My Cancer Journey Using Personalized Medicine in Integrative Cancer Care
When I entered the cancer world in 1998 at age 24 years old diagnosed with a brain tumor, I knew nothing about health care. I had some issues with my gut that began from my travels in Mexico and Guatemala for four months during 1995, but had not found quality providers to help me solve my challenges. Instead, my primary focus involved blossoming into adulthood and a job in the U.S. Congress getting ready for law school.
Suddenly diagnosed with cancer with threats about livelihood, my new urgency was to get rid of the brain tumor and survive. After awake brain surgery at the National Institutes of Health where my neurosurgeons removed the tumor and surrounding tissues, some told me about possibilities of a recurrence. My body also felt that I had to do much more for my optimal health and healing. Although without insights about “personalized medicine,” my priority was to create my individualized health and healing plan.
But my experience, and certainly the majority of health care in the late 1990s, involved the beginning of holistic, integrative wellness. I did not know comprehensive whole person providers, therapies, as well as self-care strategies. My healing journey could only travel step by step. For several years during my post-surgery healing, recommendations and research brought me to helpful treatments with acupuncture, herbs, supplements, craniosacral therapies, support groups, Shamanic work, and more. Already addressing some aspects of whole person health and healing, I was still only scratching the surface.
Professionally my work also taught me volumes about health and healing. After leaving my job in Congress, I was hired by cancer non-profits and also as a consultant to the National Cancer Institute and Food and Drug Administration. I reached a point personally and professionally that I could not only focus on the disease and instead needed to address the whole person. Next I got a job at the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s Clearinghouse getting to know certain dynamics of their research and levels of complementary medicine.
Chaos can certainly inspire people into actions. When I was finally informed of my brain tumor recurrence in 2004, I further explored comprehensive health care. Through another wave of tremendous overwhelm, I finally went on a three-week raw foods retreat and ate much healthier for the first time. During the 21 days, I felt detoxification and support to my immune system plus other benefits. Also feeling much more open from eating raw foods and drinking green vegetable juices, I received spiritual guidance to move from Washington, DC to California. Clearly, my healing required deep changes in my life.
Since then, I’ve used hundreds of integrative cancer therapies, including three cancer clinics in Europe and the Gonzalez Protocol before my second awake brain surgery in September of 2011. I’ve also worked with functional medicine doctors in the United States and that continues. Personalized tests are extremely important for assessing stools, heavy metals, hormones, neurotransmitters, food allergies, and other aspects of the entire physical body. In addition, my protocol has involved important components of personalized cancer medicine with molecular profiling and off-label drugs. Quality providers know these progressive and pioneering approaches to individualize each patient.
Along with help from quality providers, each person must incorporate self-care with personalized lifestyle medicine choices. I use foods, supplements, exercise, sleep, stress reductions, positive thinking, non-toxic home products, social connections, and spirituality to support my optimal wellness. Thankfully, those actions support quality of life and cancer survival. I know that personalized medicine lifestyle choices optimize my cells to self, including through ongoing support and improvements in my epigenetics.
So what are the most important gems from my journey? Over the last fifteen plus years, I’ve developed clarity about the importance of integrative cancer care for the whole person addressing the entire physical body, mind-body wellness, spiritual connections, social support, and a clean environment. Since integrative cancer care tailors to each individual, the use of personalized health and healing delivers the best results. Integrative cancer care improves quality of life, cancer survival, and cancer prevention. Everyone deserves just that.