Tricia Spence has battled and beaten breast cancer but the path she took to do so is one untravelled by many.
She shared her story with Gisborne Herald health reporter Jessica Wauchop.
When Gisborne woman Tricia Spence was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 something inside told her that chemotherapy and surgery were not for her.
"The doctor's recommendation was to get a full mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and remove my lymph nodes... all the conventional treatments, but something about that just didn't feel right to me.
"Once the normal emotions of shock and fear subsided I started researching alternatives to conventional treatment," Ms Spence said.
"I had a strong inclination coming from within that there was another healing path that I should take."
Ms Spence went with her gut feeling. It was a brave call, one that not everyone would make.
"Thankfully, I had full support from my husband, family and close friends."
Over the next two years Ms Spence changed her diet, went on health supplements, did colour therapy and embarked on an inner healing journey which included meditation and mind-body work called Qigong.
"As I was going down that healing path I felt so healthy. I always felt really good doing what I was doing."
She said that once she felt it was the right time to address the tumour in her breast, her research uncovered a hospital in China where doctors specialised in advanced, low toxic, minimally-invasive, targeted cancer treatment.
"Their focus is a treatment called SPDT which stands for sonodynamic therapy and photodynamic therapy," she said.
"We made contact with the hospital and they said 'yes, we are very experienced in treating breast cancer so we welcome you to come to China for treatment'."
At the end of August last year Ms Spence, her husband Stuart and her brother, a doctor from the United States, arrived in China, where a PET scan -- an advanced diagnostic tool for cancer and other conditions -- showed for the first time exactly where cancer was in her body.
Cancer was shown in her breast and in the lymph system under her arms, down her side and in her groin. Two spots of cancer were found on her vertebrae and there was an indication of cancer in her uterine zone.
Ms Spence had four cycles of treatment. Each cycle was made up of two weeks of treatment and one week of recovery.
She would begin the SPDT treatment by ingesting a photosensitizer which was selectively absorbed by cancer cells.
"The photodynamic portion of the treatment is similar to lying on a tanning bed with high intensity infrared light. The light waves penetrate and destroy the cancer cells that are surrounded by the photosensitizer. It is a totally painless procedure," she said.
"Ultrasound is used in the sonodynamic portion of the treatment. The patient is submerged in a tub of water and ultrasound waves are emitted through the water.
"The ultrasound waves penetrate deeper than the light waves."
Along with her SPDT treatment, doctors had Ms Spence on a very low dose of chemotherapy, that aimed to make the SPDT four times more effective, and ozone therapy, "because cancer has a hard time surviving in a highly oxygenated environment".
"I was also being treated with Chinese medicine to maintain my immune system.
"The biggest side effect of the treatment was fatigue because of the breakdown of cancer cells which your body has to process. I did a lot of sleeping over there."
Ms Spence said that although she was not treated with the conventional dosage levels of chemotherapy, she experienced some mild side effects such as nausea and hair thinning.
The treatment cost her a lot of money.
"We used everything we had and a lot we didn't have, thanks to family support," Ms Spence said.
"The unfortunate part of this is that in the current environment, if people want to choose this lower toxic, minimally invasive treatment versus the conventional route then it has to be out of their own pocket."
Ms Spence's response to the treatment was very good and the final PET scan showed nearly all the cancer, including a four centimetre tumour in her breast, had cleared.
"When I came home I met with my oncologist. He was very supportive," she said.
"You just really can't argue with the before and after PET scan results, so he was very happy for me as 'the treatment worked very well and produced a remission' -- his words."
Prevention is now her way forward.
Ms Spence is on supplements, minimises dairy and other foods that can influence her hormone levels, has hormone therapy and continues to eat more natural, whole foods.
"I try to eat a clean diet with a lot of fruit and vegetables, I minimise animal protein and try to avoid additives and preservatives," she said.
"My whole lifestyle has changed, especially getting into meditation and learning how to use the mind to assist in healing the body.
"For me that was a natural shift because once I decided to go down this different healing path I had to look at all facets that might be contributing to why I got that disease in the first place."
Her focus now is on maintaining her body's state of well-being.
Ms Spence said she was not advocating the treatment as a "miracle cure".
"It is simply another way of treating cancer that is far less debilitating to the patient. I can only hope that this message gets to a lot of people and awareness can be brought to the New Zealand government in hopes that they will embrace researching, then procuring or subsidising this kind of treatment."
Popular competitions and giveaways from Gimme.co.nz: NZ's People Powered Guide to Free Stuff. Links will open on Gimme.
Join Voxy on Google+.