Alternative Cancer Therapies



So did you know it is Naturopathic Medicine Week in Canada?! May 14th – 20th 2018?  Naturopathic physicians in Canada are celebrating this week with informational lectures.   Well, I had no idea! …until I heard this at a seminar on Wednesday at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM).

I only got wind of this seminar because of my Cancer Support Group that I attend.  They mentioned that the CCNM was launching an Integrative Cancer Centre.    What the heck does that mean?  Well, after attending the seminar,  it sounds like given demand from patients wanting a holistic approach to cancer care, the College is launching the centre.    Basically there appears to be a need to combine efforts between conventional and complementary medicines.    They said they want to partner & support conventional or traditional chemotherapy/radiation/hormone therapy treatments etc.   Wow, collaboration?!    So you would think they are preaching or chanting just go all natural!! Nope!   Keep your shirt on..  They are not saying to use natural or supportive therapies alone.   You hear of those people that beat cancer by doing some naturopathic treatment without conventional therapy at all.   I often wonder about the ones you don’t hear about?!  Did it work?!  I think it’s the ones that start off with some traditional therapies and then go naturopathic that seem to have great success.    Surgery, radiation and chemo are the only proven ways to beat cancer.   I personally believe a combined effort between both holistic and medically proven methods would give people the biggest bang for the buck.

Naturopathic medicine is defined as a distinct primary healthcare profession emphasizing education, prevention, treatment and optimal health of mind, body and spirit.   They also quoted that 80% of people with cancer are choosing to use natural and supportive medicines with their conventional treatments.  So I applaud them! It is great that they see a need to join forces!

Interestingly, they mentioned that there are only 5 Naturopathic doctors in Ontario specialized in Oncology.   So an integrative oncology centre certainly sounds like a step in the right direction but to me shows it is in it’s infancy.   Based on my experience, and although this sounds great, there are still improvements and coordination efforts to be had between patient and traditional doctors.   There needs to be a tightening up and integration between patients, family doctors, chemo oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons.   For example, in the last couple of weeks, I was the acting Project Manager/Coordinator of my own treatment plan where I see inefficiency.    A bit more about that later.  Imagine trying to throw in another group like the Naturopathic doctors into the mix.    Doable but needs some concerted effort and collaboration.   Back to CAM which stands for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Naturopathic doctors are trained in clinic nutrition, lifestyle counselling, botantical medicine, acupuncture, mind and body counselling,  physical counselling, homeopathy.  I took notes as they walked us through a presentation.   They also suggested to visit  to help find a Naturopathic doctor (ND).    Apparently there are some people out there that say they are ND’s but are not officially licensed.  NDs go through extensive training, 4 years pre-med and 4 years of naturopathic curriculum, and a number of hours (7500 hr) in the field etc.   So if you are interested, go to that site.

What about the cost?  New patients visits are $200.  Follow up appointments are $120.  The first appointment is 1.5 hrs but they said they are expanding this to 2 hrs.  Follow ups are usually 1 hr.   Some employer benefits partially cover costs but if your income is impacted by cancer, this could certainly be a bit of a hardship.

At the seminar they also shared some simple & effective naturopathic tips for cancer related side effects.   I think these can also be used for general use and not just for those with cancer.  For example they talked about a ginger tea for nausea.  I actually drank ginger tea during my chemo treatment.    They talked about Senna & Dried fruit paste for constipation.  All I have to do is eat a bag of dried apricots and I am on the bowl! I can hear Karen saying way too much information Annette.   I just love those shriveled up fruits and even though I know my stomach will churn…I just can’t stop as they are addictive.    I have to keep them out of the house or under lock and key.   They also talked about “beets” and “dandelion” being good for constipation.  That said, dandelion can interfere with chemotherapy…

They talked about carob powder for diarrhea.   They cautioned not to have carob powder in cases of “infectious” diarrhea or taking it within 2 hours of other medications.    Sometimes it’s good to poop it all out and that’s why they said not to use it if you have “infectious” diarrhea.  I am not sure I would know the difference?!  It’s all bad!

