Surviving Breast Cancer Using an Integrative Approach: Madeleen Herreshoff's Journey Cancer Monthly 2005

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Welcome to the April 2005 Edition of CancerWire. Like Cancer Monthly, the focus of CancerWire is on treatment results. While, Cancer Monthly summarizes the cancer treatments results published in the peer reviewed medical literature, CancerWire reports on results that have not yet enjoyed the visibility of a major clinical trial. This may include the extraordinary results a patient experienced by trying a new or innovative approach or the results achieved by a researcher or physician as they treat patients in their hospital or clinic. This month, we focus on one woman's journey to survive her diagnosis of breast cancer.

(PRWEB) April 20, 2005 – In 1991, at the age of 49, Madeleen Herreshoff was diagnosed with aggressive poorly differentiated invasive breast cancer and told that without radiation, aggressive chemotherapy and 5 years of tamoxifen that she would be dead within 5 years. She decided to say no to chemotherapy, yes to radiation, and took tamoxifen for 6 months only. Fourteen years after her diagnosis Madeleen is alive. She blended mainstream and alternative therapies creating her own personalized integrative approach. Today, as Director and President of CANHELP she helps other cancer patients by providing treatment information and referrals. http://www.canhelp.com

The Interview

Cancer Monthly) Madeleen can you give us some background about your diagnosis and prognosis?

MH) Yes, in 1991, when I was 49, I was diagnosed with aggressive poorly differentiated invasive breast cancer in my right breast. My diagnosis took place at the PolyClinic in Seattle, Washington, and it was confirmed by pathologists at the University of Washington. In fact, the pathologist at the university, whom I knew through a friend, called me and said “Madeleen, this is a very aggressive tumor. I have seen a lot of breast cancer tumors, but rarely do I see one this aggressive. You need to go see the interdisciplinary cancer team here immediately and follow their recommendations.” I did what she suggested. The interdisciplinary team, a surgeon, radiologist and oncologist at the University of Washington reviewed my case and I made an appointment with the oncologist to hear her recommendations. My husband and I had to wait a long time in the waiting room, which, unfortunately, was right next to the chemo room where men and women were hooked up to IVs. We had a clear view of what was going on in there. Nurses were trying to make these cancer patients happy by talking cheerfully and passing out balloons. We were not impressed.

Once in the oncologist office, the oncologist was adamant that I do radiation therapy for three months, followed by an aggressive chemotherapy protocol plus tamoxifen. She did not beat around the bush. She said that I had a very aggressive tumor and this is what I should do. I tried to bargain with her about lesser therapies such as just radiation and tamoxifen. She would not hear of it and drew diagram after diagram on the board to impress us with the seriousness of the situation. I was trying to get her to think of other options because I was reluctant to do the chemo and she just looked me in the eye and said you will be dead in 5 years if you don’t do this entire protocol. My husband and I left her office in tears. I swore I would not go back there.

Cancer Monthly) Why were you reluctant to do chemo?

MH) It was a feeling, perhaps partly fear. But I felt that if I did the chemo I would not survive. Ultimately, it was just intuition. I didn’t like the idea of radiation therapy either, but back in 1991 it was even more difficult to say “no” to orthodox therapies than it is today, and I just didn’t think that I could fight everybody. So I reluctantly did radiation for 3 months for 5 days each week. The tamoxifen was prescribed for 5 years. I did it for 6 months. I was having serious side effects from the tamoxifen, so my oncologist and I agreed that I should stop taking it. This was a more open-minded oncologist, not the one who had said I would be dead in 5 years if I didn’t do what she said.

Cancer Monthly) When did you start using alternative therapies?

MH) I immediately plunged into every book on alternative cancer treatments following my diagnosis…To read the rest of the interview go to http://www.cancermonthly.com

Comments

Alternative Therapies & Breast Cancer: Steven Johnson, D.O., The Foxhollow Clinic http://www.foxhollow.com

Mrs. Herreshoff is a remarkable person. Her perseverance and journey serves testimony to the power of the human spirit and that healing is always about the “whole person” and not the disease alone. Her story has something in common with other breast cancer patients I have treated. Namely, that she took responsibility for her own illness and pursued levels of change on many different levels of mind, body and spirit. This is a powerful prescription for healing.

I agree with the approaches utilized here and who can argue with success. Tamoxifen is a difficult choice for many women. It can certainly help prevent reoccurrence of tumor and metastasis but can also have severe side effects for many individuals. Often we will look at the person’s estrogen profile in addition to hormone receptors. Specialized functional testing can sometimes be helpful in determining if the estrogen profile is leaning towards tumor promotion. This can help a practitioner to decide if an estrogen antagonist like Indole-3- carbinole (from cruciferates) might be appropriate. Often I will start with this treatment and progress to flax seeds as the period of tumor-free survival increases. This test may also help determine how long a patient stays on Tamoxifen as the side effects increase with duration. Sometimes the full 5 years of treatment may not be necessary. …To read the rest of Dr. Johnson’s comments go to http://www.cancermonthly.com

Learning from Exceptional Outcomes: David Simon, M.D., The Chopra Center for Well Being http://www.chopra.com/siteindex.asp

This heroic woman’s story highlights that fact that statistics apply to groups not individuals. We regularly tell our patients at The Chopra Center that they can accept the diagnosis but not the prognosis. Statistically speaking, Madeleen’s course is amazing. But, what is often forgotten is that regardless of the health challenge, there are always people whose illness does not unfold as it is “supposed to.” Rather than ignoring these exceptional outcomes, we should be learning from them.

Our medical system views people as collections of molecules and illness as a deviation in these molecules. For example, modern medicine sees heartburn as the expression of too many hydrochloric acid molecules; therefore, treatments that block acid production are given. Depression is viewed as insufficient neurochemical molecules, so an antidepressant is prescribed to increase serotonin levels. In a similar way, cancer is viewed as the result of molecular mutations in specific genes; therefore, the modern medical approach is to attack these abnormal molecules with potent chemotherapy drugs or radiation. This molecular approach to illness clearly has substantial benefits. However, we limit healing opportunities if we fail to recognize that people are multidimensional, multifaceted beings, who possess a powerful inner pharmacy.

What can be done to awaken the inner pharmacy? …To read the rest of Dr. Simon’s comments go to http://www.cancermonthly.com

Better Breast and Hormonal Health: Christine Horner, M.D. http://www.brevail.com

The cause of breast cancer is attributed to a multitude of possible factors. However, and despite popular belief, family heredity is not the primary cause for breast cancer accounting for less than 10% of all cases. What comes as a shock to most women is that the female hormone estrogen is the most well known cause for breast cancer. Estrogen may both initiate breast cancer or stimulate the growth of an existing tumor. In fact, the world’s most popular and widely used breast cancer drugs all address the estrogen connection as their primary mode of action…To read the rest of Dr. Horner’s comments go to http://www.cancermonthly.com

Disclaimer - Please Read:

Of course, none of this information in CancerWire is a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment and you should always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before starting any new treatment or making any changes to an existing treatment. No information contained in Cancer Monthly or CancerWire including the information below, should be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease without the supervision of a medical doctor.

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Cancer Law Center - The Cancer Law Center is comprised of attorneys with experience in helping cancer patients whose disease was made worse because of a delay in diagnosis or whose cancer treatment led to severe injuries. http://www.cancerlaw.net

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