And so began, The Stern Method
In May of 2013, Ryder was born.
During the first year of his life and even leading up to his birth, we had begun earnestly paying attention to our health as a family.
We (Ryan and Teddy) both had started listening to health podcasts, and in the evenings we switched to watching health documentaries from TV and movies.
We had begun buying organic food, stopped using anything wireless, Ryder was born with a midwife who was also a naturopathic doctor in a birth center, he slept on an organic mattress, and so on.
We weren’t quite living the life we are today, but we had made many very meaningful changes and were excited to continue learning and fostering the best possible environment for Ryder’s physical and mental development.
In May of 2014, while Teddy was nursing him, she noticed a lump in Ryder’s back right next to his spine.
It was not large, but it was there. We immediately made an appointment to see his pediatrician.
At that point, individual concerns we’d had about Ryder’s development, combined with the lump, started adding up to a growing concern it could all be something more serious.
- Ryder was turning one year old that month and was nowhere near even being able to crawl much less even turn over.
- He had stopped growing at around six months of age. After being born above the 90th percentile in both height and weight, he had dropped down to the 25th.
- Ryder could not handle any solid food and would gag whenever we tried to feed him anything.
- His right foot was almost non-responsive to touch and tickling compared to his left.
Being first time parents, these concerns had always been explained away to us as “they all develop at their own pace.”
Surprisingly, even combined with the lump in Ryder’s back they were still brushed off…
First by his pediatrician who told us we needed to go to physical therapy for crawling and speech therapy for eating (which we did not do, and insisted on being referred to a hospital)…
Then by a physician’s assistant at the hospital who took an X-Ray, saw only that Ryder was constipated (another thing that was new and concerning), and told us to “wait and see” and come back in six weeks.
We didn’t do that either…
We knew something just wasn’t right and kept pressing for answers.
Teddy had been scouring the internet at this point and came upon “neuroblastoma,” a childhood cancer of the nervous system, and was pretty well convinced this was what we were dealing with.
The doctors were still assuring us it wasn’t cancer but finally granted an ultrasound which immediately led to an MRI on May 16th, 2014 (eleven days before Ryder’s first birthday).
As the doctor and nurse finally came into our tiny waiting room to give us the results, the tears in their eyes told us all we needed to know.
The lump in Ryder’s back was “just the tip of the iceberg” as they put it.
The cancer was indeed neuroblastoma.
Ryder had a tumor larger than his kidney growing inside and out of his spinal canal and two secondary tumors, all of which had metastasized into his bones.
It was also discovered that Ryder had been born with a double aortic arch. Although not life threatening, it would require heart surgery to correct and explained why he was having such a hard time swallowing solid foods.
The heart surgery on its own would have been scary enough but we barely even acknowledged it. All we could hear were the words “Your son has cancer and it’s Stage four”.
All of a sudden, the same doctors who had been telling us that everything was fine now couldn’t get him admitted to the hospital and into treatment fast enough.
Having heard so much in cancer especially on the importance of second opinions and with all the information available today on integrative and alternative approaches we wanted to consult with a spread of medical professionals before diving into chemotherapy with our one year old.
We consented to a port being placed so we could be ready immediately should we have chosen to (and to be used for… other things…).
From there we went home (over the doctors’ and social workers’ protests) and quickly began calling around attempting to formulate the most well-informed plan possible in a very short amount of time as the location and size of the tumor made the situation urgent.
This was short-lived however. The next night as Ryder was sleeping with us he was so hot with a fever that it woke Teddy up.
The port placement had resulted in a life-threatening bloodstream staph infection.
Now we were speeding through the freeway in the middle of the night to get back to the same hospital it had taken so much fortitude to leave.
The infection meant an extended stay in the hospital, and knowing we didn’t have much time to shrink the tumor in his spine we consented to a round of chemotherapy, but not before he was good and nutrified.
We noticed that when kids got really sick from treatment they were given feeding tubes to make it easier to get food into them. We wanted one before Ryder got sick in the first place.
This was actually a considerable argument with the hospital (one of many along the way) because it just “wasn’t the way they did things,” but we finally got it and pumped as much nutrition and supplementation we’d found to be protective of his body as we could into him before the infusion.
It was made clear to us shortly thereafter that not continuing with conventional treatment would not even be an option.
So we pivoted to a full on integrative approach, doing everything we could to both mitigate the damage done by chemotherapy and help Ryder to heal as quickly as possible.
