Chapter 4 — Discovery
For the next couple of months I drifted along from day to day trying to make a decision. I continued to take the many drugs, which at this point did more harm than good. My diet was very restricted; I was allowed only cooked-out mushes aid purees ( foodless foods); I had not had any fresh, raw fruits and vegetables for the last six years. But because of the nature of the disease, it was all but impossible to tolerate these necessary and vital raw, fresh natural foods. A normal person cannot maintain health on this type of regime, so how can a sick person?
I was becoming more discouraged and depressed with each passing day. There were always situations which arose to frighten me out of making a decision on radical surgery, such as meeting people who had already undergone this type of surgery. The stories they told me were like nightmares. These people weren't living; they were existing. Sure, there were some that seemed to get along, but they were in the minority. Another situation arose in a department store, where I sometimes went to take my mind off myself. It really did not divert my attention because invariably I would get the tremendous urge to "run" to the lavatory and I would have to stop what I was doing and dash wildly to the men's room, which of necessity I had scouted out when I first entered the store. There were times I didn't quite make it and there were times when I did get there and found people waiting ahead of me. It doesn't take much imagination to realize what happened, but it was a depressing experience 'and one which occurred frequently and at any time, regardless of my location.
It was in one such department store that I met a friend who was a surgeon. I had not seen him in a while and he remarked how ill I looked. I told him the decision I was contemplating and he coolly told me that he performed this type of surgery. I vividly remember his words of advice as he said, "Jack, if you can avoid this type of surgery, do it at all costs." Well, that stuck in my mind as though it was branded there. I bade him goodbye and he wished me good luck and gave me some parting advice. He told me to "hang in there and maybe one day a drug will be discovered to cure this terrible disease." It took me a while to realize that drugs neither cure nor remove cause.
It was during these two months that a friend, Carol Leib, suggested to my wife that I look into a way of life called Natural Hygiene, which had helped her as well as others she had known. I think if it was not for Carol, I wouldn't be here today-or at least not in one piece. Anyway, Carol planted the seeds in Corinne's mind through frequent discussions, unbeknownst to me. Blessed with an uncanny sense of intuition and insight, Corinne knew that what she was learning from Carol was right. It was logical and made sense, and without analyzing it any further at this point, she knew that here was the help we had been seeking. This was the miracle for which she had been hoping and, praying. Corinne had only a superficial knowledge of Natural Hygiene, yet it was enough for her to become excited and elated-more than she had been anytime during these past, depressing six years. She could not wait to finally correlate this knowledge and present it to me.
The day came when she decided to tell me. She was full of enthusiasm and hope as, wide-eyed, she related this new-found knowledge to me. There were numerous facets that made up this way of life, but the two items that stuck in my mind were the vegetarian diet and particularly the use of the "fast" (just water) for the elimination and/or prevention of disease, with the eventual involvement of a high degree of health. I sat there in disbelief. Could this be my own wife advising me to do something which goes against medical principles and philosophy? The very principles and philosophy I had studied years to learn? The principles and philosophy in which all medical doctors are trained? I wouldn't hear of it.
As far as I was concerned, this was some sort of quackery, chicanery. I would not even open my mind enough to read any literature on Natural Hygiene. If it was not medical, I did not want any part of it. I was as closeminded as is much of the medical profession when it comes to new ideas that are revolutionary and may deviate from the dogmatic path. We seem to be enclosed in our own sphere where change cannot penetrate and, for the most part, is not welcome. It is too bad, because there is much help for people, based on principles so simple that it is overlooked by some, looked down at by others, while it stuns the minds of still others who are on such high intellectual levels that they cannot accept or even comprehend simplicity. It took me a number of years to realize this. When I did, I promised myself to keep an open mind and evaluate all facets of an idea. This has opened new worlds to me.
Of course, I continued to receive various suggestions from well-meaning people: "Go to the Mayo Clinic," or "Go to the Cleveland Clinic," or "I know a famous doctor in New York." Frankly, I didn't want any more advice. I was tired of it. I had run the medical gamut and just did not have the desire, stamina, or money to run it again. I also did not want to submit to some of the "heroic" methods being used. I don't believe I could have survived it.
