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Art transforms into compassion


People having rare cancers are still unable to get the best cancer care from western medicine. When these cancer patients decided to give up on mainstream treatment and opt for alternative treatment, their decisions are often seen as risky and irrational.

Doctors often warned patients not to 'waste' money on alternative treatment. Sadly many people have also spent a large amount of money on western medicine and yet they cannot be 'saved'. Quite often, other people will also make similar comments - why 'waste' money on palliative care?

I urge patients with rare cancers and late-stage cancers to face the hard reality and accept the limitation of medical science, and move on to do their own research on their particular type of cancer. If alternative treatment can provide you with a second chance at living life within your means, give it serious thought.

Dr Kim Dalzell's experience with a patient having a rare cancer

Nutrition News from Dr. Kim Dalzell - Apr 1, 2007

Receiving not one, but three emails from me about the free giveaway for the Breast Cancer Wellness cruise didn't sit very well with S.M. It wasn't that she was upset I had sent more than one message (and I owe an apology for that. I'm still struggling with my new mass email system!). Rather, she wrote me back to say:

"I thought you might be different, but you are on the same "bandwagon" as everyone else. All support goes to breast cancer and the rest of us are forgotten. I have vaginal cancer, which affects about two percent of women. That should make me special, not odd. I have enough trouble trying to learn about what I have and I am tired of everyone rubbing in my face the fact that if you don't have breast cancer like everyone else that you aren't as important. I'm very disappointed in your restricted cruise information. Please take me off your email list. I need information and support, and evidently it is not here."

S.M. has a right to feel this way. Over the fourteen years I have worked exclusively with cancer patients with diagnoses ranging from brain cancer to kidney cancer and everything in between, this is not the first time I have heard from "the forgotten"- those individuals who are "unlucky" enough not to have been diagnosed with one of the four most common cancers in the United States: breast, colon, lung or prostate.

Imagine if you can (and some of you are cancer survivors so you won't have to work very hard at this) that you are sitting next to someone in a waiting room. You are both told at the same time that you have cancer. The person next to you has breast cancer. The doctor tells them that based on numerous studies they have a very good idea of what will work to kill your cancer. They also have a variety of clinical trials in which to participate if needed. They have not one, but several national breast cancer support groups, teleconferences and fundraisers from which they can draw support. Heck, they even have their own pink ribbon to add to their hat or lapel. Car magnets, stuffed pink bears, magazines and writing journals specifically dedicated to breast cancer appear from everywhere. The list goes on and on. And now, a cruise dedicated to breast cancer survivors. Is there no end to their support?!

Now it's your turn. The doctor stares down at her feet as she says, "you have a rare form of cancer. We aren't sure of the best kind of chemotherapy for you or even if chemotherapy will work in your case. Unfortunately (oh, that word unfortunately is so unforgiving, isn't it?) we'll have to go by trial and error." After the shock, you tell someone your diagnosis. "What kind of cancer? ..hmm.. I've never heard of that one." The conversation stops cold. You call the American Cancer Society to ask about local support. They tell you, "You could probably go to the support group for breast cancer. I think they'll take anyone who really wants in." You spend countless hours on the Internet. You search and search and don't find anything that helps you understand what you are up against. Why isn't there more? This just doesn't seem fair!

I tell my son David quite often that life isn't fair and that we have to make a choice every morning when we rise to either be grateful for another day or focus on what we don't have. S.M. deserves to feel slighted, but I believe that she missed a growth opportunity in my mind. I did as she wished. I immediately took her off my mailing list. She will never see this, an acknowledgement to her pain and to all the others with a less than popular cancer diagnosis. And her not seeing my acknowledgement is bothersome to me for two reasons:

When someone is in pain, while they might want a solution for the pain, they also want an acknowledgement of that pain. They want someone to say, "Yes, that's right. You have a right to feel that way. I bet you are angry, sad, upset, tired, frustrated!" It doesn't take away the pain, but it does make them feel understood. Don't we all want to be understood? But the person verbalizing the pain has some responsibility too. They need to at least be ready to give the recipient an opportunity to acknowledge their feelings. Yelling in frustration and then closing the door on someone doesn't help them get closer to a resolution.

I do my best to share an expanse of information, opportunities for healing and some of my own nonsense that stems from a variety of sources. My messages will resonate with some people and not with others. Hopefully, some day you'll read something from me that will be exactly what you need.

I'd love to come up with messages that always benefit 100% of my readers but I've learned that simply is not a realistic expectation I should have for myself. The value of getting information is that you can use what you need, pass on or throw away what you don't need or want. Wouldn't it have been wonderful if S.M. would have forwarded that breast cancer wellness cruise information to someone she thought could use it? While the email did nothing for her, she might have been able to do something for someone else. And helping others, in my opinion, opens the door for healing.

One thing I know for sure.. You might not like what I have to say all the time, but you can guarantee that it is a reflection of who I am, what I know based on sound, scientific principles, and comes from a place of love and compassion. My words are meant to help you along your healing journey, wherever along the road you are.

I'm honored to have you as a traveling companion and I hope you keep the door open,

Kim Dalzell, PhD, RD, LD
President, NutriQuest, Inc.
Author, Challenge Cancer and Win!

Posted on 18 April 2007

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