Days Like This Make It All Worth It
I don’t post very often regarding patients, but some moments just tug at the heart. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. I began working with an esophageal cancer patient in the fall, who wanted to utilize Naturopathic Medicine in conjunction with oncology treatments (a combination of chemotherapy and radiation). The goal was to shrink the mass in the esophagus to allow for safe surgical removal at some point in the new year. The patient was a little anxious along the way (as so many are during treatments for a variety of reasons). Sometimes you just have a feeling someone will do well, and I told the patient on our second visit that I had a good feeling. Sometimes the patient’s vitality, determination, attitude and state of health at the time (cancer aside) all shine at you. And you have a feeling. I even said to the patient a few treatments in, “Wouldn’t it be great if on your next CT the mass would be gone”. The patient, chuckling, said something along the lines of “Now that would be something”.
I have online access to all of the patient’s reports with the patient’s permission. Last week was the CT scan to see how the patient responded to the oncology treatments and to give the surgeon an idea as to how to proceed with surgery, and the risks, if any, that will be involved. I read the report. “The focal round mass seen in the prior CT scan is no longer identified”. There is still some tissue thickening in the esophagus which could be the residual impact of the multiple radiation treatments to the area, or some residual cancer perhaps, but regardless, what an excellent outcome.
Again, to make it clear, the patient in this case went through a round of chemotherapy and radiation, combined with naturopathic medicine, we’ll say as a supportive group of therapies tailored specifically to the patients needs and goals. Not just one or the other. Sure, some in the medical world would say that the patient just
responded extraordinarily well to the chemo and radiation. Some in the naturopathic world would say it’s only because of the ‘natural things’ that such a result was attained. I think in part the outcome is a result of what the patient believed was the best course of treatment, what the patient believed had to be done to get well, and then following that gut feeling and being consistent with it. I always say to people that they have to work with the treatments they feel in their heart will work, as long as they are educated about all of their options. If that’s just working with chemo, well that’s what’s going to work best for them. If it’s working with both medical and naturopathic together, as in this case, well, that’s what will give you your best result. Yes the two can work very well together if combined properly. There are never any guarantees in health, ever. Sometimes people can do everything ‘right’ and not get the result hoped for. But sometimes people can do everything ‘right’ and get results beyond which they were hoping for.
I was so happy while discussing the results with the patient yesterday and talking about how we can move forward at this point. For all the challenges that come with working with cancer in practice, there are some moments that make it all worth it. This was one of those moments.
Yours in health,
Dr. Jeff Appelmann, BSc, ND