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Tragedies, Fatal Disease, Health, and Life!

As a critical thinker, I would have ridiculed the beginning of this story, but it is a story about me — Tragedies, Fatal Disease, Health, and Life!

As a critical thinker, I would have ridiculed the beginning of this story, but it is a story about me. In 1978, I received a diagnosis that was tantamount to a death sentence. Statistically, I had about two and a half years left to live.

The photo shows Ernst Erb on the beach in Las Teresitas near Santa Cruz, Tenerife 1985.© CC-by-sa 2.0, verm. Margot Heigl, Foundation Diet Health Switzerland

For me, there is only one life: here and now!

Intellectually, I can only know or not know, but not believe.

This is quite a psychological burden for a skeptical realist (critical rationalism), who does not just repress things or go on hoping.

But such pressure can also give a person strength to reconsider all of the various connections and points of view and to use this strength and endurance to pursue a goal. See the YouTube video here.

What actually made me write about a small, yet important part of my life? I thought it might help other people who are in a similar situation to confront the problem actively and garner as much strength as possible.

First, I gathered reference books and other sources to read as much as I could about the disease and its treatment. At that time, the Internet was not even yet a dream. And computers didn’t come on the market until four years later.

There were two types of information: academic papers and well-researched technical texts and, on the other hand, personal stories that included platitudes and sometimes even charlatanism. The experts conducted studies, and the laypeople presented their unverified case histories that had had a positive outcome. Reliable facts were lacking; you could either believe or not. I couldn’t.

Should you believe me without facts? No!
Today there can be found studies that show that my path was right (doi: 10.3109/10428191003690364). Here with the link PMID 20350273 or as direct entry for Google you get a more complete text from NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

But I want to show you that lifestyle diseases (or diseases of civilization) are called as such for a reason. I want to show you how to avoid diseases and improve your health.

I am not selling anything. I am not promising anything. Is the motivation for this article really objective and based on good reasons?

Our lymph nodes in the head and neck and studies from the end of the 1970s

Lymph nodes on neck according to Henry Gray, 1918: From "Anatomy of the Human Body".© Public Domain, Henry Gray (1918), Wikipedia

Prospective and retrospective study in the late 1970s on life expectancy with mantle cell lymphoma.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Kieler Lymphomgruppe

I wanted certainty and to understand what the doctors had to offer because it was my life that was on the line. That fact had become crystal clear.

I realized that I had to assume responsibility for myself instead of leaving everything up to the doctors. And I also had to accept all of the consequences.

It was only through asking questions and obtaining and reading medical literature that I became truly aware of my physical condition.

Doctors must have basic knowledge about hundreds of diseases. They don’t have time to delve into any one rare disease. My physician either didn’t know what the likely outcome was or didn’t want to explain it to me.

2013 Confirmation Pathological Institute Lucerne, histological sections show NHL. 1.2© CC-by-sa 2.0, Phatalogisches Institut Luzern, 2013

In the case of cancer, further clarifications are usually made as part of the process to determine the extent which the cancer has developed or spread. This is called cancer staging.

You can also establish contact with professors, for example, with oncologists who specialize in cancer. But there are about two hundred different types of cancer, a number of stages, varying levels of aggressiveness, and other factors. Even the patient’s age and physical condition are important.

The complexity is enormous.

2013 Confirmation Pathological Institute Lucerne, histological sections show NHL.(picture). 2/2.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Pathologisches Institut Luzern, 2013

In almost all such cases, these specialists receive instructions from centers that conduct research on certain diseases. These centers also search for better treatment (therapy) options based on the available “medical material” (case studies).

Cancer patients are often unknowingly research subjects (test persons).

Only the research team actually knows what they’re doing, but everyone else does their best.

Doctors are people like you and I, with different personalities, and strengths and weaknesses.

1. What actually happened?

In February 1978, my former wife and I went on a ski vacation together with friends of ours, two couples who were all doctors. One of our friends was a professor of medicine. During the vacation, I noticed a swelling on my lower jaw, but didn’t “feel” any inflammation that could have caused it. I didn’t want to bother my friends with it during the vacation, so I instead made an appointment with one of these friends, my general practitioner, after the vacation.

