Acknowledgment: Permission to use this video without having to hide her identity is granted by the patient.
This is a bitter-sweet story of Le, a 37-year-old female from Indonesia. She came to us on 14 October 2011 after having been diagnosed with breast cancer that had probably spread to her lungs. She presented with aches and pains throughout her body, especially the joints. She could not bend her fingers. She could not sleep well and she had coughs.
You found a tumour in your breast in February 2009. Did you ever felt the lump before that? Le: I went to the Cancer Organisation for a Pap smear in 2003. At the same time they also examined my breasts and told me to come back for check up a year later.
What did they say about your breasts? Le: There was a small lump in my breast but the doctor said it was not cancerous – only something suspicious. I was asked to come back to a reexamination after a year.
You did not go back to see them again? In 2004? In 2005 and 2006? Le: No, I did not go back to see them. I received a letter from the Cancer Organisation in 2007, reminding me to come for a check up. I also did not go back to see them.
What did you do in 2008? And what about 2009? Le: In 2008, I did nothing. In 2009, I felt a lump in my left breast while I was lying down in bed. I used to examine my breasts while bathing. I did not feel any lump.
Was there any retraction of the nipple? Any discharge? Any pain? Le: No, nothing.
What did you do after you found this lump? Le: I went to consult an oncologist. After an ultrasound he told me there was a 80 percent chance that the lump was a cancer. The possibility of it being a benign tumour was 20 percent. I was asked to do a biopsy. I refused to do anything at all.
You were told that the lump was cancerous and you declined medical treatment – then what did you do?
Husband: She started to take vitamins and supplements. Le: I took supplements and stopped eating meat but I still ate organic chicken.
Oh, chicken is not meat? Right? Le: (no reply, quiet and embarrassed).
After you took supplements, did the tumour not grow bigger and bigger? Husband: Yes, it grew as big as my fist.
When you discovered the lump, what was the size? Le: Size of my thumb.
Okay, after taking the supplements, and supplements and supplements … did the tumour grow bigger and bigger? Le: Yes. It grew to the size of a duck’s egg.
Oh, you took supplements and the tumour grew bigger – were you not afraid? Le: I was afraid. Husband: Afraid to die.
Le: In November 2009, I came to Kuala Lumpur for a check up. The oncologist told me he was 100 percent sure that the tumour was a cancer. He asked me to do a biopsy and then go for an operation. I refused and returned to Surabaya.
Why did you ever come to Kuala Lumpur in the first place if you didn’t want to follow the doctor’s advice? Le: I just went for a check up.
What is there to check up? In Surabaya you were told the lump was probably – 80 percent cancerous. And in Kuala Lumpur you were told it was probably 100 percent cancer. What is the whole idea of coming to KL? Waste of money? Le: In Februay 2011, I went to see an alternative practitioner. Husband: She also took other types of capsules besides the supplements.
What did the alternative practitioner do? Le: He tapped the area around my breast. He also gave me some herbs to drink. I did not know what these herbs were. After one month on his treatment, the tumour grew bigger and it eventually burst.
When he saw the tumour growing bigger, what did he say to you? Le: He asked me to go for radiation. But I refused.
Did he warn you that the tumour might just burst? Le: Yes, he did tell me that without radiation the tumour could burst. But I refused to go for radiation.
What happened after the tumour burst? Le: The alternative practitioner wrote me a referral letter to go to the hospital for radiotherapy.
And you still did not want to go for radiation? Le: This time I agreed for go for radiation.
Cost of Alternative Therapy
How much did you have to pay for all these alternative therapies? Le: A lot of money.
How much is a lot? Le: I took a lot of supplements. Husband: For taking this supplement alone it cost 700,000 rupiahs per bottle per day. Le: That is RM 250 per bottle per day.
How many bottles have you consumed? Le: Hundreds. Husband: She was taking this for about six months. Le: No, I took it for about a year. For one month this supplement cost me twenty-one million rupiahs.
You spent twenty-one million per month for this supplement and you took this for a year? Le: Yes.
Read her full story: