I want to start with a plea to every medical professional who encounters a cancer patient. Not just a medullary thyroid cancer (MTC) patient, but every cancer patient out there.
When we come to you with any or all alternative treatment options, please don’t dismiss us. Please don’t roll your eyes at us. Please try not to write us off as just another “whack job.”
We are grasping at straws. Straws held out to us by (mostly) well-meaning people in our lives. We are eager to find anything that will help us fight this disease.
The Storm of Suggestions
When someone shares a diagnosis, such as cancer, everyone comes out of the woodwork – family, friends, acquaintances, people we haven’t talked to in years or sometimes even decades. Everyone has ideas of how to fight this disease. Everyone knows someone who had cancer and who was healed by this alternative treatment or that particular diet. During the first couple of months after my diagnosis, this was true for me. I had skipped over nearly all the information about MTC until I got that diagnosis, thinking I wouldn’t have such a rare disease.
As a result, I knew little about MTC when I was diagnosed, including what may or may not work to fight this cancer once people started telling me about treatments. So, when presented with all of these miracle cures, I tried just about every one.
I was introduced to essential oils within a month after surgery. At first, I only wanted to use them for scar healing. Eventually, I was told ingesting oils, such as Frankincense, can actually fight cancer cells. I went on to make little veggie caps with a combination of oils and took them a few times a day.
The company I bought my oils from also sells products intended to improve immunity, gut health, endocrine balance, and more. Before long, I was spending a lot of money to acquire these products and begin taking them.
When radiation started, I agreed to stop taking all of them. There is really no research to show if and how radiation would be affected by these kinds of alternative options.
My mom comes from a Russian background. While she was growing up, her family would often make home remedies by steeping herbs, roots, and plants in high concentration alcohol and then ingesting it, or applying it topically.
Naturally, there was a remedy for cancer. Shortly after radiation treatment was done, I started taking that homemade tincture; all of these tasted awful. However, I would have done anything in my power to somehow rid myself of this disease.
There were many other ideas sent my way, some of which I never tried since they were just a bit too out there for me. Among these were certain mushrooms I was encouraged to eat. Then there were apricot seeds that I was advised to eat 10 a day.
For over 2 years, I went to a naturopathic clinic to receive high-dose vitamin C treatments. These would be administered via IV. I would sit in a chair and 2 hours later, leave feeling very much the same. However, I did notice an increase in my metabolism in the days that followed the treatment.
Diet as a means to cure or manage MTC is probably the one most patients will hear about. This will be the case for not just cancer patients, but all patients dealing with chronic illnesses. It was definitely the single suggestion I heard the most from a variety of sources, from Keto to Vegan diets, and from sugar-free diets to free for all eating. Cutting out dairy and pork in place of eating fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants was a common directive.
Many of these “experts” contradicted each other. And many made zero sense to me once I looked into them in-depth. Some did, however, and those I decided to follow.
I began juicing. I received a top-of-the-line juicer from friends, who had walked through the cancer journey before me. I had never bought so many carrots, celery, or apples before in my life.
Still Grasping at Straws
As I started with, we are all grasping at straws. We are trying to make sense out of a senseless situation. We are trying to take back even a little bit of the control that we lost when cancer entered our life.
Most of us will eventually realize that a lot, if not all of these remedies, don’t do very much; at least not for MTC. I believe for some cancers, changing your lifestyle may have a positive impact. However, I have concluded that for my particular case, these aren’t necessarily helpful.
Moreover, I have learned to simply enjoy living my life to the fullest. For me, it means eating the things I enjoy. It’s eating to stay overall healthy, not to fight this cancer. If I feel like having ice cream or chocolate, that is what I am going to enjoy.
I decided to stop spending money on many of the things that were suggested to me. Instead, I am using that money to live the life I want to live. This is a life that in 40 years (if I should still be around), I can say ‘I lived a good life.’
But I hope I can also use those words if my end should come a lot sooner than 40 years.
In a nutshell, my message to health care providers: Please don’t dismiss your patients when they come to you wanting to try alternative options. For some, even the chance of a positive outcome is enough to make them feel better. As long as it doesn’t directly interfere with the treatments you prescribe, please don’t discredit them.
Most of all, please don’t make them feel inferior or stupid for believing something like this can help them. Hope is an amazing motivator. Please choose your words wisely when you talk to your patients, what you say could rob them of hope.