Ruth is the human interest reporter and a photographer for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Treating cancer with vitamin C

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Sonia Howes, 39, is treating her lung cancer with intravenous treatments of vitamin C. Photo/Ruth Keber
Sonia Howes, 39, is treating her lung cancer with intravenous treatments of vitamin C. Photo/Ruth Keber

A woman who was given 18 months to live is fighting for her life with vitamin C.

Sonia Howes, 39, is treating her cancer, positive non small cell adenocarcinoma of the left lung, with twice weekly 90g intravenous infusions of vitamin C.

Her oncologist has told her the treatment would not help treat the potentially deadly disease but like others in the Bay, Ms Howes has hope for the alternative treatment.

"The first of June 2015, was the day I got told I had cancer", Mrs Howes told the Bay of Plenty Times from her Oropi home.

She had been to Tauranga Hospital four times with excruciating abdomen pain, but each time she got there the pain subsided. Doctors thought it could be kidney stones or appendicitis, but nothing was showing up in tests.

"They did a full CT scan of my body because they couldn't work out why I was coming in. The pain was so bad, I would vomit. The scan showed I had a cyst on my ovaries but I also had tumours in my chest."

Ms Howes had one main primary tumour in her left lung with other smaller ones scattered in her chest and lymph nodes.

When she was first diagnosed her oncologist suggested that she undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.

She could not do it, she said.

"In the last year I have known seven people all family and friends who have all been diagnosed with different cancers, all have done chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

"Five of those people are now dead.

"It frightened me. It literally frightened me to do their treatment. There was nothing nice they were saying about it, all the side effects long and short term. All the drugs you have to take before you do chemo. It was going to be pretty aggressive.

"It had a 10 to 20 per cent chance of working. That was not high enough for me, with all the side affects. I have young children to look after."

Ms Howes has four children; Keegan, 21, Layla, 8, Jade, 7, and Seaton, 5, and one grandson.

Friends and family told her to investigate high dosages of vitamin C.

"I started Googling it, and I thought that's worth a go. I don't know if it will cure me but it might just help prolong things."

Twice a week Ms Howes visits Godfrey Medical, a clinic run by Dr Mike Godfrey on Cameron Rd and vitamin C is intravenously fed into her blood stream. Each treatment costs her about $200 and it takes about an hour and a half.

"The doctors were not happy, the day I said I wasn't going to do the drugs. I had five different people ringing me saying 'think about your kids' and I said 'I have thought about the kids and I want to look after my kids."

Sonia Howes is treating her incurable lung cancer with high dosages of vitamin C. Photo/Andrew Warner
Sonia Howes is treating her incurable lung cancer with high dosages of vitamin C. Photo/Andrew Warner

As well as the vitamin C, she has changed her diet and eats only organic, vegan food, has moved out of the city, goes to the gym everyday and has started meditating.

"It's the right option for me. I'm hopeful something will happen. Because I will not do their treatment, I am classed as terminally ill and I am going to die. I can't see myself going anywhere anytime soon."

BOPDHB oncologist Dr Richard North said Ms Howe's cancer was localised to areas which could receive radiation and chemotherapy.

"This means she has a potentially curable cancer if given radical radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Currently Sonia has elected not to have this therapy as it is toxic and there are no guarantees it will cure her."

The average survival with stage IIIA ALK positive lung cancer was two to three years although that depended on how much treatment a patient had and the response to that treatment.

"So far Sonia's cancer has proved to be very slow growing which suggests a longer than average prognosis, however we do anticipate the cancer will eventually spread and threaten her life without treatment."

Dr North said his understanding of the literature on vitamin C was that the trials had been negative.

"I have many patients who have tried it and have not seen any successes so far. I think it is more likely that Sonia has a cancer which has indolent (slow growing) biology rather than it is more aggressive but controlled with the Vitamin C.

"What is certain is that the Vitamin C has not made her cancer go away. Overall I think it is a treatment that costs a lot of money and benefits few if any patients."

Dr Godfrey said once vitamin C got into a cancer cell at a sufficient concentration it was turned into hydrogen peroxide which destroyed the cell.

Normal cells had an enzyme which broke down the peroxide to oxygen and water, he said.

"No-one tells patients that this can cure cancer."

"We tell patients that the process is very likely to improve quality of life in those debilitated by previous toxic treatments and extend life. In some, an albeit small percentage, the cancer seems to melt away even if already widespread."

Dr Godfrey said the clinic had 15 to 20 patients coming once or twice a week to get vitamin C treatments. The price depended on the dose ranging from $120 to $200.

Vitamin C treatments gave patients hope, he said.

"Instead of the no hope message so often given by the specialist in the white coat when everything has failed. Hope gives an important psychological boost that can make all the difference.

"Large cancer clinics in the USA and Germany have established that approximately 1 gram of vitamin C per kilo gram of weight is needed to reach therapeutic levels.

"In an ideal situation, intravenous vitamin C ought to be given in the out patient department but there is a perverse phobia against even the use of it for trauma and infections despite published proof in the top surgical journals that indicate it can be beneficial.

"It could also be given in between standard chemotherapy and is exceptional if given before and after surgery as it counters stress amongst other things."

Dr Godfrey said they did not advertise and did not want to be seen as a cancer treatment clinic but they helped "people get well by working on what made them ill and maximising health recovery".

Dr Godfrey said as far as recommending chemotherapy and or radiation, they gave their patients relevant information concerning their specific cancer to help them make their own fully informed decisions.

"That decision is then the right one."

Sonia Howes is fund raising to continue using the intravenous vitamin C through Givealittle.

To support her cause, Click here.

The history on vitamin C:

High-dose vitamin C has been studied as a treatment for patients with cancer since the 1970s. A Scottish surgeon named Ewan Cameron worked with Nobel Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling to study the possible benefits of vitamin C therapy in clinical trials of cancer patients in the late 1970s and early 1980's.

Surveys of health care practitioners at United States CAM conferences in recent years have shown that high-dose IV vitamin C is frequently given to patients as a treatment for infections, fatigue, and cancers, including breast cancer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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