By Dr. Eena Duggal
I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in my mid 40’s. I did not have a family history of any female reproductive cancers such as breast cancer.
I was told I would have to do all 3 treatments- Chemo followed by surgery and then lastly radiation. This was to be followed by oral anti-estrogen therapy to be taken for anywhere from 5 to 10 + yrs.
Chemotherapy was by far the most significant and difficult therapy to tolerate. In undergoing chemo you not only lose your hair but the fatigue and physical drain on your body were so significant that I was not able to work for over 6 months. Being a solo physician and family doctor that meant leaving my patients and practice for many months. Radiation was difficult because I had to go daily for my treatments. Surgery was actually the simplest therapy I had except for the pain from the incisions and tissue work that was necessary to remove cancer.
In order to alleviate some of the toxic and harmful effects of chemotherapy, I sought out alternative and naturopathic treatments. I was advised to change my diet substantially to avoid all foods that could cause inflammation in my body. These included: dairy products, sugars, and soy products as well as alcohol. I was already vegetarian but now I needed to change to a plant based almost vegan diet. Since then, however, we now know that soy products do not need to be avoided and can be eaten in moderation such as 1 soy serving per day.
There were many things that I added to my diet as well such as fresh turmeric, homemade almond milk, and fresh vegetable juices daily. There were also various oral supplements and vitamins as well as protein powder and daily morning shakes that were all part of my dietary changes.
There were 2 other therapies I started and these were also to help alleviate
some of the toxic side effects of my chemotherapy treatments. These were high dose IV infusions of Vitamin C as well as subcutaneous injections of Mistletoe.
IV infusions of Vitamin C were not easy to find locally and I found a naturopathic oncologist in Canada that was able to do these for me and then I eventually located a clinic in San Francisco. These infusions help to boost your immune system and allow your own body’s natural immunity to fight cancer cells that are roaming around. This is a form of immunotherapy. Much research is now being down on various cancers and how to fight them with immunotherapy.
IV infusions would ideally be as often as weekly to biweekly depending on how toxic I felt post chemotherapy. They helped to boost my energy and cleared my liver of medication burden. They can be continued for several months.
Mistletoe injections were also not locally available to me at the time, and this I found in Canada and had them shipped. Mistletoe has been used in Europe and mostly Germany for many years for fighting cancer, as it helps to decrease the oxidative stress and burden of cells in our body. This therapy can continue for several years after allopathic treatments are completed. I continue to use mistletoe for over 5 years after my treatments were completed. This is given as an injection just under the skin. Mistletoe also helps to boost our own immune system and thus helps to prevent cancer from coming back and our cells from mutating into cancer cells again. Initially, these injections were given twice weekly and then I weaned them down to once a week and now monthly. The dosage of each injection given is different and cycles up and back down again in order to continuously entice your immune system to keep working.
Both these therapies had to be started after chemotherapy is completed as the mechanism of action is the opposite of what chemotherapy is trying to do in the body. Both these therapies helped me to overcome and tolerate the incredible side effects that I sustained after my chemotherapy. I fully believe that my dietary changes and alternative therapies such as IV Vitamin C and mistletoe helped me get through and beyond all the toxicities from the necessary evils of chemotherapy and radiation. I felt stronger and was back on my feet a lot sooner than I would have been had I not invested in these alternative treatments.
Oil massages to my scalp helped to stimulate my hair growth post chemotherapy.
I also avoided crowded, public places such as grocery stores and malls as my immune system was suppressed during chemotherapy and I did not want to expose myself to bacteria.
Meditation, mindfulness, pranayam and deep breathing are all useful modalities as well as regular massages especially while undergoing chemotherapy as this was the most stressful to my body.
The Sandra J Wing Foundation is a great resource in the TriValley area for supporting breast cancer patients with therapies such as biofeedback, imagery, massage, etc.
Today I have hit the 5+ year mark and am doing well. I believe I have a different perspective on life though. I decided to sell my medical practice 3 years ago and I am still working full time – 4 days a week but I am no longer responsible for the running of my practice. I am trying to keep my stress levels down. My mindset has shifted from patients, career and work first to taking care of myself so that I can be there for my family and my patients.
I currently continue taking Mistletoe injections every 1-2 months as well as anti-hormonal tablets daily. I am a bit more lax with my dietary changes than I was initially, but certainly work towards a less inflammatory diet as much as possible.
I recently have taken a 4 month leave of absence from work and patient
care to travel in Africa. It is really important to make the most of the time we have when we have our health!
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