see that a lot of them are all saying the same things. And that gives a lot of validity, reassurance, and reinforcement to that first one you read; and to what you’re doing.
You start to realize there are some things that everybody says you’ve got to do. There are other specific things that this guy thinks helps, and this lady thinks helps, and so you do it all. But I definitely found that the raw vegan diet is in pretty much every book. You know, they’re telling you juicing, raw vegan diet, fresh fruits and vegetables. And then of course you’ve got some the lesser known stuff like Essiac Tea and the Budwig Diet and all that.
If you have cancer and you’re reading this, and you’re just trying to figure out what to do, Bill Henderson’s book Cancer-Free is a great place to start. And you will find that the more you read, the more validation you’ll find.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, absolutely.
CHRIS WARK: Okay, so I think I interrupted you, because you looked up all the cancer fighting vegetables; cruciferous stuff like: broccoli, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and stuff like that?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, and it’s really “awesome” when you find out that all the cancer fighting vegetables are the ones you think are disgusting and never liked. I like carrots, and I like broccoli only when it’s cooked, but none of that other stuff.
But no carrots for me, because they do have some sugar in them, and I was so 100 percent no sugar. I didn’t care if it was a vegetable or a fruit. No sugar.
CHRIS WARK: Did you make like a vegetable smoothie?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes. My husband bought me a Vita-Mix for my birthday like two months before the diagnosis in August. So it was like this divine thing that he bought that for me because it came in so handy.
CHRIS WARK: I love my Vita-Mix. I’m a freak about it.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, I’m like Vita-Mix, yes! I actually use it so much I had to send it in, and they replaced the motor for free like two months ago.
CHRIS WARK: Amazing.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I hate salad, and I wanted to just get it over with. So I would just dump all of the ingredients from a salad in the Vita-Mix blender.
And I would blend it up, and I would hold my nose and I would drink it. I did Budwig’s cottage cheese and flaxseed oil for breakfast, and then for lunch I would have basically about a 64 ounce green smoothie, which was a blended up salad.
In December we realized we needed some doctor, and basically to appease my family found a holistic doctor, which was such a blessing, here in Atlanta. I went to her probably every week in the month of December and she found an oncologist who was open to patients doing holistic methods.
CHRIS WARK: I also found one like that.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, and it was like I couldn’t believe it until I saw it kind of thing. So I called him, and I left a message on his nurse’s voicemail telling him my story. He called me back that day on his personal cell phone and told me that he would love to help me. He told me, “Come in as soon as you can. I’d love to meet you.” That week he got us in at a time that he doesn’t even normally take patients. He was just so dedicated. I love this man.
CHRIS WARK: What’s his name?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: His name is Dr. Stephen Szabo, and he’s actually about 45 minutes north of of Atlanta, Georgia and practices at Johns Creek Emory Hospital. He’s wonderful. He has always been so understanding.
He taught me about my cancer, that it was more of an indolent (slow progressing) cancer, which explains why it took from 2004 when I found that initial lump in my neck to 2008, when it progressed to my armpit. We asked him if we have time to try other protocols, and he said, “You have time.”
So he gave us that okay, and that was enough for me to appease my parents and tell everybody, “My oncologist told me I have time.” So that was such a blessing and we went ahead with the protocol: the green smoothies, the cottage cheese & flaxseed oil, and the Essiac tea.
At our first appointment with the holistic doctor, we also read in a magazine about a place called The Living Foods Institute, here in Atlanta. And they basically teach people how to make raw and living food and make it palatable. And they also did other things like colonics to detox your colon, and a bunch of other different types of therapies; very, very alternative therapies, some of which I didn’t like. They were a little too new-agey for me.
I found that in the world of holistic, alternative healing you’re going to find some things that seem really strange to you and almost make you angry, because you’re like, “Is this for real, or are they just taking advantage of me?” But you want to try everything. I’m sure you experienced that.