They talked about “ashwagandha”, that helps with energy levels.  I wanted to shout “ashwagandha forever” like in that Black Panther movie…wasn’t it “Waganda forever?   They also mentioned Mistletoe that helps with fatigue, sleep etc.   Then they talked about the Coriolus mushroom where studies showed improvements for gastric, colorectal, lung and breast cancers.  I asked about the “chagra mushroom” which I mentioned in a previous post but apparently there haven’t been any specific studies on that shroom.   I was researching both mushrooms and came across “turkey tail mushroom”.  Now this is the magic mushroom!  Ok, not like the ones you did in college?!   Anyway, I find all of this interesting.  Recommend you do your own research and remember to make sure to communicate and tell your doctor what supplements or natural remedies you are taking.

All I know is that I was told immediately to stop all “vitamins, or anti-oxidants” during chemo.  This was echoed by all my cancer support friends.   Conventional doctors do not know how those herbal things will interfere with chemo treatments so they err on the side of caution.   Plus it is also for self preservation so they don’t get sued.   If they say don’t take it and you do, the risk is yours to bear and yours alone!

I relate this to my own job, it comes down to problem determination.  I would never try to implement multiple projects or technical software changes into production at same time and would only do so after a technical assessment to confirm associated risks, dependencies or contraindications.   To determine root cause, no one has time to figure out what broke especially if it comes to your well being.    To determine root cause, the less variables to rule out, the better.   Doctors want to quickly assess if there is an issue with a specific chemo drug or some herbal concoction that you ingested.

This all said, I find some doctors do not want to bother doing a “medical/technical assessment” by working with a naturopathic doctor.  Easier and quicker to just say “no”   to any and all supplements, vitamins etc.    On the other hand many are willing to work collaboratively.

Anyway I think it is great that naturopathic doctors are talking about integration.  I just am not sure that medical doctors are talking about it. Unless I see these naturopathic doctors integrated in the mainstream hospitals or working more directly with holistic medicine, we are farther away from being integrated than we would like or expect.

So I haven’t been blogging much lately as I have been busy acclimating to my hormone therapy treatment and trying to understand next steps.  I also have been attending cancer support groups, seminars and even went to Gilda’s house.  So my full time job has been focused on getting better and learning as much as possible.

Gilda’s is a free program for anyone feeling the impact of Cancer.   There are 2 locations in Ontario and it was actually created in memory of Gilda Radner, a comedian that died of cancer.   I actually took a class there called “Laughter Yoga”.  OK, that was different.  No yoga mat required!    Try voluntarily laughing for 2 minutes straight…and remember to breathe!   A little side note on “Laughter Yoga”,  in 1995, Dr. Madan Kataria wrote an article about “Laughter, The Best Medicine” for a health journal.  He wrote about the benefits of laughter on the human mind and body.  I didn’t know what to expect.   This was done sitting in a chair and although I thought it was kind of ridiculous, I felt pretty good after 1 hour of laughing.  The instructor had an infectious laugh and hearing her, made everyone laugh.   She is a 2 time cancer survivor and works as a crisis counsellor.  She said the “Laughter yoga” was just as much for her as it was for us.  I could just see her, instead of a coffee break, after trying to save some suicidal teen, she would go outside to laugh it up!    She would not be laughing at the situation but therapeutically healing herself after the numerous traumatic calls she gets.  Imagine what her co-workers think?   At least she isn’t inhaling cigarettes!  This is one addiction you would want to have…  Laughter addiction would be one good habit.   I digress.

To me each patient is a project.   So as a project manager, and  after chemotherapy was completed, and speaking to various medical professionals, I was told to follow up with the surgeon as she would drive the decision re whether I needed surgery or not.  After multiple calls with Mary from the surgeon’s office, she scheduled me in to see the surgeon, Dr. Deli.    Had it been left to Mary she would have booked me at the end of  this month which would have had a ripple effect to my radiation appointment.    Thank goodness I got through to her and she scheduled me in advance of the radiation appointment I have next week.    I wanted to know if I need surgery so I could then tell the radiation oncologist and determine if I needed to move those appointments.

