William Donald Kelley was born on November 1, 1925 in Winfield, Kansas on an 80-acre dirt farm. His father, William O. Butler, died of a heart attack, during the Great Depression, leaving his mother Velma to raise him and his two brothers, Warren Richard and Lachlan Phillip. All three boys went to college and graduate school and became successful professionals.
Kelley moved to Texas to attend Baylor University and graduated with both a master’s of science and a D.D.S degree. He lived most of his adult life in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He was influenced by his father-in-law and became an orthodontist with a thriving practice, working 12 to 14 hour days. He and his wife adopted four children and lived the typical suburban life of the 1950s. In his spare time, he restored antique cars. With little time to eat, he practically lived on candy bars and similar junk food.
In the 1960s, he began to have health problems. The first problem, he noticed, was diminished eyesight. He next developed muscle cramps and chest pains. He had severe heart arrhythmias. He went into extreme depression. His lowest point came in 1964 when he suffered acute gastric distention and was hospitalized. X-rays revealed he had advanced pancreatic cancer, which had metastasized to his lungs, liver, and hip. His surgeon said he had four to eight weeks to live and refused to operate. His doctors were so certain of their diagnosis that they never biopsied cancer, which was an omission that haunted him in later years.
Dr. Kelley would have given up on his own, but his mother came from Kansas and threw out his junk food. She instructed him to only eat fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains. He began to feel better within several months and was able to return to work. Next he discovered the book Cancer Therapy: Fifty Cases , written by Dr. Max Gerson, in a health food store. The book advocated a similar diet.
However, after six or seven months, he stopped improving and developed serious digestive problems. This resulted in him taking pancreatic enzymes to aid his digestion. Eventually, he increased his regimen to fifty enzyme capsules per day. He then discovered the work of John Beard on pancreatic enzymes and cancerous tumors. He also read the writings of Dr. Edward Howell and was influenced by them. He eventually healed himself and went on to treat over 30,000 other patients.
Kelley discovered that not all people did well on his diet. His second wife, Susie, was one of those people. It seemed she required rare red meat so that she might control her severe allergies. So was born Kelley’s theory of the Metabolic Type. He believed different people, because of genetics and environmental factors, had different requirements for a vegetarian or carnivorous diet, raw or cooked. Vilhjamur Steffanson, who had shown that Eskimos remained cancer-free while eating a fatty red meat diet, was the person who influenced his thoughts on meat.
Dr. Kelley authored several books, which includes One Answer to Cancer, published in 1967 and the updated version, Cancer: Curing the Incurable Without Surgery, Chemotherapy or Radiation (2001). His tests for cancer include the Kelley Enzyme Test and the Kelley Index of Malignancy. He was convicted, in 1970, of practicing medicine without a license. In 1976, his dental license was suspended for 5 years. In the late 1970s, he worked in a clinic south of Tijuana, Mexico.
His fame came in 1980 when he treated film actor Steve McQueen for advanced mesothelioma. McQueen died after undergoing surgery to remove “dead tumors” in 1980 and Kelley later claimed he had cured him, but McQueen was murdered because he “was going to blow the lid off of the cancer racket.” In the public’s mind, Kelley had failed and this was a blow to his claims of a cancer cure. In the 1980s, a young medical student, named Nick Gonzalez, was sent by the Sloan-Kettering cancer center in order to debunk Kelley’s claim of a 100% cure rate for pancreatic cancer. However, after reviewing Kelley’s patient records, Gonzalez became a believer.
In the 1970s, Kelley felt his beliefs would be treated fairly, but as time went on he become more and more despondent and paranoid. This was because he began to think this would never happen. In the 1980s he moved to rural Washington and his marriage to Susie ended. Later he moved to Pennsylvania and rented a small bungalow north of Pittsburgh with a cardiologist Carol Morrison, whom he had said to have cured of breast cancer. They survived off of Kelley’s Social Security Check. After Morrison died he moved to his mother’s farm in Kansas. By the 1990s, Kelley was angry at the world, especially at those of who had tried to help him, including Gonzalez. He died on January 30, 2005, at the age of 79 from congestive heart failure, leaving 4 children, 9 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.