- William Donald Kelley, DDS, MS, one of the most significant
figures in the history of alternative cancer treatments, passed away on
January 30, 2005, at the age of 79. The cause of death was congestive heart
failure. He had a long history of heart problems, with severe rhythm disturbances,
beginning in the 1960s.
- Dr. Kelley was born on November 1, 1925 on an 80-acre
"dirt farm" in Winfield, Kansas. His father had died young of
a heart attack and, during the Great Depression, his mother raised three
sons alone. All three sons went to college, then graduate school, and became
- William Kelley was an unusual child. He once told me
that when he was three he had a vision of Jesus approaching him, as he
was playing in a sandpile. He took him up into his arms and instructed
him to become a medical missionary. Kelley later moved to Texas and studied
at Baylor University. Under the influence of his father-in-law, he became
a successful orthodontist, working 12 to 14 hours per day putting braces
on the teeth of the children of Grapevine, Texas. He and his first wife
adopted four children and lived the typical suburban existence of the 1950s.
In what little spare time he had he restored antique cars. Always a determined
worker, he practically lived on candy bars and other junk food.
- Around 1960, his health began to deteriorate. The first
thing he noticed was diminishing eyesight. He also developed muscle cramps
and chest pains and went into a severe mental depression. The culmination
came in 1964, when he suffered acute gastric distention and was hospitalized.
A series of X rays showed the signs of advancing pancreatic cancer, including
lesions in his lungs, hip and liver. His surgeon refused to operate, saying
that Kelley had only four to eight weeks to live. The doctors were so certain
of their diagnosis that they felt no need to take a biopsy of the tumor,
an omission that was to hound Kelley in later years.
- Kelley was ready to give up, but his redoubtable frontier
mother came from Kansas to rescue him. She threw out the junk food and
meat and instructed him to eat only fresh and raw fruits, vegetables, nuts,
grains and seeds. After several months, Kelley began to feel better. He
was even able to return to work. In a health food store he then discovered
the work of dietary pioneer, Max Gerson, who had written the book, Cancer
Therapy: Fifty Cases, which advocated a similar program.
- After six or seven months, however, Kelley stopped improving
and developed severe digestive problems, probably from the advancing cancer.
He therefore began taking pancreatic enzymes, at first simply to aid his
digestion. He eventually increased the dose to 50 enzyme capsules per day.
He then discovered the work of the Scottish embryologist, John Beard, DSc,
who early in the 20th century had postulated that pancreatic enzymes were
a natural control for cancer. He also encountered the writings of Dr. Edward
Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition, and an early apostle of the raw plant
food diet. In time, Kelley healed from his own disease and went on to treat
over 30,000 other patients.
- Initially, Kelley discovered that while many people did
well on this diet, others did not. His second wife, Susie, was one of these.
It turned out that she needed rare red meat in order to control her severe
allergies. Thus was born Kelley's concept of the Metabolic Type, in which
different people, because of genetic heritage and environmental factors,
had different requirements for vegetarian or carnivorous diets, raw and/or
cooked. Kelley was influenced in his thinking about meat by the work of
Vilhjamur Steffanson, the Harvard-trained explorer who, among other things,
had shown that the Eskimo remained cancer-free on a fatty red meat diet.
- One Answer to Cancer
- Kelley was the author of several books, including his
self-help book, One Answer to Cancer, first published in 1967, and an updated
edition, Cancer: Curing the Incurable Without Surgery, Chemotherapy or
Radiation (2001). His tests for cancer included the Kelley Enzyme Test
and the Kelley Index of Malignancy. In 1970, Kelley was convicted of practicing
medicine without a license, and in 1976 the courts suspended his dental
license for 5 years. For a while in the late 1970s he worked in a clinic
south of Tijuana.
- Dr. Kelley's high point of fame came in 1980, when he
treated the popular US film actor Steve McQueen for advanced mesothelioma,
a form of chest and abdomen cancer generally caused by asbestos exposure.
