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What would you do if you were diagnosed with breast cancer during your first pregnancy at the age of 27?
A few months ago I received a book in the mail with the inscription "This all began with you..."
"YOU DID WHAT?: Saying No to Conventional Cancer Treatment" is a book written by Hollie and Patrick Quinn about navigating through the shock and the fear of a breast cancer diagnosis at a very young age and during her pregnancy with their first child. It is the story of the many courageous and intelligent choices they made along the way. They said no to chemotherapy, radiation and hormones, the standard care of the day in the best oncology centers nationwide. They said YES to an evidence based Integrative Alternative Cancer Care model and are living well to tell their tale with two healthy children in tow!
This book is the story of Hollie and Patrick, who decided to decline conventional cancer care and the advice of their doctors and family members. Instead, they asked a lot of questions. They did their homework. They took their time to make an informed and intelligent decision that was truly their own.
Patrick and Hollie are two highly intelligent and well-educated people. Upon hearing the devastating diagnosis and the recommended toxic chemotherapy treatment, they decided to take a few months to systematically learn and understand the molecular biology of breast cancer and the cancer treatments recommended to them. They also researched alternative and natural cancer treatments thoroughly and rationally. I know. I watched them do it.
Hollie and Patrick decided to embark on an unconventional and alternative path. They chose to radically change their diet and lifestyle and to use botanical medicines and nutritional supplements and Chinese medicine (herbal medicine and acupuncture) in a very systematic and thoroughly researched manner. They sought the care and guidance of health care professionals experienced in this approach. They did not do this on their own. They were incredibly organized and disciplined. They fully understood the risks and benefits of their choices. Their eyes were wide open.
Needless to say, this took an enormous amount of courage, self-discipline and self-trust. This was not a New Age fantasy with rose-colored glasses or magical thinking. They took a very pragmatic approach. These two young parents with a newborn in their arms, made a very serious science-based study of ALL of their choices.
This was in 2002, eight years ago now. Since then, Hollie has been cancer-free and robustly healthy. She and Patrick have had another child. They felt compelled to tell their story so that other newly diagnosed cancer patients would understand that there is time to ask questions after diagnosis and that there are treatment choices as well as consequences of those choices. They want cancer patients to know that it is important to make fully informed decisions.
While Hollie and Patrick are not scientists or clinicians and this is the story of just one person, not a large statistical sample, their book raises intelligent questions and is a voice for making individualized and thoughtful decisions when facing a serious and life threatening illness such as breast cancer, particularly at a young age.
This is not a choice for everyone. Cancer is not one disease. Breast cancer is not one disease. There are breast cancers -- plural. Whether or not a person with cancer should choose a conventional treatment path or choose a path of Integrative Cancer Care, combining the best of both worlds, must be an informed choice based on evidence and research, not on hearsay or wishful thinking.
It is also true, that in America today, if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, she should "Expect to live," according to Kristi Funk, M.D., Breast Surgeon. This is because there is very good and effective treatment for breast cancer within both the conventional and alternative cancer worlds. It is also because we do our best to screen women and catch breast cancer early.
Some researchers now believe that early forms of breast cancer may spontaneously resolve without treatment. Therefore, because this book is the story of just one woman, no generalizations or assumptions can be made about other women facing breast cancer.
Furthermore, the plan for treating an individual and their cancer very much depends upon the stage at which the cancer is discovered and on many other factors which include, but are not limited to, the aggressiveness, size and invasiveness of the tumor cells. Other considerations, including the health and age of the patient at the time of diagnosis, the family history and genetics of the patient and of the tumor cells are additional determining factors used to decide how to approach each unique patient. A multiplicity of complex factors inform qualified health professionals in making treatment plans for cancer patients.
Today, the landscape of cancer treatment and diagnosis is rapidly changing. Many forward thinking Oncologists and Oncology Centers now include Alternative Cancer Care in the treatment plans of their patients. Because our understanding of cancer genetics is advancing, Oncologists are beginning to acknowledge that Cancer Care can now become more individualized and that lifestyle and diet, nutrients and botanicals and acupuncture have a place in a complete treatment approach for cancer patients.
Institutions that support an Integrative Collaborative Cancer Care model include but are not limited to: the esteemed National Cancer Institute, The Dana Farber Institute, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, Simms Mann Center for Integrative Oncology at the University of California Los Angeles, and Cancer Treatment Centers of America nationwide.
There is now an Integrative Oncology course and textbook at the University of Arizona School of Medicine and another textbook Nutritional Oncology for clinicians edited by David Heber, MD of the
Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA. There is now a scholarly scientific journal Integrative Cancer Therapies edited by Keith Block, MD, a seasoned oncologist, proponent, researcher and pioneer in this field.
Because more cancer patients become cancer survivors, we must include a health model, not just a disease model, if these patients are to enjoy a good quality of life.
Individualized Integrative Alternative Cancer Care is here. This year the Institute for Functional Medicine held a four-day scientific and clinical conference for physicians on Integrative Cancer Care with lectures by leaders in the field. Eight hundred clinicians were in attendance and the conference was sold out.
As cancer research advances, the therapies and treatments available to cancer patients will continue to change. The well-informed patient will always have more choices than the passive patient who asks few questions. Hollie and Patrick urge you get involved in your own care and to ask questions of your health care providers.
This book tells the story of a young woman who did ask a lot of questions and was incredibly knowledgeable before she made her decision. She did not jump into treatment, but took some time to do her research and made a very courageous and educated rational choice. She had the discipline to implement an alternative cancer treatment approach and is now living a robustly healthy life, free of cancer eight years hence.
In the end, Hollie and Patrick urge us to give up the "war on cancer" and "make peace with cancer." They urge us to consider healing rather than fighting cancer and creating health in the process. Hollie and Patrick champion every cancer patient in playing an active role when making their treatment decisions and always in consultation with qualified health care professionals.
If you want to be inspired and challenged, read this book.
For more resources on the confluence of Modern BioMedicine and Alternative Cancer Care and Cancer Prevention visit www.doctornalini.com