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Streamlining Cancer Treatments: Choosing the Best of Complementary and Conventional Medicine

by Grace Gawler(more info)

listed in cancer, originally published in issue 208 - August 2013

I am in a very privileged position having specifically worked as a cancer recovery strategist for almost 40 years. Age, experience and serving 15,000 clients during that period enables me to appreciate history, see trends, learn the mistakes and rejoice in the successes while examining present gains and looking to the future. As a veteran I have witnessed the gradual evolution of a one size fits all approach in both sides of medicine; conventional and alternative. The new culture of survivorship is based on a highly targeted, personalized and intelligent approach. 

However, as personalized medicine is in its infancy, it is far from perfect, as professionals juggle for new definitions in this rapidly changing paradigm. For example, many of my colleagues describe personalized medicine in its parts, such as phenotype, targets for antibodies, genetics and molecules failing to mention the most important person in personalized medicine - the patient!  This has long been the issue with conventional medicine, but now even natural therapies are following suit.

The alternative medicine cancer cure culture have realized that cancer is more complex to treat than they possibly imagined. Despite doing ‘all the right things’; veganism, juicing, meditation, and positive thinking; their tumours are still growing!

Professor Thomas Vogel frankfurt the new ways of delivering cancer therapies
Professor Thomas Vogel Frankfurt: the new ways of delivering cancer therapies

Sadly this genre often has a sense of being alternative medicine failures, believing that they could have done better if only they had been even more intense with their diet and lifestyle change. These patients are flocking to German and other European Clinics in their droves as they try to navigate the cancer maze and search for their ‘cure’ in a place somewhere between nature and medicine.

However there is good news; cancer treatment is undergoing a transformation - a makeover. The old treatment models are on shifting sands. Standard conventional cancer medicine has, in the main, lost the trust of the general public and medical societies are going two ways: either blindly not paying attention to the cultural swing, or, they are moving into resistance mode where even brilliant and innovative medical colleagues are criticized for saving and or extending patients’ lives.

It may not be obvious to many, but small groups of patients around the globe are realizing that the best way to approach a cancer recovery is to treat as conventionally as necessary and naturally as possible. This is exactly what is happening in a number of small private hospitals around the world, in particular in Germany where I consult to a small private oncology clinic. Once a domain of movie stars and the financially wealthy, I am seeing a new trend of conscious heath consumers piecing together the puzzle of their cancer recovery. In the main, these patients are not wealthy; they are prepared to spend life savings and benefits on their survival, or boldly fundraise to enable access to new breakthrough cancer medicines. Many are being successful and these patients are leading the way as the new paradigm evolves.

Now this makes a lot of sense. As mentioned previously, both systems of medicine -conventional and alternative - have developed a one size fits all approach. There are ways in the new medicine approach where targets can be based on genetic and molecular science.

Bridging the gap, these small private clinics are offering a range of treatments including targeted immune-therapies, antibodies, locally delivered (not systemic) chemotherapies, oncogenic virus identification, dendritic cell vaccines in conjunction with adjunct botanical medicines and targeted supplements. It is all rather exciting to see the advancement and the long overdue amalgamation of two different medicine genres - conventional allopathic and alternative / complementary medicines.

In the seventies and eighties I was a part of a worldwide support group movement that sprouted spontaneously, adding a missing link in cancer medicines; the beginning of the personalized healing approach in cancer recovery. Prior to these times, few people took their health into their own hands, most believing that only doctors and conventional medicine could help. By necessity, this was a patient-driven movement; some doctors such as Bernie Seigel,[1] Emmett Miller,[2] Larry Dossey[3] and Lawrence le Shan[4] and Caryle Hirshberg with her co-authored a study Spontaneous Remissions.[5] These almost cultish figures of the mind-body movement quickly joined the ranks providing patients with psycho-social skills and life strategies to assist them on the cancer journey. Mind-body medicine and cancer support groups were born, adding a much needed missing link in patient care and treatment.

Cancer patients are often at the vanguard for change. As consumers of medicine, they are demanding and driving a more ‘connected’ and personalized approach to their treatments, care and management. So what next after the birth of support groups, complementary approaches, mind-body medicine? What else was missing?

Navigating the Cancer Maze

Enter the New Culture of Cancer Survivorship and Personalized Medicine - a new way for patients to navigate the cancer maze in the 21st Century. Sometimes one’s own country cannot provide the service needed for survival. We tend to think that medicine has common borders; however one only has to develop a condition that has no obvious solution to see that much is lacking. Unfortunately, or indeed fortunately, this was my position in 1997 following unexpected complications from a routine surgery after which my colon ceased to function; bladder function was also affected. So began my journey and the successful outcome which led to a new concept; 'Cancer Patients Without Borders'.