CHRIS WARK: Oh, I absolutely did. Yes. And I did a lot of weird stuff. My standard response to weird therapy was to shrug my shoulders and go with it. I just tried to be open to everything and be like, “Okay, whatever. I receive whatever benefit this can give me.”
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: In our search to find the cause of the cancer, we thought it could have been my root canal. I got a root canal about the same time that original lump in my neck popped up, which I still think may have had something to do with it, because there’s a dental chart that links your teeth to certain parts of your body. That tooth links to your lymph system.
I guess I’ll never know unless I get the root canal removed. I still haven’t gotten it taken out.
I went to the Living Foods Institute for 12 days in January. At that time they asked us to go off anything else we were doing, so I stopped eating cottage cheese flaxseed oil, which was my main source of calories. So my whole body was just kind of thrown off. I lost a lot more weight, and lost track of my menstrual cycle, because when you lose a lot of weight certain things just stop functioning the way they were.
The 12-day course at the Living Foods Institute was just such a godsend, because I learned how to prepare raw foods and actually make it taste kind of good. My number one favorite part of it was that I met other people who were facing the same kinds of challenges I was.
After that I just kind of continued on going back to work. I basically didn’t have a period in the month of January, which I attribute to my diet being all weird, and my menstrual cycle was just completely off. And then I think it was February 28, I went to Florida and I was suspicious that something was going on with my body. I had never taken a pregnancy test in my life and I was scared to.
Of all places, while I was down seeing my parents again. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. And I just sat there. I was scared to death. And I was a little bit excited at the same time, because here was my dream coming true of being able to be a mother, which I didn’t think I was going to be able to do. If I was doing chemotherapy, there’s no way.
So here I am sitting in the bathroom with the pregnancy test in my hand. My mom knows I bought it, so I had to go out there. So I just told her, “I’m pregnant.” And she sighed. My dad put his head in his hands and just shook his head.
It was not the joyous celebration that I think usually happens when people get pregnant.
CHRIS WARK: Let me share my experience with you, because it’s eerily similar. My wife got pregnant a few months after I had decided not to do chemo, while I was doing raw foods.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Wow.
CHRIS WARK: And we had the same reaction from our family.
Basically my mom was like, “Oh, okay”.
But my wife and I were excited, because we were trying to get pregnant. I was like, “You know what, I’m not doing chemo. I’m doing raw foods. I’m going to live. I want to have a family. I’m getting on with my life here.”
Then, we told her mom, and she said, “I thought y’all were going to wait until you were out of the woods”. So yes, not a whole lot of excitement from our families either.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: There were family members that I heard through the grapevine say things like, “Oh great, so now the child is going to grow up without a mother” and things like that, horrible things.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, that’s awful.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes but it was even more motivation to just continue on. I knew I was going to beat it. I had my moments of doubt every now and then; the sinking feeling. What if this doesn’t work? You know, just those kinds of fear feelings. But I just prayed them out.
CHRIS WARK: Yes.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I can’t have this in my mind. I had to stay positive, and I did.
CHRIS WARK: Were there any specific Bible verses that you meditated on or that were really encouraging to you at that time?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes. Specifically any verses about anxiety, about healing. One of my friends, who was actually a fellow Hodgkin’s survivor through conventional ways, gave me a book that someone gave her when she was going through chemo. It’s called Healing on His Wings, and it’s a devotional for people who are sick with various illnesses.
I did that every morning in addition to my smoothies and my cottage cheese flaxseed oil. I would sit down, and I would pray every morning. I would pray for every cell in my body. I would ask God to transform my cancer cells into healthy ones. I had this visual, kind of like I was an internal camera seeing the flaxseed oil go to the cells and blowing them up. I had all these visualizations. And I just had a peace in my heart that this was the plan that God had for me, and there was a reason behind all of it.
I think I was most at peace, because I knew how drastically I had changed my views on nutrition, and I felt like my body was going to respond to that. The Holy Spirit speaking in my heart and in my husband’s heart was not false. I just had to believe that even in those “what if?” moments. “What if it doesn’t work? What if…?”