We found a naturopathic oncologist (who turned out to be one of the foremost in the world) with an office near the hospital and went in between conventional appointments to consult with him and get Ryder intravenous supplement infusions.
We spent hours on the phone with various cancer coaches and other doctors all over the country, buried in books or on the internet doing research on our own.
The cabinet in our hospital room soon had a large arsenal of supplements which we gave Ryder ourselves through the NG feeding tube we requested. The nurses were blown away when we showed up with a juicer and let them know we would not be needing any of the hospital food for Ryder or ourselves.
At home, it started looking more and more like a full blown alternative cancer clinic with all the devices we were obtaining. We were a young family and didn’t have a lot of savings at that point but what we had we did not hesitate to spend it all, and then some, on what we thought was best for Ryder.
Through all of the tumors shrunk faster than anyone expected.
We were able to avoid virtually all other conventional medicines and procedures that usually come with chemotherapy, and his overall appearance and energy levels were much more vibrant than the other kids in the oncology ward.
Relations with the hospital did not improve, however. Everything our research and common sense said would be best for Ryder was met with resistance. We hardly ever saw the same doctor twice. Answers on how much treatment would be enough were vague and evasive.
So, we moved.
In children’s oncology finding a new doctor isn’t quite the same as there is typically only one hospital per state, or even multiple states, that sees children for cancer. So finding a new doctor meant moving to a new state, and that’s what we did.
In our new home in Utah Ryder completed a fourth round of chemotherapy, which marked the halfway point through what the standard beginning protocol would be for that diagnosis.
At that point the secondary tumors were gone, there was no more metastasis, and the primary tumor was a small fraction of what it was to start.
Ryder was so far along that our new team was agreeable to a “wait and see” approach and we discontinued conventional treatment.
We continued all natural and alternative approaches aggressively from there, juicing, giving supplements and energy medicine religiously along with finding a new naturopathic oncologist to resume intravenous infusions.
We also lived life like never before. Feeding tube, juice, supplements and all we got outside into the woods more than we ever had previously exploring all that our new state had to offer. As far as we were concerned nature was a big part of Ryder’s protocol right along with everything else.
It was so important to us in fact that combined with the knowledge of all the environmental factors that can lead to or aggravate cancer, with the help of our parents we bought a ten acre piece of land covered in aspen and fir trees.
We began what would turn out to be an almost four year process to build the ultimate healing home for Ryder to truly thrive in.
The primary tumor continued to shrink, and in July of 2015 after researching the best pediatric heart surgeons in the country we flew to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to have Ryder’s double aorta corrected.
Along the way we had started a Facebook page, to share what we were doing for Ryder that had gained a substantial following.
We knew we had knowledge and experience that needed to be shared with the world to a larger degree, so over the month we stayed in Pennsylvania we wrote the first articles for our new website (which was originally called My Kid Cures Cancer).
Over the next two years, with the exception of one questionable MRI result Ryder’s heath and progress continued to go in the right direction as we diligently kept up with everything we were doing for him.
In 2017 we had concerns for Ryder of a different kind begin to add up.
His speech development was very delayed. He didn’t interact with his peers the way they did with each other. He became easily fixated on certain sensory experiences like spinning objects.
In August of that year, Ryder was diagnosed with Autism. Low on the spectrum, but very much on the spectrum all the same.
We’ll never know for sure, but we suspect all the anesthesia, sedation and chemotherapy played a big role. He certainly seemed fine before all of this started, and we know from the cancer he was born more susceptible to the stressors of this world than others.
After living through a cancer diagnosis however, this one didn’t hit us quite as hard. Ryder is extremely gifted. He can recite the states in alphabetical order and takes great pride in memorizing lengthy Bible verses.
We see the aspects of autism that have potential to hold him back in some way later in life as just one more thing for us to figure out and reverse.
In February of 2018, Ryan unexpectedly (for him…) parted ways with the sales job he’d served almost nine years in.
There were no hard feelings. It was a small company he’d been with from the start. They simply changed business models, stopped needing traditional salesmen and it was hard for all sides.
We took it as a sign from God that it was time to go full time in our mission informing and inspiring, both to help families reverse existing cases of childhood cancer and prevent future occurrences by showing the world a cleaner way to live.
A few months earlier, Robyn Openshaw of the large and influential health website GreenSmoothieGirl had made a comment that she intended to be “the wind beneath our wings” in spreading our message to those that need it.
At the time it was a very nice thing to hear, but people say a lot of things so we didn’t read too far into it.
A few days after that day job went away, Robyn offered to partner with us on an idea of ours for a project we’d told her about previously.
