Cancer in remission after woman uses integrative medicine (w/video)

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

Dec. 19, 2013 at 6:19 a.m.
Updated Dec. 21, 2013 at 6:21 a.m.

Annabelle Pagel's doctor gave her two weeks to six months to live in 2007.

Ovarian cancer had spread throughout her lower pelvis, and the tentacles extending from the tumors had tangled with the blood vessels in her legs.

"Your death date is not engraved on the bottom of your foot," Pagel said. "I wasn't going to take it sitting down because I didn't think the Lord was ready for me yet."

The Victoria resident owned an insurance agency before she retired. She began distributing greeting cards until the cancer forced her into a second retirement.

Through her faith and integrative medicine, Pagel pushed the stage 3 peritoneal cancer into remission twice.

Along with chemotherapy, she has used complementary treatments such as reiki, BodyTalk, nutrition and meditation to heal her body.

Pagel, 71, called MD Anderson Cancer Center when she was told she was terminal.

The local hospitals sent her test results to Houston, and she drove there two weeks later for her first appointment.

"It's a silent cancer," Pagel said. "By the time they find it, it's often terminal."

A definitive test for early detection of ovarian cancer does not exist.

The symptoms, which are typically subtle, include fatigue, loss of appetite, pelvic discomfort and swelling of the abdomen.

Pagel's only symptom was a swollen foot, which was caused by the tumor tentacles stopping blood flow through the vessels in her leg.

"I thought I was free and clear because I had a hysterectomy in 1999," she said.

Ovarian cancer can grow in the absence of ovaries because the lining of the abdomen is of an ovarian nature, she said.

Dr. Anil Sood at MD Anderson did not promise to save Pagel's life, but he did not issue her a death sentence, either.

The cancer was inoperable, but chemotherapy could shrink the tumors, which would allow the doctor to perform surgery.

Through a coordinated effort with MD Anderson, Pagel's local oncologist administered the chemotherapy in Victoria.

The treatment worked, and Sood was able to surgically remove as much of the cancer as possible, including 17 lymph nodes and the omentum flap over her intestines.

The following four chemotherapy sessions sent the cancer into remission, and a dozen less potent preventive treatments were performed.

While in Houston for her appointments, Pagel took advantage of meditation and nutrition classes offered by the Integrative Medicine Center at MD Anderson.

"Our therapies are evidence-based, and the practitioners communicate with the other doctors," said Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, assistant professor and director of education for the center's Integrated Medicine Program. "We are interested in optimizing health outcomes through both physical and psycho-spiritual, or mind/body, practices."

Yoga and meditation have improved quantity and quality of sleep, cognitive capacity and physical function, which are often diminished in chemotherapy patients, Chaoul said.

Various complementary therapies have reversed these and other detrimental side effects caused by drugs.

"I liked fried and fast foods, but the nutrition classes straightened that out," Pagel said.

Pagel limits her consumption of beef, lunch meat, soy and white sugar in favor of salmon, chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables and green tea.

Pagel met Melinda Pierce, a registered nurse, certified BodyTalk practitioner and reiki master, at a healthy aging conference in 2008. Pierce owns Simply Healing in Victoria with Sandra Hauboldt, also a registered nurse with the same certifications, and Kathy Perez, a certified practitioner in BodyTalk, reiki and massage therapy.

Pierce knew from the pink cap covering Pagel's bald head that she was most likely battling cancer, so she offered her a free BodyTalk/reiki session.

Pagel had a positive experience with the therapy and continued sessions almost monthly from 2009 to 2011.

"It helped with the stress and exhaustion caused by chemotherapy," Pagel said.

With BodyTalk, the body leads the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual healing, Pierce said.

"It is about putting the body at ease and in balance," she added.

Stress is an everyday factor that disrupts the cycle of self-healing, Perez said. BodyTalk reestablishes that communication in the body.

The practitioner taps the head and the heart to awake and restore the links. Muscle testing in response to questions establishes areas that need attention.

"Active memory is a common problem for clients," Perez said. "Even though they think they have let go of some event or fear from the past, they hold onto the emotion."

BodyTalk helps clients release emotion buried at a subconscious level, Perez said.

Reiki supports BodyTalk therapy, Pierce said. Life force energy, which is everywhere, is channeled through the practitioner's palms to relax the client's body.

"The subconscious becomes more open, and we get a better connection with reiki," Perez said. "The therapy is like peeling an onion - one layer at a time."

Pagel's cancer resurfaced in 2010, but six chemotherapy sessions sent it into remission.

"The doctor told Pagel the prognosis was not good when the cancer recurred," Pierce said. "I went the other direction and stayed positive."

Pagel is again cancer-free.



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