Doctor and Wife Nearly Split Over Cancer Diagnosis, Holistic Healing

PHOTO: Walter and Corinne Borden
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The first signs of what would turn out to be a virulent cancer began at Christmas, when newlywed Corinna Borden was visiting family, hundreds of miles away from her husband. In bed that night, an intense pain welled up under her right breast. She was only 29.

She called her husband Walter, a doctor finishing his residency in Michigan, and he asked a few diagnostic questions -- "Do you have a fever and did you vomit?" -- then said it was likely a gall bladder problem.

Borden took an Advil and turned to a homeopathic remedy, a cleanse that involved drinking Epsom salts with grapefruit juice, then a big glass of olive oil, followed by apple juice.

After months of tests that baffled an array of doctors, Borden was diagnosed with stage-four Hodgkin's lymphoma and she began a dual battle to stay alive and to keep her one-year marriage intact.

Her husband, Dr. Walter Parker, was committed to Western medicine. Borden embarked on a lonely journey to heal herself.

Borden, now 34, said the desire to write a book and its title, "I Dreamt of Sausage," came in a dream, but she writes in her postscript that the book is more than a memoir that it's a "story about recognizing the voices in your head and knowing which ones to listen to."

The couple had dated for five years before they were married and Parker was used to her self-medicating through holistic methods. Borden's mother left a career with the World Bank in Washington, D.C., to go into energy healing.

"I learned to create a mantra around the cancer," said Borden. "I turned my mindset around. Faith in miracles happens every day."

Parker, now 36, said that he was used to his wife's herbal "self-medicating."

"But that was nothing in my eyes compared to a cancer diagnosis," he said. "That's the way I am trained. You go with the evidence, what people have learned works."

Borden's pain escalated after she returned to their new home in Ann Arbor, Mich., far from the comfort of family and friends in Washington, D.C..

For weeks, while Parker was working marathon shifts at the hospital, she would clench a pillow against her stomach sobbing, until the Vicodin she was popping like candy kicked in.

"I can understand addiction to pain killers," she said. "Living with pain you become irrational."

On their first anniversary, they had to leave a celebratory dinner at a local restaurant. Borden says she ended up in fetal position waiting for the drugs to kick in and kill the pain of a "hot poker" in her belly.

"This is the pain makes me want to crawl out of my skin," she writes.

Parker was baffled by his wife's pain.

"As much as medical school teaches you, there is so much depth and nuance that I had a lack of understanding about what was going on," he said. "I was overworked and frustrated. I just felt completely like I couldn't do anything to help."

After numerous visits to specialists, Borden was eventually diagnosed by her general practitioner who found the cancer.

"To be honest, it was kind of a relief to know what I was dealing with after months of not knowing," she said. But the word "cancer" reverberated in her head and she was paralyzed with fear.

The couple's plans to get pregnant were dashed with the diagnosis and cancer treatments stopped their sex life cold.

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