Cancer Treatment – Are We Making Progress?

By Barbara Cunnings-Versaevel
Cancer: The Emperor of All MaladiesI don’t know how many of you have watched the three-part documentary that was broadcast this week on PBS – Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies. The series is based on the book ‘The Emperor of All Maladies’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I did. For me, having gone through the whole surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment process back in 1990, it was a stark reminder of how I felt in those days. It was the era of high dose chemotherapy and radiation.

These days, I see people I teach going through the same process. It has made me wonder why we have not come very far in the 24 years since my diagnosis. When I watched the above program, it explained why. It’s scary. The researchers don’t know what causes cancer; therefore, research to find the cure has been elusive. With each understanding, procedures and drugs were created. As they thought they were one step closer to a cure, the door closed. Openly, in this series, they admitted failure. Billions of dollars spent on research and only limited results and successes on the backs of patients who endured horrific treatments for this knowledge.

The physician’s code, First Do No Harm, makes me wonder if they are aware of the harm they really do to those of us who have endured their treatment regime. I think not – at least some do – but not many. And there is harm.

When the radical mastectomies they used to do before my time were explained, I was reminded of a friend of my mother’s who had this done. Yes, she survived to live to past 80, but she was marked and emotionally impacted. Her arm and shoulder movement was severely restricted because of the depth of muscle and tissue that was removed along with the breast. Radiation followed that left disfiguring burns on her chest and neck. In the heat and humidity of an Ontario summer, I remember my Mom saying she always wore a top that covered her chest, neck and arm.

To this day, I encounter women who have these same disfiguring burns on their chest to the point they wear garments to cover them up.

From personal experience, chemotherapy upset my intestinal balance. My digestion has never been the same since no matter what I do to address the issue. Over time, it has improved but not nearly to where it was before chemotherapy. These days, I sense heart damage from radiation and chemotherapy as I work to keep my blood pressure in check.

The case could be made that I have survived so it was worth it. The same for others who likewise have encountered physical side effects from their cancer treatments – brain fog severe enough to limit employment options, frozen shoulder, decreased vision, lack of saliva for digestion from head/neck treatments, heart and lung damage, neuropathies, debilitating fatigue, etc. The list goes on. However, I would hazard a guess that many of these people, those who have survived a long time, would tell you that their survival was not based on these treatments alone. The majority of these survivors moved into the realm of complementary therapies to boost their immune system. I would also address the issue of quality of life after treatment. Less invasive and natural solutions do not have the same side effects.

At the end of this series, research now seems to be focused on the immune system and its role in health and fighting cancer cells. I question why this has taken so long for them to arrive at this conclusion. Our immune system is at the root of all illness. I question whether the benefit of drugs extracted from natural plants which they are now researching will be the same as the natural plant.

Having followed the route of complementary therapies and ancient healing systems such as – Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Naturopathy, Homeopathy, Energy Modalities of healing touch, reiki, meditation, even plain old exercise and most especially diet – all of these systems and modalities heal by helping the body enhance its immune system. With a healthy immune system, the body is able to deflect disease.

The Truth About Cancer

The other series that has been playing at the same time is ‘The Truth About Cancer’ based on the book ‘Cancer: Step Outside the Box’ by Ty Bollinger. I’ve read the book and totally understand what he has put forth. I actually did a lot of what is shared in this book. Then I watched and bought the series after it was first viewed. Some may question the comments about the failure of our traditional medical model to heal cancer. However, in light of the documentary mentioned above, there is admission by the medical establishment that their system has failed. Is this the truth then about cancer?

If you are someone newly diagnosed with cancer, this comment could put you in a state of ‘now where do I turn?’ I get that. The fear of cancer and the devastation it can create in your body is real.

There is Hope

What is explained in the 11 part series, The Truth About Cancer, is how medicine used to be practised, how the body works, how cancer appears, the many factors that contribute to cancer, and then the solutions – ways to help the body heal. There are ways to create a healthy immune system without drugs.

It takes action on the part of the individual to explore the many options that apply to their unique situation. It means discovering who you are authentically – not just who you became – to put the body/mind/spirit in balance. For some it could be exposure to pollutants or toxins from their environment. For others it might be diet or lack of exercise. Some will find emotional traumas or situations that are causing distress.

As a long term cancer survivor, I went through this process. It was hard work, but the best work I have ever done. Would I have done all this work without cancer? Probably not! There were many painful moments and decisions. In this process, I learned so much about myself, other ways to heal, other medical practises. I tried different remedies and kept with them if I saw results. As I healed, different remedies or actions were required. To this day, it is always about finding what works. As with life, healing is a process. It doesn’t come all at once; it happens over time and keeps happening. There are always adjustments to stay in a healing place.

Cancer is Complex

Cancer is a very complex disease. It can be caused by many factors. These factors are unique to each individual – as unique as each person’s cancer. There is no simple cure and I doubt there ever will be a simple cure – or magic bullet. That doesn’t mean we cannot survive and thrive after a cancer diagnosis. There are many people who do and have come to this state through a combination of traditional and then alternative ways. We are coming into an era of ‘integrative medicine’ – taking the best of both systems and adapting what works best for each individual situation. They already do that in China.

What Can You Do

What I would share is the need to be informed. Look around for what could work for you. What resonates with you? As always, we have to believe in what we’re doing for any chance that it will succeed. What worked for me, may not work for you. There are many options out there for you to explore. It may be as simple as what is available in your area. Nowadays, there is so much available online that with careful scrutiny, you can find what is reliable. Get references from people who have been helped. Find out what they did and who they saw.

When I was first diagnosed, the first thing I wanted to know was what did people who survived cancer long term do or think that made the difference. I did my research – read everything I could get my hands on – and started the journey back to wellness. It has been a most amazing journey, one I wouldn’t trade for anything. It can be your journey to wellness as well.

NOTE: The thoughts expressed in this article are mine and mine alone. They are being shared to hopefully open a window to a greater understanding of what cancer can mean to you. I want you to be well – your own way.

I’d really love to hear what you think. Let’s start a conversation and help each other move forward to a better place – to wellness.

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