• Chemo OR holistic approach ?

    Asked by GiggleBunny99 on Monday, April 15, 2013

    Chemo OR holistic approach ?

    I have stage3 HER2+ breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and node removal. It's time to start chemo but I'm not sure that's the right approach to healing for me. Has anyone said NO to chemo and chosen a natural/holistic approach to healing? If so, what did you do and what has your success been like?

    17 Answers from the Community

    17 answers
    • CAS1's Avatar

      Do you have absolute proof that the holistic medicine works? Like clinical trials involving thousands and thousands of women? Not just one or two?
      The answer is: NO

      Do you have solid proof of thousands and thousands of women in clinical trials and alive today because of chemo and radiation: Yes

      over 3 years ago
    • MarianneT's Avatar
      MarianneT (Best Answer!)

      Although I believe in a Naturopathic approach when it makes sense;I agree with CAS1. The clinical trials are not there to back it up as a main treatment. Traditional medical treatment has come a long way as far as doctors being able to treat side effects and make treatment more tolerable. That being said there is much to be said for a natural approach in conjunction (diet, exercise and weight control have proven key points in preventing recurrence). For example, I really believe exercise improves your immune system. I walked through chemo and even ran during the last few treatments and was able to complete a 5k race (albeit quite slowly) 4 days before my 8th chemo. My Onc nurse told me my blood counts were better than hers throughout my treatment. Always speak to your doctor though to see what naturopathic supplements and methods are safe to use as an adjunct to treatment.

      over 3 years ago
    • DianaL's Avatar

      You should want to do the most aggressive treatment that is needed to beat this monster called CANCER! Chemo is proven to work--why take a chance on something that might not or probably will not work! Just saying!

      over 3 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      I know there are some cancer centers out there that combine mainstream medicine with complimentary medicine.

      My rule for using Complimentary and Alternative Medicine is the same as you might read on the National Cancer Institute website, and that is whatever CAM you consider should be held to the same tough standard of scientific evidence that it's going to work... and that any research comes from a reliable source. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/cam

      I can't tell you the number of cures suggested to me, or books suggested, for my dad for his cancers. So far I've seen nothing for him that measures up to that high standard of evidence.

      over 3 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      ...but there are definitely complimentary things you can use to go along with your treatment. One example is using ginger to help with nausea. We started using that recently with dad, and it seems to help with nausea. When it doesn't work, we use the drugs. There are definitely things you can do with your diet to make a difference in your treatment, by eating healthy. There is evidence that visualization and positive thinking makes a difference, combined with your treatment. Before you take any supplements, or anything like that, be sure to check with your doctor if you're receiving other therapies to make sure they get along with each other without causing problems.

      One of the mainstream popular culture websites for complimentary medicine that is interesting with its content is drweil.com He calls his approach to medicine "integrative" medicine. Here their article talks about integrative medicine in cancer http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03060/Treating-Cancer-With-Integrative-Medicine.html

      The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center has a website on integrative medicine http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine and they even have a search engine down the bottom to look up herbs, botanicals, and other products to help with research as you look for things to compliment your cancer care.

      over 3 years ago
    • AlizaMLS's Avatar

      Dear GiggleBunny99,

      Hi. I'm Aliza, the site's unofficial resident Medical Librarian and a BC patient. I think we've met before, so I'll kip my lengthier intro except to say that Med Librarians can't/won't/don't/shouldn't (pick your verb) give out medical advice because it's unethical according to our professional ethics and it's illegal because it's practicing medicine without a license. We do many other things.

      However, I'm allowed to speak from person experience and the experience of friends and family. My friend Rose (I've changed her name to protect her identity) was a Physical Therapist and one of the most fun, bright and beautiful people to be around. She was diagnosed with BC around 14 year ago (I don't know what stage-it must have been early because they permitted her to have a Lumpectomy).

      Rose, the mother of two wonderful little boys, decided that instead of having radiation here in the States (although she had her lumpectomy here in NY [where I am}, she was going to treat her cancer holistically at some clinic in Europe, Germany, to be exact (they have he same kinds of clinics in Tiajuana, Mexico today). The clinic she went to had a protocol of having patients live there for a month while they practiced hypothermia (raising the body temperature while putting her to sleep first and then giving a lower dose of chemotherapy with the idea that because her metabolism was running at a higher rate, she'd need less chemo ). She came back home and found that it hadn't worked.

