Oct 022015

I read a lot of blogs. I enjoy reading blogs by cancer survivors of all stripes, conventional and alternative.

I hate the moment when a blog slowly trails off, followed by a post from family or friends announcing the blogger’s death.

I hate that moment even though it’s worth it to read the blogger’s posts, thoughts and experiences. Fortunately, that moment doesn’t always happen. Sometimes the blogger doesn’t die but instead triumphs and writes for many years, inspiring others faced with similar challenges.

What’s the difference between the two? I’m sure there are too many factors to count, but regardless of other factors, there is one trend I don’t like to see in cancer blogs. I call it treatment-shopping: skipping from one treatment to another, seeing a series of doctors, and never sticking with one treatment and giving it time to work. Conventional or alternative, this is rarely a good sign.

Adventures in Treatment-Shopping

I totally understand the panic that can spur treatment-shopping. After I finished radiation, I did some treatment-shopping of my own.

I’d decided to build up my body using organic food and great supplements. I started off using Cellect, a nutrient powder, but almost immediately I felt like the effect was too strong for me.

I switched to the Bill Henderson protocol. Initially, it seemed like a good fit for me, but I wasn’t feeling well after a couple of months, so I made an appointment with the doctor who became my doctor. His tests identified several mineral, enzyme and hormone deficiencies, and his program was designed to address those specifically and bring my body back into balance. It felt great to have actual test results instead of guessing and attempting to apply a one-size-fits-all program to my situation.

Even during the first few months on my doctor’s program, I wasn’t sure it would work yet, so I was still treatment-shopping. I saw a well-known Chinese herbalist in New York and started taking his herbs.

Knowing When to Stop

At my first follow-up appointment with my doctor, I learned that his protocol was working extremely well — better than expected. Then I did something very good: I told him about the herbs and other supplements I was taking.

He discouraged me from taking the herbs, not because they were ineffective, but because he’d seen herbs interfere with his program in the past. He allowed me to continue taking most of my other supplements.

What do you think happened next? Did I keep treatment-shopping?

No way. I’d found something that seemed to be working, so although there might have been several other things out there that also would have worked, I stopped rushing around. I stopped taking the herbs. I stopped taking them even though I felt they were working for me. Even though I thought I could possibly choose the herbs over my doctor’s program and be okay.

Key words: Felt. Possibly.

My doctor’s program was definitely working.

I stopped treatment-shopping right there and never started again. And his program kept working for me.

Maybe the herbs would have worked, too. Maybe they wouldn’t have. But it would have been a gamble, a shot in the dark, more fumbling around when I already had preliminary success and just needed PERSISTENCE at that point, not scattershot grenades.

Two Plus Two = Zero?

I know it’s hard to stop. It’s hard to think that “one more treatment” might hurt instead of helping. I like picturing treatments as being additive, so X + Y is better than just X.

But that is not necessarily how supplements and herbs work. (It’s not how medicines work either: Two antibiotics can actually hurt each other’s effectiveness, if their mechanisms of action are in conflict.)

Once I found something that was working, treatment-shopping could have harmed me far more than it helped. So whenever I read blogs that seem to be an endless stream of treatment-shopping, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I pray they’ll find a doctor and a treatment they can trust. I pray they’ll trust themselves enough to make a decision about which path to take. I pray they’ll be successful and have peace about their decision.

Because success with any treatment, conventional or alternative, is more like a martial arts practice than like exploring a new town. Consistency, discipline, adaptability — but never haphazardness.