Can TCM go hand-in-hand with chemotherapy?

The answer is a definite YES! The oncologist may oppose to the idea, giving the reason that TCM may disrupt the efficacy of the chemo drugs. This is a very selfish excuse. Doctors want to achieve their objective of affirming the effectiveness of chemo drugs on patients, and do not care much about the suffering of patients. It also arises from the oncologists’ lack of knowledge about TCM. There are many reputable TCM practitioners in Singapore, and some of them are well versed in western medicine too. One oncologist commented that TCM could interfere with the efficacy of chemo drugs and make them weaker, if the TCM herbs are also anti-cancer. She also mentioned that some chemo drugs are plant based. I think she missed the point that we go to TCM actually for the relief of side effects, not so much for curing cancer. We are not cancelling out the effect of chemo. We go for TCM to relieve the unbearable side effects which chemo doctors are unable to help. I started TCM at the onset of my treatment. It has effectively helped to improve my appetite, relieve constipation, prevent nausea, counter cold feet and hands, heal those painful ulcers, improve quality of sleep, and many other side effects.

About the last 3 cycles of chemo

The first 3 cycles done simultaneously with RT is the primary treatment, called neo-adjuvant therapy. The last 3 cycles is called adjuvant therapy, that is, treatment to keep cancer from returning. Until now, the effectiveness of the last 3 cycles is "debatable".

I will share my experience on how I arrived at my decision NOT to do the last 3 cycles. My 3rd cycle was completed towards the end of 33 sessions of RT. It was the toughest time I had in my life. My body was so weakened b​y chemo and the brutal side effects of RT set in further. For 3 weeks, I was on nasal tube feeding. One day, the nasal tube was stuck and liquid could not flow through. So I pulled out the tube and ate through my throat, enduring the pain. One week later, the ulcers in the mouth were almost cleared, thanks to fresh wheatgrass juice. I began to eat normal and regained my energy. I claimed victory and was on the road to recovery. On my visit to the oncologist 3 weeks after RT completion, he discussed with me on the remaining 3 cycles of chemo.

Me: What’s the purpose of these 3 cycles of chemo? I thought the tumor was cleared?

Onco: It’s to kill the remaining cancer cells in the body and reduce the chances of recurrence.

Me: Can you guarantee that all cancer cells will be killed and no recurrence?

Onco: No.

Me: How many people did these 3 cycles and still get relapse? Those who didn’t go through, did they get relapse? What’s the ratio of people who opt for these 3 cycles?

Onco: 50/50

Me: I choose NOT to do these 3 cycles of chemo.

Onco : Why? If you can tolerate it well, it is better you complete it.

Me: Chemo is harmful to the body. My kidneys and liver are badly damaged. I am already on my road to recovery. I don’t want to go back to chemo and be down again. There are always cancer cells in my body. It’s only when my immunity is low that I am overcome by cancer. I will take good care of myself - body, mind and spirit. I will eat well, exercise and manage my stress.

Onco: I respect your decision.

So you see, the last 3 cycles are not compulsory. You don't prevent cancer using chemo drugs. I was glad I followed my heart. My conviction was very strong that chemo is not good for me. This conviction holds till this day. Some of my friends were pressured into doing it. I don't believe in statistics on recurrence rate. I believe in the real life examples I see. Those who had completed 6 cycles don't seem to be doing better than me.

Contributed by Lim Wai Cheng / NPC survivor
Date: 10 June 2012
Survivor since 2005

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