Testimonials (VII): Conventional Cancer Treatment

Rushed into conventional breast cancer diagnostics & therapy

A woman's tale

Callousness, manipulation, dishonesty, lack of integrity and ethics and the trauma, pain, shock, disfigurement & regret experienced: a testimonial to conventional cancer treatment being "quackery at its cruelest"?

by L. P., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2007, copyright © Healing Cancer Naturally with special permission of the author

“If I’d known even a fraction of what I know now about alternative treatment, I would never have gone anywhere near the ... Cancer Centre. But I didn’t even know there were alternatives to conventional treatment. It took me three years to accumulate the knowledge I have now, and I only did it when the utter callousness and lack of integrity I was shown at the ... Cancer Centre led me to question the treatment I had received. How many women, when faced with cancer, would be cool and level-headed enough to research in depth before giving in to the kind of pressure that doctors exert on people, telling them that there’s absolutely no time to be lost in beginning treatment?
So that is my story... It’s upset me to delve into all of this again, and it’s taken me a long time to get it together. But if it will do anything at all to alert people and lead them to question this evil industry, it will have been worth it.”
L. P.

Introduction by Healing Cancer Naturally

The following document written by L. P. is highly important in my eyes. Both for adding to the list of Side Effects You May Not Be Told About (incl. those observed only in the longer term) and for its potential to help readers contemplating any type of conventional cancer treatment to avoid deep trauma and suffering they are totally unprepared for (also see On Avoidable Suffering).

L. originally contacted me saying that she was glad to “see another site giving information on alternative cancer treatment, and telling some truths about conventional treatment. It was my misfortune to find out about conventional treatment the hard way, for which I am paying. ... the information is so important...”. I asked her if she'd like to share her experience with conventional cancer treatment (anonymously if preferred) so others would be assisted in making better-informed health choices, and she kindly sent me the following detailed report. While noone is likely to know how common L.’s traumatic experience with the implementation of orthodox oncology practices is, my personal impression is that it is certainly not uncommon or confined to just one treatment center or specific persons (in fact, far from it!), and thus gives reason for the greatest concern. For the same reason, while relating to breast cancer, her story is likely to have import for other-type cancer patients as well.

Originally, the names of both hospitals, doctors and surgeons were being disclosed in this personal report. Upon my wondering how “safe” it was to do this and how long I’d be able to keep it up on the internet (in case there would be legal and costly threats being sent my way re “libel” etc.), L. consulted with her trauma counsellor and wrote to me the following:

“I spoke with the trauma counsellor and told him that I had given you my story, complete with names. We discussed whether I could be sued for defamation of character. My rationale is that I've told the complete truth, but he said that the Law doesn't look at it the same way you or I might, and that I have to present tangible proof.

How do I ‘prove’ what was promised at the time, and what was said or not said? It wasn't taped or recorded in any way. So he suggests that, while I can still say that it was at the ... Cancer Centre that these things happened to me, it might be best to take out the names of the doctors.

Guess I'd better do this, although I hate to. It angers me that not only can these people get away with what they've done, even their reputations should be protected. And it makes it harder to warn others.

So let's take out the doctors' names but leave that it happened at the ... Cancer Centre in [town]. X is the Chief of Surgical Oncology and Y is now the Chair of the ... Cancer Program at the ... Cancer Centre, so perhaps an indictment of the facilty will reflect back on them and warn other women in [that area].”

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that L.’s report obviously has “ubiquitous” relevance, not just to women living close to one particular cancer center but to all men and women who choose to undergo conventional cancer diagnostics and treatment (because they believe - or are made to believe - that they are thus helping their health and recovery in the best possible manner). The simple reason is that the diagnostic procedures and treatment L. was submitted to was in accordance with standard cancer treatment “protocol”. For this reason, I have decided to not identify the hospital and town either, since they do not matter. I do advise to spread this report far and wide, for everyone to see as an example of what can and has happened to trusting cancer patients, possibly in numerous conventional treatment facilities all over the world where Western cancer treatment practices are implemented.

I also encourage other cancer patients to openly or anonymously share similar experiences with me for publication (you will find several such testimonials in Possible Serious Side Effects of Orthodox Cancer Treatment Doctors Might Not Have Told You About. It is to be hoped that the more people speak up and the more publicity is given to such practices, the less those reponsible will dare using them.

