A Holistic Approach to My Husband’s Watermelon Belly

A Holistic Approach to My Husband’s Watermelon Belly


I pasted a photo of my husband’s belly into an email and hit send. “That felt odd,” I said out loud to myself.

Gary’s belly was the shape of an over-ripe watermelon, and in the weird light of late afternoon, it had taken on an orange tone. It was as if he’d sneaked some of my self-tanning lotion and used way too much. I hoped that Isaac Eliaz, an integrative doctor I’d just met, would have a new idea about how to treat him.

About four years ago, back when I was in chemotherapy, I decided to freeze my head to save my hair. The theory behind this “technology” is that when the scalp is frozen, chemo meds can’t circulate there, so the hair doesn’t fall out.

Many hospitals now have FDA-approved machines that help patients with this process, but I was one year too early to use them. When I tried it, I had to bring four massive coolers full of dry ice and a 16-pack of helmet-shaped gel bags into the infusion room. Wearing special gloves, Gary would snag a helmet from a cooler, and we would wrangle it onto my head, synching it tightly with velcro. Every 30 minutes, we replaced it with a fresh one to ensure my scalp stayed good and frozen. Yes, it was miserable. And no, it didn’t work for me. My hair fell out anyway.

Gary’s belly swelled like an overripe melon. (Photo by Nancy Brier)

But this is a story about Gary’s belly.

In the process of handling all that dry ice, Gary got a few lungfuls too many of the fumes that the ice emits. We had to transport it in our car, and even though we had stored it in sealed coolers, the air in that vehicle was dense with CO2. Then, over the course of my seven-hour-long infusions, he got fresh whiffs of the fumes every time he opened and closed a cooler. Ultimately, it made him sick.

“It’s anxiety,” one doctor told him. He prescribed anti-anxiety medication and told Gary to see a therapist.

“You’re having a fight-or-flight experience,” the therapist told him, and he recommended breathing exercises.

“You need a scope,” a third expert said. We scheduled the procedure.

“You have H pylori,” another physician told us. “SIBO too.” These diseases are serious stomach conditions that are tricky to heal. Gary wound up taking a 10-day course of antibiotics that wiped him out.

Since I was in chemo at the time and our daughter was only 10 years old, things weren’t that fun around our house.

For a while, Gary’s belly issues got better. But then they got worse again. This miserable cycle has been repeating itself for four years, and I sometimes wonder if it will go away on its own when I finally hit my five-year-mark — that elusive date when my cancer risk plummets. But last month, a specialist prescribed antibiotics again.

That’s where Dr. Eliaz comes in.

He’s a holistic physician who specializes in integrative oncology. He’s unlike any other doctor I’ve met: an East-meets-West kind of guy who believes in the power of mindfulness and a holistic approach to healing. A licensed acupuncturist and a serious student of Tibetan Buddhism, Dr. Eliaz meditates daily and has developed products that reflect his philosophy of the body’s natural abilities to heal. His flagship product is PectaSol-C modified citrus pectin.

“There’s no inside the box or outside the box,” he said when we talked. “There’s no box. Everybody’s different.”

As an entrepreneur, I’ve lived by this philosophy for the past 20 years. This mindset has allowed me to quit my cushy job in international strategic planning in New York to open a laundromat in California. Yes, my wardrobe took a hit during that transition, but my lifestyle improved immensely and put me on a much happier life trajectory.

Although many people talk about thinking outside the box, very few people actually do it. And while I remain profoundly grateful for the expertise that saved my life, I sometimes suspect that medical professionals could benefit from a little more creativity.

Dr. Eliaz had my attention. I decided to make an appointment to see him, but since Gary happened to be in Northern California where the doctor is based, he got to see him first.

And as I had hoped, this doctor-healer is taking a different approach to helping my husband to heal.

Cancer is an octopus stretching its long arms in every direction and muddying up the water with dark squirts of ink. Somehow, it snared my husband’s belly in its orbit of influence. But within this same orbit, I’ve met all sorts of remarkable people, and I’ve seen miracles that light up my life.

Trailblazers like Dr. Eliaz are among them.

Editor’s note: Nancy did not receive compensation from Dr. Isaac Eliaz to write about his services.


Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.

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