He insisted on prescribing antibiotics because he was convinced that the condition was caused by a bacterial infection. I understand his decision as it is rarely the case that there is another reason. I had never thought of the possibility of cancer. I was generally quite healthy, apart from a few small things. Strangely however, I inwardly “knew” that my tumor was “something else.” Before the next visit three weeks later, (which included one week without antibiotics and with poor sleep), I insisted on scheduling a fine needle aspiration biopsy and histopathological evaluation (pathology, histology). I had to be a bit assertive before the doctor finally agreed to make the appointment for me.

The ENT department of the hospital considered the biopsy to be unsuccessful. Not me. The result was shocking: a malignant lymphoma. My friend and physician Hansruedi reassured me that the tissue might have suffered during the fine needle aspiration biopsy and there was therefore no reason for alarm yet. That was certainly not very professional.

After some difficulty, I finally got a surgery scheduled for 14 days later to get the lymph node (lymph gland) removed.

Histological examination. Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) - a B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

I wanted to have it histologically examined at several pathological institutes to make sure that the results were unambiguous. There were small differences in wording as one institution classified the disease based on WHO 1976 standards, the other as per the Kiel standard, and the third based on the Rappaport classification (United States).

  • Zurich called it a malignant lymphoma, a diffuse lymphoblastic lymphoma.
  • Bern defined it as a malignant medium-cell lymphocytic lymphoma (partially nodular type),
  • Lucerne used the term centrocytic lymphoma (ML, CC).

Today the standard international name for the disease is mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). It is a B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Pathology University Zurich: centrocytic lymphoma, Kiel nomencl. today called Mantle Cell Lymphoma.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Pathologie Uni Zürich

Today, it is a known fact that in mantle cell lymphoma, the B-cells, (actually B-lymphocytes, a type of leukocytes or white blood cells), suffer from a reciprocal translocation of chromosomes 11 and 14, whereby cyclin D1 is more strongly expressed. It is part of our immune system, along with T-cells (T helper cells) and is formed in the bone marrow, not in the lymph glands.

But if cyclin D1 undergoes this kind of malignant transformation, the lymph glands collect it and may swell up if the volume becomes too expansive.

Excision of the lymph gland does not alter this principle. See also "Inzidenz sekundärer chromosonaler Aberrationen beim Mantelzell Lymphom (MCL) mit Translokation t(11;14)(q13;q32)" (Incidence of secondary chromosomal aberrations in the case of mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) with translocation t(11;14) (q13;q32), German only) or the full text (PDF).

Today, we also know that in all MCL cases (n = 103) examined using FISH analysis, a translocation t(11;14)(q13;q32) was detected. This is a quote from the PDF above, dissertation written by Marie-Sandrine Sander, 2005, (Fac. of Med.), Ulm University. In 92% of patients, a secondary aberration takes place. These are subsequent chromosomal alterations (chromosomal mutation).

Further investigations revealed manifestations above and below the diaphragm, but this was not histologically proven and there were no other symptoms, such as night sweats. It was therefore assigned the status 3a. At the time, genetic examinations were not yet possible.

Today, we know that the problem is often a genetic mutation of the tumor suppressor p53 on chromosome 17p13. This can lead to the loss of the inhibitory effect on the cyclin D1/CDK4 complex (cyclin dependent kinase 4) via p21. This generally promotes cancer.

Back then, the median survival time for mantle cell lymphoma was 2.5 years. In 2015, the average survival time is expected to be three to four years, mainly thanks to a few successful stem cell transplants.

An acquaintance of mine had this procedure done in 2013/14, unfortunately without success. He was given great hope, although statistically the likelihood of a cure was very small. He was also an older man, with an increased risk.

His belief in the stem cell transplants prevented him from making a radical change to his diet as a form of adjunctive therapy (adjuvant therapy). Moreover, his doctors told him that diet would not influence his illness. He went for a few months without any findings. But after that the malignant cells began to grow again. A second attempt was made, but he died after the first cycle of treatment.

My doctor had scheduled an operation to have my spleen removed, but I canceled the appointment

Back to my case. My doctor had scheduled an operation to have my spleen removed (splenectomy), but I canceled the appointment. I was already aware of the prognosis, but my doctor hadn’t yet received the results.

Today, a splenectomy for a patient with mantle cell lymphoma would be considered medical malpractice as it would result in an even worse prognosis.

Wikipedia: Although the spleen is not a vital organ, its removal can cause long-term negative effects. But in my case, it was determined that the spleen was not necessary since it is not directly essential for survival.

