SIX MONTHS TO LIVE
Dulce Gomez has six months to live. That’s what Cookie, as she is known to her friends, was told by her doctors three days before I interviewed her on August 15, 2016, at her home in Howell, Michigan, where she lives with her husband and two stepchildren. She operates her hair studio in a room around the corner from the kitchen. Cookie is a local expert hair stylist for curly hair as well as a cosmetology instructor and aesthetician.
Cookie’s home sits on five acres of countryside land along a dirt road off a main highway. There she grows the organic vegetables that supply a major part of her vegan diet. She recently bought eight baby chicks and a mother hen to replace the rooster and chicken that disappeared from the yard, victims, she believes, of late-night four-legged prowlers.
Might as Well Die Happy
I have arrived on the other side of a sleepover that Cookie hosted for her best friends the night before. As she is making me a cup of cappuccino, I meet her friends, Linda and Russell. They sit in during the interview.
Cookie has been battling cancer, which she refers to as “cellular malfunction,” since September 2015, when she discovered that she had breast cancer, triple negative, a rare condition that occurs only to Hispanics and African Americans under 50. Cookie’s background is Jewish-Caribbean through her father; she was raised Catholic by her mother.
At the time of her diagnosis, it was assumed by Cookie and those around her that she would go through chemo after the operation. She didn’t know about cannabis alternatives or complements, though she had seen anecdotal evidence long before her cancer adventure began:
Five years ago, before medical cannabis was legal in Michigan, my pet iguana almost died. It became lethargic. It wasn’t eating. It was dehydrated. I figured if he was going to die anyhow, he might as well die happy.
So she started feeding it chewed buds from her stash combined with magic mushroom. Lo and behold, her pet iguana’s health improved, it became active, and it recovered.
Making the Connection
Now, facing a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment, she didn’t make the connection.
But she knew about curly hair. For many years she had taught a course on the topic in Colorado and as it turned out a course was upcoming. “I wanted to teach a class before I started chemo.”
While she was there, a friend told her about cannabis patches. “She put one on my breast and it rippled right away. A few hours later she gave me another patch. The next day the lump was softer and it stopped hurting.”
Through her friend she was introduced to “two hippies in Battle Creek” who were experiencing major successes fighting cancer with alternative healing therapies. They introduced her to Gerson therapy, an extreme version of the alkaline diet that aims to starve cancer cells by juicing and souping, all organically, and depriving them of salt, sugar, oil with the exception of flax seed, meat, and dairy.
They also introduced her to and taught her how to make Rick Simpson Oil, a cannabis treatment that uses drops and juicing with cannabis that is 10,000 times stronger than the patches. “The hippies said they wanted me to be high every day so my resistance could get strong and they could test my tolerance because I needed a lot to fight cancer, but sometimes I’d be so high I couldn’t do anything.”
She began doing RSO therapy and went cold turkey on everything the Gerson diet said was bad. And she did more.
I did everything I knew how to do that was natural. I did enemas to clean my system. I began talking to my breasts and my lymph glands. I got rid of toxins in my home. I started cleaning my body and spraying my house with hydrogen peroxide. I read labels on everything including lotions and toothpaste. I megadosed on Vitamin C and drank aloe vera. When I returned to the hospital operating table, they found nothing in my lymph nodes or anywhere else beyond my left breast.
Choosing to Not Use Chemo
On November 13, 2015, Cookie had a double mastectomy followed by transflap reconstructive surgery, where fat from the stomach is used to create new breasts. She chose Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit for the operation because “University of Michigan Hospital just wanted to give me chemo. They weren’t listening to what I wanted.” Henry Ford didn’t require that she take chemo.
Hang in there and look at options. Don’t go with the first diagnosis from the doctor who says you’re going to die. Know that not every treatment is for everyone. Listen to your intuition. I didn’t feel chemo was for me. I had bad dreams about it. I don’t want to use it whether it saves me or not. I see others with triple negative. They do tests. In the end they just die miserably with nineteen rounds of radiation. I found four people on YouTube. They look like shit, and they’re dying.
The next month, an infection from the operation brought her back to the hospital so they could drain the dead cells from her tram. “It was my own fault. I was working when I should have been sitting. I lifted a crock pot,” she admits. “When they cut me, I was in the recovery room, not the operating room, and I got a staph infection. The nurses admitted to me that if I had been on chemo I would have died.”