So you would think I would know if I need surgery by now, right?   Lower those expectations!  I am no further ahead.  I met with the surgeon earlier this week and she said if we proceed with surgery, in theory, it should be done around this timeframe, within 4 weeks, of the last chemo appointment.   Being logical, I am guessing 4 weeks is the rule of thumb, as this is about the time chemo wears off and I figure they would want to mitigate risk of cancer spreading.   Oh well, I reasoned with myself, and figure I have added insurance because I was told to start hormone therapy now versus later.  I feel I am more than covered…no cancer spreading here!

Also, Dr. Deli said it wasn’t up to her but was up to the “tumor board” to determine if surgery was recommended or not.  Tumor board is what she referred to as a meeting with the cancer support team…a panel of experts.   She also said had she known she would have put this on the agenda earlier so I would have had an answer.   I quickly quipped that there is no coordination and I was told that she drove that decision. She told me not too worry and it would be on the next scheduled tumor review board meeting on Tuesday.  I said that coincides with my first appointment with radiation oncology.   We both discussed keeping the radiation appointment on Tuesday.    I asked her if they can proceed with the radiation consult if the decision is to move to surgery.    The first radiation appointment, is where they mark the area to be radiated.  She wasn’t sure on that part.   These specialists are experts on their own specialty but I wonder if they should rotate or cross train with other specialties to get a better overview of what the patient experiences end to end.   Maybe they do?!  Probably difficult to retain all the details?!!   If they are like me, squeeze one piece of information into my brain and another piece falls out.

Anyway, Dr. Deli said that someone will advise me of next steps?  God knows who that will be?  God knows if I will be advised on Tuesday or not?  What if the meeting is cancelled?   I am just glad I will be at the cancer centre on Tuesday to get some answers.  I expect I will be the one that will have to chase down the recommendation.  I hate to think what older patients and other patients that sit back would do.

I thought, who read the report that Dr. Os sent?  I confirmed directly with Nurse Jenny that the report was sent to Dr. Deli, Dr. Rad and my family doctor the same day I had my meeting with Dr. Os.    Doesn’t Dr. Deli personally review notes that come in from other Doctors about her patients?   OR is Mary responsible to review and flag these reports to Dr. Deli?   Well we know Mary…nice but simple like minute rice!   In terms of efficiency, I would think as soon as chemo is completed, the patient should automatically be put on the agenda of this tumor board.   Well if I become a patient advocate, I would definitely make some recommendations.

Apparently Dr. Deli said because I had 3 nodes with cancer, it is typically recommended to do surgery.  Meanwhile, the radiation oncologist nurse said that Dr. Rad had notes to the contrary.  Hmmm…  I could just see them all hungover from partying on the long weekend,  sitting around a room discussing each patient and playing “rock, paper and scissors”.    LOL.   At this point, I am not overly concerned and just want to get a move on…   The only thing, slightly concerning is the lack of coordination and the communication between doctors.   I swear I see a role for a patient treatment coordinator.   Communication is an issue in all areas of business and even in our own families…so it’s no different in the medical world.

Happy Victoria Day! Have a wonderful long weekend!  One year ago, at this time, I was in jolly old England.   Imagine Harry and Meghan getting married in Windsor tomorrow!

Have fun and be safe!

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1 Comment

  • I had to stay on vitamin supplements because they were tied to helping minimize my colon cancer. I am so anemic, I don’t know if I will ever be able to stop taking iron. My levels constantly border on needing a transfusion. I was also advised no tea while on chemo. I make a ginger syrup with just ginger and lime and then add hot water and sweetener. I think it also depends on the type of chemo; mine was oral vs IV. Medical marijuana is great for chemo side effects. Luckily, it’s legal here in California. I’d take that over another Big Pharma pill pushed onto me by oncologist. I agree, there does need to be more holistic options. However, keeping us sick keeps doctors employed. I honestly believe most don’t want us to have a cure. The medical industry surely doesn’t. That’s their biggest money maker. Color me jaded, but I have had NO support, except online, in dealing with my cancer. My experience has been less than positive; on top of dealing with my diagnosis.

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