I am often asked by those newly diagnosed if I added anything to my medical care in the sense of natural, herbal or alternative remedies. Maybe this is a long answer to a short question, but here goes:

I have always as a medical professional been biased towards documentation in sound medical research. I’ve been skeptical of most media reports of fantastic or miracle cures.

All herbal remedies are required in the US to be labeled as dietary supplements (not medications as they are not subject to FDA scrutiny as medications for effectiveness and purity). Statements herbal remedies make regarding health benefits must have the disclaimer “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration . This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”.

Many herbal remedies do interfere with the effectiveness of prescription medications. St. John’s Wort would have reduced the effectiveness of my particular chemotherapy by 40%. My nursing drug handbook now has individual listings for drug/herbal interactions, not just drug/drug interactions. They are not harmless.

I refer those who want more information about an herbal remedy to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s site:

About Herbs, Botanicals & Other Products

Another good site that helps you evaluate claims of miraculous treatments is Mayo Clinic’s:

Complementary and alternative medicine: Evaluate claims of treatment success

But back to answering the question- did I use any complementary or alternative remedies?

I did try visualization- picturing my white cells destroying my cancer cells- for about 10 minutes. I did try to eat more fruits and vegetables and to just eat healthier food in general, though I still ate occasional fast food burgers and fries. I did some distance biking, even while on chemo, as much for stress relief as for exercise. I ate sugar, and after my cytoreduction surgery when I was underweight for awhile I ate lots of desserts in an attempt to regain the weight.

I did pray more and tended to my spiritual side more.

But I don’t believe repressed negative thoughts caused my cancer. I don’t believe that thinking only happy and positive thoughts cures cancer or prevents it from recurring. I don’t believe my cancer was a punishment. I didn’t use Barley Green, I didn’t use any herbs, I didn’t eat only organic food, I didn’t become a vegan, I didn’t do yoga. I did quit smoking cold turkey, which was very difficult. I took multivitamins.

I did at times feel an urge to try some of the alternative methods, I think more to feel I was doing something, anything, to have some sense of control after I completed chemo. But I never succumbed to that urge, maybe out of laziness as I would not have used these therapies unless I’d researched them extensively for safety and effectiveness.

I did seek out the best medical care available to me at the time for my diagnosis based on the documented research available then. I think that was the best thing I did for myself.