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Cancer Free Since 2008 – Featured Healing Story

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Kathy Bero, a mother to two young girls, was diagnosed in 2005 with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. After receiving two devastating diagnoses – stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer and a high-grade cancerous tumor in her head and neck – she refused to accept the prognosis of death, and decided that neither cancer nor her doctors would determine her fate.

Here is her story in her own words:

“In 1998, my family purchased 60 acres of land mostly under the plow. We restored the oak savannah and prairie while setting five acres aside for our family home, horses, organic produce, and pasture raised livestock. In 2005, the unexpected happened and my idyllic rural lifestyle was turned upside down. I was first diagnosed with stage IV inflammatory breast cancer in 2005 and a high-grade tumor in my head and neck in 2006. With children aged two and seven, three dogs and a barn full of animals, I white knuckled my way through toxic treatments, surgeries, severe side-effects, self-advocacy, self-evolution, and an ongoing transformation to connect with my body's innate healing abilities to embrace my soul's higher purpose. Now, 18 years on, I’m thriving cancer-free.

When I was first diagnosed, my life expectancy was 21 months, a mere sliver of time compared to the years I've logged thus far. My healing from two rare and aggressive cancers demonstrates how our inner work just for today can change a disastrous outcome into an unexpected victory, and perhaps one day, nothing more than common. To succeed, it was imperative that I become a powerful self-advocate with a dedicated trust in my innate abilities to complete my healing. I refused to accept the prognosis of death and found myself tallying the limitations of conventional medical protocol, which led to my decision that neither cancer nor doctors would determine my fate. Despite taking advantage of everything my hospital had offered, my body was failing, leaving me to live half dead, seriously questioning conventional wisdom and hoping to not become one of the nearly 20% of patients that die from the side effects of treatment. For example, my cardiologist thought I was a candidate for surgery because of dense calcification found in my left artery. When I received that diagnosis, I upped my energy healing game and it worked very quickly. The angiogram that followed showed no sign of calcification in my artery, and even so, my cardiologist wanted me to continue with the heart meds. However, on the advice of my integrative medicine doctor David Rakel, MD, I chose to ditch the heart meds and only use high doses of CoQ10, Reiki, meditation, food as medicine, movement, etc. to recover. Of course, my conventional doctors did not believe it was possible to recover my heart, and in fact, I wasn't diagnosed with a serious heart problem until 2.5 years after stopping conventional treatment. So, clearly it does take focus, using the correct combination of modalities to recover. This is just one example of many that provides anecdotal evidence of the power of unconventional modalities.

Each day, without fully understanding what was happening, I found myself spending hours meditating and visualizing myself healthy as I underwent treatment. I blindly dabbled in finding another way during my first diagnosis, dipping my toe in the deep waters of integrative medicine without any support from my medical team. Meanwhile, my medical team, charged with "doing no harm," seemed to be killing me slowly by upholding the status quo of cancer treatment. I was left at a veritable fork in the road. It wasn’t until my second diagnosis that I decided if I wasn’t all in, I wasn’t in at all. So, after the near failure of many vital organs, I embraced the idea of that which you give attention to grows and turned my focus to using unconventional modalities rather than layering on additional pharmaceutical treatments. The striking improvement to my overall physical health impressed my oncology team enough that they supported my decision to finish the battle my own way. Currently, my case is being studied as part of Harvard University’s People Powered Network of Enigmatic Exceptional Responders, which is looking at individuals who had unexpected success battling cancer. How I did it is absolutely replicable. I know this because as an integrative health and cancer coach, I've helped many patients through their own difficult recoveries and have been inspired by their incredible success.

Through self-advocacy and self-empowerment, I used science in a way not widely done in the oncology world, and even though my team embraced my choices, I left a lot of doctors scratching their heads. In 2009, after having watched too many of my peers die from the beast, I decided to start a non-profit organization in partnership with my hospital system called NuGenesis Farm to teach how to eat with the intention to heal. Our unique work served thousands ranging in ages from three to 85, and used community gardens to train individuals, dietitians, chefs, famers, corporations, hospitals, schools, and many other organizations on how to use food as medicine. I whole-heartedly believe that true health care reform starts with clean, high-quality food, and was grateful to discover that my unexpected recovery offered hope and inspiration to others, including the medical community. NuGenesis ultimately served as a business incubator by using my story to lead a movement of sorts that changed the way southeastern Wisconsin viewed food.

The success of NuGenesis got me thinking about how I could take my message to a much wider audience and help countless others across the country. Hence, I chronicled my story in the award-winning, best-selling book "E.A.T. An Unconventional Decade In The Life Of A Cancer Patient," using the 18 journals I kept during my battle. Putting the truth of our current model of chronic illness sick care out front and center, will hopefully make it impossible to ignore that nearly 20% of patients will die from toxic treatments and another 20% will die from malnutrition. Like so many others before me, I was told that winning wasn't a likely option, but my willingness to dig deep, try everything and ultimately succeed proved them wrong.

My book is a transparent, honest, and relatable accounting of battling cancer through the prism of healing. I shared the frustrations and hardships of taking on a harrowing battle within the context of the U.S. healthcare system while illuminating the path I traveled to self-advocate, evolve my thinking, and transform my life from merely surviving to thriving. It is my steadfast belief that true health care reform starts with clean, high-quality food together with emotional and spiritual healing that not only improves the quality of our lives but prevents disease and improves disease outcomes.

When one door closed, I knew another one would open if I just turned the knob.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of November 2023, Kathy is thriving in health post-diagnosis.

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