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This is the final excerpt we will be posting.
Chapter 33: Devon in San Diego
The drive south was long, hot, and boring, up and down through hills and towns, monotonous stretches between. Devon’s engine roared the familiar refrain of those he loved: Eric, Mia, Margot, Shawna; Eric, Mia, Margot, Shawna.
He used the time to mull over the advice he’d received from Professor Snipe and Doctor Rice. He’d done some research on his own in Berkeley before leaving, but the more he learned the further he seemed from his goal of finding an argument that would persuade Eric to return to conventional care.
Eric, Mia, Margot, Shawna. Eric, Mia, Margot, Shawna.
Devon was headed to the Cancer Treatment and Cure Convention in San Diego. After that, he’d meet with Doctor Doggett. He hoped to find the magic bullet there. He didn’t want to arrive in Tijuana without a clear plan.
The convention was held in the giant auditorium at the De Anza hotel. As he entered the hotel, Devon was noticed a couple standing at the front entrance. They looked as lost as he was. The woman suddenly got her bearings, broke into a smile, and showered the man with enthusiastic compliments. “Oh, darlin’! Thank yoou! I just knew it. I knew from readin’ that article in Woman’s Day the doctor was wrong. Look at all these nice people here. These are my breasts and it’s my life and I’m gonna find out how to fix ’em the way I want without that nasty ol’ surgery. Oh, honey, you just wait an’ see! You’re gonna be sooo happy we didn’t listen to Doctor Peavey.”
Her husband wore a cowboy hat and boots. His face lit up when his wife threw her arms around him and gave him a bear hug.
“Oh, honey baby! Thank yoou! Thank you for bringin’ me down here! I know we did the right thing. My hope and salvation is right here in this auditorium, and we’re gonna find it. Yes, we are!” She galloped off ahead of her cowboy, and Devon never saw them again.
Rival healers were set up in booths all around the auditorium. Every imaginable alternative treatment was represented. In the immediate vicinity of the door Devon saw booths promoting cleansing programs, healing waters, bee propolis, massage therapy, laxative therapy, wheatgrass therapy, biomagnetic therapy, and iridology. Some of the booths were small; a single presenter stood or sat in a snug cubbyhole and handed out brochures. The really big companies had booths sprawling with multi-displays. An intense agoraphobia gripped Devon. He sweated and shook as he wove his way through the crowd.
He was about to leave the conference when two presenters waved at him to join them. Both were plump and jolly and wore matching Polynesian shirts in a rainforest design—a mass of green foliage interspersed with little blue, red, and golden frogs. They stacked up their boxes of rainforest supplements, boxes decorated in the same design as their shirts.
“You’ll hear all sorts of contradictory advice around here, young man, but you only need to know one thing: Cancer is caused by toxic waste. Our rainforest supplements eat cancer cells. The scientists don’t know how they do it. If they read their Bibles, they’d know. It’s spelled out in Revelation 22:2.”
Devon took the brochure. Over the jitters now, and ready to explore, he walked inside toward the other booths. An entire subsidiary group of products and services had grown up alongside the various cancer cures. One booth advertised life insurance for the terminally ill. In combination with the viatical settlements advertised at the same booth, the life insurance was designed to provide short-term cash to cover the costs of the cures, costs that health insurance would not cover. There were air ionizers, water distillers, and rows of nut grinders, peelers, slicers, blenders, millers, and mixers of all types to aid in the preparation of “God’s natural cure for cancer.”
Some of the vendors and attendees walked around wearing last year’s pink T-shirts with Just Cure It stenciled in green letters on the front and The FDA Should Go Awayin black letters on the back. Others wore the new shirts handed out at the door, brown with yellow and green letters—Fight Cancer: Eat the Seeds.
Most attendees looked bewildered, but some faces lit up when they saw a friend they’d met at a past conference. A few political types had come to see and be seen. Most people stood in small groups and spoke about the one subject on everyone’s mind.
