by Yeong Sek Yee & Khadijah Shaari

Allow us to share with you the sad news of the recent demise of a close relative who was diagnosed with breast in December 2011.  To us, this is a classic case of a lady who did not die because of the breast cancer – she died due to the breast cancer treatments that she diligently underwent since diagnosis.

This 65-year old lady was a very staunch and caring Christian and very much loved and admired by her siblings, relatives and friends.  Perhaps her weak point in her journey with cancer is her unquestioning loyalty to her doctors/oncologist (her son is also a medical doctor).  From Day One, she listened very faithfully to her oncologist who advised her not to consume antioxidants, herbs or other complementary treatments as these will “clash” with her chemotherapy and subsequent radiotherapy, and hence the efficacy of her conventional treatments will be compromised.

Briefly, in December 2011, when she was diagnosed with a 3.8 cm lump in her left breast, she was told by an oncologist (in Singapore) that the lump is too big for surgical removal.  She was then advised to have at least 8 sessions of chemotherapy “to shrink the tumour” before surgery could be performed.  She followed the doctor’s advice and underwent chemotherapy during the whole of 2012 – 6 sessions of EC (Epirubicin + Cyclophosphamide) followed by 5 sessions of docetaxel, which ended in January 2013.

Come January 2013, instead of the tumour shrinking, the condition of her breast became more inflamed, with a few more new lumps appearing at the sides the breast. She was then advised by her hometown oncologist to consider radiotherapy.  So she came to KL for that purpose as the radiotherapy machine in her hometown was not working.  Whilst in KL she consulted with two prominent breast surgeons, who advised that (as at January 2013), surgery was definitely not an option based on the condition of the breast after 11 sessions of chemotherapy. She subsequently did 33 sessions of radiotherapy from January to March 2013, with the intention of shrinking the five lumps.  Again, while she was undergoing radiotherapy she was warned by her oncologist and radiologist not to take any herbs or antioxidants until everything is over.  At the end of the 33 sessions she was referred back to her hometown oncologist, with a report that the cancer has metastasized to her bone.

Back in her hometown, her oncologist recommended a new drug, Eribulin, which was only currently available in Singapore (as at April 2013).  She flew to Singapore and bought 4 doses of the drug from an oncologist there at the cost of S$8,000 per dose.  However, after three jabs, her hometown’s oncologist determined that Eribulin was not suitable for her.  He subsequently recommended Cisplatin + Gemzar and she underwent four cycles of this, the last one being around mid-August, after which she was told that further chemotherapy would not work for her.  She was totally devastated.  However, as some form of hope for her to cling on, she was given oral Xeloda.

All the while during her chemotherapy treatments in 2012, radiotherapy and further chemo in 2013, this tough lady was in pain most of the time and the pain became more and more intense in the months of April through August 2013.   From April 2013 her lungs started accumulating fluids…this is usually a confirmation of metastasis to the lungs. In the month of August till her demise on Sunday, 25th August, she had to be on oxygen most of the time (in addition to morphine).

She did try some herbal treatment off and on in between her chemotherapy/radiotherapy sessions in 2013.  Obviously this could not help her much as by that time her body was a total wreck.  Further, she only changed her diet in 2013. During 2012 she “ate anything she liked” as advised by the oncologist in Singapore and from her hometown.

When I attended her wake on 27th August 2013, the first thing that her eldest son said to me was “Uncle, see – only 19 months!”  Of course her oncologist and other doctors attributed this to her triple negative breast cancer which is supposed to be an aggressive form of breast cancer. Anyway, it is always about the cancer being aggressive, and never about the toxicities and ineffectiveness of the conventional cancer treatments which is always marketed and touted as evidence-based, scientifically tested, etc.

Lately, we noticed a new current trend in breast cancer treatment very similar to this case –more and more patients are advised to have pre-surgery chemotherapy – to shrink the lump before surgery.  We are very perplexed by this – why do you need to shrink the lump first before surgery when the breast, an “external” organ, can be wholly removed by mastectomy?  We know of a lady who recently had a 5 cm lump removed by lumpectomy and is recovering well and she has refused any form of chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

This trend of pre-surgery chemotherapy first is a huge business (if you catch my drift) for the medical/cancer establishment.  This unfortunate lady paid RM80,000 for the EC and Docetaxel in 2012.  Imagine how much the drug companies/and oncologists would make if they can persuade a million ladies to do so annually, world-wide.

It is mind-boggling, and the damage to the body, and the suffering, is also mind-boggling.

Just to conclude, this is the lady’s 19-months timeline summary:

a)    December 2011 – diagnosis

b)    December 2012 – commenced EC x 6 sessions followed by Docetaxel x 5 sessions

c)     January to March 2013 – 33 sessions of radiotherapy + oral cyclosphomide.

d)    April/May 2013 – 3 sessions of Eribulin

e)     July to August 2013 – 4 sessions of Cisplatin/Gemzar.  When Cisplatin/Gemzar was stopped after the 3rd session, she was given Xeloda

f)     25th August 2013 – passed away.

Undoubtedly, she has found peace with the Lord now but you do not have to follow her timeline. Follow Olivia Newton John’s cancer journey….she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, did one year of chemotherapy and complemented her treatments with good nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture and practiced meditation and prayer….and Olivia is still very much alive today (22 years later)… out for her more detailed story soon.