NORWELL, MA (WFSB) - The case of the Connecticut teenager, known as “Cassandra,” who was forced to undergo chemotherapy against her will made international headlines.
Cassandra remains at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center receiving chemotherapy, according to her mother’s attorney.
While it caught the attention of many, it also brought up the debate of whether or not a 17-year-old should have the right to refuse chemotherapy.
Cassandra’s story definitely caught the attention of Billy Best, of Norwell, MA, who said he believes he is still alive because he had the right to make that decision.
Best said he believes in the natural way, and said 20 years ago he was the talk of New England because he was the teen who ran away to avoid chemotherapy.
For me, running away was the right move. I would. I’d do it - I wouldn’t have done it any differently,” Best said.
His experience was chronicled in the book “The Billy Best Story,” which sounds much like Cassandra’s story.
Both were diagnosed as teens with Hodgkins Lymphoma and were prescribed chemotherapy to save their lives, and both ran away - Cassandra after two rounds of chemotherapy, and Bill after five.
He fled Massachusetts with his skateboard in hand, to avoid any more of the treatment he viewed as poison.
“My opinion was formed from watching my aunt go through chemotherapy and seeing her be poisoned to death. She died the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s so my belief that the therapy was going to work wasn’t very strong,” Best said.
He said once he started getting the treatment he lost all of his hair, he couldn’t eat and felt sick “like it would kill me before it got me better.”
“There was just something in my heart that was calling out - get out of here... it was like so strong there was no denying it. I had to get out. I had to leave,” Best said.
His parents were frantic to find him and went to the media for help and soon the story was making headlines around the country.
After five weeks hiding out in Houston, Best said he agreed to come home with the promise that there would be no more chemotherapy.
“Because of what I did, I learned about a different way to treat cancer, and I was able to use it and it worked for me,” he said.
What worked was an herbal tea known as Essiac Tea and a new diet, free of red meat, dairy, white flour and sugar, but loaded with organic vegetables.
He also took a drug called 7-14X, an experimental treatment from Canada made from camphor, nitrogen and mineral salts, designed to be injected directly into the lymphatic system.
Best learned how to inject it himself and in a matter of months, scans showed that the cancer was gone.
When asked if he thinks the drug saved his life, Best said “I do. I chose it because it made sense. I had a belief in it.”
Best said he believes his Native American heritage subconsciously gave him the confidence that his alternative treatment would work.
“I didn’t know at the time what my heritage was, but looking back, I think it probably played a big part - just how strong I was able to hear that voice from within... that voice from my heart and being able to recognize it. I think that probably did play a big part,” Best said.
Two decades later, Best remains cancer free. At 36 years old he is still skateboarding and enjoying life.
He has a son, something he never dreamed possible after five rounds of chemotherapy, and time has softened his views on chemo.
“When I was young, I used to think that chemo was the worst thing ever and no one should ever have it. But then I did come across some people who were able to use some chemo and use some natural medicine. I think it does serve a purpose and it does have a place in medicine,” Best said.
As for Cassandra and her treatment options, Best said he is certain of only one thing.
“I can’t suggest anything for her because I don’t know her, but I absolutely 100 percent support her being able to make a decision for herself,” Best said.
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