Cancer Healing Odyssey: A Mother’s Strength

Sarto Schickel and his wife, Sun Hee, lived a quiet and lovely life in Philadelphia with their two daughters, Arianna and Julianna. In 2007, their lives were shattered by the sudden discovery that Sun Hee had Stage IV ovarian cancer with malignant pleural effusion, a condition fatal within a year in 80% of patients.

In his book, Cancer Healing Odyssey, Sarto recalls, “the news was both shocking and emotionally devastating. With two young children to raise, our family faced a very uncertain future. Many patients with ovarian cancer, coupled with large pleural effusion (fluid built up in the chest cavity between the lung and the wall of the chest cavity) and acute cough, live only a few months. We were in crisis mode. Everything seemed to be on the table–even life itself” (page 26).

Call it fate, luck or divine intervention, but Sarto and his family were in a particularly advantageous position to take action from the moment of diagnosis. You see, Sarto’s uncle, William “Bill” Schickel, is case #18 in Dr. Max Gerson’s A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases. Bill was thirty-two years old with three children when he met Dr. Max Gerson at his New York Office in 1952. With the dedication of his wife Mary, Bill’s advanced retroperitoneal lymphosarcoma vanished, and he lived another fifty-seven years. He and Mary expanded their family to eleven children and countless grandchildren.

Sun Hee immediately began a modified Gerson protocol, but Sun Hee and her family knew that the next steps were crucial, and “[…] [they] were determined to use alternative medicine as a complement to conventional medicine” (page 35). Sun Hee decided on an integrative approach that would include surgery and chemotherapy, coupled with specific aspects of Macrobiotics and varying intensities of the Gerson Therapy (Gerson Therapy protocols are typically modified and reduced if conventional medical intervention is introduced).

In the period preceding surgery, she adopted a slightly modified Gerson program. It was necessary to tap the lung to improve her breathing and the level of fluid was reduced by 2 inches. But then, after only 10 days on the Gerson program, it dropped a further 1.375 inches without any additional treatment!

With improvements to her condition and a special benefit concert hosted by her church to help with the admission fee to the licensed clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, Sarto noticed a shift in Sun Hee’s attitude:

“She began to express some positive thoughts saying: ‘Will we be able to afford all the carrots and greens needed for two years on the Gerson Therapy?’ That statement showed a significant psychic shift, as Sun Hee was now thinking ahead by a few years, rather than thinking she might be dead in a few months. Her mind was on a positive track” (page 43).

“Of the eight cancer patients [at the clinic], Sun Hee seemed to be doing the best on the Gerson Therapy. What is her secret? Diligence for one. In the next two years, she refused to travel anywhere for an overnight stay, in order not to disturb her Gerson Therapy. She wants to be in her own kitchen making her food and juices, and applying the detoxification program like clockwork. Perhaps it is her Asian work ethic or her classical music training, but she realizes that something great can only be built up from correct daily practice. In this case, it is her daily practice of the Gerson Therapy” (page 118).

Sun Hee’s story is interesting, complex and shines a light on the lengths a mother will go through for her family, no matter what treatment is chosen. Sun Hee happened to choose an integrative approach, but the underlying motivation and successes came in seemingly mundane tasks, like “picking up the girls from school every day this year-for the first time in two years”.

At the end of the book, Sarto ponders whether Sun Hee will achieve a true five year survival, citing that “Sun Hee is determined to thrive and prosper, so she can be there for Arianna and Julianna. This is a major motivation, which keeps Sun Hee focused every day on the relentless hourly tasks of the Gerson Therapy” (page 148).

More than six years since Sarto pondered his wife’s future, her motivations as a mother ensured that her daughters would be able to celebrate Mother’s Day, and every day of the year.


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This article originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Healing News (Vol. 28 Number 4) . Edits have been made to the original text.
Written by: Margaret Straus
Edits and Post by: Nicole Ferrer-Clement


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