(WPRI) — With a choice between paying her mortgage or the cost of natural treatments for cancer, Denise Souza chose the latter and bought a bus.
But years before revving up that part of her journey, she wondered if the diagnosis was real.
Souza was diagnosed with Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in December 2015. She was given an estimated 3 to 6 months to live. She said the diagnosis was “heart-wrenching.”
“And it was like, I can’t believe this is happening,” she recalled.
That diagnosis was almost three years ago.
When a team of doctors did not offer much of a choice, Souza decided to ask around and became convinced “all-natural” was the answer. She shifted her unconcerned approach about eating to an all plant diet and turned to a regiment that included high dose Vitamin C IV’s.
Judging by how she feels, blood test results and the length of time since that December day, she is “100% convinced” her decision is working in her favor.
“I’m going to share my story,” she said. “And I’m going to make it known that conventional treatment isn’t for everyone.”
But remedies of vitamins, oxygen treatments and ozone therapy add up to about $2,200 a month in expenses. The treatments are not covered by standard health insurance, the way much more expensive chemotherapy is.
“The only thing that was covered is blood work,” she explained. “You shouldn’t have to decide between a mortgage and treatment [that you choose].”
So, when she realized she could not afford her house, and her choice, Souza sold a shed and bought the bus from a school district near Michigan for $3,000.
There was about $500 left over to spruce it up, but she had to sell a few other things to turn “Skooly,” as it says on the plate, into her home.
She doused the school bus yellow with a durable, textured truck bed, charcoal gray.
Souza did most of the work herself, including the penny-peppered counter top and the bathroom in the back where the “cool kids” probably sat back in Michigan.
She will grow her own food with a tower garden and solar panels will help her live off the grid.
“I want to be sustainable,” she explained from the roof deck that she added. “It doesn’t make any sense to talk about health and not try to be sustainable off the grid.”
The deck will help her get a better view of everything from Yellowstone National Park to the Pacific Ocean. She said she plans to track a coast to coast trail to let anyone willing to listen, or follow her on social media know, if cancer strikes, there is a choice in treatment.
“I want to be a voice for people who aren’t able to be a voice. Or for people who are gone,” Souza explained. “I’m going to be ok. And cancer is not going to take me out of this world. Maybe getting hit by a moose on a trail somewhere? Not cancer.”
There are a few finishing touches she’s working on, but Skooly has plenty of room for her traveling companions — Labradors Greyson and Paxton, whose coats match the color of the bus.
Whether looking back at her choice, or forward to the miles she will soon be putting on Skooly, Souza is excited about a future she was not too sure about not too long ago.
“I refuse to go out without a fight,” she said. “And the fight is going to be my way, and that’s the all natural way.”
Souza, the labs and her message are expected to hit the road by the end of the month and you can follow her journey by visiting her website.