Cancer’s Blessing: A Patient’s Perspective (4th in a series)

In January we introduced you to our friend, Paul Bohannon. Eight years ago, Paul was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and given 6 months to live. Yet here he is to tell his story, eight years later, cancer free. How did he do it? What was his path? What did he learn? What can you or a loved one learn if you are going through a cancer diagnosis? We invite you to follow Paul’s story each month, although if you don’t want to wait, you can read more of his story at
right now.

By Paul Bohannon

Last month we talked about having an advocate. This month we’re focusing on establishing a treatment plan.

Establish a Treatment Plan

Establishing your treatment plan is complex, particularly since you’ll be getting suggestions from your doctors, friends, other patients, and loved ones.

As it turned out, my own treatment plan happened in two phases. I refer to them as Round 1 and Round

Round 1 was removing the tumor. The cancer had also escaped into my urethra and bladder, which was the basis for my six-month life expectancy.

I was furious that for two years no physician thought my issues could be cancer, simply because of my age. I was so furious that my initial plan was a war plan. I ate the most aggressive diet I could imagine: raw vegetables and VERY limited fats. I ate avocados and put coconut oil in my coffee, did coffee enemas, took daily saunas, ate more raw vegetables, and worked out to the point my body fed itself from my muscle tissue. It was an exhaustive plan, but it was what my brain needed. This was war and I was prepared to destroy anything related to cancer. I had to actively participate, to train, to exhaust myself doing something.

I thought I’d won.

Round 2

In Round 2, I was forced to focus my energy tackling a very adaptive opponent who’d figured out how to sidestep my initial plan and show up in my bones and spine.

Initially, I sought out two different types of doctors. The first were urologists, surgeons who focus on urological issues. The second were oncologists, cancer specialists who use drugs, radiation, and chemicals to knock out the cancer through a combination of focused and systemic approaches. Both treatments come with their benefits and consequences.

I’d like to make a point here. The scientific approaches and research in these fields are dramatically advanced beyond where I was in 2013. I mentioned earlier that anger was one of my immediate responses to my diagnosis, and no one got a higher dose than my treatment professionals. I became a caged animal, and when the treatment plans were at loggerheads it helped me realize something very important: Doctors are humans. Humans rely on their training, experiences, outside influences,
education, peer groups and pharmaceutical research to develop their approaches to cancer treatment. You would not ask an oncologist to perform surgery nor a surgeon to radiate your cancer. I was presented with two dramatically different plans and had no clear idea on which was better or how to tell.

Narrowing Options

Each of my visits to a medical professional, whether oncologist, urologist, naturopath, or pharmacist, began with me asking a series of questions. They then replied with key concepts or ideas to consider, and we discussed viability, impact, and options. At first, I listened and tried to remember.

It soon became clear that I was shellshocked and could not be the point person. I asked my advocate, my sister-in-law, to help. Katie (my amazing sister-in-law) was a STUD. She challenged everything, as I started to write down questions. She started off on the offensive, and the list of doctors narrowed as we separated those who could and would game plan with us vs. those who were agenda-driven or dogmatically focused.

At the time, if I felt that the doctor was not able to embrace my approach or wouldn’t answer the question “What would you recommend outside of this plan?” I would leave and find a new doctor. I know this is a controversial approach, but my opinion was that a singularly-focused approach that narrowly addressed only a piece of the cancer would not work. I was toxic; cancer was about to win because my mind was twisted around this notion of kill or be killed. I was angry and alone (despite an amazing and loving support team, which I was too blind to see).

Refining My Questioning

I had no idea how or where to start my treatment. My first oncology appointment was with a practice in Seattle that had both a naturopathic oncologist and traditional oncologist on staff. During my quest I had learned to ask each person what they would recommend in addition to the treatment plan – was there anything I should do, eat, or try in order to augment a treatment plan. Later I refined the question to “If you were me in my situation, what ELSE would you do?” The naturopath and I had a lengthy discussion.

Building the Plan

To help illustrate how I built a treatment plan, I am giving a very specific example. By no means is this a recommendation for treatment.

That first naturopathic oncologist mentioned a dietary supplement and several other basic items to help with my cancer approach. I subsequently met with six other medical professionals from different clinics and had the opportunity to meet with a traditional Chinese doctor while traveling in Seoul, South Korea.

Each of these was asked the following question: “My advocate and I have done research and it is recommended I add these things to my treatment plan. What are your thoughts?” I journaled their answers and shared them with my advocates. The cycle of developing my plan emerged.

My conclusion was to (1) look at where the research and evidence sat on a question (for example, is the preponderance of data in support of or against adding a specific supplemental treatment plan?) (2) Validate or contradict it with your healthcare professional. (3) Rinse and repeat.

The objective is to assimilate a combination of data inputs into a plan that supports your goals. Are there things you can safely add to your plan and do you think they will work in helping you achieve your treatment goals.

To sum up this point amazingly, I’d like to recount a conversation I had with Dr. Anthony Pham, my current oncologist and one of the wonderful people at in Portland, OR,

Paul: I take modified citrus pectin, CBD, melatonin and a host of supplements.

Dr Pham: Ok, I don’t see any conflicts or contraindications with the treatment plan we’ve discussed. Do YOU think they are helping you with your treatment?

Paul: Yes!

Dr. Pham: Good, keep doing it.

And thus my plan was built.

Next month: Healing begins.

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