A cancer doctor's guide to living

Posted at 05/05/09 4:06 PM

In an inconspicuous house in San Juan, Dr. Christine Gonzales maintains a small clinic where she receives two cancer patients a day. The house has a calming air to it, hushing the usual sounds of the city.
Gonzales herself has a composed aura, emanating beyond her denim mini-skirt and white tank top. Yes, she does not look like the usual doctor and Gonzales prides herself in being different.
She has been going back and forth from California to Manila for more than seven years, treating cancer patients. Gonzales has been a doctor for more than two decades and had been practicing natural remedies for the last 15 years.
Both "natural medicine" (mostly herbal remedies) and conventional practice have limitations, Gonzales shared, and she has spent 15 years seeking a convergence in both disciplines. She initially stopped treating cancer patients to teach, believing that this would enable her to reach more people.
"What we eat defines us, food affects a person’s well-being and eating unhealthy food has its consequences," Gonzales told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

The value of life
In a city invaded by fast food, like Manila, Gonzales noticed that many young people are “floating” because of the trans-fats and monosodium glutamates (MSGs) in the food they take. “That’s why their brains are all messed-up. They don’t eat right. We should not just eat to be full or to have fun. We should eat to be healthy,” she said.
Food has the power to heal, according to Gonzales, and it likewise has the power to prevent the proliferation of cancer in the system. This is the concept she discussed in her new book, "Yes you can Prevent & Control Cancer: A Personal Journal for Daily Living and Total Wellbeing."
Gonzales said 80% of patients in the Philippines cannot afford the medication needed in treating the illness. A surgery ranges from P80,000 to P150,000. Even after undergoing one, there is no assurance of completely strangling the disease.
There are 21 known types of cancer and 19 of these cases can be found in the Philippines. The most prominent are breast, lung, and colon cancer. Apart from the journal, Gonzales will also come out with a series of small booklets that will discuss the different types of cancer and how to prevent them.
Gonzales believes that 85% of healing comes from the individual, while 15% comes from the environment, the family, and medicines. “I always tell my patients, no matter what I do, no matter what I say, if you set your mind that you won’t heal, you won’t.”
Although she can see more patients, Gonzalez preferred seeing only two patients a day. The logic was simple: “We don’t look at numbers, one life is big enough.” She said she learned this while working with Mother Teresa for 15 years.
Work woes
Gonzales came from Silicon Valley but moved to France in 2007, after 20 years in the practice of medicine. In 2001, she started a clinic in the Philippines, attending to cancer patients, both local and foreign. She said that half of their patients come from abroad.
In her eight years here, she had experienced several betrayals by her workers, threatening the clinic's practice.

The defining one was when her accountant took all the clinic’s money in 2007.  “I brought all my money to the Philippines and I [had] nothing then, I can’t even pay my assistants. I told them to stay for awhile and see what will happen," she recounted.

She was then forced to receive more patients to augment the clinic's expenses and the salary of her co-workers.
Apart from that, she was also betrayed by a doctor who worked for her and stole some of her medicine formulas. Both cases were painful for her. She came back in 2008 to close down the clinic, but found it hard to do so.
“I came back to close the Philippines [clinic] but [didn't] have the heart,” she said.
Shaving pain
Brought on by the depression and pain of being betrayed, Gonzales decided to shave her head. “I felt instinctively, somehow, that if I let go of my hair, the pain would go away,” she wrote in the conclusion of her book.
Sure enough after doing the deed, Gonzales felt “light and free.” Becoming bald was also her way of sympathizing with cancer patients.
“What makes patients depressed was eventually losing their hair when they undergo chemotherapy. Women considered it their crowning glory. And they get depressed when it starts to fall,” she explained.
“I want to make a statement. I wanted to reach out and let my patients know that they are still beautiful inspite of being bald," she wrote.
If the mini-skirt and ear piercings are not enough, the shaved head also became Gonzales’ “symbol of freedom”.
Months after, Gonzales received emails and text messages from friends from around the world asking about her condition. Apparently, most people thought she had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy all because of her shaved head.
“My friend emailed me and he offered me help in my condition and I was surprised to know such rumors were going around.”
Gonzales has been maintaining her hair at less than half an inch for two years, likewise living a free and passionate life.
“Its important to realize that life should be lived with passion,” Gonzales, a woman who on her first time seeing a tobacco plantation in the Northern Philippines ran into the pouring rain while screaming.

“I turned to my husband and said, ‘You married a crazy woman’ and he answered, ‘Yes’,” she said, laughing.
Dr. Christine Gonzales’s book can be purchased at the following stores: Wellness Institute International in San Juan, Metro Manila (+632 631 7794/ +632 726 5301), Global Vital Source Inc in Ayala Ave, Makati (+632 818 1088/ +632 843 2550/ +632 816 1360) and The Opta Cooperative in Loyola Heights, Quezon City (+632 436 3615).