A few months ago I met someone in Portland (he actually lives less than 3 miles from me) who was recently diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma. His oncologist was my second opinion oncologist. He also sees a naturopath (a different one than mine) to keep himself healthy during chemo (he too is getting the same chemo I got) and to kill cancer the natural way with proven natural therapies. He and I have been comparing notes on our cancer adventures, everything from our differing natural treatments and supplements to our chemo similarities and side effects from it. It has been nice to have someone to talk to who really truly gets it. I know that my friends and family definitely understand that this has been a hard process but unless you are actually going through it yourself or have gone through it you just can't understand what it is like.
My friend and I ( I wont use his name here in respect for his privacy) have been comparing our expenses lately. We each take handfuls of supplements three or more times every day. We need these because our bodies have been damaged not only from our cancer but from the toxic chemo cocktails that kill good cells, cause kidney damage among a whole host of other organ damage, and can ultimately lead to a high chance of secondary cancers later in life. Supplements are not cheap people. My friend calculated his and they cost him $45 every day! That is $1350 every month or a whopping $16,200 every year! Keep in mind that of course you have to go see the doctor to talk to them about your situation before you even are prescribed the supplements you need. Those visits are NOT paid for by most insurance companies (certainly not MY insurance) and usually cost anywhere from $100-$300 each visit. Now throw in at least one nutritional IV per week (need those too, trust me if you don't get one for a few weeks you start slowing down and feeling horrible) at about $150-$200 each and you have yourself in bankruptcy.
The only way I was ever able to see a naturopath after my diagnosis was because I had nearly $40K in my savings account at the time. In the first year of treatment I spent every cent of this at my natruopath. Insurance did not cover one penny of any sort of natural treatment or supplement or office visit or blood work. Not one cent. My friend finds himself in the same situation with the difference that he also has a wife and two children. We keep saying the same thing to each other every time we talk.
"This is not sustainable."
We both want very much to regain our health and we can both feel that we are making progress toward that goal. We are both very aware of our bodies and their processes and if something is feeling better or worse. His doctor (the natural doc) is very pleased with his progress, as is mine is with my progress. Meanwhile, our oncologists are both doing what they do, which is tap our abdomen, squeeze our legs, ask us how we feel, then send us on our way until the next appointment upon which they will repeat the afore mentioned process. It is like they are just waiting for us to get worse so they can give us more chemo. It's not necessarily their fault, this is what they know. It may be all they know. Even if they did know more about diet and supplements they cannot recommend that you pursue them as a treatment. They could lose their license for that. So they wait for the cancer to come back so they can give chemotherapy which has been proven to be ineffective. Chemo has never cured cancer, it treats it, beats it back for a while and if the cancer does come back it is usually resistant to the previous chemo making it necessary to seek another form of treatment.
Until I began doing coffee enemas two days ago I had been feeling pretty bad for weeks. My liver had started hurting badly again, so bad sometimes that it would stop me in my tracks and take my breath away. Naturally I have been worrying a bit about scan day. After three coffee enemas I have less pain and I feel much less bloated. Another natural treatment for stimulating the liver and bile and detoxifying dead tumor material out of the liver but did my oncologist ever tell me this? Of course not. This has been used as an effective treatment for over 50 years! But no one can patent it. Chemotherapy costs $5K-$10K each treatment. Insurance covers this. Chemotherapy causes secondary cancers, organ damage and failure, and other problems. Health insurance will cover this too. They will cover your oxycodone, vicodin, prednisone, lorazepam, and hundreds of other pharmaceuticals that cause other health problems but they will not cover a $60 bottle of supplements or IV therapy or even a visit to a natural doctor to find out what you can do for yourself to be healthy so that you never have to rely on pharmaceuticals in the first place.
Since my liver has been hurting more lately it has gotten me thinking about "what if". What if the scan is bad and the cancer is growing again. What would I do? I know that oncologist would want to get me started on chemo again, but I have decided that I don't want to do that anymore. I barely made it through the last round with my health and sanity still somewhat intact and it has been over a year since my last treatment and I STILL deal with issues from it on a daily basis. Some have gotten better or gone away but some still persist making things like concentrating or organizing thoughts very difficult. I certainly don't want to go through that again.
This is where the dilemma begins. Insurance only covers chemotherapy and pharmaceuticals. It covers NOTHING at all related to NATURAL MEDICINE. So does this mean that if you have cancer you only get to live or be healthy if you are wealthy? It certainly seems that way to me. Our current system is set up to keep us reliant upon pharmaceuticals even when they are proven to more often do more damage to our bodies than good. I have barely used my insurance at all since I stopped going to chemotherapy. It covers my scans a couple of times a year and the occasional (about once every 4 months) office visits but other than that it does NOTHING for me at all unless I need an emergency room. The redeeming quality is that it does cover teeth cleaning now.
So where does that leave people like my friend and I? I hope it never comes to this with my friend but I will tell you where it leaves me.
I go without taking some of my supplements sometimes just to try to make them last longer. I am supposed to be getting nutritional IV's every week but I go every 3-4 weeks just to make them stretch farther because I can't afford to go every week. I might eat out twice a month. With the exception of going skiing once or twice a month, I never go anywhere because leaving my house (unless I go for a walk) always costs money (either gas or whatever it costs where you are going). It isn't easy but it is doable. This is one reason why I will never ever say "no" to a gift card (especially to Trader Joes, Fred Meyer, or Whole Foods, you can find my address near the top of the left column :). Next to natural care, groceries are my largest expense. I am going to make a consultation appointment with my friends naturopath to see what he suggest I do. My friend is on a much different plan than I am in this regards. It is hard for me to get to talk to my natural doc as office visits are expensive. The natural treatment that my friend is on are much different than mine and I think it would be worth me exploring other options toward health, especially IF the scan is bad news.
In the beginning I worked like a crazed madwoman trying to save my ass...some of the things that used to be crazy are now coming more routine and easy and more like the "norm". After quitting chemo I felt like I needed a break from so much commotion. Now I feel like I have been sitting on my laurels for too long. I guess it was my liver hurting a lot to make me really realize that I need to begin another phase in my healing journey. It is like it was pushing me into new territory. I know that in comparison to some it seems like I do a lot to keep myself healthy and it is true. It is pretty much a full time job that always requires attention. But like I said, some things you get used to. I feel like I need to be doing more to help myself, especially since the doctors aren't. Hey, I'm not their only patient and besides I have no money to grease the gears. It has been a long, long time since anyone really did a thorough check up on me, ran blood tests, looked for cancer markers of all kinds (not just the unreliable CA19-9 test or an unreliable CT scan) and started finding more angles to approach some cancer assassination, detoxification and ultimately wonderful, blissful health!
The only problem is that insurance does not cover this. So that is the story. It would appear that you only get to be healthy if you have enough money to do so in our society today. Why are things like milk thistle, green tea extract, and vitamins not covered by insurance? Why? Why can't we prevent sickness and illness instead of throwing drugs at them when we become ill? Doesn't it make more sense to cover a few hundred dollars in supplements and natural therapy than hundreds of thousands in pharmaceuticals? Why are we treating sickness instead of promoting health?
My friend and I would like to know. If anyone could figure this out before we are bankrupt and out on the streets it would be nice.