Doctor Blows the Whistle on Chemotherapy

I am here today to express frustration. I have discussed a similar frustration in a previous blog, but I want to touch on it again after seeing the video referenced in the title of this blog.

Some people prefer traditional medicine, and some people prefer naturopathy. I personally prefer integrative medicine, which is a marriage of the two. I saw a naturopath during my cancer treatment and took various natural supplements to help combat effects. I just finished a cleanse to help relieve pain in my joints. At the same time, as a depression sufferer, I know for a fact that chemicals can help me live a healthier, happier life.

I took all my medical decisions very seriously. I researched each one, spoke with multiple medical professionals, and took time to think about what I was doing and why. So it makes me incredibly, incredibly angry when propaganda like this makes it way into my Facebook newsfeed. If you don’t feel like watching it, I will summarize: A “doctor” by the name of Peter Glidden spends five minutes discussing the fact that chemotherapy does not work and is simply a money-generating scam for big pharma and oncologists.

As soon as I saw the title of the video, I was curious. By the time I was halfway through, I was enraged. I couldn’t even finish it, nor did I want to. I took to the web to find out more answers, and sure enough, found a thorough debunking of this doctor’s claims on Snopes. Turns out the good doctor has based all of his research and claims on research published by another doctor in the 1950s who conducted HIS research in the 1930s. If that doesn’t seem THAT long ago to you, I point you to this summary published by the NIH, where – on the first page – you can see that 5-year breast cancer survival has risen from 60% in the early 50s to over 90% in the late 90s. Chemotherapy testing began in the 40s, so draw your own conclusions about what has led to the astounding increase in survival.

All of that background is really beside the point, however. The point is this: When things like that are shared with me, it is equivalent to saying two things. One, I am a stupid and uninformed individual who simply allowed her healthcare decisions to be guided by whatever the doctors suggested, and two, that I just wasted 4 months of my life on something that will probably kill me, or at the very least, will not help me. In fact, based on Dr. Glidden’s assertions, I only have a 3% chance of survival now that I have had chemotherapy. Of course, MY doctor says I have an over 90% chance of survival, but surely he doesn’t have my best interests at heart. He became a doctor simply to make money – not because he cares about women’s health. Thank goodness I have people like Glidden looking out for me – and telling me that now that I’ve had chemo, I am basically almost certainly going to die.

If you think, for a second, that I did not come face to face with my own mortality the instant I heard the word “cancer” over the phone, you are badly mistaken. Likewise, if you think that I do not already know and think about the fact that cancer could come back anytime, anywhere, and kill me, you simply do not understand the psychological impact of cancer. After going through chemotherapy and radiation, being told by some quack, and by whoever chooses to spread his quackery, that I am going to die based on my own INFORMED, RESEARCHED, MEDICALLY SOUND health care decisions is at best insensitive and at worst cruel.

If you truly believe the out of date, fear-mongering information Dr. Glidden is spreading, that is your decision. But understand that cancer and chemotherapy are hard enough without being told you’re making or have made a mistake. And do some research of your own before spreading his misinformation to other people, people who might already be scared as hell as it is.


Reeling it in

Yesterday we saw a naturopathist and my breast surgeon for followup. I need to change my diet to support my health and aid in my treatment. The naturopathist asked if I’d been told to go off my birth control (NuvaRing), which I had not. I didn’t even think about it but yeah, given that they say this on their website:

NuvaRing is also not for women with high blood pressure that medicine can’t control; diabetes with kidney, eye, nerve, or blood vessel damage; certain kinds of severe migraine headaches; liver disease or liver tumors; unexplained vaginal bleeding; breast cancer or any cancer that is sensitive to female hormones; or if you are or may be pregnant.

and that we know my cancer is ER+, seems like that should have been something ONE of the THREE doctors I have seen should have mentioned to me. Thanks, guys. So I’ll take that out at the end of this cycle and then… what. I guess we go back to condoms? My doctor told me the diaphragm has been replaced by the cervical cap, although the research I did has not indicated to me that they have stopped making the diaphragm (which is what she said). Anyhow I have messaged my OBGyn about getting an appointment to talk about that.

Overall I am doing better emotionally. There’s not much to be done till we get the Oncotype DX results, which won’t be for a couple weeks. There are three risk categories associated with the results on that. I am praying I will be in the lowest risk group but I have an ominous feeling, given that this cancer came seemingly out of nowhere (or maybe from birth control) and then was an aggressive type. I am resigned to chemo and radiation, but still not endocrine therapy. Julian and I have discussed it at length and in the end we will weigh all the options and make a decision. But it’s not “just” having another baby that affects my opinion on taking Tamoxifen – it’s articles like this and like this. Julian discovered that second one, unasked, and sent it to me. It’s reading blog after blog and digest after digest of women bemoaning Tamoxifen and its insufferable side effects. It’s wondering, very seriously, if this isn’t a case where the treatment is worse than the disease. If it was one year of it, that would be one thing. But five years? That’s a damned long time.

Also, you might be wondering why suddenly all the talk of chemo when before it seemed like if my node was negative we were golden. Well, that was when they thought the tumor was less than a centimeter – 8 mm to be exact. Pathology showed it to be 1.2cm, so that throws us into a whole new risk/treatment category. Super awesome. Another thing that was kind of sprung on us at the medical oncology appointment, which we were kind of blindsided by.

I am lucky because J is being super supportive and we both agree that we want to get a second opinion, and that Tamoxifen may not be the best course for me. I am so grateful that he isn’t just blindly accepting everything the doctors say and is being analytical and open minded. I really feel like he is taking my emotions and instincts into consideration and giving them serious weight with regard to decision making. It makes everything a lot easier.

The naturopathist recommended curcumin (an anti-inflammatory derived from turmeric) and something called Host Defense MyCommunity (an immune system booster) as well as increasing my intake of veggie omega-3, although another friend said her doctor disagreed with that recommendation based on recent research (I’ll have to look into this myself). The naturopathist also recommended specific vegetables and protein sources, as well as trying to keep my blood sugar stable throughout the day. I’ve ordered a couple cookbooks (The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery and Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend’s Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer) as Jules is determined to start cooking anti-cancer meals for me and I’m sure as hell not complaining.

In the meantime, as usual, tick tock. Hopefully those results will come back soon.