Well Known Treatments Center Almost Killed me

On the “My Story” page I mentioned that I went to a “very well known” Cancer Treatment Center in Boston.

They almost killed me and then told me to go back to the cape for my treatment because I didn’t respond well to their chemotherapy.  I mentioned (on the My Story) page, that although my primary cancer was in my tonsils, they performed a colostomy on me because of negative effects of my chemotherapy.

I did not mention the name of the of the “very well known” Cancer Treatment Center because they have such a wonderful.  Then a friend of mine went to that hospital to be treated for Breast Cancer.  She too had to have a colostomy.

A colostomy for Head and Neck cancer?  A colostomy for Breast Cancer?  Something is wrong there.  So I decided to reveal the name of that “very well known” Cancer Treatment Center in Boston.  It is the Dana Farber/Bringham Women’s Hospital.

Posted in General

Chemobrain

After finally completing extensive chemotherapy treatment and enduring the many complications as a result of that treatment, I found that I was physically and mentally exhausted.  I wasn’t too surprised at that.  After all, I went through a lot in my battle with cancer.  One of my hospital stays lasted 32 consecutive days during which I lost 60 lbs.  I

I was more concerned with my mental deterioration than with my physical exhaustion.  For almost two years after my treatment my mind was constantly in a fog  I had great difficulty concentrating, focusing and remembering things.  I honestly thought I had Alzheimer’s disease.  I jokingly used to say, “I have chemobrain”.  I don’t know where I picked up that term but I thought it was a non-medical vernacular term.

Some time later, I discovered  it is a real medical condition.  A recent UCLA study shows that chemotherapy causes changes to the brain’s metabolism and blood flow that can linger at least 10 years after treatment.  According to that study, chemotherapy patients experience disrupted thought processes and confusion.

Hospitals and cancer organizations are unanimous in recognizing chemobrain as a very real medical condition.   Recently oncologist Dr Patricia Ganz received a grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a five year study on chemo brain.

Researchers from New York’s University of Rochester found several types of key brain cells were highly vulnerable to the drugs used in chemotherapy. According to Dr Mark Noble of the University of Rochester, “This is the first study that puts chemo brain on a sound scientific footing.”

From the Science Daily, “Cancer survivors, take note. The mental fog and forgetfulness of “chemo brain” are no figment of your imagination.”

Now that we recognize that chemobrain is very real medical condition, what can we do about it?   Here are some suggestions:

Establish routines.
Use a daily planner
Exercise your brain. Read, get a hobby, do volunteer work Take some courses.,
Get sufficient rest and sleep.
Don’t dwell on your chemobrain symptoms.
Be absolutely certain that you are getting a sufficient amount of oxygen.
Talk about it to family, friends, and your healthcare team about your chemobrain symptoms..
Remember, you are not dim-witted or nuts; you have a real side-effect to chemotherapy.

Researchers are also looking at different medications as possible treatments for chemobrain.

Personally, I’m not waiting for them to come up with a medicine to treat the side effects of another medicine.  From my research and personal experience in overcoming chemobrain, I discovered the following things are working for me:
Living my life based on spiritual principles.
Getting out of myself and helping others
Exercise.  Its a known fact that exercise can improve you mood, increase your energy and help your concentration.
A healthy diet.  (I’m still working on that)

Posted in General

Would you like fries with that diagnosis?

A cute and interesting article from the LA Times

Posted in General

Squamous Cel Carcinoma

On January 7th, I posted an article called I’m beginning to feel Like a Cancer Magnet.  I had a growth removed from my arm and was told it was something called, Keratoacanthoma.  I wasn’t too concerned because that often goes away by itself.  However, I had it removed “Just in case”  it was something more serious.  The doctor sent it out for a biopsy.

Today, January 13th, I received a letter from my Dermatologist stating that the lesion was in fact a squamous cel carcinoma.  The doctor stated that the procedure he performed was curative but scheduled follow-up appointment to be certain.  It’s a good thing I had him perform that procedure.

For most of my life I was blessed with good health.  I was already 60 years old before I saw the inside of a hospital as a patient.  I took my good health for granted and did very little in the way of prevention.  I did not have a healthy diet and I didn’t exercise.  I didn’t even have a Primary Care Physician.  By the time my original cancer was diagnosed, it was already stage IV.

I urge you to develop and maintain a healthy life-style.  Had I done so earlier, I would have avoided a lot of pain, suffering and medical procedures.

