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Guest Editor | Women who resorted to non-traditional treatments and died

Published:Thursday | August 31, 2017 | 12:00 AMLynford Simpson

Below are two cases of women who not only hid the fact that they had cancer, but who also resorted to non-traditional treatments, with unfavourable outcomes. The names of the women have been changed and their doctors' names withheld.


Case #1: In denial until the end


Marcia* was a 38-year-old intelligent woman who had a malignant breast lump surgically removed in about 1988. Because of the fear of traditional treatments, she did not agree to have chemotherapy or radiation therapy at that time. Instead, she was convinced that vitamins like Selenium would have been enough to cure her. Five years later, in 1993, Marcia had a recurrence of the breast cancer in the form of another lump in the breast, which was again confirmed by a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. This time, instead of removing the lump or the breast as was recommended, she went to a doctor who injected a formula into the breast lump every day for 30 days and who assured her that at the end of the 30-day period, all the malignant cells in the breast lump would be dead. Thereafter, Marcia returned to have another fine-needle aspiration biopsy to confirm what her doctor had told her about the death of the tumour. On this occasion, the cancer cells were not only very much alive, but appeared more aggressive. It was again suggested that she consider removing the cancerous lump at this time before it was too late. Marcia did not agree with this recommendation and continued receiving alternative non-traditional remedies from her doctor, with the assurance that they were on the right path to finding a cure for the cancer.

However, the lump continued to get larger as Marcia insisted that she did not want to expose herself to traditional treatments that would damage her body.

In 1997, Marcia noticed a hard mass at the base of her neck. The mass was subjected to a biopsy, which confirmed the spread of the cancer into a neck lymph node. Marcia was still in denial about the cancer diagnosis and its spread and spent thousands of dollars more, trying other non-traditional ways to treat what was happening to her.

In 1999, more hard masses began to grow at the base and sides of her neck. The repeat biopsies again confirmed that the cancer was continuing to spread uncontrollably throughout her body. Eventually, Marcia decided to try traditional methods to stop the spread of the disease, but it was too late. Unfortunately, she was no longer a candidate for surgery. She was started on traditional chemotherapy and radiation, but at this time, the tumour masses were too large for her to have an effective response to these treatments. Marcia died of cancer burden in 2002. The doctor's diagnosis was that Marcia clearly had a slow-growing tumour that could have been effectively controlled with the proper, traditional treatment.


Case #2: She didn't want her daughter to know


Sandra* was 40 years old. She discovered a mass in her breast in 2007. When she was examined, it was discovered that she also had an enlarged node under her arm. Biopsies done on both areas revealed that the breast lump was cancerous and had spread to a lymph node under her arm. Sandra was the mother of a young daughter in primary school. She decided to have a traditional mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.

Sandra did not respond well to the treatment, and within two years, she developed another cancerous lump in the other breast. She was subjected to a mastectomy of this breast but refused chemotherapy. She decided to try natural alternative methods to treat the cancer because she did not want her daughter to know about her diagnosis and to worry about her. Her reason for not telling her daughter was that the daughter's godmother had previously died from breast cancer.

In 2011, after the double mastectomy, two masses were discovered in a chest wall muscle. At this time, Sandra still insisted that she could be cured by non-traditional alternative methods, so she checked herself into a facility in the United States that offered such treatments. After a week and a half, she returned home, believing that she was on her way to being cured of the cancer. However, a repeat ultrasound and biopsy once again confirmed the presence of a mass in her chest wall muscle. Sandra still refused any further traditional therapy because her daughter, who was now older, was likely to suspect that her mother was suffering from cancer. Sandra died from cancer burden within a year.