Monday, January 01, 2007

Why So Many Doctors Don't Make Sense

Here is something I wrote to an MD who has himself been recently diagnosed with cancer--- low-grade lymphoma---and who is trying to get a handle on what has happened to him and on how to "make sense" out of what he is being told by the MD's he is looking to for treatment. I have suggested he see the movies, "First Do No Harm" and "The Doctor." I recommend that everyone who has not seen those movies see them as soon as possible. "Lorenzo's Oil," "Dad" and "Patch Adams" are also good. All those movies challenge both doctors and their clients to take a serious look at the traditional doctor-client relationship. The question this particular doctor wrote to me was this: "Something I didn't understand is your statement that oncologists generally don't agree with saving especially aggressive treatment for when it is really needed because they don't believe in the efficacy of natural/alternative treatments. Wouldn't it still make sense to save very aggressive treatment for later on even if they don't believe in natural/alternative treatments? Maybe oncologists don't see a decrease in effectiveness with repeated doses of the same chemotherapy agents, or is there solid documentation of that? Please let me know your thoughts on these questions. Thanks."

Here is what I replied:

"Hi.

Thanks for your questions. I'll do my best to answer them, with the understanding that what I have to say is the opinion of a cancer client who has been living with cancer for 17+ years:

First, I cannot recommend highly enough that you get and read, as soon as possible, Lawrence LeShan's book, "Cancer As A Turning Point." I have it and I return to reading it again and again and again, because it has so many fabulous, immune stimulating things to say. Here are a couple of short excerpts from that book:

"Many doctors are so completely oriented to fighting disease and ignoring the sick person that, in a catastrophic illness, they often seem to be asking themselves: "How many heroic measures and mutilating operations can be charged to the patient,(or to the insurance company), before death---the final method of consumer resistance---is allowed to intervene? They define a "good" patient as one who accepts their statements and their actions uncritically and unquestioningly. A "bad" patient is one who asks questions to which they do not have the answers, raises problems with which they are uncomfortable, and who does not accept hospital procedures as necessarily wise, useful or intelligent."

Those are statements from a man who spent more than twenty-five years observing people with cancer in hospital settings.

The problem with your question: "Wouldn't it still make sense to save the big chemo guns even if you dont believe alternative/natural treatments are worthwhile?" is the phrase "make sense." Better questions are: Does a particular oncologist's approach to treating fNHL make sense? and Is the oncologist treating the disease or is he treating a person who is manifesting a dis-ease?

As recently as this past October and November, I had to ask myself whether what the emminent, world-reknowned head of radiation at a particular Proton Treatment Center was recommending I do about the fNHL in my jaw made sense. He was saying that the tumor had grown too large for Proton Treatment,(a supposedly milder form of radiation than standard radiation), and that it was threatening to erode my carotid artery, which could cause me to bleed to death or have a stroke, and that I should immediately get standard radiation to shrink it. When I mentioned to him my concern about the possibility of radiation causing me to lose both my salivary glands, the health of my teeth and gums, my sense of smell and taste, my voice, my hearing on that side, and the ability to properly open and close my mouth, he said, "You're past that now. You need to get that thing treated!"

That was his opinion; it wasn't mine---not given the possibility of such wholesale damage.

In order to make sense of how the great majority of oncologists view cancer, and how they view survival, one needs to understand that most of them seem to believe a person wants to remain alive at practically any cost. It seems to me that many oncologists think most people would be glad to "be alive" even if all that was left of them was a living, conscious brain floating in a bath of nutrient fluid. One needs also, perhaps, to ask oneself the question, "Why would a doctor choose to go into a profession in which a huge proportion of his clients die no matter what he does for them? Or perhaps the question is better phrased this way: "Why would a doctor choose to go into a profession in which a huge proportion of his clients die no matter what he does to them?

Pertinent to the second form of the question, I believe there have got to be some doctors, perhaps more than a few, who specialize in a particular body part because they have real psychological problems. Why, for instance, would a person decide to become a proctologist---someone who spends his entire day viewing and fingering other people's anuses and rectums? Or why would a person become a podiatrist? Might a significant number of such people have a foot fetish? Or might there be something psychologically wrong with some dentists, and might not some dentists actually be happier being proctologists? Or what about all the men who become gynecologists? Were I a woman, I would choose a woman gynecologist. Or would I? The first oncologist/hematologist I went to decided at one point to specialize only in breast cancer. Was that purely a business choice, was it a practical necessity, or did he do so partly because he enjoys viewing and handling women's breasts?

