Fire Life

Preplan for Health Battles as for Firegound Battles

By Mary Jane Dittmar

Virtually all of us have had an encounter with a cancer diagnosis and the roller coaster of emotions it causes to course through the patient, family members, friends, coworkers, and others who are part of the diagnosed person’s life. 

My two most personal encounters with cancer involved my late 39-year-old daughter and my late husband. Many emotions accompany a prognosis that indicates that the disease cannot be cured–fear, hope (when there is a good “temporary” report), futility, sadness, anxiety. However, the thought that most consumed me after they were gone was, “I don’t think I did enough to help them.”

It is evident that the arsenal of weapons available to allopathic (traditional) medicine is limited and the treatment modalities do not always work as well as we hope they would. [The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines allopathic as follows: relating to or being a system of medicine that aims to combat disease by using remedies (as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated.] Moreover, the effects of some of these modalities are as damaging or more damaging to the human body as the disease.

One way to help ensure that we have done our utmost to help our loved ones, and even ourselves, in the battle against disease is to learn as much about the treatments available in the allopathic medical world, including clinical trials, and ALSO those outside of allopathic medicine in the complementary or “alternative” medical fields.

Just as fireground battles can be successful only if firefighters preplan and drill BEFORE the fire, the greatest chance for success in a “health battle” lies in our researching and preplanning—in our engaging in “what if” exercises before a serious health problem arises. In many cases, the shock of a diagnosis of cancer or another serious condition may come at a time when we are too weak, too sick, or too scared to initiate research. We then often rush into treatment without questioning whether that is our best course or whether we should do something extra to help increase the treatment’s effectiveness.

The information presented below is not “medical advice.” It is passed along to help you update your health research and to enable you to become familiar with “Lessons Learned” by individuals who have had success in battles involving their health when the odds were stacked against them. In fact, the author of the book discussed below, Carl O. Helvie, encourages readers to confirm the information contained in his book with other sources. The purpose of the book, Helvie states, “is to make the reader aware of the opportunities available for successful non-debilitating treatment of lung cancer and the ways to prevent a recurrence and remain healthy afterwards.” He emphasizes: “It is always the patient’s choice about treatment options when faced with a diagnosis of lung cancer and having the information available is important for that decision-making.” Although Helvie writes mostly about lung cancer, because he personally confronted this disease, the message can be applied to any serious health problem.


Second Opinion

Before we get to the book, I want to share with you a firsthand lesson I learned: Always get a second opinion in major health situations. Most of us won’t hire a house painter or buy a television without getting at least two quotes, yet we don’t always look for confirmation or verification when it comes to our most valuable possession, good health.

A few years ago, I had some blood showing in my urine when I had my annual physical. The primary doctor suggested I see a urologist. I did so. I underwent a scan, an MRI, an ultrasound study, and had a bladder exam to rule out cancer of the bladder. I felt great when I was told that there was no bladder cancer. However, the scan showed a shadow in the middle of one of my kidneys. The doctor told me it was cancer. Naturally, I was shocked and scared. The doctor happened to have a cancellation in his surgery schedule for the upcoming week and offered the spot to me. There I was rushing for “preop” exams and making other preparations for surgery. It was a very “unreal” time for my family and me.

The surgery was scheduled for early Monday morning. On the Sunday morning before the scheduled surgery, I awakened with this thought, “How do I know I really have cancer? I think I should get a second opinion.” This thought stayed with me the next morning as I was prepared for the surgery. I had the IV tubing in my arm and minutes from being wheeled into the operating room. My husband was there with me. The surgeon arrived. After exchanging pleasantries, I said to him, “I want a second opinion.”

He looked at me and said, “We can do that” and took off. Some time later, I heard him say to the nurses as he was returning to my bedside, “Cancel the surgery. It is a cyst.” He told me that he had electronically sent the CD of my scan to Sloan-Kettering in New York City and they told him it was a benign cyst.

I was outside the operating room and minutes from losing a perfectly good kidney. Subsequently, I went to several specialists with my records to make sure that I was not at risk for cancer. All the doctors I consulted confirmed that I did not have cancer. Some even asked, “How did you even get near an operating room?”

With this incident as a backdrop, I call your attention to a book that illustrates how second opinions can be beneficial and can provide the type of information about cancer we should include in our “health preplan.”


