This Journal entry develops some lines of thought about how today’s conventional cancer therapies need to evolve into a more health promoting therapeutic offering. Most current day conventional medical industry cancer therapies continue to fall short of the mark that is so needed in these times.
A Valuable Story
An emotionally moving writing composed by a medical doctor came to my attention in the past few days. This piece is beautifully and succinctly written. It serves as a testimony about the profound limitations and difficulties faced by those who must be continuously entangled with today’s conventional cancer therapies. It is an indictment of the shortcomings of what I feel is a misguided industry.
This article appeared in the New York Times, and portrays one of the difficult dilemmas faced by patients who are considered to have a terminal illness. The physician author tells the story of a patient who can no longer afford expensive therapies for his terminal cancer. At issue in this story is the financial price tag concern which often works to abbreviate the (inadequate) therapies for many patients.
The patient had exhausted his personal finances on yet more ineffective cancer therapies. He had prepared himself for his crossroads decision by making peace with his life as well as his approaching physical demise.
As a side note on the subject of our physical demise, the practice of making peace with our lives and our eventual departure from earthly life should be an ongoing daily contemplative practice for all. Remember, after all, we do make it out of here alive…we move on into our Life after Life.
The article is reprinted below, and may also be seen in its original form at this link. The comments from your peers which accompany this writing at the linked writing site are very insightful and valuable.
“The Punishing Cost of Cancer Care” by Mikkael A. Sekeres, M.D., appearing in the NYT on December 11, 2014…
“I think it’s time to switch therapies,” I told my patient, as he and his wife sat next to each other by the wall of my exam room.
He stared at me, unblinking, through his chipped, wire-rimmed glasses as his wife looked quickly down at the medication list she clutched in her hands. Her worn purse sat on the floor by her chair. “Switching therapies” was a euphemism for “your cancer is progressing,” a point I didn’t need to hammer home with them – they both knew the score.
“O.K.” he said, taking a deep breath. “What’s next?”
We had been navigating his cancer together for a year-and-a-half, balancing the most effective treatments we could devise with what his health insurance would cover, and what he could afford. The 90-mile drive to Cleveland was itself an economic strain, gas prices being what they were and their aging car becoming increasingly more finicky, particularly during the cold winter months.
“The next drug I’d suggest is a pill that you’d take every day. It can get you into a remission, and may even allow you to live a little longer. It’s the one we’ve talked about before,” I told him. He nodded, remembering.
“The real expensive drug?” he asked.
This time I nodded. When I first suggested he take this pill as part of his chemotherapy regimen, I warned him about the possible cost, as this has become a part of my standard informed consent process. I review potential risks, benefits, alternative medications, the people involved in a patient’s care, and now economic risks.
After checking with his insurance plan, which did not cover chemotherapy pills the way it did intravenous chemotherapy, I had the unpleasant task of telling my patient that the medication would cost him $5,000 per month. At the time he had laughed, a mixture of surprise and incredulity. He was too well-off to qualify for patient assistance, but too poor to afford the drug. His face was grave now.
“I won’t bankrupt my family for a month or two more time,” he said. “I have to leave them something.” His wife looked up briefly, about to interject, but remained quiet. This was ground they had already covered, and she would make her case for his taking the pill when I wasn’t present. They were private people, proud, and wouldn’t disagree with each other in front of someone who wasn’t family.
As the price of chemotherapy now routinely reaches $100,000 for a full treatment course, my patients are forced more and more into making the equivalent of Sophie’s Choice when it comes to treating their cancer: Spend down their savings for an improvement in survival that might amount to a few weeks, secretly hoping that they will be one of the lucky few at the “tail” of the survival curve – the handful of people who live years more; or decline the therapy and in so doing ensure that their families will be provided for after they have died.
I had to wonder whether anyone should be forced to make such a decision.
My patient and I discussed a couple of other treatment options, and ways that he might receive his therapy closer to home, a plan that made him visibly relax.
“Not that we don’t like seeing you,” he joked. His wife didn’t smile, though. Perhaps she wasn’t ready yet to let him go, or didn’t agree with his reasoning that she would be destitute if he chose the pill. Maybe she was incensed that hard-working people like themselves would be placed in such a quandary precisely at the time of their retirement, and in such a wealthy nation. The way she set her mouth, I guessed it was a combination of all three.
“I’ll miss seeing you,” I told them both as we all got up to leave. There was nothing else I could say – this was the part of cancer care I didn’t have the tools to fix.”
The Cancer Problem is Worsening
Cancer is a chaotic cell growth pattern which is created and enabled by peoples’ chaotic biochemistry, their state of unknowing about their underlying personal foundational genomics, their chaotic lifestyle, their chaotic emotions, the chaos of unresolved traumatic imprinting, and other associated chaotic lifestyle epigenetic influences which abound and surround us in our present day modernity.
