For almost a decade, I’ve followed a plant-based vegan diet. Throughout my early twenties I encouraged friends and family to change their diets, and many did, after seeing improvements I’d made to my own physical health and positive state of mind.
When I was 24, I volunteered at The Gerson Institute. I knew immediately that it was the place for me. Finally, I was surrounded with people with like minds who didn’t look at me sideways when I expressed my love for veggie juice! It was invigorating to meet people who had healed their health conditions using the Gerson Therapy, and I found comfort in the knowledge that there was an alternative to traditional cancer treatments. When a position opened up to work for the Gerson Institute, I jumped at the chance. It’s hard to believe that five years have come and gone.
So, when my dad was diagnosed with chronic leukemia, I immediately thought of the Gerson Therapy. Even though the type of cancer he has progresses slowly and has a high long-term survival rate with conventional treatment, I felt strongly that the Gerson Therapy would give him the best long-term chance of survival.
He didn’t feel the same way.
I felt strongly that the Gerson Therapy would give him the best long-term chance of survival… He didn’t feel the same way.”But I had connected with so many recovered patients and other Gerson Persons. I had seen how using the Gerson Therapy could transform someone’s health and entire lifestyle. Why was he fighting me on this when obviously – to me – it was the best choice?
So, I began a campaign to convince him to do the Gerson Therapy, and I pushed the subject incessantly, despite his lack of interest. I brought over books and DVDs. I tried to subtly insert discussions of the benefits of juicing, rest, detoxification and supplementation. I read segments of Charlotte Gerson’s book to him, and told him about the Gerson diet and coffee enemas–both of which horrified him.
I invited him over to my house to watch movies. I bought Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, thinking that since this documentary had a humorous touch it would be a good way to get him thinking about the incredible benefits of healthy eating. My dad showed up with a VHS copy of Transformers. It wasn’t an easy night.
As time went on, he grew increasingly resistant. One day when he came over for lunch, I made him a carrot-apple juice and stood over him like a guard while he drank it. He hated it. I felt so helpless, I wanted to cry. My sister, who was with us that day, looked at me like I was crazy. “Why are you forcing this? Let him make his own decision – it’s his life!”
But I couldn’t accept it. I wanted him to have a life, a long life. I wanted him to be happy and healthy – and I was so sure that the Gerson Therapy could do that for him. As I kept pushing, our relationship went from being fun and silly – always joking about something – to tense and frustrating. We weren’t listening to each other, no matter how loudly we spoke.
Only when we sat down and talked about it – REALLY talked about it – did I realize what I was asking.
He had developed what he felt was a friendship with his doctor and trusted him. He was going to do what his doctor said, period. The medication he was taking was mostly covered by his insurance and working with bearable side effects.
He felt he was making the best choice he could for his financial situation and lifestyle. Best of all, he didn’t have to do any additional work besides take pills, and he didn’t have to give up any of the foods or vices that gave him comfort.
When you try to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do – no matter what it is – it’s an uphill battle that often results in resentment for both parties.”He put it simply: the Gerson Therapy wasn’t for him, he made his decision, and for the sake of our relationship I needed to let it go.
So I did. I stopped mentioning it altogether unless he asked, and when he did I tried to keep it light. Now, during visits or family functions my sisters and I make vegan recipes and encourage him try new things. He eats whatever we make, while joking about leaving to get some “real food” at the Burger King down the street. And we are all able to laugh together about it, because what else can you do?
This experience taught me that you can’t force someone to do the Gerson Therapy if they don’t want to.
It’s a full time job in its own right. The Gerson Therapy is labor intensive and requires a great deal of commitment, discipline and dedication. Frankly, if someone is showing a strong resistance to it, it’s unlikely that they’ll want stay on it for the full 2-3 years.
When you try to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do – no matter what it is – it’s an uphill battle that often results in resentment for both parties.
When I let go of the control and accepted that he was going to pursue conventional medicine for the rest of his life, our relationship improved greatly. It stopped being a drag to hang out with each other, and we stopped arguing. At this point, things are more or less back to the way they once were, except we have more conversational topics that are off-limits.
While I have some regret that I spent so long being angry and fighting him, it came along with a new awareness and understanding of where to focus my energy.
While I still believe that it is vital to spread awareness of alternative treatments for cancer and other conditions, I see now that the Gerson Therapy isn’t for everyone. Whatever treatment someone decides for themselves is a very personal choice.
I can’t decide for my father what treatment to pursue, but I can choose to support my father even if his decisions are not ones I would make for myself. More than ever my resolve is strengthened to put my energy where it will do the most good, by helping those who are interested in alternative treatment and who contact the Gerson Institute in search of information and guidance to help themselves and those they love.
This year for Father’s Day I will honor my dad by letting him be himself. I will take him to see an action movie, and afterward we will go for a walk. After he counts down his top 5 favorite scenes from the movie, I will express my gratitude for everything he has taught me and continues to teach me, whether or not he means to.
I love my Dad. The battle is over, and we’ve declared a truce… but I’m still inviting him to the premier of The Food Cure in November!
About the Author:
Liz Cook is the Gerson Institute’s Development Associate and also works as a Special Events Chef at the Charlotte Gerson Health Restoration Center. She joined the Institute in 2009 after several years of working at a local health food store and as a chef-for-hire.
When she’s not assisting in fundraising or cooking at the Restoration Center, Liz can be found hosting vegan dinners, crocheting hats and at the farmer’s market buying produce for her juicer.