In January, Cookie went to visit family from the Dominican Republic, granted two months of travel time by her doctor. “I went to heal. The Gerson diet is about starving cells. It was, but it was starving me, too. I wasn’t getting any protein. In the Dominican Republic, I still ate mostly holistically. I had lots of vegetables, spent time at the beach and with family. My status was fine. I felt great. But I didn’t get the cannabis oil I needed because they have strict laws there and they don’t allow it. I also fell off Gerson and started eating cake. That’s when I started coughing.”
She returned from the Dominican Republic in March. The results from her next appointment were good overall. But this past July she learned at Columbia Presbyterian in New York that her breast cancer was now stage 4; it had metastasized to her lungs. They said she wouldn’t make it a year if she didn’t go on chemo but they gave her no additional guarantees if she did go on chemo.
I should have stayed on the Gerson diet for two years before adding foods to my diet; that’s what the book advises. I was impatient. But as soon as I found out, I was back to Gerson. I’m also doing enemas, ionic foot bath, cleaning my body at the cellular level. I do juices and souping and blending, all organically. Overall I feel good even though I have a cough.
Then, last week, a test found mold in her liver and kidney that she had picked up from the dirt in her garden while she worked on her plants, and they gave her six months. “I was okay with a year. You can do so much, put your life in order. With six months, you better get working on it ASAP.”
Make Today the Best It Can Be
Cookie doesn’t know what her life has in store for her now. The doctors offered her chemo and gave her six months. They couldn’t promise anything beyond that time, only that the six months would be painful and uncomfortable.
Cookie doesn’t want to go that way. So she continues to try every alternative healing method she can find including a joy of life, a respect for its limitations, and a drive to use them wisely and spiritually.
Stay positive. We were never promised a tomorrow so make today the best it can be. Have friends and animals around you so you’re not alone and thinking about it. I talk to my plants. I listen to classical music. Refrain from negativity whether it’s from friends or TV. Let go of little things. Do lots of meditation; if your state of mind is right, your body will follow. Listen to your energy and rest when your body is tired.
On her bucket list of treatments to try is Ayahuasca, a Native American psychoactive herb that gives you an out-of-body experience and gets you in touch with nature.
Meanwhile, she has taken her encounter with death as an opportunity to learn more about it from the Kabbalist perspective, where death in this life merely moves you into another dimension in the next.
I have clients who want to see me but my story is so hard on them and I’m trying to be positive even though my energy is down. Death is something we all have to go through but people give it such a bad stigma. My parents were so afraid of it. They were “dying” every month, and that made me not take it so seriously.
Cannabis is a vital part of Cookie’s all-natural regimen. The experts can argue whether or not it “cures” cancer, but the jury is back on whether it helps in healing and pain management. It does. Fortunately, Michigan’s sane medical cannabis laws allow Cookie to care for herself without being labeled a criminal. She uses a high concentrate of cannabis drops and juices so she doesn’t have to smoke it. “Each one gives you a different high. The creepers take a half hour for the effects to kick in. When it hits you, it lasts a long time.” Cannabis is the only oil in her daily routine.
Could she buy two extra months with chemo after the six months and would they be worth the pain and discomfort? We never can know for sure how much time any one healing method will buy us, but we know moment by moment how every method affects quality of life. Cookie is choosing quality and doing what she can to get quantity as well.
I would rather let my body deteriorate if it has to. I want to die by the beach with my own hair.
The day after my interview with Cookie, she flew to New York to learn about treatment options at Sloan Kettering. In particular, she was hoping that they would be conducting any clinical trials for which she might qualify. They weren’t but they urged her to continue her vegan lifestyle, obtaining vitamins only from the source, never from vitamins or pills; and to continue her cannabis treatments. Her oncologist there agreed to work closely with Henry Ford Hospital; and Cookie agreed to take six weekly rounds of Taxol, an advanced-stage form of chemotherapy usually used after standard forms of chemo have stopped working.
On September 21, 2016, I called Cookie for an update. Cookie had just three days before gotten out of the hospital, where she had gone with a collapsed lung.
There was a half gallon of blood and mucus in my lung when I got there. I was coughing. I wanted to meet my maker right then. After they flushed it out, I felt way better. I wasn’t coughing anymore.
But, she said, she made the decision to give up the chemo after two rounds: “I’m still having side effects. I’m dizzy. I feel like crap. Plus, the port that they installed after my first intravenous dose got infected. That was a sign from the gods. What’s the point if I’m terminal anyhow?” Instead, she has returned to her natural approach, which includes eating buds every day and suppositories with Rick Simpson Oil.
She had an appointment to see her oncologist on the day we spoke but she postponed it because of an infection. Over the phone she sounded tired but determined, and at peace.