It Can’t Hurt

(cross posted from Coffee and Chemo)

When I was first diagnosed, well-meaning friends and acquaintances bombarded me with suggestions to try various alternative treatments. They usually ended their pitch with the line “it can’t hurt to try.”


When I had the strength, I spelled it out:

I received chemotherapy once a week. I was then tired EVERY night, and most days. I usually had around 7 good hours during the last two days before my next treatment. So, I had to fit a week’s worth of activities into fourteen hours! I did not really want to take out 3 hours (minimum) to check out something that might or might not work.

Furthermore, none of these unconventional treatments are covered by insurance. They usually take at least 3-6 months before we can even determine if they are working. So, for every complementary treatment, we are talking about expending significant time, money, and energy — all limited and valuable resources that I did not have to spare.

Despite my inclination for conventional medicine, I wanted to explore all my options. So, I asked my oncologist about complementary medicine. My doctor summarily dismissed the world of alternative medicine (with the sole exception of acupuncture).

“That is an industry that takes advantage of desperate people,” he declared.

“There is no scientific evidence that the treatments work,” he explained, disregarding the claim that there is no money to prove these treatements works. There is a lot of money in manufacturing cancer fighting agents. If there existed evidence that a product is effective in fighting cancer, drug companies would fund the research.

Then he elaborated further “If a treatment does influence cancer, then there is no way of knowing whether the influence is positive or negative without proper scientific study (large, double-blind research).”

That is what convinced me more than anything else.

If a treatment really can affect cancer, then we need to know how it affects a particular type of cancer

In a recent study researching the effects of Green Tea, scientist discovered something disturbing. Instead of being a “miracle herb,” the tea actually prevented certain chemotherapies from working! (Read the full article here)

The specifics of this particular research are not relevant to me. But the results are significant.

Natural remedies actually can hurt.

(Hat Tip to “After Cancer“)


Recently, our friends, T&UB, told us about Limonit (Lemon Grass Tea), a natural remedy that a friend of theirs said cured her of stage 4 breast cancer. I was curious, so Moshe and I did a bit of research. There is a chemical in Lemon Grass, Melissa, and Verbena that kills cancer cells in vitro. (Read more here) So what? There are many chemicals that kill cancer cells in a test tubes. We need to know how these chemicals interact with cancer cells that are in our bodies.

So, though I like a cup of tea every now and then, I am not about to start drinking 8 cups a day… yet.


3 Responses to It Can’t Hurt

  1. Alan Smith says:

    Alternative therapies CAN help. My sister-in-law was treated at NIH for her cancer but was eventually given only hours to live by Kaiser and sent home to die. She lived for 5 more years thanks to a combination of complementary and alternative treatments.

    Clearly the oncologist is not aware of the new science of epigenetics and how the power of your own thoughts can cause changes in gene function. Medicare recently approved the Ornish Program (now called Spectrum) for heart disease but they’re expanding their research and have discovered it can “switch” more than 500 genes. The program is still considered “mind-body” medicine.

    It’s your life and you definitely should make your own choice, but a little more information about the hope offered by CAM might enable you to make a more informed decision about your health care.

    A good place to start learning about the therapies available is UnBreak Your Health with 300+ therapies in 138 different subjects.

  2. Annie says:

    I agree with Alan. I’m a nurse and I’ve never found one doctor to ever agree with alternative medicine. Frankly, if they did, modern medicine would be put out of business. And illness is definitely a “business”!

    Not all modern medicine and pharmaceuticals are bad but not all of them are good either. Likewise with the alternative medicines. If modern medicine and pharmaceuticals would start coming out and admitting everything that causes cancer (that is FDA approved!!), our country could cut down the cancer rate we’ve got now very significantly. Plastics, pesticides, additives, gah… the list is endless!

    My mantra is… you’ll seldom find members of the opposite opinion ever say nice things about the competition. I’ve found that to be true about anything in life.

  3. Sandi says:

    Thank you for writing this. I wrote about this a bit on my blog, too. When my husband was dying of cancer, we, too were bombarded with alternative treatment options. Everyone knew someone who knew someone that the treatment cured, yet I personally know of no one who was “cured” using alternative treatments. People are well-meaning, but need to shut-up sometimes.

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