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The Cancer Journey: Is that your Final Answer?

Reposted from August 17, 2012

A young woman recently discovered the reason for her difficulty in breathing was due to pressure on her kidneys from her tumors that have been present since the relapse of her lymphoma in May 2011. Should she: A) go away to a cancer institute to try to get healed naturally B) follow the advice of her old oncologist, Dr Liang, who recommends immediate chemotherapy (Rituximab and Bendamustine, a protocol more tolerant than the traditional R-CHOP that most receive) C) take her chances on Ukraine, a cocktail mix of low dose chemotherapy and plant extracts (alkaloids). This is a protocol introduced by Dr Rigo and a more unconventional chemotherapy treatment D) search for other natural cancer treatments available all over the world and continue seeking advice from different clinical/integrative/alternative oncologists If this were like the game show, I'd choose to take the money and leave. But life doesnt work that way and there's no option to 'opt out' safely; you must answer the question, you must make the decision and keep playing the game. These decisions are difficult to say the least, this one in particular has been more difficult than any other I've had to make in the past. If all things go wrong the stakes are extremely high- life or kidney failure; so the question is can I bank on the fact that all things won't go wrong. At first I used my own logical thinking along with the advice from my team of doctors - Prof Liang, Dr Rigo, Dr Cindy Chan, and managed to eliminate option A and D. Left with B and C, I weighed out the pros and cons but was still stumped. Rituximab + Bendamustine (R+B) had all the clinical data showing fairly promising results. But R+B would also severely debilitate my immune system and with the way lymphoma works (my one in particular), the chances of it returning are high and having a strong immune system is key to fighting it off. Yes you can rebuild your immune system but some parts of it are so damaged that it will take years on end for it to return to 'normal'. Plus this would be my second helping at traditional chemo and I've heard countless stories where people have died not from the cancer but from the treatment. It's also been interesting to me that more times than not it has been the people who have gone through chemotherapy themselves or their family members that ask me not to do chemo just yet. Ukraine on the other hand is less popular because it's a mix of allopathic and alternative medicine and frankly BigPharma's aren't going to support these type of cocktails because it means less use of their concoctions and thus less money. Thats as far as I'll go in terms of discussing politics here but unfortunately politics is involved which makes decision making all that much harder. The chemotherapy drug is at a very low dose and the side effects of it are said to be neutralized from the plant extracts. There are clinical studies for Ukraine but not as many and information on it is harder to find making it somehow harder to believe in it. Perhaps its that (false?) notion of the more people using a product or service, the better or more trustworthy the product or service is.  After doing the research I do believe it to be safer than R+B, but the real diemma is whether the time used to try Ukraine would be considered safe or too valuable of a time to be 'playing' with. Without any luck figuring it out on my own I used one of the life lines and called a friend. This Friend has been present since day one and has guided me through every tough decision, comforted me through every valley and strengthened me at my weakest moments. He's there 24/7. And so, distressed with the decision and the little time I had to make it, I quickly rang Him and asked for His advice. No response. Luckily in this 'game' I'm able to call as many times as I want or need and so in those two extremely torturous days, I found myself in tears and on my knees begging God to just tell me which path to take. After my pleading and cries I still didn't hear His voice which frustrated me and still frustrates me today to know that He knows the best answer yet He chooses to remain 'silent'. I continued on my process of elimination and 'polled the audience'- my family and friends but in this case their opinions wouldn't make too much of a difference because at the end of the day it is my body and I have to give the final answer. None of my 'life lines' seemed to really help me and I was back at square one. It was 12am, my PET-CT was in 9 hrs and my consultation with Dr Liang when he would ask for my final answer would just be a few hours after the scan. Dr Rigo suggested we try Ukraine for 1 cycle (15 days) and reassess whether I should go for the R+B. He too was worried about time, but he believes in Ukraine and said we would see results in that short amount of time. I thought it was a fair deal for my body but there was still fear; what if I'm making a mistake, what if it doesn't work, what if my kidneys deteriorate over those 15 days or longer, my head swarmed with "what if's". But then a very wise man - my brother in law :), simply said: "if God isn't giving you a clear answer you just need to trust that whatever decision you make He will use it for His purpose and He will be there to carry you through it" So there it was, I went with my gut and had my final answer- Ukraine, but continued to ask God to either confirm my decision with peace or make it unbelievably clear that I should go for conventional chemo. The next day was unpleasant. I got a good lecture from Prof Liang which brought back childhood memories of being scolded. There's no way around arguing with the professor! But he did let down finally and gave me assurance that he would treat me should I need it in the future. The professor is a good doctor, a solid one, a highly reputable one, a kind one - and all this made it that much more difficult to reject his advice. This week has been my first week on Ukraine. We're starting off really slow 1cc at a time and building up to 5, then 10 then 15 and finally 20. Typically the normal person can begin with 5cc's right off the bat but Dr Rigo is worried that my kidneys may not be able to handle the toxins released from the dead cancer cells. There's a schedule I follow so it's not treatment every day. Sometimes its two days on two days off, or one day on and two days off. I've responded positively so far, meaning no bad reactions. Both my mom and I see a slight difference in the swelling of my stomach where a lot of the tumors are so that's a really good sign although we don't know if it's Ukraine or if it's the other injections I've been getting every day into the lymph node. Either way it doesn't matter Ukraine is administered in the buttocks again (I had another injection in the bum but that has been stopped momentarily). It's painful because the medicine is thicker and more acidic and the larger the dose the longer he needs to take to inject the medicine. Once we get to a higher dose (eg 5cc or more) we will need to try to administer it intravenously, so im really praying for healthy visible veins because I really don't want to have to go for another surgery to put a port catheter  in. After treatment I'm more tired than usual but it's nothing that keeps me from going about my days. I am also experiencing greater peace in my decision and find that my fear has been replaced by His faith. I won't know for a while whether my final answer will get me through to the next round but it doesn't matter now because I know that some how  everything will be okay and that my life lines will always be there no matter how this game of life turns out.

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