Cancer is no stranger to Scott and Cheryl Presnall, who have been witnesses to its devastating effects when the disease took the lives of people they loved. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Cheryl, a Waxahachie ISD teacher, sought out an alternative treatment path rather than using traditional medicine.
After finding a lump in her breast in May, she went to the gynecologist, who then sent her for a mammogram and an ultrasound.
“They recommended that I see a breast surgeon and let her look at it,” Cheryl said. “So I went to Dallas to Dr. Tuoc Dau at Baylor in Dallas. She had a PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan, did a biopsy and had some other things done. “
On June 3, Cheryl and Scott received the news — she had breast cancer. They were presented with a limited set of options that didn’t seem like much of an option.
“There was one choice. They said 'you could either have surgery then do chemo and radiation' or 'I could do chemo, surgery and then radiation.' The surgeon wanted me to go meet with the oncologist and discuss the treatment and let her talk with me,” Cheryl added. “I told the surgeon that I was very hesitant about doing chemo. I wanted to look at some alternative therapies. She said, ‘would you talk to the oncologist?’ and I said, ‘yes.’ So I met with her, and it did not go well. She said, ‘you either do this or there is not a reason for you come to me.’”
When the results came back that Cheryl had breast cancer, Scott took the news exceptionally hard. He knew the road Cheryl faced, as his first wife, Jimmie Lou, died after a 34-month battle with the same disease.
“I was thinking ‘Oh God, not again. Not again.’ I was devastated because we celebrated our 17-year anniversary and my first wife and I had been married for about 17 years when she was diagnosed. I was thinking 'I don’t want to see this movie again.’ I have seen it, and I don’t like the way that it ends,” Scott said. “The oncologist that she went to visit in Dallas talked about a five-year success rate. Well, we want more than five years. We don’t want five years to be the target.”
Scott said Jimmie Lou was diagnosed when she was 38 years old and continued to work while going through treatment.
While Jimmie Lou was working at a bank in downtown Dallas, she had radiation on her lunch break. She would take the bus over to Methodist Hospital from downtown Dallas and have her radiation treatment and go back to work.
Scott added that the treatments killed her energy level, which led her to go through early menopause.
“She had trouble connecting her thoughts, remembering things and putting words together in the right order,” Scott continued. “Her sister [Susan] went through the same thing. There were six months between my wife’s diagnosis and Susan’s diagnosis. Then there was a 16-month gap between Jimmie’s death and Susan’s death.”
Cheryl said after the meeting with the oncologist is when she started to look at other alternatives. She found that natural treatments among the medical community in the United States are frowned upon.
“I spent 18 hours a day learning about cancer and learning about the cancer that I specifically had and what made it grow and what stopped it from growing,” Cheryl said. “Then I looked at respected people in the alternative treatment community like Ty Bollinger and Bill Henderson and some different people that have written books. I kept finding common threads through all of them. I was like, ‘ok, I guess that I am going to have to be in charge of my own treatment.’”
Cheryl said what really made her want to seek the alternative route was seeing her parents go through the conventional treatment process and the poor quality of life associated with it. She wondered why her mother was going through the treatments because she was physically ill — "like too ill to sit up from the bed."
“She was throwing up. Lost her hair. All of the traditional stuff three weeks out of every month. Just when she finally got up out of the bed and able function, it was time for another chemo treatment. It bought her another couple of years but at what cost,” Cheryl questioned. “She was never the same after that. She had brain fog and mentally was not as sharp as she was before. I told Scott I am not going that route before we ever got married. I am not going to do that. I will do anything else that will keep me healthy and enjoying life. But, I am going to enjoy my life until I die. I am not going take treatments that slash, burn and cut.”
BEWARE OF ‘WITCH DOCTORS’
Scott along with family and friends were suspicious of the alternative options that Cheryl was proposing to them.
“I was skeptical when she started talking about these alternative therapies. Yes, we had talked about not going through conventional treatments, but I had visions of witch doctors and visions of snake oil salesmen,” Scott said. “People who were trying to take advantage of somebody in a lousy situation. She started sending me these things to read. Read this, read this, read this.”
After Cheryl took the time to educate Scott, family members and friends about this alternative treatment path they gave their support.
Cheryl said one of the first steps she took was to make a dramatic change to her diet. This involved eliminating items that contained things like sugar and carbs, which would help to keep the body in a more alkaline state. She added that an alkaline state is more acidic and keeps cancer from thriving. A diet that contains a lot of sugar causes cancer to grow, Cheryl said.
