Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Decision to defer my CT scan to Dec 6

I have been reading more about cancer from books and medical journals in the last one month than in other month. I found out from a study in New England Journal of Medicine (July 1, 2010 issue) that exposure to CT scan can increase risk of cancer by as much as 1 in 80, i.e. 1.25%. This is contrary to the information given by my oncologist. When I was a chaplain intern at Massachusetts General Hospital I learned to be an advocate for my patients. I remember there was a patient at MGH who preferred not to continue treatment and his request was ignored by his medical doctor, and I brought this issue up to the medical practitioner in-charge of him and we deliberated over this together. There was another patient who had lung infection complicated by urinary tract infection (UTI) and I had to check with the nurse in-charge of him whether his UTI medication was included in his take-home medication package. Now I have to be my own advocate by reading books and journals about the paradigm which Western medicine operates and the possible protocol. I also discovered that my type of kidney cancer is considered rare (Type II papillary renal cell cancer to be more exact) and my treatment option is limited for my stage of kidney cancer. I also learned about medical studies done on anticancer food could not make it into the mainstream medical scene for obvious reason that these food cannot be patented. For the sake of comparison, a relatively minor anticancer medicine such as Taxol brings in a billion US dollar a year to the company holding the patent according to David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A New Way of Life.

I have been informed last month that I will be given targeted treatment through drug that is designed to inhibit the growth of cancerous cells (technically called anti-angiogenesis drug, and not to be confused with chemotherapy). When the drug loses its effect within few months as the more resistant cancerous cells become dominant, I will be given another type of drug till the option is exhausted, and the cancerous cells will be uncontrollable after that. This treatment will typically last for a year to a year and a half. If I were to pin my hope on Western medicine, my best hope lays in the invention of a gene-targeted drug for my type of kidney cancer that would stop the further replication of my mutated cancerous cells. This type of treatment called the gene-targeted treatment was first successfully pioneered for chronic myeloid leukaemia patients with the drug Gleevec in 1999. Since this type of gene-targeted drug for my kidney cancer is not available yet, I am sticking to regular alternative treatment consisting of Chinese herbs, finger pressing of meridian to stimulate blood circulation, practice of Tai Ji, diet of anticancer food, and natural supplements to boost immune system and to combat cancer. As I am not sure how much of this alternative treatment will work for me, I have decided give myself more time to try it out and have postponed my original CT scan scheduled yesterday to Dec 6, and my appointment with my oncologist to Dec 13. Added on to my arsenal of tool is learning to attune to my psychological state and to break free from feeling helpless. I understand from Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer that our psychological state plays an important role in managing cancer and as a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Servan-Schreiber has clinical studies to support his theory which is still considered new to the mainstream oncologists.

I believe Professor Vincent T. DeVita’s textbook Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology has set the tone for most oncologists. This author discovered the cure for Hodgskin’s disease by combined chemotherapy and is the former director of the National Cancer Institute in U.S. According to Servan-Schreiber, the latest edition of the textbook does not have a single chapter on the role of nutrition in the treatment of cancer or the prevention of relapses. This further helps me to understand why my oncologist is not likely to explore alternatives outside the National Cancer Center’s protocol. If you could, please continue to pray for my physical healing and spiritual healing (physical: cancer; spiritual: brokenness I experienced). I pray that my alternative treatment will be effective and my coming CT scan will testify to it. Even if that does not happen, may I continue to spend my time meaningfully with God, with God’s community of people, with family members, and be an instrument of blessing to others. As a result of being a cancer patient, I found myself with greater empathy and able to connect to others who have/had illness themselves or are affected because their loved one is suffering.

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