Holistic Cancer Therapy
Recently cancer has become the #1 killer of americans, surpassing heart disease. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it is usually a traumatic blow to their mental state of equilibrium due to the seriousness of the diagnosis. Cancer, as with any disease needs to be addressed not only on the physical, but also on the mental and emotional levels as well. Here are two ways of looking at cancer (or other internal disease) and its treatment.
We believe that utilizing both systems of Eastern AND Western medicine to remove and kill the cancer, and to simultaneously strengthen the immune system, gives the patient the best of both worlds, and ultimately results in a stronger, more resilient, patient.
This perspective is based on the “germ theory” and looks for what the pathogen is (i.e. virus, bacteria, cancer cells, etc.) that is causing the disease- and the treatment is to attack & destroy it. In the treatment of cancer with Western medicine, attacking strategies take the form of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. The benefit of the attacking strategy in the treatment of cancer is it’s ability to powerfully destroy cancer tumor growth. While this paradigm is valid and beneficial, it is not the whole picture of healing cancer. In addition, it often leaves profound side effects in its wake. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, immune system debilitation, extreme fatigue, digestive problems, and for many women immediate entree into menopause, are only a few.
While using the attacking strategy is often necessary and beneficial, one must not ignore the healing powers innate in the wisdom of the human being. There is an ancient saying in Chinese medicine which says “ To dig a well after one is thirsty, is like forging weapons after the battle has already begun”. This goes for the preventative strengthening of the immune system as well. Not just for cancer, but for any disease. This leads to another perspective on how one can look at treating a disease such as cancer.
When looking at the promotion of optimal health for an individual, the first thing we do is to see what the condition, or the “terrain”, of the person is in. What I mean by this is, to evaluate via traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis principles whether the body/mind is in a state that provides a hospitable environment for disease to flourish in or not. In ancient China a poor physician treats disease after it already appears, a good physician promotes good health, and a wise physician helps the patient not only to optimal health but to fulfill their destiny. While helping people fulfill their destiny is often a tall order it is a worthy one to strive for in the field where “doctor is teacher”. Therefore, cancer is a teacher in itself- it teaches you that you need to reevaluate your diet, thoughts and lifestyle choices to see if they are health promoting or not.
In our culture, a “wise” use of traditional chinese medicine in situations such as cancer, is to use it in conjunction with the attacking strategy of Western Medicine. Furthermore, one of the benefits of properly prescribed Chinese herbal medicine is that it can be used for its anticancer properties (attacking strategy) AND for it supportive benefit to the immune system. Both of which have been proven over thousands of years of Chinese medicine’s long history. Furthermore, while the attacking strategy of Chinese herbal medicine may not be as strong as chemotherapy, it also does not come with the side effects that weaken the immune system.
The powerful therapies of radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery for fighting the cancer often leave the immune system in a damaged state. Over the course of treatment, many people feel their energy getting zapped, and the cumulative effect of the chemotherapy and radiation can sneak up on the patient, leaving them feeling unable to get back to a normal routine post therapy. We often see that some patients tolerate the first modality well, whether it is chemotherapy or radiation, only to be taken down by the follow up therapy. Not only does this take them by surprise, it results often in depression and frustration that they can’t keep up, and a sense that they will never be “normal” again.
It has been our experience in working with cancer patients that the acupuncture treatments have been enormously helpful in reducing the often debilitating immediate side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and in the long run helped them to resume normal functioning much quicker than without the acupuncture. Our patients have often reported that the worst weeks they had during chemotherapy were the off weeks that they had to miss acupuncture due to a scheduling issue.