Going with the Alternative: Supporting My Mother’s Healthcare Choices

health, healthcare, alternative health, breast cancer, cancer awareness, breast cancer awareness, pink ribbon, chemotherapy, diagnosed, mom, mother

When his mother’s cancer returned, Joe Barton learned how oncologists might regard alternative therapy: as competition, rather than complement to their care.

My mother was just 45 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was still in college at that point, and my family and I were terrified of this disease we knew nothing about. When it was time to make decisions about treatment, my mother chose a traditional route. She opted to have a mastectomy and chemotherapy afterward. The mastectomy was a big procedure that required a great deal of recovery time. Then, chemotherapy left my mother sick, suffering, and losing her hair.

It was inexplicably difficult to see my mother, the woman who raised me, in this state. She suffered a lot during the first few months, but eventually and fortunately, she made a full recovery. However, 17 years later, the cancer returned—this time, to her other breast and rib. Her cancer was classified as Stage 4.

Between her diagnoses, I had done a lot of research on alternative treatment methods, and I knew she wanted to try the alternative route this time. Unfortunately, with all the chemical, radiation, and surgical treatments available, natural methods are not preferred by the healthcare industry. Supporting your mother in times of serious illness is no easy task to do, but supporting her when she wants to go against a medical norm is even harder.

My Mother’s Wish for Alternative Treatments

Having a family member diagnosed with cancer teaches you a few things about healthcare. For one thing, most of the time, the healthcare industry does not encourage natural treatments. When my mother was diagnosed a second time, she wanted an oncologist with whom she could mesh well and trust. But she also wanted one who could help fulfill her wish of receiving alternative treatments.

This was difficult to come by, seeing as how many oncologists are not trained on alternative treatments. Natural remedies are in direct competition with the medical industry. They are far less likely to be recommended by a doctor or covered by insurance. Many oncologists will only use chemotherapy and radiation and are not open to alternative therapies. Often, these treatments go against the doctor’s medicine-and-surgery philosophy, or the doctor simply isn’t trained to treat with alternative methods.

Then, there are the insurance companies. This may go without saying, but these businesses—like all other businesses—are only trying to make a profit, so they typically don’t cover alternative or natural methods. Standing by my mother’s decisions turned out to be more difficult than I expected, simply because the treatment she wanted was not being offered.

Take Control of Your Health

Despite the healthcare system’s reluctance or, in some cases, refusal to use alternative treatments, everyone has treatment options. I learned this as my mother’s second battle with cancer progressed. As her son, I had to be proactive. I found that asking questions at appointments and doing my own research helped us both, and it gave us a better understanding of treatment options and outcomes. Don’t just blindly trust a doctor because of his title, and encourage those close to you fighting a disease to do the same.

Part of being able to comfort my mother and be involved in her recovery was becoming knowledgeable of her cancer and its remedies. I read publications to broaden my knowledge of natural remedies, and I recommend the same to others in similar situations. To those with cancer or a serious illness, make informed choices when it comes to food, exercise, and sleep. Don’t just blindly take medications and expect your symptoms to go away, and don’t let yourself become a number in the healthcare system. Stand up for what you want and be responsible for your healthcare, as my mother has been.

Finally, search until you find the right healthcare professional to help you or your loved one. My mom was lucky enough to find a knowledgeable biochemist in California who offered a treatment plan incorporating both alternative and traditional methods. He told us to follow the oncologist’s advice about the IV and pills, but not to undergo the radiation treatment the oncologist recommended because it would ruin my mom’s immune system.

Everyone Has a Choice

There’s a growing number of people taking their health into their own hands and doing all they can to avoid medications and surgeries by eating healthily and getting regular exercise. Everyone has the choice to be a part of the traditional system or take the alternative “self-health” route.

My mom is part of the army fighting a winning battle with cancer using a combination of traditional and alternative methods. These alternative methods consist of pills, teas, tonics, shots, and vaccines, as well as the Biotta juice fast. (More specifics on my mom’s plan can be found here.) After struggling to find the right doctors and the right treatment, my mom is now satisfied that her healthcare desires are being met. And seeing my mom beating the odds on her own terms gives me a sense of relief that is hard to come by when a parent has cancer.