CHRIS WARK: That’s fantastic. One I share often, is Psalms 34:19. It says, “The righteous man may suffer many afflictions, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Oh, yes. Very powerful.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, and that was one that God immediately brought to my mind when I was diagnosed. And I hung onto that bad boy.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Right, yes. I had stuff stuck to the mirror in my bathroom. I still have some in my car on the dashboard and at school, which is such a no-no in public school. But I did. I had them on my desk, and my kids saw them. So you know, “Oops”.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, nobody is going to mess with the chick who has cancer, right?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: No, and I sure learned the power of that, but I didn’t abuse it. Kris Carr, of Crazy Sexy Cancer fame, I am a big fan of hers, calls it playing your “cancer card”. You gotta know when to play your cancer card.
CHRIS WARK: Right.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: It’s not fun to be anybody’s pity party, you know, throwing a pity party for myself, but I definitely used it a few times. Like knowing I could get away with sending an email about “if anybody wants to join me at church this weekend…” You know, that kind of thing.
CHRIS WARK: Good for you. That’s fantastic. So tell me what’s your diet like now?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Well it has kind of gone through various stages. Now I have cottage cheese flaxseed oil in the morning, just like I did before, same amount, same dosage.
CHRIS WARK: Do you like it now, or do you still hold your nose?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I don’t hold my nose anymore. The first day that my daughter and I came home from the hospital I had to nurse her and I didn’t have an extra hand to hold my nose. So I kind of sucked it up. I was like, “Well, I knew this day would come.”
CHRIS WARK: I’ve never been pregnant obviously, but I know that when women are pregnant there are very few foods they can stand. And when you’re blending up raw vegetables and drinking it, or even cottage cheese and flaxseed, it must have been a lot harder to do pregnant.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: There were about five weeks when I couldn’t eat anything green. Cottage cheese flaxseed oil I didn’t have any problems with. It was like a blessing that it didn’t really bother me. But I pretty much lived off of organic saltines, apples, and almond butter. Those were the only things I could really eat, that was like my diet right there.
I also had an OB-GYN deny me. He would not take me as a patient, because he said, “I refused to treat my cancer”. So we moved on from that. I ended up having a midwife, and that was a much better experience anyway.
So I have cottage cheese flaxseed oil in the morning, and green tea. I go to work, and have mid-morning snack like an apple or some almonds or a banana. I do eat more fruit now.
For lunch I have my 64 ounce green smoothie every day. This is my third school year since being diagnosed with cancer, so I have had three classes that have experienced the green smoothies. And every year I have kids draw pictures of me with my green smoothie jar. It’s funny how they’re so aware, you know? They think it’s weird at first, and then they just don’t even notice it, because I drink them all day long. It takes me like two hours to get through the whole 64 ounces.
CHRIS WARK: Do you make the smoothie before you go in, or do you do it at school?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I have definitely developed systems on how to make it easier. I cut three days worth of vegetables, and I put them in containers in the fridge. And then in the morning before work, I’ll dump all of those vegetables into the Vita-Mix and blend it up.
CHRIS WARK: What are you putting in it these days?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Every vegetable is very intentional. I can tell you what each vegetable does to help keep the cancer away. Mostly cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, broccoli sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts… I mean, it’s pretty gross. It’s not tasty, but it’s so worth it. I think if you can eat one really healthy thing every day, and not have to worry too much about the other things that you eat; I think it’s totally worth it.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, well we’ve been raised in a culture that eats for pleasure instead of survival.
And most of the time, the food that tastes the best is the worst for you. And the food that most people don’t like, like green vegetables let’s say, is the best for you. So there is definitely a mental shift that you went through and I did too, where it’s like “I don’t even care what it tastes like. I’m going to eat it because it’s good for me. I know what it’s doing in my body when I eat it.”
And so my tastes changed completely, because I stopped eating for pleasure. Of course, I do like food to taste good. I’m not saying I just like bad tasting food. But the point is you just have to get over the taste. Just eat it because it’s good for you and you know it’s helping.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Right. And for me now I know that the way I eat from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. is 100 percent cancer fighting.
