Part 5 of 5: Our cancer journey continues – finding the integrative approach to cancer care

Photo by A. Dombrowski (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

Photo by A. Dombrowski (courtesy of Flickr and Creative Commons)

I only read a fraction of Beating Cancer With Nutrition and extracted out what I felt was the essence and began applying it as quickly as possible. The cancer clock was ticking and I was in a big hurry.

Based on high number of reviews and reader comments at Amazon I next started reading Anticancer by David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD. I also ordered the audio book version (something I highly recommend if you don’t enjoy reading). I also ordered his presentation on DVD for PBS (also named Anticancer).

Dr. Servan-Schreiber, while not a cancer specialist, is a scientist (a neuropsychiatric by profession) and uses the scientific approach in his investigation on the causes and prevention of cancer. He also has a special interest in cancer treatment and prevention. He was, quite by accident, diagnosed with a walnut size brain tumor which, through conventional treatment, went into remission then recurred.

The cover of his Anticancer states:”All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer.” In Anticancer, Dr. Servan-Schreiber answers the obvious question: Why?

I highly recommend the book to anyone trying to minimize the chances of cancer occurring or bolster the body’s ability to overcome the effects of chemo. Especially the following chapters: Chapter 6: The Anticancer Environment, Chapter 8: The Anticancer Foods, Chapter 9: The Anticancer Mind, Chapter 11: The Anticancer Body.

I will try to condense a few key ideas from the book in future posts. Of course if you’re in a hurry, get the book, audiobook or DVD.

As my wife adopted some of the dietary and lifestyle changes I found in my research, the symptoms she was experiencing (weight loss, total loss of appetite, weakness, tingling fingers, arm pain, numbness in her hands) all slowly started to subside. This gave me a shot of much needed confidence that we were headed in the right direction.

I looked at my stack of books on cancer again, trying to decide what to read next. My eye fell on a book entitled Life Over Cancer by Keith I. Block, MD. I pulled it out of the stack and started to browse through it. As I slowly read through it I realized that I had long last found the book I was searching for. Dr. Block’s approach was what I had been looking for. It was thorough and incorporated conventional care with scientifically validated dietary and lifestyle changes that we could adopt to complement my wife’s ongoing conventional treatment. On the back and front covers and inside it had reviews from sixteen doctors and specialists in cancer testing and treatment including one by a doctor from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, considered by many specialists to be among the top three cancer centers in the U.S..

Even months later, I can say without reservation that if I was diagnosed with late stage cancer and was fighting for my life and could only refer to one book in my battle, Life Over Cancer would be the book.

It isn’t a light read; the book weighs in at 594 pages. When I met Dr. Block he said that the essential meat of the book (if one’s energy or inclination don’t allow a full read) can be found in the following chapters: Chapter 1: Why Integrative Care Works, Chapter 4: The Ant-cancer diet, Chapter 13: The Healing Power of the Terrain. I also found chapters 14 through 19 helpful in understanding the causes of cancer at the biochemical and cellular level and the dietary and lifestyle steps one can take to thwart those causes. One of the key steps in fighting a battle is understanding your enemy. There are many other helpful chapters in Life Over Cancer but the above are a good, and helpful place to start without getting overwhelmed.

I will try to condense a few key ideas from the Anticancer and Life Over Cancer and other books in future blog posts. But if you’re in a hurry I highly recommend reading reviews and chapter headings at Amazon and buying one or both depending on what you feel best meets your needs.

As I read portions of the above books I asked my wife to make some lifestyle and dietary changes. To be honest with you some of my suggestions went over well with her and some did not. As obsessed as I am with beating her illness I have to admit it’s not easy making significant changes to your lifestyle or diet. But with time, enough changes were made to make a difference. All of the symptoms I discussed above (loss of weight, loss of appetite, weakness, tingling fingers, hand numbness, pain in her left arm) slowly slowly diminished until they completely disappeared.

We also started getting positive results noted in her quarterly high resolution CT scans.

Following are some comments in the CT scan report by the radiologist in her scan of December 20, 2012: 1. The remainder of the nodules have significantly improved in size. No new pulmonary nodule is seen. 2. The right hilar lymphadenopathy has also improved…3. No enlarged lymph nodes are seen in the visualized upper abdomen. 

Most impressive was the comment made in the Impression portion of the CT scan report: There has been a marked improvement in the appearance of the multiple pulmonary nodules with many no longer being discernible.

In her high resolution CT scan of March 25, 2013 the improvement in her condition continued. The scan of her abdomen and pelvis revealed no new abnormalities. The radiologist wrote the following in his report on the scan done of her chest: 1. The remainder of the multiple pulmonary nodules has almost completely resolved. 2. There are no new pulmonary nodules. 3. Previously identified right hilar lymph node has also signifidcantly improved in size and now measures subcentimeter in size. 4. No new enlarged lymph nodes are seen in the mediastatinum, supraclavicular region and bilateral axillary regions.

The final comment made in the Impression section of the report: 1. There has been almost complete resolution of previously identified multiple pulmonary nodules. 2. Stable appearance of the post operative changes in the left anterior chest wall. No evidence of recurrence of the disease.

Here’s how I interpret all that scientific language and all that’s happened so far: My wife’s cancer was consuming her through a process of cachexia. An integrative approach (i.e. conventional cancer treatment combined with scientifically validated dietary and lifestyle changes) have helped slow and reverse the growth of the cancer. Hopefully it continues into temporary remission. Permanent remission, while possible, I feel isn’t likely. Unfortunately what I fear is possible if not likely is that it will adapt to her body’s new new biochemical conditions, and eventually mutate to another type of cancer and come back with vigor a few months or years from now. I think it would be dangerous to let down our guard at any time.

Unfortunately, for us, this battle will never end until–one way or another–my wife draws her last breath. I’m hoping and praying that, if God allows, that will be many years from now and of causes unrelated to cancer. But I’ll always be looking over my shoulder.



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