The 6 letter curse word ,starts with C and deadly(literally).need your advice
July 13, 2010 11:40 PM   Subscribe

It's my first question here, ... and it's kinda heavy... I met a girl/lady. She 's the sweetest person, but she's got a lump inside one of hear breasts. Size of a big plum, except longer. She moved in to CA, has no health insurance and believes that holistic medicine alone will do the trick if it turned out to be a breast cancer... She would probably prefer - no chemical, no doc bs, better to live quicker happy, rather than slower but with pain kind of path, but I 'm worried and scared, maybe more than she is. I've heard that mammography and some other scan is needed to evaluate and that it's a sort of financial black hole. What to do folks? I need to get her checked, but both mine and her finances are at all times low/0. Please, any input will be greatly appreciated.
posted by DivineShadow to Health & Fitness (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
California only does free screenings for breast cancer for women 50 and over now, and might not even be doing that much since January 1st of this year-- welcome to a crashed economy, sadly.

That being said, the regional contractor offices for the cancer detection program *might* be able to point you to a low-cost screening program in your area; here is the list of regional contractors.

It's not much, but it's what I could dig up with some Googling. There are other MeFites with a harder social-services background; one of them is likely to come along with more information.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:48 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

If she really doesn't have any money, she may be eligible for Medi-Cal. That's the first place to start, and if she's eligible, it'll mean health insurance and treatment at a very low (or no) cost.

I'm sure most here will tell you that the holistic thing will only shrink her pocketbook. I agree. Not seeking medical treatment for breast cancer is a fast route to a very very very painful death, too -- I'm not sure why she thinks she can avoid pain by not seeing a doctor. Also: breast cancer is one of the cancers that is treatable, and though survival rates aren't 100%, they're actually quite good especially if the cancer is caught early, before it's spread to other parts of the body.

My cynical mind wonders if this is real, because it all sounds... odd. Confused. "No doc BS?" Are you quite certain of the diagnosis? Has she sought any sort of treatment already? And also, you know you can't force her to get treatment of any sort, right? If she's going to get seek medical help, it'll have to be on her terms and because she wants it.
posted by incessant at 12:00 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Some hospitals have insurance programs for people who can't afford private insurance. It's worth calling a few to find out. I'm not sure what to tell you about the holistic business except please, try to talk her out of it. Some people have the time and money to experiment with holistic treatments - your friend is not one of them. I'm sorry both of you are going through this and wish you the best of luck.
posted by walla at 12:12 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Look, on the one hand, if she's truly idiotic enough to not want to treat what could be anything from a benign fibraceous cyst to a terminally metastasizing cancer, then, well, what can you do, right? Get her to write a will, at least.

On the other hand, if she'd prefer to continue, you know, LIVING, then she needs to go see a REAL DOCTOR and fuck the expense and figure the rest of it out later.

Why do people worry about their goddamn credit history instead of their own well-being?
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:15 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: When you put it all this way... yes, odd may be the word. Somehow can't escape the notion that your world has been pretty secure for you. ... and thank you for your post... and I'm cynical myself, and no, nothing is official, and yes there's a doctor and doctor office somewhere, and no I don't dare mention word cancer in her presence!
just can't imagine going on with next dates allowing precious time to slip, when there's this dark possibility , that it is what it feels like. Malignant bunch of assholes cells intent on eating alive
Somehow in my wishful thinking wanted to hear about some backdoor way / underground office disguised as massage therapy room or something so i don't have to raise red flags.not yet, not so early in the relationship(sigh). Thank you Fairy , thank you incessant, all others , i'm arming myself , i shall use your logic your arguments, and places you point me to.
Sorry for this disorderly response, it's nothing i've practiced before
posted by DivineShadow at 12:17 AM on July 14, 2010

Response by poster: BitterPunk , Idiotic and smart, beside the point, I like her and wanna see her around way into the future. Couldn't find nothing on "fibraceous cyst" .. did u get it right?
posted by DivineShadow at 12:26 AM on July 14, 2010