So when I make dinner, I splurge a little bit every night. I might have, for instance, some meat. Always free range or wild, grass fed; never conventional meat. I will eat meat like two or maybe three times a week. Sometimes I’ll have salmon or bison. We love bison.
CHRIS WARK: Yes. I’m the same way.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: This is an affirmation I say: “I’m doing the best I can with the knowledge I have, and I’m not going to get anxiety over it.” So I just try to keep it real simple, simple grains, simple meats with lots of garlic and onions for cancer fighting. Also sweet potatoes every now and then, and steamed vegetables.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, well it sounds like we pretty much ate the same things when we had cancer, and now we pretty much eat the same things now that we’re past it. You know there is definitely a season, if you have cancer, where you just have got to get hardcore. And then once you get through that season, however long it is, and you get “out of the woods” so to speak, I’m seven years out. Then of course you can loosen up and you can eat a little junk food here and there, or whatever.
But what I try to preach to most people, not necessarily people with cancer, but just to most people that just want to be healthier, is to focus on what you’re eating 80 percent of the time. It’s what you’re eating 80 percent of the time that matters.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes.
CHRIS WARK: The other 20 percent, not so much. But if you can eat healthy 80 percent, you’re going to do so much good for your body.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Right. And I can’t believe that I’m about to say this, because I remember reading people saying, “Oh, I don’t even want those kinds of foods anymore. I don’t crave those kinds of foods anymore.” It has been two years since I changed my diet, and about a year and five months since I went into remission. And I don’t crave ice cream anymore. It has no power over me. I don’t crave that stuff anymore. I just don’t need it.
CHRIS WARK: Yes and what you said goes right along with the power that comes from educating yourself. It’s kind of like The Matrix. Once you take the red pill and your eyes are opened, and you know what’s in the food that you’re eating; what it is; what it’s made of; and what it does to your body; It really loses its appeal.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, yes. I 100% agree.
CHRIS WARK: So you have one child, right?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes. Her name is Ruby-Claire Campbell. And she’s wonderful. She’s ridiculously healthy. She loves green smoothie. My friends are just in awe that she’ll eat a broccoli, kale, pepper, carrot, and tomato smoothie. She will eat it, and she loves it, and she goes, “mmmm.”
CHRIS WARK: That’s amazing.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Oh, it’s ridiculous. I still check to make sure she has a response, and sure enough, she’s excited to have it. She doesn’t eat a lot of it. She can’t do like I do, but she actually thinks it tastes good.
CHRIS WARK: Well, the fact that she’ll even taste it or drink some of it is impressive, and I applaud you.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I don’t know the science behind it, but I think because I consumed so much of it when I was pregnant, it’s just like it’s kind of a familiar taste for her.
CHRIS WARK: Yes, that makes sense. It’s a big challenge to get kids to eat healthy food, because they typically just like carbs and sugar. It’s tough to get them to eat their vegetables.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: She loves broccoli. In fact, on her first birthday, she had a mouth full of broccoli as we were putting her in her chair to eat her cake. It was her first cake and sugar that she had ever had. She just had a mouthful of broccoli, and she was just going to town eating it. She didn’t care about her cake. We have it on video, so I can prove all of this.
CHRIS WARK: That’s great.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, I’m sounding like one of those obnoxious parents who preaches about how great their kid is, so I’ll stop now.
CHRIS WARK: No, you can brag. It’s okay. You deserve it.
So let me ask you if you have any advice, or anything specific you’d like to share with someone that has cancer and is not sure what to do. What would you say to that person?
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Wow. So much.
CHRIS WARK: No pressure.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I’m just going to go from what was the most helpful to me and what helped me make that decision. It was just an unrest, a complete unrest about the chemotherapy and the radiation. I felt completely just not peaceful about it.
