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Sunday, February 8, 2009

"It Can't Hurt"

When I was first diagnosed, well-meaning friends and acquaintances bombarded me with suggestions to try various alternative treatments. They usually ended their pitch with the line "it can't hurt to try."

NOT TRUE.

When I had the strength, I spelled it out:

I received chemotherapy once a week. I was then tired EVERY night, and most days. I usually had around 7 good hours during the last two days before my next treatment. So, I had to fit a week's worth of activities into fourteen hours! I did not really want to take out 3 hours (minimum) to check out something that might or might not work.

Furthermore, none of these unconventional treatments are covered by insurance. They usually take at least 3-6 months before we can even determine if they are working. So, for every complementary treatment, we are talking about expending significant time, money, and energy -- all limited and valuable resources that I did not have to spare.

Despite my inclination for conventional medicine, I wanted to explore all my options. So, I asked my oncologist about complementary medicine. My doctor summarily dismissed the world of alternative medicine (with the sole exception of acupuncture).

"That is an industry that takes advantage of desperate people," he declared.

"There is no scientific evidence that the treatments work," he explained, disregarding the claim that there is no money to prove these treatements works. There is a lot of money in manufacturing cancer fighting agents. If there existed evidence that a product is effective in fighting cancer, drug companies would fund the research.

Then he elaborated further "If a treatment does influence cancer, then there is no way of knowing whether the influence is positive or negative without proper scientific study (large, double-blind research)."

That is what convinced me more than anything else.

If a treatment really can affect cancer, then we need to know how it affects a particular type of cancer

In a recent study researching the effects of Green Tea, scientist discovered something disturbing. Instead of being a "miracle herb," the tea actually prevented certain chemotherapies from working! (Read the full article here)

The specifics of this particular research are not relevant to me. But the results are significant.

Natural remedies actually can hurt.



(Hat Tip to "After Cancer")

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Recently, our friends, T&UB, told us about Limonit (Lemon Grass Tea), a natural remedy that a friend of theirs said cured her of stage 4 breast cancer. I was curious, so Moshe and I did a bit of research. There is a chemical in Lemon Grass, Melissa, and Verbena that kills cancer cells in vitro. (Read more here) So what? There are many chemicals that kill cancer cells in a test tubes. We need to know how these chemicals interact with cancer cells that are in our bodies.

So, though I like a cup of tea every now and then, I am not about to start drinking 8 cups a day... yet.



Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,
RivkA

9 comments:

SuperRaizy said...

Good for you for not bowing to pressure from others. They may be well-meaning, but it strikes me as somewhat ridiculous for someone who is not a medical expert to presume to tell a cancer patient what will cure her.

Anonymous said...

I have a PhD in molecular biology and genetics and I agree with you 100%!!!! Alternative medicine can be very dangerous. My friend who is a surgeon told me that she has seen people who need liver transplants because the "natural" medicine destroyed their liver. I always remind people who say "its natural, it can't hurt", that cocaine is natural, and tobacco is natural as is marijuana.
Natural things can hurt. Good for you RivkA
Ariela

rickismom said...

I COME ACROSS THIS IN CASES WHERE PARENTS PAY TONS OF MONEY FOR VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS TO CURE Down syndrome.
As I often say:
If I had something that would REALLY cure DS, or cancer, would I sell it even at exhorbitant prices to a small number of "believers"? NO!!! I would GO RUNNING to a drug company, prove that it worked, and rake in the millions.
Lets get real......

muse said...

As much as I'd like to believe that there are natural, non chemo/radiation cures, I don't think they are reliable. Not that the doctors can predict 100% either.

I have a close friend manic-depressive, bi-polar. It's in her brain, chemical, neurological, not in her "mind." She can't wish it away. One is never cured, just control. And you can't imagine how many people try to get her off her meds.

Baila said...

When I was sick people pressured me about a macro-biotic diet. And I thought, I have to be sick, and also eat food that tastes like $#*&???

I don't think so.

Robert J. Avrech said...

When our son Ariel Chaim ZT'L was ill with cancer we were bombarded with suggestions from well-meaning idiots to try alternative medicine.

We too did research and it convinced us to stay away form these charlatans.

It's an industry that thrives on desperation and fear, and imbues sick people and their loved ones with false hope.

Sometimes, you just have to accept the fact that many people are gullible and stupid.

R'fuah Shlemah.

Anonymous said...

Baila,

How sorry I was to read your comment. I LOVE mb food, and thank G-d I am not eating it because of illness, but because it just makes more sense to me to eat grains, beans, vegetables - and did I say it already, I LOVE it.

Klara

Shevy said...

While I totally understand your reluctance to expend your precious time, energy and money on treatments that may or may not be effective I feel compelled to share my first mother-in-law's story.

My m-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia when I was 18, just after her son & I became engaged. She didn't do particularly well with the conventional treatments and the prognosis she was given wasn't exactly optimistic so she decided to go to Mexico for laetrile (against her doctor's advice, of course).

Baruch Hashem, she continued doing this for many years, never totally free of the disease but never desperately ill and, for the most part, able to live a normal life. I am blessed to have pictures of her holding my youngest daughter, now 6 years old, as a baby and my m-in-law even babysat her once when she was around two.

She worked past age 65 as a product demonstrator in grocery stores, a job that requires you to shlep your product, paper goods and often a toaster oven around. Since she didn't drive in her later years, this meant using public transit.

She lived until about 3 or 4 years ago, close to 30 years after her diagnosis, when she died of a heart attack. If she'd ever been willing or able to stop smoking, she might still be here.

I realize that anecdotal evidence is precisely that, not a scientific double-blind study. But something kept her alive all those years, decades after she had stopped using conventional treatments. And that has made a huge impression on me.

RivkA with a capital A said...

SuperRaizy -- to be fair, no one is actually promising a cure. well meaning friends are simply suggesting I try this or that. After all, they say lovingly, "what can it hurt?"


Ariella -- LOL! (how can it be illegal if it's natural?)


Ricki's Mom -- well, that basically sums it up in a nutshell!


Muse -- it is distressing to read that people try to convince your friend to stop taking the meds that let her live her life well.


Baila -- LOL!! I davka like MB food, though I don't think I would want to eat it ALL the time. I just can't be bothered to spend so much time preparing food! If I had a live in chef, I'd probably eat a lot better. But I'm not giving up ice cream!!


Robert -- You know, more than I do, what it's like to wonder, could there possibly be something else out there that will make it all better....

I remind myself all the time of what Ricki's Mom wrote: if it really worked, the study would have been done, and someone would be making big money selling it!


Klara -- they key here is that you LOVE it! eating MB really works for you! that is so great! But it's not for everyone. (some of us really need to eat ice cream!!)


Shevy -- I am so glad that your MIL, z"l, found something that worked for her. There are so many things that the doctors do not understand. Unfortunately, there is no way of really knowing what kept your MIL alive.

Every day, I meet cancer patients who are defeating the odds (without taking a trip to Mexico). It is really inspiring.