It's not necessarily cancer. I'm 26, and quite a few of my female friends and relatives around my age have had benign growths removed from their breasts. Having said that, she needs to go to a doctor, and she's an idiot for believing that holistic medicine will cure anything – there's no nicer way of phrasing that.
posted by halogen at 12:47 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ok, DivineShadow, you're not making a whole hell of a lot of sense here. But, if you are really concerned about your friend, send her to the emergency room. Yes, I know it sucks, but it's the only place that someone with no insurance can go when they need medical treatment. Hopefully, they will run whatever tests are necessary to let her know what she is dealing with.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:48 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't dare mention word cancer

She's in denial then, which isn't unusual but perhaps another area where you could look up some strategies for trying to help her.
posted by biffa at 12:49 AM on July 14, 2010

Sorry if the term "fibraceous cyst" was misleading. I should have said "fibroadenoma" but I was too lazy and too confident in my ability to spell the word "fibraceous". Fibroadenomas account for 80% of breast lumps. They are No Big Deal. But to rule out the worst, you are going to have to ask her to go see a doctor. And that means that there is NO FREAKING WAY that she won't think about cancer and flip out.

So, um. Yeah.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:05 AM on July 14, 2010

I don't know how far along you are in your relationship, but there's a couple of things you and your girlfriend need to discuss. I offer this based solely on my own experinces being a care giver to a loved one who had cancer.

First and foremost, are you both on the same page about your relationship? From what you've said, it sounds like you haven't been dating a long time, but you seem to have strong feelings for her, as in the long-term-commitment-for better-or-for-worse-come-what-may variety. Does she share those feelings for you?

Secondly, and echoing BitterOldPunk, cost be damned, she needs to find out what the deal is with her lump. Whatever her preferred option is for dealing with it, she needs to know what is first.

Being a care-giver to a loved one suffering from a disease can be VERY trying and you both have to be in agreement about your commitment to each other and to the course of treatment. It is unfair to you to become so emotionally invested in her treatment and (hopefull) recovery if she does not reciprocate that level of commitment to you. It is also unfair to her if you cannot accept her choices regarding her treatment. She needs someone who is going to be behind her 100%. Don't promise what you can't give.

Whatever the outcome of this, you are both in my thoughts. Please take care of yourselves and I hope that this turns out to be relatively benign.
posted by KingEdRa at 1:11 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are in San Francisco and she is a SF resident there are free screening programs if she has an active cyst/lump. Contact SF General Hospital, they have a great breast cancer treatment center.
posted by zia at 2:26 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For a bit of an insight into what she might be feeling, try reading Respectful Insolence's The deadly power of denial - he's a cancer doc who sees a fair few women who have been in denial about the possibility of cancer.

And dying from untreated cancer is horrible - her "better to live quicker happy, rather than slower but with pain" would probably only be applicable if she was run over by a truck, not died of cancer.

It's very difficult to turn around someone who is in denial; even harder to get someone who totally mistrusts medicine to go to a doctor. I wish you the best of luck, but I have a horrible feeling that if this is cancer (obviously, as others have said, it might not be) it's not going to end well.
posted by Coobeastie at 2:28 AM on July 14, 2010 [4 favorites]

Size of a big plum, except longer.

Okay, I'm not a doctor, but if the lump is that large and she's not in constant agony or dead could it really be breast cancer? Seems like if she survived this long it's got to be something else. How long has it been there?

The government is supposed to setup a "High risk" insurance pool that people with pre-existing conditions should be able to buy into if it's cancer. I don't know when that's supposed to come online, though.
posted by delmoi at 2:50 AM on July 14, 2010

Does the lump change over her menstrual cycle? If so it's more likely to be a cyst than cancer but a lump that size is nothing to fool with. She should go see a doctor who can try to aspirate it with a needle (pull some fluid out) - cysts are generally filled with fluid - a tumor is solid. (this is not particularly painful ) Then she should get a mammogram. I can't say anything useful about free/low cost programs but time matters here - something that size if it's cancerous is a big tumor and needs to be removed quickly. As many have said here - breast cancer is treatable and has decent survival rates although these days it's often said that one should regard it as a chronic disease rather than something that's treated and gotten over but without treatment it's a horrible, drawn out, painful, ugly way to die.
posted by leslies at 3:01 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is NO "holistic" treatment for cancer that works.

