Leanne Woodland and How She Beat Childhood Cancer

One of the things that has made our decision to treat Ryder unconventionally “work” (or at least a lot easier on us), is that we’ve managed to stay unified in our thought process and together on all the big choices. We’ve come across many families now who have one parent believing in non-toxic treatments and the other just wanting to listen to whatever the oncologist tells them. This causes a great deal of strife from within on top of the already stressful situation of having a child with cancer and it deeply saddens us to hear about these situations. That being said, in the days and weeks following Ryder’s diagnosis, you better believe there was a lot of chaos and uncertainty in our household as well.

We had slowly been coming around to living a more natural and healthy lifestyle but at the point of Ryder’s diagnosis we were still nowhere near where we are today. We had seen the Burzynksi documentary and one on Gerson as well, so we knew that alternative treatments were out there and that they worked on some people, but we still didn’t have much clue as to exactly what we should be doing now that we ourselves had a child with cancer. Especially early on after learning that Ryder’s specific diagnosis did not make him a candidate for Dr. Burzynski’s clinical trials and the FDA wasn’t allowing him to see any patients outside of that, we really didn’t have a clear direction in mind. We met a few wonderful people early on that were introducing us to concepts we still use today, but nothing was really clicking for us in terms of “this is what we have to do to cure our son.” I had a bit more time to research alternative treatments while Teddy was tending to Ryder’s immediate needs, but until you’ve been researching all of this for quite some time it’s hard to articulate for yourself how any of it works and I still had nothing to point to that said any of it would work for childhood cancer.

That was, until one of those people who was helping us out sent an article written by Leanne Woodland on her own story. Reading her story was one of those genuine turning point moments where upon finishing we immediately knew that this could indeed be done. If it worked for Leanne and her son with stage four Neuroblastoma, it could work for us and our son with stage four Neuroblastoma. Teddy must have read that article fifty times. Every time we’d start to have doubts going forward, we’d talk about Leanne and her son Drew and instantly feel a little better.

A Child Born Without a Stomach and a Massive Heart Condition

Leanne’s story of dealing with childhood disease begins not with Drew but with her second child, Jake. Jake was born with Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venus Return to the Coronary Sinus, which basically means his pulmonary veins were not connected properly to his heart and required multiple open heart surgeries to correct. On top of this, he was also born with a micro stomach, which meant his stomach was too small to hold any food. This too required multiple surgeries to basically build Jake a stomach along with inserting a G tube (feeding tube) directly into his abdomen as their only means of feeding him. All of this left Jake extremely sick and weak at all times, needing a feeding pump and supplemental oxygen for the first five years of his life. This also meant Leanne spent most of her life in the hospital with Jake rather than at home during those five years.

During those five years, Leanne gave birth to her third child, Aubree. Aubree was diagnosed at fifteen months with Mitral Value Stenosis, which is a narrow mitral valve in the heart. Compared with the problems of Jake’s she’d been dealing with and Drew’s to come, this condition was relatively minor and able to be treated with a one-time procedure. I make sure to say RELATIVELY minor though, as it’s amazing what these situations will do to one’s perspective. I’m sure if Jake and Drew had been born perfectly healthy, Aubree’s condition would still be earth-shattering to Leanne, just as we thought a couple very minor situations we dealt with after Ryder was born seemed like the end of the world… Until we found out he had cancer.

Then One with Cancer…

Now onto Drew. With Aubree’s procedure behind them and Jake’s problems, while still very serious, at least stabilized to the point where they were able to develop a routine and start trying to get back to somewhat of a “normal” life, Drew was born seemingly healthy. Within a few short months however, Drew started having problems with reflux and was not able to keep anything he ate down. Leanne tried all sorts of different feeds and remedies, eventually having to resort ironically to the same prescription reflux medication Jake was on just to try to help him keep food in his system.

At around a year old, Drew developed what seemed to be a common cold of some sort, but the problem was, he never really got over it. In addition, Drew’s overall temperament started to change and he went from being generally happy and complacent to very fussy and irritable. Leanne tried bringing her concerns up to their pediatrician at a check-up for Aubree but unfortunately she happened to be listing them off at the same time the doctor was listening to Aubree’s heart, so she didn’t really take them in and the concerns went unaddressed. A few months went by and Drew’s conditions continued to worsen. Leanne made an appointment with the same pediatrician specifically to address her growing list of concerns, by now with the sentiment that “something is terribly wrong here,” and that all these problems had to be symptoms of a bigger problem. She walked out of the appointment feeling brushed off. The pediatrician did not share her concern. Leanne would find out later this pediatrician had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and was consequently preoccupied mentally.