The Toxic Home Transformation was inspired by our passion for showing families everything they can do to the place they spend the most time, their home, to remove all possible carcinogens and turn it into a health sanctuary from the outside world.
The event reached over 100,000 people and got us our start in turning our passion into our profession.
As the event was underway, we were simultaneously working literally around the clock days and nights finishing construction on our own non-toxic home which was finally coming to completion, as our landlords of four years had decided they needed their house back to put it up for sale.
It was also during this time, in June of 2018 that Ryder went in for what we considered at that point a routine MRI in order to check on the remaining mass in his spine that was presumed dead for all intents and purposes.
Except it wasn’t. The MRI showed new growth.
Further testing indicated that this was due to mature, benign (as opposed to immature, malignant) cells still present in the mass.
Fortunately the growth was on a portion outside of his spinal canal. But if it were to get too much larger this would still present a danger and likely require a surgery we wish to avoid at all costs.
We doubled down on everything we were doing and incorporated new practices as well, and at the next scan in October 2018, the mass was completely unchanged, and has been ever since. 🙂
Although we wish it wasn’t there at all and his doctors and testing all agree it’s just scar tissue at this point, we like to think it remains to keep us on our toes, to live the healthiest lifestyle possible, and be lifelong students of healing.
In the meantime, through a lot of hard work (and even more expense), the most severe aspects of the spectrum diagnosis one would consider to be negative have subsided considerably, and what is emerging is a boy with a beautiful mind.
Ryder has memorized entire chapters of The Bible (King James Version no less), his reading, writing and math skills are many grade levels above his age due to his love of all of them, and it’s hard to keep up with his interests, which have ranged from measuring everything he can, to spinning records on his record player, to the stars and planets, to knitting, crocheting and sewing, and even morality and philosophy… not to mention being super healthy. 🙂
Over 2018 and 2019 we hosted two more online events on our own, The Anti-Cancer Revolution 1 & 2, which reached a combined 175,000 people. The events featured the latest information on integrative approaches to cancer, and ACR2 featured speakers and heavily referenced presentations one would expect to see at an in-person physician’s medical conference.
The feedback we’ve received from these events has been incredible and we’re so proud and thankful to have been able to do the work we have, in spreading awareness of integrative approaches to cancer, to those that need them the most.
In 2019, our son Rocky was born just before Christmas, naturally in a birth center just as the other two had been. All was well at first, but within 24 hours Teddy started going downhill fast, her entire body in severe, immobilizing pain like she’d never felt before.
When we got her to the hospital, it turned out she had a group A strep uterine infection that had gone septic (in her blood). One third of women who get this particular infection don’t make it through.
It was proving quite resistant in Teddy as well, and for several days we didn’t know what was going to happen. After every antibiotic under the sun and every natural remedy Ryan could get his hands on, it became clear she was going to be alright on Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately those antibiotics made their way to Rocky, which decimated his microbiome and caused a condition of high grade eczema, and would eventually be covered head to toe in terrible rashes and be in continuous discomfort most of the first year of his life.
So now, in addition to cancer, we get to navigate healing a severe autoimmune condition. Life keeping us on our toes again. 🙂
Just like with Ryder, we’re documenting the process and are making some amazing discoveries we know many others will benefit from.
And in addition to all of that, when it became clear that “the crisis” was less about keeping people healthy (why hadn’t anyone lifted a finger for all the known, preventable causes of cancer if it really was?), and more about taking away medical and most other forms of freedom…
We started speaking out against what is happening. Both through our platforms online and organizing locally here in Utah. We’ve been down the road of having our lives shattered along with treatments being forced upon our family once before, and don’t want to go through it again on a worldwide scale.
Most recently we launched a new show, The Great Work of Healing, exploring “the next level” of healing, through energetic and other laser known, emerging means, along with what we can do to keep the freedom to do so. The plan is to challenge as many paradigms as possible!
At present we are at long last living in our ultimate healthy, healing home, in which we have recently made the decision to homeschool our children. Ryder and Channing are clearly the happiest they’ve ever been here and have become inseparable best friends, and are already amazing, caring older siblings to their little brother Rocky.
We continue to employ a mix of super nutrition, targeted supplementation, energy medicine and healthy lifestyle practices to make sure Ryder, Channing and Rocky thrive in health for the rest of their lives…
Documenting the process along the way through our website, podcasts and ever-growing list of new social media platforms, so that others may benefit from our trials and research.
We’re so glad to have you here along with us, reading the story as it is written.