The concept is based on my own experience following receiving life saving experimental treatment in Rotterdam in 2002-2003. I became a world first recipient for a bionic device that successfully restored function to my colon, ending a 13 year horrendous battle to survive. My experience fuelled my intention to create a safe and trusted setting for other Australian and international patients to more easily access treatments that may not be available or even known about in their home countries.

My experience led me to thinking deeply about the New Culture of Survivorship for cancer patients by drawing from my own experience, knowing personally how challenging it had been to find solutions when everyone said there were none to be had. So what is the new culture? What is different about this concept? Thanks to innovative immune-therapies, personalized and targeted medicine, clever delivery of treatments and time proven complementary adjuncts, cancer patients can now buy precious time and live well through and beyond cancer in a way that has never been available before. Making this possible in current time is a small dedicated hospital in Germany's Black Forest region where new and innovative State of the Art treatments are offered. One of the keys to practising personalized cancer medicine is of course discovering as much about a patient as possible; paying attention to mind, body, emotion and spirit. It is like assembling a jig-saw puzzle where every piece is significant so that the whole person picture can be thoughtfully examined and solutions found.

The rapidly advancing new science of genetics also has a significant role to play in a personalized approach. Genetics has hit the headlines lately with regards to the BRCA 1 and 2 gene which causes breast cancer in a small demographic of women. The gene has gained fame and is now also termed the ‘Jolie gene’ in popular press. Genes and stems cells are controversial in the public domain; many are suspicious of how their genetic material might be used, even patented. On the other hand, genetic and molecular diagnostics in the new paradigm of cancer medicine plays an essential role in discovery of the type and behaviour of what are called CTCs (circulating tumour cells) especially those with stem cell like qualities; the cells that are known to create secondary cancers at a distant site. Our Black Forest Clinic and Hospital uses diagnostics tests that identify and quantify these cells, how they behave, which factors cause them to multiply and what treatments can be best used to kill or cause CTCs to become dormant. Genetic and molecular medicine lies at the heart of the medical approach to personalized cancer medicine.

But once again, let's not forget the patient: their life, their mind, emotions and spirit; the self that they bring to the healing table. In the personalized model this is taken care of by the practise of psycho-oncology; assisting a patient to find strategies and personal resources to better cope with the ordeal and overwhelm that shapes and forms the landscape of a person's life after a diagnosis of cancer. 

Rather than lack of information, perhaps the most significant challenge for the 21st century cancer patient is information overload. Cancer is complex and the myriad of internet ‘cures’ and books on the subject make it even more so. Patients are often caught or lost in the cancer maze. The point of difference between ‘internet and alternative cures’ is that individuality of the patient is not taken into account.  Although patients can believe they are empowered to choose their various 'internet' treatments, in reality, what they are getting is a one size fits all treatment - not a personalized approach. For many patients this is where self-empowerment can become self-destructive, because patients often lack knowledge and understanding of how cancer behaves which can lead to ill informed choices.

Exploring German cancer treatments silver background

I believe the new personalized medicine paradigm is the model that many empowered cancer patients have been longing for, where smart conventional medicine meets complementary approaches with an all important focus on the patient. As time goes by we will see more and more hospitals adopting a more personalized approach. However in the meantime cancer patients would do well to consider finding ‘Centres of Excellence’ whose charter is currently dedicated to personalized cancer medicine including evidence-based complementary and biological medicine.

Cancer patients should not have to be concerned with geographical borders that dictate what they can and cannot have to treat their life challenging illness.

The new ‘Culture of Survivorship’ emphasizes longevity plus wellbeing for cancer patients. The emphasis is not on cure but on personalized control and management building to tumour regression and remission. Rather than fear of a recurrence, there is recognition that if the cancer returns, there will be the next generation of smart immunologically-based cancer treatments to deal with it. It is time that more people were aware that there are new treatments and new skill sets designed to assist patients to effectively navigate the cancer maze. As the body of patient successes multiply, more attention will be paid to this new Culture of Survivorship and, it will become available to more patients. You can learn more by listening to my US-based free to air internet radio show Navigating the Cancer Maze on Voice America’s Health and Wellness channel.

www.voiceamerica.com/show/2125/navigating-the-cancer-maze

http://voiceamericahealthwellness.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/navigate-cancer-maze-in-conversation.html

References

  1. Seigel Bernie. Love, Medicine & Miracles - HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0-06-091406-8; ISBN 978-0-06-091406-6. 1986. Seigel Bernie. Peace, Love & Healing - HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0-06-091705- 9, ISBN 978-0-06-091705-0. 1989.
  2. Miller Emmett. Deep Healing, The Essence of Mind-Body Medicine.
  3. Dossey Larry. Space, Time & Medicine. Shambhala. 1982.
  4. Le Shan Lawrence. Cancer As a Turning Point: A Handbook for People with Cancer, Their Families, and Health Professionals.
  5. Hirshberg Caryle. Spontaneous Remission: An Annotated Bibliography Published by IONS.

