The surprise cancer diagnosis, and the mortifying realization of how I gave myself cancer had me reeling until the practical realities set in. What are all of the treatment options? What is the best treatment? What would or wouldn’t my sham of a health insurance policy cover? How much cash would I need upfront and how much debt would I add? Who do I tell, when do I tell them, and what do I say?
The Doctor Recommends…
The doctor stated the next steps were a sigmoidoscopy, a PET scan, and then a colon resection. The sigmoidoscopy was to mark the spot where the tumor was removed with a tattoo. The PET scan was to determine if cancer had spread, although it he said it was unlikely. The surgical colon resection would “cure” the cancer. In this procedure, approximately 10 inches of the colon are removed, five inches from either side of where the tumor was located. Hearing this made my mind, body, and wallet ache, and I wasn’t sure I was being told the truth.
I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t seen the social media posts that say main stream medicine, driven by big pharma profiteering, is keeping the “cure” for cancer a secret. Was this true? Would alternative treatments be better than major surgery? I started my search for answers.
An Expensive Visit to a Naturopath
A few Google searches identified a naturopathic practice that specialized in treating cancer patients not too far from my home. Their website had an impressive research paper, at least at first glance, that claimed a 91% survival rate for those who followed their protocol. In summary, their protocol calls for a low carbohydrate diet and IV drips with high doses of vitamin C (50g+) and other nutrients.
The initial one-hour intake appointment was $300 (yowza) and wouldn’t be covered by insurance (no surprise). I made an appointment and loaded my HSA account with another chunk of change to pay for it.
After completing the lengthy intake form, I met with the naturopathic doctor for about an hour. He asked if I had had a colon resection yet, and his face expressed dismay when I said I hadn’t because I wasn’t sure it was the best treatment. The practice charges $300 a pop for their “proprietary” compounded nutritional IV, and the most prevalent ingredient is vitamin C. I was shocked.
Naturopathy, the New Healthcare for Profit Player
The Naturopathic care industry portrays itself as patient-centered rather than profit-centered, and openly condemns the pharma-based profiteering in main stream medicine. I found the same profiteering model the Naturopath industry derides in full bloom at in this cancer-centric facility.
Having my fingers in the medical spa industry, I knew that the IV for a Myers Cocktail costs maybe $15. Upping the vitamin C, which is a very, very inexpensive ingredient, to 50 grams couldn’t possibly add much more cost. I estimated the IV product cost, including saline, needles, alcohol, etc. at $25 maximum.
Two to three IVs a week seem to be the typical recommendation. There is an assumption that they are using a medical assistant (~$15/hour) to administer the IVs, and a nutritional IV takes about an hour from start to finish. As I left my appointment, I observed five patients in their IV room, all looking quite broken and hopeless. I did some quick math:
$30 for the Medical Assistant (assumes two hours at $15/hour for patient overlap)
$125 (roughly) for five IV bags
$1,500 income for five IV patients yielding approximately $1,345 profit, or roughly 1,033% profit, for five IV patients. Nice for them!
Granted this 1,000%+ profit pales in comparison to main stream medicine patient extortion (i.e. billing $546 for six liters of saline that cost the hospital $5.16 or charging $20,000 for a vial of anti-venom that cost $750). It is important to note that this IV-based Naturopathic practice is only legal in a few states. Only 17 states recognize Naturopathic Doctors, and even fewer give them prescribing rights. This is because Naturopaths have an issue with a general void of evidence-based medicine.
Where’s the Evidence-Based Medicine?
While forking over the $300 payment for the one-hour consult, I noticed that there were several copies of Defeat Cancer: 15 Doctors of Integrative and Naturopathic Medicine Tell You How by Connie Strasheim apparently available for sale. When I got home, I bought the kindle version and started reading.As I began reading, I thought it was ironic that while all of the doctors in the book called for more transparency from main stream medicine regarding the toxicity of chemotherapy, they all keep their “proprietary” formulations of vitamin, herbal, and IV treatments a secret.
As I read on, I was progressively appalled by the void of evidence-based medicine citations in the various recommended courses of treatment. Those “cured” were anecdotal, i.e. “I had one patient….” or “Many of my patients…”. There was lots of background information. There were lots of opinions. Where were their case-controlled clinical studies? Where were their randomized controlled trials? There was not one to be found.
Certainly the politics of big pharma plays a role in the lack of funding for studies in alternative treatment protocols. Big pharma is very well versed in using their tax deductible lobbying dollars to ensure that cancer research grants are geared to benefit patents they can acquire. Given patents can’t be acquired for naturally occurring enzymes and existing nutritional and herbal supplements, getting federal level funding without lobbying dollar clout isn’t so likely.
While I appreciate the problem, given that in general alternative practitioners are just as profit hungry as main stream medicine, the lack of evidence-based medicine because big pharma gets all the funding strikes me as a whiny, pitiful excuse. If they’re collectively preaching it, don’t they have an obligation to contribute to a collective research effort?
As I continued to read, the one fact that did stuck out was that most patients who have been cured of cancer over the last 50 years “had cancers that were localized at the time of their diagnosis and which were cured by surgery” (page 47).
Early Detection + Surgery = Cure
Google searches found consistent statistics that 93% of colon cancer patients are still “cured” 5 years after surgery. After finding that a colon resection is consistently cited as the best treatment possible, even by alternative and complimentary practitioners, I spoke with Dr. Venkatesh again. He said the tumor was very small, and I only had stage 0 to stage 1 cancer which could be successfully cured with a colon resection. I would be in the hospital 3 to 5 days and back to “normal activity” (i.e. walking up and down stairs) in one to two weeks, then that would be it. I would be cured.
An Integrative Approach
While I’ve ranted a bit on Naturopathic medicine being void of any evidence-base, a holistic approach to overall health is common sense. Colon resection surgery was an obvious a no-brainer for the most likely colon cancer cure. I also knew I had to address the root cause, meaning the physical condition in which cancer found a hospitable environment to flourish.
Because cancer thrives on sugar, I moved to a very low carbohydrate diet. I wish I could say I didn’t eat one single cookie, but I did break down from time to time. Not for a dozen or two though, just one.
Because most alternative practitioners consider cancer the result of an immune system dysfunction, achieving most functional immune system was important too. This meant a diet of real food, meaning virtually void of anything processed. As this was my typical diet outside of cookies, slips were infrequent and typically limited to eating a cookie. Having a healthy immune system also meant making efforts to increase my relatively regular exercise. I wish I could say I exercised religiously on a daily basis. Showing up at the gym or Jiu-Jitsu class required the inner strength to keep up the “nothing is wrong” facade. While I wanted to go, there were more days than not where there was just nothing left and all I could do is go home and cry.
I continued taking my handful of carefully chosen supplements, and thought adding IV therapy couldn’t hurt and could possibly help. The $300 IV drops at the Naturopathic practice were way out of my budget, and I was also concerned about overdosing on vitamin C, which can cause kidney failure. I searched and found The Drip Room in Scottsdale. I did IV drips as I could afford them, and plan to load up with one the day before surgery.
I had the sigmoidoscopy during which I got my first tattoo ever (a big black mark rather than the winking smiley face I asked for). Instead of performing the PET scan ordered, a CAT scan was performed (welcome to Amerikan medicine). The CAT scan did not find any additional tumors, which was expected.
While I wait for my “redefining butthurt” colon resection surgery, I am doing what I can to concentrate on maximizing my health to keep any remaining cancer from spreading and help ensure the recovery time after surgery is as short as possible.