In the Pink: Combining traditional, alternative medicine to treat breast cancer
When Dana Cummins had a malignant tumor on her bladder 12 years ago, she didn’t find what oncologists were telling her to be promising.
“They were like ‘we don’t even know why you’re alive. You have two billion pathogens past the point. You should have already died from kidney failure,’” Cummins said.
So she decided to bypass their suggestions to do various testing to find out what to do about the situation.
Instead, she turned to her instincts and decided to rely solely on alternative methods of treatment and her own willpower to fight her terminal illness.
She took various herbs like olive leaf extract and a lymph node detox tonic; underwent many acupuncture treatments; and frequently turned to her practice of metaphysics, the study of the fundamental nature of reality and existence, to manage her emotions and release unhealthy thoughts.
“If I had not done my metaphysics, I would have died,” Cummins said.
In a matter of about eight months, she beat her condition.
Since that trial in her life, she has guided others with similar conditions, including women with breast cancer, through things like energy healing sessions and self-help practices to strengthen their mind and body in such times of extreme duress.
Though she avoided allopathic methods for treating her condition 12 years ago, she does not condemn them.
“I recommend that they listen to their belief system,” Cummins said. “If you have a belief system that surgery is going to be the only thing that heals you, then go ahead and get the surgery done. But let’s also work on the emotional stuff. If you don’t deal with it, it will just recreate somewhere else.”
Once people begin to consider the physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect their health, and do not discriminate against any form of treatment, they move into the realm of integrative medicine.
“Integrative cancer medicine means combining all of the knowledge of regular oncology, regular medicine… with helping someone establish a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Robert Zieve, Medical director and coordinator of Partners in Integrative Cancer Therapies in Prescott.
“This means addressing what is going on in a person’s life relative to their sleep, energy, weight, diet, digestion, and help to correct some of those factors that can all be at play in terms of why a person develops a form of cancer.”
To identify an effective treatment plan for each individual, Zieve has his patients undergo a good number of tests, “many more than most surgeons or oncologists run,” he said.
He’s looking to see where the immune system is weak, whether or not there is chronic inflammation in parts of a patient’s body, and what sort of toxins are in the patient’s body that could have led to his or her specific condition.
“There is no one formula for curing cancer,” Zieve said. “Everybody has to be treated as an individual.”
For example, one patient Zieve is currently consulting for is a woman who has seen the fourth return of breast cancer in the same breast.
She has had severe anxiety and insomnia for decades that Zieve said none of her oncologists have been addressing.
“The reality of it is, if you don’t get enough sleep, you gain weight, which is where estrogen stores in the body,” Zieve said. “Estrogens store in the fatty tissue, and then they’re constantly being released, and then they stimulate cancer growth.”
Not sleeping well also weakens the immune system, he said.
“So we’re focusing on helping her sleep better and doing tests and treatments that help her turn the corner and get a better response with whatever therapy she wants to do,” Zieve said.
Cummins mimics the belief that no one treatment works for everyone.
“A lot of treatments are blanket treatments,” Cummins said. “We’re not blanket human beings. What we can handle is unique, and what our body is receptive to is unique.”