Posted in General, Skin Cancers

Cancer Treatments Are Primitive and Even Barbaric

Today’s conventional cancer treatments are the same as they were hundreds of years ago:

Cut
Poison
Burn

They call it:

Surgery
Chemotherapy
Radiation therapy

Surgery (cut) is successful if the cancer is removed before it has spread. So it could be called a cure for cancer.  I had a very successful surgical procedure just a few days ago.  I had a growth surgically removed from my arm.  It was Keratoacanthoma (KA).  They were able to remove it before it spread.

Chemotherapy (Poison) kills ALL the reproducing cels in your body.  It kills other things too.  It killed almost all of my white blood cels.  I had a white blood cel count of .444.  Normal is 500 to 1,000.  I didn’t even have one white cel in my body to fight infection.  I suffered multiple complications and even  extra surgery as a result.

The belief is that the healthy cels will grow back and the malignant cels will remain dead.  Unfortunately, sometimes the body remains dead too.  Mine almost did.

Radiation (Burn) therapy is based on the belief that if you destroy the affected cels by burning, your body is better at fighting the damage done by radiation therapy than by fighting the cancer itself.

Summary:

What do you think of when you see a TV commercial showing a doctor saying, “We put the patient first”?  I am no longer convinced, nor do I have the vision of a dedicated doctor, who is not primarily motivated by money.

I believe most doctors went into medicine for the right reasons; to abide by the Hippocratic Oath and to give the best possible treatment.

I no longer believe that is always true. It seems to me that all too often profit rules.  After undoing undergoing Stage IV cancer treatment that included several surgeries, extensive chemotherapy treatments and 38 radiation treatments, I now have a new set of beliefs.

Belief one:   I no longer believe that conventional medicine is always the best cancer treatment.

Belief two: I believe it is criminal the way the medical profession claim alternative medicine only provides false hope and diverts patients away from “reliable medical treatment”.  In many cases “Reliable Treatments” are the ones that provide enormous profits for the doctors that administer them

I believe today’s cancer treatments are primitive and even barbaric.  Fortunately, new and better treatments are being discovered.  Unfortunately, many of them are not being approved because of the strong opposition of the pharmaceutical industry opposing them to protect their profits.

What happened to “We put the patient first.”?

If the cancer industry put patients first, patients wouldn’t be given chemotherapy based on the profit doctors receive.

If cancer patients came first, the industry wouldn’t suppress successful competitors.

Money should not be the main consideration for treating cancer patients.

One cancer specialist resigned from his work because he could no longer live with his conscience. He said that it was usual to get half a million dollars out of each patient before they died.

In my opinion, the record of conventional medicine for curing cancer is deplorable and yet they say very little about prevention.

I do believe alternative medicine excels at prevention. Many of the treatments are every day foods and nutrition supplements..

This article is not about alternative treatments; it is about the real motive for prescribing today’s “Reliable Treatments”.

Posted in General

How To Deal With Anxiety Attacks

In a previous post, I wrote about having an anxiety attack several months after my chemotherapy treatments.  Since then I have heard from several cancer survivor’s who have also experienced, not just anxiety but major anxiety and panic attacks.

Surviving cancer is difficult.  An anxiety attack makes it even more difficult. And; it decreases our overall health and well-being.  It can actually change and modify the way a person lives

After my battle with cancer I just wanted a normal life again.  When the anxiety attacks occurred, I knew I wasn’t thinking or reacting to life situations normally.  The reason for this is that the chemicals in the body tip their balance making the effects of anxiety even more severe.

I actually felt physical pain and experienced irrational fear. This is not what I wanted after beating cancer.  It was terrible.  My social life, my relationships with friends and relatives suffered.  I actually thought my cancer free life wasn’t worth the fight and was really worthless, I became depressed.

I knew I had to doe something.  And something I did.  I researched everything I could.  I wanted my pre-cancer life back.

I read about several types of medication and rejected them.  I am not saying you should not take any medication for your anxiety if you and your doctor think doing so would be best for you.  Personally I don’t like taking medication for any thing.

Although I never tried any relaxation techniques I decided I would give that a try.  I learned that relaxation techniques are proven effective methods in dealing with anxiety attacks.

Through relaxation techniques such as breathing techniques, the mind will be able to control the body. Relaxation techniques can be used during an anxiety attack to slow down the heartbeat, control breathing, and divert the mind away from the cause of anxiety attack. Although these methods require practice, once you learn the proper techniques, they are very effective.  They are for me.

