After all the poking and prodding, the diagnosis was not the best news. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The good news; this is the most common type of breast cancer and a lot is known about it. The bad news; “triple negative” and aggressive. Triple Negative means that there are no hormonal influences that produced the tumor so I could not receive non-chemo treatment. How aggressive? On a scale of 1-4 (4 being the most aggressive) mine was a 3.
My research began in earnest. I read cancer blogs, articles, research papers, and watched videos about the benefits of traditional medicine vs alternative medicine. In a short week I felt I knew more about breast cancer than I would have otherwise learned in a normal lifetime.
I really only had two choices for treatment. (Well, actually three choices, but the “doing nothing and dying” was immediately taken off the table for discussion. I had too much living left to do.) I could follow an alternative path by making extreme changes in my life choices (a strict, and extreme diet change along with intense daily exercise) and the chance that the cancer would stabilize or even go away (also a chance it would continue to grow). Or, I could follow the doctor’s recommendation of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments. I had very little time to make a decision.
Both sides of the argument were convincing. On the one side I could change everything about my lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercise and diet). The experts said that this approach shifts the Ph balance in the body to make it a toxic environment for cancer to survive. There is science to support alternative medicines and lifestyle changes. I read about several people who have kept their cancer under control with these aggressive changes. Yet, the alternative route was a little frightening to me. What if it didn’t work? What if the cancer spread and I faced a more grim prognosis? Could I really make that extreme of a change in my lifestyle?
On the flip side was chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation which are strongly supported by science, yet the side effects aren’t pretty. These highly toxic treatments do kill the invading cells, but I ran the risk of having side effects that could pop up anytime in my life. First, it might not work, or it might only have partial success. Then there is the possibility of secondary cancers from the radiation, or the side effects of the chemo could be debilitating. Not to mention the inherent dangers in any type of surgery.
I was depressed, in shock, and horribly confused. I had no clue what to do. Both arguments had pluses and minuses. My husband and I talked endlessly about what to do and we found ourselves returning to the same place of indecision. One evening, I talked at length with a practitioner of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. He shared his professional experiences with me at length. Then, he shared one final thought with me and it went something like this, “I have treated many, many patients with cancer. I helped them follow the alternative treatments as well as the traditional treatments with acupuncture and herbal remedies. To be brutally honest with you, the only ones alive today are the ones who followed the traditional treatments. Everyone else is dead.”
My decision was made. On December 23, 2014, I began my journey down the long road of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.
This is the end of Part 2 of a multi-post story. Part 3 will be coming soon.
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