Corinne wanted desperately for me to at least read a bit on this natural way of life and perhaps it would open my mind enough to motivate me to investigate further. But she knew I could not and would not be reached by discussing, nagging, or even arguing with me. So she devised a more subtle approach-a brain-washing without conversation! Let there be no doubt that a determined woman is one of the most powerful forces known.
Every night she would write a little note and put it at the supper table alongside my plate of pills and cookedout mushes. I couldn't help but see it. There were only three words: "See Charles Dworin." But this was the key that could open the door to my enlightenment. Charles was the librarian of the Detroit Chapter of the American Natural Hygiene Society. He sold the books at the monthly chapter meetings and Corinne wanted me to go over to his house, meet this unusual person, and purchase some of the books.
But each night I would take that small note, which rested next to my supper plate, crumple it, and toss it into the wastebasket. This was usually accompanied by a few choice words to my wife, bluntly advising her to put a stop to this nightly note business. She ignored me of course and continued her little game, even to the point where she would verbally remind me at various intervals during the day. She was a tough woman, but I didn't give in.
So the next three or four weeks found me ripping up notes each night at supper, until one night when I was having a horrible bout with pain, diarrhea, bleeding, and weakness. I sat down at the kitchen table to eat the usual fare, which Corinne had set out for me a few minutes before she left the house for a meeting. She had slipped the familiar note under my plate, but left enough corner exposed so that I couldn't miss it. I had no desire to eat because I was just too ill, but I did stare at her note for several minutes. My children had already gone to bed and the house was quiet-too quiet. The kitchen clock sounded louder than ever as it ticked away the minutes. I reluctantly pulled the note from under the plate and fingered it a while as I studied its message.
Thoughts began racing through my mind as I pondered the note. I recalled these last six hellish years and how life seemed to be ebbing away. Nothing had been accomplished. I also sadly recalled that over these past six years, hardly a day passed when I didn't shed tears
over this nightmarish existence. Occasionally, Corinne would hear me in another room and would yell out, "Jack, are you alright? It sounds like you're crying." Of course I responded, nonchalantly, that it was just a coughing spell or some other of a dozen excuses so wouldn't discover the truth. She never knew. It was one of the few times I was able to hide my deep personal feelings from her. As I read the note again, I thought: "Maybe I will call up this Charles Dworin and run over to his house and purchase a few books. My kids are asleep. Corinne is not here, so I won't have to lose face and concede defeat to her. She need never find out. The kids will be alright since I'll only be gone a half hour or so:"
I hesitatingly picked up the telephone and dialed the number, secretly hoping he might not be at home. I tensed a bit when he answered, but I explained, very briefly, my situation. Charles insisted I come right over and said he would get a few books together to give me a start.
On the way to his house, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. "After all," I thought, "I'm a doctor. What could possibly be in those books I don't already know?" As I pulled into the driveway, Charles was waiting by the door for me. We shook hands and went into the house. I felt a bit strange as we went down to the basement where the books were stored, because I observed huge jars of various raw nuts standing about. I had never been exposed to a vegetarian before. Was I expecting some strange looking creature? He looked normal to me as I studied him inconspicuously, so I relaxed.
I wanted to get back home as soon as possible because my children were alone. Irwin was three years old and Darryl was about five months old and they both had birthdays this December of 1964, which was about seven months away. But Charles had such an interesting story about his own experience that I stayed much longer than I had planned. He told me how he had undergone long fasts and became a vegetarian to elevate himself from the depths of illness to the heights of health.
(As of this writing in 1976, Charles is still the librarian of both the American Natural Hygiene Society and its Detroit chapter. He is still a professional house painter and decorator and climbs ladders all day. He and his wife, Kayla, love to travel and they love to dance. Charles still takes periodic fasts and when you consider he is 74 years young, though he appears a young 60, you've got to marvel at that. He has a twinkle in his eyes and a zest for living.)
Anyway, I purchased four little books. These were all written by Dr. H. M. Shelton, one of the founders of the Society and the most prolific author of books about Natural Hygiene. I thanked Charles and bade him goodbye. I was finally enthused about something and couldn't wait to get home and begin reading before Corinne returned.
