I want this to be received as a positive expression of hope and not as a ‘slam’ against the medical community. Although I‘m frustrated by the fact that doctors feel the need to tell newly diagnosed cancer patients that they have X number of months to live when they deliver their news to the patient, I believe the news can be shared in a more optimistic light. The fact that the patient has cancer is not really debatable. In most cases their condition has been properly diagnosed and confirmed by lab tests. That’s not the main issue here. Hearing that news for the first time is alarming enough for most people. What annoys me the most is when the doctor follows it up with a statement like, “You have about 3 months to live without treatment and 16 months with treatment.” At least, those are the words I heard back in 2009 when I was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme, stage 4. I can appreciate the doctor was giving me his best estimate based on cases of similar tumors he and other doctors had dealt with in their experience, but those words are definitely not encouraging and don’t offer a person much hope.
Now, to be honest I have seen other patients with the same tumor as mine who lived approximately that amount of time; actually it was closer to 18 months. They followed the medical approach so of course the doctor’s prediction was fairly accurate. What the doctor failed to tell the patient was that there could be some hope for a different outcome if the patient was willing to make some lifestyle and dietary changes. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m suggesting here. I’m not saying that this is a cure all for everyone; however, for those of you who are willing to commit to some dietary and lifestyle changes you could possibly alter the outcome of your condition in a more positive fashion.
There are two issues in the typical doctor’s delivery that I find somewhat disturbing. First of all, I really don’t appreciate the idea of a time-frame in regards to cancer. I believe the mind is a crucial part of the healing process and can have a powerful effect on our health. The ‘placebo effect’ is a medical phenomenon that supports the theory that a patient’s outcome can be altered by their expectation of a perceived treatment (or thought). I believe that same phenomenon can apply to a negative thought as well. Once the patient has been instilled with the idea of a specific length of time for his/her illness, how much does that specific timeline contribute to their course of healing? Is it possible that they believe they are only to live out that time and then expire? Are they meeting the prediction that was set for them? What if the doctor was to say something like, “I’ve heard of patients who live 5, 10, 20 or 30 years with a condition like yours.” Do you think that might have a different impact on the patient and their outcome? When we offer the patient a specific time-frame are we really contributing to the healing process or does it impair the healing process? In my mind, it seems to parallel the quote by Henry Ford “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right!” For some, having that thought in mind only contributes to their predicted outcome.
Secondly, doctors generally don’t offer any alternatives. They just give their dire prediction and assume that the patient should follow the medical protocol only and not do any complimentary or integrative therapies. In fact, they generally suggest that using alternative therapies will only alter the predicted outcome of their protocol; which they believe is the gold standard of treatment. Some doctors will even scoff at the idea of any alternative therapies. I remember asking one of my doctors what I should do now in light of my diagnosis and he suggested to me that I just stick to the Canada Food Guide and not drink too much (it was around Christmas time when I got my diagnosis). Sadly, that was a missed opportunity by the doctor to give me some direction on nutrition or maybe some information on alternative therapies that have shown promise, but nothing.
There are many, many alternative therapies out there that have shown great promise in altering the outcomes for cancer patients but you need to find which ones are right for you, research their effectiveness and then stay committed to the plan. This isn’t like taking a round of antibiotics for ten days or so until you feel better. This needs to be a lifestyle change that you will stick to for life. If you are a cancer patient who is reading this or you are suffering with some other sickness, you must understand that you and you alone are responsible for your health. We really don’t have a health care system in this country; we have a sickness care system. Why the medical community can’t embrace some of these proven methods and integrate them into their practices is beyond me. For instance, improved nutrition and supplementation can help chemotherapy’s kill rate of the cancer cells while helping to protect the healthy cells but when is the last time you heard your doctor or oncologist recommend you improve your diet or take extra vitamins and minerals along with the prescription they just issued you. Finding alternative therapies is entirely up to the patient and integrating them into your medical protocol should be your choice, not the doctor’s. You don’t need to take a passive role in the doctor/patient relationship. Your role as a patient (with cancer or any other disease or condition) is to supply your body with all the nutrients it needs to perform its role in trying to achieve optimal health. You do not need to take a submissive role here. Rise up and take responsibility for your own physical and mental health. Do the things that are within your control to rebuild your health and extend your life. By doing so I believe you will find the hope you need to help alter your outcome in a more positive fashion.