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Healthy lifestyle helps cancer warrior to triumph over disease

“I am cancer-free! Tears of joy!”

Dina Zulueta, a wife, mother, yoga teacher, mindfulness meditation teacher, and prime mover of the Save the Trees Coalition based in Pampanga, shared her message of joy with matching happy and crying emojis on Wednesday, March 15, after receiving positive results from her positron emission tomography (PET) scan.

It marked the second time she overcame a life-threatening medical situation posed by cancer.

Dina’s first bout occurred in 2000 when she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma.

Her youngest daughter was just 10 months old at the time, and her initial response was, “Hindi ako puwedeng mamatay! (I won’t die!)”

Dina, who was 33 years old then, had lost her mother at the same age and did not want her children to experience the same loss.

She sought guidance from Dr. Omar Arabia II, a nutritional oncologist, who prescribed protocols for her that included a diet rich in certain fruits and vegetables while avoiding meat and processed foods.

Dina followed the prescribed protocols and underwent chemotherapy, ultimately achieving remission.

Second time

In 2021, Dina felt something in her breast and was advised to undergo a biopsy and chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was determined, however, to avoid going through the chemotherapy process again. She said, “I have been through all that before.”

After reflecting on her experience, Dina recognized that she had been under enormous stress due to her involvement with the STC’s fight to protect 259 trees on the Fil-Am Friendship Road in Pampanga from being felled as part of a road-widening project by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

(The STC is currently appealing to the court’s decision to dissolve a temporary environmental protection order [TEPO].)

“They are ancient acacias and ballet (genus Ficus) trees that form a canopy!” she exclaimed.

Dina had recovered from her first illness, and she had occasionally indulged in processed foods and sweet treats.

Taking the holistic route

Fear sets in for Dina when she receives news about her condition, but she refuses to operate on it. Instead, she turned to meditation.

She consulted with dr. Arabia who prescribed juicing, supplementation, and enemas to boost her immune system before her mastectomy.

Dina recalled being told by the doctor, “We have to secure your body before they take it out so that your body can take it.”

There was also another issue: filling her teeth.

Dina had also sought the advice of Dr. Rico Jose Manuel “Bok” David, whom she had met through a group that invited speakers for their discussions.

In an interview with Rappler, David explained that functional medicine does not offer a cure for cancer but can provide support and complementary treatment during the process.

David begins his treatment process by having patients complete a 17-page questionnaire, which helps assess the underlying causes of various illnesses.

He then works to eliminate harmful elements and replace them with healthy alternatives, such as swapping processed foods for vegetables.

“In Dina’s case, we looked into toxicity levels. There have been studies that have found that high levels of mercury toxicity are linked to some cancers. [In years past]dental amalgam fillings contained a huge amount of mercury,” David said.

He said the detoxification capacity varies among individuals. “It is not the same for everyone because each person can detoxify. In Dina’s case, she was very stressed and her immune system was weak. But these are special cases, and only apply to 10% of the population.”

Dina underwent an expensive test that required samples of her hair, blood and urine. Since such tests were not available in the Philippines, the samples were sent to a foreign laboratory.

The results showed that Dina’s level was in the 99th percentile which, according to Dina, meant that among all the people who had been tested, less than 1% had a higher level than hers.

To address the issue, Dina had her amalgam fillings removed from six of her teeth and drilled out of three others suspected of containing smaller amounts of mercury.

“It was so painful! But my dentist was so compassionate throughout the whole process,” she recounted.

Aside from removing the fillings, Dina followed David’s prescription of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and devoid of processed foods and sweets such as cakes and donuts.

The physician also recommended supplementation and infusion as part of her mercury detoxification plan.

Healing path

In February 2023, Dina underwent testing for mercury levels in her blood and urine after six months of adhering to protocols.

She received the results on March 8 – incidentally, International Women’s Day and her youngest child’s 23rd birthday – and confirmed that her mercury levels had gone down from 0.0352 micrograms per gram to only 0.0049 ug/g.

“I did my research and I meditated long and hard on it. I listened to my body, and chose the path to health that truly resonated with me,” she said.

Acknowledging the support she received during her journey, Dina credited her family, including her husband Obet, daughters Pau, Miles, and Bea, and helpers Mhai and Zhed. She also expressed gratitude to her other physicians – Dr. Gab Cruz, Dr. May Cuballes, and Dr. Angel Aquino – as well as friends.

“I know and I feel they helped big time,” she said.

Now 54 years old, Dina says she feels happy, “I feel great and I feel strong!” Most importantly, it has been confirmed that she is cancer-free! – Rappler.com

Mari-An Santos is an Aries Rufo Fellow.