Publications

Women of Silence the Emotional healing of Breast Cancer, based on gender specific support groups and residential courses for women with cancer and breast cancer – a first. First book published 1994 Women of Silence Hill of Content reprinted UK 2003 published Highclere. ISBN -10: 0855722541 Best seller for its genre.  (Book and eBook)

A Helping Hand – a 30 page handbook for cancer patients who want to look at practical, effective strategies without stressful changes in diet or life (self published)

Grace, Grit and Gratitude – Graces’ memoir self-published October 2008 (Book and eBook)

Grace, Grit and Gratitude Grace Gawler’s Memoir  0980394171; 9780980394177

(Book and eBook).

Survivor’s Secrets for Women dealing with Life Challenging Illness eBook only.

The Cancer Patients Guide to Gourmet Nutrition Grace Gawler eBook. 2013.

Exploring German Cancer Treatments – A Patient Guide Grace Gawler eBook 2013.

Journals

Patient empowerment in cancer management healing the whole person. Complementary Therapies in Nursing & Midwifery 9(3):109-113. (PMID: 12852925) 2003.

Grace O Gawler. Cancer patients at risk from inaccurate clinical reporting in a high-profile alternative treatment story: 2010 comments and corrections Med J Aust. 193 (6): 371-373. 2010.

Comments:

  1. Lorraine Lister said..

    The third paragraph of this article infers that using natural therapies alone will not result in patients healing themselves of cancer. This is inaccurate. An integrative approach may well be the right choice for some patients but the clinics that Grace Gawler refers to are only available in some countries and the cost can be prohibitive for many patients. Natural therapies alone can and do work for cancer patients and the important thing is for the patient to have all the information necessary to make an informed choice and a good practitioner to work with. I do not agree that cancer treatment is undergoing a transformation as the mainstream approach is still to use surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy which can cause irreparable damage and the development of secondary cancers later on. Grace Gawler is not catering for the ordinary patient but rather those who have enough money to undergo her programmes and seek treatment at expensive European clinics. Too many patients do not have the life savings she mentions to pay for these treatments. More practical solutions are needed for most people.


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About Grace Gawler

Grace Gawler DHM (dist) DBSc ATMS Mem IPOS (International Society for Psycho-Psychology has been involved with teaching cancer survival strategies for more than 38 years. Trained as an Herbalist/ Naturopath with an early background, working in veterinary medicine, over the years Grace became a pro-life cancer coach and trained in body psychotherapy. She co-founded Australia's first Cancer Support groups and residential courses and has worked throughout the world in the area of cancer as a public and keynote speaker and workshop facilitator. She has chosen to emphasize the emotional-psycho-spiritual aspect of cancer recovery and management at all stages. Grace learned a great deal when in 1997 unexpected post-surgical complications from a routine surgery left her with colon paralysis. After 21 surgeries geared at keeping her alive Grace eventually found her solution - an experimental 'bionic' sacroneuromodulation implant performed in Holland. The procedure was a 'world first' for this condition. Grace had her life back knowing what it was like to be in the shoes of a patient with a life threatening condition. She wrote her memoir Grace, Grit and Gratitude in 2008 to celebrate her survival.

As Founder and Director of the Grace Gawler Institute, Grace can now help patients to find Integrated cancer Solutions. She helps patients to transform the challenge, PTSD, fear and myriad of emotional issues surrounding cancer into becoming a successful patient - the best one can be whatever the outcome. She works in conjunction with medical oncology and integrative oncology clinics in Australia and Europe assisting patients with fully supported medi-tours to Hallwang Private Oncology Clinic in Germany's Black Forest. You can listen to Grace's US-based free to air internet radio show Navigating the Cancer Maze on Voice America’s Health and Wellness channel. www.voiceamerica.com/show/2125/navigating-the-cancer-maze  Grace may be contacted on UK Phone: 44 1316 080 149 (voicemail); contact institute@gracegawler.com   grace@germancancertreatments.com   www.gracegawler.com/institute   www.germancancertreatments.com   www.germancancertreatments.org.uk  www.facebook.com/germancancertreatments

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