After seeing the boys were safe, I settled down in a comfortable chair and examined the books. They were: Fasting Can Save Your Life, Superior Nutrition, Food Combining Made Easy, and The Joys of Getting Well. I decided to start with the fasting book, which I immediately opened and began reading, defensively I might add. But soon this defensiveness disappeared and the gates of my mind swung open. This book was not only fascinating, it was thought provoking, enlightening, and it made sense. For the first time in six years I was truly motivated. I couldn't put the book down. Hours later, when Corinne returned, I was still reading. I couldn't hide my elation from her. In fact, I wanted to share this knowledge with her. I could see she was pleased.
Tired as she was from her meeting, and late as it was, Corinne selected one of the books and began to read. She, too, could not put the book down. We became obsessed with the idea we must read all the literature possible concerning Natural Hygiene. We purchased booklets, paperbacks, and hardcover volumes from Charles. I read aloud to Corinne when she was busy, she read aloud to me when I was busy, and we both read independently of each other when neither of us was busy-but we read.
It took several months to study all the material we thought pertinent, yet there was still much to read, but we eventually accomplished the task. I began to realize something so simple that it is overlooked, but I feel it has a definite bearing on our general welfare. This "something" is the fact that doctors study disease, they don't study health. Of course, my mind analyzed these books critically from a medical viewpoint and I found the principles of Natural Hygiene physiologically sound. They are in harmony with natural physiologic laws as applied to man. I knew this was the proper way to live. (I knew it then and I know it now-only with more conviction.)
It was late summer 1964 when I made my decision. I had to get involved in this natural way of life. I had the book knowledge and academic background, but now it had to be used, to be put into practice and experienced. Knowledge and experience must go hand-in-hand to form a symbiosis-a partnership. But how does one get involved? Who does one contact?
My friend, Carol Leib, recommended Dr. Robert Gross in Hyde Park, New York, because she knew him and had undergone fasts under his supervision. (There are Hygienic practitioners located around the country, all qualified and experienced, and I have come to know and love every one of them.) So I put together a letter informing Dr. Gross of my case history and expressing a desire to put myself under his care. I wondered how long it would take for him to answer. I was hoping it would be soon, because time was becoming a critical factor. I had dropped another five pounds and was down to 140 pounds, giving me a total loss of 30 pounds.
A week or ten days later, Corinne called me at my office. She was excited because, as I had already deduced, a letter arrived from Dr. Gross. Corinne wanted to open it, but I said no. I wanted to be the first to read it. The day couldn't pass fast enough for me now. The clock seemed to stand still as a punishment to me for watching it so closely. I couldn't wait until my last patient left the office so I could rush home and open that letter.
The drive home seemed to take longer than usual. The traffic seemed heavier and the distance further, but finally I was pulling in the driveway. I left the car and was through the front door of my home in record time. Corinne handed me the letter, anxiously watching as I opened it. I sat down and began to read. What my eyes saw, my mind refused to believe. I re-read the letter. Dr. Gross would not accept me as a patient.
If I had been on the brink of a nervous breakdown, this letter would have nudged me over the edge. I had mixed emotions: disgust, anger, depression, disappointment, and even self pity. I was stunned; couldn't think rationally. It took a lot of strength to keep from bursting out crying at the realization that my last hopes were gone.
I decided that within the next couple of days I was going to make an appointment with the surgeon and have my "insides" cut out, because I could no longer tolerate this type of existence. However, within these next couple of days I received correspondence from Dr. Gross. He told me to disregard the previous letter and that I should come to Pawling Health Manor if I still wished it, but to be prepared to spend three months away from home. Naturally, no guarantees were made; but he said as long as I was so determined, he was willing to work with me. I was elated! I felt I belonged to the human race again. After all, there was nothing to lose and everything to gain. I could always come back and have the operation if this failed, but I could not, with a clear conscience, undergo the surgery without first trying this last hope. Once the colon and rectum are cut out, they cannot be put back.
(Bob Gross and I developed a very close relationship over the years. It was after this relationship was established that Bob explained the reason for his initial refusal to accept me as a patient. To put it tersely, he thought because of the gravity of my physical condition, that I might die at the Manor. But there were several things in my favor that prompted him to take a chance: I still had youth and I had that all-important drive and determination to recover. But one other important factor played a key role, which I discovered for myself-Dr. Gross' deep compassion for the welfare of a human being.)
I began planning for my three-month exile. Personal and private matters were settled, my wife and I discussed her getting along without me, and a very close friend, Dr. Newton Karp, offered to give up his day off plus one working day to run my office two days a week so I wouldn't lose my practice. Our other friends and relatives assured me they would look after my family while I was away-and they surely did!