OP. you sound really confused.

Your friend needs someone less confused. She's confused enough.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:33 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Breast cancer needs to be resected for the chance of the best cure. See the free clinic/medical school options in your area. If your guys' income is as low as you state, help is actually not too difficult to get. If you are really concerned, go to the ER -- also preferably at a teaching hospital. While there, a responsible ER doc will look at the mass, complain of fatigue -- massive fatigue and that should at least them to draw bloodwork. He might even get a cheap chest x-ray or US to see if the lump appears suspicious. If it's anemic, he might call the surgery resident in and you could have it drained and analyzed like that. He might do it even without the bloodwork. You'll get "billed" but the hospital is probably not going to go after your non-existent assets. It's not worth it for them. Again, if you apply for charity care before all that, you'll be covered in some fashion.
posted by skepticallypleased at 4:23 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

underground office disguised as massage therapy room or something so i don't have to raise red flags

I really, really doubt that she needs you to draw the large lump in breast = cancer conclusion for her.
posted by crankylex at 6:28 AM on July 14, 2010

I am not sure why a lot of you are harshing on this asker. He has a new lady friend he has strong feelings for who has a lump on her breast that appears to him to be large and potentially cancerous. He and his lady friend have no money to speak of. He thinks his lady friend is adverse to going to traditional doctors. He is asking how he can convince her to go to a doctor or if there is any other way that he can help her. He obviously knows very little about medicine or how to help.

Having said all that, the sad truth is that there is no "hack" for this. She needs to see a specialist if even only to confirm what it is or isn't. He needs to convince her that her notion of dying a quick painless death does not apply here if she chooses to ignore the lump. He needs to find resources to help a poor person who has no insurance. I offer no help on the last part.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:56 AM on July 14, 2010 [13 favorites]

In general I agree with JohnnyGun but I have seen too many 'holistic minded' patients die in mainstream hospitals begging for chemicals that would save them when it is too late. I guess it makes one react more strongly.....

There must be some government/philinthropic sources of support and I am sure the good people of mefi will come up with ideas...good luck.
posted by london302 at 7:04 AM on July 14, 2010

1) it needs to be checked out by a licensed medical doctor. You can't made any educated decision until that's done.

2) Be a true friend and don't allow any money or time wasted on "alternative" therapies.

3) As other posters have said, sometimes it's just a cyst, but sometimes it's not. The stress of wondering isn't going to do her (or you!) any favors.

I hope that you do care about her enough to go into "tough love" mode, which might not be easy for you to do, or for her to hear.

P.S. @MeFi folks in general: I'm so glad that there are so many of you discrediting holistic medicine as the quackery it is.
posted by ChefJoAnna at 7:51 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Dear Writer-
I'm sorry that she is scared. You are a good friend to be pushing her to see a physician. She needs to go.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28. I have been in treatment for nearly nine years. And holisitic treatments have their place, if only to have the placebo effect help you keep your sanity and sense of control.
However, I came to this realization early: tumors are natural. They are made of you, nature makes them. That is why cancer is so hard to cure, and that's what makes it so terrifying. There are few holistic remedies more natural than a tumor. To cure a tumor, you have to fight nature, you have to fight the way in which cells grow all on their own. To fight cancer, you need the most unnatural and toxic shit you can find, so that you can kill naturally occuring cell growth. Holistic medicine is then helpful in keeping the rest of your cells, the non-cancer ones, strong and healthy.
Get her in to a doctor asap. I hope that you are both okay.
posted by pickypicky at 8:02 AM on July 14, 2010 [7 favorites]

I have sometimes seen family members fall back on holistic medicine when they were uninsured and believed that they wouldn't be able to afford conventional medical treatment. That might be the case with your friend; sometimes it's easier to say that you don't believe you'll actually need conventional medicine (like surgery or chemotherapy) when you're convinced that you will never be able to afford it anyway. You very well may find out that your friend is willing to go forward with seeing a doctor if she discovers that those treatments are available to her (and they are if she is making less than about $1700 per month).

