Friday, July 24, 2015

Tarceva Side-Effects

During four courses of chemotherapy and four rounds of radiation over the past thirteen years, Jim has experienced multiple side effects: nausea, pain, mouth sores, infections, hair loss, weakened bones, pericarditis, neuropathy, hearing loss, rashes, diarrhea, splitting toes and fingers, hiccoughs, radiation pneumonitis, fatigue, necrosis of the jaw, tooth loss, joint pain, cachexia, and shortness of breath. All of the side effects have been noxious and unwelcome—until now.
Finally with Tarceva, he gets a good side effect and he doesn’t even appreciate it. Along with the Tarceva acne which we were told to expect, came one we weren’t warned about. His eyelashes are growing at an alarming—according to him—rate, so long they now bat against his glasses. They curl every which way—even protruding into his eye. The hair on his head is also coming in thicker, darker, and maybe curlier. Who can tell since he insists on wearing the buzz cut he adopted when his hair first fell out? The hair he doesn’t mind so much but the gorgeous eyelashes are totally wasted on him. I have suggested clear mascara to keep the errant lashes in line but he refuses. I think the lashes enhance his baby blues; he thinks they are an affront to his masculinity.
What’s a caregiver to do? Shall I trim them so he’s not mistaken for Caityn Jenner? Or let them grow in hopes of getting a spot in The Guiness Book of World Records? I can only hope some of you ladies on Tarceva get the bonus of lengthy lashes. For those who are not in cancer treatment, I don’t recommend Tarceva as an eyelash extender. Probably easier to go with Latisse.  

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Wellness Warrior Chooses the Wrong Weapon

Having lived through seven lung cancer recurrences and survived for twelve years with Stage III and IV cancer, Jim is unquestionably an outlier (a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set). Because of this distinction, people frequently ask our advice about which cancer treatment to pursue. I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what path to follow, but I am willing, even obligated, to tell anyone what we did and why. 
In the beginning, we researched a multitude of alternative and complementary treatments, but never seriously considered foregoing traditional cancer treatment. Still, I understand why some choose this route. “Slash, burn, and poison,” the derisive terms used by some traditional medicine opponents  isn’t nearly as appealing as the “detoxify, nourish, and supplement”  alternative plan. Lacking trust in physicians and big pharma, many cancer patients choose an alternative that promises healing without pain. Change your diet, bolster your immune system with supplements, cleanse the body of all the nasty toxins, and cancer will go running.
I have personally known two people who chose the alternative route with success. One of them, Gayle Miller, who when traditional treatments for lymphoma failed, adopted a macrobiotic diet and took the supplement Ambertrose, is still alive. The other Jess Ainscough, a vocal adherent of The Gerson Method is no longer with us. 
While I have read of many successes with The Gerson Method, Jess was the only person I knew personally who followed the directives faithfully and claimed to be cured from a nasty cancer—epithelioid sarcoma. In 2008, the doctors told Jess (after a failed course of chemo) that her only hope of a cure required the amputation her left arm—not an attractive option to a twenty-two-year-old woman. 
Jess opted instead for a more natural treatment and traveled from Australia to a clinic in Mexico where she got a jump start on the detoxification and rebuilding process that includes coffee enemas every few hours, juicing pounds of organic vegetables three times a day, and the same limited diet day in and day out for two years. Jess did all of this believing that she was healing. When new tumors appeared on her arm, she was convinced they resulted from the positive changes occurring in her body. She started a blog, The Wellness Warrior, chronicling her journey and giving tips to others who might want to forego standard cancer treatment in favor of a more natural approach. 
In 2011, when Jess’s mother, Sharon, got breast cancer, the family decided that she, too, would follow the path set out by her daughter. Unlike Jess’s cancer which was a slow-growing but pernicious type, Sharon’s was aggressive and fast-moving. She was dead within a year.
Granted, chemotherapy is no walk in the park, but I assure you, neither is the Gerson Method. Why would someone pay thousands of dollars for a cancer treatment involving a diet of thirteen fresh organic vegetable juices and five coffee enemas per day, and a basic organic whole food plant-based diet supplemented by raw liver injections, mineral supplements, pancreatic enzymes , and Lugol’s solution (an inorganic solution of iodine plus potassium iodide)— a regimen that keeps the patient essentially housebound for two years and has not been proven effective? 
People stricken with a catastrophic disease are easy marks for charlatans and crooks.They are looking for hope, grasping at straws rather than looking for life buoys. “In her promotion of Gerson quackery, Ainscough, with the noblest of motivations in the beginning, did harm and likely led some cancer patients down the path of quackery and preventable death.” (Terry Firma) Sadly Jess Ainscough died this year but only after influencing countless others to employ an alternative cancer treatment that ultimately failed her.