A Natural Path to Health: a Friend's Journey with Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. In recognition of it, my friend graphic designer and breast cancer survivor, Judy Stuhmer has agreed to share her journey to health with the help of naturopathic medicine.
On March 29, 2004-my 36th birthday-I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of stage 1 breast cancer. Ultimately, I had a lumpectomy (and also a second surgery to gain clear margins where they removed my tumor), three months of chemotherapy followed by about two months of radiation.
Prior to that diagnosis, I was seeing a naturopath so I was familiar with alternative medicine. After discovering my lump, my doctor sent me for an evaluation. A biopsy confirmed I did indeed have cancer. Two surgeries later I had to decide what kind of treatment plan I was going to do. I have never been sick before in my life and had never known anyone personally who had gone through any kind of cancer treatment. I was terrified with what I was reading about chemotherapy and the types of drugs used and what they did to the patient's body. I knew I had to have chemo, however I wanted to avoid certain drugs that were known to cure breast cancer, but may later have detrimental effects on the heart. I got recommendations from three different oncologists. I decided to go with an oncologist who practiced at a clinic, which employed a combination of allopathic and naturopathic doctors. For me, my oncologist's chemo regimen made the most sense. I went through chemo once a week for three months.
During that time, I also saw a naturopath who specialized in cancer care, on a regular basis. For me the naturopathic care had a preventative approach, and ultimately helped reduce and counter any negative side-effects from the chemo such as mouth sores, neuropathy, fatigue, infections, etc. My naturopath worked in conjunction with my oncologist, and had me using various supplements and methods that I can honestly say were crucial to my treatment. I tolerated the chemo extremely well, and I attribute this to the regimen prescribed by my naturopath, including acupuncture. During that time I became friends with several women all going through various stages of breast cancer treatment, who did not follow a naturopathic protocol and had much more difficulty with their treatment.
I have been considered cancer free since the end of my active treatment in 2004. My naturopath remains my primary care physician to this day. Since then, a lot of my cancer friends have been more and more open to alternative medicine. I can't say enough about naturopathic and alternative medicine and how it helps me maintain a healthy, balanced life. I believe wholeheartedly in the philosophy and preventative approach of naturopathic medicine, and know that it allows me to live a better life, every day.