Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The War on Cancer

{The following essay was written by Travis Gowler.  His Mom, Margie has been a good friend of ours for several years.  Although Travis is only 22 years old, he is already a cancer survivor.  Travis wrote this essay in hopes of gaining a scholarship for school.  Part of the requirement was to post it to a blog.  I was glad to help Travis and post his essay here.}

The War on Cancer – is it working?

James “Rhio” O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma at age 61 and the doctors gave him less than one year to live. He decided to come up with his own plan of treatment instead of giving up or taking the usual doctor prescribed treatment. His plan included lots of vitamins and minerals and an overall healthy diet to try to combat the cancer and keep it from spreading. His diet, along with his research and desire to never give up or be negative, and taking over 100 supplements a day, enabled him outlive his prognosis by more than six years! He wrote a book called “They Said Months, I Chose Years A Mesothelioma Survivor’s Story.” His book cited many articles about using nutrition to manage chronic diseases like cancer.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that primarily affects the lining of the lungs and potentially the heart and abdomen. Mesothelioma comprises of around 0.3% of cancer diagnoses per year. The average age at diagnosis is 62 and is much more common in men then women. The prognosis depends on the stage of the cancer but is usually close to one year. The leading cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos.

Statistics show that we have made huge strides in curing cancer since 1971. President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act of 1971 which put focus on the effort to find a cure for cancer. Since that time, research and technology have improved significantly, which has decreased the number of deaths related to cancer. This Act has increased the amount of money that is spent on research resulting in accuracy of the tests to detect cancer in the early stages. The amount of research and development of drugs that has been done for treatment of cancer is incredible. As a country we are putting so much money into finding and developing drugs to cure a wide variety of cancers. There may never be a cure for every cancer but to come up with several cures and have knowledge on how to treat all the other types of cancer, is our goal. Every day we strive to get closer to winning the war against cancer.

If detected early, many cancers can be cured but many cancers, like mesothelioma, do not present symptoms until the disease has progressed. The CDC, Center for Disease Control, collected data that shows that 3 million people were living with cancer in 1971 and 9.8 million in 2001, showing that the war on cancer is working.

Also, in most cases, we are able to offer several different approaches of treatment for cancer - there is not just one way to treat the disease, which helps be able to cure many cases of cancer. The mainstream treatments for cancer are radiology, chemotherapy and surgery. In most cases more than one of those treatments are used to give the maximum chance of survival. There are also other options such as a more natural way to combat the cancer by using vitamins and having a healthy diet, which can keep the cancer from spreading and also kill some of the cancer cells.

Using nutrition to effectively manage cancer is becoming more prevalent now. These alternative therapies are designed to aggressively eliminate the cancer cells while also detoxifying the body. These therapies usually have less negative side effects than the traditional therapies.

In August of 2010, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Luckily for me, testicular cancer is now one of the cancers to have the highest cure rate mainly because the treatment plan that has been developed is incredible and extremely successful. If I had been diagnosed in 1971, my chances of survival would have been extremely slim. When I was diagnosed, my doctors said I needed to have surgery to have the tumor removed to eliminate the source of the cancer in my body. I then had several scans to determine if there were any remaining cancer cells and if so, had they spread. My cancer had spread to the lymph nodes in my back so the doctors put me through the rigorous chemotherapy treatment plan that is designed specifically for testicular cancer. Dr. Einhorn from Indiana University developed this treatment plan which is extremely successful and has a survival rate of about 95%. I completed the chemotherapy treatment and had another scan to determine if the cancer was completely gone, but the results revealed a few lymph nodes that still remained questionable. My oncologist consulted with Dr. Einhorn, who strongly recommended that I have the retroperitoneal surgery to remove the lymph nodes in my back that are located near the kidney, between the aorta and vena cava. The pathology results from my surgery came back clean and I was determined to be cancer free!

If testicular cancer can have a treatment plan that describes which drugs, at what dosage, for a specified amount of time and actually cure the person of the cancer, then there is hope that the same can be done for other cancers. As I mentioned, patients who were diagnosed with this cancer in 1971 did not survive yet this treatment plan formulated by Dr. Einhorn started seeing survival rates climb in the early 1990’s.

Cancer is an ugly disease and while we do not know all of its sources, we should continue to research its causes and then do what is necessary to get rid of very harmful chemical and work environments such as asbestos.

Asbestos is a terrible chemical that has cost many people their lives. It was a material used in insulation of buildings because no one knew of the harm it could be. With the technology available today, I believe we are able to assess whether or not a material is safe for consumers. Also, with the screening technology we have, we are able to identify and diagnosis many cases of cancer in the early stages which significantly increases the survival rate. The worst part of cancer is once it has spread to other parts of the body because once it starts spreading it is much harder to beat so if tests can be done fairly regularly the chance of catching any cancer cells and being able to treat them right away will make a huge difference is winning the war on cancer.

Travis Gowler

March, 2012

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