In my research for ways to deal with anxiety, I learned several other ways to help control the anxiety.  I am a stubborn 70 year old and pretty set in my ways so I have not embraced all of the other things I have listed below as other ways to be free from anxiety. If you are not an obstinate, immovable and inflexible old foggy like me. You may find the following helpful to you.

Diet – The food we eat plays a very large role in our overall health, including our mental health. A well-balanced diet and healthy eating promotes a healthy brain and a healthy body. It is advised to choose natural or organic foods rather than processed foods or those with preservatives and chemicals. [I know and believe that; I just don’t practice it]  I don’t recommend you following me in my intractable stubbornness.

Exercise – Aside from diet, another important factor that helps promote a healthy well-being is exercise. Studies suggest that as little as 30 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times a week can have great effects to the body as well as the mind. I have implemented this in my routine.  [A nice round of applause would be appreciated]

Herbal treatments – St. John Wort, Hyperforin, 5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), Melissa officinalis, Ginkgo Biloba, passionflower, valerian, scullcap, California poppy, hops and lavender are used as an alternative to prescription drugs to treat anxiety. Natural herbs can be made as tea, but some of these are already available over-the-counter as powder, liquid, capsule, oil, tincture, tablets and tea. [I’m not too stubborn.  I am drinking some herbal tea albeit not daily.  [Opps, there goes my applause]

I am adhering to the following two things I learned in my research:

Pray – If you believe in the power of prayer, pray. Many studies show that prayer is an effective way to relieve stress and anxiety as prayers have a soothing and calming effect both on the body and on the mind.

Laugh – Laughter still holds the title as the best medicine. This is because when you laugh, your body releases endorphins or “happy chemicals” that help you to feel good and happier.

If you are a cancer patient, survivor or a caregiver and you are experiencing anxiety, please, identify where the anxiety is coming from – Sometimes, anxiety attacks happen for no apparent reason. That’s the way it was for me.  But that doesn’t mean that there is really no reason. After all something cannot happen out of nothing. Thus, if you experience an episode of anxiety attack, there must be a trigger (it might be directly linked to the attack or it might come from something else, totally apart from the event).

Once you identify the cause of the attack (which is as important as recognizing that you are having one), it is easy deal with it directly and process your condition using the natural ways mentioned above or through medication and therapy.

Not dealing with anxiety can lead to other illnesses, depression and even suicide.  Please dot not ignore it.

Leave me a comment.  I would love to hear from you.  I’m sure other visiting this blog would like reading your experiences as well.  Thanks.

Posted in Anxiety

Caring for someone undergoing cancer treatment

Do you have a relative, spouse or friend who has been diagnosed with cancer?  Are you serving in the role of “Caregiver?”  What do you say to them? Coming up with the words can be easier said than done.  Yet they need your support.  I don’t think I would have survived my cancer without the support of my friends and loved ones.

It is a proven fact that people do better emotionally, spiritually and even physically when going cancer treatment if they have strong support from family and friends.

I hope the following suggestions for being a support person and/or caregiver will help you and help the cancer patient as well.

It is always difficult when a person we love has a life-threatening illness such as cancer. You have to listen and not be judgmental and without “giving unsolicited advice.” It’s easy to say “you are going to be OK” when we feel the pain of our loved one. It is better just to sit with someone who than to make promises that may not be real.

Cancer treatment is often a long treatment process and recovery.  Visit and call as often as you can.  Cancer patients often feel alone and that “people don’t call any more” after the initial crisis of diagnosis. Checking in on a regular basis over the long haul is extremely helpful.

Only give advice when you are asked. You might volunteer to research the treatment or clinical trials. That could be helpful, as the information is often overwhelming. What is not helpful is saying “You should do this…”

Educate yourself about cancer

If you are not the primary caregiver, remember the caregiver. This is usually the spouse, partner, parent or adult child of the person with cancer who takes on necessary tasks such as driving to treatment, arranging medical appointments, and providing emotional support. The primary caregiver is often the one who takes on the role previously handled by the person with cancer, such as doing additional household chores and everyday jobs and household tasks.

Be precise about the help you can offer. Don’t say, “call me if you need something”  This can put your loved one in an uncomfortable position. It is better to say “May I walk your dog every morning?” or “Let me take you to radiation on Tuesdays.”

