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Of No Party or Clique

“Of no party or clique” was the founding motto of The Atlantic, and has served them well for over 160 years. A subscriber, it grabbed my attention as an always-prescient moniker in relation to my take on findings and publications on cancer research, and suggestions and recommendations for prevention, treatment, and survivorship—basically, the overall intake and distillation of information pertaining to cancer.

The magazine says that, in practice, ‘of no party or clique’ means: “…we should aspire to present each article or argument on its merits, and not as expressions of some other agenda.” Their motto is supported, in-house, with five key points.

ONE: The Atlantic looks for truth more than it seeks a story. Their values include honest reporting, even if that means giving up on the shiny optics and glamour of the narrative.

Cancer research and treatment is largely a for-profit endeavor; there are plenty of good apples, in addition to some questionable actors who operate in various settings and silos, and whose core objective is to lock-in commitments from cancer patients to stick with only their course of recommended action or treatment.

TWO: The Atlantic is proud of their drive to always explore, instead of thinking and acting like they have ‘arrived’.

An open mind in journalism is essential. It’s paramount in cancer research and care too. Pioneering scientists share common traits of unrelenting courage and an insatiable curiosity.

Science moves fast—a layperson researcher, either diagnosed or acting on behalf of a loved one, cannot be expected to operate at the level of trained academics, but can stay engaged, resourceful, and prepare searches and intake with an investigator’s attitude.

Those who give up too soon on exploration, or fail to search all practical avenues, can fall short of optimal outcomes. There is viable science in many areas, therefore it’s important not to fall into the trap of believing there is only one single standard of care—one choice to go with regarding treatment. Occasionally there might be only one way, and I’ll touch on that later in this essay, but to explore multiple options first can make all the difference in achieving deep and durable positive responses to care.

THREE: The publication advocates ascribing to what matters now and what will matter in the future. They are serious about keeping their audience up-to-date nationally and internationally, and report what the news means today, and what it will mean going forward.

Assessing how things might ‘look’ and ‘feel’ in the future is hugely important to our health, and in the projection of our survivorship. When weighing the various options, it’s vital to use a wide-angle lens.  After all, each of us is unique. And to some extent, large or small, we as hosts will respond differently along the journey.

How unique are we from each other?

For starters, there are differences in disease mutations, the microbiome, our genetics, our individual lifestyles, and our overarching physical and emotional health.

Then there’s our social community and connectedness, geographical access, economic access, and logistical and demographic realities of treatment—the actual delivery of traditional care—that all combine to inform how we will ultimately respond over the long term.

FOUR: The longstanding ‘of no party or clique’ attitude allows The Atlantic (and us) to embrace a diversity of perspectives.

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They state: “No story is ever complete, no argument is ever perfect, and debates worth having tend to shift and turn more than they end. So we can never rely on a single point of view, or even on a “balance” of two.”

This is completely true in science. Multiple points of view engage dialogue, which invites further investigation, which leads to new information. Shifting and turning doesn’t discount old information—it adds to it. We need to forever update, share, and maintain an interest—an interest to build upon existing literature.

Conventional cancer care treatment can be harmful.

Natural cancer care treatment can be harmful.

Integrative health advocates, integrative oncology investigators and practitioners, and conventional cancer care scientists and providers should be indispensable members of a collective charged with finding and/or delivering life-extending or life-saving solutions. The outcomes from all groups can contribute to a ‘whole’: a chosen route, a personalized plan, a customized program of protocols. The collective conclusions from each specialty form a valuable fount of information from which an individual’s care plan can be created.

Ultimately it is vital to acknowledge that, just as each patient is individual, so is each professional who contributes toward the treatment and, ideally, healing process. Each segment of research and clinical discipline can be critically important for the prevention, treatment, and overall survival of those affected by cancer.

FIVE: The Atlantic purports to immerse itself and its readers in the world—instead of providing an escape from it. They are wholeheartedly invested in this by fully engaging all points of view, with people who see things differently from how others see things. This kind of engagement uncovers new lines of inquiry, employs myriad disciplines, and invites multiple players, to bring forth a fresh and insightful study.

This is thought leadership at its best. By addressing the closed door, one- avenue-policy versus embracing points from all camps, the output is stronger than the single inputs. Diligent, open-minded research is queen, and intelligent integration is king.

Good medicine and health creation is a science and an art. It requires empathy and fundamental driving principles upon which to discover what can potentially help a patient. The responsible solution with the most successful outcomes is to boldly ascribe to ‘no party or clique’ and then apply the combined information—even if it breaks all norms of standard care.

Of No Party or Clique… Because No One Entity Has All the Right Answers

As The Atlantic carries out its commitments to readers, it champions a consistent foundation of integrity, courage, and curiosity—the kind of thinking that is directly responsible for success. What is a proven formula for well over a century, should surely fit as an example of how we—laypeople—can operate in our own gathering and consideration of information.

I Live this Maxim

The subtitle of my book, n of 1, reads: “One Man’s Harvard-Documented Remission of Incurable Cancer Using Only Natural Methods”. Many folks read that and immediately assume I must fall squarely into the alternative cancer care ‘bucket’.

This is simply false. Because I am aligned with no party or clique.

I advocate neither alternative cancer care in lieu of proven standard care (delivered with curative intent), nor conventional cancer care alone—that is, without appropriate protection of the host environment. You are the host environment!

