Alternative Cancer Treatment Works for Billy Best
Neither of these substances, while legal in Canada, is approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Technically, what Sue Best is doing here this evening is illegal. However, most everyone who comes to the Bests, who operate under the umbrella of Best Enterprises, does so after trying many other treatments. Sue considers herself a conduit, a passage through which these people can pass if they need to. “A lot of people who use these alternatives have tried just about everything else. It would look pretty sad if they [the authorities] started hassling them at this point in their lives.”
As for the money, a bottle of Essiac costs about $40, and 21 days’ worth of 714X goes for $300–not much when compared with the many thousands of dollars involved in conventional cancer treatments. However, insurance companies all steer clear of paying for Essiac and 714X.
The meeting lasts an hour. What strikes a visitor is that these cancer patients all have full heads of hair. They appear to be healthy, even vigorous. On this evening Billy speaks mostly to Phyllis, though everyone else listens intently as he tells her how to do the injections, the kinds of things to eat (no red meat, no caffeine, whole grains), and the importance of vitamins. He speaks with the assurance of someone well educated in the topic. There is a reluctance to break, but at last the members rise and climb the steps out into the parking lot. Phyllis hugs Billy like a brother.
“Good luck,” he says.
“Thank you so much,” she says. “See you next week!”
A decade ago, Billy was on a different mission. On October 26, 1994, the 16-year-old cancer patient pulled his backpack out from under his bed and tucked his skateboard under his arm. His father was in the basement and his mother was not home. Quietly, he walked out the door of his family’s home in Norwell, Massachusetts, hopped onto his skateboard, and skated away.
Since July of that year, Billy had been treated for Hodgkin’s disease at the famed Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Each week, he received chemotherapy. Each week, he became sicker, weaker. To his mind, this was not the way to be healed. Like a prisoner waiting for the right moment to break away, Billy began selling some of his belongings: a video here, a stereo there, skateboard parts. Whatever he thought his friends might want to buy, he sold. Soon he had several hundred dollars. And a plan.
Billy knew he was dying. His aunt Judy had recently died of breast cancer. He had watched her go through the same treatments, get just as sick, grow just as weak, and then she died. So he thought that if he could get to California, where he once lived with his parents, he’d be happy. He thought that if he could watch the sun set and then go to sleep, what could be better than that? That was how he pictured himself dying. So he kept this backpack under his bed. He had four pairs of shoes in there. Of course, he would take his skateboard, the heart of his life. But he thought he might end up having to skateboard across the country, which made him think he would need a lot of shoes. He kept the money hidden. Maybe he had enough for a bus ticket to California. He wasn’t sure.
That October morning, he got to the bus station in Boston and found he didn’t have enough money for California, so instead he bought a one-way ticket to Lake Charles, Louisiana. He thought it sounded like it would be a pretty place. Once on the bus, a feeling of intense peace came over him, as if nothing could touch him now. He was safe. No more treatments. No more being sick. He stashed his skateboard overhead, put on his headphones, sat back in the seat, and let the music roll.