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!
At present we are at long last in our ultimate healthy, healing home. Ryder and Channing are clearly the happiest they’ve ever been here and have become inseparable best friends.
Although we wish this mass wasn’t still as big a part of Ryder’s story as it is, we know this is the place he will heal for good and that we will go on to carry out our mission of reversing and preventing other cases of childhood cancer in a way we’d never before imagined.
We continue to employ a mix of super nutrition, targeted supplementation, energy medicine and healthy lifestyle practices to make sure Ryder not only survives, but thrives in his health for the rest of his life….
We’re so glad to have you here along with us, reading the story as it is written.