Friday, February 27, 2009

Coping with cancer treatments.

It has been more than 6 month since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and undergoing various treatment regime. In other words, I was also “on leave” since September 2008. The period of “inactivities” is not something I welcome, but have to adapt to. Never before in my life, I was tested to my extreme. I have learned to cope with fear and hope, and ultimately, cultivating faith in myself, in the treatment protocols, and the Almighty.

Prior to my diagnosis, I went through various medical procedures such as colonoscopy, endoscopy, laproscopy, Computer Tomography scan, blood tests, and various antibiotics and probiotics medications. Some of these procedures are humiliating, and some are frustrating. But I am glad all these are over, and I can now focus on seeking appropriate treatment strategies.

The first treatment protocol I went through is the so called B17 protocol. It is basically an alternative treatment protocol with high dosage of various sorts of vitamins and supplements. The protocol involved a strict hourly schedule of taking pills, tablets, liquids, capsules, etc. from 7:00AM to 10:00PM on daily basis for 19 days. During the period, I was advise on non protein and non carbohydrate diet. My diet was essentially reduced to liquid foods. On completion of 19 days, I went for a blood test, and was shocked to discover that, my condition was worst than when I was first started – the cancer marker cancer marker shot up substantially. The funny part is, the person who sold me the B17 protocol told me that I am 80% cured by just looking at the blood test result, and advised me to go for another round of 19 days protocol. I consulted a few doctors, all of them advised me to consult an Oncologist, and not to take unnecessary risk taking the advise of unqualified medical personnel. Another professor in medicine told me that B17 is a hoax. I was indeed lucky that, in my time of desperations, I was still rational in making my treatment decision. I decided to consult the Oncologist and seek treatment in evidence based medicines. Come to think of it, the B17 alternative treatment protocol is nothing but an over priced and over glorified vitamin supplement.

The Oncologist advised me to opt for chemotherapy first as the first line of defense to reduce the size of the tumor and cancer marker reading. On a hindsight, I was lucky that I did not go for for another round of B17 alternative treatment, because, during the course of my regular chemotherapy session, I met several cancer patients who received B17 alternative treatment protocol, and all of them told me that it is a waste of money. The moral of the story here is, do not simply believe the claimed “success stories” of alternative treatments. Basically, these “success stories” are over glorified, and most likely can not be verified. The safest treatment option is to go for evidence based medicines such as chemotherapy, radio therapy, surgery, or procedures recommended by qualified medical doctors.

The moral of the story is, when you are stricken with cancer, please do not bet your life life on unproven alternative cancer treatments. You are taking the unnecessary risk of delaying effective conventional treatments by wasting time on unproven treatments disguised as “alternative treatments”. Take it this way, if these alternative treatments are claimed to be proven and effective, how come they are not registered with the FDA and Ministry of Health ?

I started the Chemotherapy session in October 2008. Basically, the chemotherapy involved a cocktail of liquid drugs being administered intravenously once every three weeks. In my case, I was initially put on a combination of Gemcitabine, 5-fluorouracil, Oxaliplatin, and folinic Acid. The most frustrating part of chemotherapy is having the butterfly shaped needle inserted into the blood vessel, then bearing with more than 2 hours of chemo drugs being intravenously pumped into your body. After the fifth chemotherapy, I was put on a Computer Tomography Scan and cancer marker test. The doctor was not happy with the improvement, and introduced additional chemo drugs to be taken orally on daily basis for 60 days. The additional new Chemo drug is Tarceva. Tarceva is relatively a new cancer fighting drugs. It block tumor cells growth by inhibiting enzyme within the cells associated with the epidermal growth factor receptor. In other words, it specifically go after those hardcore cancer cell, but leave the normal cells intact.

During the administration of treatment regime, the body must be well nourished. I realized, a lot of the times, cancer patients died of malnutritions rather than cancer itself. Therefore, a critical component of my treatment strategies is to ensure that I fortified my body with nutritional supplements, balance diets, and regular exercises.

In additional to the physical pains associated with cancer, the most dreadful aspect of dealing with cancer treatments such as chemotherapy is managing the side effects. In my case, I encountered lost of appetite, neuropathy, mouth ulcers, sore throats, dried palms, chest pains, fatigues, hair loss, etc. With the introduction of Tarceva, I also acquired new side effects such as severe body rashes and palpitations. But on the positive side, we are all adaptive human being, after more than six month of treatment regime, I am more or less getting used to the pains and discomforts.

Although being stricken with cancer is a nightmare, but I was awakened with incredible fighting spirit. I know, by remaining calm and positive, I shall have good fighting chance to emerge victorious against Cancer. Emotionally speaking, the previous 6 months has been an emotionally draining but amazing journey of self discoveries of embracing hope, dealing with frustrations, and confronting fears and uncertainty. Perhaps, it is a journey of self enlightenment !

Well, whatever it is, the fight goes on. I know, I am going to have a good fight. And, I do sincerely hope I can overcome this obstacle and be a walking miracle..........

Praise the Lord.

1 comment:

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