Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate doctors. I like them. I even almost married one… once upon a time. To this day, some of my best friends are doctors, allopathic and otherwise.
As for my own family physician – good humored and humble, concerned and conscientious, knowledgeable and just plain NICE – I have nothing but respect for him, largely because I have always felt that, despite all my quirkiness and my preference for non-conventional approaches to health, he has always respected me.
This, I have come to learn, is not everyone’s experience.
Here are 3 ridiculous things some of my clients have been told by their doctors:
DUMB THING #1: “Don’t take any antioxidant supplements during chemo.”
Yet I hear this ALL the time…
There are a number of reasons why this advice is not only dumb. It can also be dangerous. Anyone (including doctors and pharmacists) with a basic understanding of biochemistry would know why. There is NO excuse.
In theory, I kind of get it. There is the (very real) concern that antioxidants may stop the drugs from working to kill cancer. Antioxidants should interfere with the safety or efficacy of chemo drugs because most of them do their jobs by creating free radicals to induce cell death. Antioxidants, then, would (in theory) interfere by mopping up those free radicals quicker than you can say “Coenzyme Q10”.
Yet, studies run at about 100 to 1 in favor of antioxidants providing real improvements in the performance and tolerance of various chemo regimens in common use.
How can that be?
Well, this is where a little ‘biochem’ comes in handy.
Chemotherapy typically induces massive oxidative stress. This is how it forces cancer cells to die. However, in the process, rampant lipid peroxidation ensues and creates something known as aldehydes. These poisonous aldehydes actually prevent cancer cells from moving throughout the cell cycle to the checkpoint where apoptosis (cancer cell death) can begin. HOWEVER… if we inhibit those oxidation and aldehyde levels (through antioxidant use), we get MORE cancer cells that are able to enter apoptosis – which – Ta da! – “one would think”, (she says sarcastically), is the aim of the game!
Like Dr. Neil McKinney, expert in naturopathic oncology, points out, “The net effect is two steps forward, and one step back – YOU ARE STILL ONE STEP AHEAD!”
Secondly, it is a known fact that chemotherapy drugs kill not only cancer cells. They kill the healthy cells too. Some chemotherapy drugs (such as Doxorubicin, for example) are ten times deadlier to healthy cells than they are to cancerous ones. Antioxidants help to protect these (so far) healthy cells. Otherwise, one may end up with a really rough ride on the chemo journey, and make oneself more vulnerable to long-term, irreversible damage.
In a review of 214 studies, it was shown that that there were only 3 potentially unfavorable interactions of specific chemo drugs with specific antioxidants.
Three. That’s all.
All the other studies have shown that antioxidants reduce harm from the drugs, increase effectiveness and, in many cases, do both.
In other words, it helps cancer patients feel better and helps them survive. And yet, antioxidant use is almost always discouraged by smart doctors. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.
DUMB THING #2: “You have three months to live”.
One February night at about 11:00 p.m. just as I was heading off to bed, I received a call from one of my cancer clients.
He had just returned from a visit with his oncologist. Tests had revealed that his cancer, which in a previous scan showed regression, was this time progressing. “My doctor says I have three months to live”, he told me.
Sadly, this client believed him. And the self-fulfilling prophecy immediately went to work. Having lost all hope, from that moment on he stopped taking care of himself and reverted back to old destructive habits. He stopped living. Even under those conditions, it was more than twice that many months before his body eventually succumbed.
Truth is, sometimes there can be –and are – setbacks in any healing journey. It is at those times, especially, that we may need to “pick up the game”. This can mean different things for each of us – but usually it requires a close examination of some ailing aspect of our lives and our willingness to address it.
With hope, I have seen clients make remarkable comebacks – alive even four years after a 6 week “verdict”.
As long as we are alive, there is hope. I can’t help wondering what might have happened had this man’s doctor said that to him instead.
DUMB THING #3: “It will only come back.”
This is not only dumb. It is, without question, the most heart-breaking quote I’ve heard to date.
You have been fighting for your life for the better part of a year — undergoing the trials and tribulations of chemotherapy… revamping your diet to a more health-supporting version, even at the expense of denying yourself some of your favorite culinary delights… diligently downing handfuls of carefully selected supplements day in and day out… consistently practising life-giving and stress-reducing strategies… praying…
Finally the day arrives. You go for your PET scan. You hold your breath –
Then the results come in…
THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF CANCER!
Whew! You feel like you’ve just won the lottery and want to shout it from the roof tops! Then your oncologist hits you with the deflating words, “It will only come back”.
No celebrations. No congratulations. Instead, “It will only come back”.
Who says things like that!
And let me ask you this: Even if it did “come back”, where, do you think, it “comes back” from?
Did you know that even if a drug kills 99.999% of the cancer cells, if the tumor burden is a mere billion cells, there will still be 10,000 cancer cells that survive? Theoretically, chemo cannot ever cure a tumor, as even one cancer cell might regrow a tumor!
This is the limitation of conventional medicine when used without supportive, integrative strategies.
So, maybe that’s why she said such a thing. Perhaps she believed that chemo is the only option, despite its limitations.
That’s not all there is, my friend.
Maintaining immune health and supporting the body’s own natural healing mechanisms during and after chemo is critical. There is so much more one can do! And, in my opinion, must do – in order to maintain a cancer-free life after chemo.
Fortunately, those destructive words were spoken to the “right” person this time – someone with some “fight” left in her. Someone with the belief in her body’s natural ability to heal when given what it needs and a willingness to work to see that those needs continue to be met. Someone who took up the challenge: “Let’s prove her wrong”.
It’s been nearly three years and “it” still hasn’t “come back”.
Maybe it never well.
After all, sometimes even smart doctors say dumb things.