Control freak: How one woman took charge of her life and diagnosis

Marguerite-Rietz-1By Carol Hogan

Many things define Marguerite Rietz. She’s been married three times, lives in Birch Bay Village with her husband John and delights in a large blended family. In college, she marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. Now she hikes, camps and sails. She loves to sing and plays cello and piano. As an advocate for both traditional and complementary medicine, she champions organic food. But above all, she’s a control freak.

Last August, Rietz was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a slow-growing cancer characterized by the formation of solid tumors in the immune system that affects the white blood cells. With John at her side, she prayed and cried, and then she decided to take
control of her diagnosis and treatment.

Rietz opened an account on CaringBridge.com, a free, personalized blog for people facing various medical conditions, to communicate efficiently with her family and friends. In her first entry, she wrote of her optimism and shared her plans going forward.

“I understand (this cancer) is a better type to have,” she said. “We’ll learn more details and the recommended treatment at our first oncology appointment.” When her primary doctor suggested a second opinion from the Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle she arranged a telephone consultation with them.

“Most people think, ‘Well, the doctor will tell me what to do,’ and they stop there,” Rietz said. “But it’s important to find the right doctor.”

Her first oncologist didn’t feel like a good fit, so Rietz found another who prescribed 24 weeks of chemotherapy and was amenable to integrative medicine. Then she began assembling the rest of her team. Reitz’s squad includes a naturopath/chiropractor, her primary care physician, a pulmonologist and a nurse who spent hours rewriting lab codes for the tests she needed and ordered lung X-rays when her breathing was compromised.

“I told them, ‘This is my body. My journey. I’m not hiring someone to control my team. I’m the boss of my team,’” she said.

Next, she contacted the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, Illinois and arranged a phone consultation with Dr. Keith Block, a renowned expert on cancer treatment. He suggested a nutritionist, who developed a personalized protocol for Reitz’s type of cancer.

Reitz’s treatment includes weekly support for lymphoma through physical and massage therapy, and occasionally incorporates acupuncture. She frequently visits the Cancer Center Library and devours books about her disease; many lie stacked around her living room.

Her search for natural therapies and medicines to manage and combat her disease has proven successful. When she opens a large shopping bag on her kitchen counter it reveals bottles of natural supplements (with no pharmaceutical prescriptions except one) as well as  cannabidiol cannabis capsules and a vaporizer pen to battle the nausea and headaches induced by chemo.

While treating cancer with cannabis is a modern issue, the treatment was introduced as early as 2737 B.C., by Emperor Shen Neng of China, who prescribed marijuana tea for the treatment of gout, rheumatism, malaria and, oddly enough, poor memory.

On Sundays, Rietz plays the cello for her spiritual family at United Church of Christ (UCC) and every Tuesday she attends “Tuesdays With Books,” a book club affiliated with the UCC but open to anyone interested in reading. She meditates daily, walks often and practices Qigong, an exercise said to generate health and a sense of wellbeing. Everything she does builds positive energy instead of depleting her. For Rietz, it’s natural.

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