Peritoneal Mesothelioma Survivor: ‘Integrative Medicine Works’

Stories from Survivors

Beth Mixon believes God kept her around this long for good reason, a purpose just now coming into focus.

Mixon is a miraculous, 16-year survivor of peritoneal mesothelioma. She turned to an alternative and integrative approach to cancer therapy, rapidly gaining confidence in its worth.

“If God has this big purpose for me, I want to know what it is,” she told recently from her home in North Carolina. “You have to have a purpose to survive. Maybe this is mine, helping others, helping them understand options that the doctors don’t tell you about.”

The 55-year-old registered nurse worked a variety of specialties, including cardiac, dialysis, cancer, disease management, but decided she wanted more than the typical standard-of-care treatment she practiced for many years.

More chemotherapy and radiation is not what she wants.

“You have to look way outside the box to find good information on alternative treatment. There’s not a lot of stuff out there in the mainstream medical community, and that’s discouraging,” she said. “But when you learn about it, and how integrative medicine works, it will blow you away.”

Mesothelioma Survival Starts with a Lifestyle Change

Mixon takes an approach that starts with a lifestyle change: Less stress, a healthier diet and regular exercise. It means making peace and letting go of any anger or bitterness.

It also means incorporating genomic testing and blood tests that indicate immune function and inflammation levels, and taking a range of immune system strengthening agents.

Treatments will include taking all sorts of herbs and supplements such as pancreatic enzymes, fulvic acid, mushroom extract, spices from India and large amounts of green tea. She, too, must understand the disease at a cellular level.

“I don’t want those one-size-fits-all drug regimens,” she said. “The biggest obstacle now is finding a practitioner in conservative, rural North Carolina who is thinking outside the box with me. The average doctor is not going to know, or care about, this stuff. They are going to think it’s quackery.”

Mixon and her husband traveled to Orlando earlier this month to attend the Conquering Cancer Conference sponsored by the Alternative Cancer and Integrative Medicine group. It included three days of interaction with various practitioners.

If she knew a few years ago what she knows now about the integrative medicine approach, Mixon may have prevented the tumor recurrence she is fighting today.

“I firmly believe in what I’m doing. It has given me so much hope. There are people out there who have made a 180-degree turnaround because of it,” she said. “I’m not saying to abandon the traditional approach, but use it in conjunction with this, and know what else is out there. You have to do your research.”

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Hysterectomy Led to Mixon’s Mesothelioma Diagnosis

In November 2000, doctors diagnosed Mixon with peritoneal mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive incurable cancer. It is typically caused by exposure to asbestos, which causes scarring in the thin lining of the abdominal cavity and eventually leads to cancer.

Surgeons discovered her peritoneal mesothelioma during a hysterectomy that became considerably more complicated than expected. Surgeons did a complete debulking of the tumor cells but left her with a grim prognosis. Back then, the majority of patients lived less than two years after the surgery.

“After speaking to the oncologist, it felt like a death sentence,” she said. “It was just before Christmas, and I thought for sure it would be the last holiday we’d have as a family.”

At the time, Mixon was 39. Their children were 8 and 12, and she was homeschooling both. She and her husband had just moved from Asheville, North Carolina, to open a new ministry in Greensboro.

“I went through all the phases: Shock, denial. I was angry and bitter about how this could happen. I bargained with God,” she said. “If he let me live, I would do this and this, and everything I needed to do.”

She returned every three months for abdominal scans to watch for new growth. Then it became every six months and then every year, but no new growth was appearing. She was reading the Bible like never before, underlining passages, dating them and often referring back to them. She wore out pages in the Book of Psalms.

“Me searching the Bible for answers was huge,” she said. “I think a lot of my initial recovery after surgery was based on what I was reading. If you know you’ll get well, you will get well. The mind is a powerful thing.”

After 10 years, doctors told her there was no need to return for any more scans. Her children had grown up with a mother who doubled as a nurse. Her fears subsided, although she didn’t exactly know why.

“I really don’t know how I survived for this length of time. Back then, no one had any idea how to handle this disease. It was so rare. There’s nothing I can pinpoint, physically, that I did back then, or didn’t do, to stay healthy,” she said. “I just did. I think a lot of it was mental.”

Peritoneal Mesothelioma Tumor Returns 14 Years Later

It wasn’t until the 2014 holiday season when trouble returned.

She hoped it was merely digestive issues, but it was more serious. The tumor growth returned, sending her back to surgery that included a total debulking procedure, along with heated intraperitoneal chemotherapy, also known as HIPEC.

The surgery at the Wake Forest Baptist Comprehensive Cancer Center lasted more than 10 hours.

“Being a nurse, you understand the worst-case scenario, and it scared me,” she said. “Once you have surgery like that, there is a better chance of it returning. I was just learning more about integrative medicine. I wish I had studied it earlier.”

Her most recent scan in August revealed new tumor growth once again, yet she remains optimistic. She is dedicated to the ketogenic diet and to the vitamins, herbs and other supplements she takes.

She is uncertain about her next step.

“I do know from years of nursing and being around cancer patients that I don’t want to live out my life emaciated to nothing because of chemotherapy,” she said. “I want to try something different, and maybe that will help others down the road. Maybe I’ll be that advocate.”

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