Choosing your treatments

I have now lived with Metastatic Breast Cancer for 5 years and 5 months. The hospital initially told me that I had six months, possibly a year and that my only treatment would be palliative and to try and slow the beast’s path of destruction. So here I am 65 months later. Each of us has to find our own way of dealing with such a diagnosis and the first few months were littered with periods of ‘I can do this, I can live longer’ and ‘Why me? Can’t I just die now?’

It was also a time of confusion because the medical profession was basically telling me there was nothing they could really do, which left me with the feeling that I wasn’t worth the expense or worthy of their time. So what to do? Do what I have been doing all my life, just picking myself up and taking another step forward. I am not talking about strides, just ordinary little baby steps, at first on crutches, then with sticks and then just getting on with it and doing my own research.

If you have just been diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer for God’s sake don’t look at the statistics. They will scare the heck out of you and make you despair. Just remember that there are ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’. I am NOT a statistic, I have never been average in any way and I have no plans to start being average this late in my career. Statistics can be brutal, but then most of the cancer treatments devised by the medical profession are also brutal – operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy. Of course the image of some of these treatments is based on legends from the past. The skeletal, frail chemo patient and I am the first to admit that chemo is better controlled and there are more ways of controlling side effects; but these also have side effects, but if this is your chosen path then do it and believe in it.

I already knew about some alternative ways of dealing with cancer from information sent to a friend I looked after until she died of stomach cancer over 10 years ago. She was a mature student at Bath university studying to be a Pharmacist and so her approach was very much on the side of scientific evidence and pharmaceutical medication which so knocked her sideways there never was time to try anything kinder and more supportive to her body. I had started to look because she had internet access at home, so one of the first things I did was to get internet access at home. It was something that I had considered for a long time, but I used the internet at work when I was finished for the day; but having access at home opened up a whole new world and gave me time to really look around.

I also had the good fortune to be in the local library one day and looking at the health books I saw ‘Your Life in Your Hands’ by Jane Plant who is a Professor working in the field of Geology (Natural Science) and who understands chemistry probably better than most MDs. It is now 20 years since she was diagnosed with MBC and had something like four recurrences and had basically been told to go and put her things in order. She had worked in China and knew something about the link between diet, lifestyle and cancer and so in the ‘weeks’ that she had left, she and her husband (also a scientist) set about researching this. At last! Here was a book that brought together some of the things I had been looking at, and here was something that gave me hope. Here was a book that I devoured with light bulbs going off with word balloons saying things like ‘of course’, ‘why didn’t I think of that’ and ‘obviously’ etc. I determined to give her plan a go and see if it could help.

I also came across ‘Love, Medicine and Miracles’ by Bernie Siegel MD and near the beginning he speaks about the way that cancer patients are given false hopeLESSness. Too right Bernie, that is exactly what it feels like. Nothing much that conventional medicine can do and no indication that there are other ways of treating cancer. Please note that Bernie Siegel is a MEDICAL DOCTOR who attended Cornell Medical College. The book, however, is not only aimed at the patient but also at the doctors who can make such a difference to the patient and give them new hope. Although he is talking about some amazing stories of survival, he is also talking about Quality Of Life which is one of the most precious things to this of us who have been given no hope.

How safe are prescription medicines? This is an emotive subject because the patient should be able to trust that their doctor knows best, but as the above shows prescription medicines can have another side to them. So why are we not given information about supplement and diet? Where is the evidence that supplements are so dangerous?

We should have the freedom to make an informed decision. The information should be made available so informed decisions can be made and access given to the ‘scientifically proven’ papers in favour of supplements and vitamins and not have it all dismissed as unproven. I am an adult and I want to make the best decisions for my own health. The medical profession said I had 6 – 12 months to live 5 YEARS and 5 months ago. I do have some conventional treatment (Xgeva and Letrozole) but I have also chosen to take those supplements which are right for me, and which support my body. So far my approach has been proven to be right – I am living proof.

I ought to add the disclaimer that you should always consult a qualified medical professional about your treatment and none of the above is claiming to be a cure for cancer.


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Health Communications and Health Advocacy

With deep understanding, health communicators can engage and inspire change, whether in individuals or in society as a whole.


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