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Cancer Sucks: Cancer and Chiropractic

Ed. note:  Right now Cancer Sucks is being written by two different women.  So far we have only heard from Kicking CancerInThePants.  Today we’ll be switching over to Jenn for her first installment.

My name is Jenn, and I am a future chiropractor. I was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

I’m a married 40-year-old chiropractic student with a 15-year-old I share with my husband and his first wife, who is one of my best friends. I usually live off the radar. I am quiet, not a gossipy person and don’t like cliques and exclusionists. I have friends from all walks of life and love them all with my whole heart.

I received my cancer diagnosis not once but three times. I was given a 95% chance of having invasive breast carcinoma. I found the lump the Wednesday night of finals week of winter quarter. Saw the OB/GYN the next day, had the mammograms and ultrasound and close-up mammograms (first diagnosis) by the end of the week, and met the surgeon Monday (second diagnosis). The Thursday morning of break, four days before spring quarter started, I had surgery and afterwards, the surgeon again reiterated his diagnosis to my husband and my mom who flew in from Oregon. Again, the diagnosis upon examination of the excised tissue was 95% chance of malignancy. The surgeon’s PA later stated that the surgeon was being “conservative.”

The size of the lump I found, guided solely to that spot by the innate one evening while changing clothes, was 2×3 mm. The size of the mass they removed during the “breast conservation surgery” (vs. radical mastectomy based on the triple diagnosis) was 3.5 cm, leaving a 4-inch scar on an area of my body many women associate with their very femininity. Most of the time I leave the compression bandages on, letting the surgeon remove them for examinations and such. The next conversation my surgeon wants to have is a talk about reconstructive surgery, but I am not sure how I feel about that quite yet.

This all happened fast. Really fast. Like boom, boom, boom fast. Before I knew it, within one week I was physically scarred for the rest of my life. But it was a blessing overall that we did not proceed with the mastectomy, as the pathology came back with a diagnosis of granulomatous lobular mastitis, a very rare condition which mimics, nearly identically, invasive breast carcinoma.

I was in the 5% category. I dodged the bullet, and I cannot begin to describe how thankful I am for that.

While I was recovering from surgery, waiting the full week before pathology came back, I started a charity craft project to raise money to go to women who cannot afford mammograms called “Beads for Boobs.” But something else was on my mind while I waited at home before classes started this quarter: how would I be received on campus?

You see, a large number of chiropractic students as well as chiropractors themselves believe that medical intervention should not be necessary if one receives regular adjustments. Part of this rings true; better spinal alignment leads to less nerve interference, allowing the body to respond better to the environment while less stress is experienced by the body. This allows our bodies’ own innate intelligence to regulate itself without typical allopathic interjection. I do believe that in whole. However, some in chiropractic believe that EVERYTHING can be fixed or cured, type 1 diabetes for instance, with the “right adjustment.” And while opinions are like heinies, everyone has one, I ask for respect in return regarding my own beliefs. And my belief says that cancer cannot be necessarily curtailed proactively via regular chiropractic care. It helps, especially during cancer treatment for allowing the body to be on top point, but is not a surefire cure or preventative.

As Dr. Koch, a professor of mine, will tell you, an adjustment would not have helped his retinas reattach. That had to be done by an ophthalmic surgeon who specialized in retinas just as my circumstance had me relying on a surgeon who specialized in breast cancer.

I still had no pathology report before school started again and carried around within me the worry that I, too, would hear the same rumblings in passing, that if I had gotten adjusted or lived a more vitalistic lifestyle I wouldn’t have had the breast mass. The assumption, however, by my medical team was that the mass was driven by hormones. If it indeed came back as malignant, along with node biopsies and other procedures, I would have had to go on hormone-blocking agents to prevent a recurrence.

I rarely get colds and never get the flu. I have had neuro work done and recovered from Guillaume-Barre syndrome with the help of chiropractic. I love chiropractic and its potential so much that I am here at 40 years old studying to be a chiropractor. And while this surgery has changed me forever in a lot of ways, I celebrate every sunrise, raindrop, and star in the sky every single day because I have received a reprieve from the triple diagnosis. A reprieve many, like my aunt and sister-in-law, did not have. I am now passionately motivated to raise money for women who cannot afford to get mammograms so they can have them proactively and reactively.

I am researching cancer treatments that combine the acknowledgement of innate intelligence and chiropractic, which may lead me to practice focusing a specialization in working with patients who are going through surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. I am thankful, thankful that I still have that possibility in my future.

