My wife and I with Dr. Keith Block at the Block Center, and a copy of what I consider is the best book available for cancer patients and their families when dealing with cancer care: Life over Cancer by Dr. Block.
Some people wonder why I’m so interested in sharing the integrative cancer care concept (i.e. the best of conventional cancer care such as surgery, chemo and radiation combined with scientifically supported complementary therapies such as anticancer nutrition, fitness, mind body wellness strategies).
I posted my wife’s full story (the long version) in five parts earlier in this blog. Here’s the condensed version.
My wife was diagnosed with stage 2b metastatic invasive breast cancer on Guam in November 2009. We flew to the Philippines six times and went to The Medical City where we got a second opinion, she got her mastectomy, she got four of her six chemo sessions and finally she got 33 radiation sessions (during a 56 day stay). By mid July 2010 the cancer went into remission and I figured if it did come back it would happen several years later. I was wrong.
The cancer recurred in November 2011 the first symptom being difficulty breathing because one of her lungs was almost completely filled with liquid. The liquid was drained and we eventually got confirmation that the cancer was back, had spread to her chest wall and this time it was stage 4.
We went to a local cancer clinic and they started my wife on a ladder of drugs starting with the oldest and least costly and bumping her up to newer more expensive ones each time the cancer adapted.
She reached a level at which the most expensive of her drugs cost $11,000 a bottle (Tykerb aka Lepatanib). While the drugs she was taking may have helped slow the cancer’s progress it continued to spread to form about thirty lesions on her lungs.
She also started experiencing several symptoms that greatly concerned me. She began to quickly lose a lot of weight (32 lbs.), lost her appetite and became progressively weak. From reading I found out that these are common symptoms of cachexia–a wasting symptom often experienced as cancer advances and, if left alone, can lead to death by malnutrition.
She also had tingling in the fingers of her left hand (from reading I felt this was possibly due to neuropathy which is nerve damage possibly due to extended use of certain chemo drugs). She also had numbness in her left hand and pain in her left arm possibly due to lymphadema from having two lymph glands removed after she was first diagnosed.
I realized I had to do something or she was slowly (or quickly) going to waste away and die.
I searched Amazon through dozens of books and ordered what I felt were the best ones. I also searched the internet through many websites looking for things I could do to slow the cancer’s progress.
In one of the books (Beating Cancer With Nutrition by Dr. Patrick Quillin) I found the recipe for the Dragonslayer shake. This is a nutritional shake which the recipe allows you to custom build according to your tastes. I constructed my version of it and began to feed it to my wife twice a day–morning and night. I also started giving her some supplements that, from reading, might help. Since this start I’ve significantly changed the shake (to an anticancer green smoothie I concocted) and some different supplements.
We also made significant changes to our diet based on information I found in these books: 1. Life Over Cancer by Dr. Keith Block MD (the best book on cancer care that I found) 2. Anticancer by Dr. David Servan Schreiber (also excellent and comes in hardback or audio version and he has a very good presentation on DVD if you prefer watching instead of reading or listening) 3. Foods to Fight Cancer: Essential Foods to Help Prevent Cancer by Richard Beliveau, Ph.D. and Denis Gingras, Ph.D.. The first two books were especially helpful and I highly recommend to anyone seeking proactive steps they can take to complement the conventional cancer care they are going through.
As I began to feed my wife the nutritional Dragonslayer shakes and then anticancer green smoothies my wife’s symptoms all slowly started to subside until they all went away.
While the drugs may have helped in slowing the growth of the cancer it did continue to progress in spite of them. Also there was a period of a few weeks (between two and four) where all drugs had to be discontinued because my wife had picked up a life threatening infection due to improper procedure at our local hospital and strong antibiotics had to be administered for several days while they tried to get the infection under control (the attempts failed and her infected port-a-cath had to be taken out and replaced. Also the Tykerb (aka Lepatanib) at one point was viewed as ineffective (after the cancer continued to spread to her lungs) and was stopped for several weeks. It has since been restarted.
During the first of my wife’s last two quarterly high resolution CT scans (taken Dec. 20, 2012) the images began to show shrinkage of the lesions on her lungs. The last one (taken March 25, 2013) showed marked shrinkage of all tumors to the point that many of them had “almost completely been resolved” in the words of the radiologist who wrote the report. More complete quoted wording of the CT scan reports can be found in my five part more complete telling of my wife’s story earlier in my blog.
To me the integrative cancer care approach is the missing piece of a puzzle being experienced by many people going through cancer treatment. If you visualize the cancer tumor as a tree then conventional care can be comparable to whacking away at the trees branches. I have a neighbor that has a large tree that he’s been trying to kill for years. He periodically cuts all of its branches off. But, with time, the tree always grows new branches because the root system is left intact. The integrative cancer care approach enables the cancer patient to proactively deal with the tumor’s root system (or its source of nourishment or fertilization by altering the body’s biochemistry to become less friendly to tumor growth) while their conventional care (surgery, radiation and chemo) helps to “debulk” or shrink the tumor, buying more time for the patient to make those changes.
I hope sharing my wife’s story and the integrative cancer care concept and how it’s helped us is of help to some cancer patients during what can be a very depressing, overwhelming and dark time. I hope it brings hope and the possibility of options that can be of help in their fight.