Above photo: My wife receiving chemo during on of our six trips to The Medical City in the Philippines (end of 2009 through mid 2010)
I’ve recently decided to evolve, change and I believe improve Stage 4 Living due to some of our recent experiences in the conventional chemo system.
A slight reversal and a major revelation
In 2012 my wife started to rapidly decline as she exhibited some classic symptoms of cachexia (eg. rapid weight loss, growing weakness, loss of appetite, coughing as the cancer lesions spread to her lungs, etc.). With research and a change of diet and lifestyle many of he symptoms started to reverse. Most of the roughly thirty cancerous lesions on her lungs started to shrink and disappear. Two areas did not. After significant progress the improvements plateaued and in the last two CT scans showed minor signs of minor reversal. Her oncologist described the two areas of concern on her lungs as being about one inch in size and the second one, three quarters of an inch. Although the growth was tiny it was enough for her oncologist to take her off of Gemzar (aka Gemsitabine) and put her on Cisplatin and 5FU (along with the usual Herceptin).
Her experience with Cisplatin was a revelation to me. Due to her excellent nutrition and lifestyle measures (i.e. daily walking) she’d always weathered chemo well compared with other patients we’d seen. Her experience with a single dose of Cisplatin was very different. She experienced almost constant nausea and occasional vomiting between the sessions, loss of appetite (due to the chemo drug making everything–even water–taste metallic) and some other troubling symptoms. At the next session we told the oncologist about the side effects and asked for an alternative drug. She was prescribed Carboplatin (along with 5FU and Herceptin). The side effects were better but still miserable.
The growing costs of chemotherapy and my wife’s experience with Cisplatin and Carboplatin turned the light on for me. I realized that this was not going to get better. Each new drug was going to be more expensive and more toxic. If we stay on this path I can predict what will happen with 100 percent accuracy. My wife’s body will be exposed to repeated doses of toxic drugs that will tax her cells, tissues, organs and systems (most notably her precious immune system and digestive system that she desperately needs for the fight against the onslaught of cancer cells.
The three battles waged by cancer patients
When I started this blog I wanted to share science based nutritional and lifestyle strategies that would help others in their cancer battle. With the growing pressure of our chemo bills and the growing toxicity of her treatments I realized that there are millions of people that are fighting three battles: 1. They are fighting their cancer 2. They are fighting for their bodies to recover from long term side effects of the toxicity of chemo, high radiation of radio-therapy and CT scans (each one equal to about 400 regular x-rays according to Dr. Michael Greger (nutritionfacts.org), and surgery 3. They are fighting growing medical bills. The rich have money and coverage, the poor have government programs, but the middle class is the class that is most damaged by the present conventional treatment system (especially if they lose coverage, have no coverage or have partial (e.g. 80/20 or 70/30) coverage. Twenty percent of a flu shot is no big deal. Twenty percent of a late stage chemo treatment can be devastating long term.
As we started to experience the weight of the 20 percent not covered by my wife’s Medicare I received more insight on the financial weight others are lifting in their cancer fight. I have a cousin who’s in the end stages (palliative/pain-relief, hospice care) of battling metastatic lung cancer. He and his wife recently told me that their bills have topped a million dollars…without insurance (thank goodness for nonprofits and government programs to help families in their position). They told me that they were given an option to continue a treatment that might help his immune system but cost would be about $350,000 (yes, that’s three hundred and fifty thousand dollars). I mentioned my cousin’s situation and he said that that’s actually “cheap” (yes, he used the word cheap). He knew of drugs that cost about $100,000 a session. (I frankly admitted to him that I felt like I’d entered some kind of fun-house in which such bizarre numbers made sense.
I have always agreed with Dr. Keith Block and believed that conventional treatment is an important tool in slowing the progression of cancer. Integrative treatment, which incorporates science based nutrition and lifestyle strategies is another important tool. What I’ve come to find is that conventional treatment has an extremely poor “cure” rate for metastatic cancers that have spread beyond the original site and invaded other areas and organs. I’ve seen estimates as low as a bit over one to two percent over five years. Of course there are exceptions, especially when patients take control of their health and make radical dietary and lifestyle changes. But chemo alone has a miserable cure rate.
To compound matters the treatments tend to be so toxic and taxing to the body’s cells, tissues, organs and systems (especially the vital digestive and immune systems so desperately needed for the fight) that I believe it actually lays the groundwork for the cancer to come back to fight against a significantly weakened organism.
Two changes in Stage 4 Living due to recent experiences in the conventional chemo system
Because of the above realizations I’ve decided to change Stage 4 Living in two ways: First I plan on incorporating more personal comments on lessons I’ve learned in helping my wife manage her illness. Second (and this is the big one) I’ve decided to start looking highly selectively, and seriously at alternative cancer treatments. Reading through Radical Remission by Dr. Kelley Turner has opened my eyes to the fact that there are over one thousand cases of late stage cancer remission documented in medical journals. The vast majority of them were experienced by people who had been given up on by conventional medicine or the patients themselves had experienced the horrible side effects of some types of chemo and decided that they would try to find a less traumatic way of overcoming their illness.
For people who lack the resources to pay for costly chemo treatments or who find the side effects of chemo too traumatizing to their mind and body, the only other choice, besides highly selectively looking at alternative treatments, is to give up. Something I would wholeheartedly disagree with.
Based on the experiences I’ve had in dealing with my wife’s cancer if I were to start over again this is what I would now advise myself back in November 2009: 1. Get the best conventional care you can afford. 2. Study, study, study and incorporate the best science based nutritional and lifestyle strategies to help strengthen your immune system and your body and change your biochemistry to one less supportive of cancer cell establishment, growth and invasiveness. 3. Carefully search for alternative cancer treatment sources that research the newest and most effective developments in the field and work toward the ideal of radical remission (see radicalremission.com and the book Radical Remission by Dr. Kelley Turner reviewed below). My wife and I may fail or we may succeed but we will try. To stay on this present path only guarantees one eventual end. At least the alternative path has the possibility of a better ending (as demonstrated the over one thousand cases documented in medical journals and thousands more Dr. Turner estimates are never reported or documented by doctors around country and the world).
I’ll be posting highly selective alternative resources in future posts. Please check back or follow this blog if you think you would find this helpful.