After all, it's not like more information and more options is going to make her ability to do holistic medicine go away, right? That's the point you need to make to her: she can get screened, and then once she knows what she's dealing with she'll be able to: (1) decide if she wants to do holistic medicine PLUS some conventional treatment, and (2) she can seek holistic medicine that will actually be aimed at what she has (because if she doesn't know what she has right now, how can she be treating with alternative medicine?). Getting screened doesn't take away any of her options, but rather puts her in a better position even for treating things with natural medicine. (Plus it lets her know what conventional medicine is available, if she wants to pursue that path.)

Please look at the linke provided by fairytale of los angeles. There are also two other metafilter questions that specifically address how to get free breast cancer treatment in California: one and two. There is a federally-funded program called the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment (BCCPT) that means that your friend would be eligible for free treatment if this ends up to be cancer, as long as her income is low and she is screened by one of the providers in that program. You can find out how to get her screening by calling the number in your county on the page that fairytale linked. She has nothing to lose by getting more information by getting screened to see what is going on, and she has a lot to gain: namely, she can get full, free insurance coverage through the state for treatment if she is diagnosed with cancer. That's a win-win for her and you should encourage her to do it.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:10 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

I posted on Coobeastie's link back when SBM originally put up the article (also under the name Galadriel). I've known someone who died of untreated cancer because she was in too much denial to seek treatment. By the time she was diagnosed it was too late to do anything for her--and treatment for HER condition would have been "ways to preserve quality of life."

It is NOT "live quicker happy." It is really, really not. Cancer is a horribly, revoltingly nasty way to die. It started off pain so terrible she was crying, screaming all of the time. By the time she was dying it was pain so terrible she could not even speak, so bad we weren't even sure she was in there. It was torture. It was anguish. It was hell on Earth. And it went on for months, months of that unbelievably agonizing pain.

If your lady friend's lump is indeed cancer, breast cancer is (most times) EASY. It's not "prolonged suffering until you die," the idea many people have about cancer treatments. It's actual, working treatment that usually means you can just go ON with your life afterwards. So "live quicker happy" WILL NOT HAPPEN if she's actually got cancer and it goes untreated; "live longer but suffering" WON'T happen if it's an early stage of breast cancer and she seeks treatment.

Why do people worry about their goddamn credit history instead of their own well-being?

Well, how do you afford major treatment when you just can't?

I know how hard it is to seek treatment when you've got no money. I had major back surgery when I had no money and I'll be digging my way out from under that cost for the rest of my life. BUT. I can *walk*. It's worth it.

*Life* is worth even more than that. It's worth anything to be alive and as healthy as possible.
posted by galadriel at 8:12 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

The CDC provides another number that you can call to find out where to get low-cost or free screenings through the BCCPT program:

Information about Getting Screened
To find out if you qualify for a free or low-cost mammogram and Pap test and where to get screened, call:

Information Line
1 (800) 511-2300 (in state)
M-F, 9am - 7pm.
In English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.

At the very least you could call that number and find out up-to-date information about how she can go get low-cost screenings in your area. She might be more open to it if you do all the legwork and just present her with a very easy way to go get this done.
posted by iminurmefi at 8:13 AM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

She needs to see a doctor and get screened. It could be cancer or it could be nothing, but it is better to be safe than sorry especially since breast cancer is so treatable (if caught early enough). You mentioned that you were hoping you could get her to a medical professional whose office was disguised as a holistic massage parlor or something - that won't happen because real medical professionals practice real medicine. But what you can do is get recommendations for specific doctors that are caring and have experience at making hesitant patients feel comfortable. If she has no income, she can get on Med-Cal and likely pay nothing. My friend just had a baby and didn't pay a dime for anything out there using medcal. She even got 3d ultra sounds along the way and everything.

Lastly, if you are trying to sound poetic in your writing style for a question like this, please stop. Excuse me if you are just really confused and anxious about the situation and that is causeing some of your communication wires to cross.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:16 AM on July 14, 2010

...She would probably prefer - no chemical, no doc bs, better to live quicker happy, rather than slower but with pain kind of path...

You can relate to her this story:

My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer, refused all treatments recommended by "establishment medicine" and decided she would cure it herself with a combination of a macrobiotic diet and prayer.