Back to the question, about why a doctor would decide to specialize in oncology---why he or she would choose a profession in which a huge proportion of clients die:

Do some oncologists have an infatuation with death? Might there be something wrong with even just a few of them, or are they all heros and heroines, doing all they can to save each and every one of their clients from the dread dis-ease of cancer?

I'm convinced there is some validity to what I have just discussed---enough that I think it would be a good idea to have medical students be psycholgically tested before allowing them to choose a specialty.

In any event, I believe someone with cancer needs to take it into account enough of what I am talking about that he is prepared to recognize and to protect himself from sick doctors, besides protecting himself from the many inept ones, or the ones who are inclined to over-treat.

Here's something else to think about: Does it make sense that 99.9% of oncologists ignore their clients who get well, especially those who have "spontaneous remissions"? Why do they turn their backs on such people, or at the very best say, "Keep on doing what you're doing." Why don't they question and study such people in detail, so they can have their other clients do the same things as the ones who are getting well? Why do oncologists appear obsessed with the sick and dying, rather than with their clients who do well, or who recover?

Getting back to the decision I had to make about the large tumor in my jaw/neck: I thought a great deal about whether or not I wanted to get standard radiation, which would not cure me, and which would very likely cause me to have to spend a disproportionate part of the rest of my life in doctors' and dentists' offices, getting the radiation-damaged parts of me repaired and maintained. I thought about how a radiologist or an oncologist---both of whom have the general mind-set with regard to their particular form of treatment, "more is better,"---would view such a monstrous tumor. I figured they'd want to really blast it to pieces, never mind that it was very much a part of my head, face and neck. I had seen such a thing happen too many times to other people. I wondered about whether I'd rather die than submit to radiation. Quickly bleeding to death from a damaged carotid artery didn't sound so terribly bad compared to possible immediate and later effects of radiation. But the possibility of suffering a crippling stroke, rather than quickly bleeding to death, was not unacceptable.

Finally, it occurred to me that I could choose to be treated with Rituxan, a type of non-toxic antibody, rather than with radiation. Mind you, no doctor of mine---neither the oncologist, who is "one of the best in his field," nor either of the radiologists I saw---suggested Rituxan as an alternative to radiation. I had to think of it myself, which brings me back to what an oncology nurse said to me in 1989: "Elliot, if YOU don't take control of YOUR OWN dis-ease, the doctors will TURN YOU INTO A PIECE OF MEAT."

I called my oncologist, told him I would like to start Rituxan as soon as possible, and he okayed it. That was Monday, October 29th. On Wenesday, October 31st, I had my first of 4 treatments. The next morning, November 1st, the tumor was noticeably smaller, and by the 23rd of November, the day after the 4th and last Rituxan treatment, it was so small that my face almost looked normal again. Who saved me? Who was looking out for my best interests? Who made sure only the minor treatment card, the 6 of Clubs, was played instead of radiation, the Ace of Spades? Who made the most sense? I did---not any of my doctors, all of whom are expert and reknowned in their field.

I strongly suggest that you forget about using the phrase, "makes sense" when it comes to working with oncologists, radiologists and surgeons. If you want to see how much sense doctors can make, rent the movie, "First Do No Harm," and you will see. Too often they make no sense at all.

Not long ago, I read a message from a man who had recently been diagnosed with lymphoma because of having been treated for Crohn's dis-ease with immuno-suppressant drugs for ten years by mainstream doctors. Had that man sought help from a knowledgable naturopath, he more than likely would have been healed of the Crohn's dis-ease, and might well never have been diagnosed with lymphoma. Naturopaths know that the way to heal degenerative dis-ease is with regenerative treatment. Allopathic, mainstream doctors do not. Therefore, their methods of treating degenerative dis-ease will rarely make sense.

I do not hate doctors. I do not think they are monsters. I know some I like very much, and there are some I even trust to some degree. But I trust no one more than I trust myself, and in that I am in good company:

Bernard Shaw said,(paraphrased), "The most dangerous thing about becoming seriously ill is that one must place oneself into the hands of a profession one deeply mistrusts." He also said,(and this was at a time when bread was still more or less "the staff of life"), "It is a good thing for society to give bakers a pecuniary interest in baking bread, but not such a good thing for society to give surgeons a pecuniary interest in cutting off legs."

Here's a last word I heard somewhere that I feel is an appropos ending:

"To be aware is to beware."

I hope that helps some to answer your question.

Very best wishes and best of health,

Elliot

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