During the interval between making arrangements for my departure and the actual departure, I received phone calls from various well-meaning relatives and friends. They said such things as, "You're crazy-don't do it"; "You're making a mistake"; "It's quackery"; etc., etc. There were many other negative bits of advice given. But there were a few people who congratulated me on having enough courage to make a decision to break away from the "herd." Why is it that the biggest critics are usually those who know little or nothing about what they are criticizing?
Advance train reservations were made and I was ready to go. The train was to depart from the Michigan Central Depot about 7:00 p.m. on September 2, 1964. The trip would take about 13 hours, arriving in Poughkeepsie, New York, at 8:00 a.m. the following morning. Poughkeepsie is about 15 miles south of Hyde Park and is the closest stop. It is necessary to take a northbound train back past Hyde Park and into Rhinecliff, which is five or six miles from Pawling Health Manor at the extreme north end of Hyde Park. A taxi is then taken direct to the Manor.
I started saying my goodbyes several days before leaving. I took time to visit Dr. Kale and told him my plans. He said he couldn't see me wasting my time, but he did concede that if I was not going to be put on drugs (which I definitely was not-in fact, this plan of living shuns drugs and other poisons) and I was not going to eat (fasting) for a while, then it shouldn't be harmful. But Dr. Kale would not concede, in the slightest, that I could possibly be helped. I did discover that Dr. Kale told another doctor that I would be back to have the operation.
The dawn of September 2 made its appearance. I was awakened by the sunlight streaming in through the window and dancing off the walls. I was very tired, since I slept poorly. It was the anticipation of what was to come, plus the fact it was my last night at home for at least three months. Running to the lavatory half the night didn't help matters any; neither did the half-dozen trips on awakening-another characteristic and daily occurrence for those with ulcerative colitis.
Finally I got down to the business of packing. I began early because I wanted to be sure I had everything I would need for the next three months, including plenty of stationery, some light reading materials, a chess set, and a small radio with an ear plug. Other than the packing, it was a rather quiet day. I was somewhat nervous, but it was calming just to be with my family these last few hours.
As train time drew closer, I began having second thoughts. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I wondered if I'd ever come back. It was all so new to me; so anti-establishment. This Natural Hygiene way of life seemed to go contrary to many things I had been taught ( brainwashed? ) during my life. Did that make it wrong? Everything I had read and analyzed convinced me it was right and I had to realize that, even with truth on my side, it would be difficult to travel upstream against the current of society's one-way flow.
I left my house one hour before train time, accompanied by an entourage consisting of my mother and father, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, and my wife and two sons. A solemn atmosphere prevailed during the drive to the depot, which bore a resemblance to a funeral procession. Everything was running like clockwork. It was too good to be true. That's probably why there was a blowout in one of the front tires when we were halfway to the train station. At least things seemed back to the normal confusion. It must have been a sight for passing motorists to see all of us scurrying out and around the car. Not having learned the art of emotional poise yet, I worked up a nervous sweat and became so tense, for fear of missing my train, that I thought I'd have a B.M. right there on the expressway. This had to be one of the fastest tire changes on record for a family car. We jumped back into the car and off we went, the solemnity now broken by this humorous, yet not-so-humorous, incident.
We arrived about 15 minutes before departure, so all of us walked over to the track where the train was waiting. We engaged in small talk for a while, until the conductor bellowed his, "All aboard." My heart began pounding as I said goodbye to everyone, especially my wife and children. (My mother-in-law revealed to me only recently how frail I looked as I boarded the train and she wondered if I would ever come back. Quite frankly, so did I.)
As the train inched forward, we all began waving frantically and I wanted to get off. My parents and in-laws were crying as the moving train put a little more distance between us. Corinne didn't cry. She didn't, because she was happy for me, relieved for me. Corinne was optimistic and confident and knew in her heart that everything was going to work out. I continued watching through the window until the increasing distance made them all disappear. Then I sat back, unmoving for about ten minutes, and burst out crying. It was a release that finally allowed me to relax.