“The first thing I did when they told me I had cancer was sit down and cry,” said a timid-looking middle-aged woman who spoke to her friend. “My mother and two sisters had surgery for breast cancer. They both died later in a horrible way. I ignored mine as long as possible because I thought there was no hope.”
“You’ve got to have a positive attitude and be strong, dear,” said her friend. “If a wandering carcinogen happens by and sees an opportunity, he’ll sneak inside you and set up house. You can’t give him that chance.”
The first woman began to cry. “I know, but I can’t help it. These bad thoughts just take me over. I’m seeing a shrink. I hope it’s not too late to turn things around.”
Devon noticed that most people at the conference were white and conservative. Many looked like John Birchers. There was a whiff of religious fervor in the air. Plenty of country folk like those he’d grown up with were there, the kind of people suspicious of city folk, government bureaucrats, and so-called professionals. A few long-haired Birkenstock types were there too, but they looked out of place. Groups bunched together like competitive teams at a tournament next to the vitamin booths (vitamins aid in disease prevention), advertisements from local health food stores (eat the best, leave the rest), and chiropractors (align yourself with health). Placards and signs floated about in the air to remind everyone of the constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Freedom of choice was a big theme here.
Devon quickly became disoriented by the circus unfolding in front of him. He spun around and collided with a man in tan shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
“Confusing, isn’t it, son?”
“Gosh, yes—low protein, high protein, vegetarian, non-vegetarian—how do you choose? I had no idea there were so many cures for cancer.”
“Name’s Jordan,” he said, offering his hand. Devon was surprised by the firm grip.
“Hello. I’m Devon. Sorry I smashed into you. My brother’s in Tijuana, taking Laetrile treatments for his cancer. I’m trying to find out more about it. Do you know where I can find the Laetrile booths?”
Jordan’s blue eyes opened a little wider. “That I do, lad. I’ll be happy to walk you over there. Which clinic did you say is treating your brother?”
“He’s at Buena Salud with Doctor Milagro.”
“My word! Would his name be Eric?”
The shock of surprise showed on Devon’s face.
“How did you know?”
There was a twinkle in Jordan’s eyes.
“You might not think it, son, but I’m a Catholic priest. I minister to the patients at Doctor Milagro’s clinic. Eric’s a grand young man. He told me his brother would be at the conference. He’s looking forward to seeing you. He told me to say hello if we ran into each other, and that we have by the grace of God. He’s looking better every day, your brother.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” said Devon. He was distracted by a man speaking with a psychotherapist at the next booth.
The man was thanking the therapist: “You know, my doctor says you’re a communist, but you don’t look like one.”
Devon tried to refocus on Jordan. A few cigars stuck out from his shirt pocket. He certainly didn’t look like any priest Devon had seen before. “Well, I’m pleased to meet you, Father. It’s good to hear that Eric’s improving, but I’m not exactly happy with his decision to go to the clinic. To give up on conventional treatment, well…to speak the truth, I’m very disturbed by it.”
“Lots of my friends just call me Jordan, son. I don’t know your thoughts, but Eric tells me he’s uncomfortable with religion. I don’t want that to come between us. Look, I can well imagine your concerns. I know about all the quacks and charlatans that prey on the sick. God knows they’re everywhere. They’re all over this place for sure—all you have to do is open your eyes and look around. I come here every year to gather information so I can steer people like you and your brother away from the obvious swindlers. Your skepticism about Laetrile is a reasonable response, but you need to gather the facts before you set your mind. Let me say, lad, I’ve seen positive results at the clinic. Laetrile has helped some, not all, of the patients. Each case is a bit different. Wait till you speak with your brother and Doctor Milagro. Listen to what they have to say, then you be the judge. Don’t let the nonsense here at the convention prejudice you against it. There are many sides to the story. I suspect you’ve only heard the anti-Laetrile arguments. You should give the other side a fair shake as well.”
They walked along together. Devon’s skepticism grew as he saw one strange sight after another. A poster displayed on a large table read: the facts about fluoride. Next to a stack of brochures Devon saw a pile of white T-shirts with say no to fluorideon the front. The “O” in fluoride was red with a large “X” inside.
