East meets West

I am trying so hard to find the balance between eastern and western medicine.  I’ve never been one for extremes.  I prefer everything in moderation.  So I believe a balance has to exist.

What I’ve noticed so far is that western medicine hurts a lot and eastern medicine takes a lot of time and energy.

Yesterday I agreed to get a shot of Neupogen to boost my white blood count.  This is the same shot i’ve been trying to avoid for the last month.  But agreed to this week in my attempt to do whatever is necessary to stay on schedule and finish this round of chemo.

The Neupogen goes into your bone marrow to stimulate production of white blood cells.  But it also leaves me feeling like crap.  Headaches.  Pain in my legs so bad it makes it hard to walk.  Aching bones.  Fatigue.  I swear sometimes the meds make me feel worse than the cancer.

That being said, I do recognize the value of taking medication under the right circumstances.  I believe the chemo and herceptin are doing what they’re meant to do.  And I wouldn’t take on cancer without the help of western medicine.

But I must admit I am not too keen on the thought of being on pharmaceuticals for the rest of my life.  There’s talk of putting me on tamoxifen soon – I would love to hear about other people’s thoughts/experiences with the drug…  But I’m paranoid about putting my already fragile body at risk for a bunch of other (potentially lethal) side effects.  I feel like the more drugs I take the bigger the chemical soup in my body becomes.  Who knows what it’ll do to me.  And I really don’t want to constantly deal with yucky side effects that screw up my ability to get out there and live life (like this damn Neupogen did for the last 2 days).

It’s so interesting to me how East and West approach the same disease in two totally different ways.

Take my recent white blood count drop as an example.  The doctors and nurses were not surprised about the drop (they’ve actually been more surprised about the count going up lately).  They assured me it was just the chemo doing what it does.  When I asked if my drinking and not eating so healthy the week before could have contributed to the drop they said, “Nope.”

But when I told my acupuncturist/Chinese medicine practitioner about the WBC drop she was surprised.  Especially since it had been going up steadily for the last month.  And the first question she asked me was, “What did you eat?”

Two totally different responses.

I know in my gut that living healthy is gonna help me against the cancer.  Eating right, exercising, meditation, acupuncture, psychotherapy, doing things that bring me joy…

And of course my reiki sessions at Harmony Farm.  For which I largely credit my ability to go on a 7 mile bike ride with Miss M. this morning.  Renée, my reiki practitioner, is amazing.  Without me even having to tell her where it hurts she instinctively knows exactly where to go.  I always feel so much more balanced after our sessions.  As she says, it’s “massage for your soul”.  If you are in the Dayton area you must check her out – Renée Price – Radiant Energy Massage.

The reality is that staying healthy takes a lot of time, energy, and money.  And a willingness to remain open to every option and possibility.

I will continue to chart my own path.  To live this life as long as I possibly can.  And to make it a good one.

Peace.  – T

8 Responses

  1. In this economy, people cannot afford many treatments at all. You are fortunate to have the opportunity for both types of treatments. I totally agree that you need both when you can have them!

    Hugs (another great medicine! LOL)


  2. I couldn’t agree more. I know I am totally blessed to have good health insurance, a husband who has a steady job, and lots of family, friends, and strangers willing to help cover the cost of my endless treatments (and they are endless – especially when you have metastatic cancer). Many folks out there are not so lucky. Especially in this economy.

  3. Terri, I, too have benefitted from both Eastern and Western forms of medicine and now that my rads are over, I continue to adopt the Eastern practices and methods. I have a script for Tamoxifin that my Medical Oncologist wrote 2 months ago, and right now, I’ve decided not to fill it. My body has been through enough, thank you. For my situation ( DCIS), it will not affect my mortality, and only further reduces the chance of a recurrence by 2-3%. That’s not worth a 5 year comittment with all the accompanying side effects to me. I want to live my life now. I’ll take my chances and will do a mastectomy if and when the time comes. Your mileage may very.

    Sending prayers, strength and hugs. You inspire me every day.


  4. Terri,
    I too have metastatic breast cancer (oligo-metastasis, a little better than regular), and I am finally done with treatments, just one month out from surgery, 5 months of chemo, and 7 weeks of radiation. Although my docs are all pretty adamant about me taking the Tamoxifen, I am not going to, not today, not tomorrow. I want to know where are the real “statistics”? Why are we disregarded when we refuse the drugs? Where is the real conversation about cancer? You won’t find it in the western hospitals, nowhere, and never. It’s maddening. If I knew 20 years ago what I know now, I wouldn’t have this dreadful condition. Good luck to you, follow your intuition.

  5. Well… one thing to keep in mind is that you can ask your doctors about the drugs and why they are supposed to work, and how they are supposed to work, and explain your feelings about them, and then, take them if they’re in accordance with what you want to do, and not if they’re not.

    Doctors don’t always explain those things. Well, they’re getting a lot of money for treating you, so you can feel comfortable insisting that they explain why one course of treatment is good, not just “for anyone” but for *you*. And maybe you can say “but the side effects of that medication is X, which I hate.” Or maybe you can say “I don’t like how that drug works; it doesn’t feel right, given what I know about me. Here’s why I feel that way (blah). What are the other options?” You can say “what do we expect to see on this drug? When do we expect to see it? What will be the signs that we won’t see it, and that we should stop it, and maybe try something else?”

    Doctors aren’t always willing to go over those things, but every good doctor I’ve known has been willing to. I feel that this kinda-sorta combines the ideals of eastern medicine with western… making sure that it’s the right tool, intended to have the right effect, rather than letting a doctor decide you have a nail because the doctor just learned about this nifty new hammer. You know?

    As always – good luck – be well, and be happy.

  6. Make your decisions about drugs/no drugs and stick to them. Second-guessing accomplishes nothing.
    My very best to you.

  7. As a woman living with arthritis,I understand about the drug thing.I am supposed to be taking Methotrexate(which,if it were in a larger dose and I had cancer,would be referred to as “chemo”)for the rest of my life.I won’t do that.It makes me sick.As a trade-off,I live with more symptoms than I would otherwise,but my head is clear and I feel like myself.Follow what you know to be true for yourself.Only you can say what that may be.You are,and will remain in,my prayers.

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