More time went by and the problems only got worse. Leanne wrote all of Drew’s symptoms down and set another appointment to try and get her pediatrician to take her seriously. Leading up to the appointment, Leanne happen to find a lump protruding from Drew’s groin while changing his diaper. She was at first incredibly relieved in finding it as she believed it to be a hiatal hernia, which would have meant an easily fixable source of the problems. She went to the appointment thinking she was finally on the road to getting her son better. Her normal pediatrician had been called out on an emergency so the appointment turned out to be with a different doctor. After listening to Drew’s list of symptoms and then physically examining him, the doctor abruptly got up and walked out of the room not to return for quite some time, leaving Leanne and her husband sitting there bewildered as to what had just happened.

When he returned, the doctor was accompanied by Leanne’s regular pediatrician. They both had a look in their eyes she knew all too well from getting the initial news about Jake’s condition years ago, a look we certainly have seared into our memories along with every other parent who gets told their child has a life threatening illness. The doctors told her it wasn’t a hernia but a large mass in Drew’s abdomen which was more than likely a tumor, and they needed to schedule an ultrasound followed by a biopsy immediately to find out if it was cancerous. The soonest available date was two days away so they went home to regroup until then.

The next day Jake’s G tube fell out and they opted to wait to get it put back in until they were back at the hospital for Drew’s ultrasound. Combining trips to the hospital for various issues would soon become common for them.

The ultrasound confirmed that the mass was extensive and likely cancerous. Leanne was told they would do a biopsy to find out for sure. Instead of getting time to process that information, Jake’s name was called over the loud speaker stating that the ER was now ready to reinsert his G tube. This of course, went badly. As the doctor was trying to reinsert the tube, blood suddenly started spraying out of the opening in Jake’s abdomen. Jake began writhing in pain so badly the nurses had to restrain him as he was begging his mother to make all of them stop. At about this time, the doctor noticed that Leanne was very late in another pregnancy (I didn’t mention that yet, did I?). This is also when a surgeon walked into the room and introduced himself to Leanne, letting her know he would be the one performing the biopsy on Drew’s tumor. The realization that this extremely pregnant lady was dealing with one son with massive heart and stomach problems and another with what was most likely cancer caused the first doctor to literally cry out “Oh my God!!”

After the biopsy, Leanne and her husband got confirmation of some of the most unGodly news a parent could hear: “We found the mass to be highly malignant making Andrew’s condition life threatening.” He continued, “The tumor is very large so we were unable to remove it because it has finger-like tentacles attached to Andrew’s kidneys, liver, pancreas and mesenteric artery, plus we found cancer in his bone marrow.” Leanne and all the members of her family had of course lost it already a few times in the preceding days knowing that something was wrong, but the specificity of the extreme and deadly nature of the cancer inside their precious baby Andrew took things to another level. They all sat crying uncontrollably in the hospital lobby until they got him back from the operating room.

Here’s Your Only Option

When Leanne and her husband regrouped and met with the oncologist, they were given the standard script. They were told first that this was in no way caused by anything they did or any environmental factors, that it was pure and simple “bad luck”. Of course, there were two, and only two, options: The most intensive protocol of chemotherapy and radiation available, or nothing at all. With the conventional protocol, Drew was given a 25% chance of survival. Doing nothing at all he would have had “maybe” six months. It was also made known to them that if Drew had been diagnosed before the age of one, his chances would have gone up by about 75%. He was eighteen months by this time. Leanne couldn’t help but feel a bitterness and resentment thinking back to all those trips to the doctor with her feeling something was very wrong fall on deaf ears.