The doctor also wanted me to start with chemotherapy. When I refused, he said, Erb (no longer Ernst), you had better do as I tell you. To which I replied, Hansruedi, there’s only one thing in this world that I have to do, perhaps even before you, and that is die. That’s the only thing I have to do. I didn’t add that a person is always responsible for their own actions.

If I had had a standard Hodgkin’s lymphoma or another type of NHL with a better prognosis, I would have followed the recommendations and undergone conventional treatment. I must emphasize this fact and warn against following my example.

Given my resolute answer, my friend and physician asked me to find another doctor. Later he heard about my radical switch to a vegan raw food diet from my wife at that time, but he never talked to me again. Not even years later, even though he knew that I had found a cure. He passed away several years ago.

One thing is certain. If I would have gone through with all of the conventional measures, I would have lost a lot of time, my spleen, and later my life. My doctor never once told me that my disease was actually incurable. But death was at my doorstep, as my research had clearly showed.

That’s the situation I was in at age 41, with 5 children, and a dysfunctional family. In addition, I had a lot of stress with my companies and the construction of a new office building.

Histological results on the lymph gland that had been removed

Two of the three histological results on the lymph gland that had been removed. All three tests had very clear findings.

April 1978: Pathology Uni Bern: Malignant neoplastic tissue: lymphocytic lymphoma, nodular.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Pathologie Uni Bern, 1978

April 1978: Pathology Lucerne, Histology: malignant nodular lymphoma, slight pyroninophilia.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Pathologie Luzern, 1978

At first I read special literature concerning my case. I soon wondered why so many people were suffering from lifestyle diseases, sometimes even at a young age.

April 1978 Sonography: solid mass at the level of the pancreas and insertion of the renal vein.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Kantonsspital Luzern
April 1978 Sonography and Lympho-Cavo-Urography - page two.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Kantonsspital Luzern
My letter to hematology Uni Essen concerning the conclusion of the prospective study CL 1/2.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Ernst Erb

When you click on an image, it will appear in a legible large format. You can then also view all of the images in this article as a slide show.

What were we doing wrong? A sick animal in the wild would quickly fall prey to its predators, if it were to get sick. Cancer does of course occur in nature as well, and the causes for it are known: the wrong habitat and stress.

All told, I quickly came to realize that humans are the only species that cooks its food. It was only later that I learned about the cancer-promoting Maillard molecules that are formed when food is heated.

Initially, I was also unaware of the many bovine "growthhormones" found in milk and dairy products consisting of a structure that is 70% the same as the "growthhormones" in humans. See the book review on "Milk Better Not"!

Multizentrische Therapiestudie - "Festlegung der optimalen Behandlungsstrategie für das fortgeschrittene centrocysche Lymphom"

Prof. G. Brittinger, University of Essen, Multicenter Therapeutic Study, Study Protocol 1/5.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Prof. G. Brittinger, University Essen

Prof. G. Brittinger, University of Essen, Multicenter Therapeutic Study, Study Protocol 2/5.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Prof. G. Brittinger, University Essen

Prof. G. Brittinger, University of Essen, Multicenter Therapeutic Study, Study Protocol 3/5.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Prof. G. Brittinger, University Essen

Prof. G. Brittinger, University of Essen, Multicenter Therapeutic Study, Study Protocol 4/5.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Prof. G. Brittinger, University Essen

Prof. G. Brittinger, University of Essen, Multicenter Therapeutic Study, Study Protocol 5/5.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Prof. G. Brittinger, University Essen

I decided to eat vegan because I suspected that animal proteins probably promoted cancer. We can live well on vegetable protein alone and do not need animal protein. See also the book review on "The China Study" or the book itself.

If I have to die anyway, I thought, I will at least try eating a strict diet of vegan raw food and see if this changes anything.

That’s how you are supposed to defeat cancer? It may sound quite naive, I know. To help get me started, I spent a few weeks in the Bircher-Benner clinic in Zurich.

Ca-Kost (Ca food, Ca = cancer)

But to my surprise they had stopped serving raw food some time ago and instead were serving what they called Ca-Kost (Ca food, Ca = cancer), which was vegetarian, but not vegan, and it was also cooked. I refused it right from the start and asked to speak with the chef. Thankfully, his answer to my request for raw vegan food was, “Yes, of course.”

