The Starfish Project

The combined effort of our whole family.

Stage IV Melanoma Healed Through Macrobiotics, Meditation, and Some Hard Personal Choices

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Thomas Marron ate the right foods and did all the “right things” to fight his cancer. Yet he was still dying.To recover, he had to take some drastic measures – leave an unsupportive family environment and spend time by himself, on himself.

I had completed all the cooking classes, attended all the lectures, eaten all the seaweeds, burnt all the pans, discharged 40 pounds of my body weight, and installed a gas stove.

I had “eliminated and reduced”, cooked, cleaned, and chewed by the rules. I had completely eliminated eggs, chicken, meat, and fish, as well as coffee, sugar, desserts, ice cream, fruit and alcohol, which contributed to my condition.

I was still dying of cancer.

In May 1983, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, Stage IV. In October, I began macrobiotic practice after reading Dr Anthony Sattilaro’s Recalled by Life.

In November, I took a seminar on cancer and diet at the Kushi Institute. I also had a tumour removed from my left underarm.

After 10 months of faithfully following the macrobiotic approach, I felt worse than ever. My body was weak and wilted. My spirit battered and beaten. I didn’t want to fight any more.

At best, this would be a Phyrric victory, and the chances for that were slim to none.

Our dog cowered, the cats ran for cover, my four children stopped talking, and my wife avoided eye contact with me whenever I entered a room. I had become a macrobiotic Darth Vader. Our kitchen had turned into a battleship where I fought a cold war in deadly silence.

My day of reckoning was getting closer. The counsellor at the cancer seminar had predicted “an easy cure, in 10 to 12 months at the most.” In this 10th month, not even a slight sign of one was in sight. I was doing all the right stuff, but getting all the wrong results.

Affirmations and visualizations, walks and prayers, brown rice and beans. It just wasn’t working for me. What else could I do? Nothing. Yet, I had to do something.

There had to be something more. Some extra ingredient missing from the recipe that would save my life. I could make a total commitment each day to win, to fight, to work and pray. I could. I would.

Last Stand

This would be my last stand. In this final hour, the battle would be won, or lost.

To accomplish this, I moved into a one bedroom apartment with a gas stove.

I was five minutes from the office, a natural foods store, the church, supermarket and park. A bed, round table, chair, and lamp completed the spartan decor. Deliberately absent were the television, telephone, radio, tape deck, window and wall treatments.

“Early Caveman,” my friend christened it. “Moving in? Or moving out?” one guest asked.

It was perfect for me and my mission, except for the cockroaches.

It was September 23, 1984, three days after my 39th birthday.

To separate from my family was a major decision with major consequences. It would hurt. Tears, wounds and scars. Mega pain with no guarantee of any gain. How could I pay such a price? Assume such a risk?

The more I considered the move, the more it offered me one choice: “move out and live” or “stay home and die”. I had to do it.

With no evidence that this approach could work, I still believed it would. The darkest hour comes before dawn. And with each dawn, a new beginning.

Lack of spousal support for macrobiotics was the least of it. Our marriage relationship was over. Our relationship as parents was in a tailspin. Counselling had broken down six months earlier.

A House Divided

“The house divided against itself will not stand,” said the Carpenter from Galilee.

“If you wish to begin macrobiotic practice and your husband or wife is against the idea, you might investigate the possibility of a temporary separation, at least until you recover,” said the Teacher from Tokyo.

“Most men live lives of quiet desperation, ” wrote the dissident from Walden Pond.

“No, not I!” thrice cried the Man on Death Row.

Back in the closet, his heart of hearts admitted the hard truth, that no matter what the outcome of the separation, it would be better than the alternative.

My first day in solus began at 5:00 am. Prayers and exercises, a sunrise walk, breakfast, mass, and I was at the of fice by 8:15 am. This became my morning schedule.

I enjoyed working late that night, not having kept anyone hungry or waiting. Cooking was a relaxation. Silence a balm to my soul. A star walk made the first day complete. I felt good. I slept well.

I began to focus on improving my practice of all the “right stuff”.

I started walking with the rising sun and evening stars, to and from work, in the park, on the beach, and in the woods. Barefoot, I walked on grass and sand.

I started working earlier in the morning, stayed later at night, and enjoyed it more in between. I did primal screamings in the park, read books at my round table, left dishes, pots, pans and chopsticks overflowing in the sink.

As part of the separation arrangement, Sunday was reserved as family day and twice during the week, my wife and I would meet for lunch. The lunches were brief monologues with extended silence. Family time felt like detention in high school.

It wasn’t working. These encounters left me feeling like a run down car battery, drained. Three years later, the marriage would be dissolved.


After months of recommendations to read Getting Well Again, I did. The timing was right. Stephanie and Carl Simonton helped me see my mind, body, and heart as an unbeatable system designed to succeed and destined to win. Hope was their message. Do it now their challenge.

I started using their daily relaxation and visualization exercises immediately. They were quick and easy to learn. Getting Well Again made a major impact on my daily practice.

Spend this Saturday doing something you really want to do. I don’t mean next month.
This Saturday. Enjoy being alive and being able to do it. You deserve it.
There will never be another you. Why not spend at least one day a week on You!

– Dennis Waitley, Seeds of Greatness.

To me, such indulgence would be hedonistic, selfish and sinful. I had to be “the giving tree” to be me. Even if it was permissible, there was no time. Never enough time to do what must be done, should be done, and would be nice to get done.

I realy wanted to walk in the woods and on beaches. I wanted to hike from sunrise to sunset. I really wanted one day with no cooking or cleaning.

I started to spend Saturdays on me. I began to enjoy being alive and being able to do what I really wanted.

I committed myself to live my life on purpose. By choice, not chance. Being responsible for its eventual outcome. Identifying what was most important to me. Setting and getting daily priorities.

Power Within

Advancing toward and achieving these goals unleashed a power within. After two months of solus, no lightning bolt, no Voice, no angel to herald my moment of victory.

Subtle changes in how I felt made me wonder if something significant was happening.

I noticed more smiles and laughter, deeper calm and confidence, spurts of playfulness, and overall, a peaceful heart. I was happy.

Cancer-free? Could it be?

Eventually, I knew it. I could feel it.

By Thanksgiving, the cancer had left my body. My doctor at the Dana Faber Cancer Institute in Boston verified it in January 1985.

In 1993, ten years after the initial diagnosis, my daughters and I confronted the ultimate challenge for the second time.

Kerrie, Hollie and Heather were now 22, 20 and 18 respectively. The water sparkled like a field of diamonds. This last week in August was the 10th anniversary of “The Lake Swim” – one mile across the lake.

My daughters led the way and cheered their breathless Dad into fourth place. In 1983, it was something we had never done before, something we did not know we could do. We did it, together.

Is it the brown rice? a friend asked. Is it the solo? The visualizations? The beaches? The prayers? The people?

Of course it is. It is these and all those other actions, taken and not taken, reduced or eliminated.

They returned peace, joy and hope to my heart. Brought balance and harmony into my life.



Written by Tracey

October 14, 2008 at 5:11 am

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