Enlightened care

Over the last year, I have read a lot about cancer in general and bladder cancer specifically. While most of my “day job” is focused on advances in pharmaceuticals, genomics, and biotechnology, I have noted an interesting trend in what I have been reading.

“Establishment medicine” has finally recognized the role of integrated medicine in the prevention, management and treatment of disease.

I just finished reading a small quarterly journal from the American Cancer Society. This issue is focused on side effects of treatment and ways to manage them. Every single article referred to exercise, diet, meditation and yoga.

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cancer showed that breast cancer patients who attended a 90-minute Iyengar yoga class twice a week showed marked improvement in fatigue.

Exercise is mentioned over and over as a way to manage fatigue and mood. Even patients who simply don’t want to get out of bed can benefit from a simple walk.

A physician at Baylor University describes the benefits of acupuncture and hypnosis to manage nausea.

Constipation can be mitigated with exercise, and high fiber foods like fruits and vegetables.

While modern medicine has made enormous strides in easing the toxic side effects of cancer treatment, it seems to me that often you just invite another side effect that needs to be managed and you end up with a cascade that destroys any semblance of quality of life.

While I would never endorse an exclusive “alternative medicine” approach (see Steve Jobs), I am a firm believer in these other approaches to complement what modern medicine offers.

Unfortunately, my mother and her contemporaries do not subscribe to these approaches. I’ve stopped trying to convince her (my suggestions started decades ago) as it was just a source of friction for both of us.

In the end, no matter how many people are around to help and offer support, each one of us has to take her own path.

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