Mas (not real name) was a 44-year-old Malaysian lady. In May 2015, she felt a lump in her left breast and did not bother about it. About 7 months later, in December 2015, she went for a check-up. Why did you go for a check-up? Just to know what it was. An ultrasound and mammogram confirmed breast cancer. Mas also had pains in her backbone and a CT scan showed the cancer had spread to her bones and liver.
Mas underwent a mastectomy in January 2016. In February 2016, Mas was started on chemotherapy (drugs: EC). The treatment was scheduled for 6 cycles but after 3 cycles the doctor stopped the treatment because of her deteriorating liver function. Blood test on 22 March 2016 showed ALP = 455 (high), ALT = 96.1 (high) and AST = 200.4 (high).
Mas and her family came to seek our help in late April 2016. She was prescribed herbs for breast and liver.
A few weeks later Mas’s cousin to seek our help. At the same time informed us that Mas had passed on about 2 weeks after her visit to us. Mas benefited from taking our herbs. She felt much better.
This is indeed a sad story. But can we learn anything from such a tragedy. Let me quote what others say and leave them there for you to ponder on deeply.
Michael Gearin-Tosh was, for 35 years, a tutor in English at St Catherine’s College, Oxford. But he became famous as the author of Living Proof – A Medical Mutiny (2002) in which he described how he had challenged the medical establishment after he was diagnosed with myeloma (cancer of the bone marrow) in 1994.
He was given six months to live. He was told to undergo chemotherapy.
Gearin-Tosh discovered that, according to one cancer statistician, chemotherapy brought significant hope of survival to just four per cent of patients with the same cancer, and that many doctors would not prescribe it for themselves. His conclusion was simple: “Touch it, and you are a goner.” Instead he embarked on a series of “alternative” treatments. Confounding the medical prognosis, he survived a further 11 years and when he did eventually die (on 29 July 2005, at age 65), it was from a blood infection rather than cancer.
Living Proof triggered angry responses from doctors and from patients undergoing chemotherapy. Some accused him of peddling false hopes and ignoring statistics which indicated a higher survival rate for patients given chemotherapy. “If there was anything in this stuff,” wrote one consultant physician, “don’t you think that the medical profession would have grasped these ‘cures’ with both hands years ago?” But for others Gearin-Tosh was living proof that alternative therapies do work, and that it is possible not to be dehumanised by the disease or its specialists.
Let’s do some calculation!
Gearin-Tosh was given 6 months to live. He refused chemotherapy and opted for alternative therapies. He went on to live for another 11 years before he eventually died of blood infection (and not cancer).
In May 2015, Mas found lump in her left breast. Eight months later, she had an operation to remove her whole breast. Even with cancer growing in her, she was still alive but of course with some discomforts and anxiety.
In February 2016, Mas was started on chemotherapy. Three months later, she was dead.
Is it not better to just learn how to live with the cancer and not do anything? Gearin-Tosh reasoned: Why treat if you cannot cure?
Is doing nothing a better option?
Dr. Atul Gawande is a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School. He shared his thought as below:
Before you folks undergo chemotherapy, do you ever ask what the treatment can do to you?