John’s Story

“You need to walk it with an open heart and an open mind. Just allow what will happen to happen.”

John Bettens

John’s healing journey

In March 2003 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After about two months of research, reading, talking and consideration I decided I would decline surgery (radical prostatectomy), and radiation therapy. I took a natural path. I decided to become a vegetarian. I went on a 42 day fast, losing 18kg in the process. I gave up drinking alcohol and coffee. I began a yoga practice. I took lots of vitamin supplements and had trust in what I was doing.I decided to attend the Gawler Foundation’s 10 day program for people with cancer, in October 2006. I was blessed to learn meditation but it did not become an entrenched part of my daily life until after I attended the 5 day follow up program in February 2007.

I stopped work as a lawyer, a major source of stress in my life, in December 2006 to concentrate on my healing.

In March 2007 I was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma. I declined chemotherapy for this condition.

I have two GP’s, one who looks after my natural therapies and the other who does the more traditional work. I have a urologist for the prostate cancer and a haematologist for the lymphoma. Cancer certainly keeps you in regular contact with the medical industry.

I try new things all the time for both cancers. Everything I do is designed to improve my immune function in the belief that my immune system can deliver the results I want.

My prostate cancer has remained localised in the prostate up to now. Since June I have been under the care of a doctor who treats this cancer with traditional Chinese medicine. After the walk I will be attending a clinic in Germany to have hyperthermia for the prostate cancer. I will then be attending the Casa de Dom Inacio in Abadiania, Brasil where I will meditate for six to eight weeks. The lymphoma tumours are in three separate locations, the neck, chest and stomach. During 2008, with the use of urine therapy I managed to significantly reduce the size of all the lymphoma tumours. The last scan I had was in February 2010 which showed that the tumours had reduced even further in size.

Walking the Camino

I first walked the Camino Frances (the French Way) in 2007 with my daughter Marlena. We started in St Jean Pied de Port, just on the French side of the Pyrenees and completed our journey in Santiago de Compostela, a distance of nearly 800 kms. We walked in May and June, the springtime.

The Camino is many things to many people: it can heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I found all of these qualities along the way. You need to walk it with an open heart and an open mind. Just allow what will happen to happen. It is a place to heal. It has been a part of my healing journey.

After completing my first Camino I decided to walk it again in 2008. I recall the sense of joy it brought to me in between these walks to just think of walking it again. I again walked in May and June. It’s a beautiful time with the blossoming wildflowers. The first 13 days it rained. It was physically very testing. I started out by wanting to walk it by myself but the last eleven days I walked with a Norwegian woman, Anette, and a Canadian man, Denis, with whom I became the closest of friends. It is extraordinary how close friendships can become in such a short span of time.

At one point I had the idea of walking the Camino 10 times so I walked it again in May/June 2009. I decided that I wanted to walk it alone and I did. It’s marvellous how much of nature you get to hear and see when you are not in conversation. I was nourished by nature’s sounds and images.

As I had done in 2008, I again commenced in St Jean Pied de Port but continued my journey from Santiago to Fisterra, the most western point in Continental Europe. Fisterra, (or Finistere) was once regarded as the edge of the world. Those from times past believed that if you sailed west and lost sight of Fisterra you would fall off the edge of the earth. The journey from St Jean Pied de Port to Fisterra was about 900 kms.

Background

When I am not walking the Camino I keep myself occupied. By the end of 2010 I will have completed a Masters degree in International Law – for the joy of learning. I grow vegetables organically and practice yoga. I meditate daily. I have become a regular guest speaker at the 12 week Gawler Foundation program which is run in Sydney. I enjoy speaking engagements and hope to do many more. It is very satisfying to be able to inspire others to take some control over the management of their cancer. I have found that the path to health is a full-time job.

I was born in Tamworth, NSW in 1948 and will be turning 63 just before commencing the walk. I have three children, sons aged 29 and 18, and a daughter aged 27. I have had a number of significant relationships, two of which were marriages. I have been single for some time. Being on my own has allowed me to bring a sense of peace back into my life. Recently I have been sharing part of my time with someone who is both loving and caring.

I left school at age 15 but returned in 1972 when I was 24 to do my HSC. I completed degrees in Arts/Law in 1977. In my early working life I was an apprentice electrician and then a member of the NSW Police Force before being conscripted for two years at age 20 into the Australian Army which included a tour of duty in South Vietnam between 1969-1970 with an infantry platoon. Prior to my ‘retirement’ in December 2006 I was a criminal defence lawyer in private practice, an occupation I have enjoyed since 1980.