Drew began chemotherapy and immediately fell into a very common pattern. They would be inpatient for a week while receiving a round of chemotherapy. Initially, he actually felt a little better due to the chemo “shocking” the cancer. This was right before Christmas and they were able to take him home and spend a wonderful Christmas together. The family had a great support system through their church and friends and came home to a mountain of presents for all the kids. The joy didn’t last long though, as afterwards the terrible effects of chemotherapy began to take their toll. Drew’s hair began falling out and he began feeling sicker and sicker, throwing up every couple hours throughout the day. His blood cell counts fell to dangerous levels, and just like that they found themselves hospitalized again for blood transfusions until the counts came back high enough for the next round of chemo, and the cycle would start back over again.

The strain all of this put on family life began to become evident. Leanne along with two of her children came down with severe pneumonia, adding exponentially to the frequency of someone throwing up in the house. Leanne had also somehow been homeschooling her oldest son Jeff alongside everything they’d gone through thus far, but at this point had to ask a friend to try and take over for her as Drew’s needs and hospital stays quickly became a full time job… On top of Jake’s continued needs for his heart and stomach.

Around this time, Leanne was informed the baby she was about to have was breech. They once again combined trips to the hospital, this time for an attempt at a manual adjustment of the baby inside of her to try and turn it around, induction of labor, and Drew’s next round of chemo. With the exception of coming out with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, baby Luke was born successfully, with no damage done from the umbilical cord or the initial breech position.

Life with Conventional Childhood Cancer Treatments

From there, the treatment would just become more and more intensive, keeping them in the hospital virtually 100% of the time. Drew had to undergo an excruciating bone marrow harvest and then the radiation started in addition to the chemo. Marble sized sores began to show up in Drew’s mouth from the treatment that went all the way down throughout his entire digestive tract and out his rectum. He also began bleeding internally and projectile vomiting during the radiation treatments.

As the treatments and all that came with them wore on, Leanne became bitter with God for the hand she had been dealt, and simultaneously her marriage began breaking down. Instead of stepping up to help in whatever way he could, her husband withdrew. He stopped talking about their problems almost altogether and would always be finding excuses to be elsewhere (or asleep), leaving Leanne on her own to manage the entire family in addition to attempting to accomplish everyday chores.

At one point, Drew’s internal bleeding almost killed him. He survived it, but his outlook began to look very grim. Leanne came to terms with God, but was also beginning to find herself planning Drew’s funeral. With the tumor still raging inside of him virtually unfazed by the treatment thus far, the doctors actually decided as a last attempt at chemo to put Drew on a continuous (literally 24 hours a day) drip for an entire week. A world famous surgeon was brought in afterwards as a last attempt to see if the tumor might at least be beaten down enough to the point he could remove it. The surgeon opened Drew up, took one look and actually threw up his hands and walked out, saying as he left that any attempt to remove that tumor would have killed Drew on the spot. The rest of the team was able to remove about 15% of it for the sole purpose at that point of making the end of Drew’s life a little more comfortable.

There has to be Another Way

At that point, Leanne and her husband were done putting their son through all of this torture and took him home, not allowing another needle or surgical instrument anywhere near his body. It was at that point they tried something they had not tried before, they prayed to God and asked Him to show them His wisdom in curing Drew’s cancer. Sure, their faith throughout the whole ordeal had remained strong with the occasional expected bitter rebellion, but they realized they had been relying on man for the cure instead of God, and for this they asked forgiveness.

It was almost midnight, and no sooner than they were finished praying, the doorbell rang. Literally. It was a woman they barely knew from church, explaining that her mother-in-law had really wanted them to have this book she knew would help them. She apologized for the hour and explained she’d tried stopping by with it several times before and had always missed them. Something (or someone) told her to try driving by this last time and sure enough they were there. The book was Prescription for Nutritional Healing. We have this book, from reading Leanne’s story initially. It’s huge and covers virtually every health challenge imaginable and how to heal from it with nutrition. Leanne flipped it open at random and landed right at the start of the section dealing with cancer. Again, literally.

After reading through the section she went through everything with her husband and they were in complete agreement that this is what they needed to do. The author made a point to say that they themselves needed (and had the power) to take responsibility for Andrew’s health and that God had created our bodies with the ability to heal themselves if they were just given the right materials for the job. For the first time since Drew’s diagnosis, they felt like there was something they could do as parents. They now had an action plan they could get behind and start working through. For the first time, there was hope.

They called a friend from church who was a chiropractor. He had actually been trying to impart this sort of information to them throughout Drew’s illness but like so many people they just hadn’t been open to hearing about it until this moment. Now, they were ready. They asked him to help them formulate a concrete plan and also to help them convince their oncologist to help them at an appointment that was already set.