“To tell you honestly, Father… I mean Jordan… I don’t much like these odd remedies for the terminally ill. The victims of cancer should be with their families in real hospitals where they can get the best care offered by professionals using modern scientific methods.”
“Remember, my son, Eric decided to go to Buena Salud on his own. Eric’s no fool. I believe he thought long and hard before making that decision. He tried Stanford and rejected it. Modern doesn’t necessarily mean best. We all know that many desperate and vulnerable people are taken advantage of by quacks with evil motives. Slick salesmen have been around since long before the time of Christ. Modern hospitals have them too.”
Jordan stopped to pick up a brochure titled: “Do You Have a Carcinogenic Personality?” A spirited conversation was going on between the man behind the booth and a woman who had stopped by. “To be healthy, ma’am, you must think healthy thoughts all the day through or you’ll face dire physiological consequences.”
“I know,” said the woman. “My heart goes out to those who have already produced cancer in their bodies. I hate to say it, but it’s their fault. They created it.”
“I’m offering this free handout, ma’am. It’s a list of happy phrases to recite whenever you feel low. I call it The Cancer Prevention Cheat-Sheet.”
Jordan took Devon by the arm and pulled him away from the table.
“Once these folks reel you in, they’ll badger you till your ears burn! Look, son, we both know there are plenty of unscrupulous people, motivated only by greed, who sell useless remedies just to make a buck. Not all of the people here are like that, o’ course. Some are taken in by their own propaganda; they sincerely think they’re helping. As for your brother, he’s smart enough to make good choices.”
They passed a booth promoting organic health foods. Devon accepted a brochure that read: “Food low in nutrients will have the same long-term effects on the body that used oil does on the automobile—lower performance and greater wear and tear.” A pretty girl handed one to him. Her green eyes were accentuated by large-rimmed glasses, giving her a wholesome, studious look. She was tall, with long, straight brown hair tied back behind a horsey face, and had a great tan. You might think she’d just walked in from the farmer’s market wearing her dark blue apron with the ID badge that proclaimed in large block letters that she was Ramona Carson from La Buena Organica Co-op.
As she spoke, her green eyes sparkled. “You are what you eat, you know that, don’t you?”
“I guess so,” said Devon. “Der mensch ist was er isst.” It was the only German he knew. He wondered if it was to be taken literally. His wife, Mia, ate only fish, mostly shrimp. Did that mean multiple antennae would soon be sticking out of her hair? He chuckled at the thought. What if you ate a little of everything—meat, vegetables, fish? Would you become some bizarre chimera, half horse, half pig?
The girl thought he was laughing at her. “What was it that you said?”
“Oh, just a German phrase I picked up.”
“Well, dietary deficiencies arrive primarily from eating less-than-whole food.” She gazed at him provocatively as she spoke. “This is why the federal and state governments have mandated the artificial enrichment of white flour. How silly is that? We put good food through a process that destroys all its essential nutrients, and then, forced by government dictates, we restore some of the things that have been processed out. That’s just totally crazy, don’t you agree?”
She was cute. Devon liked the attention. He wasn’t impressed with the arguments, but he led her on as if he were in agreement.
Jordan watched from a distance, amused.
“You see, there’s absolutely nothing we can do to alter the infinitely complex machinery of life. All we can do is supply the missing components and hope for the best. Imagine you’re out on the freeway in a Cadillac.”
She marched along behind the table, moving her arms as if steering a car. When she bent down to pick up the pencil she’d dropped, her skimpy yellow shorts rode up in back. Devon had a revealing look at her long, slender legs and the curve of her butt. She had his full attention.
“The hood is locked and you’re out of gas. All your knowledge of mechanics isn’t going to help. All you need is to pour gas in the tank, step on the starter, and hope the gas gets sucked into the carburetor and the engine works as designed.”