      In the meantime, of course, her insurance wouldn't cover this kind of therapy, much less treatment in a foreign country, so she and her husband had to sell their house, cars and move. Her husband was in the process of divorcing her (I'm not sure whether it was because of the financial issues or the BC). Her son was a friend of my daughter when they were kids.

      So after the first go-round didn't work, she went back to Germany for a second, after friends held a fund raiser for her. She came back and eventually tried to have a breast reconstruction because she'd had two lumpectomies, but the reconstruction didn't work out. It was all very upsetting.

      Not as upsetting however as the news that the cancer had now metastasized into her bones. I'll admit at that point there was a serious illness in my own family and the story fades out until I heard that Rose died.

      These types of clinics are a hoax. They practice medicine that has not been clinically established as effective with clinical trials and they rook thousands upon thousands of people in search of a "golden cure". There are tours out of San Diego to see the clinics in Tiajuana. They do this hypothermia treatment, as well as coffee enemas (which also don't work), and I'm not sure whether shark oil is still used today, but that was popular in the 80's and also never established.

      I believe Carm, who's a nurse has a link to the clinics in Tiajuana. You ight try asking her if you can have access to it. It's very enlightening. If I were in your shoes (and I'm not), I would think very carefully before I'd give my life savings over to a bunch of charlatans who are only too happy to take your money without caring whether you live or die.

      I miss my friend to this day. I recently reestablished contact with her son who wants to see me, which made me cry (when I was off the phone with him). I'm really puzzled why a woman who was a practitioner of mainstream medicine (allied health) would pursue such a kooky solution without proof (studies, clinical trials, etc.) that it would work. She lefta void in everyone's lives -her children's, her parents, her friends.

      You asked whether anyone chose a more natural approach. This is one that is out there. It didn't work out so well for my friend.

      Another that's popular is to treat the lump in your breast before it's diagnosed as anything by placing castor oil poultices on it and then putting heat on top of them. I know, I have a rather unusual friend who did that and the lump seemed to disappear. Perhaps it was a cyst. Who knows?! That wouldn't have been my choice. A hot water bottle's good for menstrual cramps, not a lump on your breast!

      Complementary medicine is different than alternative. Complementary medicine means massage therapy, acupuncture, music therapy, meditation, etc. These are all good things and things you can do while going through mainstream treatment which has been proven (I am permitted to say that).

      Alternative therapy such as I describe above and my friend has - hypothermia, coffee enemas, castor oil poultices, etc. are the undocumented, dangerous ones.

      Only you can make this decision. I hope you choose wisely! Be sure to ask Carm about the URL re the clinics in Tiajuana before making a decision.

      Wishing you well. If you want to ask me any questions or need further information, feel free to contact me onsite or email me offsite. I'm happy to help you.

      Warm wishes,

      over 3 years ago
    • HearMeRoar's Avatar

      I have had 2 of 6 chemos so far and haven't had any side effects but hair loss. I'm living my life and stuff really is normal for me. Taking my 10 mile bike rides and all. Doc isn't expecting a cumulative effect on me either. Thinking about it was much scarier than actually doing it.

      over 3 years ago
    • DorothyV's Avatar

      I had the option to say no, but never even considered it. Cancer is a terrible foe who doesn't fight fair! I went with mastectomy, chemo, and rads because I wanted to be aggressive and know that I had done all I could to defeat it. You can certainly add diet, exercise, etc to this protocol. It's been a little over a year since my diagnosis. Yes, it was hard, but doable. I would choose the same route if I had to do it again. Like others have said, the data backs up this approach. The final decision is yours, however. I will pray for wisdom and God's blessing whatever you choose :)

      over 3 years ago
    • Lindy's Avatar

      Absolutely not! I am almost 4 years out from chemo, a good 4 years. You need to understand her2 before you make your decision. Has your oncologist been blunt and up front with you? That is what you must insist on, you cannot reasonably give consent without knowledge. We non-math folks have a problem understanding statistics, make sure you have the statistics of your pathology report coupled with treatment options fully explained.