Incidentally, nothing in this report is meant to imply that manipulation, dishonesty, lack of ethics, compassion, caring etc. are only and/or typically to be found on the conventional (orthodox/allopathic) side of the medical fence, and that anything or anyone considered “alternative” automatically comes with a halo attached. I have read in trustworthy sources quite the opposite insofar as ego and self-interest (such as mostly being in it for the money and/or wishing to be seen as an “authority”) seems to be a major player in alternative circles too (also compare my Note on honesty and the bigger picture of healing). Read about some of my own experiences (made in the course of my "investigative" research) with members of the alternative cancer treatment community in Alternative cancer treatment caveat: on honesty & deception, money & manipulation, commercialism, theft of copyright, ego & “all that glitters is not gold” which includes advice on how to recognize a good practitioner and/or product.

May L.’s open report assist many to avoid the deep trauma and pain she endured and endures to this very day at the hands of what, sadly, is not always correctly called the healing profession.

Also see Personal note by L.

My experience with conventional cancer treatment

by L. P., Calgary, Alberta, Canada, May 2007

You asked me to share my misadventures with conventional cancer treatment. Although I am certainly willing to do so if it will help another woman to make better choices than I did with the limited information I had to work with at the time, it is difficult for me to talk about this horrible experience because of the trauma associated with it. So writing this may take some time. I am working with a trauma counsellor in the hopes that the memories will lose some of their power to overwhelm.

Before I get started, I will tell you that it was the manipulation and dishonesty I encountered at the ... Cancer Centre in [town], and the cold and unfeeling manner with which the treatments were carried out, that initially started me doing research (after I recovered enough from the shock to start thinking rationally again). I have experienced much regret that I didn’t do this research beforehand, but everything happened so fast, and the speed with which I was rushed into treatment left little time. Since doing the research, I have come to the conclusion that conventional cancer treatment is quackery at its cruelest and that the lack of ethics I encountered at the Cancer Center is not confined to that facility alone.

In 2002, a mammogram showed a tiny anomaly in my left breast. Then the nightmare began, starting with the process of diagnosis.

I had an ultrasound and was sent for an MRI. If you are claustrophobic in any way, don’t ever have an MRI. I’m told that, if you are warned ahead of time, you can arrange for sedation before being stuffed into the tube. I wasn’t warned. It takes 45 minutes to have an MRI.

Then I was sent to see a surgeon, a Dr. B. I told him that I wouldn't consider a mastectomy, upon which he put his hands on his hips and said, "Then what are we doing all of this for?" He terrified me so much that I told my doctor that I didn’t want to go further and that there was no point in doing a biopsy as I didn’t intend to accept treatment. She said, "Oh but you want to know," and talked me into seeing another surgeon, X, the Chief of Surgical Oncology at the ... Cancer Centre. I told this person that I feared mutilation and disfigurement far more than death and that I preferred to leave the anomaly alone. I explained that I was single and that I still hoped to meet someone and have a relationship and that I didn’t want my breast disfigured in any way. S/he was all bonhomie and understanding, said that it was obviously very small and wouldn’t require much treatment if it turned out to be cancer. S/he persuaded me to have a mammotome core biopsy, which s/he assured me was “nothing”, as did the nurse who dealt with me.

Let me tell you about “nothing.”

It was performed in the basement of the ... Hospital North Tower. The radiologist was a cold individual who showed the patient about as much concern as he would a lab mouse. For this kind of biopsy, you lie stripped and facedown on a hard table with your breast hanging through a hole in the table. A bunch of people stand about you prodding you and your breast. They don’t speak to you or acknowledge you in any way, even if you are showing obvious terror. The breast is squeezed tightly between plates as for a mammogram, and they give you a little jab of anaesthetic. Then a huge bore invades your breast, and it is excruciating. I screamed with pain and, after a bit, they added more anaesthetic which stung in the open wound. This numbed it a bit, but I could still feel that rod stuck deep down in my breast, and then—horror, horror—I could feel it turning deep in my breast and I both felt and heard a horrible, sickening crunching and shearing as it turned and cut core after core of living tissue out of me. It took about 45 or 50 minutes. After it was over, I was sick and shaking and lightheaded and soaked with sweat. I was also bewildered by the total impassivity and lack of response to my obvious distress by the medical staff.

Informed consent? Nothing I was told led me to expect an experience like this! Another thing that I was never told was that, once an encapsulated tumour is breached by any kind of surgical implement, the victim is committed to surgery, as the cancer cells are now free to leak out of the broken capsule and metastasize. Nevertheless, this was what I was talked into even though I told X, the Chief of Surgical Oncology, and numerous others that I didn’t intend to have surgery.

