For Kate Hungerford, a long-time resident of the Culver City community in Los Angeles, cancer has been a continuous shadow cast over generations.
The women within her family, including her mother and sisters, have all passed on before the age of 50. Though administered with an extensive amount of treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, none were able to live on after a couple years from the first diagnosis.
“I saw a lot of tragedy as a child … I saw that none of those treatments worked for my family,” Hungerford said.
In 2003, Hungerford underwent the discovery of breast cancer. However, she refused to walk the path of her predecessors, instead deciding to forge a new path by seeking an alternative method of treatment. She said she has no confidence in formal allopathic medicine.
Her first decision on this path was the daring attempt at life without any treatment, a choice doctors strongly discouraged. Throughout the first four years, during which she took yearly MRIs, the tumor within the breast did not grow.
The tumor began to spread in her lung and breast in 2007. Again, her doctors told her that without serious operation, she would surely succumb to the fatal disease. With this, a surgery was planned after the course of three weeks in which the tumor would be carved out.
Yet, recalling how little treatment helped for the previous members of her family, she didn’t give up in her search for an alternative cure.
The first alternative she found was the macrobiotic diet, a way of treating cancer through the way a person eats. Using this method, she ate brown rice, minimized her intake of other foods up until October 3, the date of the planned surgery. And on that day, the surgery was canceled due to an unprecedented occurrence. The MRI scan showed an incredible development — the tumor had reduced to half of its previous size.
Hungerford was overjoyed, believing that she had finally found a way to live without utilizing medications such as chemotherapy. Broadening the range of her practice, she began employing methods such as the Gerson diet and the Optimum Health Institute, keeping the cancer at bay for another five years.
Yet, despite this triumph, the disease once again struck hard in the winter during a trip to San Diego. Due to the special diets low in carbs, her body heat was around 95 degrees, nearly three numerals lower than the average body temperature. This led to a severe case of bronchitis, after which the doctors found that the cancer had spread far into thirty-four bones, including the ribs and the spine.
Hungerford described the experience as “…very painful. I would just open my eyes in the morning and say, ’Oh good, I can open my eyes. Now let’s see whether I can get out of bed.’”
At this point, it became clear that there was no way to bar the inevitability of the disease without the intervention of allopathic medicine.
For Hungerford, who had tried for so long to seek an alternative solution from those that had failed her family, this was a devastating moment. At that moment, torn by an internal struggle between beliefs and the looming threat of cancer, she sought counsel from a senior in her Buddhist practice.
Buddhism advocates a belief that healing and wise choices come from within. As a life philosophy, Buddhism had been a supporting pillar in Hungerford’s struggle against cancer. In this philosophy, a crucial aspect and virtue is an open mind that welcomes different possibilities. Regarding this, the senior observed that Hungerford had closed herself from the possibility of healing through allopathic medicine.
“Go do what you need to do … pray for the best doctor and for the best medicine, so that you can be the best patient,” she said.
Thus, Hungerford began a new stage in her journey. With the use of a newly developed antibody treatment, most of the bodily areas affected by her two positive cancers were healed in the matter of three treatments without chemotherapy, surgery or radiation.
To this day, Hungerford continues to take the treatment, as well as practicing other health regimens.
“My decisions were never based on fear … my decisions were based on my wisdom … my absolute refusal to leave,” Hungerford said.
Hungerford has now lived over a decade with her tumor and continues to thrive both as an artist and a grandmother, contributing painted murals (amongst other works of art) to Culver City and beyond. And perhaps most importantly of all, she has, through unceasing effort, shone illumination unto the dark shadow of cancer.
“I no longer worry about whether my daughter will have to deal with this because my daughter has watched my victory,” Hungerford said. “I have changed a history of absolute tragedy to victory … I take nothing for granted.”