Keep things as normal as possible. Frequently we want to make life easier for someone dealing recovering from cancer treatment by “doing things” for them. It is a way of feeling useful at a time when we feel helpless but it’s just as important to be sensitive to that person’s wish to continue working (or not), or cooking for themselves.. For a person with cancer, having the ability to do normal “pre-cancer” tasks can lessen the sense that cancer is taking over one’s life.

Be responsive to your loved one’s needs when treatment is over. Often this is the time that people with cancer realize the enormity of what they have been through (prior to this, they are deeply involved and distracted by the “work” of getting to treatment, tests, etc.)

At this time your loved one may not need rides to treatment, but will still need your being there.

Support your loved one’s treatment decisions. This includes end-of-life choices when treatment is not successful. While you may be in a position to share decision-making, ultimately it is your loved one’s body and spirit that bear the impact of the cancer. If your loved one chooses to stop treatment, this is a time when emotional support is especially crucial. Listening, once again, can be the greatest gift you have to give.

Posted in General

The Chemotherapy Profit Motive Part two

In my previous post The Chemotherapy Profit Motive Part one I pointed out that oncologists are the only group of doctors who are permitted to buy drugs wholesale (chemotherapy drugs) and sell them retail.  I questioned if the motivation for treating cancer patients with chemotherapy might be based on the profit they make by doing so.  I like to think that they choose chemotherapy based on the information they have on the benefits to the cancer patient of chemotherapy.

And where do you think the oncologists get their information about the drugs they are selling? It comes from the pharmaceutical sales person. Do you think that information might be biased?

How did this practice start? It started because Medicare and the insurance companies wanted to save money by transferring cancer treatments out of the hospital and into the hands of private practice oncologists. Again, it’s all about the money. Unfortunately, that greed backfired and we the patients are paying the price. Since that policy was initiated, prices for many cancer drugs soared to tens of thousands of dollars a year.

All chemotherapy drugs used in the United States have been approved by the FDA. Does that make them safe? Do you think pharmaceutical companies influences the FDA into approving dangerous drugs the way they influence the private practice cancer doctors? I do.

I believe the pharmaceutical companies, and their lobbyists, have too much influence over the decision-making and policy of oncologists and the FDA.

It is well known that the FDA has allowed many drugs, including chemotherapy, to remain on the market in spite of serious risk factors. How did it come to pass that dangerous drugs get approved by the FDA and oncologists make significant profits from selling them? Meet the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the drug industry trade group

PhRMA lobbied for the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) of 1992. The drug industry agreed to help finance the approval process – in exchange for an FDA promise to speed up its deliberations. Does this make the FDA financially beholden to the industry it is supposed to regulate? I think so.

There are many natural non-toxic chemotherapies that kill malignancies. Laetrile, which is basically vitamin B17 selectively seeks out and destroys cancer cells and is available in many plant foods. It does that without harming healthy cels. Maybe the farmers who grow those plants should give oncologists a commission for selling their crops.

In spite of the tone of this article, I AM NOT AGAINST going to an oncologist for cancer treatment. I am not against all chemotherapy treatments. I am suggesting that you do get a second opinion.

I almost died from my first two rounds of chemotherapy (Read My Story). I also felt the first group of oncologists were arrogant and egotistical. I wasn’t at all comfortable with them. I then returned to the cape where I live and started my treatment all over again. My doctor on the cape, Dr. Victor Aviles, did in fact treat me with chemotherapy. It was not the same drug as the Boston doctors used. I do not believe he chose this drug because of the profit motive. It was the drug best suited for my particular cancer. I always felt very comfortable with him.  In fact I believe I owe my life to him

My closing thought. If you are not totally comfortable with your doctor, get another one. There are wonderful, dedicated and honest oncologists out there. You may have to visit several to find the right one for you.

Posted in Chemotherapy

The Chemotherapy Profit Motive

Have you ever heard a cancer survivor say, “The treatment was worse than the disease?”  I’ve certainly said that. Why do you think that, even though there are serious and dangerous side effects of chemotherapy, it is still the choice treatment of many oncologists? Could it be because administering chemotherapy is very profitable for the oncologists?

Did you know that oncologists are allowed to profit from the sale of chemotherapy drugs? It is totally restricted and exclusive for oncologists. I don’t know of any other group of doctors who are allowed to profit from the sale of drugs.