Cancer cells are biochemically and mechanistically unboundaried in their cellular growth dynamics. This fact clearly parallels our addictive, consumerist, compressed, and sped up unboundaried lifestyles…could there be an association between our unboundaried way of living and consuming and the rise in cancer rates?
There are actually many valuable therapeutic ideas and options which are implied in the wording of the previous 2 paragraphs.
For example, we have reached the time in the evolution of medical science when everyone should be afforded some basic knowledge about their personal genetic blueprint, and important mutations therein. Knowing key biochemical individuality from one’s foundational genetic information seems like a good place to start in the molding of therapeutic considerations when a difficult disease process is present. The knowledge of genetic mutations, which we all carry in significant numbers, is at hand. Such knowledge might be used in a preventive lifestyle manner to avoid the kinds of suffering which are now so ubiquitous in the so-called developed societies.
A variety of valuable genomic studies are now available and are quite affordable. As an example, one affordable, easy-to-do and enlightening study is available from www.23andme.com. This simple study assays 195 gene sites via an easy at-home sample collection. The assay provides extremely important information about heterozygous and homozygous mutations in the key biochemical areas of detoxification, neurotransmitters, methylation, cardiovascular parameters, digestion, endocrine function, antioxidants, vitamins, and vitamin receptor activity.
Highly proactive nutrigenomic recommendations can then be made to assist the dysfunctional enzyme pathways which result from mutations in these interlocking wheels of our biochemical life.
In the post WWII period we have enabled Big Pharma and the equally rapacious insurance industries to back us into the no-choice problem zones described in the physician’s account reprinted above. I can only echo his insightful recounting based on my long experience as a general, vascular, and trauma surgeon when cancer patients received my daily attention.
How many times in my past have I been involved with cases which failed the usual harsh treatments of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation?
There is no easy answer to this self imposed rhetorical question. If an easy answer existed, I would have to qualify it by saying that not enough was done to invoke and assist the patient’s natural healing intelligence. The Divine Healing Intelligence (DHI), which makes our lives possible, is always silently at play inside of our being to assist the healing and evolution of the 4 aspects of our lives…body, mind, emotion, and spirit. The DHI is the inner physician and healer.
When we, as health care consumers and health care providers, gain more development in our cultural and spiritual evolution then we will begin to understand and more fully embrace the DHI principle. This will enable new paradigms of healing at individual and larger social levels as technology begins to align, investigate, and develop tools and applications to further the movement. We will move forward as a human race, saving humanity and our planet. The DHI principle of holism extends into ecological healing of our planet as well.
We have become a society which is enamored of and entangled with an unbelievable array of chaos inducers: electromagnetic field effects, GMO’s and glyphosates in our food supply, over 100,000 xenobiotic chemicals in use (a number which increases at the rate of about 5000 per year now, and only a handful of them extensively studied for their toxicity effect), the speed and compression of modern day urban lifestyles, overwrought consumerism, and many other complex lifestyle et ceteras which disconnect us from nature and spirit.
The oncology industry is currently one of medicine’s most lucrative specialties. This fact is more than just a commonly observed paradox, which is a muted way of describing the issue….it is an example of a sort of cancer in the medical industry itself. Sadly, so-called “chemotherapy” only makes cancer stem cells more resistant. (Oncologists will never mention this biological fact.) This is why chemoRx has such a high failure rate.
That oncologists are in the upper echelon of medical industry income earners is a challenging consideration at the moral and ethical level. Good hearted and conscious oncologists are probably caught inside of a significant cognitive dissonance about the paradox and irony of the toxic treatments they offer which fail so often, maim so many, but make them so much monetary income.
No substantive progress has been made in “the war on cancer” which was introduced by the Nixon administration in 1971. At the time of Nixon’s imperial mandate the rate of cancer was 1 in 30 people. Now the rate of cancer in our society is 1 in 3 people. As the oncology industry, Big Pharma, and the insurance industry have profited from the suffering, the cancer rates and the mortality rates for the major cancers are not improving in any meaningful sense. In fact, the rates are, quite obviously, going up.
It is laughable, and pathetically so, when I counsel clients on nutrition to use during their extraordinarily toxic chemotherapy regimens, only to have the oncologist and their staff tell the patient that such nutrients and antioxidants will interfere with the chemoRx or the radiation Rx. In my experience, and in the experience of many other health practitioners, the use of supportive nutrition during cancer therapies serves well to enhance the effectiveness of the therapies as well as serving to mitigate the negative side effects of the therapies.
Furthermore, there are no studies which support what the oncologists contend regarding the negative effects of micronutrient usage during cancer Rx. Their reflexive “standard-of-care-no-antioxidants-during-chemoRx” speaking is a recommendation which has not been substantiated in any clinical trial. Well designed trials should be undertaken. I believe such trials would crack the prevailing treatment paradigms apart, and help shift cancer treatments into more merciful and effective modalities. Such a shift would reduce much suffering and improve outcomes.