As I described in the book review on "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell in a comment box near the end, I was very surprised that the chef welcomed my request to receive only vegan raw food despite the fact that this would mean overtime for him. I wrote the following there:

He actually invited me to his home and introduced me to his family. I found out that they had changed to a vegan raw food diet five years before because his wife had suffered from malignant melanoma with numerous metastases. She seemed to be in her mid-twenties. Cancer at this stage almost always ends in death within a few months. But she had cured herself by making the radical and permanent change to an exclusively vegan raw food diet.

Later, I met a 35-year-old Austrian, who had also cured himself from cancer. At least, the doctors couldn’t find any signs of the cancer in his blood. But after he had just barely recovered, he reverted back to his previous eating habits and died a little over a year later, just as I had expected. The same type of cancer had come back.

Several years later I heard that that the chef’s wife had stayed healthy.

I had heard a few other such stories with positive outcomes. Unfortunately, conventional medicine wasn’t interested in any of these cases and their extraordinary recoveries.

Today, it’s simply called spontaneous remission, and the reasons for it are not investigated. But there are thousands of such “unexplained” spontaneous healings.

At least retrospectively, these should be examined even more closely than conventional healing methods and their possible causes identified in order to obtain patterns. Otherwise, conventional medicine can always hide behind the “fact” that there are no statistics, simple as that.

At the time, conventional medicine believed that it would be impossible to maintain a vegan raw food diet in the long term. This was despite the fact that many strict followers of the Jain religion had practiced it for the last 2'500 years. ... This is why I no longer wanted to focus on the subject and chose instead three books on a different topic. I didn’t want to keep kidding myself.

At times, I felt like a lone wolf (Steppenwolf)

June 1978: My letter to Prof. Georg Martz concerning result Staging etc. 1/3.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Ernst Erb
June 1978: My letter to Prof. Georg Martz concerning result Staging etc. 2/3.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Ernst Erb
84/5000  June 1978: My letter to Prof. Georg Martz concerning result staging etc. 3/3.© CC-by-sa 2.0, Ernst Erb

I was, however, able to focus on just ONE disease, a luxury that doctors can’t afford.

In the end, I had read more than 200 books. But finally I gave up on the subject of nutrition and health, the chaos in this field was just too much.

As you know from the article on Erb Muesli, I kept to a strict raw food diet for seven years. You can also read there why I changed my diet.

This radical change freed me of chronic inflammation of the sinuses and hemorrhoids as well

In my late teens, I started to suffer from chronic inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis). This affected primarily the two maxillary sinuses. At night, I usually needed a cortisone nasal spray to get my nose somewhat cleared. Even during vacations, the nasal spray was my constant companion.

I often had to get the pus removed by an ENT specialist, which he did by jabbing through the nasal bone into the sinus cavity and flushing it out. At the time, I didn’t know about the kind of nasal irrigation described in this link. The “prick” was uncomfortable, but did not cause pain. It made the situation better for a certain length of time. Steam inhalation and infrared treatments didn’t help much either. I probably had an empyema.

But after about a year on a raw food diet, I was able to forget all about it and throw away my treasured nasal spray.

The hemorrhoids that I had suddenly got at age 21, which were constantly bleeding and needed repeat treatments, also disappeared completely. I was also able to dispose of the suppositories the doctor had prescribed me.

Here is a brief summary of what happened next. When I started to eat cooked food again because of my former wife, Margot from Germany, whom I had met in Tenerife, I again experienced health problems. I had digestive problems and was very fatigued. After a year, I had a medical examination done in Switzerland. Luckily, they didn’t find anything, except for a lactose intolerance.

Interestingly, in our family we had to drink almost a liter of milk every day when we were children and adolescents. I acquired a lactose intolerance as a result of seven years of not consuming milk and dairy products. Nature can turn off our ability to digest dairy products, if we don’t consume any for many years — even in lactose-tolerant people.

About my family

One more thing about my family: I was the oldest of seven children.

The youngest of the seven, my brother Werner, died when he was 26. I only knew that he had health problems, as I was ten years older and had almost no contact with him.

Three of my other siblings died from cancer at a young age.

My youngest sister, Margrith (21.2.1945–15.4.1994) died of lung cancer before she reached the age of 50, even though she didn’t smoke.

Our uncle Armin Fritz passed away when he was 54. My brother Kurt died early because of a brain tumor.

My mother, however, was lucky. She had another solid type of brain tumor, which was able to be removed surgically.

My sister Annelies (Teddy) died of breast cancer.

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