Updated: Nov 11, 2019
Jerome Freedman is a member of the Connect4Hope community and a 23-year bladder cancer survivor. He is sharing his story as a way to inspire more people to take ownership of their health and healing.
In January 1997, Jerome Freedman was surprised by the discovery of blood in his urine. A follow up bladder biopsy resulted in a diagnosis of Type 2/Type 3 Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer. This meant that his cancer was not just on the surface of the bladder, but had also penetrated into the surrounding muscle.
Jerome was able to take the news of his cancer in stride. He’d been a meditation practitioner for 25 years and knew the power of a positive attitude. In addition, his family had already lived through a life-threatening cancer diagnosis. In 1976, his seven-year-old son, Micah, was diagnosed with terminal, stage 4 kidney cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. Micah’s right kidney was removed and during his long recovery in the hospital, Jerome brought in a child psychologist who used guided imagery to help Micah cope and heal. Recalling how effective meditation and visualization were for his son, Jerome decided to use these techniques on himself.
Treatment & Healing
Immediately following his diagnosis, Jerome began (i) learning all he could about bladder cancer and (ii) mapping out his healing strategy. He was told he needed to remove his entire bladder and replace it with an artificial one. Not liking this option, he began searching for alternative treatments. A friend of his was a radiation oncologist and suggested a new protocol that could save his bladder. It involved radiation, chemotherapy and scraping of the cancer from inside the bladder. At the time, this type of treatment was only available in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital. Jerome’s doctor, located in California, was able to learn how to perform the protocol from the doctors at Mass-General so that Jerome could try it. Although the procedures were very difficult to endure, consistent physical and mental exercise helped Jerome remain positive. He continued his mindfulness practice everyday and played tennis as often as he could.
While Jerome continued on his journey to healing his cancer, he came in contact with Michael Broffman, founder of the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo, California. Broffman had a rich background in both Chinese and Western medicine approaches to healing. He recommended a very specific plan to Jerome that included acupuncture and different supplements for each step of his conventional treatments. Jerome took certain supplements prior to radiation and chemotherapy, another set of supplements during the treatments and the third combination of supplements post-treatment. Jerome credits this complementary treatment for enhancing his ability to cope with the conventional treatments.
In addition to the medicinal doctors, Jerome consulted with several faith healers, acupuncturists and massage therapists. These alternative healers kept him grounded and focused on each day’s tasks. He performed meditation up to three or more times per day while also practicing visualization techniques. Jerome visualized the cancer being removed from the inside of his bladder as well as images of himself participating in future life events following his recovery. In August 1997, he went on a meditation retreat with the famous Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh. These sessions, as well as conversations with others about meditation and cancer, had a very positive impact on his mental state. The continued support of his wife, family, and friends also kept him upbeat.
That first year of treatment was very tough for Jerome. With his healing protocol, he expected the cancer to be gone by December. However, this wasn’t his reality. He became very depressed for a time, but refused to give up. He continued with the supplements, exercise, meditation, and mindfulness.
In March of 1998, Jerome had minor surgery to remove the tumor from his bladder. Following the surgery, he began another treatment called Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), which involved inserting tuberculosis bacteria directly into the bladder via a catheter. The bacteria harnessed his immune system to kill any remaining cancer cells. Finally, 18 months after his diagnosis, Jerome was cancer-free with his bladder still intact.
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the cancer journey for Jerome. He had 3 recurrences between 2003 and 2013. Each one was treated the same way: localized tumor removal followed by multiple BCG injections. In addition to the aforementioned complementary treatments, he also added chiropractic, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Reiki, yoga, Tai chi and Qi gong to his healing protocol. Over the course of 16 years, Jerome battled and beat cancer four times!
When his cancer returned again in 2014, Jerome was back to square one with his treatments. Having cancer return twice in two years resulted in his reluctant agreement to have the originally recommended radical cystectomy (bladder removal). Before the procedure, he was once again treated with chemotherapy. He also decided to use Michael Broffman’s diet and supplement protocols as a complementary treatment. This time, Jerome took a different combination of supplements for the pre-, during and post-chemotherapy treatments and strictly followed Broffman’s dietary recommendations. Still not feeling comfortable with the surgery, Jerome asked his doctor for one final check before the scheduled procedure only to learn that the cancer had completely disappeared! The combination of diet, supplements, and chemotherapy had eliminated it.
Four years later, in 2018, the cancer returned a final time. This time it was more serious than before because it had been temporarily hidden from detection during routine exams and had blocked his ureters. As a result, Jerome could not urinate properly and, eventually, his kidneys failed. This necessitated the implantation of nephrostomy tubes in both kidneys to drain his urine. In addition, he had to take medication that caused problems with his digestive system for a couple of months. These were very difficult months, but eventually Jerome’s digestive system recovered to almost normal. A new procedure, immunotherapy treatment, was used to fight the cancer by either activating or suppressing the immune system as needed. As of October 2019, Jerome has completed 24 immunotherapy treatments. His latest PET scan shows, once again, he is cancer-free. Now that the cancer is in remission, Jerome is moving forward with his goal to fully heal his kidneys.
Jerome has been dealing with cancer for almost 23 years. While he hasn’t been in remission for more than a few years at a time, at this point, he views his cancer as a chronic disease that can continue to be managed; not a terminal illness. Although his journey has included several setbacks, Jerome has never given up hope. He credits much of his success and steadfastness to his positive mental outlook.
When asked how he has maintained a positive outlook for over 20 years despite multiple recurrences, Jerome explained that through his mindfulness practice he has learned to be present for whatever happens. He doesn’t look ahead and fear what might happen. He doesn’t look back at the genetic hand he was dealt and wonder “what if”. Instead, he listens to the diagnosis and the advice he’s given. He listens to his body. He listens and stays present for those supporting him. He continues to be in the moment with each difficult step along the journey rather than pretending it’s not happening or wishing it away. Instead of worrying about what tomorrow will bring, he remains present and positive each and every day.
Jerome credits his Buddhist outlook and the pure love of his family for his ongoing perseverance. He has never believed he would die from cancer. Family, friends, exercise, and meditation keep him going. When he was first diagnosed, his youngest children were 14 and 12 - too young to be burdened with negative thoughts about cancer and what could happen. He chose to be positive, watch his children grow up and become adults. His son, Micah, who survived stage 4 childhood metastatic kidney cancer is now 50. Best of all, Micah and his wife recently had a child, and Jerome is now a grandfather. His grandchild provides Jerome with another reason to stay positive and never give up hope!
Jerome wants to encourage others to get to know and understand their bodies while trusting their minds and hearts when it comes to choosing medical care. Each of us is capable of making wise choices regarding health while taking into consideration a doctor’s opinion. Jerome trusted his intuition to reject some, but not all, conventional recommendations while learning about complementary alternative treatments. He emphasizes that people need to be their own cheerleaders. As he says, “Know yourself well enough to be your own advocate. Listen to your body, listen to what your heart tells you and listen to your intuition. That’s the call for hope.”
Jerome’s Mindfulness in Healing website
Other books by Jerome Freedman are available at: https://www.mindfulnessbreaks.com/books/
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