Radical Remissions. Radical Ideas Ep8

During this week, October 3-7 2022, there is a repeat free airing of the Radical Remission Docuseries https://www.discover.hayhouse.com/radicalremission/, created by researcher and author, Kelly Turner, PhD. 

I commented daily on each episode as it was launched back in March 2020 in order to elaborate on my personal experience and hard-won convictions regarding cancer and cancer treatment and they are all still available here on my blog, Reflections. All of the episodes will be available for the duration so perhaps my commentary will give you a sense of which you want to dip into. I am sure that after this timeframe the documentary will be available through Hay House in other forms. 

One of the reasons for writing my play, Breastless, was to share the perspective that healing from cancer takes many forms. Even the writing of it played an important role in my healing of breast cancer.

I use story to reflect on these matters and to encourage others to ask themselves what they would do, what they believe and how they might help others. Kelly Turner uses her 15yrs of research into hundreds of cases of remission from life-threatening disease. 

This documentary leads us through the 10 elements that people who put themselves into remission had in common. It includes interviews with some ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Out of the ordinary, because their stories do not fit into our modern-day assumption that the scientific Western medical model has all the answers. These people all heal themselves as they embrace a wide range of approaches, including mainstream and “alternative” methods. 

For many years there has been a move amongst practitioners to avoid having their work described as “alternative” and instead use the word “complementary”, but I would even like to call into question that term too. To complement means to use Western medicine as the mainstay of treatment and to add into it other modalities to enhance it. What would happen if instead we started to view Western medicine, with all its brilliance and applications, as a complement to our own internal healing abilities; as just one of a broad spectrum of choices with which we can boost our own healing potential?

I would like to help shift our bias away from solely relying on Western Medicine, and instead see each person getting encouragement to first look within themselves for clues to solutions. Then, from that empowered place, seeking professionals whose perspective and approach feel in alignment with the person’s desires and needs. This would constitute taking responsibility for our own health and healing, as opposed to relying solely on an expert to tell us what we need based on the parameters of their specific training.

I am not wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but equally I would like an end to obscuring the issue with words like “complementary” to appease the medical gods of the past 200 years. It is time for a revolution; turning things around. It is time for some evolution in our thinking and actions. And it is time for the resolution of us individuals who experience health differently to speak up and be counted.

I am grateful to Dr Turner for doing her part.

EPISODE EIGHT: Using Supplements and Herbs

Would you swallow 24,000 pills per year for 10 years?

You might if you had been given a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer and only 12 months to live, with a feeble promise of 18 months if you did chemotherapy. 

This is Reggie Pierce’s story. He is still here to tell it at the age of 77 and strong enough to keep working so he can afford the supplements.  “We were overwhelmed when we first got home and had to put the pills together. It was a nightmare. They probably cost $1200-1300USD per month. which are not covered by insurance.”

Then there’s Ann Fonfa, with recurring breast cancer, who was told she would die without chemotherapy and radiation. She looked at alternatives.

“Natural medicine works and I have been able to find, over the years, a lot of things that really made a difference for me.” Decades later she now has the Annie Appleseed Project and enjoys advising others for free about supplements and herbs.

But it’s not just random advice from your local health food store. 

Kelly Turner says, “What I’ve learned from Radical Remission survivors is that everyone is taking different supplements. In these big studies, they put everyone on the same multi-vitamin or they give everyone the same dosage of vitamin D. That’s not what radical remission survivors do. They are taking the supplements their bodies need and their practitioner is adjusting as time goes by; as they heal or as they have a flare-up. They work with a trained healthcare professional who is going to assess and monitor you and make sure it is safe.”

Lorenzo Cohen, a founding member of the International Society for Integrative Medicine, asserts; “When we think about supplements and natural products, they need to be considered just like drugs. Do drugs play a role in cancer? Absolutely. Do drugs take a role in increasing our longevity today longer than in the history of homo sapiens on the planet? Absolutely. I don’t see them any differently.”

And talking of drugs, there is just a short piece from an expert on cannabinoids, but hopefully more will come of this as it becomes more widely used and accepted. Biochemist, Steve Ottersberg, has spent years studying and teaching how cannabinoids help cancer patients and is striving to de-stigmatize cannabinoid chemistry. “There is no-one in the medical community that can deny that cannabis has a really profound effect on the quality of life for cancer patients. There is nothing that western medicine has that can compete with nausea associated with cancer or chemotherapy. And there are a lot of studies that show that cannabis does have anti-proliferate effects; anti-cancer effects.”

Disappointingly, no-one was heard talking about using it. I look forward to the day when this is commonly acceptable. When I tried to seek my own doctor’s opinion, thinking there was research available to her (which there is), I was told that the only use for it would be possibly to combat nausea. She told me emphatically that she knew of no patients who had experienced success with it for any other reason. Slam! She closed that door pretty firmly.

Robert Sellars is the third survivor in this episode, from Stage IV Liver Cancer. He was given less than a 2% survival chance. He tried chemotherapy but his system reacted badly so he was taken off it and he was told hospice was the only route.

But he and his wife discovered The Block Centre for Integrative Cancer Treatment. There they worked on rebuilding his health foundation, plus getting an idea of what was driving his disease – his “malignant signature”.

“There is considerable research that shows as much as a third of patients have to stop treatment because of adverse effects and the emotional burden of undergoing treatment”, says Dr Block. “There is a variety of ways to protect patients from this. One is to chrono-modulate drugs, the other is aggressive nutritional support to protect from the various side effects that that particular drug might cause.”

With two handfuls of pills per day, Reggie was able to take the same drug that he had previously reacted to, but in a lower dose. The specific nutritional support was chosen for its ability to enhance the effects of that particular drug. Integrative medicine for the win!

I was fortunate enough to have a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine who was vocal in supporting the role of western medicine in my treatment, and whose acupuncture, ancient medicines and dietary advice all mitigated the side effects. On the occasions when she was out of town, I definitely noticed a big difference in my body’s ability to handle the strain of a chemo dose or radiation. There is no doubt in my mind that her work carried me through to the end where I would have quit without her.

Block again, “I don’t think there’s any surgeon on the planet who wouldn’t want their patient to be more physically, nutritionally, emotionally, immunologically fit. So why should that be any different for any other cancer specialist?”

This is clearly an exciting field with some passionate doctors working together to combine expertise.

Take those vitamins!