She was vertical again, her face a little flushed from bending over. “When the machinery of the cell begins to falter or fail, you do the same thing. You put in those factors normal to the operation of the body. You don’t try to tamper with God’s machinery.”
She seemed satisfied with her recitation. Devon wondered how often she’d told the story and whether she always dropped a pencil when a man was on the other side of the table.
He tucked the brochure into his pocket. “Thanks. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to move along.”
He wondered what she would make of Jerome Rodale of Prevention magazine. Rodale had died of a heart attack on The Dick Caveat Show last year, right after saying he was going to live to over a hundred. Who really wins the race, the Paleolithic meat eaters or the Neolithic cereal eaters? Throughout history the masters and lords, the warriors and rulers, have all been meat eaters, while those who lived on roots and tubers, potatoes and maize, turnips, carrots, and cabbages and a few nuts and berries had to supplement their insufficient diet by chewing on coca leaves.
As Devon continued along with Jordan, they passed two men discussing prostate cancer. The larger of the two said, “Remember that shrink who claimed regular orgasmic spasms of sufficient potency are essential to preventing cancer?”
“Oh, yeah,” said the other with a grin. “Something about a connection to the healing rhythmic energy of creation!”
“I’m all for that!” said the first man enthusiastically.
“Me too!” said the other, and they slapped each other on the back.
“I think Eric’s made a terrible mistake, Jordan. The doctors at Stanford offered him a new treatment that might save his life. He didn’t even consider it. Instead he came down here hoping for some miracle. I can’t believe the nonsense I’m hearing at this conference. Most of the people I see here are completely nuts.”
Devon had to duck when two men walked through a side entrance carrying a podium, followed by two more with a microphone and speakers.
“You might expect a priest to tell you to put your trust in God and wait for the miracles, Devon. For sure, God does provide them, but he doesn’t pass them around like rusks with the morning tea. Many Christians fall into the trap o’ just waiting for God to do everything for them. God will provide according to His own will and in His own time. In this world, we must take responsibility for ourselves. You’re right to be cautious. I see all the desperate people here. I agree with you that anyone with an illness like your brother’s must be attentive and careful, but I also know that many o’ the surgeries for cancer are a waste of time and energy and money. The treatment they offered Eric at Stanford was experimental. Medicine has no proven cure for cancer. At this stage it’s all a guessing game. Desperate people will seek desperate solutions, sometimes without thinking them through, but that doesn’t mean every alternative is worthless. I’m sorry your brother is ill. He’s a fine young man—more than that, he’s become my friend. You should recognize that even the best hospitals in America have no cure, nor do the clinics in Mexico. Each of us is called on to sort out the options for himself.Your brother made a choice. Let’s give that some time. Things for him are beginning to change for the best in many ways. You’ll see that for yourself soon enough, and draw your own conclusion.”
Jordan walked Devon across the room to a row of tables. Approaching the podium was Mr. Laetrile himself, Doctor Elvin Krump. A crowd formed around him as he walked into the room, eager to hear him speak. Jordan whispered to Devon: “The man’s an icon among these people. His father was the first to discover Laetrile’s anti-cancer benefits. He’s carrying on his father’s work. Krump works with Russell Napier, who owns the company that manufactures the Laetrile for Buena Salud. I’m sure you’ll want to hear him.”
A tall man, a well-groomed reporter with a black beard, shoved a microphone in Krump’s face: “Doctor, do you think Laetrile will be legalized in the United States?”
“I won’t give up the fight until we win,” answered Krump as he sauntered along. An attractive blond in a long purple dress walked with him. The two of them entered like royalty. Krump himself was pudgy, with a pasty complexion and straw-colored hair that hung on his head in a mass of waves and curls. He had the look of a powerful but befuddled Roman emperor. His loose white shirt puffed out around his ample waist, and his pale purple pants, a bit too long, poured down over his brown shoes. Sweat marks had formed on the back of his shirt.
Another reporter accosted Krump. “Is it true you’re forming a committee to lobby Congress for legalization of Laetrile?”
“Senate hearings are scheduled. I’m not in a position to discuss the details at this time.”
