Going your own way with serious illness diagnoses

June 3, 2016

tiled subway tunnel

A dear friend of mine was recently diagnosed with cancer and received a lot of pressure to go the traditional route of chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Cancer is a pretty serious illness and has a lot of fear connected to it. Fortunately, he had some friends who were knowledgeable about alternative medicine and learned as much as he could about the different approaches that there are to cancer treatment. Ultimately he decided to go the alternative route, against the advice of some of his friends and family. However, his experience highlighted some key concepts in wellness for me.

First, I think it is very important to not let medical professionals push you around. Yes, they have medical educations and they can be an invaluable source of information, guidance and treatment. However, I think it is equally important to learn as much is you can about whatever condition, no matter how serious, you have and what treatments are out there for you. It’s very easy to become a passive recipient of various treatments and procedures, especially when you are scared and worried that you might die. I think assertiveness (not aggressiveness) is important in these situations. This is especially so if the treatment in question might be harmful to you. In a future blog I will outline some questions that you might want to bring with you to your doctor’s appointment. As a consumer of any product, but especially health products, you should be as informed as possible and ask as many questions as you feel necessary to arrive At an informed, competent decision. That’s what informed consent means, but many people don’t ask their medical doctors or other health professionals one of the risks and benefits of a given treatment.

Second, surround yourself with people who are supportive and not doomsday-sayers. You know the type, the ones who say, “Oh my God! You’re going to die soon, you poor thing!” Well it’s nice to have sympathy and have people recognize the gravity of what you’re going through, it is really not helpful to allow people to put you in the victim role. Even people with severe health conditions have a choice about how they see themselves, and I think it’s important not to be around people who encourage you to give up or feel sorry for yourself. I am always inspired by the movies, “Shine” and “the Theory of Everything” to see that even with severe mental or physical illness, people are still whole and have areas where they shine and are very talented. We all have something to bring to the table, and the people around us will hopefully support that vision of ourselves as well. One thing that the doctors told my friend what is that they had to operate on him right away and start chemo immediately. The doctor then he wound up working with, however, told him that “no one gets to give you an expiration date.” I assume that doctors go off of actuarial tables of how long the typical person survives a given condition, but we’ve all heard of people who were told they only had six months to live and then they mysteriously, miraculously live much longer. They also sometimes tell people that they have much longer to live and the person drops dead much earlier than expected. Doctors aren’t fortunetellers. Yes, they have a lot of education and experience that is very valuable, but they can’t tell the future any more than Miss Cleo Can.

Third, try to be as proactive as possible in taking care of your body why you going to any condition. Find out what nutritional supplements and dietary recommendations are best for your condition and do everything in your power to make your body healthy. Sometimes doctors say that diet has nothing to do with illness, which me a shocking. While I’m not a registered dietitian or medical Dr., I can see from my own experience that what I eat changes how I feel drastically. How can it be that what you eat has nothing to do with the outcome of your illness? That just doesn’t make sense to me. Similarly, if there is any kind of lifestyle change or exercise program that can help your health in general and does not conflict with your conditions, those would be prudent to pursue as well.

I’m not trying to get you in a fight with your doctors, and if you decide to pursue a traditional, Western medicine approach to your illness, I respect that. I just hope that you don’t let yourself become victim to other people’s limited beliefs, or your own.