“Very sorry” were the last words I heard clearly, followed by a seemingly muffled explanation in which “treatment options” and “life expectancy” seemed to jump out. Later, and in a clearer state of mind, it was explained to me that malignant cells had been found in the outer lining of my lungs. My diagnosis was pleural mesothelioma, and I was offered one year as the estimated time I had to live. Fear came to me first, but now I am thinking of choices, and about where to go from here. Besides my own doctor, I have contacted other doctors and nurses in the area, as well as a handful of specialists in other parts of the country. Everyone I’ve spoken with seems hopeful about finding better treatments for mesothelioma in the future, but few expressed optimism for my present situation. There was one ray of light in the cloud cover of my recent conversations: a doctor relayed to me the story of a man, Rhio O’Connor, who managed to outlive his prognosis of mesothelioma for six years. This story suggested to me that there is some hope, and that this seemingly insurmountable obstacle is not definite. Looking into this story myself, I found further information on James “Rhio” O’Connor. His success seemed to be due in large part to research, determination, and faith. Thank God. I have little money, but these are things that I have access to.
November 24 My doctor has explained the most common treatment options that are available to me, and I have been researching the details of them on my own. The three options that were presented to me are: chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. I have an aversion to chemotherapy or radiation as treatment, and surgery may or may not help, depending on the extent of the disease. It occurred to me that all the doctors I have spoken with were trained in Western medicine; and the treatments, as well, are based on Western medical practices. At this point, I feel it would be wise of me to explore all other options, regardless of their origin. If I can find any alternative treatments that have been successful in other parts of the world, I might be able to benefit from them, or combine them with one or more of the treatments I have been offered here, if necessary. In the case that my search yields no promising results, I plan to continue researching other options here, through contact with other specialists, and with patients.
December 1 Although I have yet to find any supposed miracle treatments, I have learned of several herbs, used in other cultures to treat cancer, and to stop or slow the growth of cancerous cells. Many of them are herbs that I can obtain easily, likely with low-risk of adverse effects. However, few clinical studies have been performed for the use of these herbs, and of those I have found reports on, results were largely inconclusive. Nevertheless, I have faith that there may be some hope in these alternative treatments. It seems that traditional medicines used for centuries must have some merit, even if our modern culture has yet been unable to provide details on the reasons for their use in history. So far, I have compiled a large list of possibilities, which are worth individual study. Cat’s Claw has been used in South American folk medicine to treat cancer; and Astragalus has been used in China to slow abnormal cell growth, and in conjunction with chemotherapy. Iscador, an extract of a species of mistletoe, has been used in Europe for similar purposes.
December 16 I have been making calls and sending e-mails to doctors across the United States, who specialize in treating mesothelioma. I was unsure that any of them would give me a response, but one has offered a phone consultation, following the winter holidays. I am eager to learn about any new practices that might have developed recently. I also found a local doctor, who practices in alternative medicine, and has been trained in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. In my search for alternative medicines, I have added to my list: coenzyme Q10 therapy. It is believed that cancer patients lack sufficient amounts of this enzyme, and the University of California in San Diego is currently doing research on its effectiveness in reversing cancerous cell growth.
January 20 “When convention fails, one must be unconventional”: this is my new motto. Obviously, standard techniques can not offer me the results I desire; so, I have been challenging myself to come up with more creative solutions. Certainly, by improving my diet and daily habits, I can boost my immune system. This, I have already begun. Despite the demands I have put on myself to research, I am taking time each day to meditate outside; although the effects are less obvious than those of a pill, I am sure it is important for me to strengthen that part of me that cannot be physically measured. The phone consultation I received gave me the information I needed to make an informed decision about the biggest choice I had to make.
I plan to undergo surgery to determine whether or not the cancer might be removed. If some chemotherapy must follow to remove the last remnants of the disease, I am prepared to seriously consider it. In addition to these treatments, I will supplement with treatments recommended by my doctor of alternative medicines. Acupuncture and massage should help to alleviate pain, and an array of prescribed herbal supplements will help to strengthen my body, and fight off the offending cells. I have discussed all of these alternative treatments with my traditional doctor, to ensure that no two methods will interfere with each other. Friends and family have pledged constant support during this time, and I am incredibly hopeful for the future. Now, more than ever, I believe that even the most serious of problems can be cured through faith and determination, as these are things that no man or illness alone can take away.