She died in agony, at home, from an opportunistic staph infection that overwhelmed her weak immune system after cancerous tumors erupted through both her breast and side of her torso. If the staph hadn't done her in, the aggresive intrusion of the tumors into her lungs would have shortly.

Her faith must have been unbelievably strong for her to endure what she did. She refused all "traditional" medical assistance up to the point that she lost consciousness. She retreated from friends and family and drove her devoted husband nearly insane with grief and helplessness over her suffering.

Her funeral should have been a closed casket - many family, including myself, hadn't seen her since she retreated into her home and were shocked at the appearance of the withered husk of her remains that was so drastically different from what we remembered.

Maybe a mastectomy, radiation and/or chemotherapy would have saved her, maybe not, but an extremely painful and brutally ugly death were guaranteed by her choices.
posted by de void at 8:21 AM on July 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Knowing which county you reside in would be helpful to point you in the direction of services for individuals without insurance coverage. A few things to keep in mind, most counties in California have an Ability to Pay program run through county hospitals and medical offices. Yes, you will have to get up and go in at 5 in the morning in some places and wait all day to see a doctor, but you can get access to health services for very little cost this way. Many cities/counties also run small community medical clinics where a doctor can do an exam for free or on a sliding scale. These can be very off putting especially in a big county like Los Angeles County, but if you can put up with getting into the system and waiting lists you can get care.

If it is cancer, there are options for treatment at some hospitals for little to no cost, again this will depend on where you are living. A lot of hospitals and cancer treatment centers also employ medical social workers who can help with addressing the denial of treatment issue (and who can also support you and help you with your fear and concern too).

A word on MediCal, as an adult you can only qualify if you are disabled, blind, or are essentially dying from kidney disease. Just being poor isn’t enough. If you are a minor or have a minor child it may be a different story, but a single adult is out of luck for that option. Also emergency rooms will treat you, but unless you go to a county ER you’ll still get stuck with the bill at the end of the day. If you’re looking for medical care that will not cost you a fortune, the county programs are probably your best bet.
If you happen to be in either LA or San Bernardino county you can drop me a message and I’ll send you a list of clinics/resources you can check out.

Best of luck to you and your friend.
posted by Palmcorder Yajna at 8:25 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wow, I totally disagree with a couple of people here.

Personally, I only think harsh/tough love techniques only work in those made for TV movie specials about hard ass principals who are there to 'clean up bad schools with good kids'. The rest of the time, I think fear and lack of information (about cancer) can override any sensible behavior (like going to get it checked out, even if you don't have insurance). Heck, I work at a university with a hospital that has a world class cancer treatment facility. I have pretty good insurance. My husband is a physician. Cancer has torn through my family on both sides. I have personally helped friends find care and supported them through their breast cancer battles. But when I felt a lump the only thing I could do eat ice cream and pretend it wasn't happening. And the last thing I needed was someone who claimed to care for me get all drill sergeant in my face with how idiotic I, my denial and my ben and jerry's approach were. It make make you feel better to do something with your frustration that involves pointing out how holistic care/cancer is like spritzer gun/three alarm house fire, and you may be right. But it's not helpful.

I think you remind her that you care for her deeply, and that you'd like her to be around. And that you'd be very sad if she wasn't because she didn't take steps to get herself checked out. That you appreciate holistic and western style medicine, and there are many health care practitioners - particularlurly in California, who do as well. That you understand the money issue, but that there are deals to be worked with emergency rooms. If she won't go there first, just get her to a free/low cost clinic.

Seriously, I had a mammogram where the tests got lost before they got to the surgeon. However, after feeling my 'lump', and talking to me, she was able to rule out cancer, without seeing the test. (And the mammogram later proved her right. She was really good.)

Here is a list of free/low cost/sliding scale clinics: in CA. Sorry the link is for STD health, but a free clinic is a free clinic. Find one near you. Tell her you'll go with her to support her. Heck- call them and ask if they will see her, or if there is a women's clinic that would. Ask if there is anyone who was worked with patients who are skeptical of western style medicine and into holistic health. Health professionals at clinics are some of the kindest and most understanding clinicians around. I'm sure there is at least one she would connect with. Remind her that she doesn't have to do anything with the diagnosis, but I'm assuming that holistic health approaches still require you to know what you're dealing with. For example, I do have lumpy breasts but found that dropping caffeine and taking evening primose really helped. It might just have been the dropping caffeine that made the difference, but who cares? Go with her, and have a nice lunch afterwards.