You Can Beat Lung Cancer Using Alternative/Integrative Interventions

AYNI Books Winchester, UK; Washington, USA

This is the story of “Carl Helvie’s insightful journey through the terror of a diagnosis of lung cancer, usually a death sentence, [which] shows us how we have an internal guidance system that can steer us through ‘the valley of the shadow of death,’” writes Susan E. Kolb MD, FACS, ABIHM, author of The Naked Truth About Breast Implants” in the book’s Foreword.

Richard Linchitz, MD, medical director of Linchitz Medical Wellness, author of Life without Pain, calls it “a resource and an inspiration for cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers.”

The book “is packed with references and information sources that will help anyone fighting cancer learn more about how to go about it successfully,” according to Frank Shallenberger, MD, HMD, ABAAM, and medical director, The Nevada Center of Alternative Medicine.

The author, Carl O. Helvie, was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974. He was given six months to live. A friend recommended to him a physician who used alternative treatments that were successful, non-invasive, and non-debilitating and that did not destroy healthy cells in the body or suppress the immune system. Helvie followed a holistic approach that involved implementing a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual activities into his daily life. He has continued this approach to the present. Helvie is now 79 years old and states that he has no chronic health problems and does not need any of the prescribed medications people of his age usually take. Helvie is a registered nurse and has a doctorate in public health and wellness; he has helped many people for the 58 years he has worked as a nurse practitioner, an educator, an author, and a researcher.

The book contains many statistics and much information. My hopes were raised with statements such as the following: “Best estimates for patients with stage IV lung cancers with metastasis are 2 percent for long-term survival with traditional therapy. Physicians providing alternative treatments, including those who have written chapters in the book, have experienced up to 39 percent survival of stage IV lung cancer patients and higher for cancer of other sites.”

The book presents case studies of patients who have benefited from alternative therapies with and without the use of traditional treatments. It also discusses selected physical/environmental and mental/spiritual interventions for treating lung cancer and preventing recurrence.

Chapters 4 to 6 cover “alternative interventions of lung cancer.” Francisco Contreras, MD; James Forsythe, MD, HMD; and Bernie Siegel, MD, respectively, author these chapters. Kim Dalzell, PhD, RD, LD, discussed the nutritional aspects of lung cancer in Chapter 7.

Tanya Harter Pierce, MA, MFCC, author of Outsmart Your Cancer: Alternative Non-Toxic Treatments That Work (2004 and 2009), is the author of Chapter 8 in which Protocel®, a relatively inexpensive yet effective alternative product for cancer is introduced and discussed. “One thing I have learned with certainty over ten years of investigation [for cancer cures] is that there are many ways to cure cancer!” says Pierce. “The conundrum,” she says, “is that virtually all of the really good cures are outside mainstream medicine. This means they are labeled ‘alternative’ and the average cancer patient will never hear about them.”

Protocel®, a brown liquid formula, can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription. Pierce began her journey into alternative cancer treatment research when searching for non-toxic alternative cancer treatments for a relative. She said she was “astounded at how many [of these approaches] had better track records at curing cancer than mainstream medicine.” She also expressed surprise that many of them had been developed by highly respected physicians or scientists such as microbiologists, chemists, physicists, and the like.”

The book also describes how the developer of Protocel®, James Vincent Sheridan, a chemist, was thwarted in his attempts to have the formula undergo clinical trials in humans. Sheridan spent many years working to perfect the formula (from the late 1930s until the early 1990s). In the earlier years, he worked on the liquid in his spare time. He had worked full time at Dow Chemical Company. In the early 1950s he was awarded a private grant to work at the Detroit Institute of Cancer Research (which later became the Michigan Cancer Foundation). In the 1960s, Sheridan worked on the formula for a few years at the Battelle Institute in Columbus, Ohio, which commonly tested new chemo agents for the National Cancer Institute. By 1983, Sheridan found that the formula could consistently cure about 80 percent of the laboratory mice with cancer that he treated.

Sheridan worked to have the formula studied by the various top cancer research organizations in the United States, but they blocked his efforts to get official studies performed. Between 1953 and 1992, his requests were turned down by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration. A more detailed account of these events is contained in Outsmart Your Cancer: Alternative Non-Toxic Treatments That Work (Tanya Harter Pierce, Thoughtworks Publishing, 2004).

Helvie is the host of “The Holistic Health Show” on BBC radio.


Top photo courtesy of


MARY JANE DITTMAR is senior associate editor of Fire Engineering and conference manager of FDIC. Before joining the magazine in January 1991, she served as editor of a trade magazine in the health/nutrition market and held various positions in the educational and medical advertising fields. She has a bachelor’s degree in English/journalism and a master’s degree in communication arts.