Why a brave mum said no to chemotherapy – Grace Gawler comments to the editor – Adelaide Now

To the Editor-Adelaide Now This blog was written due the abscence of correspondence or comment from Adelaide Now or from freelance journalist Laura Bond – who is promoting her views on mums not having chemo.

Dear Editor I am alarmed at the content of the article dated October 29, 2011
published on online “Adelaide Now” and titled “Why a brave mum said no
to chemotherapy” and the blog www.MumsNotHavingChemo.com  I believe your newspaper has a public duty of care to present the other side of the issue as to what happens to cancer patients who choose alt/med exclusively forgoing chemotherapy and other conventional treatments.  I note that the online article lists no author – however it becomes obvious when you read through the material; who has written it; freelance  journalist Laura Bond whose mum has chosen not to have chemo.
Cancer patients may die unnecessarily by taking the ‘seemingly legitimate’
advice which is actually regurgitated from the usual poor science found on the  internet.
Recently it became public that Apple’s Steve Jobs turned his back on surgery in favour of alternative medicine; that choice cost him his life. His type of tumour was treatable with conventional medicine. Inherent dangers exist in advising cancer patients against conventional medicine. Will we next see a blog “Why a brave mum said no to chemotherapy for her leukaemic child!” …. because that is the obvious extrapolation! Such an article carries with it a huge public duty of care and responsibility.

Waht’s the dangers? The following demonstrates a pattern I see on a regular basis:
Nine years ago two patients were diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer, same tumour size, hormone (estrogen) and herceptin positive status. One patient took the conventional route – surgery, chemo and a hormone blocking agent – she remains well and vibrant to this day. The other lady – like Apple’s Steve Jobs whose recent death and refusal of surgery brought cancer into public awareness; she also  believed surgery to be too invasive, so she chose to keep her lump after she received her biopsy result.

Rather than booking in for surgery, she fled to a well known cancer naturopath
who advised to her to fast, take 8-9  juices daily and a variety of herbs and
supplements as well as other alt/med treatments. She spent many thousands of
dollars. Seven years later she came to see me believing that her tumours were resolving and that she must need emotional healing! Tumours were visible and far from resolving. I requested a diagnostic work-up. A scan revealed massive secondaries in bones, lymph and liver – more tumour load than I had seen in anyone.

She passed away this year after a hellish battle for her life – her final months extended by compassionate conventional medicine.  By the time she realised what she had chosen was not working and that she had listened to the wrong people for years–it was indeed too late. I see this type of patient far too often.
My speciality as naturopath, herbalist and cancer support leader is to guide cancer patients who we call alt/med casualties, back into the best of conventional medicine.

Cancer patients have a right to choose their treatments, but it must be based on accurate reports and truthful evidence-based information. I have seen thousands of “Penny Dingle-like” cases and most cancer patients, like Dingle who go the alt/med route, also give up medical monitoring tests. Herald-Sun reporter Andrew Bolt aptly named this Dingle phenomenon The Searing Price of this Fahionable Unreason 
The alt/med path sounds wonderful, idyllic. I have been there and can speak to this issue with some authority after working in cancer support and naturopathic medicine in cancer for almost 4 decades. I co-founded a famous cancer support organisation launching the first educational support groups for cancer patients in Australia. Having worked with more than 13,000 cancer patients, I have written extensively on cancer and the importance of emotional healing in breast cancer. I have cared 24/7 for a terminally ill patient who recovered – but even in his case there were flaws in his medical clinical timeline and undiagnosed TB that complicated the issue of diagnosis. Many have taken an alternative medicine path based on our ‘incorrectly’ reported story!

It’s human nature to seach for the ‘Magic Bullet’ to cancer  – but if people make an experiment of themselves to prove a point – then they should keep it to themselves until it is proven, scrutinised and have been clear of cancer for more than 5 years. As Dr Linda Calebresi wrote in the Australian Doctor: “Hope comes with a duty of truth”!

It’s a sad fact but many cancer entrepreneurs stories are challengable when it comes to accuracy and truthfulness.  If your life depends on the
accuracy of someone’s story – then their story had better be accurate!

Every day my email, phone and practice is full of patients who tried alternative medicine exclusively to treat their cancer. When they become ill or notice an alarming tumour spread – they contact me.

In conclusion, if anyone is to recommend an exclusively alternative treatment to cancer patients – then like other registered health professionals, let them be responsible for the outcomes of each of those patients. The media also has a responsibility to present accurate and balanced information about such an important public issue as chemotherapy and cancer. Adelaide Now – Are you interested?
Grace Gawler- Gold Coast Qld. www.gracegawler.com/institute