When Jim McHutchison, an otherwise healthy 72-year-old from York, Maine, developed a cough and shortness of breath in the Fall of 2012, neither he nor his doctors had reason to suspect it was pleural mesothelioma.
“I never worked near asbestos in a shipyard or around heavy construction. I’m an advertising guy. I work in an office,” McHutchison told Surviving Mesothelioma. Noting that Jim had fluid around his left lung, his doctors removed it and pathologists confirmed that there were no signs of malignancy.
But two weeks later, another pathology report told a different story. Jim was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in March of 2013 and told he had less than a year to live.
“I said ‘What can we do?’ and my family doctor said ‘Nothing. We’ll do the best we can to keep you comfortable’,” says McHutchison. “I told him I never wanted to see him again.”
Instead of accepting that grim prognosis, McHutchison and his wife, Pepper, dug in their heels, vowing to find healthcare professionals who could offer them some hope.
Journey Toward Survival
The McHutchisons started by meeting with dozens of physicians up and down the East Coast, including mesothelioma specialists at prestigious cancer centers including Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General, and the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.
Everywhere they went, they were told that Jim’s only options were either radical EPP surgery, which he feared would leave him a “surgical cripple”, or standard chemotherapy, which is only marginally effective and has many side effects.
“In all, I had seen more than 40 doctors, all of whom had little hope, but would like to try to cut, burn, and poison,’” says McHutchison, who turned down all of the standard options he was offered and opted for a different approach to his mesothelioma.
Alternative Approaches to Mesothelioma Treatment
Because mesothelioma is so rare – only about 2,500 cases are diagnosed in the US each year – mesothelioma research is poorly funded and few medical centers have extensive experience with it. It wasn’t long before the McHutchisons realized they would have to look beyond traditional medicine to find help.
“One of the people I talked to was a good friend in the shipyard business who said he had known of people who had survived mesothelioma,” says Jim. The friend told the McHutchisons about Budwig’s Protocol, a cancer fighting diet developed in the 1950s by a German physician. Jim has been consuming the combination of flaxseed oil, cottage cheese and fruit every day for more than three years.
“It is something that Pepper and I do together,” he says. “She makes it and I eat it. It keeps our focus on defeating this cancer.”
Jim has also experimented with other naturopathic compounds and even infusions of Vitamin C. Although the McHutchisons are not certain that all of these approaches have made a difference, they are sure that their attitude has.
“I am blessed with a curious mind and I have never stopped reading, asking, talking and trying to find answers,” Jim says. “I believe that if I seek knowledge, I’ll gain wisdom. I’ll take my own good advice to the bank!”
Combating Mesothelioma with Immunotherapy & Positivity
Their relentless reading about mesothelioma and searching for treatments also led the McHutchisons to the promising new immunotherapy drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which Jim has been taking since August, 2015 with good results.
“I don’t know if I’m in remission but everything has diminished on Keytruda,” says Jim. “My family physician says I am a medical miracle and I feel great.”
McHutchison surrounds himself with positivity, which even extends to the vehicle he drives, a 1999 Mercedes that he calls his “bucket list” car. It sports the license plate “GO477” – a reminder of his goal to reach his 77th birthday on May 8th, 2018.
“I think the most important thing is to not give up,” advises McHutchison. “That is my message of hope. The medical profession is not where the answer to this disease is going to lie. You are not a statistic.”
Interview with Jim McHutchison, September 14, 2016