I made the decision how I was going to heal from cancer. – Theresa DiNallo
Theresa DiNallo remembers vividly the moment she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2013.
“I was in the driveway,” the 47-year-old Chester Township resident recalls. “The kids were in the house and I had my cordless phone. When my obgyn called and told me, I just dropped to the ground. I couldn’t finish talking. I handed the phone to my husband. I was crying. I was so afraid.”
In a matter of minutes, DiNallo’s life was forever changed.
“The next thing I know, my house is filled with family,” she says. “I remember my daughter’s friend’s mother brought me a book on what to expect during breast cancer treatment.”
No one could’ve predicted that in a couple of years, DiNallo, an executive assistant to claims and general management at Progressive Insurance in Highland Heights, would be helping other cancer patients follow their own path.
A Difficult Journey
After a biopsy at Hillcrest Hospital in Mayfield Heights, DiNallo was diagnosed with invasive ductile carcinoma.
She says her doctors recommended surgery, radiation and possibly chemotherapy. More, including the stage of the cancer, would be known after surgery to see if it had spread to her lymph nodes.
DiNallo says she was told she might want to consider a double mastectomy as a preventative measure.
She met with a doctor at University Hospitals for a second opinion. That doctor concurred with the original diagnosis and treatment.
“All of it was scaring me to death,” DiNallo says. “I went home and read. I started to spend all my days and nights reading. I had to learn to decipher what was credible and what was not, but the Internet became my best friend.”
Ten days later, DiNallo, who, with husband David, has three children — Erica, 21, Natalie, 18 and Nick, 15 — made the decision she was going to treat the cancer using alternative medicine.
“I made the decision how I was going to heal from cancer,” she says. “My doctor kept calling and calling. I was researching and watching documentaries.”
DiNallo’s family was supportive of her decision.
“My husband and kids were scared, but very supportive,” she says. “They know I’m a very determined woman. If I set my mind to something, I’ll do it. So they knew there was no point in arguing. My parents were extremely supportive as well. My mother-in-law had passed away from breast cancer so my husband’s side of the family was more fearful. But I definitely had the support.”
While slightly nervous at first, DiNallo became more secure in her decision after reading the works of famous cancer researchers such as Nobel laureate Dr. Otto Warberg, Biochemist Linus Pauling, doctors Stanislaw Burzynski and Joseph Mercola and more.
She decided to seek treatment from Dr. Todd Pesek, founder of VitalHealth Partners in Lyndhurst.
Pesek is a holistic physician, medical adviser, professor and author who specializes in disease prevention and reversal.
He is Chief Medical Officer of Heinen’s Grocery Store, based in Warrensville Heights, and a tenured Health Sciences professor at Cleveland State University. He is also founder of the leading super foods and supplements company Nutritional Roots.
VitalHealth Partners is a private group medical practice that focuses on preventative, integrative and holistic healthcare.
Pesek did not return a message seeking comment for this story.
DiNallo says Pesek took blood and hair samples and reviewed her supplements and new diet, which she had begun on her own. She says Pesek changed a few things in her regimen, including the quality of some of the supplements she was taking.
DiNallo then went on a strict vegan, organic diet, drinking specific vegetable and mineral blends and taking approximately 30 supplements a day based on the levels of certain elements in her blood.
“The first thing I did was cut out sugar,” DiNallo says. “Sugar feeds cancer. I thought I had been eating healthy. We never ate at restaurants and I always cooked for my family. I would make pot roast, chili. I had to learn why I needed to cut certain things out. I had to really get into the detail.”
A basic staple early on in her treatment was a blend of iodine, baking soda and organic sulfur, which, for awhile, she drank three times a day.
DiNallo says she immediately could tell a difference not only in how she felt but in the texture of the lump in her right breast.
“My breast tissue became soft and the the tumor went from a hard pellet to squishy,” she says. “My body was soaking up the iodine.”
For the next year, she went to Pesek for weekly intravenous infusions of high-dose Vitamin C and received several shots of vitamins D and B12.
The treatment was not easy. DiNallo says her body responded negatively to the detox for many months.
“My body was releasing all the bad stuff,” she says. “I had a runny nose, achy joints, bad headaches and weird skin conditions. But the most scary was hair loss. When that happened, I was really scared.”
She says Pesek told her he had never seen that side effect before. Nevertheless, DiNallo carried on and eventually, the side effects went away.
“The first year, I was doubting myself a lot,” she says. “I was having crying spells. But I would cry, get over it and keep reading. Knowledge alleviated my fear. After about eight months, I just started to feel full of energy.”
A New Lifestyle
DiNallo is quick to point out that reducing her stress level was nearly as important as changing her diet.
“I had to learn how to let go of things within me,” she says. “I had to let go of stress and distraught relationships had to be mended.”
Despite having three active teenagers, she figured out how to cut down on activities and live at a slower pace, a change she says benefited her entire family.
DiNallo tears up and needs a moment to collect herself when she speaks of the third aspect of her treatment, which she says is her faith.
“I was raised Catholic, so I went to church because it was what we were taught to do,” she says. “But when you really need guidance, you have to have faith. You have to be willing to talk to Him and be open.”
She believes God was at work throughout her treatment, aligning things in her life to allow her to be treated holistically.
For example, just before her diagnosis, she had mended some strained relationships with family members and taken a less stressful position at Progressive, simply because she felt a calling to do so.
“I believe that God aligned things in my life so this could happen,” DiNallo says. “Had I not mended those relationships, I would not have had the support I needed from those people to get through this.”
She says she had reminders from God throughout her treatment, reassuring her that she was on the right path.
One afternoon for example, she opened her mail and found a newspaper clipping about another cancer patient who’d had success with holistic treatment. Someone had sent it to her anonymously.
In January 2015, DiNallo went in to Pesek for routine blood work.
“After looking at all the labs and everything, Dr. Pesek said ‘This does not look like the results of a cancer patient,” DiNallo says.
Because of her healthy lab results, DiNallo says she and Pesek consider her to be cancer-free.
She has not been back to see her doctors at the Cleveland Clinic or University Hospitals, but says she may visit them at the five-year mark, a point at which she says conventional medicine would consider her cured.
DiNallo says it upsets her that doctors are so quick to direct cancer patients toward surgery and radiation.
“We have a backward system,” she says. “And people are following it because that’s what they’re being told. ‘Cut, burn, poison’ is pretty much the standard of care today. We’ve lost touch with our immune system and how to care for it. Cancer is a systemic disease, it’s not just in one place, it makes your whole body sick. It has to be dealt with at the root. You can’t just cut and burn and poison cancer away.”
(This is the first of a two-part series. Next week, read about what doctors at two of Cleveland’s leading hospitals have to say regarding DiNallo’s approach and find out what her new role in life is.)