This is me… Daylin Haaland. I am a wife to my wonderful husband Eric and mother to three wonderful children. Eva (11), Georgia (10) and Liam (7). I have brain cancer. I also have multiple sclerosis. This is the story of how I have been treating both diseases, all thanks to the GENEROUS support of the Shine On Foundation with funding for alternative cancer treatments!
My M.S. Diagnosis
It all began with numbness in a few fingers on my right hand. The numbness slowly progressed to include my arm, torso, leg and foot. It was terrifying wondering what was causing the numbness. The numbness made it difficult to complete many everyday tasks like cutting with a knife, brushing my teeth, changing Liam’s diaper, doing the girls’ hair, picking up and carrying my kids. All jobs/joys I usually completed with my right hand or with both hands. I had a hard time judging pressure and grip and had periods of hypersensitivity that made even gentle touch extremely painful. Imagine my sadness at avoiding the touch of my children on one entire side of my body and enduring their constant need to apologize for “hurting” me as I sometimes called out in pain, trying to cope. The worry and fear about what was causing the numbness was all consuming “Did I have a tumor, ALS, MS?” It was overwhelming. By the grace of God, sensation returned to most of my body with the exception of my hand and I was able to begin using my hand again. Several months, doctor visits, tests, and trips to the hospital and after the initial symptoms began and remitted, I was finally diagnosed with MS in July of 2013.
Early after my MS diagnosis, I read a number of books, one of which was Terry Wahls book, The Wahls Protocol: A radical new way to treat all chronic autoimmune conditions using paleo principals and began to clean up my diet. I had heard of the paleo diet as treatment for MS and I began to eat more clean veggies. I eliminated gluten and dairy from my diet and felt amazing. I joined a gym and began getting regular exercise. I found I had endless supply of energy and felt my life had changed for the better, despite having MS. My MS has been stable right from the start and I have had numerous MRIs which have indicated no new lesions have been found.
About two years into the MS diagnosis, following a routine MRI, a local amazing radiologist commented in his report that the large left hemisphere lesion might be a low grade glioma. My local neurologist ordered a SPECT MRI and a PET scan. They concluded that it was not a tumor and I went back to life as it was. I had more frequent MRI to monitor the lesion.
My Cancer Diagnosis
We always thought that the large lesion that kept showing up every MRI scan I had was just that, a large MS lesion. It wasn’t until I was looking at the same MRI images and started to notice the lesion seemed to be changing and my neurologist didn’t agree. I decided to pursue a second opinion. I remember distinctly the day of the visit to the second opinion doctor (a neurologist who specializes in treating MS, by the name of Dr. Levin) in June of 2017. He went through the typical neuro exam and I thought to myself maybe it is not a tumor after all, but in fact, he was worried that it was a tumor. He agreed it was changing, slowly, but it was not as encapsulated as it had been. He sent an urgent consult to a local incredibly accomplished neurosurgeon (Dr.Kelly) and had a neuroradiologist take a look at the images. They both agreed that the lesion was reasonably changed enough to be concerned. I had a Functional MRI to map its proximity to my language areas and motor cortex.
Dr. Kelly referred me to a neurosurgeon in Calgary who was highly specialized in the area of glioma resections. I saw him on December 4th 2017, and he confirmed it was likely a cancerous tumor. I had surgery February 13, 2018… an awake craniotomy so they would be able to map my speech areas. I came out of the OR into the recovery room talking, answering questions well, until all of a sudden all I could say was “I don’t know.” I could understand everything that was being said to me, but was unable to respond with anything else.
I was experiencing Broca’s aphasia with apraxia. As a Speech Language Pathologist myself, imagine how frustrated I was knowing exactly what was going on and unable to do anything about it. I also couldn’t write leaving me without a means to communicate. I had difficulty getting my hands to work together and completing the activities of daily living required intense concentration. The medical team believed I was experiencing post op edema which as the swelling went down, my symptoms would improve. I was placed on dexamethasone (a powerful steroid). Little by little the swelling went down and I regained most of my function. I continue to this day to have the odd word finding difficulty. But as I have taught my patients to do, disclosing to the listener that you have a communication impairment puts both parties at ease and removes the pressure! So I am taking my own advice! I don’t do well processing information in noisy environments. Sometimes my hands do not work well together (mild apraxia). But on the whole, I have come a long way in my recovery!
I had heard of the Ketogenic diet as treatment for cancer before my diagnosis. I was convinced my diet was what was holding me back in terms of my gut health. I began using intermittent fasting and began following the keto diet for weight loss in October 2017. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. It became an obsession to gathering information and applying it to my life. Little did I know that this would be so important in the near future!
People say that everything happens for a reason, I believe that God knew what was coming and He knew I needed to be prepared. So He led me to the ketogenic diet. Since then I have read many books on the origin of cancer. I’ve read mountains of research articles written by world renowned scientists and physicians. I firmly believe that cancer is not a genetic disease, but rather one of metabolic origin. The research is too compelling to believe otherwise!
I believe that adopting all the lifestyle changes and nutritional adaptations was the reason I tolerated the standard of care treatments as well as I did. I breezed through radiation and chemotherapy, didn’t have to take steroids throughout and worked out every other day. I experienced NONE of the symptoms the medical oncologists told me to expect! NONE! I have been eating a ketogenic diet, eating organic produce, eating grass fed organic meats, drinking filtered water, reducing my exposure to environmental toxins ever since!
After radiation, I consulted with an American company called Terrain 10 owned and operated by Dr. Nasha Winters who wrote the book, The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet and Nontoxic Bio-individualized Therapies. I also consulted with a local Naturopathic doctor, Dr. Laura Stark. Since I had done so much research on my own into alternative treatments for cancer, especially brain cancer, they said I was on the right track, only needed to fine tune my cancer protocol.
I began infusions of high dose vitamin C with mistletoe twice per week along with a number of supplements I was taking orally, under the care of Dr. Stark and her team of incredible nurses. The purpose of the infusions and supplements were to boost my immune system and start to heal my brain and body from the damage done by radiation and chemotherapy. My first infusion was in January, 2019. All of which have been graciously funded by Shine On.
Through my work at the hospital, I come into contact with so many people who are in serious health crisis, terminally ill, facing lifetime disabilities, and often the end of life. I may someday have similar struggles, but for now, I do not. I wake up and get myself up and ready for the day, walk and talk with my husband and children as they get ready for the day. I can and do everything for myself without struggle or disability. My day is full of celebration as I celebrate each step, each thought, each conversation, each swallow that takes place without effort or interruption.
Today I am optimistic about my prognosis and the progression of my disease. As cliché as it is to say, this diagnosis has made me grateful beyond words for each day I walk, talk, eat, and think clearly on my own. It is making me a more present mummy and wife, who can see the calm in chaos, the beauty in the mess, and joy in the small things. It has made me a more compassionate clinician who now knows the devastation and disorder an illness or diagnosis brings.
For me, the celebration is in the everyday. I really do have so much for which I am grateful! I must focus on the positive and surround myself with positivity.
I believe in healing. My faith has brought me through difficult days and been my source of strength of spirit. I choose to let God in and to give Him the chance to show me how powerful he is in taking care of me, providing for me and continuing to heal me.
I have focused on health, not illness. I believe in my brain’s ability to heal itself and am doing everything I can to help it do just that, protect and heal all my normal and abnormal brain cells. I believe that the choices I make for health will have an impact on how my disease progresses and I choose health!
I will be forever grateful to the Shine On Foundation for giving me the financial freedom to pursue these alternative treatments which I believe have made all the difference in the course of my treatment. My last MRI showed no sign of recurrent or residual disease!