The statistics for breast cancer are below, but the most hard-hitting is that 1 in fewer than 8 women will have invasive breast cancer at some point in her life. This can happen to anyone, even men. Breast cancer awareness even has its own month, but self-checks should be done monthly, and if you are 40 or older, annual mammograms are recommended. If you have had a lump, mass, or are cystic, you will want to discuss alternative screening timelines with your OB/GYN and DC.

The American Cancer Society’s most recent estimates for breast cancer in the United States are for 2010:

  • About 207,090 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women
  • About 54,010 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be found (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
  • About 39,840 deaths from breast cancer (women)
  • Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
  • The chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer some time during her life is a little less than 1 in 8.
  • The chance of dying from breast cancer is about 1 in 35. Breast cancer death rates have been going down. This is probably the result of finding the cancer earlier and better treatment.
  • Right now there are more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

6 replies on “Cancer Sucks: Cancer and Chiropractic”

Thanks Jenn for your story. I don’t care what other people are thinking about you in the hallways. What you can teach others is how to go through a health crisis with your own critical thinking skills intact. Fear and impulsivity lead us to make poorly informed choices. Our chiropractic friends who think adjustments and vitalistic living are enough for good health don’t understand the stresses we are bombarded with everyday. Chiropractic is my #1 health care choice, but we can’t take for granted stress such as pollution, chemicals in food, cell phones etc. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

I have a PhD and did pharmaceutical research for 20 years before becoming a chiropractor, so I’ve lived in both the allopathic and chiropractic worlds. Sadly, there are narrow-minded bashers on both sides. I understand the stigma you feared in going back to school, and you’ll find your center through this experience. It happened for me right after I finished first quarter at Life and got pneumonia during the break. I got adjusted AND got antibiotics, but I felt like a failure for the antibiotics. My body thanked me, but it took a while for my mind to wrap around the concept of BOTH being essential for my recovery. During my 11 years of practice as a chiropractor, my patients appreciated the fact that I worked WITH their other doctors rather than trying to pull them away.

And 14 years of the best chiropractic care around didn’t prevent me from getting cancer, either, but I’ll still be getting adjusted so my body can respond in the most effective way possible to what I’m going through.

Wow, general comment fail. Whether chiropractics work or not is irrelevant here, what is important is that while leading a very healthy life you can still get cancer, it can hit anyone. Jenn is trying to come to terms with the fact that you can’t always prevent cancer. My boyfriend has healthier habits than pretty much anyone I know and that didn’t prevent his cancer or his two relapses. (He’s one year clean this week though!)

Jenn, I wish you the best in your recovery and I hope that you get that clean bill of health in five years!

—best wishes for your health and your studies!

The power that made the body, heals the body. Amanda, I am sorry you and I don’t see eye to eye on the benefits of chiropractic, but the evidence is available to anyone who researches it that strokes are more prevalent in allopathic medical cases vs in chiropractic. Did you know malpractice insurance for chiropractors, who take 4 1/2 years of graduate school and board exams in order to work with patients, is less than 5% of what MDs pay? That’s indicative of the danger behind treatment of a qualified and good chiropractor. Chiropractic aligns the spine, freeing the nerves from impingement and stress, which allows the body to respond better to what is thrown it’s way. In a perfect world, MDs and DCs would work together in patient care. I have always been an advocate for natural health remedies, after all, how on earth did we survive before the pharmacology companies existed? Thank you for a challenging discussion. My best always, Jenn

I can respect you as a person without respecting your beliefs. It is wonderful what you’re doing with your charity and that your outcome has been so good, your story is truly uplifting. However, there is no evidence that the very basis of chiropractic exists – this life energy and innate intelligence that is talked about. At the very best, it is an expensive placebo and at the worst it is believed that some manipulations are linked to stroke-causing blood clots. There is proof that done correctly, chiropractic can alleviate back pain. There is no evidence of any other benefit despite the many studies that have been performed.

I’m disappointed to see an endorsement like this on Persephone, since it’s been a lovely refuge of feminism and rationalism up until now.

Did we read the same article? What I got from it is that she was worried that was what other people would think, because of the number of people who believe that proper alignment cures everything. The symptoms that she talks about having been helped by chiropractic work are all neurological in nature, which can be helped by adjustment (I say this as someone who is currently battling what they suspect to be a pinched intracostal nerve, which is causing all kinds of other problems). Having one problem in the body can allow other problems to spring up, and keeping the body in as good shape as you can is important.

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