The first thing most people notice about 41-year-old Beth Gomez is her striking blue eyes. It’s not just that they are beautiful, which they are, like dazzling topaz waters. It’s something more. There is an inner light, vibrancy, a love for life that shines through.
I’ve known Beth for almost a year now and still can’t get over her amazing transformation. Today, I’m meeting her for coffee at a corner cafe. I’m sitting at a table in the corner when she walks in with a bounce in her step and a gentle confidence, looking better than ever in a black tank top and jeans.
When I first met this tall, brunette beauty in 2009, she had just finished a courageous battle with Stage 3 colon cancer. At the age of 38, Beth insisted upon having a colonoscopy due to a family history with the disease. After the first doctor told her she didn’t need one, Beth sought out another who would authorize the diagnostic test.
Two months later, Beth underwent surgery to have a tumor in her colon, discovered during the colonoscopy, removed. She was recovering in the hospital when she learned she had cancer and would need to see a medical oncologist for follow-up treatment.
After an initial evaluation, the oncologist scheduled Beth for twelve rounds of chemotherapy. Today I ask her what that experience was like.
“I remember being so scared for that first treatment,” Beth says. “And then they wouldn’t let my husband come into the room with me. It was this tiny room and there were about eight of us crammed in there together. I cried the entire time.”
For Beth, it was the beginning of a downward spiral as she would become violently ill after each round of treatment. She couldn’t keep anything down — not even water. As she grew weaker, she asked her oncologist for advice on how to keep the food down, but was given little support. Instead, she was given more and more prescription drugs. At one point, the side effects grew so severe that the oncologist suggested she be admitted to a hospital. Beth and her family knew there had to be a better way.
“By this point, I had become a walking medicine cabinet. They had me on so many drugs and I was just feeling worse and worse,” she says. “I didn’t even want to get out of bed most days. About that time, my dad saw a commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America and asked me to call and talk to them to see if there were other options.”
Within just a few days, Beth found herself at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) near Phoenix, Arizona for an evaluation. During her first appointment, Beth was introduced to the members of her Patient Empowerment TeamTM, including her medical oncologist, naturopathic physician, nutritionist, mind-body medicine specialist and care manager.
Since they were all located within the hospital, Beth would have access to them every time she visited CTCA. She also had the comfort of knowing they were working together to develop a customized treatment plan specifically for her needs.
According to Edgar D. Staren, MD, PhD, MBA, senior vice president for clinical affairs and chief medical officer at CTCA, Patient Empowered CareSM advances care through health literacy, essentially giving patients more time and greater access to all clinical team members for more responsive, personalized care. This ultimately leads to a greater understanding of their condition, options and plan for treatment.
“Time is one element, but even more important are the value and quality of the communications and interactions with their care team,” Dr. Staren says. “When patients are provided clear and thorough information and an understanding of their condition, they are empowered to make educated decisions about their cancer care; we believe this will lead to improved clinical results, including quality of life.”
It was during Beth’s first hour-long session with her naturopathic physician, Dr. Shauna Birdsall, that Beth learned about the natural benefits of Zinc and B6 and how they might be able to alleviate her nausea.
Tears well up in Beth’s eyes as she tells the next part of the story.
“I went home that night and took the Zinc and B6 supplements I received at the hospital. I woke up the next morning and walked out to the driveway where my husband was working on his car. I asked him if we could go for a walk. Mind you, it had been months since I wanted to do anything but lay in bed. He tells me it was the first time he saw me look alive and well in months, and I did — I felt like my old self again. It was as though literally, overnight, all the horrible side effects were gone. All of those months I suffered and it was something as simple as two natural supplements that gave me my quality of life back.”
Beth says she gets emotional every time she thinks about that moment and how CTCA took her out of the downward spiral. Today, she is a consummate advocate for the unique integrated treatment model offered at CTCA, and for good reason. Following the guidance of her Patient Empowerment Team™, she looks and feels better than ever.
As Beth sits across from me recounting her journey from desperation to hope, a tear comes to my eye as well. It’s hard not to get a little emotional when you see someone who has been given their life back, and has taken that as an opportunity to become their best self.
Now I know a little bit more about what makes those blue eyes sparkle. Her story is an inspiration to me to seek out my best life, and a reminder to always get a second opinion. She is an inspiration and I know, for Beth, the best is yet to come.
*No case is typical. You should not expect to see these results.
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