Saturday, February 27, 2010

Do med students take a class on miracles?

I know. It was kinda silly. But I had to ask. My mom and I had lunch with  friends of the family. The daughter is in medical school. When I asked her, she simply responded, "Doctors don't believe in miracles. You heal through medicine. There is always a reason." But what about things that do happen miraculously? I've grown up on the Discovery Channel, 20/20- all those shows that that show stories of medical miracles. Within these past few months, I've also read about and personally met with individuals who have beat cancer. And I was curious to find out if medical professionals investigate the reason.  It's as though there are all these individualized cases of people being cured, and you just pray that you become one of them.

I met a pastor who had stage 3 colon cancer. Rather than opting for chemo, he did what every conventional oncologist will tell you NOT to do. He went to Mexico; the clinic there focused on hydra-therapy and finding answers in the Bible. His regimen now consists of carrot and lettuce juice, a vegan diet, and exercise. His tumor completely went away. He talked about "natural chemotherapy" which consists of filling a bath tub with very hot water to raise your body temperature, creating a fever and shrinking the tumor. After about 10-15 minutes, you drain the tub and fill it with ice cold water. The pastor also spoke about doing "cold rubs" every morning to strengthen/ activate your immune system by rubbing your entire body with a  cold, wet towel.

I do believe his methods worked, but I also know that I could never hose my mom down with cold water. We have changed a number of our eating habits; we juice regularly. Our juice usually consists of beet, orange, apple, blueberry, celery, ginger, asparagus, and carrots. Sometimes grapes too. It's pretty yummy. The funny thing is that my mom has always been a pretty healthy eater. She absolutely loves fruit and makes sure that when I go to work, I have either an apple or a banana in my bag. We also eat a lot of Chinese vegetables...and rice of course.

My theory is that if a miracle is going to happen, it is not because she ate enough carrots or was hosed down with cold water. Miracles just happen whether it is because of God or the energies of the universe. I've always told myself that everything happens for a reason. However, before, it had only applied to my theory on job searches (lol). I have to believe that everything happens for a reason. 

Monday, February 22, 2010

Choosing an Oncologist

When you're told you have cancer, you're thrown into this whole new world where the words "chemo," "cancer," and "treatment" immediately grab your attention and you try to find miracles at every corner. At least for me, that's how I felt. I regularly scan Google news and blogs for new cancer treatments and initiatives. From the start, I needed to find an oncologist I was most comfortable with. The vibes I got from the facility and the staff were also important. We met with three oncologists before finally making a decision.

These were my experiences at each visit:

First Doctor
Pros: Spoke my mother's native tongue and could communicate with her, conducted an exam to see if it had spread to her cervix (thankfully no worries)
Con: Older with more than 20 years experience, but seemed a bit jaded, bluntly said that my mother will have about a year to live, also did not fully explain the chemotherapy he would be using and its side effects
Conclusion: Not good enough for my mom. As my mother noted, "He looks like a farmer." He didn't seem aggressive and was all too brash.

Second Doctor
Pros: Although the doctor was young, he took the time to explain everything and had a nurse print out information about his chemotherapy of choice as well as the first doctor's. He took his time examining my mom and was patient.
Con: None. We almost went with this doctor, until we met with the third doctor.

Third Doctor
Pros: Impressive background (top undergrad and medical school, fellowship at one of the best cancer hospitals in the nation) and very hands on. She was the only doctor who had a computer in her office and actually showed us the CT scans. She also saw that my mother just had the port catheter procedure, but it didn't look right and called the surgeon directly to make sure it was okay. She also was the only one who said that she would get CT scans before the treatment began to "compare apples to apples."

All three doctors had different chemo treatments of choice: FOLFOX, Cisplatin Irinotecan, and EOX. We learned that while they vary in side effects, no doctor can say that one is better than the other. In the end, we - or rather I (as my mother relied on me to make the decision) just had to go with my gut and the doctor I trusted most.