It took two weeks to get the result. When I called the oncologist’s office, I was brusquely informed that my MD would give me the results. I called several times and eventually got her, and she told me that I did indeed have cancer. Then I was sent back to X, the Chief of Surgical Oncology. S/he was still putting on the sympathy and bonhomie act. S/he told me that it was not a fast growing cancer. S/he did not tell me that it was only a Grade 1/3 (not even a Grade 1) that was unlikely to cause me a problem for many years if ever. I got the impression that I would die in the near future if it went untreated. I reiterated that I would rather let it go, because I could not live with mutilation of a breast.

What X did say was that, if I allowed him/her to do surgery, I would only have a tiny scar and no disfigurement. S/he said s/he would only take the sentinel lymph node. I was not told that axillary surgery is for diagnostic purposes only and is not necessary if there is no intention to have further surgery or chemotherapy, particularly in a case like mine where the possibility that it had spread to the lymph nodes was practically nil. I made it quite clear, repeatedly, that I would not consider further surgery or chemo. Actually, I didn’t really understand what axillary surgery was or what it entailed. Nothing was ever made clear to me.

Why did I allow myself to be persuaded after I had already been lied to about the mammotome core biopsy being “nothing”? I’ve certainly hated myself for being so weak-willed and sheeplike. I think it was partially the brainwashing we all receive about doctors being noble and having higher ethics than other mortals. Who can you trust if not a doctor? There was also the fact that I was caregiving for a beloved Aunt, and I was frightened what would become of her if I predeceased her. My trauma counselor tells me that I was also in a state of dissociation that followed me through the whole process until I came out of the trance and blew up, and the whole thing did feel like one of those trance-like nightmares in which you have no volition of your own. I do believe X, the Chief of Surgical Oncology, played on my terror. As I say, I got the impression that death was imminent, and I was scheduled for surgery just two weeks after diagnosis at a time when most people were having to queue for a year or more. The lead soprano in my church choir waited in agony for fifteen months for a hip replacement. What could I think but that it was an emergency? I guess I was in too great a state of fear to think clearly and pick up on the clues.

Because the tumour was so minuscule, the only way it could even be found to cut it out surgically was through something called “needle localization”. At this point, I was so far into terror, I wasn’t thinking or functioning normally anymore. There was a doctor who, seeing my condition, stated that I would never be able to tolerate the process without anaesthesia and tranquilization, and this doctor undertook to do this for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to have much effect in preventing subsequent pain. Afterward, I was wheeled a long, long way, through an underground tunnel to another building where there was a mammogram machine in a dark room. I was propped up in a high, high chair, and my breast squeezed between the plates, and a wire was jammed deep into my breast right into the tumour and the other end left sticking out of the breast. Painful and degrading, and I don’t think I was very sane at this point.

I was wheeled back through the tunnel. I was then told that radioactive dye had to be injected into my nipple so that the X could find the sentinel node. Informed consent? This was the first time I was told of this. I was paralyzed with fear, and stupid from the sedative I’d been given. I was wheeled through another tunnel into someplace in the ... Centre itself, and was given four injections in my nipple. Then, after the dye had had a chance to travel to the lymph nodes, I was placed on a hard table under a huge machine, my arm was stretched up above my head, and some kind of pictures were taken to trace the dye.

By the time I was wheeled back into the main building of the ... Hospital, I had a crushing headache. I was left in the antechamber of the operating theatre and told there would be a delay, at which point I started to cry and said I couldn’t go through with it. I’m not clear what happened after this.

When I woke up in the recovery room, I had a huge bandage covering my breast, and I was in great pain. I think I may have started suspecting that I’d received more than I’d bargained for at this point, but I’m not clear about this. I spent the night in recovery, because there were no beds elsewhere in the hospital. They gave me morphine, but I was wide awake and travelling to and from the bathroom. My urine was blue for two days because of the dye.

My Aunt had been placed in respite care for ten days while I was recovering from the surgery, and I was alone. I was told that a homecare nurse would come to be with me when it was time to take off the bandages, but this didn’t happen. Finally, the bandages were so dirty, they had to be taken off. When I saw what the Chief of Surgical Oncology had done to me, I became faint and collapsed onto the side of the bathtub. Then I threw up—just bile, as there was nothing in my stomach—and I shook and shook and shook. I thought about suicide , but there was my Aunt…

I was still too numb to reproach X when I went back to have the incision checked. S/he told me that the good news was that it was a low-grade cancer and the bad news was that s/he’d found another tumour. Not only had s/he not stuck to minimal surgery, s/he’d taken it upon himself to explore. S/he tried to talk me into letting him/her cut my breast off completely, just as though I’d never told him/her my feelings and priorities. I said, numbly, “If I die, I die.” So s/he was finished with me. About a year later, when I’d finally got my wits back enough to apply to Patient Records for the pathology report, I found out that the second tumour, likewise only Grade one-third, was 0.5 x 0.4 x0.4 cm. I also found out that X had taken out extra lymph nodes, all completely healthy, which was why I have such a deep hole under my arm. I have a long, four-inch scar running from the top of my breast, along the side, and underneath, and I have another three-inch scar and deformation under my arm. I have loose skin, wrinkling over the huge hollow where s/he scooped out part of my breast, and the breast is deformed and hangs oddly. I will never be able to wear a sleeveless dress, let alone a bathing suit, again. This was the “small scar” I was promised.

