Lately, I have been contacted by a few people recently diagnosed with colorectal cancer. They are in shock, confused and scared. All these feelings are normal reactions to a cancer diagnosis. God knows, the medical profession does not deliver such news delicately. I first heard about my cancer right after my colonoscopy test; I was still drugged up and a woman came up to me and very matter-of-factly said, “Mrs. Scott, you have rectal cancer” and abruptly left. My husband and son were right next to me and you can imagine their reaction. I don’t know if it was because I was loopy from sedation or what, but I consoled my loved ones and told them it would be ok. But still, it would be nice if there was an easier way to deliver bad news.
I know the Internet has made access to information much easier and with that comes a great deal of misinformation. I am all for patients looking for information to help them fight cancer; I did the same thing when I was going through treatment. There are also different ideas how to fight this disease including traditional methods and alternative care. I believe its up to each individual to choose their treatment. Its our bodies and we have the right to choose what does and does not happen to it. That being said, there a certain questions I ask to those I coach, especially those newly diagnosed and who are confused which treatment is best for them.
The first line of questions are…
Do you know what kind of cancer it is?
Has it spread?
Do you have a team of doctors yet?
Is there a treatment plan?
How do you feel about your doctor?
What treatment do you want? and why?
Have you discussed this with loved ones?
Do you have a support system?
I take notes and ask some deeper questions depending on the answers. I do run into those who refuse western medicine because they are afraid of it. I completely understand their fear. I felt that way too, until my diagnosis, then I chose western medicine along with alternative care, but I made sure the alternative care did not nullify my traditional treatment. Everyone’s cancer is different because we are all different — we each bring with us our own medical histories and that means everyone’s cancer treatment is different.
Like I mentioned earlier the Internet is a wealth of information but at the same time it is ripe with snake oil salesmen who claim to have “miracle” cures and charge a lot of money to buy their products. Personally, I think these salesmen need to be removed from the Internet, but I know…it’s their first Amendment right to Free Speech. So I ask the patient to dig deeper into their claims. Are there actual people cured by their product? What about references? Are there any complaints against them? Why do they think this person is credible? Why do they believe this alternative cure is better than western medicine?
I think everyone has the right to choose what’s best for them but they also have a responsibilty to themselves to make an informed decision.