Lessons Learned from My Mom’s Battle

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from this experience is that you have to be proactive when it comes to your health. My mother was just that, and supporting her the entire way taught me about her character and about healthcare in general.

When I first heard my mom had cancer, I was terrified of the unknown. The word “cancer” told me nothing about its characteristics or cause, only that it sounded like a death sentence. But she didn’t treat it that way, which helped me see it differently as well. Alternative treatments are one way to deal with cancer. Another is by demanding that your healthcare needs be met and then faithfully following through when they are. My mother’s road to health started when she did this.

Cancer doesn’t have to be the invincible monster it is portrayed as. There are a lot of different ways to fight cancer and battle for your health if you take a proactive role. My mother is living proof of that.

 

Read more on Health, Psych & Addiction.

Image Credit: rosmary/Flickr

 

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About Joe Barton

Joe Barton is the founder of Barton Publishing and other websites that promote natural health through teaching people how to cure themselves using alternative home remedies (using simple grocery store items, herbs, vitamins, exercises, and more), instead of expensive and harmful prescription drugs. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn and Google +.

Comments

  1. My wife is one of those complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. She sees a lot of patients like your mother. I understand a lot what you and she are going through. There is a real difference between “complementary” and “alternative” medicines.

    It’s good news/bad news, unfortunately. The good news is that the “complementary” side of natural medicine works very well. The scientific and clinical evidence for it is growing. Naturopathic cancer treatments usually work best when used in combination with more mainstream approaches, which is what your mother appears to be doing. For example, natural medicine is really good at getting rid of many of the side-effects of radiation and chemotherapy, helping people bounce back from chemo more quickly, boosting their appetite, boosting the immune system back up, etc. It’s also very good for palliative care in cases where the disease has reached a point in which the patient has very little time left.

    Unfortunately, the “alternative” side of things is often vastly overestimated. My wife the naturopath would be the first to admit this. There are promising alternatives out there and a WHOLE lot of scam artists, rumors, and predatory pseudo-physicians. The truth is that there is no giant conspiracy to cover up useful treatments. You better believe if there was a miracle cure then big pharm would be all over it. All the anticancer giants would patent that sucker, charge astronomical fees, and sue the pants off the generic producers. If orange juice was the miracle alternative cure, then you wouldn’t be able to buy oranges at the grocery store, not for less than $20 a pop.

    Also, what many people don’t realize is that there are alternative approaches WITHIN mainstream treatments. There are alternative ways of using chemo drugs, for example. There’s some promising studies showing success with low doses of chemo over a long period instead of a few massive doses over a short period. That’s too radical for some doctors and not radical enough for others, but it could be just the trick for a lot of patients.

    Totally agree with being proactive, though. It’s your treatment, your body, your health, your life, the way you want to live. Assume you may not be getting the whole story. Ask questions about complements and alternatives. Discuss different strategies. Educate yourself, without turning off your critical thinking skills.

  2. Thank you Steve. Cancer treatment is a long and winding road, with a lot of dangerous obstacles along the way. Potholes, falling rocks, wildlife that jump out of nowhere. My mom is going to see her oncologist today, and is expecting to hear her recommend an intensified chemo treatment plan after last week’s blood tests came back worse than hoped for. But we are believing in a miracle from God, praying for healing and proclaiming the name of Jesus over her body. There is power in the name of Jesus! It seems that being with family and friends is also a HUGE part of beating cancer, as it can be a lonely and depressing battle without support. I was reminded this weekend, when I visited my parents for Mothers Day, how important it is to spend time and make good memories together. We were singing and dancing together, enjoying each others company, going to church together, making and eating meals together. My mom is a hero for fighting this battle for so long, and not giving up. To everyone who fights cancer, my heart goes out to you and your family, and I would encourage you to never give up hope!

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