McQueen died after undergoing surgery in 1980. Kelley later claimed that
McQueen had actually been cured, but then murdered because he "was
going to blow the lid off of the cancer racket." In the public's mind,
however, this failure dealt a blow to all of Kelley's claims of success
- In the 1970s, Kelley was reasonable in his statements
about medical orthodoxy and, although he appreciated the difficulties of
changing America's life style, looked forward to a fair and proper evaluation
of his method. As time progressed, however, he became increasingly despondent,
realizing that this would probably never happen.
- He also became increasingly paranoid. In the 1980s, he
moved to rural Washington state. His marriage to Susie had broken up, he
lost control of his once-thriving organization, and his mental and physical
health began to deteriorate as well. In the late 1980s, he and his then-companion,
a cardiologist named Carol Morrison, MD, whom he had allegedly cured of
breast cancer, moved to rural Pennsylvania. I visited them twice in the
small town of Saxonburg, north of Pittsburgh. I found this couple - a former
successful orthodontist and board-certified heart specialist - living in
a small rented bungalow on Water Street. They were surviving on Dr. Kelley's
monthly Social Security check.
- Kelley was a shadow of his former self. Although he still
did coffee enemas every day, he had reverted to drinking huge bottles of
Coke, to which he ascribed health-giving properties. He and Dr. Morrison
seemed only tangentially interested in medicine. They were too busy running
their daisy-wheel printer day and night, churning out racist and anti-Semitic
tracts! It was hard to connect this bitter wreck of a man with the vibrant
individual of earlier decades.
- Enter Dr. Gonzalez
- It was around that time that Nicholas J. Gonzalez, MD,
a recent graduate of Cornell Medical College, first came to prominence
in New York as a practitioner of Dr. Kelley's methods. Gonzalez was always
scrupulous in crediting Kelley for his contribution to his own work. Yet
the Kelley I that met in 1990 seethed with anger at the world, and particularly
at those who had tried to help him, including Dr. Gonzalez. Soon afterwards,
Kelley even sued Gonzalez in a vituperative nuisance suit. The suit was
dismissed, with some unkind words from the judge. After Morrison died,
Kelley moved back to his mother's Kansas farm, where his "strange
eventful history" had begun almost 80 years before.
- Asked to sum up Kelley's contribution, Dr. Gonzalez wrote
- "Over the years, just about anything that could
ever be said about anybody, good bad and indifferent, has been said about
William Donald Kelley. Regardless of how true or untrue such statements
might be, my wish is that he be remembered for what he truly was, a very
brilliant man who sacrificed all personal happiness for what he believed
to be the truth. Like so many other brilliant men he fit in nowhere and
generated controversy, adulation and scorn for much of his adult life wherever
he went and whatever he did.
- "The world certainly treated him poorly, and too
often in his later years he responded in kind. His faults, like his strengths,
are legion and extraordinary and he lived an eccentric life, always on
the fringe; at one point during the early 1990s, I heard he was scavenging
food out of dumpsters. Despite all this, I have always remained focused,
and continue to remain so, on his unique ability to see a truth no one
else could see, and stick with it regardless of the cost.
- "From the day I first met him, in a chiropractor's
office in Queens, in July of 1981, after my second year of medical school,
his one goal, his one wish was to have his work properly evaluated and
tested, so that if it proved of value, it could be integrated into the
mainstream of orthodox medicine. That was to me, whatever was to happen
in our own relationship, and whatever he was to say about me in recent
years, always an honorable goal, one which I took seriously and continue
to work toward.
- "In my estimation, Kelley, in his scientific thinking,
was light years ahead of the rest of us, both orthodox and alternative.
He deserves our respect for his accomplishments, for his trials and severe
tribulations, and our forgiveness for his foibles. Someday, I believe his
thoughts about the nature of cancer and human disease will become the foundation
of a new medicine, not merely a fringe footnote, and the world will remember
him at that time with well deserved appreciation. For now, let's remember
him kindly, with gratitude for what he did and what he tried to do."
- --Ralph W. Moss, PhD