Another (Lost) Battle with Cancer (and more thoughts about Chemotherapy)

My aunt passed away late last night. Once more, cancer had taken another member of our family.

My aunt’s cancer this time around began in her uterus. How sad though that she thought of seeing a doctor only after 2 years of excessive bleeding. We’ve been through enough cases of cancer of the uterus in our family to immediately recognize the symptoms of its beginnings. Of all the cancers, cancer of the uterus is one of the easiest to treat. When all else fails, a hysterectomy would have been more than sufficient to prevent its spread to other organs.

Her surgery and chemotherapy were just sadly, too little too late. 

Her cancer though was not as advanced as dad’s was.

Which was why for all of us, her sudden death remains to be an alarming shocker.

She was rushed to the hospital late at night on Sunday since her blood pressure had plummeted. She had a case of UTI (urinary track infection) which on normal people would be nothing… but because her immune system had been compromised from her last chemotherapy session, her white blood cells and platelets were close to none.

Her condition stabilized a few hours later.

Tuesday morning, the doctors had already planned on sending her out of the Intensive Care Unit since she seemed to doing fine.

Until an hour or so later when her blood pressure plummeted again. By this time, the bacteria from her UTI had spread to infect her blood. Because of this, her kidney failed. Her lungs were struggling. It didn’t help that she was diabetic.

A few hours before midnight, her heart just stopped.

Complications from chemotherapy was the cause.

I wrote about chemotherapy sometime last year when we were contemplating treatment options for dad. I’m no doctor so don’t take my word for it. But if you’re reading this and are in a predicament where you have to deliberate on chemotherapy or no chemotherapy, this is my advice:

Research first. Study. Know what it is you or your loved one are getting into. Chemotherapy for most does more harm than good. While it is the “one in a hundred shot of a possible remission”, for most it just intensifies the pain they go through, and frequently hastens death. 

My aunt is the 3rd close family I’ve lost to cancer. My grandfather spent a year having chemotherapy. He died after one year. Before his death, he told my mother that he regrets having gone through it.

Chemotherapy is not for the weak, nor for the faint-hearted. The few I’ve known who survive chemotherapy whose lives are either saved or prolonged are those who have the spirit and will to keep fighting even it means bearing with all the agony treatment will put them through.

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Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 3. (and some thoughts on Chemotherapy)

After a month since we found out about dad’s condition, we collectively decided as a family to forego chemotherapy in favor of alternative medication.

Before dad got sick, I was one among many (I believe) who thought that chemotherapy was the best treatment for cancer. Whether the intention is a cure, prevention of progression or prolonging a life…  TV shows we watch, the news we read and conventional medical doctors all tell us that chemotherapy is the best, and perhaps the only treatment that has better chances of working.

But over the past few weeks, I did my research. I spoke with friends whose family members have had cancer. I read forums composed of lay people like myself. Read a bit too on what chemotherapy is, what cancer is, and all that jazz.

Of course everyone will have their own opinion about the matter…. and I’d like to categorically state that everyone’s opinion matters, and everyone’s opinion is valid (provided of course it’s supported by facts). This is my opinion based on what I’ve seen, heard and read.

Chemotherapy for people with early stages of cancer, who are young and strong — is a great idea.

But for people who are not as strong – physically, mentally or emotionally – chemotherapy may actually contribute to making an already sick patient… even more sick.

Here are some facts about Chemotherapy:

Chemotherapy kills any cell that is growing (dividing) fast, whether it’s a cancer cell or not. So, some of the normal, healthy cells in the body that grow quickly can be damaged. Specifically:

  • Cells in the bone marrow–this makes a patient feel tired, bruised and makes a patient bleed easily. It also puts the patient at a higher risk of infection
  • Cells that grow hair–this causes hair loss throughout the body
  • Cells of the skin and mouth–this causes dry skin, dry mouth and can even cause mouth sores
  • Cells in the stomach and intestines–this causes major nausea, vomiting, or even diarrhea

Of course many would say that the horrible side effects of chemotherapy are nothing if you take it in context of being able to save a patient’s life.

But here’s some bit of news I found online, which was also republished by a renowned journalist (Jaime Licauco) who writes for the #1 nationwide broadsheet in the Philippines.

“According to an important paper published in the Australian journal Clinical Oncology in 2005, the survival rate over a five-year period of Australian adults treated with chemotherapy is only 2.3 percent, and even lower for Americans at 2.1 percent.”

So all these side effects, and no healthy and comfortable statistics to even assure the patient about its success rate.

Conventional medicine would junk my post and criticize my post for saying all these things about the one treatment where many put their faith on… but then, I’m only copying bits and pieces of information that I’ve found in other more renowned, more established news sources. You can check my sources below and see for yourself.

Cold hard facts aside, I’ve also spoken with friends who’ve had relatives with cancer. About 9 out of 10 of them have all told me that Chemotherapy is not a good idea. That their relatives who were treated with chemo regretted it, and eventually just decided to stop it. That chemotherapy made them feel even more morbidly sick and depressed than they already were. That it made their bodies deteriorate faster, compromised their immune system even more.

And the hard part about starting Chemo and then stopping it midway is that it makes the disease progress even faster.

It’s ironic how before we found out about dad’s condition, I, like many conventional medicine believers, used to think that only an idiot would choose to not undergo chemotherapy even if there is the slightest chance that it could cure the disease, arrest the disease, or at least prolong a human life. You’d think if you were already talking about saving the life of a loved one, you’d choose what conventionally seems like the more logical choice.

And yet, I look at my father these days and just think to myself that whatever the outcome of anything we do in the next couple of months and years, what is most important is that we do whatever it takes to make his remaining time on earth as comfortable, as pain-free and as happy as possible. I don’t want him to spend all his time in hospitals talking to doctors upon doctors.

And so, after much deliberation, we decided to try the treatment prescribed by this Korean-Japanese Immunologist whose premise (like most alternative medicine doctors’ principles) is that instead of giving dad medication to kill his cancer cells; this treatment will boost the body’s immune system to enable it to fight the disease on its own.

The premise seems logical — in fact, if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Human bodies are equipped with antibodies, hormones, lipids and other organisms that can protect and heal itself. This is a scientific fact we all know. If you think about it, this premise makes it possible to even think that it can treat not just cancer… but other diseases as well.

Of course we conducted our research. This immunologist has a fairly good track record in curing not just cancer, but even gangrene and asthma.

I don’t think this is the best treatment option possible…. because I don’t know all the other treatment options available out there. I’m sure there are thousands. Thousands of well-meaning conventional medical doctors; thousands of well-meaning alternative doctors; thousands of faith healers and other kinds of healers… and chances are, there are other treatments out there that sound just as good as this one we chose… or perhaps even better.

But we’re running out of time. Dad chose him, so I will just have to believe that this will work.

Sources:

American Cancer Society

How Effective is Chemotherapy?