Hawaii native Ann Rothstein spent more than two years of her healing journey through stage 4 cancer creating a 250 pound work of art destined for display halfway across the Pacific Ocean, in Fort Langley.
With each glass tile she placed into the giant mosaic titled “The Tree of Life,” she let her creative forces move through her and heal herself a little more.
The mosaic was created by Rothstein as a gesture of thanks to the Integrated Health Clinic and Dr. Gurdev Parmar, who treated her.
Rothstein first came to Integrated Health Clinic in 2012 with a stage 4 malignant melanoma.
She met with Dr. Parmar looking for different treatment options and some hope when there seemed so little of it.
The island artist was seeking alternative and integrative treatments that wouldn’t have the harmful side effects that the recommended traditional cancer treatments would have.
“All the doors were shut for me and here I am, doors opened, feeling so loved,” said Rothstein about her experience with Integrated Health Clinic. She flew back to Fort Langley last week to unveil the mosaic she has gifted to the clinic.
“Dr. Parmar gets me. I trust him. I knew I wanted a holistic approach to my cancer care, and I wanted to fight it every way I could,” said Rothstein. “Originally, I was going to go all the way to Germany to get this treatment, but then I heard about Integrated Health Clinic in British Columbia, which is much closer.”
Parmar is overjoyed with the art that now hangs in the waiting room.
“When she came to me, there was evidence of metastatic melanoma in her armpit, chest wall and liver,” said Parmar who has helped thousands of cancer patients, using hyperthermia and other integrative cancer treatments.
In 2010, Integrated Health Clinic became the first cancer centre in Canada to introduce Local-Regional Hyperthermia Treatment (LRHT).
What is Hyperthermia treatment?
Hyperthermia treatment has been researched and used to help treat cancerous tumours in Germany for more than 30 years, and is covered under that nation’s medical plan, said Parmar. It is approved in over 40 countries and used to treat solid tumours. In the 13,000 treatments Parmar has given there have only been five adverse events, which is blistering of the skin, he explained.
“It’s a very safe treatment.”
This treatment is not an alternative to conventional cancer therapies, but integrated with care that an oncologist would provide, he stressed.
“We don’t have an adversarial relationship with physicians and our hope is to have naturopathic medicine brought into conventional standard of care.”
Parmar was honoured to hang his patient’s art in his clinic.
“Ann underwent six weeks of treatment here,” said Parmar. In that time, Fort Langley artists reached out to support her and were there for the unveiling.
“I came here in a very cold December and these wonderful people of Fort Langley took me in, and now I have friends for life,” she said.
With loco-regional hyperthermia, the goal is to heat the target tissue to assist in treating the tumor. The treatment stimulates a fever, activating the body to fight the tumour.
Rothstein underwent both loco-regional and whole body hyperthermia. The treatments have worked, eliminating any evidence of the tumours.
However, she did have a recurrence just over two years later, when a small tumour was found in her back. For this, she received five shots of radiation from her oncology team in Hawaii.
“Today we can say that she has no evidence of disease in any part of her body since 2014,” Parmar said.
During her healing journey, Rothstein felt inspiration to create a mosaic for the Fort clinic.
“My art continues my connection to this clinic,” she said at the unveiling.
“This mosaic reflects my journey with the Integrated Health Clinic. My hope is that it invokes calmness and strength and love, and some sunshine, too,” she said.
The mosaic, including the crate it was shipped in, weighed 500 pounds.
Parmar stresses that hyperthermia treatment complements traditional cancer care.
“We are integrative and not alternative, and very much work with our patient’s oncologists. We communicate with our patient’s other providers from first consultation onwards” he said.
Currently Parmar is working toward getting Integrated Health Clinic’s five-year retrospective data published in a reputable medical journal. This five year study compared the overall survival and quality of life of patients dealing with seven most commonly seen cancers at the clinic, to the standard of care alone.
The data is encouraging enough that Parmar is now pursuing a prospective randomized trial to show that their patients fare better when integrating naturopathic therapies, including hyperthermia, with their standard of care.
“Anecdotally, at least, we have observed some exceptional case outcomes (with hyperthermia),” he said.
Patients say there is hope
One of those patients is Judy Billings, who was diagnosed with melanoma in 2013. She had cancer in her brain, lungs and pancreas.
She was supposed to undergo radiation and other treatments, but despite recommendations to integrate naturopathic therapies with those treatments, chose to only go to IHC for hyperthermia treatment. She also has included some dietary and supplementary interventions under Parmar’s guidance to her treatment plan.
Jose Gavina also came out to Rothstein’s art unveiling as a patient who wants to thank Parmar for “giving me hope.”
“I was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer which had gone into my lung in 2011. The prognosis was bad. I was given two to three years to live,” he said.
“I have been coming to Dr. Parmar for three years and my cancer isn’t gone but it’s stable. I’m still under the care of my oncologist but this is where I come to feel better.
“What Dr. Parmar gave me was hope, I came here and he said ‘let’s go, let’s do this.’ He gives you light and he’s a genius in his field,” said Gavina.
Advice to newly diagnosed
“Take time to consider your options,” suggests Rothstein.
“Organize yourself as a patient. Go deeper than what is first given to you by your oncologist. There is so much new information every day about cancer treatments. Be open to options, think about integrated cancer care. Look into hyperthermia treatment.
“The best care is an all hands on deck approach. Find someone you trust.
“Find a community of care. As you heal you truly go on a journey and learn to make peace with yourself.”