Micronutrient Therapy for Cancer
There are actually many studies which support the opposing hypothesis which shows that micronutrient supplement usage not only assists the cancer cell die off induced by some of the chemoRx regimens, but they also help mitigate the negative side effects of the chemoRx.
One example of biochemical literature which is referred to in the last paragraph is a review article authored by 2 M.D.’s and 2 Ph.D.’s, appearing in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 1999, entitled “High Doses of Multiple Antioxidant Vitamins: Essential Ingredients in Improving the Efficacy of Standard Cancer Therapy.” This article studied only 4 classes of the many classes of antioxidants which exist: retinoids, tocopherols, carotenoids, and vitamin C…and affirmed that these chemicals improve the results of cancer therapies, and reduced the co-morbid complications of the therapies.
The lead author, a friend, teacher, and colleague of mine, is Kedar Prasad, who received his Ph.D. in radiation biology, and was Professor and Director for the Center for Vitamins and Cancer Research in Department of Radiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, CO. Kedar is the author and editor of many books and several hundred publications in peer reviewed journals on the subject of micronutrient therapy and degenerative diseases.
In 1993, which was 20 years after I began my study of holism, he gave me a book he had authored in that year, Vitamins in Cancer Prevention and Treatment, A Practical Guide. This simple 114 page book is just about vitamins alone, and does not even introduce the subject of other phytochemicals and natural biomodulators in cancer therapy. A full 21 pages of this now “dated” text is devoted to clinical trials in progress, and well over 200 referenced readings on the subject of the book’s title.
The corpus of the text is a brief 83 pages and only mentions the anti-cancer roles of vitamins A, beta carotene, E, C, and the mineral selenium. Included is the earliest mention of vitamin D (in vitro) research in cancer therapy that I have seen. We now know that vitamin D has a broad and enormously important range of health enhancing effects. Vitamin D’s role in health is especially important to consider in those who have heterozygous (43% of the population) or homozygous (9% of the population) Vitamin D Receptor (VDR) mutation events.
Kedar published a more recent text in 2011 entitled Fighting Cancer with Vitamins and Antioxidants. If you go to the link and open the web book to the table of contents and first few pages you will appreciate the amount of substantiating information on this subject. This book was written with his son, K. Che Prasad, M.S., M.D., who is director of microbiology and co-director of cytology at Marin Medical Laboratories
There are hundreds and hundreds of antioxidants and other biomodulators from the natural world. Many more await discovery. An example of one excellent antioxidant which has other direct affects on cancer prevention and mitigation, and is one which is rarely considered, is a hormone which is produced in our pineal gland…melatonin. You can read a bit more technical information about its broad important effects in our lives here.
The misguided treatment paradigms which most patients have to contend with will slowly shift into more effective, merciful, affordable, and simpler forms. These more evolved forms of therapy will also be tailored with high specificity to the individually unique patient who is being considered for treatments. Genetic information will become a bedrock of consideration in treatment designs, as will the epigenetic lifestyle considerations which drive genetic expression.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy work against cancer cells by creating oxidative stress for the cancer cells, which display rapid cell division and propagation. The drugs and radiation only act within a short time period of 24 hours, and only at certain phases of the cell life cycle. As the catabolic cancer cell die-off (as well as die-off from other rapidly dividing, but normal cell lines) begins, the patient has to muster some significant biochemistry to deal with this load of cellular toxicity, as well as drug metabolite toxicity.
Micronutrients assist the patient in the healing effort of such catabolic stress. Because of the blow-back which patients on supplements currently face from their ignorant and biased oncologists, I offer patients a “middle of the road” approach while using cancer treatments and nutrients concomitantly. I recommend that they stop the antioxidant components of their supplement array the day before, the day of, and the day after the chemoRx or radiation Rx. After the second day away from the treatment, the supplements can be resumed if nausea is not prevailing.
Using this approach as one of the arms of a clinical study might be informative. Another arm of the study would be no supplement usage during treatments, and a third arm could be using supplements all the way through the treatments. This would be a very helpful study to do, especially if it is done at multiple centers with good controls of the patient populations, the treatment protocols, and the micronutrient quality and quantity. The study could even have a fourth arm; incorporating individualized tailoring of the micronutrients per individual genomic and nutrigenomic considerations. Who is going to fund such a meaningful and humane study?
To more fully assist your understanding of micronutrient and dietary choices you can incorporate to help yourself or another in healing their cancer problem, please read a Journal entry on this website entitled Minding your Mitochondria. This Journal only addresses good biochemical steps one can take with solid dietary choices and practices.
Successful healing of cancer involves a full immersion into all aspects of healing in the quaternary of body-mind-emotion-spirit.