(Corinne told me, years later, there were many times she cried at home while I was away. This occurred only when her confidence in what I was doing was shaken by someone challenging her on this natural lifestyle. She didn't know enough about it to defend it at this point, so she was easily swayed by well-meaning people, all of whom were misinformed or had no knowledge on which to base their advice. Each time these incidents would occur, it would leave her panicky and somewhat hysterical, thinking I had made a terrible mistake. Yet, deep down, an inner voice gave her strength and faith to overcome these obstacles and she came away from these experiences more imbued with the truth of what I was doing.)
I had taken a roomette on the train, which is a tiny private room with a sink, a pull-down bed, and a single seat. The fascinating thing is when this seat is raised, there's the toilet. This was heaven for me, but I think I spent more time sitting with the seat up. I felt secure being enclosed in this little room, gazing out the window and watching the changing scenes as the train whizzed along. I was enjoying the solitude, the absence of people, and the monotonous clickety-clack of the wheels as they passed over the seams in the track.
I thought about the next three months. I knew I was going to be put on a fast, but I didn't know for how long. I tried to imagine what it would be like to abstain from food, with the exception of water, for a length of time, but I could not visualize it in my mind's eye. I knew, if I survived this undertaking, I would become a vegetarian. I wondered how that would feel, as I reached over for my bag of food.
The fact that I was relaxed and not tense contributed to a desire to eat. Knowing I was to become a vegetarian, I filled this large bag at home with what I called, ironically, the "Last Supper"! There were cold lamb chops, chicken, roast beef, hamburger, breaded veal cutlet, and I don't remember what else. I figured I should eat all this to fortify myself against the ensuing meatless years. Well, I ate and ate and ate some more until I became so ill that for ten minutes I vomited everything I had swallowed. This took all the strength out of me.
I decided to pull down the bed and get to sleep early. Besides, it was dark out now and there wasn't much to see. I put on my pajamas, jumped into bed, turned out the light, and lay there staring out the window. It was a nice feeling watching the mufti-colored lights of cities at night blink by. I loved to hear the low sound of the railroad-crossing bells in the distance gradually becoming louder and louder until we passed them; then they gradually faded away in the distance. I didn't sleep too well because I couldn't clear my mind, which was very active all night.
I watched the dawn break and the sun peek over the hills. I knew this day, September 3, 1964, was to be a special day for me. I dressed and shaved quickly and straightened my roomette. Then I sat back and waited for our arrival. We had been traveling adjacent to the Hudson River for many miles, while the sun darted in and out from between the hills, occasionally sending dazzling reflections bouncing off the river's calm, morning glassiness. There was a tranquility in watching the gentle, ever-changing scenery as the river meandered and cut its way through the lush, green mountainous foothills. All along the banks of the Hudson, people could be seen fishing. Some had built bonfires to chase away the early morning chill. I envisioned myself out there without a care in the world.
A loud knock at the door startled me out of my fantasy as the conductor operatically announced Poughkeepsie. I glanced at my watch. Almost 8:00 a.m. We should be arriving close to the scheduled time, although I can't recall ever being on a train that was on time. This one didn't break any precedent as we came to a stop at the Poughkeepsie station about 8:20 a.m.-20 minutes late, which gave me ten minutes to struggle off the train with my luggage, run into the depot and purchase a ticket back to Rhinecliff and hurry breathlessly back onto the waiting platform with probably only seconds to spare. However, this would not become a problem because, true to form, the train was a half-hour late.
The 25 minute ride back up the Hudson river was uneventful. The same people seemed to be fishing in the same places. Rhinecliff station was announced and when the train stopped I maneuvered my luggage off and hailed a cab. The driver saw how weak I was, so he graciously herded me and the suitcases into his car and off we went six miles downriver again. We passed through Rhinecliff, Rhinebeck, and into the northern end of Hyde Park, where Pawling Health Manor was located.
As we drove onto the grounds, I could appreciate the beauty of this part of the country. The main house was situated on a hill and surrounded by trees of many species. There was a commanding view of the Hudson River with the mountains for a backdrop. This looked like a place one could rest. There were people scattered around, sitting in the sun.
The cab came to a stop in front of the Manor and I stepped out. I took a deep breath. The crisp morning air was clean and sweet. It was actually breathable. I took in another deep breath. This air was so different from the polluted stuff I had become accustomed to back home in the Detroit area. As I walked up the few short steps to the front door, I wondered what fate had in store for me.