Abstract: The doctor removed a lump from the breast of a lady and found it to be malignant. Next, the doctor wanted to remove the whole breast. After mastectomy the usual “recipe” would be: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and probably take an oral drug called tamoxifen. This lady and her husband came to seek my advice. We made it clear to them that they had to make their own decisions. We could only advise and give information.
Ch’ng Beng Im-Teo
CA Care, Penang, Malaysia
The doctor removed a lump from the breast of a lady and found it to be malignant. Next, the doctor wanted to remove the whole breast. After mastectomy the usual “recipe” would be: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and probably take an oral drug called tamoxifen. This lady and her husband came to seek my advice. We made it clear to them that they had to make their own decisions. We could only advise and give information.
We advised them to relax, take time to reflect and do not be hasty in wanting to do something very quickly, for each step taken may mean a lot in terms of a possible recovery, alleviating emotional problems and sufferings. Of course, the easiest option would be to hand over all responsibility and accountability to the doctor. Just follow exactly what the doctors say. To some patients, this is the obvious and best option, as “doctors know best.” But some patients would prefer or want to explore other options for healing.
Below is a brief, one-page summary of advice of what they should do if they have cancer: But take note: If you have cancer, know that no one on earth can guarantee you a cure. At best, there will only be remission.
1) The remission can last for a few months or for a few years. The cancer may come back again.
2) In general, it appears that neither modern medicine nor holistic natural medicine can claim great success at curing cancer. At most, there is a 30% to 40% success rate. What is meant by success? When people mention a success rate, the term is vague. Anyway, the fact is that about 60% of cancer patients would, unfortunately, be left high and dry not knowing what else to do after their treatments have failed them.
3) Even if you are well after you have undergone the necessary treatments, it is foolish to assume that you are done with cancer. Cancer may not be done with you, yet. Take appropriate and necessary steps to prevent recurrence or to prolong your remission period.
4) What seems to be a realistic aim in managing cancer is to be able to live a quality life, i.e., to be as normal or healthy as possible knowing that cancer cells may still be in your body. It may be wiser for you to learn how to live with your own cancer cells.
5) The doctors may prescribe drugs, e.g., tamoxifen, to prevent the cancer from coming back. This is not necessarily effective, although popping pills into the mouth is an easy task. The holistic healers ask you to change your lifestyle and diet, take herbs, exercise, etc. For many people, these are hard chores to put into practice, for herbs may taste repulsive to some people. But in the long run, a holistic approach to health may be better for you.
Consider the Following Three Options
Seek only treatments of modern medicine i.e. surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, etc. Bonus: YOU CAN EAT WHAT YOU LIKE and also continue with your old lifestyle. Literature says some people suffer badly from the side effects of these treatments — vomiting, total loss of hair, suffering possible damage to the liver, kidneys, heart, etc. Some people may even die from the treatments themselves rather than from the cancer. But to most people, medical treatments are still considered the best, for it is perceived to be a scientific and proven method. So they follow and do what the doctors say without questioning or thinking.
Seek alternative medicine with no aggressive medical treatments. This is as good or bad just as there are good and bad apples. If these alternative healers promise you a cure or you need to spend a great amount of money for the procedure, my advice to you is to be very cautious. He may be after your money not the cancer. For various reasons, most doctors consider alternative medicine as quackery.
Seek integrative therapy. This is marrying the above two options. Unfortunately, you need to change your diet and your old lifestyle. It does not make sense to continue polluting and abusing your body further. We advocate this path although we also end up being called quacks at times. But we also know that there are many people, even those in the medical fraternity who silently and morally agree with what we are doing.
To help you make a decision, we have drawn up a check list of eleven affirmative statements associated with each option. Put a tick in the appropriate column, whether you agree or disagree. At the end of the exercise add up the number of items you agree or disagree with and this should represent what you ought to do.
Consider the following carefully
OPTION ONE: Go for medical treatments only.
1. I have total trust in medical doctors for they are the best persons to know how to handle my cancer problems.
2. I consider all those talks about alternative or complementary/ integrative medicine as quackery.
3. I consider a change of diet, lifestyle and doing exercises as too much of a chore or routine to practise.
4. I have no time and I want everything done quickly and be done with.
5. I leave my life in the hands of my doctors. In that way I need not worry so much. I only need to follow what my doctors tell me to do. I am very sure that my doctors can cure my cancer.
6. I am very sure that my doctors can cure my cancer.
7. When I do chemotherapy/radiotherapy, I am aware that both the good and bad cells in my body get destroyed.
8. When I undergo chemotherapy, I am aware that I may suffer many side effects like vomiting, hair loss, the destruction of blood cells and even failures of the vital organs. But I trust my doctors to be able to help and revive me.
9. When I undergo radiotherapy, I am aware that I may suffer numerous short-term and long-term side effects. But I trust my doctors all the same. These do not bother me.
10. I am aware that some chemo-drugs or radiation used on me are themselves cancer causing. As a result of their use, I have the additional risk of getting more or other cancers as well, besides the one I am currently having. Anyway, this is a small risk which I believe may not happen to me.