When they got there, it turned out the oncologist along with another doctor had it in mind to sell them on experimental chemo. Not with any hope of turning the cancer around mind you, this would be purely for “research” purposes. Instead of living the last months of his life in peace, they wanted Drew, barely a toddler, to go through all of that torture again on his way out. Thankfully, Leanne had other plans and she was sticking to them. The doctors of course became very frustrated about this, with the oncologist actually getting up and leaving the room at one point. Incredibly though, a little while after she came back she finally said “I am bias toward drug therapy. It’s all we know, and it’s the only option we have for Andrew. If you want to pursue this natural option, I will support you in any way I can.”

The Transformation

After that, the first thing they did was to convince the oncologist to OK a G tube for Drew. They were of course already familiar with them after all the years of using one for Jake and quickly realized it was the only way they were going to get these large amounts of carrot-apple juice and other nutrients into their small child. She reluctantly agreed, and from there it was off to the races.

The regimen consisted of several supplements mixed into 5-8 ounces of carrot-apple juice five times per day. Leanne would prepare one serving of the juice, grind up a serving of supplements in a coffee grinder, add them to the juice and then strain the mixture to avoid clogs after allowing a few minutes for everything to soak in. She would then load the whole mixture up into a 64cc syringe and slowly but surely push it all into Drew’s stomach through the tube. By the time this whole process was complete, it was just about time to start the next round. Drew was also fortunately drinking from a bottle and liked the juice, so in addition, he was putting down two 8 oz bottles of plain juice without the supplements as well.

As I alluded to, this was basically an around the clock protocol. Instead of spending all their days in the hospital, they were now at home constantly juicing, grinding up supplements, ordering more supplements, etc. “Chained to the juicer” as many successful natural cancer survivors like to call it. That was just fine with the whole family, because now they had a sense of purpose in Drew’s healing.

In support of this new plan, the whole family committed (or more accurately, Leanne committed them) to a vegan diet consisting of 80% raw fruits and vegetables and 20% grains, abandoning all meats and dairy products. This was of course somewhat difficult at first to implement and met a bit of resistance from the rest of the kids, but Leanne and her husband stood their ground and the kids quickly realized that this was going to be the only thing on the menu from here on out and adapted accordingly.

Leanne was constantly taking in new health information throughout the process and continued to implement healthy lifestyle changes for the whole family. After buying all of this organic, pesticide free produce, she quickly began to look around her home and realize how many other chemicals in the form of cleaning products, personal care products, etc. they were bringing in. She immediately “cleaned house,” getting rid of all of it in favor of natural products.

After not too long on the program, the first thing they noticed in Drew was extreme detoxing. The nutrients were taking the place of and pushing all the chemicals from the chemo (not to mention everyday life) and the juice was completely flushing out his bowels several times per day. We’re talking the worst smelling stool you can imagine spilling out of his diaper all over the floor. But that was also just fine by Leanne. Although it was gross, as a mother she was much happier to see all of those toxins on the floor than inside of her son.

The life quickly came flooding back into Drew. After only a couple months he looked like a different boy. His hair grew back, he put on weight and his overall complexion was improved dramatically. Their oncologist was amazed at how he looked at a follow up visit, and even more amazed when the blood and urine tests showed that the cancer was decreasing! After only six months off of chemo and on their new nutritional and healthy lifestyle program they scheduled another round of tests. Incredibly, the blood and urine tests indicated there was no cancer left in Drew’s body, and the tumor was soft and dormant.

Andrew is now 24 years old. He’s an artist, photographer, and filmmaker. He is a living testament to the power of nutrition.

How Leanne Woodland Beat Her Child’s Cancer

Below is the exact protocol used, as written by Leanne herself:

“We chose Shaklee products because we believe they offered the best scientific research on all products produced and because the company backed up their products with rigorous clinical studies, research and development.”

