~ The following was published in The Floyd Press on August 28, 2008 and is a follow-up to a previous story HERE.
“You can pull up the weeds but if you don’t get the root, they’ll come back,” Abraham Cherrix recently told a Medical Ethics class at the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg.
It seemed an unlikely statement for an eighteen year old young man to make to a lecture hall full of future doctors. But Cherrix – who made national news in 2005 when he refused radiation and a second round of chemotherapy for Hodgkin’s disease – was talking about his approach to wellness.
Invited by Professor Robert Miller for his second speaking engagement at the College, Abraham was accompanied by his mother, Rose Cherrix. Rose and Abraham’s father were found guilty of medical neglect for supporting Abraham’s decision to forgo more standard cancer treatments. She and her five children moved to Floyd County from Chincoteague Island, Virginia, in the spring of 2007, after losing their home and businesses to mounting medical bills, but winning their court case appeal. It was a case that prompted the passing of a new Virginia Law in Abraham’s name, one that gives teenagers the right to have a say in their health care decisions.
“I’m a big fan of positive thinking,” Abraham told the class, referring to his fourteen month cancer-free status as evidence of his being “cured.” Considering that one oncologist testified in court that Abraham’s chance of surviving the second round of prescribed treatment was 15 – 25%, and that his first oncologist outlined the way he would die if he didn’t accept the treatment, Abraham’s come-back is remarkable.
From a speaker’s podium, Abraham explained to the class that he almost died (or wanted to) from the first round of adult chemotherapy. “My father said I stopped breathing a few times.” When his cancer returned, the success rate of chemo and radiation treatments for it declined. Abraham’s intuition told him to pursue alternatives. But the holistic treatments he traveled to Mexico to undergo were interrupted by the court. Eventually Abraham came under the care of Doctor Arnold Smith, an oncologist from Mississippi who uses low dose radiation treatments, spread out over a long period of time, along with complimentary alternative therapies and vitamin supplements.
The classroom hall of nearly two-hundred medical students listened to Abraham’s story with rapt attention. The medical tradition they are studying is one that teaches a focus on treatment of the whole person rather than primarily on the disease. The College webpage reads:
The practice of osteopathic medicine includes using the most current scientific knowledge to promote health and prevention and to diagnose and treat patients with disease. Osteopathic physicians prescribe medications, perform surgery, and use osteopathic manipulative medicine as a tool to diagnose and treat patients. The philosophy of osteopathic medicine originated from the teachings of Virginian Andrew Taylor Still over 100 years ago and is based on the beliefs that, given the optimum conditions, the human body has the amazing ability to heal, that the structure of the human body is directly related to the function, and that the health of the individual is related to the body, mind, and spirit.
Following Abraham’s narrative, the class engaged in an hour long question and answer period. Many of the student’s questions revolved around the diet and lifestyle changes that Abraham says have contributed to his healing.
Abraham pointed out that the re-occurrence of his tumors and the degree they returned seemed to correlate with his diet, especially with the ingestion of too much sugar. “Tumors feed on sugar,” Dr. Smith answered when Abraham asked if he could eat donuts.
Currently Abraham is committed to an alkaline diet that includes lots of vegetables, no sugar, and no artificial additives. He spoke of other preventative therapies he uses to maintain his well being, such as a detox foot bath and Laser Therapy, administered by local chiropractor Garry Collins to stimulate or inhibit certain cell function and to boost immune function.
One student asked Abraham how he managed high school during his illness. Primarily a homeschooler, Abraham was doing a combination of public high school and homeschooling when his education was interrupted by cancer. He is planning to get his GED and is interested in possibly becoming a Naturopath, saying, “I might even be joining you here in this class.” He also designs WebPages and does Reiki (a hands-on healing modality) and would like to pursue those interests more.
Another question posed to Abraham was one about his religious faith. With a Christian background, Abraham responded that “Jehovah, God, Great Spirit, or whatever you call Him or Her” helped him cope with his illness.
Both Abraham and his mother stressed the importance of mainstream medical treatments, but said they would like to see those combined with alternative therapies that don’t create side effects. “I’ve talked to hundreds who have been cured with alternative therapies. How can I not think they can work?” Abraham said.
“What we hope is by telling Abraham’s story, people can work together with the medical community for a broader understanding and that someone else won’t have to go through what we went through,” Rose added. She commended the students for wanting to help people heal.
Abraham, who recently turned eighteen and can now legally make his own health care choices, reminded the class of how important it is for doctors to listen to patients and to communicate positively. “When you talk to your patients, you affect them,” he said.
After the class, students lined up to ask further questions and to personally meet Abraham and his mother. Many commented on Abraham’s positive attitude and on what an inspiration he was. Professor Miller encouraged Abraham to continue his education, saying, “You’re a bright young man.” ~ Colleen Redman