SIX NATIONS — This Thursday morning, Wahsontiio (Deneen Hill) and her daughter Teiehkwa (Jada Johnson) will be leaving for West Palm Beach, Florida to check in at the Hippocrates Health Centre on a journey of health and healing.
Early in August, 11-year-old Jada was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. After 11 days of intense chemotherapy, Deneen stopped the process after Jada’s severe reactions to standard chemo treatment.
“We have decided to turn to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida as an alternative to treating my daughter’s cancer because I just can’t live with the damage the chemotherapy will do to her body,” Deneen told the Two Row Times earlier this week.
This alternative medial institute treats patients with serious diseases, including cancer, and first opened its doors almost 70 years ago and has been treating patients from around the world with nothing more than pure, unprocessed foods, natural medicine plants, food supplements and fresh water.
The Centre was founded by Ann Wigmore who developed a simple concept first voiced by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, nearly 2,500 years ago: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
“The one thing that not just my daughter but also everyone really needs to do is change their lifestyle,” she says. “Stay away from processed foods, dairy products, refined meats. All that has to change, and not only to help cure diseases, but for basic health.”
Deneen has a friend who had a cancer scare a few years ago and she told her about what she went through. After the program and a major lifestyle change, and while continuing with the supplements the Institute provides their clients when they leave, her friend had documented positive results following the treatment.
Little did Deneen know at the time that she would be looking into the program for her own daughter.
“I always said if anything like that happened in my family, I would never go for chemotherapy,” says Hill. “Then, in the moment of absolute shock and fear of the immanent death of my child, I chose chemotherapy thinking that was the best thing for her.”
But after watching what the treatment was doing to her little girl, Hill couldn’t carry on with it and began looking for alternatives.
After she pulled Jada from the program, a doctor at McMaster University where she was being treated, told her that there has been some research done that may indicate that Indigenous children do not respond to chemo as well as non-aboriginal children do, and that the negative affects of chemotherapy seem to be more pronounced with Indigenous children as well.
The research has not been compiled and studied to the point where an official medial paper can be done on the subject to this point, however, the statistics seem to indicate there is a difference.
Because of the seriousness of her illness, when Deneen announced she was pulling Jada from the chemo treatments, and because of the CAS rules and liability factors, the family has been contacted and visited by CAS.
According to Hill, CAS has no issue with her decision, since she is still willing to be cooperative with the hospital and a doctor from McMaster will be tracking her progress.
Hill acknowledges that chemotherapy has a certain success rate, up to 80% in cases such as her daughter’s type of cancer, however, the lasting damage afterwards are worrisome and significant.
The cost to proceed with a US based holistic procedure and the considerable cost of specialized non-pharmaceutical supplements for years following the initial treatment are astronomical, but she and her family and friends are willing to combine pull together fundraising efforts to help cover whatever costs there may be.
This past weekend the family put on a benefit concert featuring, among other musical guests, Six Nations award winning pop and R&B singer Jace Martin at Hanks Place. The event raised $1,400, a far cry from what will be needed, but a welcome contribution nonetheless. Other fundraisers have been or are being planned on an ongoing basis as well.
“It is going to be very expensive,” says Hill. “And I would not be going at all if not for the help of family and community members.”
Deneen is just now beginning to find a level of peace after the initial shock of the diagnosis of Jada’s condition.
“I didn’t even think cancer,” she says. “I thought she maybe had some kind of bacterial infection or virus that was depleting her of her energy. I noticed she was gradually, over about a six-week period, getting to the point where she was just sleeping all the time.
“She played lacrosse and she said she could hardly run without getting really achy legs,” recalls Hill. “She was getting pains in her stomach and about a week before I took her for tests, she started getting a low grade fever.
“I’m not a mom that is afraid of fever,” she says. “It’s just that it was so persistent. She got a sore throat and slept around the clock for about four days. She lost her appetite and wouldn’t eat, and the last two days, her legs were really wobbly when she walked, like she was too weak to hold herself up. In lacrosse, she was always known as such a fast runner. I look back now, at what I saw on the lacrosse field and if I had really thought about it, I would have known something was wrong sooner.”
Seeing Jada go from what her mother knew of her normal energy level to having to go to the hospital was shocking enough, but then, the unexpected results of blood tests done on Jada broadsided her completely. Her once so active daughter had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
She was immediately put on what is normally an intensive 32-visit regime of chemotherapy, but after 11 days of hell watching her daughter in agony and violently ill, she couldn’t stand it any longer.
The approach to health as practiced through the Institute closely parallels Haudenosaunee traditional medicines and treatments, and so Deneen is quite comfortable with the basic ideology behind it and sees it as a cultural fit. There are no synthetic and pharmaceutical drugs used at all, only what the Creator has given.
She was told that without treatment, Jade had only about six months to live. But Deneen is being pragmatic about it as well accepting that, if in fact the program in Florida is not working, she will return to the chemotherapy treatments immediately, as a last resort.
“I believe that ones spiritual state is equally important as well,” says Deneen. “Whatever your spirituality is you need to have that to stay strong.”
The Two Row Times asks our readers to watch for more fundraisers for Jada and her family throughout the community and help if you can my donating or attending these events.