Alternative Cancer Treatment Works for Billy Best
Yankee Classic from January/February 2005
It is early evening, and in the basement of Saint Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church on Maquan Street in Hanson, Massachusetts, a small group of people sits around a table, discussing their cancers. Phyllis, a fragile-looking woman in her forties, is a newcomer to the group. Her lymphoma has returned. She is here hoping to learn something new. Next to her is a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, hands stuffed into the pockets. His black hair and dark skin hint at his Native American roots. His name is Billy Best, a name that has meaning here. Everyone faces Billy, who does not speak until he’s asked a question, and then it spills, a rush of hopeful words.
This is a scene being enacted in so many churches, halls, and living rooms around the globe. If nothing else, cancer is global and knows no boundaries. Here is no different from anywhere else. Except that here they have Billy. And because of him, they have a new kind of hope.
Phyllis has recently begun drinking Essiac tea as part of her regimen. “My family thinks I’m nuts and ooh, do they hate the smell of that stuff! I’m in the kitchen there, mixing up a batch,” and she makes the motions of stirring a big pot. “I call it my witches’ brew!”
Everyone laughs and nods. Yeah, that’s what I call it too, some mutter.
She has come to ask Billy about 714X, another esoteric remedy. It will require her to inject herself once a day in the lower abdomen, and she is apprehensive. She wants to hear from Billy how to do it.
“I never had any trouble,” he says. “Once you find the right spot, it’s easy.”
Again, everyone nods and says things like, Yeah, you’ll see, it’s really not hard.
But is it painful? She wants to know.
“I don’t know, you get used to it, I guess,” Billy says. “Sure beats the alternative!”
Billy’s mother, Sue, is the only one here who does not have or has not had cancer. On the table in front of her, Sue has a bottle of Essiac, nothing like what one expects of a tea. Packaged as it is in a green, round-shouldered bottle with an old-fashioned-looking label, the substance has the quaint appearance of a folk remedy. Alongside the Essiac are copies of newspaper articles and books about Essiac and 714X.