For some, the diagnosis of cancer is threatening. For Michele Varley, her diagnosis of cancer was a challenge.
In 2003, troubled by pain to the right side of her abdomen, Varley saw her doctor.
"I was sent for blood work and an ultrasound, and told that I had the early stages of liver cancer," she said. "They told me about the protocol that they wanted to do: drug therapy, radiation and chemotherapy. Everyone that I knew that had liver cancer and followed the protocol had died. I didn't consider it as an option and I didn't do it."
First, some background on a few things that were happening at the time. Her aunt had been diagnosed with breast cancer that metastasized to her lungs.
"She had innumerable nodules on her lungs," Varley said. "Her doctor told me she had two months to live, so we should take her home and make her comfortable.
"I started raw juicing for her. I used a machine to extract the juice from raw organic vegetables, usually a mixture of carrots, celery, kale, dandelion, beet root, and beet greens."
After following the juicing program for a year, her aunt was re-examined.
"She had no lung cancer or breast cancer. No nodules were found on her lungs," Varley said. "That was an absolute miracle."
Her aunt returned to the conventional diet and lived five years. She didn't die from breast or lung cancer. She had cataract surgery that Varley described as "an absolute disaster."
"They put her on steroids and other medications," Varley said. "Her body was sensitive to those things. She ended up with a tumor on the brain."
Second, in the 1990s, Varley who was living in New Jersey at the time, was diagnosed with lupus.
"I was on many medications for lupus. You name it, I was on every kind of medication," Varley said.
She remembers the turning point.
"With the lupus, I ached all the time. I couldn't think straight. Emotionally, I was a mess," she said.
She'd put her kids on the school bus in the morning, go back to bed, and not get out until she'd hear the school bus coming down the street.
One day, her eighth-grade son knocked at the door.
"I wouldn't let him in. I didn't recognize him," she said.
Varley was frightened. She had two younger children. She loved being a mom and was afraid that she could no longer take care of them.
"At that point I decided to go cold turkey," she said. "I was done with the medications steroids and what have you. I was too whacked out. I couldn't be a mom with those chemicals in my body."
Varley did research, discovered a "Blood-type" diet, and followed it. In 2001, after moving to the Mahoning Valley, she was re-examined by an Allentown rheumatologist who told her, "Whatever you're doing, you keep on doing it because you have no signs of lupus anymore." She felt that her cure was based on the changes to her nutrition.
So, when in 2003, Varley was diagnosed with liver cancer, she began with a self-assessment.
"I had constipation all my life. I started to wonder why my body got the way it was. Even while taking the medication for the lupus, I was still constipated. With all those chemicals sitting in my liver and my digestive system, I can see where the cancer came from."
The cancer changed her life. She opted to follow her aunt's regiment of raw juicing supplemented with wheatgrass and other plant extracts.
After being on a self-imposed 100 percent raw juicing diet for six months, Varley was feeling better.
"I called my doctor and I told her that the pain is gone and I feel better than I have in a long time," she said.
The doctor paused, then replied, "I'm surprised to hear from you."
"You said I'd be dead by now," Varley said.
The phone went silent to the point that she thought the doctor had hung up.
"This is the last time I'll help you," the doctor said.
"My heart was broken," Varley sighed. "She didn't want to know what I did. That threw me for a loop. I couldn't believe that she didn't want to know."
Her doctor ordered blood work and an ultrasound.
"As I was getting the ultrasound, the technician kept asking me if I was the same person that had been previously examined. A second technician was brought in to check it. They said they can't find anything."
For Varley, it was a life-changing event.
"It was amazing," she said. "I decided that I needed to help other people." She enrolled in a correspondence course in nutrition at Trinity College, and in 18 months she became a C.N.C. Certified Nutritional Counselor.
In October 2009, she opened Nutritional Needs at 105 Broadway in Jim Thorpe where she enjoys sharing her knowledge of nutrition.
"I'm 50 years old and I feel better than I have ever felt in my entire life. I would never go back to my old way, and this is only the beginning of my journey.