Ignore the posters who focus on thinking she's an 'idiot'. She's not. Please stop thinking of her that way. She's just human, like the rest of us, behaving in a way totally understandable if infuriating and heartbreaking. But it can be easier to take steps (to take care of yourself) if you can actually see a path. No health care+ scary possible diagnosis= makes it hard to see that path. But if you keep talking to her, find a clinic, she'll have a little more information - that someone cares for her, and is on her side as she faces something big. She also does it with better information, as the clinics probably can tell you what other no insurance folks did in her situation. This is new to her, not to them.

In the end, she might not do to a clinic - and it's hard to be okay with that, so you'll have to think about what to do about that. But keep talking to her and listening to you- sometimes there is a break in the clouds of denial, or at least a willingness to do something a little differently, and they have enough information to break the pattern, overcome their reservations and take the next step.

You're a very good friend.
posted by anitanita at 8:53 AM on July 14, 2010 [7 favorites]

There's a large industry out there that uses our fear of doctors, science and mortality to push its "alternative" medicine on people. It's VASTLY worse than big pharma. You think the 'holistic' medicine people do their work out of charity? How much money must Whole Foods be making to donate an entire aisle in every store to bottles of water and herbs? Why do you think there are 20 different alternative medicine magazines for sale at your health food store?

Ask yourself: is it more likely that those magazines and herb pills exist for charitable reasons or because some big fucking company trying to sell an untested product to a vulnerable and scared person? Personally, if I were entirely evil the first thing I'd do is find some cancer patients, tell them that chemo would kill them, and then sell them WATER for $10,000 a gallon. Cancer patients will pay *ANYTHING* for a cure.

Real drugs have to be tested for safety and efficacy. They're prescribed by people who are more highly educated than any other profession. Medicine has increased our life expectancy more than any other field, with the possible exception of its close relative public health. Why on earth would you not take advantage of their knowledge?
posted by pjaust at 9:00 AM on July 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

Holistic "medicine" isn't medicine: it's wishful thinking, placebo effect, and marketing.

To the OP: I'm so very glad to see you don't appear to believe in it.
posted by StrawberryPie at 9:16 AM on July 14, 2010

A word on MediCal, as an adult you can only qualify if you are disabled, blind, or are essentially dying from kidney disease. Just being poor isn’t enough

This is not true for low-income women who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer in the vast majority of states, including California. You do not need to have children or be disabled to qualify for Medi-Cal through the BCCPT program, and that program qualifies you for full Medicaid (that is, comprehensive health insurance through the state) in most cases, and for full treatment of breast/cervical cancer in the remaining cases (for instance, someone who isn't a legal citizen so can't qualify for Medicaid).

In some states you need to be careful to actual be diagnosed with breast/cervical cancer through a BCCPT provider (the ones that offer free mammograms and Pap tests), whereas in other states anyone who is low-income and has a diagnosis of either type of cancer will qualify. I'm not sure which one is the case in California, which is why it's important to call the numbers above and find out from someone who knows.

Again, call 1 (800) 511-2300 and tell them what you've told us, and you will be able to find out your options for free/low-cost screening, and (hopefully unnecessary) free treatment for breast cancer.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:29 AM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of my best friends died from early-onset breast cancer and one of my ex-girlfriend's mother died from breast cancer. My ex-girlfriend passionately treated her mother with holistic medicine, my best friend hit the chemo pretty hard. My best friend had a very difficult life fighting the cancer with a variety of drugs but got to celebrate her thirty-fifth birthday, which she was projected to be dead by. Although she couldn't really get out much, she was always assessable by phone and remained a valuable sourse of advise and support until she died.

My ex's mother, as I said, was "treated" with a combination of herbs,vitamins, and other holistic techniques. The cancer spread into her brain and destroyed it slowly. She developed dementia a year before she died and ceased to be able to function. Her memory failed, and she became a totally different, and insane, person.