The woman with Krump tried to sweep a path toward the podium, but the group around him persisted. He had to push his way through.
“I’ve heard this speech before, Devon. By the way, there are three different types of Laetrile displayed on the tables over there.” Jordan grinned. “You see, we have right-handed Laetrile for the John Birchers, and left-handed Laetrile for the hippies. Clinica Buena Salud uses the formula developed by Elvin Krump, which splits the difference right down the middle.”
“I take it that’s a joke, Jordan. The problem is, Eric’s cancer is dead serious.”
“In no way would I diminish the horror of Eric’s disease, but there aredifferent serums. I sense your unease, so I’m just tryin’ to lighten the mood. Listen to Krump speak. I look forward to seeing you again at the clinic. I have to go now, son. I’ve got other business here.”
Father Jordan left. Devon didn’t see him again during the conference. Krump’s speech could have become long and tedious had he not been unceremoniously interrupted. “It’s certainly a pleasure to be here at the Cancer Treatment and Cure Convention,” he intoned. “As I look back through time, I can recall the number of miraculous victories we’ve had in those intervening years. It’s as true today as it was all those years ago that Laetrile is—”
“Meester Krump! Meester Krump! Doctar!” A small man in the crowd, with a voice that crackled as if it came through a bad radio connection, turned his head from side to side as he tried to lock his squinty eyes onto Doctor Krump, who avoided the man and went on speaking.
“Every chronic metabolic disease that will ever be controlled by man must be controlled by means that are a part of the biological experience of the organism. When we are eating less than adequate food, we know better, and when we continue, we are engaged in sin. This is the basis for practically all of our physical, mental and spiritual difficulties. And, when we develop cancer we will receive the results of this transgression in the old fashioned Biblical sense—the wages of sin are death.”
“Meester Krump! I beg of you, pleeze hear me. I have evidence, evidence I say, that your Laetrile is not the recipe your father perfected. It lacks certain—”
One of the conference organizers approached the little man and took his arm to lead him away. The crowd was getting impatient. Some yelled, “Let him speak!” Others wanted him removed. “Get that troublemaker out of here!” “He’s a government plant!”
The man shouted in desperation as they led him off: “I have evidence, I say! A few vials… a lost formula… pleeze, let me speak. I obtained them from a healer in the remote mountains outside—” Before he could say more they dragged him away.
Devon thought the man had been treated unfairly, and wanted to hear him out. Maybe there was something to his story, something that could help Eric.
Krump picked up smoothly as if nothing had occurred. “Let me give you a categorical or axiomatic truth to take with you, one that is totally uncontradictable, scientifically, historically, and in every other way: No chronic or metabolic disease in the history of medicine has ever been prevented or cured except by factors normal to the diet or normal to the animal economy. Many erstwhile fatal diseases have now become virtually unknown. They have been prevented and cured by ingesting the proper dietary factors, thereby preventing the deficiencies that accounted for these diseases….”
The crowd around Doctor Krump eventually dwindled. They seemed an impatient bunch, and went off to other exhibits.
Devon walked outside the auditorium into the hot sun. He was happy to have met Jordan. He still questioned Eric’s decision, but he’d heard the same advice from both Professor Snipe and now Jordan. This opened his mind to the idea that Laetrile might not be so crazy after all. There were no cures for Eric’s cancer, even the conventional doctors had told him this. Stanford offered some unproven cure, but at what physical cost? Laetrile had been tested. The results had come up wanting except for one mysterious trial that Karen told him about. That left the door open—the door through his doubt. Who knew what lay on the other side, an enchanted garden or a deadly pit?
Devon’s eyes had adjusted to the darkness inside the hall. He balked at the bright sunlight outside. He had to compose himself. Time to meet Doctor Doggett.
To read more, buy the book at my Mendocino office (45051 Ukiah Street, above Mendocino Market), on the Think in the Morning website via PayPal, at Gallery Books and The Book Loft in Mendocino, and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online outlets including in Ebook format.