Reflections on the Best Answer for Cancer Foundation Meetings – April 27-29, 2017, submitted by Dr. Martha Grout, MD, MD(H).
What is the best answer for Cancer?
Is it chemotherapy drugs?
Is it radiation therapy?
Is it surgery?
Is it specific supplements?
Is it exercise?
Is it diet?
Is it discovering (and resolving) unfinished emotional business?
If there were one magic bullet, don’t you think we would have found it already?
We declared war on cancer years ago. And how did that go? We have 25 and 30 year-old women being diagnosed with breast cancer. Colon cancer is rampant even in young people. Cervical cancer is no longer such an issue because of the Pap smear and surgery. But thyroid cancer is overwhelmingly present in the younger population.
We have more and more tests for early detection – colonoscopy by the age of 40 (when it is often already too late), mammography (using as a screening tool the one modality, ionizing radiation, which we absolutely know causes cancer), screening CT scans in smokers… the list goes on.
What about prevention? What about cure?
If you have a splinter in your skin, we can take it out, your body heals, and we can talk about cure.
If you have a cancer in your body, it acts like a splinter hidden in the middle of your body. We can lance the abscess, but the cancer keeps on festering – if not at the original location, then at some distant location – and we call it a metastasis. It may take years to show up at that distant location, but it does eventually show up.
Once you have cancer, you have cancer – no matter how many therapies you do to get rid of the original tumor.
In fact, we all have circulating tumor cells in our bloodstream. So why do we not all die of cancer?
Why do cancers recur after many years? Why do they not heal?
Is cancer an environmental disease? Or is it a metabolic disease?
What are the fundamental changes that allow the body to treat cancer like a welcome guest? Is there a common denominator for all cancers?
Thomas Seyfried, PhD – a professor of biology at Boston College, is quite convinced that cancer is a disease of metabolism gone wrong. His contention is that impaired cellular energy metabolism is what underlies all cancers, no matter which organ is involved. If we can repair the impaired cellular metabolism, we can treat the cancer.
Unfortunately, by the time cancer is diagnosed, we are generally very far down the road of impaired cellular metabolism, and the way back may be arduous, not to mention expensive.
Nevertheless, a journey begins with a single step, so let us embark on this journey together.
The first step of a journey is always to identify the purpose of the journey.
The next step is to identify the destination.
The next step is to identify the companions. Whom do we choose to accompany us?
Then it is important to identify the landmarks along the journey – the highways, the mountains, the gas stations, the restaurants, the lodgings along the way – so that we may reach that destination.
One helpful resource is a book written by Annie Brandt, the founder of the Best Answer for Cancer Foundation, a cancer thriver who, 16 years ago was told she had stage 4 breast cancer, and was given 3 months to live.
Each person has to find their own path through the maze of therapies and treatments available. Many of the options for that healing platform are outlined and discussed in this book.
When we are diagnosed with cancer, we have a choice. We can do what the authority figures think is best for us, or we can make the effort to identify our own path. And the paths are not necessarily always divergent.
Surgery may be the best answer in the beginning – get rid of the tumor mass, open up the bowel so that it can function normally again, lance the abscess, remove the infected tooth. But does that mean that we are cancer free?
We come back to the question: is cancer is a genetic disease or a metabolic disease?
If it is in our genes, then we have neither responsibility nor freedom of choice, we were bound to develop cancer, and our only option is to fight it.
So where does that leave the smokers with lung cancer? Or the guy who never ate a vegetable after the age of six?
If, on the other hand, cancer is a disease of metabolism gone haywire, then there may be some hope of restoring the metabolism to a healthy state so that the cancer no longer has a pied-a-terre, a place to live. Of course, this route assumes that we have some choice in the type of gas we put into the tank – the food we eat, the houses we live in, the people we live with, the things we choose to put into our bodies, and emotions we choose to fuel.