If you like this girl, don't let her waste everyone's precious time with quackery.
posted by fuq at 12:15 PM on July 14, 2010

A friend of mine has an ex-boyfriend I now call "One Nut" for reasons that will soon become obvious. 10 years ago, he was already an ex, but he hadn't yet earned his nickname because he had more than one nut. He actually had two nuts, but one of them wasn't like the other, it had experienced a sort of a late growth spurt.

I'm sure you can see where this is going, but ole' Big Nut was an Austin musician, he'd had a bit of success, so he had some savings or property, but he sure as hell didn't have health insurance, and he didn't trust western medicine or any of that stuff. Still, the big nut worried him, and so he somehow ended up with some alternative remedy. This course led him to try injecting it into his aberrant testicle. As you might imagine, this didn't improve his situation, and important ways, made it worse, if for no other reason that it required him to inflict a great deal of pain upon himself by injecting something into his already unhappy testicle.

My friend, who herself was suspicious of western medicine, nevertheless did look on the internet to see what "traditional medicine," had to say about Big Nut's big nut. It didn't take her long to decide that she while she was no longer interested in either Big Nut's big nut, or his regular old ordinary nut, she might soon be loosing Big Nut himself. So, she spent the next few weeks working on Big Nut, trying to get him to get a "second opinion" from an MD, while also working on learning what his options were for inexpensive diagnosis and treatment.

She finally prevailed on both fronts. Big Nut became One Nut. He lives with one nut to this day, still plays a mean bass, and, is, well, still a bit nuts.

I offer this story to help give you the resolve to do what it takes to get your friend proper diagnosis and treatment. As others have noted, the diagnosis could be significantly different and better than your fears, and if it is as you feared, your friend will still have a range of options, and some of them could include a happy decade or more.
posted by Good Brain at 1:00 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Holistic "medicine" isn't medicine: it's wishful thinking, placebo effect, and marketing.

This isn't true, but it isn't good for things like cancer.

In the Bay Area, anyway, you don't have to pick either/or; we have an amazing buffet of treatments, and you should pick the things most effective for your needs. Holistic medicine may suck at treating cancer, broken bones, etc, but it can be great at making western treatments easier and more effective. For instance, if you end up on a med with a bad side effect, with chemo being an extreme example, Chinese medicine and other holistic treatments can sometimes both ameliorate side effects and improve the efficacy of the western medicines. Find a practitioner who's used to doing it, though, or your alternative medicines can undermine or react very dangerously with the western ones.

A man named Isaac Cohen used to be a good resource here in Berkeley. I don't know if he's still doing that work. There is also a clinic in San Francisco called Chicken Soup Chinese Medicine, run by Misha Cohen, that is a great resource. I'm sure there are others, but those two have worked with my family members and their MDs when needed.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:13 PM on July 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine was talking about the holistic approach he was taking for his major illness. This approach is based on the traditional "medicine" of an Asian country. My other friend said, "Well based on (the country's) mortality rate, it doesn't seem to be working out too well for them." This is what comes to mind when I hear about people using a "holistic" approach to a major illness.

Try and get your friend to a real doctor. Where I live there are clinics that are kind of hippy-dippy (for want of a better term), and provide real doctors and loving non-confrontational care. See if you can find one where your. Dying of cancer is horrible, I know since I watched a love one die this way.
posted by fifilaru at 3:51 PM on July 14, 2010

I had a relative who didn't believe in conventional scientific medicine. Rather, she was into distance healing from some obscure organization, where mysterious holistic doctors would provide magic spiritual healing via mail or the internet or what have you. Long story short, she developed stomach cancer, decided to continue treatment through the mail, and died alone, in agony, in a hallway smeared with shit and blood, and wasn't found until her neighbours smelled something horrible and called the police.

Luckily, unlike this relative whom I never met owing to the fact that that side of the family is slightly mad, your friend is not alone and has someone who cares about her. People have suggested some excellent resources on this thread. It's hard to go against someone's preferences for "natural" or "holistic" treatment but sometimes, well, their reasoning is based on incorrect assumptions. The idea of living a short, happy life sounds more appealing right up until you die in excruciating pain.
posted by superquail at 3:56 PM on July 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

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