The summer of 1982 was a typical one for Doug Blampied, an insurance executive from Concord, N.H. There was only a slight hint of being a bit more tired and run down than usual. Doug's end of summer plans were capped off with a sailing trip around Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard with his wife, Nancy. The trip was enjoyable, and Doug felt rested and refreshed. When he returned home, however, he couldn't quite get his energy level back. Coming down with what he thought was a flu or virus, he went on with work as usual. But his fever wouldn't go down, so he finally decided to see a doctor. After a routine checkup, he got dressed and returned home to bed.
Six hours later the phone rang. It was the doctor's office, and the message was urgent - get to the hospital immediately! With questions and fears racing through their minds, Doug and Nancy quickly packed and headed for the hospital, where a battery of tests was performed, including a painful bone marrow extraction.
The tests showed that Doug had acute myologenous leukemia. Cancer of the spinal fluid was also discovered. Soon afterward, he started chemotherapy. A Hickman catheter was implanted into his chest. It consisted of a plastic tube that was inserted into a vein leading to the heart. It allowed the chemotherapy to be administered and blood to be withdrawn without repeated injections.
The chemotherapy caused a variety of side effects. Doug would wake up in the morning nauseated. When he tried to eat, he would usually vomit, sometimes as much as five times a day. He forced himself out of bed to bathe and use the toilet, only to fall back to bed sick and exhausted. He lost his hair, became very thin, and was listless and weak. He was unable to do much for himself except eat, sleep, and get out of bed once a day with assistance.
Although his chances for recovery were slight, Doug never lost the will to live. Several times his condition became so tenuous that the doctors told Nancy to make preparations for his death. Doug recalls, "Even though I felt unbelievably horrible, I didn't succumb to the idea of quitting. I had too much to do and wasn't finished with living yet. I would look at my wife and children and know I hadn't done all the things with them I wanted to do. I made up my mind to overcome this whatever it took."
After a month and a half in the hospital, he began to show some improvement and was sent home. Over the next eight months, he received chemotherapy at home and continued to experience severe reactions, including high fevers. He returned to work early in 1983, and monthly checkups showed his cancer was in remission.
In April, 1983, Doug underwent a bone marrow harvest. At that time only a few hospitals in the U.S. performed the procedure. The first step in this painful process was the extraction of bone marrow from the spine. A hole was drilled into the bone and the marrow was extracted with a special instrument. The marrow was then treated with antibodies, frozen, and stored. A team of doctors arrived from Johns Hopkins University to perform the procedure and to train the doctors at the hospital in Hanover.
At the time of Doug's illness, it was rare for a patient to survive a second remission for longer than six months. In June, a checkup revealed that Doug's cancer count was rising again. Doug and Nancy were devastated. The doctor suggested going ahead with the bone marrow transplant and advised against further chemotherapy since Doug was already in a weakened condition. He told Doug that even with chemotherapy, he would probably live only six months.
The bone marrow transplant also offered little hope. Doug and Nancy researched the success rate and found that out of the 50 or so patients treated with the procedure at a leading medical center, only a handful were still alive. With little hope from either treatment, Doug and Nancy agonized over their decision. After much deliberation, they decided to forego the transplant.
At a support group meeting, Doug was introduced to a copy of Recalled by Life. Encouraged by the possibility that macrobiotics might improve Doug's condition, the Blampieds journeyed to Brookline where they met with a macrobiotic counselor and heard Michio Kushi speak. Upon returning home, the Blampieds made some radical changes in their diet and lifestyle. "We decided to go for it," Nancy recalls. "We got rid of the electric stove, replaced it with a gas one; cleaned out the cupboards of the foods that weren't good for Doug; and supplied ourselves with a complete macrobiotic kitchen." A short while later they attended the Kushi Institute's Macrobiotic Way of Life Seminar and studied macrobiotic cooking with a teacher in New Hampshire.
Maintaining a macrobiotic way of life has been fairly easy for Doug, since he saw immediate results from changing his diet. "My cancer count dropped almost immediately, and stayed down. That was a pretty good incentive to learn to like the food."
With his cancer in remission, Doug feels that he is in better health than he has ever been. Now, eight years after being diagnosed with leukemia, Doug believes that getting sick actually changed his life in many positive ways. "I am a stronger, better person now. I see myself as more sensitive and understanding, and less directed at unimportant things. I spend more time with my children. I hug them regularly, and let them know that I love them and how much they mean to me."