Cancer is a serious illness. It is also a “misrepresented and misunderstood” illness. Patients go to their doctors hoping to be cured of their cancers. Often, they failed to find that elusive cure. My experience showed me that those patients who have cancer for the first time and who have no relatives or friends with cancer before, have the misconceived notion that medical science can cure cancer. They would say: “What is the problem, with my money and the best doctors, the best hospitals and the best chemo-drugs, the problem can be easily fixed.”
For more than twelve years now, I have been involved with terminally ill cancer patients who come to seek my help after medical science have failed them. It is very frustrating to know that patients are just naïve. They went to their doctors with total belief and expectation that their cancer can be cured. They do not seem to understand that the responsibility to get well and to maintain their own health is with them, not the doctors. They prefer to leave everything to the so-called “experts.” The story below is one example of what I often encounter.
In March 2007, I received a phone call from a long-lost friend. He wanted me to help his wife, Betty (not real name) who had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. As I went through his wife’s medical history, it turned out to be more than a “sudden” diagnosis of brain cancer.
In 2001, when Betty was forty-five years old, she underwent a total hysterectomy due to a 20 x 22 cm left ovarian tumour. The surgeon did not recommend any follow up treatment after the surgery. The impression Betty had was that: “Everything is taken out and it is all clean.”
Everything seemed to be alright for Betty after this surgery. She did not go further than that and like most people, she was satisfied that she was well taken of. The surgery was the “proven” answer to her problem.
In early 2004, Betty had difficulty moving her bowels. A big tumour was found in her colon and she underwent a surgery to remove it. The histopathology report dated 27 April 2004 indicated that her colon was distended up to the terminal ileum. The splenic flexure showed a tight stricture resulting in a blind loop gut. Betty was eventually diagnosed with a moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma of the colon, stage B. Since no lymph nodes were involved, the surgeon did not see any need to give her any follow up treatment. Betty was again given the impression that everything was well taken of.
Three years later, in March 2007, Betty had headaches and lost her balance when walking. She also vomited. MRI of Betty’s brain on 26 March 2007, showed the presence of “an irregular 3.2 x 3.0 x 1.8 cm loculated enhancing lesion in the left cerebellum. There was associated surrounding edema with compression of the midline structures.” Doctors advised immediate surgery. The surgeon impressed upon the husband that without immediate surgery Betty’s cancer would spread like wild fire.
Betty’s husband came to seek my advice. I cautioned that resection of the tumour from the brain might not solve her problem. It could worsen the situation. Most probably the tumour would recur and often very soon too. In addition, a CT scan showed that there was a 3 x 3.8 cm mass at the base of Betty’s right lung. There was also a 5 mm hypodense nodule in segment 4 of her liver. Betty also had gallstone. So to say that the cancer can spread fast is ill founded – for the cancer had already spread to her lung and liver.
Based on the “fear” expounded by the doctors, Betty underwent surgery. Histopathology report dated 2 April 2007 confirmed “tubulovillous adenocarcinoma metastatic to the brain, consistent with primary in the colon.”
After surgery, Betty was asked to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Betty was told that if she did not go for chemotherapy she would have only six months to live. With chemotherapy and radiotherapy Betty could expect to live for another two to three years. She would need six to eight cycles of chemotherapy, at about RM 2,000 per cycle. Since Betty was told that her cancer could not be cured, she declined further medical treatment.
Betty was started on herbs on 8 April 2007. After the surgery, she appeared normal and was able to eat well. However, her husband noticed the change of mood in her. She had bad temper, often had mood swings and did not want to socialize. She seemed to have memory loss. In short, Betty after surgery was not like the Betty before the surgery.
Barely two months later, Betty felt dizzy and nauseaous again – the very symptoms she had before being diagnosed with brain tumour. She would vomit even with the slightest smell of herbs. MRI of the brain on 11 June 2007, showed the presence of a “large irregular 3 x 4 cm mass in the left cerebellum. A similar 1.5 x 1.5 cm area was seen in the left temporal lobe. Surrounding edema was noted. The 4th ventricle was slightly compressed.” The radiologist concluded: “Left temporal and cerebellar metastasis.”
Betty remained at home under hospice care. She vomited everything that was put into her mouth. She felt dizzy with the slightest of movement and she was not able to move her bowels. Unfortunately, there was nothing much that could be done.