Alternative Treatments for Breast Cancer Show Mixed Results
Millions of women diagnosed with breast cancer have chosen the normal treatment path: surgery, chemo, radiation, hormone therapy. This standard protocol has a scientific basis. It usually works. It can be a long haul, but it’s sent hundreds of thousands of us back into the mainstream, working, mothering, being friends and members of communities, and living our lives.
Some women, though, have chosen a different path. Be it a macrobiotic diet, the healing power of essential fatty acids, or the “Miracle Herb from the Rain Forest of Peru,” there are outside-the-mainstream answers to cancer that resonate with a certain percentage of the population.
There may be scientific reason to believe in these as-yet-unproven treatments. The chemotherapy drug Taxol, after all, is a derivative of the yew tree. What other trees or herbs or flowers contain a natural substance that might someday become a cancer preventive or cure?
And there are other reasons women diagnosed with breast cancer may choose to forego surgery, chemo, radiation, drugs… or all of those options.
Some have a deep belief in the mind-body connection, and the mind’s ability to direct and accomplish physical healing. Some follow a religion — Christian Scientists spring to mind — that espouses healing without the intervention of medicine. And some mistrust science so fully that their only option is an alternative route. Even if that alternative route is “do nothing.”
This is how I feel about alternative treatment, personally: I don’t believe it would have worked for me.
I have faith in the mind-body connection, and the healing power of God. But I also believe in medicine. So when it came to fighting cancer, I called on every resource I knew – Reiki, God, and medicine.
And this is how I feel about alternative treatment in general: If you’re a woman who’s chosen marine phytoplankton over radiation, it’s absolutely your choice. As we’ve heard so often, commenting on our American democracy, I don’t agree with what you say; but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.
I do, however, feel very conflicted about a woman’s right to determine her own treatment when children are involved.
Friends, siblings, colleagues, a partner, parents — the adult community we all live in — can be dealt with, when it comes to your decision to forego standard cancer treatment. The discussion won’t be free of emotion, certainly; and it may create rifts that never heal. But adults can reason; adults can guide their destiny, and choose their attitude.
Not so children.
If you have young children, you’re not only a mother. You’re the sun that rises and sets. You’re the compass that points the way; warmth when it’s cold. The knight that slays those scary dragons under the bed. And so much more.
In short, you’re the world to your children. The only world they know.
Too many women unwillingly leave their children motherless. Cancer kills indiscriminately. Despite every treatment available, standard or alternative, young mothers die of breast cancer all the time. And the vast majority of them fight, tooth and claw and nail, to the very end.
A friend of mine with a 2-year-old daughter lay on her deathbed pleading for one more round of chemo; she never stopped trying to live, till the moment she died.
What these women and their families go through breaks my heart. It’s random… they drew the short straw. And it’s awful.
So, I don’t understand why a young mother would choose, in the face of all known data, to pursue treatment that will most probably result in her death. In her removal from her children’s lives.
Am I being judgmental? Not trying to be. Just stating my puzzlement, and my sorrow.
Are you a mother with young children facing breast cancer? Are you considering alternative treatment? Please use this space to tell us your thoughts.