Cheryl then sought advice from a friend, Dr. Dean Gafford, who is a retired doctor of osteopathic medicine. Gafford gave Cheryl an anti-cancer protocol to follow that had steps like eating right, eating organically and exercising regularly. He also gave her a kit containing supplements.
Some of these supplements include things such as green tea, turmeric and an extract of mistletoe. The supplements are about $700 a month.
“He gave me the protocol and told me when to take stuff. It was really hard at first, and I had to write it down and kind of check it off to make sure that I did the right stuff. But, after a while I memorized it. So I kept going with that. Then I told Scott, well the tumor is not shrinking I want to see a naturopathic doctor that is currently in practice and confer with them. So we have been to two,” Cheryl said. “Basically, they have said 'you are doing the right thing.'”
While taking this protocol, doctors have monitored Cheryl and ordered tests like PET scans to track her cancer’s progression.
According to Texas Association of Naturopathic Doctor’s website, naturopathic medicine, is based on the philosophy that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. A doctor's job is to simply aid this process. In naturopathic medicine, tools such as homeopathy, nutrition and supplementation, lifestyle, physical medicine such as hydrotherapy and mind-body medicine such as counseling and meditation are used.
Cheryl said the naturopathic doctors also recommend some other treatments that would completely reduce the tumor without surgery. Some the treatments include oxygen therapy or the use of Vitamin C or D in IVs. Scott and Cheryl then consulted with a naturopathic doctor in Grapevine who provided those procedures.
Cheryl said the tests give by the doctors have shown the tumor has not grown, is not spreading and has even shrunk.
“It was going to take six weeks for one treatment, and it was going to take $20,000 and was probably going to take two rounds of it. So that was going to be $40,000 to try one of them. He said ‘we don’t know what your tumor is going to respond to. So he said ‘we will just have to wait and see.’”
Due to the high-cost, Cheryl looked at other places for treatments. The place she selected was the Immunity Therapy Center in Tijuana, Mexico, which does the treatments in three weeks.
The problem with going to the clinic, Scott said, was that Cheryl’s insurance carrier would not cover any of the expenses related to her care, which carries costs estimated between $25,000 and $30,000.
To cover the expenditures in the short term, the Presnall’s took out a signature loan, but are hoping to repay the costs with the help of the community through a GoFundMe account. Their goal is to raise $33,000, which would help repay the loan and cover after treatment care.
The cost would be difficult for them to repay on their own since they both work as teachers. Scott works for Avalon ISD.
“As school teachers, we don't have that kind of money lying around, so we were going to access our home’s equity through a cash-out refinance of our mortgage. We quickly learned that closing costs were going to eat into a considerable share of the proceeds and wouldn’t leave us enough to pay the clinic’s fee,” Scott said. “We were able to get a signature loan, however, and began planning for Cheryl to travel to Mexico for treatment.”
As of press time the account has raised $9,324 of its $33,000 goal.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Cheryl’s treatment at the Immunity Therapy Center is set to begin Dec. 18.
According to the Immunity Therapy Center’s website, the clinic is unique because it can provide both conventional and alternative cancer therapy options. Some of the treatments include oxygen cancer, insulin potentiation, rife, bio-magnetic cancer, IV cancer and regenerative cell cancer therapies. The site also states patients with advanced, stage-4 cancer or those who have been told they have no other treatment options can find success with its alternative therapy programs.
“There are (around) 20 clinics in Tijuana that treat cancer and this is one is one of the most highly recommended. They only take eight patients at a time and interview you on the phone,” Cheryl said. “They ask very detailed questions about your cancer, how long you have had it, what treatments you’ve done and how you are living right now.”
Cheryl said she would spend eight to nine hours a day at the clinic six days a week. The clinic will also teach her how to cook organic meals, do meditation and breathing exercises. By teaching these new lifestyle skills, it helps to prevent a person from having cancer again, Cheryl said.
Cheryl will return to Texas on Jan. 8. Upon return, she will have an ultrasound and a PET scan done by her doctors to see if the treatment she went through was effective.
“I want people to realize that there is a choice. That it just takes a small amount of education. It is just that you have got to take the initiative,” Cheryl said
Cheryl added that alternative treatment path might not right for everybody because it involves a lot of self-discipline. Before undergoing this path, Cheryl encourages people to be under the guidance of a doctor.
To help with Cheryl’s cancer treatment donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/cheryls-fight-against-breast-cance.
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