And at that point, my husband was the best advocate. If you can find an advocate, even if it’s an online support group. If you go to crazysexylife.com, Kris Carr’s site, it’s kind of like a Facebook for people who are interested in natural healing. I’m also a member of Hodgkin’s Warriors, it’s a group of all Hodgkin’s survivors and people going through it. That’s an excellent site.
Also having someone to do it with you, someone to hold you accountable when you’re weak, because there were times that I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. I just want a Chick-fil-A sandwich you know?” My husband would just flat out go “So you’re just going to give up? Do you want to do the chemo?”
CHRIS WARK: He would give you the tough talk.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, and I needed it, and I hated him for it. I really hated him at that moment. We definitely had some knock-down-drag-outs about it and I was so stubborn at times. But he convinced me that I was so powerful inside and I could do it, and my body was capable of healing itself. I just needed to give it what it could use.
So an advocate is my best advice. Just find someone, anyone, a friend. I know that’s so hard for people. Don’t do it alone. Find online site. Buy the research books so that you know, and once you’re knowledgeable about it, you are just so empowered. I tell my fifth graders that. Knowledge is power.
CHRIS WARK: It’s cliché, but it’s true.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes, it’s so cliché, but it’s right, especially when you’re dealing with a serious health challenge that the majority of people around you have no clue about, and are against. You know, they are basically wishing death on you. They don’t think you’re going to make it. It’s an unpopular decision.
I kind of felt like one of the first Christians, who were persecuted at the beginning of the first century. Nobody understood it, and people, because they were ignorant, they were angered. And I kind of felt like that at times.
CHRIS WARK: Yes.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Or any group that has some new information. You know, they are usually persecuted at the beginning.
CHRIS WARK: Yes I felt the same way, definitely. It’s hard to understand the social pressure that you get when you don’t do chemo, but I agree with you 100 percent on educating yourself and then finding a support system. For me my mom was a big support for me not doing chemo. My wife became a big support. She wasn’t initially, but she came around. And I worked with a local naturopath John Smothers, and he helped me tremendously. So I had three people that were supporting me and helped me.
But when I was doing this it was 2004, and there was a lot less information online about this than there is now. There is a massive amount of information online: support groups, natural healing and alternative therapy sites; all kinds of stuff out there now. So I would say it’s even easier now if you are looking for this kind of information.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: Yes.
CHRIS WARK: So it’s a great time to have cancer! [laughs]
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: I know. I mean, it sounds horrible, but it is, yes.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: One of the most discouraging things is when you have friends and loved ones who are diagnosed, and you give them the information that we have, and they decide to still do the chemotherapy. That has been the case for every single person that I’ve advised, and I’m sure I’ve advised 20 to 30 people now who have asked me.
And I think one reason for that is they just don’t have the support. So that’s the most important thing. I know Bill Henderson actually does phone consultations with people, I don’t know how much that is.
Cling to the positive information that you can find and just ignore the what-ifs and the negatives. You know, you either decide to go for it or you don’t. Whatever you are comfortable with, it has to be a prayerful, researched decision. You have to know about it before you commit to it.
CHRIS WARK: I agree 100 percent.
It’s important to have a peace about what you’re doing, whether it’s chemo or not. God heals in a lot of different ways. There are people that are healed that go through chemotherapy. There are people that are healed without it. I’d say you hit the nail on the head. It really does need to be a prayerful, informed decision whether or not you’re going to do chemo. And you have tot trust that God is leading you. Make sure you are not putting your trust, your faith and hope in a man, a doctor, but that you’re putting your faith, hope, and trust ultimately in your Creator to lead you, guide you, and deliver you from a disease like cancer.
Cortney, thank you so much for sharing your story.
CORTNEY CAMPBELL: You’re welcome, Chris.
CHRIS WARK: It is just an awesome story. I’m just so glad we got to do this.
Check out Cortney’s terrific health blog GreenDrinkDiaries.com
Resources mentioned in this interview:
Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing by Bill Henderson
Crazy Sexy Cancer (DVD) by Kris Carr