Think about this. A noteworthy amount of income for oncologists comes from the profit they make from selling the chemotherapy drugs. Do you think that is why chemotherapy is is the treatment of choice by many oncologists? Is it “All about the money?”

Do you think oncologists might be influenced to give you the drug that they’re going to make the most profit from? I like to have the faith that my doctor has my best interest at heart. Unfortunately, the money incentives, does something to destroy my faith.

Oncologists are very much like the business owners of retail stores. According to a recent NBC News Report, oncologists make most of their income by buying products (drugs) wholesale and selling them to patients at retail.

Like any business owner, the private practice oncologists, are entitled to, and deserve to make a living. My question is; should they make their money from treating patients or by SELLING the drugs? Other types of doctors don’t have that option.

Posted in Chemotherapy

Anxiety Attacks

Being diagnosed with cancer often causes anxiety.  I know it did for me.

But what about anxiety attacks?    I had my first anxiety attack several months after my chemotherapy treatments I was walking down a hallway at the hotel where I was staying.  I started gasping for air.  I felt like I was choking. I banged on the door of my friend and through hand gestures I told him I was choking.  He immediately started performing the hemlock procedure on me.  No food came out but I stopped choking and started to breath normally.  I didn’t think much about it until it happened again.  I was home alone this time with no one near by.  I was seriously frightened; I thought I was going to choke to death.  I was gasping for air and making weird uncontrollable sounds like a barking dog.  It lasted about 20 minutes.

The next day I had a scheduled appointment with my primary care doctor.  When I told him about those two episodes he concluded they were an anxiety attacks.  I have never had an anxiety attack and I was not anxious or worried about anything.  Let me tell you, it was frightening.  My doctor explained that they are almost always harmless and rarely last for more than 20 or 25 minutes.  That made me feel a little better.  What he told me next, almost gave me another attack.  What he told me was that they could become chronic causing disruption in my normal lifestyle.

I learned that these attacks usually occur without warning and without any apparent reason. Some anxiety attacks can come about as the result of a specific event like getting stuck in the elevator. Or in other cases, like mine, attacks come out of the blue. An anxiety attack is disproportionate reaction to the situation or the problem at hand or for no apparent reason at all.  Either way it can make you excessively fearful, or sometimes incapacitated.

Cancer is bad enough.  You don’t want to add anxiety attacks.

Here are some symptoms of an anxiety attack:

• Heart palpitation (increase in heartbeat)

• Hot flashes or chills

• Hyperventilation

• Surge of overwhelming panic

• Feeling detached or unreal

• Trembling or shaking

• Trouble breathing

• Feeling of losing control, going crazy; or fear of dying

• Choking sensation

• Nausea or stomach crams

• Sweating

• Dizziness

• Chest discomfort or pain

Handling anxiety attacks

As I said, anxiety attacks rarely last more than 30 minutes. But during this time, you can  totally lose control of yourself and experience some of the signs listed above. Here are some suggestions:

Relax – I know, I know that’s easier said than done during an attack.  Remember it is important not to submit yourself to attack. Breathe. Deep breathing helps calms and relaxes your mind and body. During an anxiety attack, focus your breathing to slow down your heartbeat. This also diverts your attention from the attack which helps you recover faster. Take some time and practice deep breathing exercises even if you are not stressed or feel anxious.

Think positively – Again, during an anxiety attack, it is often impossible to relax or even calm yourself, but you have to be in control. Push more positive thoughts to your head. Instead of thinking that others will humiliate you or you are going to faint because you cannot take the pressure, think of the good things. Do no anticipate that something bad will happen because in reality, there isn’t. Keep in mind that the more you think negatively, the more anxious and panicky it is going to be.

Think that it will be over soon – and it will. Anxiety attacks do not last for more than an hour so there is no reason for you to think and feel that your world is over. You don’t have to be mindful of the time. You don’t even have to count every minute that passed. What you should be doing is be conscious that it will not going to last forever.

Start an exercise program – We have heard that exercise has lots of benefits both to the body and the mind. It is also a great stress buster and anxiety reliever. Experts agree that as little as 30 minutes of exercise, 3 to 5 times a week is enough to lower the level of stress and reduce the chances of having episodes of anxiety attacks.

Talk to someone you trust – It can be your friend, your wife (husband), a relative or a therapist. Often, having someone who listens and understands what a person is going through will make a lot of difference. This is because it allows you to bring out your emotion rather than keeping it to yourself.

Posted in Anxiety

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