In addition to a deep ache around the massive scar which often feels swollen, I live with constant pain from nerve damage. It jumps like a nervy tooth—lancing both through my breast and down my left arm and into my middle finger. And the skin over the whole area often feels sore and irritated. Other times, I have deep itching that just about drives me mad. I was told that this was my imagination, probably the result of my “bad attitude”. Since then, however, I’ve found out through my research that “Post Therapy Pain Syndrome” does occur due to damage to the intercostobrachial nerve.

When I finally did get it together enough to go back for an explanation, the Chief of Surgical Oncology said that my distress was due to “Depression” and had nothing to do with the mutilation of my breast and damage to my femininity, and s/he tried to talk me into seeing a psychiatrist, to whom s/he would refer me on the spot. S/he was impatient that I was shocked by the extent of the damage, and, as though s/he had never promised me minimal scarring, said, "Of course there's scars after surgery!" S/he told me that I would have been disfigured more by the cancer rotting off my breast and smelling foul. This is, in fact, what can happen with a very malignant inflammatory cancer. My cancer was Grade one-third and was not inflammatory.

Since I refused a mastectomy and couldn’t be budged on the issue, I was sent to a radiation oncologist, Y, Chair of the ... Cancer Program at the ... Cancer Centre,. Now let me tell you about “informed consent” regarding radiation treatment. At the ... Cancer Centre, all cancer patients (not just breast cancer) slated for radiation treatments go for a half-hour tutorial before treatment. In the tutorial, you are informed that you may experience some fatigue, and there might be some mild, temporary skin changes. No mention of the term "fibrosis". You’re told a bit about the procedure itself. And that’s it. That’s the sum total of what you’re told. You are not told about risks. I was never informed that left-sided radiation damages the blood vessels around the heart. I was never warned about the possibility of chest wall sarcoma or cancer in the other breast. I did have a session with that same person beforehand during which s/he asked about other health issues, so we discussed the fact that I have fibromyalgia. However, s/he failed to tell me that radiation is contraindicated for fibromyalgia. Actually, as time went on, I found that the sphinx has more to say than this Chair of the ... Cancer Program at the ... Cancer Centre, who has made side stepping even direct questions an art form.

So here’s what happens when you go for radiation. During a “simulation”, you are measured with a ruler and given several small tattoos by pricking your skin and staining the pricks with black felt-tip pen. These dots are used for measuring to put other marks on you, again with different coloured felt-tip pens to delineate the areas to receive direct radiation. You are told that you cannot wash this off during the whole six weeks of the treatments, which you receive every weekday. From time to time, the marks are redrawn. For treatments, you go into a room with a massive linear accelerator, and you lie on a metal table with your breast bared and your arm above your head. The ... Cancer Centre’s linear accelerators are old and often down, so sometimes there is quite a long wait. The technicians measure you and tell you not to move, the table is raised, and then they go into another room where they will not be exposed to the radiation. They use a microphone to give you instructions over a speaker about when to stop breathing. It’s a time-consuming process. After several of these treatments, I developed huge, raw, red burns. The skin wept and sloughed off in wet strips. I was sent to the “dressings lady”, who smeared my breast with a goopy white cream. She then would put a bandage pad over this and send me home with more cream and bandages. My brassieres became stained from the cream, mixed with the ink from the felt tip pens. The lines usually were redrawn with new felt-tip pens before each treatment. Towards the end of the treatments, I received what they called a “boost”. I think it was additional radiation to the site of the tumour bed, but I never could get a clear explanation.

After the treatments were over, the burns slowly healed, but I ended up with what turned out to be permanent dark skin discolouration, adding to my disfigurement. The texture of the skin is completely different—dry and coarse and prone to eczema. The nipple is brown and wrinkled and grotesquely enlarged. There are other health issues. The fibromyalgia is much worse. There was damage to my windpipe. I was an amateur singer before all this happened, but my voice is gone now—all cracked and wavery. I also have a chronic wheeze and cough. I aged very suddenly and dramatically. My skin has become very thin and delicate and has lost its elasticity. I know everyone ages, but this happened almost overnight immediately after the radiation. I scar easily and heal slowly. I bruise easily. My hair falls out by the handful and has become very thin. My body is no longer familiar to me in the way it behaves.

