A radical cancer therapy – Don’t treat

The following Op-Ed by Nora Zamichow appeared in the LA Times Oct 24, 2014.

We learned about my husband’s inoperable brain tumor from a nurse who doled out the news as though providing his cholesterol count. Mark stood frozen. I clutched at him and wailed.

“Are you OK?” the nurse asked.

Was she insane? Which part of this could remotely be described as OK?

Mark worried about how we would tell the kids, three adult children from his first marriage and our 11-year-old daughter.

“We will tell them,” he said thoughtfully, “that we hit a rough patch.” Only Mark could refer to a widespread brain tumor as a “rough patch.”

My husband was a hardcore journalist, relentless in pursuit of a good story, no matter whose sacred cow he skewered. He was also a really smart guy, winning a scholarship to Harvard University from a San Bernardino public school. He began studying chess at age 15 and eventually became a ranked master. After leaving newspapers, he ran his own public relations firm. His greatest fear, he later told me, was that something might happen to his brain.

After diagnosis, we hit the ground running, signing on with a top doctor at UCLA. Quality of life, we told him, was our most important priority. But when he offered hope that Mark might be able to gain another five years of life, we leapt at the chance.

Still reeling from the diagnosis, we readily agreed to the arduous treatment course the specialist suggested: six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation conducted concurrently. This would be followed by five days of chemo every month. At 58, Mark was relatively young and strong, and a doctor told us that 50% of the UCLA patients with his kind of tumor were alive after five years.

We never thought about that other 50%, and when we discussed treatment options, no one proposed the most basic: Do nothing.

But amid the flurry of medical meetings, a friend introduced Mark to a doctor who had also been diagnosed with a brain tumor, though one considered less aggressive. Mark spoke with him. Oddly enough, this fellow had passed up certain treatments. Why, we wondered, would he do that?

Why? Because doctors don’t die like the rest of us.

Physicians often decline treatment in cases of terminal illness, wrote Dr. Ken Murray in “How Doctors Die,” an essay for the Zocalo Public Square website.

“What’s unusual about [doctors],” Murray wrote, “is not how much treatment they get compared to most Americans, but how little.”

Physicians are much more likely than the general public to sign a living will, specifying what, if any, treatments they want in the event of serious illness, according to a 2003 study.

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  • Jessica T

    Very sorry for Nora’s loss. Thank you for putting Mark’s story out there, it’s so important to see the other side of the coin.

    My mother passed away from breast cancer, lung, and brain tumors only three years after her initial diagnosis of breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, two rounds of chemo and one of radiation. I fully believe that the chemo and radiation treatments caused the lung and brain tumors. I wish I had the knowledge back in 2000 that I do today.

  • carolyn

    meanwhile, conventional oncologists accuse alternative doctors of peddling “false” hopes

  • Lisa Allen

    Hi Chris and happy holidays! I’m an avid reader of your site and I find you incredibly inspiring. The service you provide to other cancer survivors is invaluable. I know you’re very busy, but there’s something I’d really like to ask you. Unfortunately, I had chemo and radiation before I found you, for stage 3 breast cancer. I worry that my immune system was damaged and the cancer will come back. Do you think that the radical lifestyle changes you made are as powerful once you’ve already done traditional treatment? I feel pretty good a year after treatment, but I hope I haven’t done anything irreparable. The fear is hard to live with. Thanks so much.

    • Michele

      Hi Lisa,

      I would say yes, to radically change your diet and lifestyle will ONLY HELP YOU, to keep cancer from coming back and to restrengthen your immune system. To do nothing you will most likely get your cancer back. I wish you much wellness and natural healing. You cant change the past, you can only change how your future will be. I strongly encourage you to make these positive life changes. Best of luck!

  • There is of course another option. No conventional treatment, plus a whole array of alternative methods, including energy healing. I highly recommend Leigh Fortson’s book, Embrace, Release, Heal for examples of cancer sufferers who came to the end of the road with allopathic medicine and then found another way to heal. In my personal experience, terminal cancer patients who embraced alternative treatments plus energy healing often not only outlived the prognoses they received from their doctors, but also experienced a much higher quality of life longer than conventionally treated patients with similar cancers.

  • Duane Combs

    Thank you for sharing this tragic story. I am very saddened by the loss of Mark.
    I was diagnosed with prostate cancer 4 years ago. I declined conventional treatment…and for a very good reason. I lost 4 family members to cancer. And each suffered greatly from the treatments. Had they declined treatment I am sure they would have lived much longer and had a better quality of life.
    I can still remember the look in my oncologists eye when I told him no. I also told him about the tragic story of my long lost family members.
    I am still fighting this cancer, but it will only be through natural methods.
    I will soon be 66 which means I have already out lived all members of my immediate family. I know some day I will die, and it may be from cancer. But I will fight it every day. One thing is for sure……I will not die from the toxic side effects of radiation or chemo…..so help me God!

    • CurlyEars

      I agree100%

    • vegan31

      i wish you well, Duane. I, too, am not doing any conventional treatment for breast cancer. Let’s stay optimistic and do whatever we can to heal. How tragic to lose so many family members to cancer and conventional treatments.

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  • Dorothy Kimberly Thi

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  • Duane Combs

    My I received good news when the AMAS test came back negative.

    • Janes Chiarelli

      Hello. My husband of almost 7 years, cheated on me and left me for her and is living with her now. He said he hasn’t been happy in years but never told/showed me he was unhappy. We have a 4 year old son that missed his daddy so much and cries for him to just come home. Our son even crawled all over his car crying “daddy stay home with me.” And he still left. He just keeps saying “he’s never coming back, no matter what.” I didn’t know what to anymore..he left me 5/7/15, the weekend before mothers day this year and it broke my heart and I keep praying to God and he keeps telling me “be patient” I was still trying my best but it was hard when this was hurting my son so badly. I have told my sister about this and she gave me some advice to contact a very good and powerful prophet who can help me pray for my husband to come back and be happy with us again which i did and i contacted the prophet. he prayed for me and my husband cam home begging me to take him back and now we ar happily living together and a family. all thanks to the prophet and his email is (prayerstosaverelationship@yahoo.com). May God bless you abundantly!

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