Post Terminal Prognosis: Topic No. 3 – Conventional vs. Alternative Medicine

Based upon the nature of a terminal prognosis, generally speaking, the patient will more than likely die in six months or less regardless if they receive any form of treatment or not.

This is a very important factor to consider when addressing the issue of conventional vs. alternative medicine options, quantity vs. quality of life, etc.  Regardless as to which treatment options, if any, are chosen, it is important to keep in mind that there will be consequences to any decision.  As to whether the final decision(s) are right or wrong may very well be determined with the passage of time relative to the initial expectation that was the basis for making the decision, as well as the outcome.

For those who claim that money corrupts conventional medicine which is representative of “big pharma,” it is also important to remember that the “alternative” medicine arena generates over $34 billion a year which would also make it big business and susceptible to being influenced by money, as well.

Conventional Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

For all intents and purposes, conventional medicine is considered to be “science based” medicine that is supported by evidentiary data that it works.  The efficacy or effectiveness of conventional medicines is documented with such information being used by doctors when determining potential treatment options, if any, for terminally ill patients.

On the other hand, alternative medicine which includes a wide range of approaches, involves “alternative” treatment approaches that has limited or no information available as to the effectiveness in eradicating the underlying disease of a terminally ill patient.

While the anecdotal evidence seems to be endless when it comes to the sharing of information as to the effectiveness of alternative medicines such as cannabinoid-based products or the Gerson Therapy just to name a few, it is very important to remember that this is based upon informal personal testimony or stories.

In the simplest terms per Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, “all that matters…is what has been shown to be effective—whether that’s a pharmaceutical or something else entirely.  We have science-based medicine – stuff that works – and stuff that doesn’t…that’s the real distinction.”

He goes on to point out that should an alternative treatment prove to be effective based upon documented evidence, it will be reclassified as conventional medicine.

Although it has been nearly six years since the passing of my TiLO, I continue to follow developments within a wide range of medical treatments, conventional as well as alternative.  My motivation is quite personal in light of the high risk potential that my adult children and I have in someday having to possibly face some of the illnesses which claimed the lives of our loved ones.

In looking back at the very difficult chemo regimen that my TiLO, Melanie, had undergone prior to us switching her care over to a National Health Institute Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, unfortunately, I believe that money and ego may have played a role in the options that we were presented with at the time of her initial diagnosis, which was TNBC Stage IIIB.  I would come to learn 15 months later just one week before Mel passed that the medical oncologist who came highly recommended, had no prior experience in dealing with TNBC nor IBC let alone the even rarer combination of both at the same time.

I cannot begin to tell you how devastating it was for me to hear this from one of the partners in the medical oncology group, who was the specialist for my late wife’s extremely aggressive form of breast cancers.  He only learned of Mel’s medical condition at the time that he was coincidentally assigned to manage her care when she was admitted to ICU, again, 15 months after her initial diagnosis.

I share this information to underscore the importance of recognizing that while many within the conventional and alternative medicine arena may be well intentioned, practitioners within both fields may be just as motivated by money, ego, etc.  They, like all of us, are only human.

TiLOs, caregivers and loved ones who are actively engaged as a part of the caregiving effort, please work together to gather as much information as possible with respect to available treatment options.  Caregivers and loved ones, you do the heavy lifting in terms of doing most of the research.  Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Remember that with every decision there are consequences, good as well as bad.

Do doctors make mistakes?  Absolutely.  Does money corrupt?  Absolutely…within the conventional as well as the alternative medicine arenas.

Get a second or third opinion, if necessary.  However, please be prudent with your time for if the terminal prognosis is fairly sound, the underlying illness may be advancing.

Just as important, keep focused on trying to make the most of each day, one day at a time.

For TiLOs, caregivers and loved ones actively engaged in the caregiving efforts, please know that this is one of the most important crossroads that you will face following a terminal prognosis.  Work together.  Keep your hope and faith.  Believe.

Before you leap, sort of speak, be sure you understand the side effects of any form of treatment (conventional or alternative), consider the effectiveness compared to the severity of potential side effects, and be very clear as to any limitations as to follow up treatments to deal with any side effects or conflicts with other ongoing treatments.

Unlike other medical diagnosis or prognosis, in this instance, the one that you have received is believed to be terminal.  I believe that each end of life journey is unique.  As I have shared in prior blog posts, should you outlive the terminal prognosis…outstanding!!!

Hugs to one and all!!!

~D. Toru White~ 

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