Shifting the Cancer Treatment Paradigm
More people are becoming self accountable in creating their own health. This self awareness is an important first step in a needed shift in health care delivery. The holistic healing movement is growing with many new and viable front venues, such as…a rapidly growing base of holistic practitioners, many medical schools offer courses in holistic theory and therapies, holistic clinics are becoming more common in metropolitan centers, and practitioner and consumer learning courses abound. I receive promotional material announcing well designed conferences for holistic practitioners on a weekly basis.
My medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans became the first medical school to offer courses in culinary medicine to medical students, faculty, and citizens. This has now been emulated at many other medical schools. This is a huge and important and timely development.
If one has the wherewithal and the motivation and the skillful life means to do it…one should endeavor to discern and discretely use only the best and most appropriate facets of the medical industry in their cancer therapy until this industry evolves into a more reliable and compassionate art and science.
Natural healing is the true traditional medicine. If natural healing does not work, then the alternative of the conventional medical industry can be utilized. It really is that simple, but we have been indoctrinated away from thinking along this line.
My parents were physicians who practiced in post WWII America. Their’s was the last generation of physicians before Big Pharma and the insurance take-over came in to corrupt this golden age of physicians and medicine. In the 1960’s and 1970’s the push from the pharmaceutical industry was to disempower the health care consumer. One of my sons now practices in one of the last truly meaningful medical specialties…emergency medicine…the life saving kind of medicine to be used when things go bad in a hurry.
The current medical industry treatment standards of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy do have an important place in one’s treatment considerations. Indeed, in many cases, these modalities can be immediately life saving. I can readily attest to this fact after 25 years of direct experience in using these modalities.
One of my current offerings is to assist patients as an advocate who is seasoned in the conventional and in the natural therapies. I have found that in many cases the combination of conventional and natural holistic therapies provides the best outcome. Unfortunately it is the tactic of many conventional medical doctors that I have tried to work with to use fear tactics with the patients. Some have simply said that they will not be the patient’s doctor if they are using holistic healing techniques. This is just an insanity.
In the near future of the next 10 years, conventional industry cancer therapies will become more pinpoint, less invasive, less systemically toxic, and more readily, openly, and efficaciously integrated with supportive holistic, biochemical, and natural therapies. Results of therapy will improve in a meaningful way for the first time since Nixon’s 1971 presidential mandates about the war on cancer.
The post WWII rise of the pharmaceutical industry has paralleled the decline of the art and science of natural healing, an art and science which must now being reborn and should be more embraced by those in the ranks of conventional medical care. We have become a society which has been brainwashed into regarding our lives as unfit, unhealthy, and unmanageable without constant visits to the medical system. This is also an insanity.
Here is a pertinent and important quote from an esteemed, matured, and seasoned source, Clifton Meador, M.D., Professor of Medicine, Emeritus at Vanderbilt Medical School, …”Nothing has changed so much in the health-care system over the past twenty-five years as the public’s perception of its own health. The change amounts to a loss of confidence in the human form. The general belief these days seems to be that the body is fundamentally flawed, subject to disintegration at any moment, always on the verge of mortal disease, always in need of continual monitoring and support by health-care professionals. This is a new phenomenon in our society.”
If you have a cancer diagnosis, I recommend that you utilize the best of the conventional therapy modalities while you learn about and develop your own natural healing abilities. I recommend that you become fluid in integrative care and utilize the very best that you can find and afford. Some time in the future the current conventional medical industry will evolve its standard of care to take full advantage of our innate healing intelligence.
If you have an emergent life threatening medical situation that you are faced with, go to the emergency room nearest you and get some life saving and life stabilizing help. I shouldn’t need to write that statement, but I want the reader to understand that I am well grounded in useful treatments of the conventional medical industry, and I am an advocate for the same.
The best facets of the medical industry, as it is in its current form, are the emergency and interventional services. The usage of the pharmaceutical services on a long term basis should be regarded with measured concern. Pharmaceuticals should be used with the intention of bringing the patient back to a health equilibrium such that the drug can then be discontinued in favor of lifestyle improvements to assist the DHI.
Our DHI is constantly in motion to secure our health and growth in body, mind, emotion, and spirit. The current medical paradigm seeks to outsmart this Intelligence…and makes alot of money while pretending to be so clever.
Signing off from Crestone and Beyond….
Peace and Every Good
Other Helpful References and Resources:
- Minding your Mitochondria…a writing on this website about the importance of mitochondrial chemistry in health and disease. The ketogenic diet is addressed as one means of starving cancer cells.
- Your Personal Genetic Analysis…a writing on this website about how to do a simple and very helpful genetic analysis.
- Culinary Medicine is Born Anew at Tulane’s Goldring Center…a writing on this website about the new culinary medicine program at Tulane Medical School.
- Reducing Chemical Exposure Could Save Americans Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in Health Care Costs