A Fort Benton man has defied the odds when it comes to cancer. Instead of going through the usual rounds of chemotherapy, he decided on an alternative treatment. While it may not be the reason for his amazing recovery, it was enough to make him a believer.
About four months ago, Joseph Curl went to the doctor for what he thought was an ear infection, it turned out to be much worse. “Small cell lung cancer, aggressive type,” said Joseph when describing the diagnosis.
It was the same type of cancer that killed his mother. Joe was determined not to suffer the same fate. “I said, 'I’m sorry, but you do not give me an expiration date, that is above your pay grade,'” said Joseph. “'You do not tell me when I’m going to leave this planet.'”
It made him an immediate chemotherapy and radiation candidate. “No one goes directly into chemotherapy when they’re diagnosed with cancer,” said Amberly Carter-Curl, Joseph’s daughter. “What the doctor explained to me was he would have been dead within hours.”
“Only two percent of people who are diagnosed with small cell lung cancer survive it,” said Amberly.
“The tumor was about the size of my hand and it was wrapped around my throat,” said Joseph.
Amberly dropped everything, leaving her job in Washington headed for Montana, unprepared for what she was about to see. “His face was almost completely black,” said Amberly. “It was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen, my dad looked like he was dead already.”
Joseph underwent the first of several rounds of experimental and grueling chemo. “It was absolutely horrible. I couldn’t go to the bathroom, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t lay down, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t do nothing,“ said Joseph. “I said if this is the quality of life you can offer me, doing chemotherapy and radiation, I don’t want it. I would rather get on the boat and go.”
The former Marine kicked his nearly one pack a day cigarette habit and did some research. He eliminated meat and sugar from his diet and decided to take Rick Simpson Oil, or RSO. Named after a Canadian wellness advocate, its main ingredient is pure tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. “It’s the thing that gets you stoned when you smoke greenbud,” said Joseph. “But I didn’t want RSO to get stoned, I wanted to kill the cancer.”
Over three months, he took a graduated regimen of 60 grams of RSO and says his last checkup was nothing short of a miracle. “Cancer’s not there, not in remission, not in my body,” said Joseph. “The doctor’s still trying to figure out how that’s possible.”
Joseph, who has a medical marijuana card, says one drawback in Montana is the cost of RSO, at 40 dollars a gram. He was able to obtain the drug out of state at a fraction of that price. “I am on Social Security, disability,” said Joseph. “I have a very limited income. And there’s people out there like me that are dying because they can’t afford this medication.”
Joseph and his doctors can’t say for sure what made the cancer disappear. Joseph says it could have been the RSO, the new diet, a strong faith, or even his military mentality.
“Marines are known to be tenacious,” said Joseph. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of the Corps for 50 years. They’re like bulldogs. We get our teeth sunk into something and we don’t let go of it.”
“There wasn’t a single moment that he outwardly thought he was going to die or would say anything like that,” said Amberly. “I’d ask him, 'Are you scared?' and he’d say, 'Scared of what?'”
The longtime carpenter who has lived in Fort Benton for five years is back at his maintenance job at the Fort Motel.
Joeseph says he continues to use the RSO oil, but never drives or operates heavy machinery while under the influence.