Admittedly, it is easier to go by the main highway. The Medical Guild determines the vehicles for whom the road is intended, the Federal Government legislates the path of the highway, Insurance paves the road and charges tolls to maintain it, and Pharmaceutical companies provide what is available at the rest stops. The Pharmaceutical companies who determine what is available at the rest stops also pay for the federal agency that oversees the quality and availability of supplies. It is an unending and incestuous circle.
Allopathic medicine has a very Newtonian view of the world – everyone fits into a bell-shaped curve, and the treatment of disease follows the same path for every patient. We have treatment guidelines for every disease, prescribed by the guilds – the American Medical Association, the Infectious Disease Society of America, the National Cancer Institute, and a multitude of other specialty societies.
In the world of cancer therapy, the bible of the field, Chu and DeVita’s Physician’s Cancer Chemotherapy Drug Manual with a new edition published every year, states in the introduction: “Primary induction chemotherapy refers to drug therapy administered as the primary treatment for patients who present with advanced cancer for which no alternative treatment exists.”
The word “cure” is not used in the world of cancer therapy. We talk about “progression free survival” but only rarely do we use the measurement of quality of life. We give lip service to the idea, but we do not actually ask out patients about it until they are near death, when their pain management can be turned over to hospice.
If you have pancreatic cancer, you are treated with one drug which might give you an additional 2 months of progression-free survival as compared with another drug. If you have colon cancer, you are treated with a different drug – or drug combination. If you have skin cancer, or brain cancer, there are yet other drugs which are used. There are protocols, and a dosage range. All of them destroy the very cells of your immune system which are supposed to keep you out of infection’s way. Most of them make your hair fall out, your bone marrow stop producing blood cells, your colon stop functioning.
And diet, in allopathic medicine, is pretty much immaterial – you should eat to keep your weight up. It’s OK to eat the hard candies in the bowl at your oncologist’s front desk. It’s OK to eat ice cream, or cookies, or a candy bar. A calorie is a calorie. The nutrient content of the food has no effect on the function of the mitochondria in your body. Of course cancer is a genetic disease, in this world view, a disease over which we have no control except that of armed warfare.
In the view of those of us who treat the whole body, the person, and not just the disease, the allopathic route is limited to war on disease and dysfunction. There is no working with the body to help it retrace its steps and modify its presentation so that the war ends. There are no peace treaties.
Navigating the road less travelled has its own challenges. The maps are not as detailed and their accuracy is not certified by the guild (the FDA, the AMA), although they may well be certified by other organizations – the Board of Homeopathic Medicine, the Institute for Functional Medicine, the American College for Advancement in Medicine, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine). The rest stops are not necessarily certified – certainly not by the medical Guild. The food is not the same at every stop, and the recipes are not necessarily what you are used to eating.
And the disease may kill you anyway, in the end. There are no guarantees.
And yet… if we believe that ultimately we have some control over our experiences, and if we believe that we, on some higher plane, have chosen this life path in order to gain experience, then at the very least we have control over how we choose to face it and move through it.
None of us gets out of this world alive. That is a condition of our human existence. But we can certainly choose to take control over those things that we can control – like our diet, and whether we smoke, whether we hang on to old hurts, whether we walk in the world with eyes open to all angles, or with blinders. We can choose whether to grasp life by the horns and play with it, or whether we turn tail and are chased by it.
If cancer is the wound that will not heal, then it behooves us to figure out the cause of the wound – to find the embedded splinter – and remove it so that the wound may heal. And who knows, we may very well be resolving issues that occurred several generations back. – making the whole concept of Family Medicine a much broader field than we thought originally.
Cancer is a metabolic disease. And we do have control over many aspects of our metabolism.
Let us choose to be actors, not reactors. Let us move forward, confident that the way will be illumined, the dark corners cleared out, and the Light will prevail.
Best wishes and many thanks to all those who make the annual conference of the Best Answer for Cancer Foundation possible, that the rest of us laboring in the fields may benefit. We owe them a great debt.