A lightening rod to some, there remains confusion about my refusal of standard care—in this case chemotherapy, steroids, and a monoclonal antibody—during an acute period of debilitating leukemia.

Let me explain: I advocate for the best approaches to prevent and treat cancer, be they chemically-derived or naturally-based—with the latter typically much less toxic, but not without risk, especially when used alone.

Without a deeper dive into my story, or curiosity about my perspective, I get why some people make false assumptions on where I stand. Because…

People are searching for quick answers and solutions for complex situations, and the internet is a big and noisy place.

Many of us skim content. A phrase here, a short passage there. Let’s face it: when it comes to cancer, it’s difficult to distinguish between high-quality sources of information and dangerous purveyors of cancer-related products, services, and so-called instant cures.

Certainly not everyone has read my book or the peer-reviewed and published case report capturing my clinical journey. And not everyone is reading to the bottom of each post I publish—especially long ones like this. But you do, right? :)

In this piece on cancer advocacy, I described how my brand of cancer advocacy has been informed. In this related article, I vent on my challenges and frustrations of participating in cancer support groups.

This venting is because my viewpoint rarely aligns with group administrators and moderators, where ‘allowable’ dialogue and exchanges of ideas are too often reduced to focusing squarely on conventional drug therapy and symptoms—symptoms caused by disease and those caused by treatment itself. This is what cancer support group monitors and, alas, many of the participants mostly discuss and seem to care about. Rarely are there substantive discussions on how to become the healthiest person possible—emotionally and physically—for the person who happens to be on the cancer journey. To me this is incredibly confounding.

When it comes right down to it, I couldn’t care less what comprises a cancer treatment, or what is labeled a health creation intervention—be it ‘natural’, a machine, tool, or chemically-derived—so long as it has been proven effective, is generally regarded as safe, and is sensibly priced.

I am not married to a singular approach to preventing cancer, treating cancer, or to the best path toward ensuring long-term survival.

The deeper dive into what constitutes effective and safe in conventional cancer care—both short- and long-term—is a critical (and exhaustive) topic for another day.

The discussion of inherent limitations, challenges, and opportunities for testing natural products with no or little commercial viability, or the uneven quality of too many commercially available supplement products, are among an extensive set of important issues I have covered in the past.

On that note, there are myriad contributors who help ensure various safety control measures in treatment. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has done an excellent job maintaining their important herb-drug interactions database.

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I am fortunate to have healthy, longtime relationships and support from leading clinicians and investigators from the major U.S. cancer centers—including a past president of the American Cancer Society, a current Harvard dean, and numerous leading clinician-scientist academicians—comprising leading experts for specific types of malignant disease.

While some among this group of cancer experts are also steeped in integrative oncology or the core tenets of lifestyle medicine, most cancer practitioners are not. (Are the expectations you have for your oncologist unrealistic?)

As I mentioned in the five points from The Atlantic, integrative health advocates, integrative oncology investigators and practitioners, and conventional cancer care scientists and physicians are each critically important for the prevention, treatment, and overall survival of those affected by cancer.

Yes I did refuse chemo in 2003 to pursue an alternative approach, for the numerous reasons elucidated here. But mine was a heavily monitored, careful experiment that included twice-weekly blood draws, and frequent visits with my oncologists—to measure the actual effects of my choices. 

If You Chart a Different Path, Measure Your Progress

For those who refuse standard care, I strongly advocate that you preserve your relationship with your oncologist. Agree on a set of diagnostic tests to best monitor the regression or evolution of the malignancy. If you are following any treatment regimen, conventional or otherwise, you need to closely monitor whether it is having an effect on the cancer you are hosting. This way, should there be disease progression; you may be better positioned to consider other options still available.

When Less is More, and Quality of Life Reigns

Many older people—and those not in overall good health—must be exceptionally careful when weighing treatment decisions. Quality of life over a shorter term should trump the potential of a longer life after undergoing intense treatment regimens because sometimes cancer care can hasten death.

When All Options Should Be Brought to Bear

There are situations where ominous diagnoses are exceptions. Think pancreatic cancer or glioblastoma multiforme, where average survival time, from diagnosis, is typically measured in months, not years. Or consider other cases where there have been multiple relapses; and/or minimal scientific evidence that supports a recommended drug regimen currently available.

This is when all options should be on the table: trials, experimental therapies, alternative therapies, travel outside your country of origin to carefully seek innovation. It is also when there tends to be quite limited literature to support the strategy proffered by (hopefully) well-intended clinicians. It is these times when the art of cancer care intersects with evidence-based or evidence-informed cancer treatment options.

Each Person, Each Cancer, Is Different

Each situation is different, because we are each an experiment of one—an n of 1. Many early stage diagnoses of cancer are straightforward. The standard of care is proven and effective—and protecting the host with integrative oncology approaches can dovetail beautifully into a managed care plan.

Other times, the standard of care, informed by NCCN Guidelines, can be interpreted in multiple ways. A deeper look may be called for. Myriad particulars need to be weighed. Options should be pursued, by getting second or third opinions by experts of the specific disease you may be hosting, at one or more NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers.

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If you become a coaching client, we will talk through your options based on the current science and your unique needs and goals, and I will ultimately respect your decisions.

My practices advance my views, and they also advantage my clients. I will never limit my cancer worldview or wholly align with any one party or clique because, when it comes to cancer prevention, treatment, and ensuring long-term survival, we need more, not less, personalized options and answers to help ensure quality, durable outcomes.