  • 30-50 ounces of fresh organic carrot-apple juice every day.
  • Betacarotene: 10,000 I.U. (30 capsules daily for the first 12 days, then 10 capsules a day after that.)
  • Shaklee’s Adult Multivitamin: without iron, 3 daily
  • Vitamin C: 500mg sustained-release tablets, nine daily
  • B-complex: (complete B), six daily
  • Vitamin E: 400 I.U. with 10 mg selenium, six daily
  • Zinc: 15mg, three daily
  • Calcium Magnesium Complex: six daily
  • Garlic: 500mg is equivalent to one garlic clove. We used Shaklee or Kyolic, six daily
  • Alfalfa, fifteen daily
  • Herb-lax, 2 before bed, daily
  • Kyo-Dophilus: a trio of friendly bacteria, one daily
  • Kyo-Green: mixed in juice or water, two teaspoons two times day
  • Fiber mix: 1 tsp three times a day, mixed into Andrew’s juice, administered into his Gtube.

I recently had the honor of meeting Leanne in person, she’s truly an incredible person. She’s quick to point out two things that I couldn’t agree with more: 1) In order to succeed in any type of nutritional protocol with a small child, you have to have a feeding tube. I’ll point out that while she used a G tube, which is surgically inserted directly into the stomach, we actually got away with using an NG tube, which is a long tube inserted through the nose. It’s a bit more prone to clogging than a G tube with all the supplements, but it was one more surgery we were able to avoid. Either way, once again, to be successful with a nutritional protocol for a small child, there’s no question a feeding tube is essential. 2) Although the times have changed and there are new nutrients being discovered and supplements formulated all the time, one must be committed to the core principle that God created our bodies with an incredible immune system that is fully capable of healing itself if given what it needs.

Leanne’s story is also one of the best examples of commitment to a protocol and complete lifestyle change I’ve seen. So many people will dabble with a little juice or a couple supplements never really giving them the full dedication they require, and then come to the conclusion that “the natural stuff just didn’t work for me.” I love that she changed her whole family’s diet. Just like us, when you start taking seriously the concept that food can either hurt or help you, it’s near impossible to knowingly feed your family anything less than whole organic foods. It should also be mentioned that as a byproduct of the family’s diet and lifestyle change, Jake’s health dramatically improved and he was eventually able to get off all of the medication he had needed his whole life.

This story is also a great example of parents (especially mothers) knowing their child best. Not only in terms of knowing what is good for them, but knowing when something is wrong in the first place. Leanne knew something more than just a few unrelated symptoms was wrong with Drew, but couldn’t get a doctor to take her seriously for months giving the cancer time to grow and dramatically worsen Drew’s odds. We found a lump in Ryder’s back, he hadn’t grown in six months, and he wasn’t even crawling at close to a year. Looking back it seems the only conclusion one COULD draw from those symptoms was that there was a massive tumor in his spine, which turned out to be the case, but we also had to go through several doctors sending us home unsatisfied until we finally got the first fateful ultrasound of our own. At that point the tumor was so large it could have literally paralyzed or killed him at any moment. If you happen to be reading this and have a gut feeling something is wrong with your child, run with it non-stop until you either find the reason or become 110% convinced it was a false alarm.

The story of Leanne Woodland and her son Drew is what brought Teddy and I hope in knowing there was someone else out there who had been through what we were going through and was able to heal her son naturally so many years before us. We look forward to putting out more stories like this in addition to our own to show the world that there really is another way, that works.

God’s Peace and Godspeed,

Ryan

About the Author - Ryan Sternagel
In May of 2014, when his son Ryder was diagnosed with Stage IV Neuroblastoma, Ryan immediately turned into a full time "dadcologist" – spending long hours researching and talking with various cancer experts from all over the world.

With everything he and his wife Teddy learned, came My Kid Cures Cancer, a site dedicated to helping all those dealing with cancer navigate through the world of natural, alternative, and integrative cancer protocols... Especially parents with the unique challenge of applying what they learn to a child.

Aside from writing articles for the site, Ryan is an advocate and coach for families dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

In his "spare time" he, enjoys training for and competing in triathlons, taking advantage of all the outdoor activities their home in Park City, UT has to offer, and most of all, family hikes in the woods.

  1 Comment   Comment

  1. Elise

    This is amazing you guys. I’m fortunate enough to say that no one in my family has or had cancer, and still yet, this speaks to me. What an amazing thing you guys are doing against the grain of society and “norms”; I’m proud of how honorable you are to Ryder. ❤️ Thanks for inspiring us all to make life changes.

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