Hello, friends! I’m sure you all know the old saying “a day late and a dollar short.” Well, I’m two days late with this blog, but it is not at all short on content. I hope you will find that it is worth the wait!
I have spent much of the past week in a doctor’s office. I had four appointments, to be exact. It all started on Tuesday when I saw a new (to me) oncologist in Trumbull, CT. Let’s call him Dr. F. I sought out Dr. F.’s opinion upon the recommendation of a member of the Exceptional Cancer Patients (ECAP) support group of which I am also a member. Our leader is the internationally known surgeon-turned-author and spiritual guru Bernie Siegel. The purpose of my appointment with Dr. F. was to seek a second opinion about the next course of treatment on my metastatic breast cancer journey. Our first meeting can be summed up in one word: FABULOUS!
I enjoyed his fresh perspective on my complicated cancer history. While I am so appreciative of the medical team that has been with me over the years, I valued hearing the opinions of someone who was seeing me for the first time. Dr. F. was compassionate, insightful and open to naturopathic medicine and so-called ‘alternative’ cancer therapies. Most physicians I have worked with in the past have not shared his openness. No matter how excellent, they all tend to be trained solely in allopathic medicine, to the exclusion of any other methods – meaning they often regard with suspicion anything that is not conventional. My wonderful oncologist is a skeptic about many of the alternative methods. I’ve discussed this subject previously in my posts.
Of course, Dr. F. had reviewed my extensive medical history before coming into the exam room to meet with Marc and me. After he had expressed sympathy for the fact that I have been on the cancer journey for 17 years, his next words were, “you look like a million bucks!” It was certainly heartwarming to hear those words, given what I’ve been through and what I am still enduring.
He affirmed my desire to go to Mexico to seek treatment at any of the clinics there I had been researching. He has several patients who have done the same thing, while concurrently pursuing conventional treatment. What’s more, he was familiar with almost all of the various therapies proposed by the clinics. He shared his understanding of their pros and cons. Dr. F. explained that although alternative treatments usually are not studied in the same way that conventional treatments are, they are no less effective. No treatment works for everybody. He also acknowledged the important connection between mind, body and spirit and its effect on healing.
I learned one new and fascinating thing from Dr. F. He explained a concept called ‘Metronomic chemotherapy.’ I was not familiar with it before our visit. Many people know that traditionally, cancer treatment involves the administration of chemotherapy drugs in high doses followed by a treatment-free period to give the body the time needed to recover from the damage done to the body’s healthy cells. In 2001 when I received chemotherapy, I received a total of eight intravenous (IV) infusions once every three weeks over a period of about six months.
Chemotherapy drugs are aggressive, with the aim being to kill the cancer cells with their toxic agents. The problem is that these drugs are not able to differentiate between healthy cells and cancer cells; they target all fast-growing cells. Because of the aggressive nature of the treatment, side effects such as nausea and hair loss are common with potent chemotherapy. I experienced this during my run with IV chemotherapy, which is why I’m so against it today.
In layperson’s terms, metronomic chemotherapy is the continuous administration of chemotherapy medications at low doses. The benefits of this are two-fold. First, because medicine is constantly administered, there is no period of rest between cycles of therapy. According to research, the long rests between administration of medication can lead to the body developing resistance during the time off, which can result in progression of the disease. Secondly, the lower doses mean less dramatic side effects. Everyone wants to avoid the side effects of chemotherapy, so that is a big bonus if you ask me!
Since my meeting with Dr. F., I’ve read about metronomic chemotherapy. The day after our visit, I saw my oncologist Dr. Silber, and we discussed his recommendations. My conversation with Dr. Silber demonstrated that every physician is trained in a particular way, and has a particular philosophy and viewpoint about the way they approach treatment. I know this is not new news, but it was fascinating to see it in practice two consecutive days with two different oncologists, as it relates to my next treatment steps. While my oncologist did not agree with the recommendation of Dr. F. as far as metronomic chemotherapy, because of my newfound knowledge I felt even more empowered and knowledgeable in our conversation – which I feel is key to a healthy (pun intended!) relationship between doctor and patient. Never be afraid to seek out a second opinion for your health care. It could be the most important visit you have!
Because of my new knowledge, Dr. Silber and I shared a well-informed conversation about my treatment. We start next week! My treatment will NOT involve IV chemotherapy, and I will continue to fortify my body with nutritional and herbal supplements and resume detoxification. I will be ready for the next phase of my healing process. My integrative healing journey continues; I am grateful. Thank you for journeying with me. See you next week!