Ten Days of Okra


The story was great even if the promise seemed slim. There was little to lose in completing Ten Days of Okra. I started serendipitously after a year of keeping it on the back-burner. I had told some friends over Friday night dinner about the okra cure as we sat worrying about my ca 125 being on the rise despite heavy-duty treatment. We felt a bit desperate. On Sunday, October 5th a friend showed up with a half dozen baggies of okra, parboiled to perfection. Barriers removed, it was time to start my okra cure.


There was little instruction beyond the great story that motivated us. Larry, husband to Belinda my vaccine partner during the UPenn Trial, narrated the tale. He was tasked with picking up a swing set for their five-year-old. He pulled up to find an 80-year-old man rising from his rocking chair to greet him. ???????????????????????????????????????????????????The guy was full of stories and had lots of time. He wore his britches up towards his armpits. He amplified each point with the use of his remaining arm. He started by explaining the missing arm he lost at birth. It was a rough start in life. The unborn child was presumed dead and to save the mom they yanked him out, tearing off his arm and leaving him unattended while they worked on the mother.

He pinked up on his own finding oxygen and eventually made a noise that got him attention as a living creature. He views his entire life as a gift. He evangelizes the point. As a young man he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and sent home to get his affairs in order. Praying in his car he heard god clearly state, “If you eat okra for ten days you will be fine.” He did. He was there as proof. An 80-year-old orating from his front porch to every car that stopped.

Larry’s wife, like me, has advanced ovarian cancer. The old man shared the okra story then moved to an outside freezer filled with bags of okra. He handed Larry a big bag. Belinda and he were just finishing up their ten days as Larry summarized the experience with great humor. (Please note: okra is a powerful cleaner out of you gi system.)

A year later Belinda is the only patient in our trial that hasn’t recurred, keeping in mind that we don’t know all the other patients. I was game to try okra.

Okra relishes extended, hot weather. I am a northern gal. You don’t find okra fresh, frozen or pickled with ease here. But it is the end of the longest, hottest summer I recall in Oregon and my friend tracked some down at the state’s largest farmers market. I had to parse out what I had, not sure I matched the big bag pulled from the freezer in the story. But I ate it every day for ten days and loved it.

A great story should have a rousing end. This one might but not yet as today’s test results show a third uptick in my ca 125. I must replace carboplatin with a tougher alternative not because it is better but because my body can no longer tolerate the first choice. I don’t like loosing drugs; I don’t like increased side effects; I don’t like cancer growing. I wonder if I need to double (triple?) my intake of okra – desperate times call for desperate measures. If you find any pickled okra, send it on.

Ever hopeful

Ever hopeful


About marcy westerling

I am a long time community organizer with a passion for justice and founded the Rural Organizing Project in 1992. Derailed by a Stage IV Ovarian Cancer diagnosis in spring 2010, I have stayed in treatment since then. I am learning how to embrace livingly dying and hope that by starting a Phase One immunology clinical trial at UPenn in spring of 2013 I will have more time to find the sweet spots of thriving while terminally ill.

20 responses »

  1. I have seen bags of frozen okra, maybe at the African market on Powell, or one of the markets on Glisan. Ethiopians use it also. It is out here somewhere. Love, Adele

  2. thank you for sharing your okra story. it is a great story and told so well. your sense of humor in spite of your rising CA 125 is admirable. i know that for you it is also not the only way you feel. i
    am also on carboplatin and dixol, and just past round 4 i am growing a very ugly rash all over my stomach, back and legs. like you, i am worried that this could be the beginning of my allergy to either of these lovely, yet life saving chemos. i am using humor to mask my concern outwardly,yet inside, there is the beginning of a very deep worry. we need our ammunition. i hope you get more of yours. in the meantime, i send strength and care to a fellow stage 4 friend. keep the faith, and keep on seeking. you inspire.

  3. It’s hard to know what works and what doesn’t when there’s only anecdotal evidence. I’m sure there are all kinds of things that will work for some people. I hope you find your magic bullet. 😀

  4. One woman’s okra is another woman’s papaya juice blend. Who knows. Can’t hurt to try. At the least it’s good for you. Sorry about losing the carbo. It’s such a struggle to keep doing all this so kudos to you for keeping your faith, sense of humor, and resolve. And for sharing. xoxoxo to you for your latest battle.

  5. Wonderful story and the fact that you were able to consume okra for 10 days is a testament to your courage and strength. i know in the south, they eat okra fried and that is the extent of my okra knowledge. Parboiled or pickled sounds more palatable. I say keep eating! What can it hurt?

  6. I love the way you spread the okra story – smooth as butter. The rising CA-125 sticks. I hope the floodwaters slow Marcy.

  7. Middle Eastern markets and Persian markets carry okra both frozen and pickled. Amazon.com carries pickled and canned okra.

    On another note… just to get clarify — the clinical trial that seemed so promising is failing nearly everyone on it? Is that correct? Do they know why this is happening? It is so disappointing to hear. Thanks.

    • Technically I think the trials reported results are positive but the benchmarks are low. For example, I am a success by their criteria but only 45 days after stopping my belly was FULL of cancer. So, I call myself a failure. I think it just shows how early on we are with immunology. But real breakthrough w.immunology and prostrate and melanoma.

      Marcy Westerling

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