Brenda Toth

Mightier than Melanoma

Listen: can you hear this?

bu-bump...bu-bump...bu-bump... bu-bump...bu-bump...bu-bump...bu-bump...bu-bump...

That was my heart. Faster and faster, louder and louder, a pile driver. I was sure everyone else in the building could hear it too.

Have you ever received news that made your heart beat out of control and your world shrink in on itself?

I did.

It all started so innocently. I was getting a massage from my niece Jayme.

She said, "Aunt Brenda, there's something different on your back. This mole doesn't look right". I told her I would call my doctor. But I told her that mostly to have her stop fussing over me.

After she left, I tried to check it out, but I couldn’t see it as it was the middle of my back. I reached around and touched it, and my fingers came back bloody.

That prompted a bone chilling realization. I wasn't going to wait for an appointment with my family doctor. The next morning, I was at the walk-in clinic.

The clinic doctor was really reassuring. "It's just an abraded mole, nothing to worry about." Whew! That made sense to me because the day before I was climbing in and out of a second storey window. I could have easily scraped it.

Then he said, “I can make you an appointment with a dermatologist to have it removed, if it's bothering you.”

Strangely, I said sure. Strangely, because it was out of character for me to agree to something that I would have to pay for. Cosmetic mole removal isn't covered under OHIP.

The dermatologist agreed with the clinic doctor’s diagnosis – just an abraded mole. She cut it out at no cost.

One week later, I got a call to come back. That's when I found out it was melanoma. A sense of foreboding flooded my body, fear twisted my gut and my heart started pounding. Cancer!

1 in 2 Canadians is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime. I never expected it would happen to me.

My very dear friend Barb had just been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. All her friends were rallying around her to help her through that. Now I was the one with a decision to make. My choices were:

      1.   Do nothing

      2.   Follow the doctors' recommendations

      3.   Or make up my own plan

I gave each option a lot of thought.

Doing nothing was submitting to defeat. Following all the doctor's recommendations was so against my core beliefs. I just couldn't buy into "the Little Shop of Allopathic Horrors". The best decision for me was to take control and find a more natural, wholistic approach.

I had to learn all I could about what I was facing. The first thing I needed to know was: had it spread?

I underwent wide re-excision and a sentinel lymph node biopsy. Imagine being jabbed – 4 times! – with  a gigantic needle filled with radioactive dye. It was, without a doubt, the most incredibly painful thing I've ever experienced.

The surgery removed 2 lymph nodes; one was clear; the other had .o1 cm cancer cells. More surgery was recommended - complete removal of all the lymph nodes under my left arm. This would have to be at Juravinski Hospital.

In the meantime, I signed up at Wellspring. There, I got counselling, scoured their library, relaxed with Reiki, took healthy nutrition courses, practiced Qi Gong, poured out my feelings with journal writing, and found my centre in Zen drawing. (Cont'd at Right...)

Wellspring is such a positive and peaceful place! I learned so many ways to cope with the stress of cancer.

When you're faced with a life or death decision, your world does shrink in on itself. I became an exploration addict. I ferreted everything I could find on natural ways to manage melanoma – anything that could possibly help.

My plan was an approach that would cover physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. I juiced, ate an alkaline pH diet, and devoured supplements. I hiked in nature and rebounded on my mini trampoline. I laughed at funny movies. I trained my mind with hypnosis and affirmations. In the darkest part of the night, when I woke up cold with fear, I'd play a healing mediation CD. I could then calm down enough to drift back to sleep.

I saw the Juravinski doctors. I refused any more surgery. I refused the chemotherapy they recommended. Interferon for a year, whether or not there was any further traces of cancer. Interferon would make me feel like I had the flu - every day for an entire year! How could a single woman depending on 2 part time jobs survive the repercussions?

Did I do the right thing? My research revealed that the survival rate for melanoma patients getting chemo was less than 10%.

The two cancers that have the lowest survival rate are melanoma and multiple myeloma. My friend Barb decided to go the chemo route. I couldn't believe she'd do that. She was like me, a warrior woman - champion of the wholistic and natural.


On Saturday, August 23, 2014, my dear friend Barbara quietly slipped from this earthly dimension.

I believe I did the right thing. Today, now 6 years later, there is no sign of melanoma in my body. My friend is gone. But, I'm still here.

Listen ... bu-bump... bu-bump... bu-bump. My heart is still beating

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