Questions to ask

David Bognar has a list of questions to ask as you consider alternative therapies:

• Do you believe in the approach?

• Does it fit with your belief system?

• Do you have the time to do what is required?

• Can you afford it?[2]


Cancer: Increasing Your Odds for Survival: A Resource Guide for Integrating Mainstream, Alternative and Complementary Therapies
David Bognar

Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Cancer
W. John Diamond and W. Lee Cowden, with Burton Goldberg

How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine
Michael T. Murray, Tim Birdsall, Joseph E. Pizzorno, Paul Reilly

Blended Beauty: Botanical Secrets for Body and Soul
Michael Castleman

Complementary therapies

Choosing what’s right for you

David Bognar, author of Cancer: Increasing Your Odds for Survival, says, “The first step in choosing an alternative treatment is knowing your odds with conventional treatment…. No matter what your odds are, complementary therapies should be able to increase your survival odds and improve your quality of life. As with any treatment, however, do not rush to action before you have done your homework.”[1]

From my research and experience, I could not find one single complementary or alternative treatment, or even a combination of treatments, that I felt could rightfully take the place of conventional treatment for my breast cancer. Having said that, complementary medicine was a powerful tool for me during my healing process. I found it particularly useful in dealing with the effects of chemotherapy and radiation and during my recovery from surgery.

From a spiritual perspective, just as I saw food as a means of delivering spiritual light to my body, I saw each herb or remedy or treatment as a means to provide my body with the healing light that it needed. When you look at is this way, the particular cup or “chalice” that the light comes in is not so important. It is all a matter of which delivery system works for you. Just as you might use your favorite mug for your coffee, I might choose a fine teacup for my herbal tea. What relieves the patient’s thirst is really the contents of the vessel. We could debate all day about which cup is better, but it is the contents, the light, that performs the healing.

I believe, as do many patients, therapists, and more and more members of the medical profession, that complementary methods can be very helpful in the treatment of cancer. I know firsthand that these treatments can assist the body and the mind as well as the emotions. They also smoothed the rough edges of the traditional treatments for me.

I would not recommend complementary therapies as a replacement for proper medical care or accurate diagnosis, but these therapies can be wonderful adjuncts to healing. For example, a symptom of tiredness can mean a number of things in a cancer patient. It could be caused by the cancer itself, it could be a side effect of the treatment, or it could have a psychological component from the stress and anxiety of being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Conventional medicine has limited options to deal with these kinds of issues, but there are numerous complementary therapies that address low energy levels in the body.

Be selective

There are many different complementary techniques and products available, and you could end up spending a lot of time, energy, and money treating your body. This is in addition to taking mouthfuls of pills and capsules each mealtime. My advice is to be selective.

I turned down far more methods than I adopted. And that was sometimes hard to do, especially when friends and relatives lovingly offered them to me because they desired to see me healed. Sometimes I tried things that did not really appeal to me, particularly in those early days. I thought, “What have I got to lose?” or “Maybe they will help.” But in the end, I did not continue with many of them. There is only so much that you can do and take each day and there is only so much that your body can absorb. Second, and probably more importantly, for something to work for me, the first requirement is that I believe in it.

After researching the alternatives, I chose those that seemed most appropriate for me. I prayed and asked for direction and often felt a sense of the rightness of each product that I took.

Some of the methods that assisted me were acupuncture, Bach Flower Remedies, homeopathic remedies, Chinese and Western herbs, essential oils, therapeutic massage, and chiropractic. Here are some notes on some of the things that helped me. Do your research and choose what seems right for you.

(These remedies can usually be used safely in conjunction with standard medical treatments. However, some herbs and other remedies can interfere with the action of certain medications, so be sure to let your medical doctor and your naturopath know about all the medications you are taking—both traditional and complementary.)  


1. David Bognar, Cancer: Increasing Your Odds for Survival (Alameda, Calif.: Hunter House Publishers, 1998), p. 78.

2. Ibid., p. 79.


Excerpted from A Journey through Cancer, by Neroli Duffy