You can't please all the people no matter what choices you make. And cancer is no different.
Cancer is the ultimate run for your life. Day one you are completely normal; on day two you may have some questions about some new aches and pains; and on day three you find out that your life is now hanging in the balance. Who wouldn't be overwhelmed or frightened into paralysis?
The information begins coming at us from every direction. Doctors who we have been seeing for decades are suddenly passing us on to new doctors and we glance back at them over our shoulder like a kindergartener leaving home on the first day of school. Is this really happening? Am I losing my greatest, most trusted, medical advisor right when I need them the most? We are now driving to unfamiliar medical buildings, meeting new doctors and nurses, and getting to know a whole new system of medical care. We have so many more important things on our minds than figuring out where the parking voucher payment machine is, and yet it can take longer to navigate the new parking garage than it did to drive across the county to get there.
Many new and unknown words are coming at us at breakneck speed. We are not often given a say in what treatment we will be given, other than to say "yes" or "no" to it. We are told where to go, when to go, and who to expect to see once we get there. We are given a handful of pills promising to hold off side effects and folders with information on the hospital services, and then the process begins. We are passengers for the most part. Although some people will assume that "you do what you have to do in order to live," it really is not that simple. We contemplate more than just living or dying, with the help of our doctors, we have to consider what the drugs will do to us, for how long, and how our lives and bodies will be affected for months and years to come. If someone refuses a particular treatment/drug, it may be more complicated than that they want to take their chances with something else. There is a lot behind those decisions.
One thing that frightened me was the advice coming from people who did not know me personally, who only knew me through social media in particular, that were advising me to go at my colon cancer with diet and holistic treatments only. Of course, you can google natural cures for cancer and come up with a lot of results -- including the very well-known Gerson Method. While I believe that these things are full of merit and might be successful for certain cancers, they were not the right course of action for me. Although I had spent years prior to my diagnosis thinking, "If I ever have cancer, I won't take chemo. I'll treat it naturally." When my life was on the line, that idea seemed naive and ridiculous.
I was not immune, though, to continued "advice" and criticism from those same people when I did not forego chemo. I was told to add more garlic to my diet, to eat only leafy greens, to eat more mushrooms, to avoid mushrooms... You get the idea. It wasn't bad enough that they were continually bombarding me with this nonsense, but that they were actually put out and a little insulted that I wasn't listening to them!
The opposite can be true when someone does choose to go the holistic route. To be fair, I don't know anything about medicine or how any of this works. But I do know that sometimes holistic treatments can work even if there is no proven science behind them. Does that make the people who subscribe to those treatments crazy? No. There are plenty of success stories out there; we are capable of deciding for ourselves if this is the right path. But, those who do choose this route then find themselves the target of criticism for not having chemo or traditional cancer treatments.
No matter what we do, we can't win.
It seems like everyone around us knows what's best for us, when in fact, the only people whose opinions matter are ourselves and our doctors. My oncologist was very encouraging for me to take all kinds of supplements, and to do everything I could to support my treatments with natural means. That didn't mean that we didn't trust the chemo to do its job, it just means that we all believed that supporting my body while it fought cancer was a very high priority.
When you have cancer and are going through treatments, the last thing you need is for people around you to criticize your treatment choices. And if you're watching a friend or family member go through treatments and you may not agree with their choices, it's beyond important that you keep your opinions to yourself. Injecting any sort of doubt or anxiety into the patient's experience is cruel. I know it's difficult to sit by and watch, but just because you think chemo is awful doesn't mean that you should continually bring this up to your friend while they're having it. They have enough fear and uncertainty on their plate, don't add to it.
I chose a combination of traditional cancer treatments and supportive supplements to get me through my Stage-4C colon cancer:
Traditional treatments: FOLFIRINOX (chemotherapy) and Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
Supportive drugs: Zofran, Prilosec, Immodium, Advil
Supplements: AHCC, Blueberry extract, B12, Multivitamin, Calcium/D, Turmeric, Green Tea extract