Trish Coleman was given four to six months to live last October.
“It’s been six months since the diagnosis, and I feel better than I did two months ago,” said the Gordon Head resident. “I don’t know if I am going to live very much longer, but I am OK with that. I am at peace with that.”
Coleman began seeing View Royal homeopathic doctor Roland Guenther after her diagnosis.
“There wasn’t any other hope. For pancreatic cancer there is no known cure or treatment,” said Coleman, 81, a former registered nurse.
She never sought out alternative medicine before but thought now, she has nothing to lose.
“It’s a miracle and it’s unbelievable how much better I feel,” Coleman said. “I was never against alternative medicine, I’d just never tried it.”
Working with Guenther may not have changed the prognosis of her disease, but it has given her a better quality of life, she said.
Sitting in his View Royal home, Guenther gently picks apart tiny emu feathers and grinds them with a mortar and pestle. The feathers are ground into lactose powder, a common ingredient in homeopathic medicine.
In the final product “there is not much substance of the emu feather, but it’s the energy,” he explained.
“Homeopathy is a treatment with remedies that are made from substances of nature that still carry the energy of these substances,” Guenther said.
Guenther, a former surgeon and general practitioner, now focuses his practice on homeopathic and natural healing and hopes to build relationships with local First Nations and other people in the community to help them heal.
Originally from Germany, Guenther became enamored with First Nations culture when he met a Cherokee native there. He knew he needed to learn more and came to Canada.
“I started hitchhiking to find the right people. Within one week I found the Blood people,” he said with a smile. “It was a different world.”
As an adult, he was adopted by a Blackfoot family in Alberta and lived in the Blood Reserve, near Lethbridge, for more than two years in the late 1990s.
He began studying native medicines and became a sundancer, lead sweat-lodges, became a pipecarrier and went on vision quests in the mountains.
“I learned everything in nature is soulful, every plant and every stone. I learned to communicate with our plants,” he said.
A medicine man brought Guenther to Chief Mountain in Montana for his first vision quest in 1996. The quest lasted four days and nights.
“No food, no water, just pipes and praying,” he explained. “If you tell any doctor you dry fasted for four days they wouldn’t believe you, but natives have been doing this forever.”
Guenther incorporates his experiences with the Blackfoot people into his homeopathic medicine.
He has been working on treatments specifically for First Nations people and gone to great lengths to learn, including milking a buffalo in Northern Saskatchewan.
Guenther explained issues plaguing aboriginal communities around the world such as diabetes and drug and alcohol addiction should be looked at on a collective level instead of an individual one.
Four years ago he started a group of homeopathic doctors treating homeless people on the downtown Eastside in Vancouver. The group has grown to include 20 people volunteering two days each a month.
“Most of the people down there were natives and I know where they come from,” he said as he wiped a tear from his eye.
After seeking help from many counsellors and therapists, Patricia Huot decided to give homeopathy a try to help her recover from early childhood trauma.
“It’s helped me make a shift in a positive and gentle way,” said the James Bay resident. The 65-year old has spent nearly 20 years searching for something to help her and meeting with Guenther is the only thing that brought her tangible results.
Homeopathy allowed her to start healing.
“Rationally I know there is no reason for (having my issues), but it’s still there and interferes,” said Huot, who meets with Guenther monthly. “He’s really there as a traditional healer, not simply a body mechanic.”
Choosing the alternative
Roland Guenther graduated from a German medical school in 1980 and became a surgeon mainly performing abdominal procedures but also working on trauma patients.
“Then I realized I didn’t want to grow old in a hospital,” he said explaining why he moved into a position as a general practitioner in 1985.
“I always had a strong connection with nature and our bodies are part of nature,” Guenther said. “I started looking into alternative treatments.”
In Germany homeopathy is incorporated into mainstream medical treatment.