Another side effect to the radiation I received during my breast cancer misadventure: it turns out that my thyroid was also damaged -- I now have hypothyroidism. I am working with a naturopath to help not only with this, but with some of the other radiation damage.
It’s been five years since all of this happened.

As I say, I finally came out of my trance and started to do research. It was at this time that I approached X, the Chief of Surgical Oncology, for explanations, with the result I told you of above. Y, the Chair of the ... Cancer Program at the ... Cancer Centre just stonewalled—it was really quite remarkable how s/he could avoid giving answers. S/he did tell me that Tamoxifen could cause endometrial cancer, but s/he certainly didn’t inform me of the dangers of radiation (compare Radiation as a cancer cause) or answer any of my questions about the aftereffects I was experiencing. After sending letters all over the place, I finally received a response from Z who was Director of the ... Cancer Program at that time. He left for a position in another country soon after. He told me that, yes, radiation does lead to a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. However (he reassured me), it could be as much as ten years before I developed heart problems, and it certainly would be at least five!

I then began to write letters about the way I had been treated at the ... Cancer Clinic. I sent registered letters to my MLA, the Health Minister, the ... Ombudsman, and the President and CEO of the ... Cancer Board. This President of the Cancer Board sent me a registered letter back informing me that the treatment I had received was in accordance with “protocol”. In other words, one size fits all, and no one is treated according to their particular cancer and priorities. So much for receiving minimal treatment as per the Chief of Surgical Oncology’s promises! The Ombudsman replied that his mandate did not extend to the ... Regional Health Authority or the ... Cancer Board. I finally contacted a lawyer, who informed me that, whatever the rights or wrongs of a case, no individual can challenge a doctor, particularly a specialist, on anything but the most gross misconduct, because of the money involved in taking on not only the doctor, but his various associations and his insurance provider. The lawyer told me that such a case would be protracted, and that even a wealthy individual (which I certainly wasn’t) would run out of money before winning. So I learned that there is no advocacy for patients.

Since then, of course, I’ve found out about the politics of cancer—that conventional treatment is a multi-billion dollar industry and far too profitable to be challenged just because it’s horrific and cruel and doesn’t cure cancer (compare On Cancer Business). “Curing” minor, low-grade cancers like mine by this method is rather like “curing” a hangnail by cutting off a finger. But of course, we don’t want to cure such a profitable disease, do we? So we certainly don’t want information about gentler, more effectual, alternative treatments to get out to the public at large. If I’d known even a fraction of what I know now about alternative treatment, I would never have gone anywhere near the ... Cancer Centre. But I didn’t even know there were alternatives to conventional treatment. It took me three years to accumulate the knowledge I have now, and I only did it when the utter callousness and lack of integrity I was shown at the ... Cancer Centre led me to question the treatment I had received. How many women, when faced with cancer, would be cool and level-headed enough to research in depth before giving in to the kind of pressure that doctors exert on people, telling them that there’s absolutely no time to be lost in beginning treatment?

So that is my story... It’s upset me to delve into all of this again, and it’s taken me a long time to get it together. But if it will do anything at all to alert people and lead them to question this evil industry, it will have been worth it.

L. P.
Calgary, Alberta

Personal note by L.

(I have L.’s permission to add these personal thoughts she sent me:)

“I have felt very alone with my distress over what happened to me. I've longed to meet other women who feel as I do -- maybe start up some kind of support group, but I get the impression that many other women (and cancer sufferers in general) just accept the horrors of conventional cancer treatment without question. Sometimes I feel as though I'm from another planet. I've learned not to say anything about myself (except to my counsellor, of course, and now to you).

The lawyer told me that there might be a better chance of bringing things to light if a group of patients started a class action suit. A friend of mine told me that [the same surgeon] cut off the breast of a friend of her daughter's and that it turned out to be perfectly healthy -- the woman didn't even have cancer. I told her to pass on my name and ask the lady to contact me. However, nothing further has happened. I have no idea who this woman might be, or if my friend's information was even correct. So how can a person go anywhere with this?

I'd like to see supporters of alternative care more in touch with one another. Right now, we all seem to be "voices in the wilderness". We would be more effectual if there was an official group supporting alternative cancer remedies. Perhaps there is, but I haven't found it yet.”

If you’d like to contact L. personally, pls e-mail her at vklpearceATyahoo.ca.

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