11. After all the expenses, sufferings, etc., I am aware that all these procedures may not necessarily give me a cure at all. I may be worse off than when I first contracted cancer
OPTION TWO: Go for alternative medicine only.
1. I have heard or seen many patients who suffer, spend their life savings to pay for the high cost of medical treatments which ultimately lead them nowhere. There is no cure. I therefore do not trust doctors entirely.
2. All along I have been taking herbs and seeing holistic healers for my health problems. So I fully believe in holistic procedures.
3. I am not concerned about taking herbs or doing holistic procedures. I am not bothered about comments if these are scientific or not. What matters to me is that the herbs or procedures DO help me and make me better.
4. I am not prepared to risk my life and health due to the various side effects brought about by the medical treatments.
5. I am not prepared to undergo chemotherapy because I do not want to suffer all the side effects associated with it. Even though the doctors can help with the immediate side effects by giving me more drugs, I am more concerned with the long-term side effects which doctors do not know about or are unable to help with.
6. I am not prepared to undergo radiotherapy because I do not want to suffer all the side effects of this treatment. I also do not want to risk suffering long-term side effects.
7. I do not want to undergo medical treatments because I may end up having more or other types of cancers as a result of the invasive treatments I would have to undergo.
8. After all the medical treatments, I am not sure if I can get better or not. I may be worse off than when I first started. Therefore, I would rather go for the less invasive methods of treatment. I may have a better quality of life.
9. I am aware that alternative holistic procedures cannot cure me but they are not necessarily worse than medical treatments.
10. I am aware that following holistic procedures mean I need to spend time cultivating my health. I am prepared to allocate time for my own self. I do not mind taking those herbs, change to a new healthy lifestyle and stick to a good diet. 11. I shall read, talk, ask and seek advice from experts of various fields in search of my own healing. I am prepared to do what it takes to make me well. My life is in my hands. Others can only advise me what to do.
OPTION THREE: Go for integrative medicine — Options 1 + 2
1. I am a person who cannot or do not want to make any decisions on my own. I depend on others to help me.
2. I do not fully trust the medical doctors but I cannot ignore them totally either. I do not have strong opinions for or against doctors or holistic healers. I believe that both have their roles and both want to help me with my cancer.
3. I want to get the benefit of both worlds. I wish to see what medical science can do while I also hope to adopt holistic ways to benefit me. In this way I do not put all my eggs in one basket.
4. When the doctor asks me to go for chemotherapy, I would follow his advice but I am fully aware that there are risks and side effects.
5. When the doctor asks me to go for radiotherapy, I would follow his advice too, although I know that there are risks and side effects because of the treatment.
6. When the doctor prescribes me drugs I would take them. In addition I am also taking herbs and doing other things that I feel are helping me in my healing.
7. I do not fully agree with the doctor’s advice that I can eat anything I wish. I cannot simply eat anything I like; I need to change to a healthy diet and lifestyle.
8. I am prepared to go through the various inconveniences of boiling the herbs, changing my diet, lifestyle, etc., for as long as these help me to get better.
9. The main reason why I want to combine both treatment approaches is because I want to get well. I am not bothered if it is the medical treatment or the holistic ways that help.
10. Though some people say that taking herbs is not scientific or an old-fashioned idea, I am not bothered by such comments. What matters to me is that they are effective.
11. I shall give the herbs a try. If they work for me, I shall continue taking them If they do not, I shall stop taking them.
Quackery, Luck or God’s Blessing?
In July 1999, my husband was invited to be one of four panelists in a live talk show on Complementary Medicine on Cancer, which was aired on a Malaysian television (Global, TV2, RTM). The host posed this question to him (Chris Teo): “People tend to think of complementary medicine as quackery or hocus-pocus. What is your response to that?”
Chris Teo: “Definitely, complementary medicine is not quackery. It is based on experience. It is based on knowledge accumulated over thousands of years. I do not believe that technology by itself can solve this problem of cancer. To my mind, we have to look at it from a point of view that is different from what is being conventionally done. Well, the conventional method is to destroy the tumor. The methods of medical science need not be the best in this world. I am a scientist with 26 years of experience teaching science and I feel I know what science is. I feel that I am fortunate and lucky to be involved in traditional medicine. If anyone wants to accuse me of being a quack, he has to think twice because I understand science. I always tell cancer patients: See your doctors, by all means. But one thing, you should know the limits of medical science. Doctors are no more infallible as much as anybody else.”
As the discussion got “heated” up, the host shot another question: “You had patients who came to see you and they have been doing well, have responded you said. Do you think that you are just lucky and whoever have come to see you were also just lucky? Is that what it is all about?”
Chris Teo:”Alright, let us talk about luck. If I have helped one person and he is OK, you can call that luck. If he brings along another friend next week and I can help again, you might call that coincidence. If you bring another person and another person and another person and it adds up to a thousand, do you want to say all that is due to luck? Do you want to say that it is a fluke? My results with cancer people are not luck. That is God-given.”
Let us end by saying this. Many Chinese have known and lived by their traditional medicine for thousands of years. To them, the question of whether what they have been doing is scientific or not does not arise at all nor is it of any concern. To them, what matters is that the herbs work.
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