By Wayne Litke
Deja vu? Yes–I am reflecting back to July 7 when I wrote about Ontario nurse Rene Caisse who began experimenting with a First Nations treatment for cancer back in the 1920s. The main ingredients were relatively cheap, easy to acquire and simple to administer. As such, it did not fit in the medical system, but doctors close to Caisse recognized its benefits.
Physicians sent terminal cancer patients to the nurse who would treat them with a mixture of burdock root, slippery elm inner bark, sheep sorrel and Indian rhubarb root. However, she had to do it free of charge and under the supervision of a doctor since she did not have a medical licence. Below is a small section of Caisse’s personal account as published in the Bracebridge Examiner (1979).
“On the strength of what those doctors saw with their own eyes, eight of them signed a petition to the Department of National Health and Welfare at Ottawa, asking that I be given facilities to do independent research on my discovery. Their petition, dated at Toronto on October 27, 1926, read as follows:
To Whom It May Concern: We the undersigned believe that the “Treatment for Cancer” given by Nurse R.M. Caisse can do no harm and that it relieves pain, will reduce the enlargement and will prolong life in hopeless cases. To the best of our knowledge, she has not been given a case to treat until everything in medical and surgical science has been tried without effect and even then she was able to show remarkable beneficial results on those cases at that late stage. We would be interested to see her given an opportunity to prove her work in a large way. To the best of our knowledge she has treated all cases free of any charge and has been carrying on this work over the period of the past two years. (Signed by the eight doctors)
I was joyful beyond words at this expression of confidence by such outstanding doctors regarding the benefits derived from my treatment. My joy was short-lived. Soon after receiving this petition, the Department of Health and Welfare sent two doctors from Ottawa to have me arrested for “practising medicine without a licence.”
This was the beginning of nearly 50 years of persecution by those in authority, from the government to the medical profession, that I endured in trying to help those afflicted with cancer. However, when these two doctors sent from Ottawa, found that I was working with nine of the most eminent physicians in Toronto, and was giving my treatment only at their request, and under their observation, they did not arrest me.
Dr. W.C. Arnold, one of the investigating doctors, became so interested in my treatment that he arranged to have me work on mice at the Christie Street Hospital Laboratories in Toronto, with Dr. Norich and Dr. Lockhead. I did so from 1928 through 1930. These mice were inoculated with Rous Sarcoma. I kept the mice alive 52 days, longer than anyone else had been able to do, and in later experiments with two other doctors, I kept mice alive for 72 days with Essiac.
This was not my first clinical experience. I had previously converted Mother’s basement into a laboratory, where I worked with doctors who were interested in my treatment. We found that on mice inoculated with human carcinoma, the growth regressed until it was no longer invading living tissue after nine days of Essiac treatments.”
Under a doctor’s direction, she began administering some of the ingredients to humans by intermuscular injections and discovered it produced results faster than consuming the herbal remedy as a tea.
“I decided to give up nursing, to have more time for my research and treatment of patients. Doctors started sending patients to me at my apartment and I was treating about 30 every day.
I now felt I had some scientific evidence to present that would convince the medical profession my treatment had real merit. I made an appointment with Dr. Frederick Banting of the Banting Institute, Department of Medical Research, University of Toronto, world famous for his discovery of insulin. After reading my case notes, and examining pictures of the man with the face cancer before and after treatment, and X-rays of other cancers I had treated, he sat quietly for a few minutes staring into space.
“Miss Caisse,” he finally said, turning to look me straight in the eyes, “I will not say you have a cure for cancer. But you have more evidence of a beneficial treatment for cancer than anyone in the world.”
He advised me to make application to the University of Toronto for facilities to do deeper research. He even offered to share his laboratory in the Banting Institute and to work with me . . . After much soul searching and prayer, I turned down Dr. Banting’s suggestion and his offer to work with me. I wanted to establish my remedy, which I called Essiac (my name spelled backward), in actual practice and not in a laboratory only. I knew it had no bad side affects, so it could do no harm. I wanted to use it on patients in my own way. And when the time came, I wanted to share in the administration of my own discovery. To do such a thing is impossible even today for any independent research worker, due to what is nothing less than a conspiracy against finding a cure for cancer . . . .”