      over 3 years ago
    • Nancebeth's Avatar

      I did choose chemo, based on my Oncotype DX score, it was recommended, not required. I wish I had not, however, I was Stage 1A, grade 2, ER+, PR+, so I was in a totally different situation than you. Had the oncologists told me chemo was required, there would have been no option and I defnitely would have taken the chemo and not had second thoughts. I do believe in holistic approaches for some things but cancer is not one of them. I only second guess my decision, because chemo was not required, only recommended and my long term side effects are affecting my quality of life.

      over 3 years ago
    • mcowett's Avatar

      I recommend you do the chemo and use the holistic approach for the corrections.

      over 3 years ago
    • JennyMiller's Avatar

      I was also stage 3. I chose to be aggressive against this evil and elusive enemy. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy, chemo, radiation and I am now on Arimidex for 5 years. I personally felt the need to use every weapon at my disposal in my battle -- I wanted the peace of mind knowing that I did all I could possibly do. Everyone is different and we each have to make our own choice -- after all, we are the ones who have to live with that choice. With the guidance of your Oncologist and other Doctors, I am sure that you will be able to make the right choice for you. I wish you the very best.

      over 3 years ago
    • CAL's Avatar

      I only have experience with surgery/chemo/radiation in combination with CAM. I would refer you to something called Integrative oncology. I read Dr. Keith Block's book, Life Over Cancer, and then switched my chemo treatment and follow up to the Block Integrative Oncology Center in Skokie, Ill. because I felt like there was more to be done than the standard treatement with all the clinical trials which still only gave me a 92% nonrecurrance rate. I know there are Intergrative Centers in other places in the country and even at Mayo's and MD Anderson they use CAM approaches not just for side effects but in fact to make the chemo work better and to right the "terrain" of your body which is in all likelihood what allowed the mutated cells to grow and take over in the first place.

      over 3 years ago
    • Clyde's Avatar

      You should only consider holistic if the odds of chemo are not good. As I understand it, BC is one of the best responders to chemo so why would you not do it? CAS1 is right with her figures. That should answer the question for you.

      Why are you considering holistic? What is your reasoning?

      over 3 years ago
    • grammy's Avatar

      I read through all of the other comments and totally agree. You are fighting for your life and you have to fight with what will give you the best chance to stay alive and that is proven chemo. I too had HER2+ breast cancer and it is an aggressive kind. But with chemo and Herceptin also it is very treatable and curable. Do everything you can that is proven to fight this. I also used holistic approaches such as yoga every week which I believe made a huge difference and also walked 2-3 miles every day and meditated and ate a healthy diet and had accupuncture and massages. I believe all of these helped me trememdously with side effects of chemo. Good luck and please for your life choose the chemo.

      over 3 years ago
    • Kmack927's Avatar

      I have stage 2b HER2+ breast cancer. I had a mastectomy and node removal last August and began Chemo in September. I will honestly tell you that Chemo was the hardest thing I have ever done. The cocktail made me so sick for nearly 6 months. I nearly gave up because of this but my Dr. told me it was such a strong cocktail to blast the XXX out of the cancer. I then told myself to make it thru it as I have a family to live for and my youngest daughter was pregnant with my grandson. He was born shortly after I finished chemo but was still dealing with all the side effects. I had a PET scan 3 weeks after Chemo and it showed no cancer. I just finished 7 weeks of radiation 2 weeks ago and continuing with Herceptin treatments until September. I also have an ECHO every few months as the Herceptin can cause heart damage. I will have another PET scan this summer to make sure the Cancer is still gone. The treatment is hard but I urge you to go with what is proven to work.

      over 3 years ago
    • gwendolyn's Avatar

      Everyone here can understand how badly you WANT to hear that there is a reasonable alternative to chemo but there isn't. There really isn't. You have a Stage 3 life-threatening illness. I'm sorry but there is no easy way to deal with this. As others have suggested, often times the anticipation of chemo is worse than the reality of it. It is quite likely there are stray, undetectable cancer cells in your body. Chemo, a drastic, systemic treatment is being recommended so these cells don't set up camp in your bones, lungs, liver, or brain.

      over 3 years ago

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